Hinduism is a conglomeration of religions, cultural ideas and philosophical practices that originated in India. As the oldest religion on Earth, it has more symbols than any other religion. Each symbol in Hinduism has a different meaning and is used on different occasions.
Below is a comprehensive list of some of the major symbols in Hinduism and their meanings.
1)Aum or Om: Om or Aum is one the most important symbols in Hinduism. Made up of three Sanskrit letters, it is composed of three sounds a-u-m and is said to represent the three major Gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Most if not all Hindu mantras begin with Aum. It is the sound that is used during meditation.
2)Swastika: The Swastika holds great religious significance in Hinduism. Swastika comes from the ancient Indian language Sanskrit which means being happy. The four angels of the symbol also symbolize the four directions or the Vedas. It is considered to be sacred and represents prosperity and luck.
3)Sri Yantra: This symbol is characterized by nine interlocking triangles. The four upright triangles represent masculine or Shiva; while the five inverted triangles represent feminine or Shakti. It symbolizes the unity of both male and female. Sometimes numbers are written on the symbol. They are believed to have positive effects on life when placed at the desired place.
4)Tilaka: The symbol of the Tilak is often placed on the forehead of the devotee between the eyebrows. Its form and color vary from caste, the Lord worshipped and religious sect.
Brahmins apply a white chandan mark, Kshatriyas apply red kumkum, Vaishyas apply yellow kesar and Sudra apply black ash or charcoal mark.
Worshippers of Lord Vishnu apply the tilak in the shape of U and those of Shiva in the shape of horizontal lines.
5)Rudraksha: Rudraksha are beads used mostly by Hindus for spiritual purposes. They symbolize the tears of Lord Shiva. Rudraksha comes from the term Rudra which means Shiva and Aksha which means eyes. The seeds are mainly used to make Japa malas or rosaries.
6)Lotus: In Hinduism, the Lotus flower has a special place. It is not only considered beautiful and pure but is also considered a symbol of fertility, happiness, goodwill and prosperity. It is referred to as the king of flowers and helps get rid of unpleasantness. Brahma, Lakshmi, Vishnu and Saraswati are some of the deities associated with the Lotus.
In ancient Hindu scriptures, the Lotus flower is known as padma (pink lotus), kamala (red lotus), pundarika (white lotus) and utpala (blue lotus).
7)Shiv Lingam: The Shiva Lingam is the representation of Lord Shiva. Most Hindus worship Lord Shiva in the form of a Shiva lingam. In Hinduism, it represents Shiva as being the generative power, all of existence, all creativity and fertility at every cosmic level. For Hindus, the lingam and yoni together symbolize the union of male and female principles and the totality of all existence.
8)Veena: Veena is a stringed musical instrument of Goddess Saraswati. It is also a symbol of art, learning and education. The musical instrument is also associated with Rishi Narad. The musical notes produced from the Veena are known to radiate knowledge in all directions.
Each part of the Veena is seen as a divine abode of gods and goddess. The neck is Shiva, the strings are Parvati, the bridge is Lakshmi, the secondary gourd is Brahma, the dragon head is Vishnu and the resonating sound is Saraswati.
9)Trishul: The Trishul or Trident is a popular symbol associated with Lord Shiva. It is usually viewed as a weapon used by Lord Shiva for the protection and restoration of Dharma. The Trishul is a representation of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and stands for the balance between the forces of creation, preservation and destruction.
10)Dhvaja: Dhvaja or Flag are usually flown above temples. Either in orange or red color, it symbolizes victory. The flag embodies the glorious hue of the rising sun that sheds light all around. The shape consists of two triangles, the upper being shorter than the lower.
11)Kalash: Kalash is a vessel usually made with copper that is often used in Hindu rituals. It symbolizes abundance, wisdom, immortality and prosperity. It is filled with water and mango leaves are kept at the opening of the vessel and is topped with a coconut during rituals. It is also seen as a representation of material things: a container of fertility – the earth and the womb, one that nourishes and nurtures life. The mango leaves are associated with Kama, the god of love, the coconut represents power and prosperity and the water represents the life-giving ability of nature.
12)Shankh: The Shankh is a major part of Hindu prayers. It is used as a trumpet to get rid of negative energy. It is also used as a bowl for holy water. They are widely used in many rituals to bathe deities and to start and end a holy ritual. It is an emblem of Lord Vishnu, the God of Preservation.