What (Who) is शिव Shiva? Why the snake, the damru and the trident?


In this world, change is continuous. While destruction occurs in one part of the world, development occurs in another. Destruction and development are part of this universe. However, energy is essential to cause change. In fact, the whole universe is made up of energy. Our very bodies are floating in an ocean of energy, called “dark energy” by today’s scientists. Here, “dark'” only means unseen, not negative energy. This unseen energy can be experienced in silence, in the depth of meditation in one’s heart.

We see the sun as a spot of energy, but the energy that surrounds the sun is a million times more powerful than the sun itself. This unmanifest energy is much more powerful than the manifest energy of planets, stars, the sun and other objects. The whole universe is as if in a thick syrup of dark energy. This is what the Nasadiya Sukta in the Rig Veda said thousands of years ago darkness was enveloped by darkness. The unseen energy envelops the seen universe. Shiva became the name of this unbelievable, astounding, benevolent energy that envelopes the whole universe.

Knowing Shiva

ब्रह्माण्ड व्याप्त देह – Brahmand vyapta deha – The body of Shiva is the entire universe.

The sun, the moon, the stars and the whole sky lies in Shiva. The sun and the moon decorate Him. The stars are His garland. Rivers flow within Him. Mountains stand tall in Him. The whole universe is present inside His unfathomable, unbelievable Being.

What is His nature? It is very alert and conscious and this is depicted by putting a snake around Shiva’s neck. There is no snake really, but the snake symbolizes alertness. This energy is not dead. It is alive, conscious and It can understand. If a few people are sleeping and you call one person by name, only that person will respond. How? Because even when you are sleeping, there is a part of your consciousness that is awake and alert. In the same way, the universe, though appearing to be dormant, is alive and conscious. This liveliness in the consciousness was depicted using the snake as a symbol.

The trident indicates waking, dreaming and sleeping states, and Shiva is beyond these three states. When you are not waking, dreaming or sleeping, even then this universe exists, even then consciousness exists, and that state is the basis of waking, sleeping and dreaming. That is Shiva or Turiya, the fourth state of consciousness. The three states are held by Shiva, the fourth state of consciousness.

Damaru is the drum that makes sound. Where do light and sound travel? In space. That space Which allows light and sound to travel, the medium of existence itself – that is called Shiva. Both light and sound are part of the universe, but this energy principle is beyond light and sound.
Shiva is also called the “Lord of Dissolution,” because ‘even when anything dissolves, it still remains there. Where does it go? It remains in a different state, that’s all. That space is always here. So, it is also called Shasvat, permanent.

To know the Truth, the intellect has to be content and finer feelings awakened. Both scientific ‘ understanding and spiritual wisdom are necessary to bring this contentment that is holistic and complete. There is no need to go on long pilgrimages to find the Divine. If you don’t find God here, where you are, then it is not possible to find God anywhere else.
Where the mind dissolves, there is Shiva. Be established wherever you are. The moment you are established and centered, you see that there is Divinity present everywhere.

Invoking Shiva

This entire universe is made up of the five elements, the Pancha Mahabhootas: Prithvi (earth), Agni (fire), Jala (water), Vayu (air) and Akasha (ether). Shiva represents the manifestation of the Pancha Mahabhootas. The entire world invokes the energy of Shiva in .many forms. People do Pooja and Abhishekam. Some people sing and dance in His name, while others meditate.

Poo – पू – means fullness and Ja -जा – means birth. That which comes out of fullness is called Pooja पूजा. When you feel grateful, with a full heart, in that total state of consciousness, whatever you do is Pooja. It means honoring, respecting and offering.

What do you do when you honor someone? If a guest comes to your home, what do you do? First, you welcome them and offer them a seat. Then, you ask them if you can get them something. You give them some flowers or fruits in a traditional way, and offer them some water or some tea. If they come in the evening, you switch on the light, (so that they can see your face). This is natural. Pooja is honoring with all the five elements in creation.

Rice and fruits represent the earth element, incense sticks and flowers represent the air element, light represents the fire element, water represents water element, and mantras represent the ether element. When you sing and chant mantras, the ether element becomes vibrant with subtle energy. A heater in the corner of a room is not Visible but its warmth spreads all over the room. If the room is well insulated, the heat will remain for a long time. Similarly, if the mantras are chanted properly, the Vibrations remain in the atmosphere for quite some time; the ether is enriched by mantras.

The ancient practice of Pooja has, therefore, a lot of depth and meaning to it. Mainly, it creates more positive ions, more so when people are meditating. However, just doing Pooja as a ritual is not that effective because mantras are effective when people are awake from within; for them, mantras have more meaning. So, the ultimate goal of mantras, Pooja, and all ancient practices is to help you to go deep into meditation. And only in deep meditation can you realize Shiva.

Sri Sri Ravishankar




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