(Last Updated on : 03/02/2010)
There are various symbols which are part of the Hindu iconography. The symbols which have been incorporated in the Hindu iconography are either part of its spiritual or cultural tradition. The significance of the icons varies according to the difference of regions, periods and denomination of the followers. The Indian religions are abounding with several iconographies which bear different meanings. Important feature of Indian iconographies are the mudras or the gestures. Along with the mudras and gestures several symbols have been associated with the various deities those which are prominent in the Hindu religion.
both male and female deities occupy a very prominent position. The chief male icons of Hinduism are Lord Shiva
, Lord Vishnu
, and Lord Brahma
; while the prominent female icons of Hinduism are essentially Goddess Durga
, Goddess Kali
, Goddess Lakshmi
and Goddess Saraswati
. All these deities are actually Puranic ones and their prominence continue to this day in the Hindu iconography.
Lord Shiva is the most widely worshipped male deity among the Hindus. The images of Shiva have been manifested in different iconographical images. Bhairava
is a form of Shiva which has a glorious glow and an aura. The image of the Lord is generally in a frightening pose. He is in a dancing pose representing death and destruction. Sometimes his image is in the form of Deliverance to whom everyone aspires. Another very common image of the god is that of Ksetrapala in which he is represented as a protector or guardian.
Just like Lord Shiva there are also other deities who have been manifested in various forms and figures. For instance goddess Gauri is represented in various forms like in the form of goddess Uma, Parvati
, Rambha or in the form of Totala. Even goddess Vaishnavi is also represented both in the motifs of anger and gracefulness.
Besides the various images of the deities of the Hindu gods and goddesses there are several sacraments which form an integral part of Hindu iconography. They are Tilak, vibhuti and Rudraksha Mala
Tilak generally refer to devotion to various deities. Depending on the various deities the Tilak worn by a devotee also varies. For instance to show devotion to Lord Vishnu a "U" shaped Tilak is used and to show devotion to Shiva, a Tilak is used in horizontal lines.
Vibhuti is also an auspicious ingredient of Hindu worship. Vibhuti is used on the forehead of a devotee to represent Lord Shiva. The significance of the sacred ash is that the origin of the body is dust and it shall again return to ash. Rather it can be said that ash signifies transient nature of all objects on earth. Applying of vibhuti on the forehead represents that an individual is ready to give up all evils and accept all such things which have immense positivism in it.
Rudrakash also occupies an important position in Hinduism. It is said that Rudraksh represents the tears of Lord Shiva. Rudrakash is often used in the form of necklace or rosary and is used as a companion for meditation and devotion.
The other important symbols of Hindu iconography includes the symbol of OM. OM in Hinduism represents the ultimate reality or the Brahman. Swastik on the other hand represents purity and truth of the soul. Sri Chakra Yantra is a mandala of nine interlocking triangles. Four of the nine triangles represent the masculine power or Lord Shiva and the remaining five represents the female power. The nine triangles together represent the cosmos and the reality of creation.
Not only are the general symbols but there certain symbols in Indian religious iconography which are associated with individual deities. In fact with the help of such symbols one is able to recognise a particular deity. For instance the lingam represents Lord Shiva who is the symbol of the power of fertility and strength. The symbol of lotus on the other hand is associated with the aspects of creation and as a result lotus is commonly associated with the deities of Lord Vishnu, goddess Lakshmi and Brahma. The symbol of Veena is invariably associated with the Hindu goddess Saraswati. Chakra or a disc like weapon is also associated with Lord Vishnu.
The standard metal used for making of images was an alloy known as asta-dhatu and this was considered sacred by the manufacturers. The art of metal-casting became extremely popular and had reached a degree of excellence almost equal to that of stone-carving. Besides stones and metals images were also made of wood and clay.
In India not only is Hinduism known for its several icons but also Buddhism
had some icons within their religions realm. For instance in Buddhism Bodhisattva
occupies a prominent position. Similarly Jainism has several iconographies which hold important positions for all the Jain followers.
Religious iconography in India has incorporated various symbols and mudras. With the help of those symbols a devotee is able to relate to the deity more closely. Hence it can be said that iconography especially in religion is an essential part of human life.