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Hindu Symbols

Hinduism is replete with symbolism—some even say that no other religion 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 drawings are called “murti.” Some Hindu symbols, like the lotus and the conch, 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).

Om Symbol

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Hindu Symbols and their meanings

The swastika

The swastika
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.

Sri Yantra

The tilaka

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. Rudraksha

The Shiva Lingam

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 penis.

The lotus

This plant is representative of creation and is used to symbolize Vishnu, Brahma and Lakshmi.

Lotus Flower

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The Veena

This is an Indian stringed instrument that represents art and learning. It is also used for the goddess Saraswati and the sage Narada.

bindiBindi - 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 vermilion.

brahmanBrahman - 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 to Hinduism.
fire altarFire 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 fire.

hindu flagDhvaja, 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.

banyan tree

Vata, 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.


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.


The Trishula Trishula or the Trident is a prominent Hindu symbol that is associated with Lord Shiva. Though this three-pronged symbol is usually viewed as a weapon used by the Lord for the protection and restoration of Dharma, it actually carries deeper meanings. It is representative of the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and stands for the balance between the forces of creation, preservation and destruction. It is also considered symbolic of the three Gunas – Rajas, Tamas and Sattva. Another symbolic representation of the Trishula is that of the three facets of consciousness, namely, cognition, affection and conation.


Tripundra The Tripundra is a prominent Hindu symbol that is used by Shaivites or the devotees of Lord Shiva. Tripundra is typically a tilak, with three horizontal lines made from bhasma or sacred ash applied on the forehead. It may have a red dot or bindu superimposed in the center. Some Shiva followers also draw the three ash strips of Tripundra on the sides of their arms.

The Tripundra represents the three godly forces of creation, sustenance and destruction through the three lines, while the ash's symbolizes purification and burning away of anava (ego), maya(illusions) and karma (actions/deeds). The dot is symbolic of the rise or quickening of spiritual insight.

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