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Symbolism


Hinduism is rich in symbolism. Many acts of worship, such as puja, are symbolic. Many symbols are considered auspicious, embodying the notion of inner purity. Sacred emblems are displayed in the home or temple to invoke good fortune.

Symbolism of Gods & Goddesses

Brahma holds the Vedas in his hands. Vishnu holds a conch which stands for the five elements and eternity; a discus, which is the symbol of the mind; a bow that symbolizes power and a lotus which is the symbol of the cosmos. Shiva's trident represents the three gunas. Krishna's flute symbolizes divine music.

The Vedic deities symbolize the forces in nature as well as inside human beings. Gods, goddesses and demons mentioned in the Vedas represent various cosmic powers, on one hand and man's virtues and vices on the other.

Symbols

  1. Aum, also written "Om" and called pranava, is the most important Hindu symbol. Its prolonged intonation is associated with the primeval sound through which the universe was created. It consists of three syllables — a-u-m — are considered to symbolise the three states of consciousness – waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. The entire symbol represents the fourth state, which is the awareness of one's own spiritual identity. Aum is the most important mula (root) mantra and is thus chanted at the beginning of many prayers, mantras, and rituals.
  2. Swastik – It is the symbol of Lord Ganesh, the Vignhaharta. It is for general good luck and prosperity.
  3. Trishul – is a symbol of protection and can also be used for spiritual advancement. It is also a Tanrtik symbol.
  4. Beads – These are used in many forms and denominations from coral to amber to rudraksha and for many purposes from spirituality to prosperity and to ward off the evil eye. Rudraksha especially is a symbol of Shiva and comes in various shapes, sizes and facets.
  5. Bull – A symbol of strength, power and determination.
  6. Crescent Moon – Auspicious in all religions.
  7. Ring – It signifies eternity as it a symbol with no beginning or end.
  8. Serpent symbolizes knowledge and healing from diseases.

Colours

Colours play a very important role in culture and Hindu artists used colours for their deities and their adornments to signify these qualities.
  1. RED – Red is the colour of choice for most auspicious occasions like weddings, birth of a child, festivals etc. A red mark (Tilak) is put on the forehead during ceremonies and important occasions. Hindu women usually put a red powder (sindoor) in the parting of their hair to signify their married status. It is the colour of strength (Shakti) and progress (pragati). It is the colour of energy, war and fire.
  2. SAFFRON – It also represents fire, which burns away all impurities. It also represents religious abstinence. It is the colour of holy men and ascetics who have renounced the world. Wearing this colour is s symbol of the quest for light (knowledge).
  3. GREEN – It symbolizes peace and felicity. It stabilizes the mind. It represents Earth and Vasundhara Devi (the Earth Goddess who represents the Earth, planets and all things ecological).
  4. YELLOW – This is the colour of knowledge and learning. It symbolizes happiness, peace, meditation, competence and mental development. It is the colour of spring and used for activating the mind.
  5. BLUE – The oceans, the rivers, the lakes are all blue. The deity who has the qualities of bravery, manliness, determination, the ability to deal with difficult situations, is of a stable mind and depth of character is represented by this colour. Lord Rama and Lord Krishna are always coloured blue as they spent their lives protecting humanity and destroying evil.
  6. WHITE – This is a mixture of different colours, each symbolizing a particular quality. It represents purity, cleanliness, knowledge and peace. The Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of knowledge and learning) always wears white and is seated in a white lotus.

For light the primary colours or additive colors are Red Green Blue. If we combine red, green and blue light you will get white light. Red, yellow, and blue are taught as primary colors, because of how common paints behave.

Cyan, Magenta and Yellow are "subtractive colors". If we print cyan, magenta and yellow inks on white paper, they absorb the light shining on the page. Since our eyes receive no reflected light from the paper, we perceive black. The printing world operates in subtractive color, or CMYK mode (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). There is also RYB color model, the primary colors are red, yellow and blue. The three secondary colors (green, orange and purple) are created by mixing two primary colors.

There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen

There are seven colors in the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Forms for GOD

Without a form how can God be meditated upon? If GOD is completely formless, where will the mind fix itself? It is impossible for the human being to worship, meditate or praise a deity without form.. Therefore the wise should meditate on some form, remembering GOD is completely formless. So, the Lord is worshipped through an icon.

Idol worship

Idol worship and rituals are at the heart of Hinduism have great religious and philosophical significance. All Hindu deities are themselves symbols of the abstract Absolute, and point to a particular aspect of the Brahman.

In order to worship God that is within we an icon according to the Scriptures with all the symbology that is required, which acts as a mirror. So the icon is a mirror in which you see your true Self reflected.
Prana Pratishta allows the idols to have some of God's attributes. It is literally injecting your own life-force into the icon. While Ramanuja was living in Srirangam, his devotees had a sculpture of him made. When they performed the prāṇa-pratiṣṭha ceremony, in Srirangam Ramanuja lost consciousness. Upon regaining consciousness - he revealed what had happened. That very same icon is enshrined in Sriperumbudur.

Conclusion

But the use of icons and symbols is entirely optional for Hindus. God is formless and all pervading, but due to human mental limitations symbols can be used.

Swastika: Misused

The equilateral cross with its legs bent at right angles is a millennia-old sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism that represents peace and good fortune. It is a symbol of peace, harmony and wellbeing. It is an ancient religious and cultural symbol, predominantly in various Eurasian, as well as some African and American cultures. For the Navajo people, the symbol represents the universe and life.

The swastika was adopted as a standard character in Chinese, "卍" (pinyin: wàn) and as such entered various other East Asian languages, including Chinese script. On Japanese maps, a swastika is used to mark the location of a Buddhist temple. The right-facing swastika is often referred to as the (逆卍, gyaku manji or migi manji 右卍). However, this was stolen or misused by racist groups, as a symbol of “Aryan identity” and German nationalist pride. In addition to the Nazi Party, a number of far-right nationalist movements adopted the swastika.

One cannot call Swastika as a symbol of evil or (deny) other facts that have existed for thousands of years, just because of Hitler. But in few countries in the West due to ignorance or emotions, this symbol is often equated to Adolf Hitler’s hakenkreuz or the hooked cross – a symbol of hate that evokes the trauma of the Holocaust and the horrors of Nazi Germany.

The hakenkreuz and swastika were distinct. Why people of other faiths should have to sacrifice or apologize for a sacred symbol simply because it is often conflated with its tainted version? Writers should educate small portion of the globe on this symbol, so that they no longer fears the symbol.
1. Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption: by Steven Heller
2. The Buddhist Swastika and Hitler's Cross: Rescuing a Symbol of Peace from the Forces of Hate by T. K. Nakagaki
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