Spirituality, Yoga, & Conscious Living

Maha Shivaratri: What Shiva And His Symbols Mean

Maha Shivaratri: What Shiva And His Symbols Mean


The night of Maha Shivarathri, directly translating to “The Night Of Shiva”, carries a special significance for Yogis. Shiva is known as the ‘Adiyogi,’ or the “The First Yogi.”

Legend has it that he alone knew the 112 ways for a human to attain higher consciousness. He was persuaded by his wife, Parvathi to reveal the secrets to mankind because they need it so much. Though initially reluctant, he complies and begins his Yogic instruction to the Seven Sages, known as Sapta Rishis, his first students, and perpetrators of Yoga on Earth. Shivarathri is the darkest night of the month, occurring on the 14th day of every lunar month or the day before the new moon. Shivarathri is known to occur about 12 to 13 times a year, in accordance with the cycles of the moon.

SEE ALSO: The Healing Properties Of Amber

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What is Maha Shivarathri?

However, the night of Shivarathri in the month of Magha, according to the Hindu Calendar is called Maha Shivarathri. Mystics says that this night is of special significance because of the alignment of the Northern Hemisphere, producing a wave of cosmic energy, much like an eclipse.

The Hindu community in India celebrates this special night of darkness by spending it awake in meditation and prayer, in an attempt to make the most of this Cosmic energy upsurge. Hinduism entwines the concept of several Gods, each one signifying one aspect of life. Hindus find a way to celebrate every aspect of life – wealth, peace, asceticism, austerity, activity, stillness and even death.

Shiva is the celebration of stillness, austerity, calm and peace. Shiva literally translates to “That which is not”. Shiva is also worshiped as the God of destruction or death. It signifies that thing that we cannot fathom, that which we cannot grasp, that which is beyond. Shiva is also one of the wild gods – he roams about in the mountains, smears his body with ash, consumes cannabis, dances in an intoxicated manner, wears animal skin for clothes and is happy to be away from society.

Shiva is mostly commonly represented in a meditative posture, with his eyes closed, body smeared with ash, the moon’s crescent on his head, the trident in his hand, the serpent on his neck.  Here are 5 symbols of Shiva that have very deep significance.

The Third Eye

Shiva is always depicted with a third eye that’s always closed and located between his eyes. While our two eyes are seen as sense organs, the third eye has a deeper significance. It refers to the evolution of perception, developing into a third eye that gives us the evasive “sixth-sense”. Yoga offers a way to enhance and align our energies to open up that vision of perception. Due to this hypersensitive third eye, Shiva is also called as ‘Triambaka’ – the one with three eyes.


Most Yogis are aware of the 7 fundamental chakras in the human body. The Vishuddhi chakra is present at the throat. “Vishuddhi” means “filter” and the serpent symbolizes that an enhanced Vishuddhi enables us to filter a lot of negativity- in words, thought, action.


According to the ancient science of holistic medicine, Ayurveda, there are three basic nadis or prana channels in the human body called the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. These are present in the energy or prana body, also called the Pranamaya Kosha( in Indian mantras and scriptures). The Trishul represents a balance of all the three nadis.


The Damaroo is a small drum, narrow in the middle and the two sides flaring out ending in smooth surfaces on both sides. The sound of Shiva’s Dumroo signifies the resonance of cosmos, culminating in the word, “Om” or “Aum”.


Shiva has ash smeared all over his body. Ash is typically a residue of a burn. By smearing it all over him, Shiva reminds us about the transient nature of the physical body. In fact, many Hindu households have ash in the prayer region, serving as a reminder to seek beyond the physical.

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Devishobha Chandramouli

Devishobha Chandramouli is the founder of Kidskintha- a name adapted from the ancient Hindu mythological garden of happiness and abandon called Kidskintha. Kidskintha is dedicated to jumpstarting conversations around millennial parenting, encouraging parents to bring their attention to words, thoughts and actions that will enable them to raise a brave generation. Get your FREE ebook on "Hacking a Happy Childhood- Presenting one hack per week backed by science and psychology."

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