Appearance of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva is a celibate who meditates at funeral sites with the necklet of skulls after covering body with ash. That’s why He is known as Shamshanvasneya. There are series of Rudraksha beads on his neck and arms. He wears tiger and elephant skins to cover His body.
His hairs are long and in the form of jute and crest. River Ganga and Moon, resides on them. There are three horizontal parallel lines on his forehead and a third eye in between two eyes. His neck is blue and there are finger prints on it. A poisonous snake, Vasuki, is wrapped around His neck.
He holds a trident and a damru (an hourglass shaped musical instrument). A bull, Nandi, is His mount and He remains surrounded with goblins, ghosts, ghouls, sages and aghoris. His abode is in Kailash and His favorite city is Kashi.
Celibacy of Shiva
Shiva is the destroyer of materialism. He is beyond the pomp, hypocrisy, desires, needs and wealth. He has nothing but provides everything to devotees. He says, “Do your duties as a doer without expectations. Be a celibate.”
Being a celibate doesn’t mean leaving house and family. Shiva is married too but He has no desires and no complaints. The whole nature is his house.
He chose celibacy when Brahma dev asked Him to separate His female element for the creation of this universe. He separated Shakti and she lost the wisdom of his male element and didn’t return. Without Shakti, He felt dejected and chose celibacy as the source of peace.
Read compete story of formation of this universe.
Series of Rudraksha
Shiva wears series of Rudraksha beads in his arms and neck. Rudraksha means the tear of Rudra or Shiva. These beads are very hard and they signifies the non-destructible souls.
Ash on Skin
Shiva bathe in the ash of funerals. He meditates there. Ash signifies the mortality of life. This body is made up of 5 elements of nature i.e. Air, Water, Earth, Sky and Fire. After cremation, the only thing left is ash. So, Ash is non-destructible real truth of life.
5 Heads and 10 arms
According to great epics like Shiva Mahapuran, he has 5 heads and 10 arms and that’s why he is known as Panchamukhi Mahadev. These heads signifies different natural elements which are 5 in counts like –
5 Panchabhoot – Earth, Water, Fire, Sky, Air.
5 Beauty – Words, Touch, Appearance, Smell, Pleasure.
5 Sense Organs – Eyes, Ears, Nose, Tongue and Skin.
5 Work Organs – Voice, Hands, Legs, Flesh and Attendance.
3 Eyes (Trinetra)
Shiva has 3 eyes where third eye is situated in between two eyes. Because of this third eye, he is also known as Bhalanetra. The 3rd eye signifies the energy source of His meditation. It holds the power of knowledge, yajna, austerity, yoga and celibacy. It remains closed but when it opens, it destroys.
The whole universe gets energies from the two eyes of Shiva. Even in meditation, he keeps his sight on the world with closed eyes.
Once Parvati closed his eyes with her hands. The whole world turned dark and started contracting. Without his sight, everything was going in the state of nothingness. To save the world, he opened His third eye which provided the required energy. But there are always some consequences of third eye. Because of the heat, a drop of his sweat fall after touching and mixing with the sweat of Parvati. This lead to the birth of Demon Andhak.
Horizontal Lines on Forehead
The three horizontal and parallel lines on his forehead signifies the three principles of world – Creation, Moderation and Destruction.
Moon and River Ganga on Crest
Once Moon was cursed by Prajapati Daksha to decay till death. To save him, Saptarishi did an austerity of Shiva through Mahamrityunjaya Mantra. He appeared and placed Moon on his crest. The curse wasn’t lifted completely but Moon didn’t die. This way Moon became His crown and He got new names like Chandrapal, Chandraprakash and Someshwara.
Bhagirath, ancestor of Shri Rama, did hard austerity of Brahma so that He would release the sacred river Ganga from His ewer. But the flow of Ganga could not be handled by Earth so Shiva hold her in His crest. This is because He is known as Gangadhar.
Necklet of Skulls
Shiva wears the necklet of skulls during meditation. The skulls belongs to the previous births of Shakti in which both couldn’t unite because of her incompleteness.
Read the complete story of skull necklace.
Tiger and Elephant Skins as Clothes
Shiva wears tiger and elephant skins. When he had no clothes, he found a dead tiger and used his skin to cover body.
A demon Kriti, in the disguise of elephant, wanted to get freedom from the hands of Shiva and wished if He could wear his skin like tiger skin. Mahadev granted his wish and since then mahadev got the name Kritivas.
Read the complete story of Kritivaseshwar Mahadev.
Blue Neck with Finger Prints
Shiva drank the poison of Samudra Manthan and hold it in His neck. Because of that His neck turned blue and He got the name, Neelkantha.
Why Samudra Manthan happened? What was the need of it? Read complete story.
To save Vasuki from Garud, Shiva fought with Narayana where Narayana strangled His neck with His hand. The finger prints of strangling resided and he got the name, Shitikanth.
Why Garud attacked Vasuki? Click to read.
Vasuki Snake Wrapped on the Neck
Snakes were declared lower clan creatures by Prajapati Daksha. King of snakes, Vasuki, went to meet Shiva and asked for justice. He gave him position as His necklace to prove the world that no one is superior or inferior. Since the snake is like a necklace, He is known as Nagabhushana.
Trident and Damru
There is a trident and a damru in the hands of Shiva. The three spikes of trident signifies the Rajo Guna, Sattva Guna and Tamo Guna. He is also known as Trishoolin or Trishooldhari.
Damru is a divine musical instrument which He plays to provide peace to the creatures of the world. Its music removes all kinds of negativity and surpass the music of all other instruments in the world.