Sacred Symbols

Sacred symbols which embody unspoken intuitions of the spirit adorn India’s art, architecture and iconography. Here are 34 of the most beloved.

 Shri Ganesh Shri Ganesh
Ganesh is the Lord of Obstacles and Ruler of Dharma. Seated upon His throne, He guides our karmas through creating and removing obstacles from our path. We seek his permission and blessings in every undertaking
 Aum Aum
is the root mantra and soundless sound from which all creation issues forth. It is associated with Lord Ganesha. Its three- syllables stand at the beginning and end of every sacred verse and every human act.
 Anjali Anjali
the gesture of two palms pressed together and held near the heart, means to “honour or celebrate”. It is our Hindu greeting, two joined as one, the bringing together of matter and spirit, the self meeting the self in all.
 Padma Padma
is the lotus flower, Nelumbo nucifera, perfection of beauty, associated with Deities and the chakras, especially the I ,000 petalled sahasrara. Rooted in the mud, its blossom is a promise of purity and unfoldment.
is the elephant, king of beasts and sign of royalty and power He is Indra’s mount, denoting the dominion of Heaven’s King. In large Hindu temples and elaborate festive pagentry there is always a noble elephant.
is the bell used in ritual puja, which engages all senses, including hearing. Its ringing summons the Gods, stimulates the inner ear and reminds us that, like sound, the world may be perceived but not possessed.
are the towering stone gateways through which pilgrims enter the South Indian temple. Richly ornamented with myriad sculptures of the divine pantheon, their tiers symbolise the, several planes of existence.
is the symbol of fortune – literally “It is well”. The right-angled arms of this ancient sun sign denote the indirect way that Divinity is apprehended: by intuition and not by intellect.
is Lord Shiva’s mount, or vahana. This huge white bull with a black tail, whose name means “joyful” is disciplined animality kneeling at Shiva’s feet , the ideal devotee, the pure joy and strength of Saiva Dharma.
are hand gestures employed in sacred dance and puja to focus the mind on abstract matters and to charge the body with spiritual power. This is chinmudra, the gesture of realisation, reflection and silent teaching.
Shiva’s trident, carried by Himalyan yogis, is the royal sceptre of the Saiva Dharma. Its triple prongs betoken desire, action and wisdom; ida, pingala and sushumna; and the three gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas.
or “wheel”, is the circle of time, symbol of perfect creation, of the cycles of existence. Time and space are interwoven, and eight spokes mark the directions, each ruled by a Deity and having a unique quality.
“peacock” is lord Murugan’s mount, swift beautiful like Kartikeya Himself. The proud display of dancing peacock symbolises religion in full, unfolded glory.His shrill cry warns of approaching harm.
is the massive superstructure which above the cave-like sanctuaries of temples in India. It is a living model of Mount Meru, the centre universe where the themselves reside.
Golden Shower, blossoms are the flowering symbol of Shiva’s honeyed grace in our life, Associated with His shrines and temples throughout India, the Cassia fistula is landed in numberless Tirumurai hymns.
the banyan tree, Ficus indicus symbolises Hinduism, branches out in all directions draws from many spreads shade far and wide, yet stems from one great Shiva as Silent Sage sits it.
is the noble red rooster who heralds each dawn, calling all to awake and arise. He is a symbol of the imminence of imminence of spiritual unfoldment and wisdom. This fighting cock bravely crows from Lord Skanda’s battle flag.
the fire alter, is the symbol of ancient Vedic rites. It is through the fire element denoting divine consciousness, that we make offerings to the Gods. Hindu sacraments are solemnised before the fire.
“Great Time”, presides above creation’s golden arch. Devouring instants and eons, with a ferocious face, He is Time beyond time, reminder of this world’s transitoriness, tha
t sin and suffering will pass.
is the an mark or symbol of God. This elliptical stone is a formless form betokening Parasiva. That which can never be described or portrayed. The pedestal called pitha, represents manifest Parashakti.
the standing oil lamp, symbolises the dispelling of ignorance and awakening of the divine light within us. Its soft glow illumines the temple or shrine room, keeping the atmosphere pure and serene.
“flag”, is the orange or red banner flown above temples, at festivals and in processions. It is a symbol of victory, signal to all “Sanatana Dharma shall prevail”. Its bold colour betokens sun’s life giving glow.
is Lord Shiva as “King of Dance”. Carved in stone or caste in bronze. His ananda tandava, the fierce ballet of bliss, dances the cosmos into and out of existence within the fiery arch of flames which denote consciousness.
Shri Paduka
the sacred sandals worn by saints, sages and Satgurus, symbolise the preceptor’s holy feet, which are the source of his grace. Prostrating before him, we humbly touch his feet for release from worldliness.
the cobra, is a symbol of kundalini power, cosmic energy coiled and slumbering within man. It inspires seekers to overcome misdeeds and suffering by lifting the serpent power up the spine into God-Realisation.
is our Lord Ganesha’s mount, the mouse, traditionally associated with abundance in family life. Under cover of darkness, seldom visible yet always at work, Mushika is like God’s unseen grace in our Iives.
“six-pointed star”, is two interlocking triangles; the upper stands for Shiva, purusha and fire, the lower for Shakti, prakriti and water Their union gives birth to Sanat Kumara, whose sacred number is six.
a husked coconut circled by five mango leaves on a pot, is used in puja to represent any God, especially Lord Ganesha. Breaking a coconut before His shrine is the ego’s shattering to reveal the sweet fruit inside.
seeds, Eleocarpus ganitrus, are prized as the compassionate tears Lord Shiva shed for mankind’s suffering. Shaivites wear malas of them always as a symbol of god’s love, chanting symbol of God’s love, chanting on each bead.
Lord Murugan’s holy lance, is His protective power, our safeguard in adversity. It’s tip Is wide, long and sharp, signifying incisive discrimnation and spiritual knowledge, which must be broad, deep and penetrating.
the pleasing paisley design, is modeled after a mango and associated with Lord Ganesha. Mangos are the sweetest of fruits, symbolising auspiciousness and the happy fulfilment of legitimate worldly desires.
is the Saivite’s great mark, three stripes of white vibhuti on the brow. This holy ash signifies purity and the burning away of anava, karma and maya. The bindu, or dot, at the third eye quickens spiritual insight.
the water-born conch, symbolises the origin of existence, which evolves in spiralling spheres. In ancient days it signaled battle’s victory. In the Lord’s hands it is our protection inner from evil, sounding the sacred nadi.
is the royal mark upon the forehead of Vaishnavities. Two white lines are Vishnu’s footprint resting upon a lotus base, The red represents Lakshmi. Thus the Lord’s lowest part is worshiped on our highest.