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Shivaratri Significance and Symbolism in Shiva

4 Heart it! Kamini Natarajan 599
February 13, 2018
Kamini Natarajan
4 Heart it! 599

Shivaratri – the night of Shiva is just around the corner. This year it is on Tuesday February 13th. This festival signifies overcoming ignorance and gaining wisdom. It is traditionally celebrated by fasting during the day followed by chanting, meditating, remembering Shiva, reciting 108 or 1008 names of Shiva throughout the night.

It is a celebration of Shiva- the blue colored Hindu God depicted with a serpent around his neck. Shiva is the Param Yogi- the meditator with matted hair, with third eye, a crescent moon on his head, a small hand drum “damru” in one hand and a trident “Trishul” in another. He is considered the destroyer of ego, evil and negative thoughts. When looking at a picture of Shiva we often don’t think beyond what we see. Why is Shiva blue and why does he have a snake around his neck, asked my 6 year old daughter with curiosity? That got me thinking and the more I thought the more I realized that the moon, trishul, third eye etc are not just some randomly placed things. Each of these carry a significance.

Starting with Shiva’s head, we see a crescent shaped moon. This crescent shaped moon signifies the mind. This crescent moon is placed on top of his body signifying mind over body. Mind or awareness is what we try to control with meditation. When we achieve a higher state of consciousness we are no longer confined by our minds. We become one with the infinity.

On Shiva’s neck there is a serpent. When we meditate we reach an inner state of consciousness. While outwardly it appears as if the person who is meditating is asleep, the opposite is true. There is a high level of alertness- an alertness like that of a serpent. A small passing thought or a soft sound vibration is all that is required to alert the serpent. While in deep meditation we are often very alert of our thoughts and feelings as well as surroundings.

In the center of his forehead Shiva has a third eye. The Third eye or the place of Agya chakra in our body is often associated with intuition and ability to see into future, ability to see right from wrong and attaining a higher sense of awareness. It signifies subconscious mind. Often referred to as the sixth sense- the sense that guides us to keep us safe. The sense that makes us feel comfortable and happy around some places, people but uncomfortable around some.

Shiva’s blue body signifies the infinite. Blue is a color often associated with infinity. Our vast sky is blue. Ocean looks blue. We cannot restrict and capture Ocean or sky into a limited space. Likewise our thoughts, wisdom, knowledge is all infinite. Our body is a mere vehicle but we are beyond our bodies.

Similarly river Ganga flowing out of Shiva’s hair is knowledge. Knowledge that is unstoppable and every flowing. Knowledge can never be stagnant. It is like a river that cannot remain in one place. It has to keep flowing and discovering. However there needs to be certain amount of control and restrain that comes with knowledge since knowledge is powerful. It can be used for good and bad. Hence we see Shiva controlling Ganga or the river of knowledge with his matted hair.

Shiva is shown with a trident or Trishul in his hands. Trishul is a weapon to destroy all 3 types of sufferings- physical, spiritual and mental.Trishul in Shiva’s hands signify that he is the destroyer of all these 3 forms of sufferings.

Shiva has a Damru a small hand drum in his other hand. Damru signifies creation and expansion. Creation of life rhythm, creation of heart beat, creation of life. With every destruction there is a new beginning. For nothing really dies. Energy only changes form from one to another. It does not cease to exist. Likewise our life, knowledge and wisdom never ceases to exist. We only change form. Where there is destruction, there is also new creation.

Having thought about significance of each of these things in Shiva helped me see Shiva or the destroyer beyond his physical manifestation. With each Om Namah Shivaya chant this year during Shivaratri, I will try to overcome my ego, expand my heart and mind and think about this beautiful life within myself and that surrounding me.

Hope this article helps all of us go deeper into our meditation and finding true meaning of life and happiness. When we meditate and chant Om Namah Shivaya, let us see the true meaning of it. Letting go of our negative thoughts and worries, raising our consciousness, wisdom and knowledge, and ponder on what really is destruction and what is the beginning? As we inhale may we inhale consciousness, kindness and wisdom and exhale out ego, worries and sufferings.

Om Namah Shivaya.

You can listen to my playlist of Sacred Chants of Shiva HERE

Kamini Natarajan is an Author and Kirtan Singer based in Los Angeles CA. She organizes Kirtan Meetups and writes, sings and leads Kirtan in Indian Ragas. To learn more please visit:

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