Background Information for Teachers
The god Shiva, the Creator and Destroyer, is often shown with a cobra, the Naga, symbol of fertility and strength, wrapped around his neck. The god usually has four arms, signifying his superhuman power, each with a hand holding one of his attributes. He uses the trishula, or trident, like a spear to destroy his demon foes. Frequently he holds a drum rattle whose sound creates life as it reverberates through the cosmos. The beads of his rosary symbolize all time (past, present, and future) and its transcendence. The three horizontal lines often seen on Shiva's forehead represent three aspects of the divine: the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer. During puja, many devotees of Shiva mark their own foreheads with these three lines in sacred ash or sandalwood paste.
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Photo: Contemporary poster of the god Shiva and his family. Shiva (left), Parvati (right), and Ganesha (middle).