Shiva and his Snakes, Symbolism in Saivism
Snakes were worshipped in ancient India long before Vedic religion emerged as the
dominant religion on the Gangetic valley. People believed in the possibility of
protecting themselves from poisonous snakes through magic and incantation and those
who believed to possess magical powers over them were respected and sought after.
People invoked divinities seekign protection against the serpents of the underworld
which were believed to be responsible for death and disease.
Lord Siva is depicted in many images like the one above as wearing a garland of
snakes around his neck. There is a deep symbolism hidden behind this.
Lord Siva is know as Pasupathinath, the lord of all creatures. Being a lord of the
animals he has complete control on their behavior. Since a snake is one of the most
feared and dangerous animals in the world, the garland of snakes around the neck
firmly establishes this fact even the snakes fear Him and remain under his control.
The snake stands for all the evil and demonical nature in the world. By wearing
the snake around his neck, Lord Siva gives us the assurance that no evil can touch
us or destroy us once we surrender to him, seek his protection and worship him with
The snake also stands for the power of kundalini, which is described as a coiled
serpent lying dormant in the muladhara chakra of all human beings and descends upwards
when one starts ones spiritual journey and becomes increasingly divine oriented.
The snake around the neck of Siva conveys the meaning that in him the kundalini
not only has arisen fully but is also actively involved in the divine activity by
keeping an eye on all the devotees who approach Siva with their individual problems.
The snake also stands for all passions and desires. By wearing the snakes around
his neck, Lord Siva conveys the message to all his devotees that He has overcome
all desires and is in full control of Prakriti, or maya and its various machinations.