From the time unknown, many sacred symbols have held profound meaning for Indians. They originate in the ancient treatises of Hindu philosophy, the Vedas and the epics which are the epitomes of Indian culture and consciousness. It is incredible that these and other symbols have remained changeless and sacrosanct for almost 5000 years. Even today, knowingly or unknowingly, these shapes and designs are used in the performance of daily rituals and worship. Some wear sacred symbols and thing on daily basis often without a deep understanding of their meaning. Though some of the symbols are fast disappearing in Modern India, average Indians have a rare ability to live simultaneously with ancient philosophy and modern scientific attitude. These symbols have become an integral part of India’s culture.
Note : Though Hinduism is not a religion, ZoominIndia have used the term, ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hinduism’ in this topic. Actually ‘Hinduism’ is a way of life. It’s indigenous name is ‘Sanātana Dharma’. ‘Sanātana’ means eternal, never beginning nor ending, and for the word ‘Dharma’, unfortunately English has no equivalent word. Today it is erroneously associated only with Hinduism. For the word ‘Sanātana Dharma’, eternal order or eternal duty has been proposed as an alternative. The term “Hindu” itself is of non-native (Persian) origin. The words, “religion” and “dharma” denote two entirely different concepts and perspectives.
The foremost among these is the sacred Om. Om is the source of all religions and religious scriptures. The uttering of the sacred and mystical Om is called Onkar or Omkar. It is believed to be the visual depiction of the cosmic sound from which the universe originated. It is the syllable from which all matter and space originate. In its monosyllabic sound, it contains the Brahman or the entire universe and its energy. It is the first chant of the priest as he invokes the gods in any prayer. This motif can be seen on doorways, temples, account books, religious texts, cradles of newborn babies and on ceremonial clothes in a variety of colours and many embellishments. Om is also depicted as the true form of Ganesha, the deity of auspiciousness and good fortune as well as wisdom, knowledge and learning.
‘OM’ chanting, if done in a high and prolonged note with great devotion, produces a quivering sensation and power within. It affects every part of the body and mind. Negativity in the mind is destroyed. The dormant inner strength is aroused. Even scientists agree that chanting Om is beneficial.
Swastika is an ancient religious symbol originating from the Indian subcontinent, that generally takes the form of an equilateral cross with four legs each bent at 90 degrees. It is considered to be a sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The name Swastika comes from the Sanskrit and denotes a “lucky, auspicious, well-being”.
Today’s western countries are considered most ignorant about this symbol, as they associate it with Hitler and Nazism. In fact, it was used as a powerful symbol thousands of years before him, across many cultures and continents. The earliest known swastika-like symbol dates from around 10,000–13,000 BCE. Archaeological finds have long demonstrated that the swastika is a very old symbol, but ancient examples are by no means limited to India. This ancient symbol had been discovered all round the world.
It is also said to represent God (the Brahman) in his universal manifestation, and energy (Shakti). It represents the four directions of the world (the four faces of Brahma). It also represents the Purushartha: Dharma (natural order), artha (wealth), kama (desire), and moksha (liberation).
To this day, in India, the symbol can still be seen in abundance – on temples, buses, taxis, and on the cover of books. It is traced with the finger with sindoor on the head or body during Hindu religious rites, and on doors on festival days – notably on Diwali. It is painted on many, if not most, three-wheel auto-rikshas and trucks. In all these uses it is a lucky charm protecting from evil and attracting good.
Mudra is a non-verbal mode of communication and self-expression, consisting of hand gestures and finger-postures. In India, many such hand gestures were used in Buddhist sculptures and ancient paintings. They are also used by monks and sadhus in their spiritual exercises of ritual meditation and concentration, and are believed to generate forces that invoke the deity.
Various Asian martial arts forms contain positions identical to these mudras.
The ancient hindu text, Natya Shastra describes 24 mudras. These mudras are used in Indian classical dance such as Bharata Natyam, Kathakali, Odissi. These root mudras are combined in different ways, like one hand, two hands, arm movements, body and facial expressions.
In yoga, mudras are used in conjunction with pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), generally while seated in Padmasana, Sukhasana or Vajrasana pose, to stimulate different parts of the body involved with breathing and to affect the flow of prana in the body.
The physical body is made up of five elements namely – Air, Water, Fire, Earth and Ether. Imbalance of these elements disrupts the immunity system and causes disease.
Deficiencies in any of these elements can be made up by connecting one part of the body with another in a particular manner through Mudras.
Rudraksha or rudraksh seeds are traditionally used by hindus as prayer beeds. Rudra in sanskrit means fearsome, mighty, terrible (referred to Lord Shiva) and aksha means teardrops.
Rudraksha tree is a large evergreeen broad-leaved tree. Its scientific name being Elaeocarpus ganitrus, the famil is tiliaceae. It grows in the Gangetic plain in the foothills of the Himalayas and western coastal areas. The high quality one is said to be from Nepal.
Rudraksha seeds strung with silk or cotton thread is called Rudraksha mala. Rudraksha seeds may also be strung with either copper, silver or gold, typically by a jeweler. In India, it is common to see yogis and sadhus wearing rudraksha around their neck.
A Rudraksha bead can have several faces or mukhis. Mukhis or faces are visible vertical lines seen across the Rudraksha bead. Each bead has a different effect on you, depending on the number of mukhis it has. There are 38 varieties of Rudrakshas in total available in upto 21 mukhis or faces.
Most of the Rudrakshas found are sperical in shape with different number of faces (“mukhi”) on it. But few Rudrakshas are also found with the shape of cashew nuts.
There is also fake Rudraksha sold in the market which is called Bhadraksha. Bhadraksha is very inferior to Rudrasha. Bhadrakshas are also lighter than rudrakshas because of lesser density. Bhadrakshas do not have a natural hole while rudrakshas have holes on either side. A real rudraksha seed shall sink in water and so fake ones can be differentiated easily.
The rudraksha thread protects the wearer from lightings, accidents and brings him good luck according to Indian saints and rishis. People with positive currents of energy should wear it on their right hand and those with negative energy current on their left hands, for good results. Rudrasksha Mala wearer should follow strict niyama (rules) to get maximum benefits from it, such as one should not wear a Rudraksha while eating non-vegetarian food or while having alcoholic products, one should remove Rudraksha before going to sleep (especially in case of new married couples) but they can wear it next morning and one should not wear a Rudraksha while attending a funeral.
Wearing a Rudraksha is known to cure ailments like blood pressure, stress, anxiety, depression, palpitations, lack of concentration, etc. The bead enhances the power of concentration, orients the mind towards attaining prosperity, boost confidence and energy levels, and is also known to increase the ability of speculative thinking.
Trishul (Trident) is a weapon of lord Shiva but it is also used as a Hindu symbol. “Tri” means three and “Shul” means spear or something which pokes.
Therefore, the Trishul means three spears. Three spears are combined into one which looks like above picture. It is a lethal weapon generally made up of brass or iron.
The outer two points are curved and the middle point is sharply pointed. The middle spear is a little bit longer than the other two equal-sized spears and it is mounted on a long metal shaft. The height of the Trishul depends upon the idol or the user but it is generally 4-5 feet.
Trishul is used as a symbol in Buddhism also. Lord Shiva is always depicted as having Trishul in his hand or by his side. It is the main weapon of Lord Shiva and he kills demons with it. Goddess Durga is also shown to have Trishul as one of her weapons. Some Hindu sadhus also carry Trishul made up of brass with them for protection as well as a symbol of Lord Shiva. A Trishul is kept in Hindu temples of Lord Shiva and in the temple Hindu Goddesses. Trishul is also printed as a Tilak between the eyebrows. People also use Trishul as a body tattoo.
Kamandalu is an oblong water pot made of a dry gourd (pumpkin) or coconut shell, metal, wood of the Kamandalataru tree, or from clay, usually with a handle and sometimes with a spout. It is viewd has symbol of asceticism and self-realisation in Hindusium, Buddhism and Jainism. Ascetics and wandering yogis often use it for storing water. It represents a simple and self-contained life.
In Puranas, it is mentioned that the water from this traditional pot is used by Gods and munis to curse the sinners and also bless their devotees by sprinkling the Kamandalu’s water on them.
Kamandalu is often depicted in the hands of Lord Shiva, Brahma, Varuna, Ganga, Saraswati,Vaman Avatar of Vishnu, Guru Dattatreya and many other god and goddess. In Buddhism, Bodhisattvas like Maitreya and Avalokiteshvara are depicted carrying the Kamandalu.
Paduka is the one of the oldest footwear of India. In Sanskrit language, ‘Pâda’ means “foot” and ‘ka’ is a diminutive ending with literal meaning of “small”.
The paduka or toe-knob sandals were usually worn by gurus, ascetics and sadhus. In its crudest form, it is roughly cut in the shape of a foot, and has a knob that is held between the first and second toe. Later, elaborate designs were carved on precious wood, ivory and metals, including silver and brass, and inlaid with gold and silver wire. They also became votive objects of veneration for devotees.
The footprints of Hindu deities and saints are also called as Paduka and are worshipped as a symbol of that deity.
The sculpture at Ramappa Temple in Warangal, which is 850 years old, exemplifies the fact that ladies during that time also used to wear elavated paduka. This may be fashion reason or may be to keep their clothes and feet clean.
Yoga Danda or Wooden Staff or Mediation stick is mainly associated with ascetics and wandering yogis. Nowadays Yoga practitioners also use Yoga Danda. It is a T-shaped wooden staff which is usually 2 feet in height. It has a U shaped bent in its horizontal part to provide a comfortable support to the armpit, regulate the breathing, and hence often used prior to Pranayama or meditation.
It offers a convenient way to alter breath flow between nostrils and help gaining the maximum out of Pranayama techniques, especially those requiring alternate nostril breathing, such as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama. This danda is used to create a balance between Ida nadi (mental energy) and Pingala nadi (physical energy), and ease the flow of Sushumna nadi (spiritual energy).
The meditation stick is a very practical massage tool too, especially on those hard to reach spots in the back and the pressure points where the shoulder joins the neck. Using the curved section of the stick one can run it over all the limbs to provide instantaneous relief. This is an overlooked but necessary aspect of practice as long hours of meditation do cause some physical stiffness.
To use Yoga danda sit on the floor in any meditative posture such as Siddhasana,Sukhasana or Padmasana with your spine straight.Support your torso on the Yoga Danda by resting your armpit on the U-shaped horizontal member of the staff. The Danda should be placed under the side that has the open nostril. For example, if the flow is free on the right nostril,support your right armpit on the Yoga danda. After a few minutes, you will feel the flow of breath easier through other nostril, the left nostril. Once you achieved the balanced flow you can remove the Yoga danda. The stick can also be used to rest arm while rotating mala beads.
This excellent meditation tool has been used by yogis as it assists in one’s spiritual practice.The wandering yogis used this stick as a vital complement to their yogic practices.It has a great symbolic value, when viewed straight on,it resembles a spinal column descending from the shoulders of a human being. In spiritual terms, this is known as the Meru Danda,or the cosmic pillar that is the center of the Universe.The yoga danda is supposed to remind us that wherever we are is the center of the universe – and that is within us,the spinal column up which rises the Kundalini Shakti – the creative power of the universe.
When pressed under the armpit, it aids in Detoxification. The area under the armpit is rich in lymph nodes where the absorption of toxins for excretion takes place. The lymph removes the toxins from the human body. Pressing the armpit stimulates the lymph flow which helps eliminate the toxins from our systems
In all, this is a handy tool to be had by a sincere yoga practitioner who wishes to harness the energy balancing power of yoga.
Deepam, deepa, diyo, diya or deepak is an oil lamp made of clay or metal (usually of Brass), with a cotton wick dipped in ghee or vegetable oils. In the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, there are references to gold and silver lamps as well. During Diwali (Deepavali), small earthenware lamp called Diya is lit in very house.
In India, it is often used in Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Zoroastrian festivals and ceremony. In India, Deepavali, the festival of lights is celebrated which symbolises the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. It is also called as victory of good over evil. Even some social occasions like inaugurations are performed with the lighting of the lamp. Some Indian classical dance such as Kathakali is still performed in front of huge Deepam. It has become part of the tradition.
The lighting of ‘diya’ or lamp at home is considered highly auspicious as it brings prosperity and good health. Many Hindus also perform an ‘arati’ with the traditional oil lamp. The lamp is lit in the morning or evening or both morning and evening. In some houses the lamp is maintained continuously and is known Akhand Deep or Akhanda Jyoti.
The light in the Lamp symbolises life, prosperity, knowledge and wisdom. It removes darkness, which symbolises ignorance, evil, fear, delusion, grief and unhappiness. The wick in the traditional oil lamp symbolizes ego and the oil or ghee used symbolizes our negative tendencies. When we are lit by self-knowledge, the negative tendencies (oil) melt away and finally the ego (wick) perishes. When the ego perishes, we realize that we are all part of Brahma and that life is continuity.
Archaeological excavations in India revealed that stone and terracotta lamps were used in ancient times. Then various types of metal lamps evolved with different carvings and designs such as:
>> Niranjana – Small and short lamp which produced less soot.
>> Samai – A standing lamp, more than one wick can be lightened.
>> Lamanadeepa – Hanging lamp similar to Samai.
>> Pancharati – A group of five lamps with handle. It used for aarti. Handle of this lamp is decorated with motifs such as snake, woman, fish etc.
>> Deepalakshmi – This unique Lamp is actually deity, holding a lamp in her hand.
>> Deepamala – This stone or wooden lamppost is mostly circular, hexagonal or octagonal in cross section and taper at the top. It is installed in front of temples. Small niches from bottom to top around the pillar are meant to place lamps.
>> Deepavruksha – Deepavruksha means tree of lamps. Each branch have a provision to hold lamp.
Kalasha or Kalash is metal (usually made up of copper) vessel which has a flat round at the base and mouth is large enough to hold a coconut. Kalasha is filled up with water up to the neck of the vessel and five leaves of mango are kept at the opening of the vessel in such a way that the leaves immerse partially in the water, then on top coconut is placed. Shira or the head of the coconut is kept facing the sky. Sometimes the Kalasha is filled with coins, grain, gems, gold, or a combination of these items instead of water.
Kalasha is considered as auspicious in Hinduism and Jainism and are depicted their iconography. Kalasha symbolizes abundance abundance, wisdom, immortality and prosperity in Hinduism. From anciet times, has been in used in decorative motif in Indian art and architecture. It is often seen in the hands of Hindu deities like,
Brahma (Creator God) and Lakshmi (goddess of prosperity). References to the Kalasha can be found in Rigveda. It is also believed to contain that Amrita (the elixir of life).
During rituals, a swastika is drawn with Kumkum on the front portion of the Kalash. A garland of flowers is also placed around the Kalasha. Kalasha is worshipped mainly during Vastushanti, Griha Pravesha (house warming), Navratri, child naming, marriage ceremony, and other important auspicious occasions. It is also used as a symbol on wedding cards in order to show the marriage between two families.
Yajñopavitam or Sacred thread is known by various names, such as yajnopavita, Janivaara, Jandhyamu, Poitaa, Punul, Janeu, Zanave, Lagun, Janeyu, Janju, Jenjam etc in different parts of India.
Yajñopavitam consist of three hand-spun cotton threads tied at the end with a special knot (Brahmagranthi) and worn across the chest, over the left shoulder and under the right arm. It is received by the boy child during Upanayana ceremony and thereafter he continues to wear it all his life.
If any single strand of this sacred thread is broken or the sacred thread is deteriorating in any way, it is renewed at once as per the vedic procedure. It is also renewed every year and during some rites and rituals. The old discarded yajñopavitam is then thrown in the water bodies.
Yagnopaveetham means a sacred covering on the body without which a Yagna or a sacred ritual cannot be performed. Yagno-pavita means ‘thread of sacrifice’ that symbolizes the sacrifice of ego, anger & selfishness.
In ancient time, Yajñopavitam was worn by all Varna (class). – Brahmin (priest) at the age of 8 years, Kshatriya (warrior) at 10 years, Vaishya (businessman) at 12 years and Sudhra (labourer) at the age of 17 years. Ancient Indian texts states that girls also used to wear Yajñopavitam to pursue vedic studies.
The three cords are tied together by a knot called Brahma-granthi, which symbolises Brahma, Vishnu and Siva (the trinity of gods, Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer). Some symbolises it as Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati (Goddess of strength, wealth and knowledge). It could represent purity in thought (manasa),word (vacha) and deed (kriya) expected from the wearer.
The three strands remind the wearer that he has to pay off the three Runas (debts) he owes to the gurus (teachers), Pitrus (one’s parents & ancestors) and Devas (gods). Upon marriage, the number of strands increases to six, because the man is expected to assume the debts of his wife as well.
Tilak or tilaka is a mark worn usually on the forehead. But it can be applied to other parts of the body such as head, neck, both upper-arms, both forearms, chest, both sides of the torso, stomach and shoulder. Tilak may be worn on a daily basis or for rites of passage or special religious occasions only, depending on regional customs or as a welcome and expression of honor when they arrive, or to honour a personage, event, or victory.
Men and women adopted different types of Tilak or linear symbols to denote their sect and ideology. The most popular forms used or a dot, or a U shape or a trident shape or 3 horizontal lines with a dot at the center called Tripund on the forehead and forearms. Tilak is in a form of paste or powder. It can be of vermillion, lime, turmeric, saffron, musk, agar, sandalwood or ash.
Tilak said to provide warmth to the pineal and pituitary glands located near the Thalamus. A deep study of human anatomy reveals that the forehead is the best place for applying Tilak. Rishis declared that the junction of the nose-root and the meeting point of the eyebrows is the most sensitive part of the body. The Ajna- chakra, or Wheel of wisdom, is located here and so is a vulnerable spot, which must be kept, warm and protected.
Prasadam or Prasad or Prasada or Mahaprasada is a material substance of food that is a religious offering in both Hinduism and Sikhism. It is normally consumed by worshippers after worship. ‘Prasada’ literally means “favour” or “grace” in Sanskrit.
In the earliest literature (Rig Veda) onwards Prasada is understood in this sense of a mental state of gods and the bestowing of boons. In later texts such as the Shiva Purana, references to prasada as a material substance begins to appear alongside this older meaning.
In its material sense, a devotee makes an offering of a material substance such as flowers, fruits, or sweets — which is called naivedya. The deity then ‘enjoys’ or tastes a bit of the offering, which is then temporarily known as bhogya. This now-divinely invested substance is called prasada and is received by the devotee to be ingested, worn, etc. It may be the same material that was originally offered or material offered by others and then re-distributed to other devotees.
One way that devotees commonly prepared is to place the food (which is done without tasting) in offering before an image or deity of the spiritual figure to be honored, sometimes on a plate or serving vessel reserved only for spiritual purposes; and only then, after some time is allowed to pass, does the food become holy prasadam for further distribution.
One way the devotees commonly follow is that, when food is prepared (without tasting) is offered before an image or deity of the spiritual figure to be honored, sometimes on a plate or serving vessel reserved only for spiritual purposes; and only then, after some time is allowed to pass, does the food become holy prasadam for further distribution.
The tradition of offering prasadam to the deity may have started with a very logical explanation that finds its root in the power of positive thought. The prasadam is believed to foster multiple positive thoughts. Firstly, the prasadam is offered to the deity and His blessing is sought for a wish, a task in hand, blessing etc. Herein, it is believed that the Supreme Power has accepted our request in the form of the prasadam and given us the approval or the power to move on.
Kumkum or Kumkuma is usually made from turmeric. The turmeric is dried and powdered with a bit of slaked lime, which turns the rich yellow powder into a red color.
Kumkum in temples is found in heaps. When visiting a temple, male and female devotees from southern India usually dip their ring finger in kumkum powder, and apply a dot on their foreheads. In northern Indian, when visiting a temple or during a pooja, especially men apply kumkum on their forehead in the form of a tilak, vertically upward.
The reason for this particular location has to do with the ancient Indian belief that “the human body is divided into seven vortices of energy, called chakras, beginning at the base of the spine and ending at the top of the head. The sixth chakra, also known as the third eye, is centered in the forehead directly between the eyebrows and is believed to be the channel through which humankind opens spiritually to the Divine”.
Haldi Kumkum ceremony, is a social gathering in which married women exchange haldi (turmeric) and kumkum, as a symbol of their married status and wishing for their husbands’ long lives. It is particularly popular in western states of India.
Bindi is traditionally worn by women in Indian subcontinent particularly Hindus. It commonly a red colour dot placed at the centre of the forehead close to eyebrows. In sanskrit, Bindu means dot or point or drop. The old name for this mark is tilaka. A bindi can signify marriage, or be simply for decorative purposes. A bindi may be paste or ornamental. Traditionally, a pinch of vermilion powder is applied skilfully with a ring-finger to make a perfect red dot.
In southern India, many unmarried girls will wear a bindi every day unlike northern India where it is only worn as a symbol of marriage. In olden days, they used to apply a sticky wax paste on forehead and then cover it with kumkum or vermilion, to get a perfect round bindi. Then came semi liquid kumkukm tika which was applied as bindi. And in modern times, self-adhesive bindis are available in various materials, colour, designs and sizes.
The bindi is declared to be very helpful for the good health of the brain, eyes, ears and the nose because these applications maintain a fine pull on the veins and nerves underneath the forehead, nose-root and forearm’s skin to monitor proper flow of blood. The forebrain controls the decision making part of the brain. In acupressure methods it is considered to be the most sensitive part of the body responsible for alertness and hence the use of Bindi for the forehead is justified.
In Sanskrit, mangala means ‘holy, auspicious’, and sutra, means ‘string, thread’. In India, in most of the hindus and christains marriages, groom ties this scared necklace around the bride’s neck in a ceremony called Mangalya Dharanam (Sanskrit for “wearing the auspicious”), which identifies her as a married woman.
It is called by different names in different parts of India. In some states of India they don’t have the concept of mangalsutra, but have different symbolism which identifies the married woman.
Mangala Sutra represents the inseparable bond of mutual love and respect between the couple. It is worn by a woman till her husband’s death as an entreaty to the divine powers for longevity of her married life.
It is believed that mangalsutra culture spread from the southern parts of India to the north during Vedic times. Orginally, Mangala sutra was made of yellow cotton thread, prepared with turmeric and turmeric stem was tied to it. Later it became more fashionable and they opted for gold chains with black and gold beads and gold pendant attached to it, but its design varies with the regional influences. Flora and fauna also played important role in some culture specially western costal region which used red coral beads in mangalsutra or seashell design for pendant or vatis.
Bangles are circular is shape, but unlike braclets, are rigid. They are usually made of metal, glass or plastic. The word is derived from Hindi bungri (glass). A bangle is one of the most important ornaments that an Indian woman wears. It is mandatory for would-be-brides and newly-wed brides to wear bangles made of glass or gold as they signify the long life of the husband. Indian woman love to wear bangles and they are a part of their identity.
Archaeological excavations throughout India revealed that women used to wear bangles made of sea shell, copper, bronze, gold, agate, chalcedony, etc in ancient times.
Bangles have a very traditional value in Indian culture and it is considered inauspicious to be bare armed for a married woman. Bangles may also be worn by young girls and bangles made of silver are preferred for toddlers.
Bengali bride wear traditional bangles, Shakha and Paula – one pair of red and one pair of white bangles. The white bangle is cut from a conch shell, and the red one is traditionally made of red coral. In Punjab, brides-to-be wear ivory and red bangles called chooda. In some states of India, especially Maharashtrain bride wear green glass bangles along with gold bangles.
Nose ring is part of Indian woman ornamental jewellery. This nose rings/Mookuthi/Nath etc comes in variety of shapes, ranging from tiny jeweled studs resting on the curve of the nostril, to large gold hoops that encircle the cheek with graceful pendant pearls dangling provocatively just above the upper lip. For nose ring, pure gold is strongly recommended.
Indian women pierce their left nostril. It is said in Ayurveda that the left nostril of a woman coresponds to the reproductive organs and having it pierced can be actually helpful. It is supposed to make childbirth easier and lessen period pain during women’s natural menstrual course and periods. It should be done by experienced goldsmith who knows where to pierce, so that no passing nerve system should be disturbed or wounded. Hence much care has to be taken for piercing. But nowadays due to ignorance some people pierce right nostril. In the west, some people do body piercing without knowing its consequences and major health risk it may pose.
Even in the Bible (Genesis 24:22), there is a notable mention of nose ring.
Custom of nose piercing in India is gradually declining. Now fake nose ring (can wore be wore without piercing the nose) are now available in the market.
From ancient times, Paayal have been worn by girls and women in India as costume jewelry. The word Paayal is a word for the anklet in Hindi and Punjabi. Flexible paayals made of silver is most preferred. Unlike west who wore anklet on one ankle, in India paayals or anklets are worn on both ankles. Paayals are an important piece of jewellery in Indian marriages worn along with saris. It also add up to the beauty of the women. Some girls wear paayals with sonorous bells attached to it. It is said that tinkling melodies sound destroys any negative energy flowing inside the house and when it constantly rubs the ankles, the women bones which is comparatively weaker than men, get stronger.
Women from Rajasthan wear the heaviest payals (Kada) made out of silver, which signifies their tribe.
Anklets have undergone tremendous changes over centuries. What used to be part of tradition, now has become simple fashion accessory in cities just like earrings, brackets and rings.
From time unknown, ancient Indian women have been wearing toe rings. It is worn as a symbol of the married state by Hindu women. In Hindi, it is called bichiya, minji in Malayalam, jodavi in Marathi, Mettelu in Telugu, Metti/Kanaiyazhi in Tamil, Kaalungura in Kannada. These rings were seldom closed circles but open hoops so that they could easily be removed.
The toe rings in India are made of silver and worn in pairs (unlike the trend in Western countries, where they are worn singly or in unmatched pairs) on the second toe of both feet. Traditionally gold holds a ‘respected’ status and may not be worn below the waist by Hindus. Nowadays toe rings made of gold and diamonds are available.
Toe rings were worn not just to indicate the maritial status of the women. There was a scientific reason behind wearing toe rings. Toe rings were made of silver and worn on the second toe of both feet. It is a well known fact that there is a nerve (Medial plantar nerve) which starts from the toe, goes to the uterus and then to the heart.
Continuous pressure of the ring regulates the blood flow to the uterus and hence strengthens the uterus. The constant friction on second toe revitalizes the productivity organs and keeps reproductive system balanced and healthy. The menstrual cycle was also regulated ensuring speedy conception. Also silver is known to be a good conductor. Silver absorbs the energy from the earth and passes it on to the body thereby rejuvenating the entire system. Reflexology also mentions about treating gynaecological problems by massaging the second toe.
From time immemorial, Indians both male and female have been wearing earrings made of gold. In India, nearly all Hindu girls and nowadays some boys get their earlobes pierced in the religious ceremony known as Kharnavedha before they are about five years old.
In present times, tradition of wearing earrings is extremely strong in India. These are considered to be an extremely important fashion accessory by the women. These days men, wear earrings to carry on their tradition and some just for a styles statement. Usually men go in for small studs or rings.
Recent studies have identified the ear as a microcosm of the entire body. Some even say the point of vision in acupuncture is situated in the center of the lobe. Hence the practice of wearing earrings is thought to have some therapeutic value. Besides, in certain places, ear piercing was believed to be good for the eyes.
Indian women traditionally wore earrings. Ayurveda stated that by piercing the ears and Wearing earrings several diseases like hernia could be controlled. It also helped to regulate the menstrual cycle and restrict hysteria. The electric current within the body was also regulated by wearing ear rings. Indian physicians and philosophers believe that piercing the ears helps in the development of intellect, power of thinking and decision making faculties. Talkativeness fritters away life energy. Ear piercing helps in speech-restraint. It helps to reduce impertinent behaviour and the ear-channels become free from disorders.
Mental attitude towards snakes in India is different. They fear them and at the same time worship them. However, unlike in other traditions, they do not consider them evil, but divine. Snakes (Nagas in Sanskrit), have a high status in Hindu mythology. The worship of snakes has been a very ancient tradition in India.
According to Hindu mythology, the the serpent deities are semi-divine beings who descended from sage Kashyapa and Kadru. The Snake primarily represents rebirth, death and mortality, due to its casting of its skin and being symbolically “reborn”. In Hinduism snake is representing Kundlaini Shakti and is ornament of Lord Shiva depicting uncontrolled desires which are checked by a yogi.
In certain parts of southern India, the serpent deities are associated with fertility and tree worship. The stones are installed under either a pipal or a neem tree after keeping them submerged under water for six months and then worshipped with flowers and vermilion.
The serpent deities constitute an important aspect of Hinduism even today. In Hinduism snakes also symbolize sexuality, Kundalini power, fertility, and destructive power. Devout men and women in the rural areas of both northern and southern India worship them with milk, incense and flowers, seeking their help and grace. In some parts of the country killing a snake is a bad karma and a bad omen.
In India and Nepal, Snake worship take place during Nag panchami which falls on the fifth day of Shravana (July-August). Snake idols are offered gifts of milk and incense to help the worshipper to gain knowledge, wealth, and fame.
The cow is a symbol of wealth, strength, abundance, selfless giving and a full Earthly life. In ancient India, a person’s social and economic status depended upon the number of cow he possessed.
Lord Shiva is known as Gorakhnath, which means lord of the cows. He is also called Pasupathinath, which means the lord of all animals. Lord Krishna was called as Govinda (protector of the cows). He was brought up in a family of cowherds. In Indian mythology we come across Kamadhenu, the goddess who is the mother of all cows.
In India, there are more than 3,000 institutions called Gaushalas which take care of old and infirm cows. According to animal husbandry statistics there are about 44,900,000 cows in India, the highest in the world. Mahatma Gandhi declared the protection of cows a central feature of Hinduism. Cows have a special significance in Hinduism, as aspects of Mother Goddess and as symbols of selfless service.
Cow milk is used in Hinduism in ritual worship as an offering, and for cleansing the ritual objects, and bathing the deities, besides in the preparation of sacrificial food, such as panchamritam. Dry cow dung are still used in some Indian villages as a fuel. Cow urine and cow dung are used in some Vedic rituals, in Ayurveda to prepare traditional medicines and are lused as fertilizer.
Slaughter of cows (including oxen, bulls and calves) is forbidden by law in several states of the Indian Union. McDonald’s outlets in India do not serve any beef burgers.
In Hinduism, Nandi is the vahana, mount, of the Lord Shiva. But he is more often regarded as the protector (gate-keeper) deity of Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva.
The divinity of Nandi finds its traces even in Indus Valley Civilization, dairy farming being the chief occupation then and Nandi being given a supreme position. Nandi is considered a guard or a protector of all Shiva temples, the reason why stone sculpted Nandi is placed outside the old Shiva temple, facing towards Shivlingam.
Lord Shiva is known by many names and Vrishabhanath, lord of the bulls, is one of them. Nandi is also called Basava. According to some, Nandi is not a bull in the ordinary sense, but a divine being, and a close confidant of Lord Shiva, whose anthropomorphic form is represented by a half human and half bull body. He is known for his knowledge, devotion, obedience, surrender, virtue, and dedication to Shiva and his devotees of Shiva, and fought many battles to protect the gods, slay the demons and uphold dharma. The images of Nandi are invariably found in every Shiva temple. There are also some famous temples in India which are exclusively dedicated to Nandi.
As the vehicle of Shiva, Nandi represents knowledge, scholarship, devotion, surrender, renunciation, obedience, strength and virility.
Lotus, the national flower of India, is considered a sacred flower in all Indic religions, namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. It represents divine birth, spiritual development and creation itself. In, India it is known by many names, Ambal, Thamarai, Padma, Ambuja, Pankaja, Kamala, Nalin, Aravind, Utpala etc.
In Hindu iconography, deities like like Vishnu, Brahma, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Buddha etc can be seen either holding a lotus or sitting on the lotus flower. In yoga, the six chakras are depicted with Lotus as the base.
The lotus rises from muddy water to blossom as a pure, uncontaminated flower, therefore it is a symbol of purity and resurrection. Additionally, it is the national flower of India.
“One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water.” -Bhagavad Gita 5.10