8 Common Religious Symbols In India And The Stories Behind Them
Living in India, it’s impossible to not be familiar with a number of religious symbols. But how many of us actually know the stories behind these symbols and the religions they represent?
Here’s a little gist!
The Om, or Aum, is a mantra, made up of three Sanskrit letters, a, u and m. The syllables come together to make the sound, Om. It is the sound of the infinite. By sound and form, it represents the Trinity of Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The three letters also represent three planes of existence – heaven, earth and the netherworld and other important triads.
The sacred prayer is uttered by many Hindus at the start of every day, task or journey.
2. The Khanda
Also called the “Coat of arms” or Khalsa crest, the symbol is made up of three important components reflecting the fundamental concepts of Sikhism. The Khanda, a double-edged sword which appears at the centre of the logo, symbolizes Divine Knowledge that cleaves Truth from Falsehood. Circling the Khanda is the Chakar, a circle without a beginning or an end symbolizing the perfection of God. The two curved swords, called Kirpans, symbolize the twin concepts of Meeri and Peeri introduced by Guru Hargobind – the equal emphasis that a Sikh must place on spiritual aspirations as well as obligations to society.
The central human figure is generally understood to represent the human soul.
His aged appearance represents wisdom. The hand pointing upwards urges believers to be mindful of higher powers and strive for improvement. The ring in the other is said to represent faithfulness. The three main rows of feathers on the wings represent good thoughts, good words and good deeds, the basis of Zoroastrian ethics. The three rows of feathers on the tail represent bad thoughts, bad words and bad deeds, above which every Zoroastrian must rise. The circle from which the figure emerges signifies the immortality of the soul.
4. The Ahimsa Hand
Jainism was born in India and upholds the doctrine of nonviolence. Understandably, the symbol represents the vow of ahimsa and the belief that all life is sacred. The Samsara wheel symbolizes endless rebirth and at the centre of the wheel is the word, ahimsa. Together, they represent the halting of the cycle of reincarnation through the avoidance of harm to any living creature.
5. The Wheel of Dharma
The Dharmachakra can have eight, twelve, twenty-four, or thirty-one spokes that signify different things, depending on their number. When a wheel has eight spokes, the spokes represent the Eightfold Path. The circle represents the perfection of Buddha’s teachings. The hub symbolizes discipline, and the three swirls are said to represent Buddha, dharma, and sangha. The rim symbolizes meditative concentration which holds everything together.
6. The Cross
The cross is a symbol of Christianity because it signifies salvation. The cross by itself is a reminder of the resurrection, while the crucifix, with Jesus nailed to it is a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice. Favored by Catholic and Orthodox churches, the crucifix often bears a placard with the letters INRI, which is a Latin acronym for the phrase, “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.”
The symbol, a visual representation of Islam, is the holy name of “Allah” written in Arabic script. Allah is the Arabic word for God.
8. The Star of David
The Star of David is a six-pointed star that acquired a deeper spiritual meaning and religious significance in Judaism during the latter half of the middle ages. In Hebrew, it is called the Magen David which means the “Shield of David.” It was only during World War II, however, when Hitler forced Jews to wear a yellow Star of David as a “Badge of Shame” that it became prominently accepted as a symbol.
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