About Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva, the Supreme and one of the prime deities in Hinduism is often depicted as a blue skinned deity sitting in a meditative pose Being the Supreme power, Lord Shiva is known for His patience, wit, anger, giving and forgiving nature. All the various shades of the Lord and every element that we often see in the paintings and iconography of the deities have a significant role to play. Symbolism plays a key role in Hinduism and it teaches us the truth of life and how one should lead life. The snake that is often seen coiled three times around Lord Shiva’s neck facing towards the right side is Vasuki.
Vasuki, the snake finds its mention in the ancient Holy books. According to the Puranas, Vasuki was the King of Snakes. The snake that coils around the neck of Lord Shiva is Vasuki. According to the Holy Scriptures, Vasuki was born to Kashyapa and Kadru after Adishesha. Vasuki was the most powerful snake and was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. According to the mentions in the Puranas, Vasuki played a significant role by becoming the string of the bow that Lord Shiva used to destroy the 3 cities named as Tripuradahana.
Vasuki Naagraj (Snake King) is highly revered in Hinduism and is worshipped on the festival of Nag Panchami. People even perform the Nag Pujas to attain blessings of the serpents and to be safeguarded from snake bites.In some of the ancient artwork, the serpent king Vasuki has been depicted having multiple heads and is also referred to as the thousand headed serpent king. Mahabharata states that Vasuki resides in the palace of Varuna, the sea god.
Legend of Lord Shiva and Vasuki
There are many legends associated to Lord Shiva and Vasuki. The king of serpents Vasuki considers himself lifeless without Lord Shiva. He is just like an ornament wrapped around the neck of NeelKantha (Shiva).
As mentioned in the Puranas, during the Samudra manthan (churning of the ocean of milk), a deadly poison emerged out of the ocean. This poison was called as halahala. In order to save all the beings of the three worlds, the lord had to consume this poison. Apart from Lord Shiva, a few snakes present in the waters too consumed the poison. Vasuki was one of these snakes who consumed halala as he was tied to the mountain Mandara as a rope used for churning. Even after consuming this deadly poison Vasuki did not complain. Looking at this, Lord Shiva was impressed and thus decided to wear Vasuki (king of sarpas) around his neck.
There is another legend according to which Vasuki had surrendered to Lord Shiva. So as per this legend during the churning of the ocean of milk, Vasuki the son of Sage Kashyapa and Kadru consumed the deadliest poison that emerged out of the ocean. Due to the excessive churning process, Vasuki’s body was injured all over and he was distressed. He surrendered to Lord Shiva and fell at His feet. Vasuki said the following
"O Lord! O the leader of gods, the intense Churning of Milk Ocean strained my body, leaving it hot and injured. I somehow became intolerant and lost all of my Yogic strengths and emitted the venom I had preserved for millions of years. I transgressed self-control of the entire Yoga Naga Kula clan. Why did this happen, my Lord? Please enlighten me."On which Lord Shiva smiled with love and compassion and said: ‘When you were chosen from the rest as a rope in the Churning, you were unaware of ego taking over you making you think “They have chosen me. I must be special and great”. However you have already been punished by the bruises all over your body. Do not fear. You will be called once again by the gods and the demons to churn the Ocean until amrita comes out. The fragrance of amrita will energize you and restore your yogic strengths’.
As said by the Supreme Lord Shiva, the serpent king Vasuki received all his strength and powers after the Amrita (Elixir) was churned out and from that moment onwards he became the most ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and was humbled when Lord Shiva placed him around His neck.
According to yet another legend, After Lord Kartikeya killed Tarakasura, who was an Asura king, his sons Tarakaksha, Vidyunmali and Kamalaksha were flaming in anger and wanted to teach a lesson to all the devas. These asuras undertook severe penances in order to appease Lord Brahma. Impressed by their severe penance, Lord Brahma told them that they can ask for a boon. The demons (asuras) requested Lord Brahma to make them immortal. Lord Brahma replied by saying that nothing can be immortal. The three asuras, Tarakaksha, Vidyunmali and Kamalaksha then thought for a while and asked Lord Brahma to bless them with unassailable fortresses which would last forever. Lord Brahma once again said that nothing can last forever. Hence the three asura brothers came up with a cruel and witty scheme. They requested Lord Brahma to grant a boon according to which the destruction of the fortresses could be done only by a single arrow which would penetrate all the three cities at the same time which was practically impossible. Lord Brahma granted them their desired wish. Mayasura, the great asura and an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva was a great architect. He built the three cities known as ‘Tripura’. These three cities were mobile and constantly moved in various directions. The three cities were located on earth, in the sky and in heaven, respectively. The city that was constructed on Earth had walls of Iron, the city constructed in sky was built with walls of silver, located in the sky, and the third city which was constructed in Heaven has walls made of gold. After the cities where constructed, the three asuras would attack the deva loka after every few intervals and cause huge destruction. The Devas were tired and ran to Lord Brahma to seek shelter and help. Lord Brahma told them that only Lord Shiva could help them. Learning this all devas went to Lord Shiva to seek His help. Lord Shiva made a bow and an arrow, a powerful chariot and prepared himself. Knowing that the three cities were mobile and would never come in a straight line except for a specific period, Lord Shiva waited patiently for that period and when the time came near He aimed His bow and arrow at the three converged cities and hit the arrow at the core of the cities. Soon all the three cities began collapsing. The string of the bow was Vasuki. Thus, Vasuki served Lord Shiva whenever needed. It is said that Vasuki was always ready to help His master, Lord Shiva.
Symbolism of Snake king Vasuki
Vasuki, the snake god that coils around the neck of Lord Shiva has a story and symbolism attached to it. Vasuki is one of the prime snake deities in Hinduism who is worshipped on Nag panchami and other auspicious events. He is a powerful cobra who holds immense strength and is poisonous and deadly. The three coils of the snake represent the cycle of life in terms of time namely the past, present and the future. Lord Shiva’s everlasting justice and laws to preserve the nature and order of universe is symbolised by Vasuki’s head which is always positioned on the right shoulder of Lord Shiva. Snakes are one of the most dangerous reptiles found in Nature. Wearing a cobra (the most venomous snake) around neck signifies that Lord Shiva is fearless and rules all the three lokas.
Also referred to as Pasupathinath, Shiva is the lord of all creatures. According to an interesting legend, it is cited that once the snake species was in danger, they approached Lord Shiva for help and for shelter. Lord Shiva gave them shelter by allowing them to stay with Him in Kailasa. The snakes could not bear the cold temperature at Kailash as these mountains are snow cladded. So in order to stay warm and protected from the cold, these snakes use to crawl on the body of Lord Shiva for warmth. It is thus also believed that Lord Shiva wore snakes around His body to offer them warmth and to protect them from the extreme temperatures at Kailash.
Being Pashupathinath, (Lord of the animals), Shiva controls the behavioural traits of the animals and snakes being one of the most dangerous and venomous species too are controlled by the Lord. Wearing the snake around the neck as an ornament thus establish the fact that snakes too are under complete control of Lord Shiva. Also, the snakes are associated with qualities of being evil and demonic. Thus by wearing the snake around his neck, Lord Shiva assures all the beings of the three words that no evil can touch or cause harm to us if we surrender to him with a pure heart and seek His protection by worshipping Him with deep devotion.
Spiritual Significance and connection of Lord Shiva and Snake Vasuki
The Kundalini power that is present inside us is a dormant energy which is represented by the Snake. It is believed that the Kundalini is a coiled serpent that lies dormant in the Muladhara Chakra which is situated at the base end of the spinal column in the body that governs the skeletal system, pelvis, hip, legs and the excretory system. It is believed that the Kundalini Shakti becomes jagrit and ascends when ones inclination towards spirituality increases. As and when one starts getting closer to self, the snake (kundalini) starts ascending upwards and once an individual reaches a level where he or she becomes one with their higher self. At this stage the Kundalini is said to be ‘Jagrit’ (awakened). Scroll Down to read more
The snake also is a symbol of passions and desires. In Christianity, the serpent misleads Adam and Eve into eating the apple and this led to them committing a sin. Thus, by wearing a serpent around the neck Lord Shiva conveys a message to all the devotees that overcoming desires and passion is possible if one works on his/her will power and tries to search happiness in oneself and within rather than searching it outside.
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