The Powerful Symbolism of Lord Shiva

Have you ever wondered what all the symbolism of Shiva meant? Maybe you’ve felt drawn to Lord Shiva’s powerful energy but not sure why? As the father of yoga and a strong symbol of masculinity, consciousness and transformation, Shiva is celebrated around the world, so let’s find out what it all means.

Lord Shiva in front of his home, Mount Kailash, in the Himalayas

🌙 Why is there a moon on Shiva’s head?

Shiva’s moon on his head is a symbol of his wisdom. The Moon is traditionally the symbol of calmness. When our mind is calm and still, it works better. We observe everything better and we learn better. A running mind can’t make good decisions, so first, still your mind and everything will come to you.

In addition, Shiva is the divine masculine, whereas the moon is a symbol of divine feminine. This shows his balance of masculine and feminine, sun and moon qualities, and there are even many depictions of Shiva as half man, half woman (his shakti) to show his wholeness.

🌊 Why is Maa Ganga flowing from Shiva’s head?

A calm and still mind works wonders, but you should also be consistent with this. The vibrations of our cells are constantly changing. Every second we are something else, from our skin to our thoughts to our DNA, the whole body and whole universe is changing always. Nothing is constant, so we need to keep constant in our mind, be aware and destroy all negative energy with the sword of awareness. We need to maintain the stillness within.

Lord Shiva has the holy River Ganges running from his head as a symbol of this always changing, yet always consistent energy. The river is never the same but is always running her path straight and true. If we can be like this, we will experience peace.


👁️ Why is Shiva’s third eye open?

With consistency comes true knowledge and knowledge is wisdom. You will discover different perceptions towards the existence of the third eye. It is said to be another eye located at the brow which can activate and open, giving psychic powers.

The third eye of Lord Shiva has the fire of destruction in it. This fire destroys ignorance, as ignorance blocks us from seeing the truth of reality. Be true to yourself and others and you’ll be following Lord Shiva’s way.

🔺 Why does Shiva carry a Trishul?

Lord Shiva carries a “Trishul” or “Trident” with 3 spears on it, which represents trinity – a mystical concept seen repeated many times throughout the universe.

The first trinity Lord Shiva symbolises is the process of creation, existence and destruction, or birth, life and death for us. It’s often said that Lord Shiva represents destruction, but it’s more than that. Out of destruction we always have creation, like a plant growing from ashes. This circle of life is not only symbolic but also reincarnation itself. After we die, we are reborn as another until we can break the cycle of samsara and achieve oneness with Shiva himself.

The other trinity symbolised is the 3 qualities of the universe: “satvaguna” – good, “rajaguna” – pleasure and “tamoguna” – bad. Tamoguna is considered the worst and below the other two qualities. It’s considered as a demon quality and should be avoided, however, with the destruction of ignorance, one rises above all 3 of these qualities and attains peace, where everything is one anyway. This trinity echoes the first, as satvaguna (good) creates and tamoguna (bad) destroys, but there is always a little of each in the other, like the Chinese symbol of yinyang, nothing is ever quite black and white.


🥁 What is Shiva’s “damaroo” drum about?

When you rise above all 3 qualities, your cells harmonise with the vibration of the universe and you will be one with creation, one with OM. Lord Shiva carries a drum called a “damaroo” which symbolises the harmonic vibrations that existence is made up of.

Dance to the rhythm of Lord Shiva’s drum and you’ll harmonise your own existence with that of the whole universe. Chant OM if you don’t have a drum!

🐍 What does Shiva’s Snake mean?

Once you are one with OM you master the venom of ego. It doesn’t control you anymore and you don’t do, say or think things that are destructive, or get attached to negativity. You are fully aware of your thoughts and actions you don’t react unconsciously from the ego’s fear or greed. Nothing can shake you now.

Lord Shiva has a snake with him, usually around his neck where the throat chakra is located, symbolising how he doesn’t allow the venom of the ego to control his thoughts or speech. But the snake is also a powerfully positive symbol too, it represents kundalini, or the shakti feminine energy, without which, Lord Shiva is powerless.

For us, this means that everything in the universe requires balance. Once we can do this, we will achieve perfect union, enlightenment, where we shed our old ego ways like the snake sheds its skin.


🕉️ Why does Shiva have a blue throat?

In Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva drank venom to save us all and protect this universe, and so it sat in his throat. This teaches us that karma (action) done with good intentions and a pure heart always has a positive result, even if it seems hard.

Lord Shiva could stay as he is, one with the source, in eternal bliss, but instead he thought to do karma with the intention to help others. His intention was for us to also connect with him and rise above suffering, which is why he gifted us yoga, which is the system of enlightenment. If we do the asanas, the pranayama, the karma, and follow the philosophy, we will overcome suffering and become one with Lord Shiva himself.


💀 Why is Shiva covered in ash?

Lord Shiva and his devotees are often seen covered in ash. This is because everything that exists will eventually be destroyed, however it will return again. Everything you see is an illusion, the whole universe is an illusion. Ash represents this concept. The things that seem important now will all eventually be ash, but the truly important things remain.

Everything is illusion except for the soul, which is the only constant, so always focus on your soul, the part of you that is deeper and lighter.


🔵 Why is Shiva blue?

Blue is the colour of infinity. Once you rise above ignorance there is only an expanding of peace and happiness.

Lord Shiva is the colour of infinite peace, which we are striving for always. We all want happiness above all, but we have to realise that it doesn’t come from the material, this is part of the ignorance we must overcome. Once we’ve truly done this, we can enjoy infinite peace.

Om Namah Shivaya 🧘‍

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