When we talk about Shiva, we imagine the deity carrying the Trishula (Trident) in his hand. The old stories, popular mythological movies, and tv shows have ingrained this image in our mind. Let us see what Trishula means for Hinduism.
In the past, trident has been used in many wars. As time went by, the weapon lived through texts and legends. It is found similar to the Buddhist symbol Triratna. From Poseidon to Shiva, the trident has morphed into a weapon with godly powers. The origin of Trishula in Hindu Mythology is quite complicated. There are two different tales associated with it.
Vishnu Purana tells us that this weapon was created off Suryadev, the sun god’s heat. Suryadeva was married to Sanjana, the daughter of Vishwakarma. Surya’s unbearable heat troubled Sanjana. She spoke to Vishwakarma about the unease.
Vishwakarma was a craftsman deity known for creating many powerful weapons. He assured his daughter and went to Surya. He took some of Surya’s heat such that Sanjana could accommodate it. From the energy, he created many powerful weapons. One among them was Trishula. Vishwakarma knew that no other than Mahadev could carry the powerful weapon. Thus, he presented Shiva with Trishula.
The tale in Shiva Purana contradicts the previous story. Many believe that Shiva was self-created. He has no beginning and no end. The text states that similar to Shiva, Trishula has existed since the beginning of time.
This weapon carries a great history of violence. During many battles, Trishula was Shiva’s most preferred weapon. Goddess Durga also holds a Trishula among her many weapons. Once in a rage, Shiva severed Ganesha’s head with Trishula. Shiva finished off monstrous demons like Andhaka with the trident.
The symbolism of Trishula
Trishula, the Sanskrit word, stands for a weapon with three prongs. The three prongs of Trishula represent fundamental aspects of life. These aspects are called Ida, Pingala, Sushumna. They are the three basic Nadis (pulse): the right, the left, the central – in the human body respectively. The Nadi is a channel through which our prana (soul) flows. There are more than seventy thousand such nadis in our body. Physically, we cannot identify them. But with more awareness, we became conscious of the energy flowing through our body.
Pingala and Ida represent the masculine and feminine duality of nature. Sushumna is the central energy. The ones who enter Sushumna have achieved inner peace and balance. Most people exhaust their life in Ida and Pingala. Humans need to let go of the material world to reach Sushumna.
Number 3 is significant for Shiva. Trishula seems to be a continuation in the series of triads like his third eye and the leaves of Bilva Patra.
Folks around the world have given different meanings to Trishula. Trishula is believed to be a symbol for various trinities like creation, maintenance, and destruction; past, present, and future; clarity, knowledge, and wisdom; body, mind, and soul, etc.
Even though trident as a weapon doesn’t hold any relevance in today’s world, the Hindu devotees pray to it as a symbol of Mahadev.