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Significance of Snake Around Shiva's Neck - Symbolism - Story

Matsya Purana states when depicting Bhagvan Shiva, the Lord should be garlanded with snakes. Most images of Shiva in modern day only depict a single snake around his neck. and this is of great significance. Here is a look at the symbolism - story associated with snake on Shiva.

The five-headed snake forming a canopy over Shivling is another common representation. Puranas and other holy scriptures have numerous tales associating snakes and Lord Shiva.

Snakes (Nagas) have been a part of worship in Hinduism from the very beginning. The most famous myth of Lord Shiva’s association with snakes is when he drinks the poison (kalakuda) from Snake Vasuki’s mouth during the churning of ocean to get amrit. From that day, Lord Shiva becomes blue throated and is called Nilakantha.

It is said the serpent on Shiva’s neck represent the endless cycle of birth and regeneration. Another symbolism is that the snake on neck represents ego which once controlled can be worn as an ornament.

Another important aspect is that Lord Shiva is depicted with snakes when he is in the Kailasa (Himalaya). Snakes serve Lord Shiva as necklace, armlets and appear in his clothes. They also serve as his bowstring.

Since there is no written guidance in depicting Lord Shiva, artists have made use of their widest imagination when depicting snakes along with Lord Shiva.

Symbolism Snake On Shiva

Immortality - the snakes are known to shed their skin and this is symbolically used to convey the message that only Shiva remains at the end of a cycle of creation.

Three stage of time - past, present and future is represented by snakes. Showing that Shiva is Mahakaal the Lord Time.

Snakes are ego when controlled they can be worn as ornaments.

All the elements of Prakriti are in his control and this is showed by snakes.

Human beings have always feared snake. By wearing snakes as ornaments, Shiva is asking devotees to overcome fear which is stopping them from success in material and spiritual world.

Stories of Snake On Shiva

Legend has it that all the snakes found on Lord Shiva’s body became ornaments during his marriage with Parvati. It is also said that Shiva made ornaments out poisonous snakes and submitted it to Parvati as gift.

Snakes, especially cobras, are said to carry ‘mani’ (rubies) in their head. It is said that these rubies serve as lamp during night to Parvati and Shiva.

Another legend has it that once all the snakes were driven out from the world. The got protection and shelter in Kailash the abode of Shiva. But the cold climate made snakes immobile, to get warmth they took shelter in the body of Shiva. They then became his ornaments.

Snakes On Shiva And Kundalini

The snake depicts the power of Kundalini. It is described as a coiled serpent lying dormant in the Mooladhara Chakra of living beings. It descends upwards when one starts on the spiritual path and becomes increasingly divine oriented.

The snake around Shiva’s neck depicts what a human being can achieve when they follow the spiritual path. 

Story of Snake Vasuki