Hinduism is replete with symbolism—some even say that no other
employs the art of symbolism as effectively as the Hindus. Most of
these symbols are representative of the philosophies, teachings and
even the gods and goddesses themselves of the Hindus. There are two
general categories or branches of Hindui symbols. Hand gestures and the
positioning of the body are called “mudras” while icons and
are called “murti.” Some Hindu symbols, like the lotus and
are similar to the symbols used in Buddhism.
Om (or Aum)
|This is the most universal
of Hindu symbols and its sound is used in
meditation. In Hinduism, the word “Om” is the first
syllable in any
prayer. More specifically, Om is used to symbolize the universe and the
ultimate reality. Some people say that this symbol represents the three
aspects of God: the Brahma (A), the Vishny (U) and the Shiva (M).
|Although this symbol has a
negative connotation in some parts of the
world because of Nazi Germany, the swastika is actually a sign of luck
and fortune. This variation of the cross has been present in ancient
Hinduism and is used to represent honesty, truth, purity and stability.
Its four angles or points also symbolize the four directions, or Vedas.
The Sri Yantra
|Also called the Shri
Chakra, this symbol is characterized by nine
interlocking triangles that radiate from a central point. Of the nine,
the four upright triangles represent the masculine side or Shiva; while
the five inverted triangles represent the feminine, or the Shakti
(Divine Mother). As a whole, the Sri Yantra is used to symbolize the
bond or unity of both the masculine and the feminine divinity. It can
also mean the unity and bond of everything in the cosmos.
|This symbol is often
placed on the forehead of a devotee of Hinduism.
This is different from the bindi worn by Hindu women, though. The
tilaka comes in many different shapes, depending on the custom or
religious affair. A devotion to Vishnu is indicated by a U-shaped
tilaka, while horizontal lines symbolize a devotion to Shiva.
|The Rudraksha is a tree
that is found in Southeast Asia, Nepal, the
Himalayas and even New Guinea and Australia. Its blue seeds are said to
symbolize the tears of Shiva, the Destroyer. Legend has it that when
Shiva saw how his people suffered, he shed one tear from his eye, which
grew into the Rudraksha tree. The name Rudrashka actually comes from
“Rudra” (another name for Shiva) and “aksha,”
which means eyes. The
seeds from this tree are also used to make prayer beads or rosaries.
The Shiva Lingam
|In Hinduism, several
deities represent the natural forces fire (Agni),
wind (Vayu), sun (Surya) and earth (Prithvi). There are several icons
used to symbolize these deities. The Shiva Lingam, which is used to
represent Shiva, is an elongated column that looks much like an erect
|This is an Indian stringed
instrument that represents art and learning.
It is also used for the goddess Saraswati and the sage Narada.
|Bindi - One of the most well known
items in Hinduism is the bindi, a dot (often the color red) worn on
women's foreheads. It is a form of the tilak, a symbolic mark worn by
many Hindu men and women, but that has less religious meaning then
other tilaks. Traditionally, the bindi is worn on the forehead of
married Hindu women. It symbolizes female energy and is believed to
protect women and their husbands from bad things. Bindis are
traditionally a simple mark made with the paste of colored sandalwood,
sindoor or turmeric. The bindi is most commonly a red dot made with
|Brahman - One can say
that Brahman Itself (him/herself) constitutes the essential building
material of all reality, being the substance from which all things
proceed. Brahman, as understood by the scriptures of Hinduism, as well
as by the 'acharyas' of the Vedanta school, is a very specific
conception of the absolute. This unique conception has not been
replicated by any other religion on earth to this day, and is exclusive
|Fire Altar - The fire
altar is regarded as a distinct symbol of ancient Vedic rites. It is
through the fire element, denoting divine consciousness, that the Hindu
make offerings to the Gods. Hindu sacraments are solemnized before the
Dhvaja, or '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.
the banyan tree, 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.
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.