Spiritually speaking

Shiva Mudras: Symbolism and use

To alleviate stress and giving a push to sluggish metabolism, these mudras offer hordes of physical and mental benefits

Shiva Mudras: Symbolism and use

Dr Satish K Kapoor

Consciousness, bliss, will, knowledge and action, stand for the five forms of Shiva, called Ishana, Tatpurusha, Sadyojyoti, Vamadeva and Aghora, respectively. He is represented through images and symbols as an object of worship. Shiva-mudra-s, as expressed through hand-gestures, have been used in yoga, tantra, meditation and art forms, like dance, for thousands of years. Some of them are as under.

Shivalinga mudra

Shivalinga is not a phallic representation of Shiva, a concept of western anthropology, but a symbol of the formless lord. To perform Shivalinga mudra, one should mould the fingers of the left hand, like a bowl, and place the fist of right hand over it at abdomen level, keeping the thumb in an upward position. Both prana vayu and apana vayu, the subtle currents of life-force, are synthesised by this practice. It renders optimal health by balancing the masculine and the feminine aspects of energy in the body.

Another method of doing Shivalinga mudra (sometime called Linga mudra ) is to entwine the fingers of both hands, keeping one of the thumbs erect simultaneously. In some forms of meditation, arms are raised to eye-level and the thumb made a point of focus to intensify the fire element represented by it. Constant practice increases self confidence, and protects one from negative energy. It generates heat in the body and cures diseases caused by the vitiation of kapha dosha.

Matangi mudra

Matangi is one of the ten Mahavidyas, tantric goddesses, who controls power and creative expression. Matangi mudra is performed by interweaving fingers of both hands, except the middle ones, which are kept upright, and pressed against each other; the thumb playing no role. As the middle finger represents akasha or the space-element, it is used for focus in advanced yoga practices. In the Upanishads, akasha is the first material element that evolved from Brahman, the ultimate reality. Shiva in his incorporeal form, symbolises shunya, the void - nothingness, that contains everything. The practice of Matangi mudra activates vishuddha chakra, located at the throat, so that one can raise one’s consciousness to the third eye-level. Besides, it regulates metabolism and increases immunity.

Trishula mudra

Shiva wields trishula or trident, symbolising his three elemental powers, iccha (desire), kriya (activity) and jnana (knowledge). Trishula also indicates that the Lord is trigunatita, beyond three gunas or qualities of primordial nature, namely, sattva, rajas and tamas - purity, passion and inertia, respectively. Trishula mudra is performed by joining the thumb and the little finger, while keeping the others fingers straight. It balances the fire and the water elements in the body, and alleviates nervousness and fatigue.

Sarpa-shirsha mudra

Sarpa-shirsha mudra, snake-head gesture, is performed with one hand by joining its fingers and bending them inwards, like the hood of a snake. The snake symbolises fear, wisdom, transformation, or creative life-force, in different contexts. In yoga and tantra, the snake is a representation of kundalini shakti, the coiled energy at the base of the spine, which can be awakened by spiritual practices. Sarpa-shirsha mudra is emblematic of firmness of the spirit. It gives confidence and relieves stress.

Naga-bandha mudra

Naga-bandha, cobra-lock, is a double hand gesture. Both hands in the sarpa-shirsha- state are placed in a crossed position at the wrists. It symbolises the crisscrossing of ida and pingala nerve channels in the astral body. It guards one against unknown dangers by harnessing the hidden powers.

For spiritual benefit, Shiva –mudra-s should be performed while sitting, in early morning or late night hours, in a calm environment. One should contemplate on the Lord in any of his forms, for as much time as possible, remembering the verse of Shiva Purana (Koti Rudra Samhita 1.43.20) which says: ‘Everything is Shiva and Shiva is everything’.

(Dr Kapoor is a noted educationist, historian and spiritualist)

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