What are the major Hindu symbols? Is OM associated with Hindu religion? Who founded Hinduism? Name the major Hindu symbols. What is the significance of OM? Does each God in Hindu religion have a symbol? Are the symbols of Hinduism still used in modern times? What are the contributions of Hinduism?
Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world. It is a way of life directed towards the goal of attaining ‘Moksha’ or liberation. The term Hindu was used to indicate the people living near the river Sindhu. The way of life, practices, religious beliefs, scriptures and rituals have been passed on from previous generations. People who follow Hinduism generally worship Lord Shiva, Lord Maha Vishnu and Lord Brahma. The supreme mother or Shakthi is recognized as the mother of all beings.
The supreme God according to Hinduism is formless. Ordinary people will not be able to comprehend the divine principle easily. Therefore symbols have been created to teach the significance of divine concepts. Major symbols in Hinduism include OM, Gayatri mantra, Swastik, Trishul or trident, Vibhuti, Lingam, Rudraksha, Lotus, Conch, Banyan tree, Shri, Kumkum, Mangalsutra, Peacock feather, Cow, Saffron and the sacred thread.
OM is the most important religious symbol of the Hindus. It represents the creator and creation. The chanting of OM in the proper manner gives great benefits like peace of mind, mental control, sense control, good health and spiritual progress. The aim of very religion is to attain eternal liberation. OM can be chanted by anyone (irrespective of religion) to gain freedom from misery and troubles in life. Every prayer starts with OM.
2. Gayatri mantra
The Gayatri mantra is considered the most significant mantra in Hindu religion. It is taught to young boys who are initiated in to the stage of Bhramacharya. The powers of the gods are invoked to get enlightenment and life protection. The mantra should be chanted properly. The mantra will give benefits like sharper intellect, words of wisdom, clear mind, good health and power. The mantra is to be chanted during the morning, afternoon and evening.
The swastika represents the universality of God. The branches of the swastika symbol indicate the omnipresence of the supreme power. It guarantees prosperity and good omens. The symbol is used in all religious functions to ensure success, good fortune and protection. The symbol must be depicted correctly otherwise it will bring destruction.
Vibhuti or sacred ash is a holy symbol associated with Shaivism. Devotees of Lord Shiva apply the holy ash on the forehead. The ash represents the destruction of the vices and ego. It is applied to remind the person of the ultimate truth about the destruction of the mortal body. The holy ash is given as ‘Prasad’ in Shiva temples.
5. Trishul or trident
The Trishul is the weapon of Lord Shiva. The Lord uses it to destroy evil people. The Trishul is worshipped and regarded as a holy symbol. The Lord uses the trident during his ‘Nataraja avatar’ in his abode ‘kailasa’.
The Shivalinga represents Lord Shiva. People worship the Linga in temples. Abhishekam is performed to invoke the power of Lord Shiva who is easily pleased. The Shivalinga symbol is not worn on the body or kept casually in homes. It has great power and must be worshipped accordingly. The Shivalinga is said to grant immortality.
The Rudraksha bead got from the Rudraksha tree is a highly revered symbol. It is worn by those people who have given up material enjoyments and sensory pleasures. The Rudraksha bead is said to have been gifted by Lord Shiva to his wife Shri Parvati.
The lotus is a flower with great religious importance. The lotus is said to be the seat of Goddess Lakshmy. Many gods hold the lotus flower in the hand. People are advised to be like the lotus leaf which remains detached to water drops. It is said the person who is like the lotus leaf is not affected by the troubles in life.
The holy cow is considered to be a symbol of divinity. The cow is worshipped during festivals like Pongal. Kamadhenu is the divine cow which is believed to have supplied armed forces and other items to protect a sage from a cruel king.
Saffron is highly regarded by Hindus. It is the color of fire. Saffron is applied to Tulasi pots and walls of temples to indicate divinity. Fire destroys sins. Saffron in temple walls points out that the sins are destroyed by the vision of the divine God in the temple.
11. Kumkum and Mangalsutra
Married women wear Kumkum as bindi. The Kumkum is a symbol of marriage. It is auspicious and a woman never goes without it. The Mangalsutra or ‘taali’ represents the bond of marriage. The bridegroom ties the Mangalsutra around the bride’s neck in Hindu marriages.
12. Peacock feather
Lord Krishna used to wear a peacock feather in his crown. The peacock feather is thus considered as a symbol of Krishna. The devotees of Lord Krishna adorn his idols with peacock feathers. Peacock is the vehicle of Lord Subramanya.
The conch is used in temples during rituals and functions. Lord Krishna’s conch – Panchjanyam is considered very sacred. The conch was blown as a signal to start a war when troops were lined up.
14. Sacred thread
The sacred thread is worn by males. Young boys are taught the Gayatri mantra during the upanayana ceremony. The father of the boy or an elder person puts the thread around the body while reciting holy mantras. The boy is then officially a ‘bhramachari’ who has the right to perform rituals.
Image sources: Wikipedia