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Reason For Shiva Holding Human Skull – Story

We come across images and pictures of Shiva holding human skull. The reason for Shiva holding the skull is symbolic and the story is found in all the Puranas and epics.

Shiva saw human beings suffering out of ignorance in the world. But Brahma, the creator in Hindu pantheon, had no remorse about the suffering that living beings had on earth. Brahma was so proud of his creation that he gave rise to a fifth head to see his creation. An angry Shiva took the form of Bhairava and cut off the fifth head of Brahma for being arrogant about His creation.

But soon Shiva felt remorse and for redemption of the sin, Brahma asked Shiva to become a wandering ascetic (Bhikshatana) and beg for food in a skull. He will only get redemption when Vishnu will advise him on how he could atone for his sin.

Shiva did not directly go to Lord Vishnu at Vaikunta but he wandered all around the world advising living beings to get out of suffering. He took numerous forms to help living beings. But hardly few human beings were able to understand the teachings of Shiva.
Finally Shiva went to Vaikunta and Vishnu advised him to go to Banaras (Kashi or Varanasi) and do ritual bath in Ganges to be purified of the sin.

In the human body, the skull houses the senses and holds the brain. The shape of the skull gives us our facial appearance and this is our identification. It is our claim to individuality. But are we the senses and the face? Do we have a separate individuality from the Supreme Truth. By holding the human skull and begging with it, Shiva is exposing our ignorance. We are making life on earth a hell with all that is inside the skull. Every minute a new skull is coming to earth and the very moment a skull is exploding (cremation). We need to see this reality and live a life of bliss by following the eternal rules of Purusha (Shiva) and Prakriti (Mother Goddess Shakti).