Lord Siva wears a deer in the left upper hand. He has Trident in the right lower arm. He has fire and Damaru and Malu or a kind of weapon. He wears five serpents as ornaments. He wears a garland of skulls. He is pressing with His feet the demon Muyalaka, a dwarf holding a cobra. He faces south. Panchakshara itself is His body.
His Trisul that is held in His right hand represents the three Gunas—Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. That is the emblem of sovereignty. He rules the world through these three Gunas. The Damaru in His left hand represents the Sabda Brahman. It represents OM from which all languages are formed. It is He who formed the Sanskrit language out of the Damaru sound.
The wearing of the crescent moon in His head indicates that He has controlled the mind perfectly. The flow of the Ganga represents the nectar of immortality. Elephant represents symbolically the Vritti pride. Wearing the skin of the elephant denotes that He has controlled pride. Tiger represents lust. His sitting on the tiger’s skin indicates that He has conquered lust. His holding deer on one hand indicates that He has removed the Chanchalata (tossing) of the mind. Deer jumps from one place to another swiftly. The mind also jumps from one object to another. His wearing of serpents on the neck denotes wisdom and eternity. Serpents live for a large number of years. He is Trilochana, the Three-eyed One, in the centre of whose forehead is the third eye, the Eye of Wisdom.
Lord Siva has white complexion. What is the significance of white colour? He teaches silently that people should have pure heart and entertain pure thoughts and should be free from crookedness, diplomacy, cunningness, jealousy, hatred, etc.
He wears three white-lined Bhasma or Vibhuti on His forehead. What is the significance of this? He teaches silently that people should destroy the three impurities, viz., Anavam (egoism), Karma (action with expectation of fruits), and Maya (illusion); the three desires or Eshanas, viz., desire for landed property, desire for woman, and desire for gold; and the three Vasanas, viz., Loka-vasana, Deha-vasana and Shastra-vasana and then attain Him with a pure heart.
What does the Balipeeta or altar which stands in front of the sanctum sanctorum of a Siva’s temple represent? People should destroy their egoism and mine-ness (Ahamta and Mamata) before they attain the Lord. This is the significance.
Rishabha or the bull represents Dharma Devata. Lord Siva rides on the bull. Bull is His vehicle. This denotes that Lord Siva is the protector of Dharma, is an embodiment of Dharma or righteousness.
The Lingam represents Advaita. It points out: "I am one without a second—Ekamevadvitiyam;" just as a man raises his right hand above his head pointing out his right index-finger only.
Another Article Related to Mahashivratri:
Maha Shivaratri Special: Lord Shiva’s Ancestry