We cannot visualize Shiva, without his garland. Shiva is also known as Pashupatinath or the god of the animals. He is also known as Nageshwara. The snake is Vasuki, king of the snakes. Vasuki represents ahamkara (ego).
What is the response of a snake if we prod it?
It recoils and hisses at us. We are also like that, if someone is rude to us, we react. It is our ego which is responding. In us the ego is in our collective mind, whereas in the gods and goddesses, the ego is powerless. It does not affect them, because they control it. Hence Shiva uses the snake as an ornament because it has no space in his body. Shiva governs our ego and it is our ego which makes us hostile, violent, ambitious and vitriolic.
Shiva is also known as Bairagi or Vairagi, which means that he is above the mundane world. He is fearless and free of emotions. We are afraid of snakes, at least most of us are. Another interpretation of the cobra garland is that it projects his compassionate nature. Since he is the lord of the animal kingdom, he is kind enough to wrap Vasuki, the king of the snakes around his neck. And this shows his gentleness, if we leave the snake alone, he will not harm us. Similarly our ego can be ignored by us and we can become free of aggression.
Another school of thought believes that the snake represents our endless cycle of birth and death. If we wish to be free of this cycle, we must surrender to Shiva and become free of ahamkara (ego).
The coiled snake around Shiva, also reminds us to keep our ego in check. If our ego is in check, then we are at peace.
Why did Shiva use Vasuki as an ornament? Vasuki, the serpent king was a devotee of Shiva, and Shiva blessed him by wearing him as an ornament.
Can you imagine if we all led a sattvic life, we would have no war?
Lastly if we renounced our pride and ego, Shiva will take care of the planet and restore peace and serenity on mother earth.
Pride is founded not on the sense of happiness but on the sense of power. William Hazlit
When the ego dies, the soul awakes. Mahatma Gandhi
Aim Hrim Klim