Why does Lord Shiva Wear Tiger Skin?

Lord Shiva’s dress is quite unique. He is often depicted wearing a tiger skin as a garment. Besides, the meditative image of Lord Shiva on the tiger skin or the standing image of him with a tiger skin wrapped around his body is very familiar to the Shiva devotees.

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There is a popular mythologial story in Hinduism why Lord Shiva wears a tiger skin or he sits on it. Here, I would like to present the story.

Mythological Story

According to the Puranas, Lord Shiva used to wander in the forest as a bare-bodied sage. But even then his powerful form was not revealed. One day while wandering in this way, he appeared in a forest where the hermitages of some powerful sages were situated. The sages were governed by the rules of civilized society, meaning they wore clothes, cooked and ate foods, and even lived in the hermitages with their families. The wives of the sages were attracted to see the young bare-bodied Shiva although they were unaware of his presence. They could not concentrate on their household chores. When the sages of the hermitages figured that the reason behind the changed behavior of the wives was the bare-bodied sage, they became very  enraged. They decided to teach him a lesson.

The sages dug out a pit on Shiva’s path and left a ferocious tiger inside the pit. While wandering through the forest, Shiva fell into the pit. The sages thought that the tiger would kill bare-bodied young sage (Shiva). But it did not happen. In contrast,  Lord Shiva killed the tiger, tore off its skin and draped the skin around his body. When Shiva came out of the pit wearing the tiger skin, the sages of the forest realized that the bare-bodied traveller was not an ordinary sage, but god himself. Then they fell at his feet on becoming of his true power and began to worship him. Since then Lord Shiva continued to wear the tiger skin.

Symbolical Significance

The image or idol of Lord Shiva with a tiger skin is  symbolical. It is said that the tiger skin belonged to Shiva symbolizes the controlling power of Him. Shaivites believe that Lord Shiva, one of the Trinity (Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva), controlls everything in all three worlds. Legends also say that Lord Shiva sitting on a a tiger skin symbolizes the victory of the divine force over animal instincts.

Om Namah Shivay

Talker: Krishna Das

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