Shaivite Hindu Symbols: The Trishula

Statue of Lord Shiva holding the trishula

Statue of Lord Shiva holding the trishula

A blog commenter recently suggested that I write about the symbols of Shaivism, the sect of Hinduism which sees Lord Shiva as God. Many of the symbols are not known or misunderstood by Westerners, so this is a good idea. In writing these posts I will also understand the symbols better myself.

I will start with the trishula (त्रिशूल), Shiva’s trident. Shiva’s trishula is the three pointed spear or trident, which Lord Shiva carries. The trishula has many symbolic meanings. As a weapon the trishula represents Shiva’s ability to destroy evil. The three points represent the acts of creation, preservation and destruction. To Shaivites, Lord Shiva fulfils all three of these roles. The three points also represent the three gunas or qualities which are exhibited in the physical world, rajas (dynamic enerjetic), tamas (negative, inactive, stagnant) and sattva (uplifting, balanced, perceiving).

The trishula is a symbol of the nadis (energy currents)

The trishula is a symbol of the nadis (energy currents)

Yogic Symbolism

The trishula also represents the nadis or energy currents within the subtle body. The ida (feminine, passive) and the pingala (male, active) channels spiral upwards like a double helix, crossing for the last time at the Vishuddha or throat chakra.  These are normally represented as snakes. The central channels or sushumna nadi goes straight up the spine, continuing up through the crown chakra where the other two channels terminate. The channels in this area form a trishula-like shape.

Yogis attempt to balance the energies in these channels, so the kundalini or energy flow is routed directly through the sushumna or spine.

What the Trishula is Not

It is worth mentioning some common misconceptions about the trishula.

not-Poseidon_sculpture_Copenhagen_2005Not-FreebsdLogoThe trishula is not the same as the trident held by Poseidon in ancient Greek mythology. Poseidon is depicted with a wide trident with parallel prongs. This type of trident is used for spear fishing. Shiva’s trishula is a weapon.

The trishula is also not the same as the pitchfork said to be carried by the devil in Christian mythology. A pitchfork is an agricultural implement used for tossing hay, leaves, etc. In Christian mythology the devil tosses the damned into the fires of hell with a pitchfork, though this does not come from any Christian scriptures.

The Romani Connection…

The Romani (Gypsy) word for cross is trishul. The word “Gypsy” comes from a mistaken belief that the Romani originally came from Egypt, and “Romani” because of the large of these people settling in Romania. It is now accepted (on genetic and linguistic evidence) that they originally  came from Northern India. It appears that though they took up a Christian religion they maintained the word trishul for a holy symbol.

The Romani also have a saint known in their language as Sara e Kali, or “Sara the Black”. In an annual ceremony they carry this saint to the sea, in a similar manner to Hindu processions. It is likely that the Hindu deity Kali has been denigrated to a Christian saint.

Images in this article are from public domain sources, mainly Wikipedia

12 responses to “Shaivite Hindu Symbols: The Trishula

  1. Hi,

    Thank you for this entry! I am happy to read it (hopefully the first part of a series…). The meaning of one of the symboles has just been made even more clear to me. So I would like to encourage you to go on with this job if possible, please. It must be very helpful, in my opinion. So I am looking forward to the descriptions, explanations of other symboles as well.
    Thank you in advance.

  2. View of a True Sanathanai Hindu :
    Lord Shiva = Lord Vishnu = Lord Brahma

    All are same

  3. Some comparisons between Sanathani Hindus and Greeks :

    Are they related somehow?

    Is Aryan “invasion” true? Or was it the opposite?

    Now we all know that Aryan invasion is fake and it was just a story by British imperialists.

    It is believed that during the Orion period(7000 BC), many Sanathani Aryans migrated from Indian region to Europe, where they settled and got mixed with the natives.

    Over the years they developed their own religious beliefs(thought to be mix of Sanathani and native beliefs):

    – Various Gods,Goddess,Demi-Gods in Greek and Hindu “mythology”. Sun god, Love god, War god etc.

    – Belief in Re-incarnation

    – Cremating the dead ones

    – Belief/Faith of being lineage from Gods. Like Son of Sun God etc

    – Gods having family

    Some “similarities”( can be called as modified versions)

    • its now proved with the asian genome project that no aryan invasion occured, it was a lie made by christian invaders…….the whole of india was populated through the south NOT NORTH…….in fact what it goes to show is…the frist africans went to india who became the was the indians then that moved up out of india getting lighter in skin tone the further they moved into colder climates of northern india…it was then those indian who orginted from the south who moved north and eventually went on to populate EUROPE…….taking with them customs and traditions of India…The biggest misconception india was about twice as big as it is now……indian lands stretched right up to Iraq and Iran, therefore indian culture moved as far as to the middle east and europe and eastwards to china and japan. The similarities seen all have one thing in common india, its people, its faith.

      • This is European propaganda, spread by people who don’t want the world to know the origin of destructive behavior, or the crimes against humanity which occurred during the ancient past. The genes of aggression which migrated out of the Eurasian Steppe, along with Indo-European languages, Northern Eurasian genes, the symbol of the swastika, and the symbol of the triskelion were accompanied with social hierarchy, social stratification, inherited nobility, human sacrifice, religious extremism, warfare, mass murder, cannibalism, slavery, genocide, increased interpersonal violence, destructive behavior, divisiveness, and the fall of civilizations, including the fall of the Indus Valley Civilization which corresponds with the arrival of the horse, war chariots, and warfare that migrated out of the Eurasian Steppe. These genes so aggression continue to lead to destructive behavior and conflict to this day, with conflict initiated by Russia in Ukraine.

        The faith which you reference is Canaanite religion, which was practiced in Sunghir Russia 34,000 years ago, and in Northern Europe 8,000 years, and included human sacrifice, inherited nobility, social hierarchy, social stratification, slavery, an inherited obsession with lethal weapons, burial mounds (kurgans, barrows, cairns, dolmen, passage tombs, and pyramids), interpersonal violence, destructive behavior, mass murder, warfare, genocide, cannibalism, a preference for the color of fresh blood, and the fall of civilizations.

        This culture originated in Northern European Neanderthals that were hunting large animals with sharp wooden spears in Northern Europe over 400,000 years ago. The symbol of the swastika was created by mammoth hunters in Mezine Ukraine 15,000 years ago. So European Canaanite paganism, or Shaivism, could not have possibly been created in Southern Asia by Hebrew farmers, people who migrated out of the Levant and Mesopotamia at the time that Canaanite invaders (the First Dynasty of Ur) brought their religion to Mesopotamia from Northern Europe.

  4. Trishula also represents the fact that God is the controller of the “trikala”(past, present and future). The chakra/discus that Lord Vishnu has, is also interpreted as the “kala chakra”(meaning the wheel of time). The Damaru/conch symbolizes that God can be attained through japa and by singing his glory. Also sometimes the God is shown with many heads and arms. The heads symbolize different aspects of Godhood.
    And sometimes demons are also depicted with many heads, to represent that they had intelligence equivalent to many heads- eg.Ravana is shown with 10 heads. Similarly many arms means strength equivalent to many arms.

  5. what is trishula of real colour? Red or yellow?

    • I don’t know, I always assumed it was not significant. It is often drawn black or is metallic on murtis. Does anyone know any more?

      • Then we need the oldest archaic murtis or …? If that think about relation with 7 and 8 chakra why this colors are not purple or white and why all mundis are yellow or red. Origin trishulas color is changed by somebody?

  6. trishul is golden colored at times silver

  7. Very interesting and informative.thank you very much for sharing

  8. Pingback: Topic Brainstorm – Epics of India

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