The next time Praveen Togadia hands out his trishuls, he should stop to read a little history. Shiva's mythological weapon that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader claims as part of his legitimate Hindu heritage was better known in Greek and Roman myths than in India.
Vedic Indians had never heard of it. The closest they came to the now familiar Hindutva symbol was the shula (sharp-edged spear) which they used as a barbecue rod to roast meat. It was not until 2,000 years after the trident flourished as a popular symbol in Greek and Roman mythology—from Homer's Trojan warriors to Zeus' trident thunderbolt to his sharp-tongued sister (and wife) Hera's iron staff to the Greco-Roman sea gods Poseidon and Neptune—that it makes its first appearance in the Mahabharata. And it was not until around 800 years ago that the trishul became a part and parcel of Hindu imagery. "It is wrong to equate the trishul with Hinduism," points out historian D.N. Jha. "The first trishuls to appear in Indian art are in the hands of Buddhist gods like Hariti or in Buddhist and Jain temples in Sanchi and Udaigiri. In the earliest known Shiva sculptures such as the one in Gudimallam in Andhra Pradesh, Shiva appears with an axe, not a trishul."