Why Lord Shiva wears a snake around his neck?

Why Lord Shiva wears a snake around his neck?

Why Lord Shiva wears a snake around his neck? There are many stories and symbolic reasons associated with why Lord Shiva wears a snake in his neck as a necklace. Lord Shiva snake name is Vasuki, the king of snakes.

Snakes are venomous (विषैले) creatures. Many people around the world are afraid of snakes. But Lord Shiva wearing snakes symbolically shows that he is absolutely fearless and immortal. 

Stories and Symbolic reasons associated with Shiva wearing a snake around his neck are:

Symbolic Meaning:

  • It is believed that the snake around Shiva’s neck represents the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Snakes shed their skin when the old skin is outgrown, regularly during their lifetime. This symbolically represents the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
  • Some believed that the snake has three rounds around Lord Shiva’s neck where each round represents past, present and future. This indicates that he is beyond time and controls it. That’s why Lord Shiva is also known as “Mahakaal” – the one who is above and beyond Kaal (time).

    Also, the snake is shown looking towards his right side. It signifies that the Lord’s perpetual laws of reason and justice preserve natural order in the universe.

  • Some believed that symbolically snake represents ego. But when it is controlled, it can be worn as an ornament which Lord Shiva does.
  • Symbolically snakes stand for all the passion and desires. By wearing the snake around his neck, Shiva conveys to all his devotees that he has overcome all his desires. Also, he is in full control of Prakriti or Maya (Illusion).

Stories Associated with Shiva wearing snakes around his neck:

1. When snakes approached Lord Shiva for shelter:

Once when snakes species were on the verge of extinction, they approached Lord Shiva for protection.

He provides them with shelter by allowing them to stay in Kailasa. But due to cold weather in Kailasa mountain, snakes used to approach his body for warmth.

Seeing this, he decided to wore snakes around his neck to provide them warmth.

2. When Lord Shiva drinks poison:

Another popular story associated with this is during the Samudra Manthan (or churning of ocean).

When devas (gods) and asuras (demons) churn the ocean using Vasuki (king of snakes) as a rope around Mandar mountain, many things came out of it.

Shiva drinks poison during churning of ocean

One of them was Halahala, the deadly poison. This terrified both gods and demons and they were confused that who will consume this lethal poison. The poison was so powerful that it could destroy the whole creation.

Then everyone approaches Lord Shiva for protection. In order to protect the universe, he drinks the poison himself.

Now there are generally two versions which are popular.

In one of them, snakes also drink poison along with Shiva. Pleased with them, he decided to wear them around his neck.

Another one is that when he drinks the poison, his consort Goddess Parvati grabbed his throat in order to prevent him from swallowing the poison. As a result, his neck becomes blue in colour. Thus he is also known as Neelkantha (one with a blue neck).

Now since it is not practical even for a goddess to hold on to his (Shiva’s) neck forever. That’s why Parvati tied the snake around his neck in order to prevent him from swallowing the poison.

3. Power of Kundalini:

The snake depicts the power of Kundalini. It is described as a coiled serpent lying dormant (निष्क्रिय) in the Muladhara chakra (or Mooladhara Chakra) of all human beings.

It descends upwards when one starts on the spiritual path and becomes increasingly divine oriented.

The snake around Shiva’s neck depicts that in him Kundalini has arisen completely

The snake around Shiva’s neck depicts that in him Kundalini has arisen completely and also actively involved in the divine activity.

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