Understand the Meaning of All Symbols of Lord Shiva

Mahadev or Lord Shiva is one of the most complex deity of Hindus. He is the Destroyer and the Transformer. He is the Auspicious one (Shiva), Lord of the Dance (Nataraja), Lord of the universe (Vishwanatha), and the terrific one (Rudra).

SHIVA” means the auspicious one. It is impossible for humans to explain Shiva, exactly like it is impossible to explain the Universe. But let’s make an attempt

In simple words and as per an article on VedicFeed, Shiva is the one from whom the Brahman emerges, in whom it stays and within whom it goes back. Here Brahmman is not mere the Universe but is the one who is the base and cause of the universe. Brahmman holds the universe.

Lord Shiva is reasons of all causes. He must not be seen as a Human-God. That’s a wrong notion. Scriptures call him the Nirgun Brahman and the Sagun Brahmman

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Shiva exists in 3 states

  1. Nirgun: This is the formless state of Mahadev. The whole universe and creation lie in the pervasiveness of Shiva.
  2. Saguna: In this state, Shiva is the while universe and his “ansh” is present in the whole creation.
  3. Nirgun-Sagun: In the Nirgun-Sagun state, Shiva is worshipped as the Shivalingam. The word Shivalingam has been derived from Sanskrit roots Shiva (Lord) + Lingam (Mark/Chinha/Symbol). Hence, Shivalingam is the mark of the lord within its creation.

Symbols of Lord Shiva

There are many symbols associated with Shiva and whenever we come across any of these symbols, we tend to think of Lord Shiva. Here are all the symbols of Lord Shiva:

The Meaning Behind Every Symbols of Lord Shiva
The moon on Shiva’s forehead depicts control on time in terms of nature. Pixabay

The Moon Crescent – Ardha-Chandrama

The moon on Shiva’s forehead depicts control on time in terms of nature, if we look at this from a scientific and philosophical point of view. In ancient times, the waxing and waning of the moon was used to calculate the days and months.

Hence, the Moon symbolizes time and it’s presence on Lord Shiva’s head denotes that time is completely in control of Shiva. Control on time and the moon is important to control nature. Hence, it is Chandrashekhara alone who can control time.

Body smeared with ashes

This symbol has a deeper meaning to it. It represents that Shiva’s presence is higher than material presence. Tsh ash which is to be seen, it is not an ordinary one. It is the ash from a cemetery. It matches the Hindu philosophy of life and death, in which, death is the ultimate reality of life. Shiva is the God of destruction, and everything in the end is converted into ashes. Therefore, it represents that everything, in the end, can be reduced to ashes. It also signifies that the Lord goes beyond the circle of life and death.

Matted Hair / Jata

This symbol signifies that Shiva is the Lord of Wind or Vayu and in every moment, every human being breathes him. It represents Shiva as the Pashupatinath, the Lord of All Living Beings.

The Ganga

Ganga is River Goddess and the most sacred river in Hindu dharma. Legend has it that the river has the source in Shiva, and it flows from His matted hair and hence represented by water smothering out of the head of Shiva and falling on the ground. Rumour also has it that it that Shiva himself allowed that water to flow to human beings through an outlet in the river to traverse the earth.

Hence, the water is said to be pure. It is also the reason behind Shiva’s name “Gangadhara”, which means “Bearer of the river Ganga”. Sanatana Dharma tells us that Lord Shiva is not just a god of destruction, but also a conveyor of purity and peace.

The Meaning Behind Every Symbols of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva is often seen with a 3rd eye and is also known with names such as Triyambhkam. Pinterest

The Third Eye

Lord Shiva is often seen with a 3rd eye and is also known with names such as Triyambhkam, Trinetra etc. The third eye of Shiva is symbol for his devotees which urges them to develop the sight of knowledge. The 2 eyes of ours, are not always enough to judge things. We meet not be able to look at some realities.

His third eye represents the rejection of desire. Even a normal man must have Samta(balance), Sadhuta (purity of character), and Doordrishti (broader vision). He must not fall prey to desires arising out of women(other than wife), money(other than that which is earned by sweat and purity), fame(other than that which arises out of sattvic actions.

From the Yogic point of view, it is said that when the pineal gland or ‘third eye’ is awakened, one is able to see beyond space-time into time-space. It raises the frequency on which one operates and moves one into a higher consciousness.. with more research it is being realized that it is essentially a spiritual antenna the mystical third eye of ‘lord Shiva’. For many eons, the third eye has been seen as a way to reach higher levels of consciousness while still being present in a physical body.

The purpose of this third eye is the key here, which opens the door to the metaphysical interpretations that ancient wisdom talks about. The pineal gland is also responsible for secreting two extremely vital brain fluids related to our mental health. Those are melatonin, which is the hormone that induces sleep, and serotonin, which is the chemical that helps to maintain a happy, healthy balanced mental state of mind, among other functions.

Half Open Eyes

If you look closely, you will notice that Lord Shiva’s eyes are not completely open. They’re half open. This conveys that the cycle of the universe is still in process.

A new cycle of creation begins when Shiva opens his eyes fully. Afterwards, the universe is completely destroyed till the next phase of creation begins. Half opened eyes of Shiva depict that the process of creation has no end or beginning.

The Snake Around the Neck

The snake which coils 3 times round the neck of Lord Shiva represents time. It represents the most accurate form of time, to be precise: the past, the present and the future. The cyclic nature of time is signified by the coils.

Shiva wearing the snake depicts that He is immune to the

And him wearing the snake shows that Shiva is immune to the rage of both time and death. They also represent resting energy which is called Kundalini Shakti that inhabits within him.


There are 3 stripes on Shiva’s forehead known as the Tripunda. They are a symbol of 3 Gunas:

  1. Sattva Guna – is harmonious, pure, welfare and construction base, kindness, goodness, creative, balanced
  2. Rajas Guna – is confusion, overactive or eager, passionate, self-centered, egoist
  3. Tamas Guna – is lazy, heavy, destructive, impure, destructive
The Meaning Behind Every Symbols of Lord Shiva
Shiva is seen wearing tiger skin, which represents his power. Pinterest

Tiger Skin

In Hindu Dharma, tiger is represented as the vehicle of Shakti, the Goddess of power and force. Shiva is seen wearing tiger skin, which represents his power and also tells that Shiva is the master of Shakti.

Lust is also represented by tigers, and Shiva is seen sititng on it. This shows that He has conquered lust.

Tiger is also considered as a symbol of energy. In this case, it signifies that Shiva is the source of relative energy, flowing throughout the universe.

The Rudraksha Necklace

Shiva is seen wearing a Rudraksha necklace which contains 108 beads. These beads are made from Shiva’s tears.

The beads represent the elements of the world, and him wearing the Rudraksha necklace signifies that even Shiva follows the cosmic laws.

Damaru, the Drum

The Damaru represents the cosmic sound. The sound which the Damaru produces is known as  Pranavamand and it represents the “Shabda Brahma” or OM.

When a damaru is vibrated it produces different sounds. Theses sounds are fused together to by resonance to create one sound. The sound which is produced, depicts Nada. Nada is the cosmic sound of AUM and can be heard during deep meditation. Scriptures suggest that when Shiva mode of creation, his damru vibrates 14 times.

These 14 basic formulae contain all the alphabets in Sanskrit arranged in ways to facilitate various grammatical processes. Therefore, the Damaru represents alphabets, grammar, and language itself.

The Meaning Behind Every Symbols of Lord Shiva
Trishul represents that the evildoers are punished by the Lord in three planes. Pixabay


There are three prongs in the spear of Shiva, and they represent three of the fundamental power of Shiva: will (icchya), action (kriya) and jnana (knowledge). This represents that he can destroy evil and ignorance. It also represents that the evildoers are punished by the Lord in three planes: spiritual, subtle and physical.


Kamandalu is also an accessory of Shiva, like others. It is a pot of water, which is made from dry pumpkin and it contains “Amrit”. It is said to represent the Yogi side of the Lord, but with a deeper meaning. Like the rice pumpkin is plucked from the plant, with the removal of its fruit and it’s shell is cleaned in order to carry the pure Amrit. Similarly, a person should give up on the materialistic world and remove the sense of egoism from themselves in order to achieve and find the purely spiritual form.

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The Meaning Behind Every Symbols of Lord Shiva
Nandi is Shiva’s vehicle and symbolizes power and ignorance. Pixabay


Kundalas means or refers to the two earrings. Alakshya– means that cannot be shown by any sign. And Niranjan– which cannot be seen by mortal eyes.

The meaning of these refers to the unnoticeable nature of Shiva. The left Kundala is worn by women and the right Kundala is worn by men.

Thus, the Kundalas represent the dual nature of Shiva and Shakti, male and female, the principle of creation.

Mount Kailash

Mount Kailash is Lord Shiva’s home. According to the Hindu dharma, the mountain is believed to be situated at the centre of the universe. It means that Shiva is Kailash, the bestower of peace.

Nandi, the Bull

Nandi is Shiva’s vehicle. It symbolizes power and ignorance. It is also called “vrisha” in Sanskrit, which means “righteousness”. Hence, it signifies Shiva as a companion of righteousness.

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