In the hierarchy of the Hindu Trinity, Lord Shiva the destroyer comes behind Lord Brahma who is the creator and Lord Vishnu who is the preserver. The divine laws of the universes dictate that one of these cannot exist without the others but out of this trinity of Hindu Lords Shiva is generally referred to as the good one of the three. This is because his destruction targets sorrow and evil and thus he is generally portrayed smiling, benevolence and tranquility personified. For this reason, one may opt to get a Shiva tattoo as a stance against these dissonant forces that are believed to be at work in the universe. In fact, Shiva’s chief goal is to ultimately destroy any disharmony within the universal order until evil and sorrow is eliminated so that the world can be created anew. Psychologists refer to this as ‘positive disintegration’ however Shiva’s cosmic role can vary in interpretation among Westerners.

Shiva TattooAccording to Hindu beliefs as the forces of good and evil battle for control of the universe, this creates a dangerously unbalanced situation with our very existence caught in the middle. If this situation goes beyond reparation then Shiva will have to step in and disband the whole cosmic order to shield billions of souls from unnecessary agony and torment before the universal cycle can be renewed. Symbolically this is not unlike the cycle of nature or life, as spring follows winter then the dawn must eventually come after the night and after death comes rebirth. To this end, a Shiva tattoo also expresses mercy and compassion as he protects us fundamentally from pain and suffering caused by the greed, anger and lust of others. He also blesses us with enlightenment, grace and wisdom but with are so many different sides to Shiva; his image often symbolizes different things to different people.

The white skinned figure of Shiva is notable for several distinguishing features including a dark blue throat. Additionally, he has three eyes, several arms and carries a trident. The third eye is believed to represent spiritual powers and knowledge, while its compelling gaze has the strength to obliterate evil but also emits an unharnessed energy that can direct him to take things to the extreme.  His exposed body is coated in ashes and he is generally depicted riding a white bull. He is placed in a right-facing orientation which is suggestive of Shiva’s eternal laws and justice that safeguard the order of the universe.

Shiva TattooIn many depictions, Siva is pictured with the Mother-goddess Parvati by his side, signifying an exceptional balance of power and Hindus consider this pairing to be the perfect illustration of connubial bliss. Some representations show Shiva as half male, half female for this reason and the Kundalas, ear rings, worn by Shiva also tie in with this as they signify the male and female ideology of creation. He also wears a necklace of 108 beads, each of which represents the elements used to create the world while the snake coiled around Shiva’s neck indicates his yogic power. There are three coils to this snake and each symbolizes past, present and future. In other instances Shiva is referred to as the ‘the Lord of Dance’, a rather fitting metaphorical comparison given the admirable job he does in maintaining the rhythm of the universe’s cosmic balance. With such a rich and colorful history there is a great deal of symbolism to a Shiva tattoo however as the destroyer of evil and ignorance and an admirable icon for will, knowledge and action he certainly makes a very noble body art design.

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