Some Hindu symbols

 

This will be a "growing list".
Please do visit again. 

0) Ohm / Aum - 

  The most sacred symbol for Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and even Sikhs.
Ohm is as ancient as time.  Written in numerous scripts and forms, it represents the eternal “hum” that fills the universe.

The “dot” that decorates the Ohm is the first ever representation of Zero known to mankind, hence it is the 0 in the list of sacred symbols.

1) Kumbh

A pot full of water, topped by flowers, leaves, coconut etc.  
It represents the "cornucopia", of fullness, prosperity and fecundity.
Kumbha, usually made of earth or brass, also represents the human body made of the earthly elements.

Pot, made out clay, is also a representation of the primeval goddess.  She is after all the goddess of nature.  Clay pots were often used to plant barley, wheat etc in preparation for festivals.  When plants "grew", they represented the capacity of the earth and nature to give birth and regenerate.  The humble "pot" represented many such aspects of the mother goddess.

During Navratri, the pot used in Gujarat to represent the goddess is pierced with nine holes to present the nine holes in the human body.  A lamp is placed inside to represent the soul.  The pot is decorated and garlanded as the representative of the goddess and people dance around it in a circular dance called garba and raas.

 2) Tilak / tiko / chandalo

Its the world famous mark on the forehead of Indians – popular in the west for the “bindi” worn by women.

It is a mark of respect.  When a person applies a vermillion / sandalwood / camphor  mark to your forehead, they are showing respect for your intelligence, status, etc.  When a husband applies the vermillion mark to his wife’s forehead, he is showing his respect for is life partner, and, by using the red vermillion, he is promising to protect her with his very life blood !

Religious sects use the tilak as a very public sign of their uniqueness.  Each sect’s tilak is imbibed with their own philosophy and represents their own ideals / ideas.
In social gatherings, people apply tilaks to each other as a mark of unity and mutual respect.

3) Swastika

The Hindu swastika points in a clockwise direction, for millennia, it has been a symbol of progress, social, spiritual and financial. 
Its usually of red colour to symbolise its auspiciousness.
When made out of seeds, grains, pulses and other food items, it represents bounty of nature and natural cycle of life.

4) Lamp

Most religions consider the fire to be of divine origin.  Hence, the lamp is a representative of the divine, invoked at all auspicious occasions to witness our deeds.  It represents knowledge, up-liftment, enlightenment and light – the light of truth.  

5) Abil, Gulal, Sindur, Chanda

These powders represent health, vitality and beauty.
They are the "make-up powders" of ancient times.  These were offered to the divine along with all other items that represented health, wealth, happiness and auspiciousness.

6) Flowers

Represent the beauty and bounty of nature, as well as the temporary nature of all life.
Flowers are either offered singularly, as petals or as a garland.

7) Lotus

Of all flowers, the lotus is considered the most sacred in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religion.
Lotus grows in the muddy waters near the banks of rivers and lakes.  It's fragrant lustrous petals and leaves repel water and seldom muddied. 
Thus the lotus represents the ideal of "detachment".  Though surrounded by the world, you should strive to remain aloof from it all like the lotus !

8) Coconut

Coconut represents the human head.
Like our head, it too is hairy and hard on the outside, soft on the inside and is full of water !
It also has three dots that give it the look of a "face" and thus, the humble coconut is often used to represent "us", our own intellect, our own ego and we offer that to God !

9) Idols

We worship the ideals the idol represents.
That is why, despite several iconoclastic centuries of foreign rule, we have not given up on "God" - as he is truly omnipresent for us.

10) Prasad / Sacrament

Food is offered to the divine as a symbol of our gratitude for what the Gods have provided us.  Sacrament is Gods' grace and is taken as divine gift.

11) Colours

All the colours have symbolic meanings.  Often, colours are specifically associated with certain deities.  For example, red is associated with Ganesh, Lakshmi and Durga.  Yellow is associated with Surya, Vishnu and Krushna.  Black is associated with Shani and Yama, Ash is associated with Shiva, Vermillion with Devi, Chandan with Vishnu etc.

12) Animals

Animals are part of the divine universe and are associated with specific deities.  For example, mouse is associated with Ganesh ; eagle is associated with Vishnu ; bull is associated with Shiva and Lion is associated with Devi.

13) Sacred / holy water

Usually from sacred rivers, stream and pools, water plays an important role in Hindu worship.  Holy water from rivers like the Ganges, Yamuna, Krishna and Godavari are so holy, they are used to purify all other items of ritual items by simply sprinkling them. 

14) Incense and perfume oils

Incense and perfume oils made from fragrant flowers and plant extracts are used to make the atmosphere conducive to meditation and worship.

15) Cow

Forever auspicious, cow is venerated and worshiped in Hinduism as money is worshiped in the west !  Indeed, at one time it was the very root of all wealth in the subcontinent.  Cow is sacred and because we use its milk, it is accorded the same level of respect as a "mother".  Cow is considered to be embodiment of all gods and hence should never be killed.  Even non-muslim rulers of India respected this popular belief and several out-lawed slaughter of cows.  Currently, a number of Indian states have laws that ban cow-slaughter.

 

 

© Bhagwat Shah    Bhagwat_s@Yahoo.com

 

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