Many A Krishna

Meaning of the word Krishna

The term Krishna means dark, dark hued.

Krishna, the central character to our book, is often in poetry and songs, referred to as Megha Shyama, meaning “dark as the rain bearing cloud”.

There were many a Krishna during Krishna’s time itself.

The prominent Krishnas

 Three Krishnas at the same Time

There have been many a dark hued persons through the times in this land and since the word “Krishna” denotes dark hued, more than a few of them have been called Krishna.

To avoid confusion, the central character of this book Krishna, the Yadava Prince, is often referred to as “Devakiputra Krishna” meaning “Krishna, the son of Devaki”.

The author of the epic Mahabharata, whom we reverentially call Veda Vyasa, was named Krishna at birth, for he was also dark. He was called Krishna Dwaipayana meaning “Krishna, the island born” as he was born on an island in the middle of a river, to Satyavati who was a boat woman.

Veda Vyasa is a title given to him, as he had also compiled the four Veda and organized them in a format which is in vogue to this day. The word Vyasa means “a compiler”.

Draupadi, the wife of the Pandava princes, was also named Krishnaa at birth. She was also dark hued in colour.

Why only people? Even rivers were named Krishna.

Krishna is the name of a mighty river flowing in Andhra Pradesh. Many think that this river was named after Devakiputra Krishna. But this river is also referred to as the elder sister of Ganga, which means that this river and its name are treated as feminine gender. The original name of this river is actually Krishnaveni, meaning “dark plaited”.

Blue not Black

In Samskrt, the word “Neela” is used to denote any dark substance.

In northern parts of India, until a few years ago, the local way of commenting that someone has tanned or become dark, was by using the word “Neela”.

Neela also means “dark blue”. So, in Indian imagery we find the colour dark blue associated with dark and not black. This can be seen in visual representations in the form of a blue coloured Devakiputra Krishna, Draupadi and so on.

It can also be seen from some of the ancillary names given to Krishna such as Neelamegha Shyama, meaning “dark as the dark cloud”.

Usage of the word Krishna

Krishna Paksha

The moon, every month, goes through two cyclical phases of a fortnight each, called Paksha in Samskrt.

The waxing phase, in which the moon grows brighter day by day is called Shukla Paksha. Shukla means “white”, “fair”.

The other phase of the moon, where the moon grows darker day by day is called Krishna Paksha. Clearly the term Krishna Paksha has come about due to its association with darkening and not due to its association with an individual by name Krishna, as many are wont to think today.

Krishnamayam Jagat

There is an ancient popular phrase – “Krishnamayam Jagat.” This has been simply expressed by those who eulogize Krishna, to say that Lord Krishna fills this entire world, Jagat.

When we look at this same phrase from a scientific level, it offers us a completely new meaning.

 Krishna, we now know, means “dark”.

Mayam as a suffix, qualifies the word preceding it. Mayam denotes “being possessed of ”, “being encapsulated” in the quality denoted by the preceding word.

Jagat at a basic level means “this world”. It also means “anything that is moving”, “that, which is moving with good speed”, “moving with life”. All these are true for this world. Hence it is called Jagat and also

Jag in Hindi.

The universe is also called Jagat, as everything in this universe is also moving. The word Jagannath, Lord of the Universe, Lord of that which is constantly in motion, comes from this word Jagat. It is from Jagannath of Puri and His famous large Rath, chariots, that came the English word “Juggernaut” to denote an overwhelming and moving object or force.

 What is further scientifically relevant to us today, from the phrase, Krishnamayam jagat, is that, everything in this universe is encapsulated in darkness. Darkness pervades everywhere.

 Modern science states that, only 4% of the universe is made of matter that can be seen. The rest, 96 % of the universe is in the form of dark energy and dark matter. This dark energy, dark matter, is dark and unseen through known forms of vision, natural or otherwise, because of which it is called “dark”.

So this world is indeed prevailing in darkness. Suddenly this phrase Krishnamayam jagat, throws new light.

Is this our own interpretation, taking cue from modern scientific findings and trying to give a new meaning to an old phrase?

Our earlier works Creation – Srishti Vignana and Understanding Shiva, in the Bharath Gyan series, on the traditional description from the Veda and the Purana, on how this Universe was created, show that this meaning of Krishnamayam jagat, does not seem incredulous, but indeed eminently possible.

This universe is indeed Krishnamayam.

More on Krishna and the historicity of Krishna in our book Historical Krishna – Vol-1 – Dating of Krishna.



Krishna, A War Monger?

Lord Krshna’s preachings to Arjuna to go ahead and fight against his own kith and kin in discharging his duty, has been quoted out of context as being provocative. Many have even called Krishna, “a war monger”.


Gita Upadesha

The reality is far from this for,

  1. Krishna was the Peace Messenger before the war
  2. Advising someone to do one’s duty after coming to the battlefield cannot be construed by any stretch of imagination as war mongering.

The doubts that Krishna clarifies in the battlefield are similar to the doubts that every human being has in waging their daily battles of life. Krishna uses the occasion to express what one’s duty and purpose of life is for all, through Arjuna.

His message to Arjuna was a call to duty – in thought, word and action, which has stood the test of time for 5100 years both in debate and in action. Which is why, it is revered as Bhagavad Gita, the “Song of God”.

Acts to the Contrary

If Krishna were a war monger, then instead of leaving Mathura and going to Dwaraka, He would have stayed back for a fight to the finish, with Jarasandha and his army.

Probably, even at a young age, Krishna had felt that discretion was sometimes the better part of valour and had moved with His people to Dwaraka, to start a new life.

Strategically moving away, inspite of having defeated Kamsa in an open battle and then installing Kamsa’s father back on the throne of Mathura, speaks of Krishna’s maturity in not coveting what was not rightfully His. At that time, Kamsa’s father Ugrasena, who was old by then, had offered the throne to Krishna.

Krishna however declined to accept the throne of Mathura and moved on to Dwaraka.

Krishna probably felt then, that if He continued to stay on in Mathura, there could be repeated reprisals from Jarasandha’s army and the brunt of these attacks would have to be borne by the army and the people of Mathura. They would have to face the repercussions of these wars.

As Jarasandha’s enmity was with Krishna, He probably felt, that if He moved away, then peace would prevail among the people of the two kingdoms, two big cities of those times.

This was a strategic move by Krishna. His decision, not to stay on in Mathura and fight with Jarasandha, shows his maturity in trying to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.

It also brings to light that Krishna was not a war monger, but a strategist.

Ranchor – Walking Away From Battle

For this selfless, strategic act of leaving Mathura to avoid constant wars with Jarasandha, Krishna has sometimes even been called Ranchor, Ranchod, “one who walked away from battle.”

This name however is not used derisively, which is why, even to this day, many people are called Ranchor or Ranchordas.

Rann is battle, rann bhumi is battlefield in the Samskrt language and many other languages of India and South East Asia.


Krishna as Ranchodrai in Dakor temple

Peace Ambassador

When it was time to go to the Hastinapura court to demand their rightful share of property, it was Krishna that the Pandava chose to represent them.

It was Krishna whom the Kaurava and the elders in the court of Dhritarashtra were willing to hold negotiations with, as a peace ambassador.

All these incidents prove with certainty that Krishna was not a war monger.

Then why did Krishna counsel Arjuna to fight the battle against his granduncles and cousins?

The answer to these questions lie within Krishna’s Upadesha, counsel to the very same Arjuna, called the “Bhagavad Gita”.

(The above is an extract from our book – “Historical Krishna”.)


Parting of Yamuna – A Miracle?

Yamuna Crossing

It was midnight when baby Krishna arrived on earth inside the prison of His wicked uncle Kamsa.

As though aware of the gravity of the situation, the new born baby lay quietly by the side of His mother Devaki. Vasudeva, Krishna’s father, was anxiously shifting his gaze between his newborn son and the prison doors, afraid that the guards may arrive any moment and see the child. To his surprise, he found that the guards had all fallen asleep as though in a state of stupor. The chains at his feet had come loose and the prison doors too had come ajar. He immediately read the signs that he was being shown the way to save his child. He decided to take Krishna and leave Him with his friend Nandagopa on the other side of the Yamuna.

Making haste, he quickly bundled baby Krishna into a basket and walked out of the prison with the child, hoping to make it to his friend Nandagopa’s house and back before daybreak, before the prison guards could find out anything amiss.

It was raining heavily that night and the winds were howling at a feverish pitch. Reaching the banks of the Yamuna, he wondered how he would manage to cross her safely with the child in such weather. Alone, he could have swum across. But he now had a baby.

Yet surprisingly, when he stepped into the waters, he found Yamuna parting and making way for them to cross over. The waters seemed to be leaping, wanting to touch the feet of Krishna but not daring to go any higher.


Krishna being carried by Vasudeva across the Yamuna River in spate

Vasudeva had a feeling that a hooded snake was following him, spreading his hood as an umbrella for Krishna. Overawed, he dared not to turn and look. He kept walking till he reached the other bank. He left Krishna with Nandagopa and returned to the prison just in time before the guards woke up.

Yamuna returned to flowing in her usual manner as though she had seen nothing, she knew nothing and she had done nothing.

If Krishna is historical and not a myth, how can this be explained? Was it a miracle, an exaggeration or an imagination?

The Red Sea Crossing from the Bible

On similar lines, various teams have been working to understand and solve the Biblical mysteries, one of them being the parting of the Red Sea when Moses led his people, the Hebrews, out of Egypt.




Parting of Red Sea

One of the theories that has been put up to explain this as a natural, but rare phenomenon, is based on the principle of Wind Set Down.

A Wind Set Down

One of the experts who has been working on this theory, is scientist Prof. Doran Nof, Oceanography Department, Florida State University.                4


University Logo

According to the Wind Set Down theory, when winds blow continuously for a sustained duration, from the shores of a water body, towards the inside of the water body, at speeds around 100 mph and if the water depths happen to be shallow in that region, the winds can succeed in pushing the waters further inside, away from the shore.


If the land under the water body also contains undulating ridges, then the receding waters could get contained within the troughs and can create stretches of dry areas within the water body, especially on top of the ridges.

Once the winds die down, the waters will gush back into that land at a much higher speed.

The time period for the event of the Red Sea crossing is estimated to have been around 1500 BCE.

Based on this Wind Set Down theory, the sea levels then, the Biblical descriptions and other logical analysis, Prof. Nof and Nathan Paldor of the Institute of Earth Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have identified the route that must have been taken by Moses. They have zeroed in on the place where Moses must have crossed the Red Sea safely and how once the winds died down, all the soldiers of the Pharoah would have got trapped and drowned by the parted waters gushing back.

Miracle on Yamuna

Similarly on the night of Krishna’s birth, there was heavy rain, accompanied by gusty winds, thunder and lightning. The Yamuna was also in spate. The gusty winds accompanied by the other conditions described, could well have been an ideal condition for a ‘wind set down’ phenomenon to have occurred there in the Yamuna river too making it possible for Vasudeva to carry the just born Krishna, in a basket, and walk across the Yamuna.

Yamuna, a smaller river then

It is to be borne in mind that Yamuna was a smaller and shallower river then. Sarasvati was a much larger, flowing river then.

Tamas was then a tributary of the Sarasvati, before it turned east to join the Yamuna much later in time.

Even now in the Mathura Agra belt, Yamuna is a shallow river. This is noticeable before summer, when the water is lowest in the river. It is sometimes easy to ford the river then, on foot.


Dry Bed of Yamuna River

Mystifying Miracles

Krishna is eulogized for the miracles He performed during His childhood as well as later in life. The list is long and the parting of the Yamuna is one of the first few miracles to find place in this list.

From the Red Sea parting study, we see that the parting of Yamuna too has a scientific explanation.

It is possible that over time, with increasing popularity of Krishna as divine, some incidents could have found their way into the epic or other allied texts, legends and practices of the land, in the form of miracles to convey awe of the divine.

It is also possible that over time, in future, as science advances, it could stretch into understanding some of the subtler aspects as well. This in turn could lead to a better understanding of Krishna’s miracles, acts.

Time alone can tell what really happened!

Time alone can tell what will happen!

(The above is an extract from our book – “Historical Krishna”)


Did Mandodari Marry Vibhishana?

Ravana had many wives amongst whom, Queen Mandodari, was the chief Queen, a virtuous, beautiful lady. She was the daughter of Mayasura, a great mathematician, a great architect and an engineer par excellence. As his name Mayasura suggests he was from the Asura clan.

It was Mayasura who built Lanka, one of the greatest cities.

Ravana and Mandodari – Great Devotees of Shiva

Ravana and Mandodari were great devotees of Lord Shiva.

In response to the prayer of Mandodari, Lord Shiva visited the island of Lankapuri at Thiruketheeswaram, in the form of a child and blessed Queen Mandodari and Ravana.

It is in commemoration of this visit of Lord Shiva to Lanka, that Queen Mandodari’s father, Mayasura, the architect par excellence, built the Thiruketheeswaram temple, as per the rules of the Agama sastra for temple construction.


Way back in 1864 itself, the famous Galle Face Hotel of Colombo chose for its logo, the Dandu Monara Vimana. This goes to show that, Ravana flying in Dandu Monara Vimana was a popular and widely accepted theme, even 150 years ago during colonial rule.

In the logo of the hotel, it shows Ravana and Mandodari flying in the Dandu Monara Vimana.


Ravana and Mandodari in the Vimana

Galle Face Hotel Logo,

Dandu Monara Vimana, 1864

Mandodari Counsels Ravana

When Ravana kidnapped Sita, Mandodari counselled him many times on the inappropriateness of this action.


Sita in Ashok Vatika

But Ravana, for all his gifted qualities of being well educated, a good administrator, possessing varied skills, met his downfall when he coveted somebody else’s chaste wife against her own wishes.

He refused to see reason, despite the good counsel of Mandodari his wife and Vibhishana his brother and refused to release Sita back to Rama.

Ravana eventually met his end at the hands of Rama.


Rama slaying Ravana

Did Mandodari marry Vibhishana?

Now, there are some who question the character of Rama and Vibhishana, stating a few sources which seem to suggest that Vibhishana, Ravana’s brother, coveted Mandodari, on the advice of Rama, after Ravana’s death. And that, Sita was a mute onlooker to this.

Kelaniya – Vibhishana’s Palace

To the north of Colombo is the Kelaniya Buddhist temple.


This temple has been identified as the site of the ancient palace of Vibhishana. Carvings to this effect are found on the outer wall of this temple.


Kelaniya temple

Is it Mandodari in this Sculpture?

On the back side wall of this temple, is a rock cut, sculptured panel depicting the coronation or Pattabhishekam of Vibhishana.


Vibhishana coronation panel in Kelaniya temple

Lakshmana is depicted to be conducting the coronation of Vibhishana in this panel.

This sculpture is in  line with the description of this event in the Ramayana epic because Rama was still undergoing His 14 years of Vanavasa, exile in the forest and hence did not enter the city to conduct the coronation but instead, had deputed Lakshmana to do so on His behalf.

In the coronation sculpture, the queen of Lanka sitting beside Vibhishana is identified by some observers now, as Mandodari.

No reference in Valmiki Ramayana

For an accurate picture, we need to look at Valmiki Ramayana, the original source of Rama’s story; an itihasa, which means, “It thus happened”.

Valmiki Ramayana is a biography of Rama, chronicled by Valmiki!


Valmiki, the author of Ramayana

It should be noted here that, as per Valmiki Ramayana, Mandodari did not occupy the throne of Lanka with Vibhishana. After Ravana’s death, Mandodari went into mourning.

Vibhishana was a married man, whose wife was Ammani and he also had a daughter called Trijata. She was known as Trijata because she had three Jata of long hair, Jata meaning plait. Since she had dressed her hair in three plates, she was called Trijata. Trijata had earlier been deputed to attend to Sita’s needs, when Sita was held captive by Ravana at Ashoka Vatika.

So it should have been Vibhishana’s wife, Trijata’s mother, who occupied the throne along with Vibhishana at the time of the coronation and not Mandodari as is held by some.

More on this in our book, Ramayana in Lanka.

In Ramacharitamanas

The source that some quote to suggest that Mandodari married Vibhishana, comes from an indirect reference in the Ramacharitamana, by Tulsidas. In this poetic work, Tulsidas, while speaking of the compassion of Rama on His devotees, states, in the first chapter, Doha– 28.


In this sloka, there is no reference to Vibhishana forcefully coveting Mandodari. When the misdemeanor is not fully expressed, one cannot assume without reason that it relates to Mandodari.

Case of Tara and Sugreeva

There is another incident in the Ramayana, where, Tara, the wife of Bali, offers to marry Sugreeva on the death of Bali, on the promise that after the time of Sugreeva, her son Angad will be the king. She did this to ensure the safety of her son.


Tara supporting Bali, after he was wounded by Rama

An Understanding needed

We need to understand that only the act of forcing a woman to marrying someone, is immoral and illegal. But, if a married woman wanted to marry someone else, it was not considered illegal or immoral. Women enjoyed that unique right in this land.

Mandodari – A Woman par Excellence

Mandodari did not marry Vibhishana. After the death of Ravana, she went into mourning and oblivion.

Mandodari was no ordinary lady. She was the daughter of the renowned Mayasura, the great architect, mathematician, astronomer and skilled engineer.

Pancha Kanya

Mandodari was such an illustrious woman that she figures as one of the 5, in India’s Panchakanya list of “all time great” women. Pancha is 5 and kanya is a lady.

In the Indian tradition 5 women have been given the title of Panchakanya for their ideal lives. They are Ahalya, Sita, Mandodari, Draupadi and Tara.


The Samskrt hymn on Panchakanya is as follows:


Need to present factual opposition

Thus we need not cast aspersions on the character of Mandodari and Vibhshana, or for that matter Rama, and need to give a factual opposition to any malicious theories put forth by vested interests.

More on Rama and other characters of the Ramayana in our Rama Trilogy,

  1. Historical Ram
  2. Ayodhya – War and Peace
  3. Ramayana in Lanka


and film Historical Rama in

  1. English
  2. Hindi
  3. Kannada
  4. Tamil                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     16       

Significance of Shivaratri

Indian thought and practices over time immemorial have commemorated certain days and festivals as ways and means for people to understand, remember and reunite with the Universe and the divinities of the Universe.

These festivals become gateways for people to reach out and be in communion with the divinities.

Shivaratri is one such festival which is a gateway to reach out and understand the divinity called Shiva or Shiva Tattva.

Shivaratri celebrations

Once we understand the meaning of Shiva Tattva and the celebration of Shivaratri, no doubt, our celebrations and the enjoyment of the Tattva of Shiva will be enhanced manifold. It will make our celebrations more relevant and meaningful.

Ithihasa Purusha-Historical Personages

Among the Indian pantheon of divinities, few are historical and many others are Tattva, principles, essence in nature.

The prominent historical divinities are Rama and Krishna for which reason they are called as Ithihasa Purusha, historical personages and Avathara Purusha, those who came down to this earth, to live with us.

Lord Rama       Lord Krishna

Rama and Krishna – Historical Personages

Shiva, a Tattva

In contrast to this, Shiva is not an ithihasa purusha but is a tattva. .

What is Shiva Tattva?


Shiva – A Tattva

Meaning of the term Shiva

The word Shiva simply means Mangalam, auspicious. Anything that is auspicious is Shiva. This auspiciousness which is all pervading throughout the universe, is a constant presence during the lifetime of this universe, before the creation of the universe and continues to be so after the dissolution of this world, this solar system, this galaxy and this entire universe.

Thus this Shiva, auspiciousness is the very life of the universe. Not just the life we see around us in a very limited perspective of life in humans, animals or plants but the very concept of life itself.

The meaning for Shiva as auspiciousness is evident from the following examples.

The traditional way of wishing “Goodbye” was through a phrase “Shivaasthe Panthaanaha” meaning “Let your ways be auspicious”. Ways here, meaning your paths, your deeds and ways of life.


 Shivaasthe Panthaanaha

The term “Shiva” also has a much larger connotation which includes

  • having the potential,
  • being capable of,
  • boding well,
  • being favourable, promising.

All of these meanings of Shiva are also attributed to the Indian term “Mangalam”, which also has a similar all encompassing meaning of denoting the potential to manifest something good.


From a metaphysical perspective, Shiva can be split as sha+ee+va where

  • sha stands for Shareeram, body,
  • ee stands for eeshwari, life giving energy and
  • va stands for vayu or motion.

Thus Shiva represents the body with life and motion.

If the “ee” is removed from Shiva, it gets reduced to sha+va or shava.

Shava means a lifeless body.

Anything with Shiva is with life and anything without Shiva is Shava or without life.

Here we see that while Shava is motionless or lifeless, Shiva is with the potential of life.

Making this potential manifest as matter, life and the cosmos, is Shakti the energy tattva, the female counterpart of Shiva. Without Shakti, Shiva stays as the potential. It is Shakti that triggers Shiva into manifesting as life.

This body is composed of many cells. It is the Preeti, the forces of attraction which keep the cells together to produce a body with life or with Prana. When this Preeti is gone, the cells disintegrate and Prana goes away from the body and the body is considered to be dead.

Thus Shiva along with Shakti together go to produce the universe as we can and cannot see it.

So, Shiva is auspicious, Shiva is potential and Shiva is Life. Shiva is all encompassing – the universal soul or consciousnss, Chaitanya. Realizing this Shiva Tattva leads to Ananda, bliss.

Understanding Night, Ratri

This Creation resonates with a rhythm or a natural heartbeat. Every object in this Creation has its own cycle or rhythm, in which it rises to a peak and ebbs to a low. This low is called the night, ratri.

The word Ratri means comfort giver”. It is derived from the root word “ram” meaning “to be content”, “to give contentment”.

3 Levels of Activities

Ratri is that which gives one comfort or rest from the 3 types of activities namely:

  • Kayika or bodily actions,
  • Vachika or speech
  • Manasika or thoughts.

A person is afflicted physically, mentally and spiritually by 3 types of agents, namely

  • Adhyatmika – pertaining to the self, the Atma
  • Adhi Bhauthika – pertaining to the elements of Nature, the Bhuta
  • Adhi Daivika – pertaining to the cosmic, the Divya

During night, as man sleeps and gets regenerated, all 3 types of actions are subdued and mind is completely at rest, free from all types of afflictions.

Hence night is called ratri or the comfort giver.


What a beautiful way to form a word such that its very formation implies its meaning and function.

It is during the ratri or night of any being, that the being gets rejuvenated and refreshed for its next cycle or day.

The Natural Rhythm

For man, this natural rhythm is daily day and night. Every night, the body gets regenerated and refreshed for the next day. The old cells are discarded and get replaced with new cells every day. Blood in the body is purified and circulated every day. New blood cells are born each day. This is Nithya Pralaya or daily Pralaya.

What is a Pralaya?


Only when there is dissolution of the old, can there be scope for regeneration of the new.

There is a continuous cycle of dissolution and regeneration going on in the Universe.

The process of dissolution is called Pralaya. Pralaya is limitedly understood as waters or fire engulfing everything.

Infact there are 4 types of Pralaya defined in ancient Indian texts, they being,

  • Nithya Pralaya, daily Pralaya
  • Naimitika Pralaya, occasional Pralaya
  • Avantara Pralaya, seasonal Pralaya
  • Maha Pralaya, the great Pralaya

Laya means to merge or dissolve into. Music that makes one forget everything and makes one blend with the music is said to have Layam. It is also a rhythm.

The prefix Pra denotes special as in Prakrithi which is primordial or ultimate Nature. Pralaya thus simply means the rhythmic, special dissolution or merging back into ultimate natural form.

Shiva, being the potential to manifest, is the divinity for dissolution and regeneration. Hence the time one readies for rejuvenation and regeneration that comes with a Pralaya, is associated with Shiva as Shivaratri.

Observing Shivaratri

Not so commonly known is the monthly celebration of Shivaratri, which falls on the Krishnapaksha Chaturdasi every month or the night preceding the New Moon.

Maha Shivaratri or the Great Shivaratri is celebrated annually on the Krishnapaksha Chaturdasi night. i.e. the night preceding the New Moon, in the penultimate month of the year, the month of Magha or the month of Masi in Tamil calendar, which typically occurs in the month of February – March these days.

History of Shivaratri

Rishi Kahola Kaushitaki in his Kaushitaki Brahmana records that Maha Shivaratri was celebrated even during the Mahabharatha times, i.e. 5100 years ago.

Appreciating Shivaratri

In cosmology, when the entire Creation starts contracting, it is expressed as the start of the night of Brahma and the final collapse is called the Maha Pralaya. This Maha Pralaya then leads to the start of the next cycle of Creation and is thus a regeneration of the entire Srishti, Creation.

The interim state between a dissolution and a regeneration is a period of both serenity and tranquility when all bodies are calm and preparing for regeneration. Following this tranquility is the joy and celebration which comes with having been regenerated and refreshed.

Change through celebration

The change that comes with dissolution can primarily be accepted in two ways,

  1. With pain
  2. With celebration

When there is resistance to a change, there is pain. Where there is willful acceptance, there is no pain. When we understand and willingly accept that a dissolution is only for a regeneration, the dissolution or change ceases to cause pain.

Shivaratri is an occasion that makes us aware of the need to change along with the ever changing cosmos and to renew our cosmic connect.

It is a window to prepare ourselves to accept the change, to let go of the past, to make way for the new and the rejuvenation that comes forth.

It is a celebration to welcome the change, the rejuvenation.

Therefore for time immemorial our ancestors have given this night of regeneration, a feeling of serenity through fasting and praying and have followed it with celebration through singing.



Every Shivaratri, let us connect with this Shiva Tattva and get rejuvenated to face the coming phases of our lives.

More information on these aspects of Shiva is available in our book, “Understanding Shiva”, and a film, “Understanding Shiva” which are a part of the Bharath Gyan Series.

understanding shiva book

understanding shiva film

Understanding Shiva – “Book and Film”

Symbolism of Shiva

In Indian tradition, Shiva Tattva, is often represented in a distinct form of Shankara sitting in meditation holding implements such as Damaru and Trishul. He has a mark of vibhuti on His forehead. He wears a snake around His neck. He has a matted hair with Ganga flowing out from these locks. He has a crescent moon on His head as a ‘decoration’. He rides a Bull called Nandi, His Vahana, vehicle.

Is this the real form of Shiva or is it a visual representation with each of these aspects of His form having some significance?


Shankara etymologically comes from “Sham karothi ithi Shankara”, meaning, “that which does good”.

Thus the form of Shankara brings to bearing that Shiva, the auspicious and with the potential to manifest all goodness, can only be realized through deep meditation, a state when the sound of OM reverberates through our mind, being and senses.



Watch Bharath Gyan Film on Shankara


The Trishul as the name itself suggests, is a trident, a spear with 3 spikes to it.



The Trishul of Shiva seems to be conveying the significance of 3 to us.

Watch Bharath Gyan Short Film Trishul

The 3 Forces of Trinity

At one level, this Trishul denotes the concept of Trinity in the Universe where the Trinity represent the divine forces of the Universe.

What are these three divine forces of the Universe?

In the ancient Indian texts, the Trinity or the divine forces have been expressed as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva i.e. the creator, preserver and destroyer respectively.


Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva

The Indian Rishi, seer scientists, have expressed that for the Universe to go through its cycles, this Trinity, these 3 divine forces are an essential requisite and it is essential for these 3 forces of the Trinity to work in tandem.

This concept of Trinity has also been discussed by different civilizations in their own variant forms.

The 3 states of Divinity

At another level, the Trishul or trident of Shiva is perhaps to remind us constantly of the 3 states of Shiva namely

Arupa – Formless,

Rupa-Arupa – Formless Form and

Sarupa – With form.

Watch the Bharath Gyan Film – 3 states of Shiva

The 3 states of Man

Trishul also denotes the 3 modes of action in mankind and that which drives these acts. They are;

1. Kayika, physical actions

2. Vaachika, speech

3. Manasika, to do with the mind

These 3 modes of action do find a equivalence in the 3 states of the divinity as well, for example

  1. Kayika with Sarupa or manifested form
  2. Vaachika with Rupa-Arupa for the formless form
  3. Manasika with Arupa for the formless

It is pertinent to note here that the ancient Greek divinity of Europe, Poseidon, also had a trident in his hand.



The other prominent implement in Shiva’s hand is the Damaru.

The Damaru is a rustic, very ancient variety of hand held drum, with a central bead attached to string which swings and beats on both sides of the drum in an alternating manner.

What is the significance of this Damaru in Shiva’s hand?

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                               Shiva                                                      Damaru                                                                       

Shiva represents the Cosmic being and the Cosmic power that causes the cycles of creation, dissolution and regeneration which happen in regular rhythmic intervals as the acts of Nature.

The implement that best exemplifies the beat of the rhythm is a drum.

The primeval drum is the Damaru.

As Shiva oversees the rhythmic of dissolution and regeneration, the Damaru best exemplifies the implement most needed by Shiva to keep up this rhythm.

The cosmic rhythmic beat is such that, it causes everything in this Universe to merge in unison with this beat and dissolve back into Shiva. This event is therefore called Pralaya. Thus when Shiva beats His Damaru, He causes the Pralaya or natural dissolution of this Universe.

Watch Bharath Gyan Short Film – Damaru

Third Eye-Tryambaka

Tryambaka comes from the roots tri meaning 3 and Ambaka which means eyes.

The name Tryambaka for Shiva thus is said to mean Shiva the 3 eyed.


 3 eyed Shiva

Modern physiology indicates the presence of a gland called the pineal gland in the brain, behind and between the eyebrows which is considered to be the focal point for concentration. The 3rd eye of Shiva is also but a way to remind us to open our eyes and see, experience Shiva in all the three states, Arupa – the Formless state, Rupa Arupa –  the Formless Form state and Rupa – the Formful state.

The third eye is to realize Shiva in His formless Arupa state which is at once vast, terrific and terrifying.

Watch Bharath Gyan Short- Shiva’s 3rd Eye

The Forehead Mark – Vibhuti

Of the 5 primordial elements, the Fire element, Agni, is associated with Shiva. This is exemplified by the story of the Lingodhbhava. Fire acts on anything and everything and reduces it to a state of ash or Bhasma. So Bhasma is a product of Agni or Shiva acting on it. It is considered symbolic of Shiva’s act of destruction for regeneration.

The word Vibhuti means resplendent or glowing, with extraordinary powers.

The smearing of the ash or Vibhuti is meant to destroy one’s ego and ignorance and give rise to a new self, glowing with the realization of Shiva.

Moon on head-Chandrasekhara

The moon weaves a magic in the sky every fortnight.

Once, the New Moon phase is reached, there is no moon visible from the earth. From there, it grows again and recreates a Full Moon again within the next fortnight as part of a beautiful celestial show of Nature. Shiva as the divinity of regeneration, in His pictorial form, has a very thin crescent moon on His head.



This thin crescent symbolically depicts the regenerative aspect in the monthly cycle of the moon from the thin remnants of the previous cycle.

Regeneration is also connected with fertility and what is interesting to note here is that, in humans, the women’s fertility cycle of 28 day period exactly coincides with the 28 day cycle of the moon.

The Chandrasekhara or Somasekhara form of Shiva brings out to us the intrinsic correlation between the phases of the moon, fertility and the humans.

Watch Bharath Gyan Short Film – Chandrasekhara

Nandi –The Bull

Shiva’s Vahana, Vehicle is the bull called Nandi. A bull is called Rishabha in local language and it is a Pashu. The loose translation for Pashu is animal. But Pashu is also an encompassing term that includes all living beings or bodily forms.

Shiva as a principle of the Universe can only be realized through subtler means and not in a physical or gross form. Thus Pashu or bodily forms are a stumbling block in the way towards realizing Shiva.


Nandi, Bull

Only when one is willing to go beyond the bodily level of understanding and hones the subtler senses, can one understand and realize Shiva Shankar and peace.

 Watch Bharath Gyan Short Film – Nandi

This Shivaratri, let us imbibe the significance behind Shiva’s visual form as we immerse ourselves in the Shiva Tattva.

[Selective excerpts from the book Understanding Shiva in the Bharath Gyan Series by D.K.Hari and D.K.Hema Hari]

Understanding Shiva Book

Also watch the 19 Short Films on ‘Understanding Shiva’ here: