The four arms of Lord Vishnu symbolize the four stages of development of the four forms of life. They also denote their authority over the four directions of space and the absolute power. The four different aims of life are pleasure, success, righteousness and liberation resulting in the division of human life into four ages or yugas. These four attributes of Lord Vishnu have been symbolically exhibited by the weapons he holds in his four hands.
i. With is upper right hand he holds a discus, symbolizing the mind.
ii With his upper left hand he holds a bow, that represents the causal power of illusion from which evolves the universe and the lotus.
iii. With his lower right hand he holds a conch, an embodiment of the five elements that represents the creative tendency,
iv. With his lower left hand he holds the mace that again symbolises the concept of individual existence.
The lotus symbolises eternity, riches and good fortune. Although it evolution is from the mud also referred as earth yet it remains pure and clean. Even droplets of water reflect like lustre of pearls, an indication of purity and chastity. Lotus is the symbolic unfolding of creation.
Bow, Arrow and Quiver
The bow carried by Lord Vishnu, known as Sharnga, represents the destructive aspect identified with the disintegrating power. It is considered to be the origin of senses referred to as the divine power of illusion. The arrows represent the senses that represent the field of activity of the intellect, and the quiver is the storehouse of actions.
The conch or shankha of Vishnu consists of a number of spirals evolving from one point. It symbolises the origin of existence. The sound generated upon blowing of the conch is associated with the primeval sound from which the creation developed. This is evolution point of the principles of the five elements.
Kaumodaki, the name of the mace carried by Vishnu, is referred to as the power of knowledge. Knowledge is regarded as the core or essence of life from which evolves all physical and mental powers. Nothing but time possesses the power to conquer knowledge. In general the mace is identified with goddess Kali, the deity who commands over time and destroys those opposing it.
The all pervading Lord Vishnu is adorned with several ornaments that bear a close resemblance to the concept of nature.
i. Kaustubha, a shining gem that adorns his chest represents consciousness present in moon, the sun, fire and speech.
ii. The Srivasta sign on the left chest of Vishnu signifies the source of the natural world.
iii. Vaijayanti mala also known as the garland of victory adorns the neck of Vishnu. It is either furnished by five rows of fragrant flowers or five rows of jewels that characterizes the five spheres of the senses. The garland, also named as Vanamala, is considered as the power of the god.
iv. Ear rings shaped like sea monsters known as makara that adorn the ears of the Lord represent the two forms of knowledge, the intellectual knowledge and the intuitive perception.
v. The armlets worn by the deity characterize the three aims of worldly life, such as pleasure, success and righteousness.
vi. The crown of the deity stands for the unknowable reality.
The dark complexioned Lord Vishnu is depicted wearing a thin yellow dhoti named Pitambara that drapes round his hips. Pitambara represents the Vedas while his physical form is the symbol of the divine reality glowing through the sacred mantras of the Vedas. The mind and the five senses are represented by the chariot of Vishnu.