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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sacred Symbols Endearing Icons of Hindu Art & Culture


Sacred Symbols Endearing Icons of Hindu Art & Culture

Endearing images embodying intuitions of the spirit that adorn Hindu art, architecture and iconography symbols adorn our world and mind at every turn -- in our spiritual, social and political experience. A ring or gold pendant serves to silently attest to and strengthen wedded love. On a mountainous road in any country, a sign with a truck silhouette on a steeply angled line warns drivers of dropping grades ahead. The red cross signals aid and comfort in crises. Golden arches tell the vegan to beware. Among the best known symbols in the world are the simple numerals: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. They originated in ancient India as characters of the Brahmi script. Now and then, historic images or happenings are supercharged into symbols. The awesome mushroom cloud of the terrifying specter of nuclear destruction.

It is humanity's sacred symbols, its icons of Divinity and Reality, that wield the greatest power to inform and transform consciousness. Taoists gazing upon a yin-yang symbol, Navajo Indians delicately pouring a feather symbol in a sand painting,

Pranava Aum
Pranava, Aum, is the root mantra and primal 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, every human act.

Ganesha
Ganesha 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. 

Vata
Vata, the banyan tree, Ficus indicus, symbolizes Hinduism, which branches out in all directions, draws from many roots, spreads shade far and wide, yet stems from one great trunk. Siva as Silent Sage sits beneath it.

Tripundra
Tripundra is a 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.

Nataraja
Nataraja is Siva as "King of Dance." Carved in stone or cast in bronze, His ananda tandava, the fierce ballet of bliss, dances the cosmos into and out of existence within the fiery arch of flames denoting consciousness. 

Mayil
Mayil, "peacock," is Lord Murugan's mount, swift and beautiful like Karttikeya Himself. The proud display of the dancing peacock symbolizes religion in full, unfolded glory. His shrill cry warns of approaching harm. 

Nandi
Nandi is Lord Siva's mount, or vahana. This huge white bull with a black tail, whose name means "joyful," disciplined animality kneeling at Siva's feet, is the ideal devotee, the pure joy and strength of Saiva Dharma. 

Bilva
Bilva is the bael tree. Its fruit, flowers and leaves are all sacred to Siva, liberation's summit. Planting Aegle marmelos trees around home or temple is sanctifying, as is worshiping a Linga with bilva leaves and water. 

Padma
Padma is the lotus flower, Nelumbo nucifera, perfection of beauty, associated with Deities and the chakras, especially the 1,000-petaled sahasrara. Rooted in the mud, its blossom is a promise of purity and unfoldment.

Swastika
Swastika is the symbol of auspiciousness and good 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. 

Mahakala
Mahakala, "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, that sin and suffering will pass. 

Ankusa
Ankusha, the goad held in Lord Ganesha's right hand, is used to remove obstacles from dharma's path. It is the force by which all wrongful things are repelled from us, the sharp prod which spurs the dullards onward. 

Anjali
Anjali, the gesture of two hands brought together near the heart, means to "honor 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.
 Aum. 

Go
Go, the cow, is a symbol of the earth, the nourisher, the ever-giving, undemanding provider. To the Hindu, all animals are sacred, and we acknowledge this reverence of life in our special affection for the gentle cow.

Ghanta
Ghanta 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.
Gopuras are the towering stone gateways through which pilgrims enter the South Indian temple. Richly ornamented with myriad sculptures of the divine pantheon, their tiers symbolize the several planes of existence.

Kalasha
Kalasha, 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.

Kuttuvilaku
Kuttuvilaku, the standing oil lamp, symbolizes 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

Rudraksha
Rudraksha seeds, Eleocarpus ganitrus, are prized as the compassionate tears Lord Siva shed for mankind's suffering. Saivites wear malas of them always as a symbol of God's love, chanting on each bead, "Aum Namah Sivaya.

Trishula
Siva's trident carried by Himalayan yogis, is the royal scepter of the Saiva Dharma. Its triple prongs betoken desire, action and wisdom; ida, pingala and sushumna; and the gunas -- sattva, rajas and tamas.

Dhvaja
Dhvaja, "flag," is the orange or red banner flown above temples, at festivals and in processions. It is a symbol of victory, signal to all that "Sanatana Dharma shall prevail." Its color betokens the sun's life-giving glow.

Kalachakra
Kalachakra, "wheel, or circle, of time," is the 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.

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