The Astras, Part 8 – Trishul-astra

BY: SUN STAFF

Shiva Ardhanarisvara with Trishul-astra Chola Bronze, late 11th c.


Feb 18, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A survey of transcendental weaponry.

Among the most famous of all transcendental weapons is Lord Shiva's trishul-astra. This three-pointed astra is one of the symbols most commonly associated with Shiva in Vedic iconography.

The origin of the trishul-astra is described in the Vishnu Purana. Created in association with Lord Surya the Sun God, it is said to have been carved out of matter from Sun.

When Suryadev married Samjna, the daughter of Vishwakarma, his wife soon became unhappy with married life due to the unbearable heat of her husband Surya. She complained to Vishwakarma, who agreed to solve the problem. Her father came to an arrangement whereby Surya agreed to reduce his heat to accommodate Samjna.

The transcendental architect Vishwakarma devised a means to have excess energy apportioned off of Surya. Surya's heat was ground off on a grinding machine; the solar matter fell to the earth, reducing his heat by 1/8th. That material was then fashioned into the deadly trishul-astra.

Lord Shiva's trishul-astra, or trident, has come to be associated with numerous triad attributes. Held in Shiva's right hand, it represents the three gunas. The three prongs represent the three shaktis of Shiva: iccha (will), jnana (knowledge), and kriya (action). Trishul's points also symbolize three aspects of Shiva: paramashiva, parashakti (paranada or shiva-tattva) and parabindu (parameshvara or shakti-tattva).

Shiva is known as the Lord of Omkara (Omkareshvara), thus in transcendental sound, the three points of trishul-astra are associated with the three syllables of Omkara: A (akara), U (ukara) and M (makara).

Many more correspondences are attributed to trishul-astra by the Shaivites, but those mentioned above are most universally accepted.

Functioning as the primary weapon of Shiva the Destroyer, trishul-astra is said to be capable of destroying the three worlds. The astra was once used by Shiva to sever the original head of Ganesha – a pastime we will explore in a segment to come.

Like many other astras, the trishul-astra is known to be used by other divine personalities associated with Shiva. Durga Ma carries Trishula as one of her many weapons. Saturn is also found circumambulating Meru Parvatham with trishul-astra in hand, along with his bow.


Gosaikunda Lake, headwaters of Trishuli River, Nepal


In Lord Shiva's homelands, the great Himalayas, there is a place in Nepal called Gosaikunda Lake (or Gosain-kunda), which is said to have been formed by Shiva's trishul-astra. This took place as part of his pastime of drinking the poison ocean, or halahala from samudra-manthan (churning of the ocean). After drinking the poison, Shiva craved cold water to quench the overwhelming heat, and he came to the alpine freshwaters at Gosaikunda to get relief.

Located in Nepal's Rasuwa District, the kunda resides at an elevation of 14,370 feet (4,380 meters) above sea level. Remaining frozen half the year, when the lake thaws, it feeds the Trishuli River, whose waters no doubt intermingle with some of the 108 other sacred lakes in the area.

Lord Shiva is said to reside here at Gosaikunda along with Gauri (Parvati). The glories of this place are mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, Mahabharata, and Ramayana regarding the samudra-manthan pastime. Thousands of pilgrims from Nepal and India come here to take bath in the holy waters during Gangadashahara, the sacred thread festival at Janai Purnima, when devotees worship Lord Shiva and his trishul-astra.


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