Have you seen the giant Shiva statue at Murudeshwar Beach? My school friend Preeti clicked this arresting photo with the sun in the background:
This is the second largest statue of Shiva in the world, all of 123 feet tall.
Whenever I hear that something is the "second largest", I always wonder "Which is the largest, then?" :) :) In case you're wondering too, the world's largest Shiva statue is in Nepal, and it is a standing Shiva, not a seated one. The Nepal statue is a more chubby-cheeked smiling god. Take a look. I think it is quite an unsuitable depiction of this charismatic ascetic! The Murudeshwar statue somehow seems more impressive, don't you think?
In both statues, in his right hand, Shiva holds the Trishul, his trident.
It's hard to miss the trident when you visit any part of India. Especially if you go on a pilgrimage circuit, you will see the trishul just about everywhere.
I found this maker of tridents in a little shop in Jaipur
At the Delhi Crafts Museum, there's this interesting collection of decorative spears and tridents (looks like it came from South India, not sure from where)
Lingaraja Temple, Bhubaneswar. This is one of the few temples where Vishnu and Shiva are both worshipped. At the entrance, there is a painting of the two Gods merged into one. Shiva is identified by his Trident, and Vishnu by his Mace and Discus.
But it's not Shiva alone who lays claim to the trishul; it is also the weapon of the great Goddess in her many forms.
Mithila painting of the many-armed Goddess Durga. She holds several weapons, but no Durga rendition is complete without the trident.
Paan-wallah in Agra - this is the most popular representation of Goddess Durga; you see this in little shops everywhere in the country
"Eunuch temple" in Mumbai; trident of the Goddess Mariamman, who is said to cure people of the pox.
So the trishul is everywhere, and clearly it has huge symbolic value. I looked up some websites and blogs dedicated to Shiva, and they have a set of complex explanations for what the trishul represents. I didn't really know any of that stuff earlier; and I don't know whether this is even correct. If you have a deeper understanding, and can point me at the right sourcebook, let me know.
Meanwhile, I'll continue to look for interesting tridents to add to my collection of photos!