The Trishul, also known as the trident, is the primary weapon of Lord Shiva. It is characterized by three sharp blades connected by a long handle. The three blades always point in the upward direction. Shiva is always found to be holding the handle of the Trishul when he is depicted in the saguna linga form. The three blades have various representations in Hindu mythology.
Let us now look at what they represent.
Trinity or Tridevi
The three blades are said to represent the Trinity. In other words, they represent Lord Brahma, the Creator; Lord Vishnu, the Preserver; and Lord Shiva, the Destroyer. According to some versions, they represent the Tridevi, namely, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati.
Past, Present and Future
The blades symbolise different divisions of the wheel of time or three time periods in the life of a person. They indicate that God is in control of the past, present, and future actions of an individual. An individual worshipping the Trishul with utmost faith is blessed with a balanced mind and will not have to worry about his past, present and future.
Body, Mind, and Soul
The three blades are associated with the body, mind and soul of a person. The soul is also referred to as atman. According to the Bhagavad Gita, the body represents nature and is perishable and transient. The soul is a manifestation of God and is eternal without destruction. The mind is said to be a person’s sixth sense where perceptions, opinions, emotions, ideas and the like reside.
Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas
The blades epitomise the three gunas or qualities comprising Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The Sattva quality or goodness is highlighted by traits such as health, cleanliness, stability, purity, illumination and happiness. The Rajas or passion quality depicts attachment, desire, lust, action, and related traits. The Tamas or darkness quality indicates traits such as ignorance, destruction, heaviness, intoxication, and dissolution. Lord Shiva is said to control the entire world with these three qualities.
Ida, Pingala, and Shushmana
The three blades highlight the ida, pingala, and shushmana energy channels of the human body. The three channels intersect at the brow where agna or the sixth chakra is located. While the ida and pingala terminate at this point, shushmana or the centre channel proceeds upwards up to the energy centre or the seventh chakra. The centre blade of the Trishul is said to be the shushmana and is taller than the other two blades on either side representing ida and pingala.
Swarg Loka, Bhu Loka, and Patal Loka
The blades denote the three worlds or lokas comprising swarg loka, bhu loka, and patal loka. Swarga loka or heaven is considered to be in the skies and the abode of all the Hindu gods and goddesses. The bhu loka or earth is the residing place of living things. It is also called Prithvi loka. The patal loka or the netherworld is believed to be under the earth. This is a land of enchantments and illusions. Hindu books refer to patal as a world ruled by yakshas, demons, and nagas.
Waking, Sleeping, and Dreaming
The three blades are associated with the three states of consciousness experienced that are by a person. These are the waking or jagrut, sleeping or sushupti, and dreaming or swapna. They help in understanding the actual nature of an individual.
The Trishul is believed to be a powerful and deadly weapon that is used to get rid of evil just like the Sudarshan Chakra possessed by Lord Vishnu. It has the powers to destroy illusion and ego in a person and develop spirituality in him/her. According to a Hindu legend, both the weapons were created by Vishwakarma, the architect of the gods from the rays of the sun. It’s said that when the Trishul is used for destruction, it can be controlled and/or stopped only by Lord Shiva. The lord used this weapon to behead Ganesha when he was standing guard outside his mother, Parvati’s, chambers.