The River Ganga, in Shiva’s matted locks, symbolises knowledge and devotion.
Meditating on the captivating form of Lord Shiva, we can reach the Shiva tattva and also appreciate the great abilities of the “realised one” who ever abides in it.
The family of Shiva —Parvati, Ganesha and Kartikeya — has immense physical and spiritual powers. Despite living in the family, Shiva performs his spiritual practices and day-to-day activities while remaining centered in his true nature. Moreover, the blind, the lame, ghosts, the one-eyed … all those rejected by the world, are employed by the compassionate Lord Shiva. They live in harmony with each other, serving Lord Shiva.
Certain animals have natural enmity to each other. The lion eats the bull, the peacock kills the snake which in turn preys on the mouse. However, the lion (Parvati’s vehicle), the bull (Shiva’s vehicle), the snakes (Shiva’s ornaments), the mouse (Ganesha’s vehicle) and the peacock (Kartikeya’s vehicle), due to the presence of the Lord, live peacefully together.
Shiva rides the bull — Nandi — symbolizing dharma or righteousness. Only one who rides the path of dharma will reach perfection. Snakes of all sizes adorn the Lord Shiva. This means all that which creates fear or revulsion in the minds of people becomes his glory on coming in contact with Lord Shiva.
He ashes, from the cremation ground, smeared on him, illustrate that he has burnt down all identification with the body in the fire of knowledge. Also, we should not get too attached to the body and learn to age gracefully.
Lord Shiva has three eyes. With two, he sees the world of name and forms. With the third eye of wisdom, He sees the truth behind them. The two eyes also represent compassion and justice. Compassion alone would lead to chaos; justice untempered by compassion could lead to cruelty. With the eye of wisdom, Lord Shiva dispenses justice with compassion.
He wears the crescent moon, the deity of the mind, on His head. This indicates one who has controlled the mind. The River Ganga, in Shiva’s matted locks, symbolises knowledge and devotion. He is the source of both. He manages to keep His head cool under all circumstances!
His neck is blue from swallowing the poison that emerged from the milky ocean showing he went through difficulties with fortitude and forbearance, with a smile on his face.
The trident represents the three states of consciousness (waking, dream and sleep), the three bodies (gross, subtle and causal), the three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas), the three periods of time and so on. Shiva is theilluminator, the changeless witness of all.
These are just a few representations of Lord Shiva. The more we meditate on his auspicious form, the more our mind gets purified, single-pointed and subtle. On this auspicious night of Shivarati, may we come closer to the self within us.