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Indian Culture And Traditions

Significance Of Religious Sysmbols
By Sanjeev Nayyar, March 2001 [[email protected]]

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On my way to Mount Kailash, I saw every truck in Tibet had a Swastika symbol. I had seen the same symbol in India too, shops, homes etc. Surprisingly none of the group members could douse my curiosity. This prompted me to read about the significance of symbols.

OM or Pranava is the universally accepted symbol of Hinduism. It is the first word of chants in the form of Om Namah Shivay by Saivites, Om Namo Arihantanam, Om Namo Sidhhayam etc by Jains, Om Buddham Sharnanam Gaccahami, Om Mani Padme Hum, by Buddhists. Literally Pranava means “That by which God is effectively praised." It also means “That which is ever new." A man is supposed to conquer his beastly nature by reciting the word Om.

Lord Krishna says in the Geeta that He is Om among words and that all religious words are started with the repetition of Om. Anyone who chants Om at the time of his death, simultaneously thinking of God, will attain the highest truth. The Yogasatras declare that Pranava is the symbol of God and one can attain Samadhi by its repetition and meditation on Him.

Aum represents the very essence of the Vedas. According to some that A represents the waking state, U the sleeping state and M the deep sleep state and the combination represents total consciousness. Om represents that Power responsible for creation, development and dissolution of the universe, namely God himself.

In the Bible Aum is mentioned as the Word. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The exact parallel line in the Rig Veda reads “In the beginning was Brahman, with whom was the word (Aum), and the Word was truly the Supreme Brahman."

Literally Siva means auspciousness and Linga means symbol. Therefore Sivalinga is a symbol of the great God of the universe. Siva also means One in whom the whole creation sleeps after dissolution. According to Hinduism it is the same God who creates, sustains and withdraws the Universe, Sivalanga represents God himself.

The Lingas installed in temples are called Achala Lingas and have three parts. The lowest part represents Brahma, the middle part Vishnu. The Rudrabhaga which is cylinderical and projects outside is the one that is worshipped.

The Srichakra is the most widely used symbol by followers of the Sakti Cult (followers of the Divine Mother). It is a geometrical diagram representing the form pattern of the Goddess.

Though the consorts of the Trinity ie Saraswati of Brahma, Lakshmi of Vishnu, Parvati of Shiva are the main deities it is the various aspects of Parvati that are most widely worshipped. Durga, Kali, Lalitha are the three forms of Parvati.

The Lotus
The Lotus bud is born in water and unfolds itself into a beautiful flower. It is taken as a symbol of the Universe coming out of the sun. It rises from the navel of Vishnu and is the seat of Brahma the creator. Hence the sacredness associated with it.

The Sun
Being the giver of light, energy, life the Sun has become the symbol of the creator. The Gayatri Mantra has been addressed to God the creator in and through the orb of the sun. The sun also represents the cosmic sacrifice from which the whole creation has proceeded.

The Swastika
It is a symbol of auspiciousness. It has been used as a symbol of Sun or Vishnu. It also represents the world wheel, the eternally changing world round a fixed and unchanging centre.

God Swastika marks depicted on doors or walls of buildings are believed to protect them from wrath of evil spirits or furies of nature.

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