Looking for Hindu symbols and their meanings?
Hinduism is the third largest religion with over 1 billion followers. Roughly over 95% of Hindu practioners live in India, but significant numbers of Hindus can also be found in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bali. It is also considered the world’s oldest and organized religion with traditions that dates back to more than 4000 years ago.
Hinduism is a diverse religion that doesn’t follow a single God or concept like other major religions. It is unique in a way that it follows several spiritualities, philosophies and traditions.
With its diverse beliefs, there are several symbols that represent Hinduism over the centuries. These markings, identifiers, and distinguishing signs have represented the Hindus way of life.
Hindu Symbols And Their Meanings
If you want to learn more about how the Hindu symbols came to be and their significance to one of the world’s largest religion, here are the most popular symbols of Hinduism and their meanings.
The word “padma” is Sanskrit for lotus flower. It is one of the most revered religious symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism.
The padma symbol represents a number of things—from birth and growth, to purity and divine beauty, and to spiritual enlightenment, among a lot others.
The lotus flower rises immaculate above the water even though its roots are in the mud at a pond’s bottom.
Here the mud denotes the obstacles and suffering we must overcome and endure in life, and the flower represents our journey as we do the overcoming and enduring.
This may be interpreted as a progression from a state of displeasure to an untainted state, a representation of non-attachment to the world.
In Hinduism, it is believed that the spirit of a padma lives within each one of us. The lotus spirit is in our heart, which refers to the heart chakra.
The Muladhara symbol is a red-colored lotus with four petals encompassing a yellow square and an inverted triangle.
In the tradition of Hinduism, red is the color of Shakti. It connotes a lot of things like power, energy, strength, ability, effort, capability, evolution, movement, and awakening.
The Muladhara is thought of as the birth of human consciousness, marking the passage from animal consciousness to human awareness or self-awareness. That being said, the four petals in the Muladhara symbol represent the four main aspects of the human psyche: mind, intellect, consciousness, and ego.
The four petals in the Muladhara symbol are interpreted to denote the purusarthas or the four goals of human life as well. The purusarthas are the following: dharma (a life of virtues), artha (a life of meaning and purpose), kama (a life of cosmic desire or creative impulse) and vimoksha (a life devoted to enlightenment).
These petals are also thought to signify the four vrittis or thoughts that surface in the mind: utmost joy, intrinsic pleasure, delight in subduing passion, and happiness in concentration.
The yellow square in the Muladhara symbol is representative of the tattva of Earth—tattva, meaning “element or aspect of reality.”
The inverted triangle in the representation is said to be symbolic of the opening of consciousness from the seed to the fully blooming apex of human potential.
“Manipura” is a Sanskrit word which is roughly translated as “city of jewels.” It also translates to “lustrous gem” or “resplendent gem.”
Manipura is the solar plexus chakra, the third of 7 major chakras. It is connected with the pancreas, as well as the adrenal cortex which creates hormones responsible for digestion and metabolism.
Manipura is the solar plexus chakra, one of our deepest energy centers.
The ten black or dark blue petals in the Manipura symbol are emblazoned with the Sanskrit letters pha, pa, na, dha, da, tha, ta, nna, ddha, and dda. Respectively, these letters represent unhappiness, foolishness, delusion, disgust, fear, shame, deception, jealousy, ambition, and spiritual ignorance.
Manipura’s corresponding mantra or seed sound is the RAM, written on the center of the symbol.
The inverted red triangle within a bright yellow circle in the Manipura symbol bears a T-shaped arm coming from the center.
Manipura is commonly associated with the colors blue and yellow in classical tantra. It represents energy, as well as the fire which equates symbolically with the power of transformation or purification.
Nandi is the gatekeeper deity of Shiva’s abode, Mount Kailash—the Stairway to Heaven. He is depicted as a Gangireddu—a decorated ox—which has become a South Indian tradition.
Symbolically, the Nandi sitting toward a shrine in Shiva’s temples represents jiva or soul and the message that the jiva should always be focused on the Paramashiva (Shiva as the Supreme Being).
Nandi’s white color is symbolic of justice and purity.
The word “Nandi” is taken from the Tamil root word, Nandhu, meaning “to grow,” “to flourish,” or “to appear.” Nandhu indicates the flourishing or growing of white bulls, as well as the divine bull Nandi.
In Sanskrit, nandi is translated as “joy and satisfaction,” which are the sacred bull Nandi’s attributes.
In ancient times, Nandi was called “Nandikeshvara” or Lord of Joy, the anthropomorphic form of Shiva’s attendant.
Nandi is also referred to as Salankayana.
The Vishuddha symbol is made up of a 16-petaled circle with a crescent bearing a circle within. It represents the throat chakra, which is the fifth of the primary chakras. It stands for communication—internal and external, as well as verbal and non-verbal.
In the Sanskrit language, Vishuddha means “especially pure” or “purest.”
Vishuddha is also known as the throat chakra, the fifth of 7 primary chakras, which is located at the region of the throat, neck, jaw, mouth, and thyroid, near the spine.
As Vishuddha rules mentioned body parts, this chakra is linked to growth, creativity, communication, self-expression, and one’s ability to understand and express one’s personal truth.
“Anahata” is Sanskrit for “unhurt, unstruck, and unbeaten.” It means “sound produced without touching two parts.” It also means “clean, without stain,” and “pure.”
The Anahata symbol is represented by a 12-petaled lotus flower with a smoky region where two triangles interlock. This intersection creates a six-pointed star called shatkona, a Hindu symbol that signifies the union of male and female.
Shatkona is meant to symbolize Purusha (Shiva, the Supreme Being) and Prakriti (Shakti, nature personified).
The seed mantra of the Anahata symbol is YAM, written in dark gray. The dot above it—the bindu—represents the Hindu deity, Isha.
The Anahata symbol’s 12 petals are inscribed with these letters or syllables: kam, kham, gam, gham, ngam, cham, chham, jam, jham, nyam, tam, and tham.
These syllables are believed to correspond with the following divine qualities or vrittis of the heart: bliss, peace, harmony, love, understanding, empathy, clarity, purity, unity, compassion, kindness, and forgiveness.
Shiva Lingam Symbol
The Shiva lingam, also referred to as Shiva linga, is a non-figural representation of the Hindu god Shiva. It is often depicted within a disk-shaped platform and revered as the beginning of all creation.
The Shiva lingam frequently appears in Shiva’s temples. It is the most common object of worship for the said Hindu god. The Shiva lingam is said to aid in focusing attention and going beyond one’s consciousness.
The Shiva lingam denotes the identification of the truth or reality, which can be recognized but not seen. It is a holy object in Hinduism, the symbol for one of this religion’s principal deities, Shiva.
The Shiva lingam is the most ancient of Hindu symbols. This phallus-shaped symbol signifies the oneness of the cosmos and its creator. The representation is not just Shiva, but the fulfillment of the divine consciousness.
“Lingam” is the Sanskrit word for “sign” or “distinguishing mark.” “Shiv” means immaculate and auspicious, while “lingam” refers to the subtle body.
Therefore, Shiva lingam’s literal meaning is “the formless, subtle body of Shiva.”
Nataraja is a famous symbol in India. It is commonly used to represent the Indian culture and is deemed to be among the finest of Hindu art.
The word “Nataraja” is from the Sanskrit “Nata,” meaning “act, drama, or dance,” and “Raja” which translates to “king or lord.” Roughly translated, “Nataraja” means “King of dance” or “Lord of dance.” The title is said to be associated with Shiva’s fame as the “King of Actors” or “Lord of Dancers.”
That famous depiction of the Hindu god Shiva as the divine dancer is called the Nataraja. Shiva as Nataraja or “Lord of the Dance” performs the Tandava, the very dance in which the cosmos is created, sustained and resolved.
The Tandava—“the frantic dance”—refers to Shiva’s energetic dance that he performs when he’s in a nasty mood. This is depicted in the representation of Shiva having ten arms, accompanied by his consort Devi.
Shiva dances inside an elliptical arch of flames, which denotes the cosmic fire that both creates and consumes everything in cyclical existence. The fire is also symbolic of both the evils and joys of daily life, as well as its heat, warmth, and light.
The arch of fire—the prabha mandala—comes out on each end of the two mythical water beasts called the makara.
The vajra as a symbol is used in the dharma traditions of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. It is symbolic of spiritual power and the firmness of spirit.
The vajra is a male representation symbolizing upaya or skills/skillful means. Its accompanying bell is the female symbol, denoting prajna or intelligence.
Some Hindu gods are depicted as holding the vajra and the ghanta or bell in separate hands. This way of handling the vajra is symbolic of the oneness of the forces of compassion (vajra) and wisdom (bell).
The vajra is held in the right hand with the bell in the left represents their interaction, leading to enlightenment.
In Sanskrit, vajra is both translated as “diamond” and “thunderbolt.”
As a symbol for the properties of a diamond, vajra signifies indestructibility as diamonds are the hardest of stones.
As a symbol for the thunderbolt, vajra represents the irresistible force. It denotes cutting through ignorance since the god Indra kills ignorant persons with this weapon.
For the Hindus, Ajna pertains to the subconscious mind, which they believe to be the direct connection to the brahman. “Ajna” or “Agya” is Sanskrit for “beyond wisdom.”
The Ajna symbol is depicted as a two-petaled transparent lotus flower. It denotes the psychic channels or nadis called Ida and Pingala. The triangle shape in the symbol and the lotus flower itself are both representatives of wisdom.
Inscribed in the right petal of the Ajna symbol is this chakra’s bija or seed syllable, KSHAM, or the more popular AUM, which is considered as the fundamental sound of the cosmos. The left petal bears the letter “ham,” written in white.
Ajna is the 6th of 7 major chakra. Ajna is also called the brow chakra or third-eye chakra, corresponding with our intuition and spiritual awareness. It may be called the “sixth sense,” or the natural ability to know about things before others do or what others do not know.
Ajna is linked to the 6th layer of our aura called the celestial layer. The tattwa or element of the Ajna chakra is light.
This chakra governs the pineal gland. It is found in the middle of the forehead between the eyebrows. This is the spot where Hindus put the vermillion bindi to demonstrate reverence for it.
Shri Yantra Symbol
The ancient Shri Yantra, a very popular Hindu symbol, is based on the Vedas. It is used as a meditation aid in tantric worship.
The Shri Yantra symbol is often featured in body art, shirts, jewelry, drinking mugs, and a lot of others. Indeed, this symbol has become quite fashionable today. More often than not, however, we are unaware of what this complex design is—and what it’s all about it.
A highly mystic symbol, Shri Yantra has been revered since ancient times. It is a symbol made up of 9 major triangles surrounding a binding point known as a Bindu. This Bindu represents the junction between the material world and the spiritual world.
Five of the nine triangles pointing downwards are thought to be the symbol for Shakti, the feminine aspect of divinity. The four triangles that point to the sky, on the other hand, are symbolic of Shiva, or the masculine aspect of the Supreme Divine. This denotes the union of the feminine and masculine divine.
The nine major triangles form 43 smaller triangles, which are representative of the cosmos. These triangles are encompassed by 8 lotus petals, with a bigger ring of 16 lotus petals enclosing both.
This entire layout is framed by a four-door square, which represents a temple with four doors open to the universe. The triangles in the Shri Yantra also represent the human body.
The Shri Yantra symbol is also said to be auspicious, bestowing both material and spiritual wealth, and expelling negativity from you and your environment. It gets rid of life’s hindrances, fulfilling your goals or desires and letting positivity flow around you.
Sahasrara is the 1,000-petaled lotus symbol in Hindu, Buddhist, and other traditions. It is the symbol of the crown chakra or Sahasrara, the last of 7 primary chakras of the energy body.
Sahasrara or crown chakra is said to govern the brain and the nervous system. It is located in the crown or the top of the head. This chakra is linked with the fontanelle, as well as the intersection of the skull’s sagittal and coronal sutures.
Sahasrara symbol is described as a violet-colored lotus flower with 1,000 petals. These are arranged in 20 layers with 50 petals each. In some depictions, the petals are of different colors.
The lotus flower in the Sahasrara symbol has a gold-colored pericarp that encompasses around moon region with a luminous triangle inscription. This triangle is inverted in some depictions and upward-pointing in some.
Essentially, Sahasrara denotes the spiritual self. This chakra is connected to the higher consciousness or state of being and the desire for spiritual peace.
Veena is deemed divine in the Hindu culture as it supposedly expresses the emotions of the gods. As a human musical instrument, veena is said to express the emotions of man.
As a Hindu symbol, veena is famous as a feature on Saraswati. The goddess is often depicted as holding this instrument. Other deities are depicted as holding and playing the veena as well, making it a divine instrument for the Hindus.
Hindu gods and goddesses are commonly depicted as holding or playing the veena. This is why Hindus consider this instrument to be sacred. The Divine Mother is described by the Classical Sanskrit author Kalidasa as playing the veena.
Various Indian sages are also depicted as veena players. One of them—and perhaps the most notable—is Narada, the divine sage. His veena was said to be his inseparable companion.
The veena represents almost every Hindu deity, so it is believed to have the ability to grant benediction, positivity, and divine blessings. By seeing and touching the veena, Hindus believe they will attain liberation and purification from sins.
The Aum Symbol
Aum, also spelled “Om” or “Ohm,” is a symbol most sacred not only for followers of Hinduism but Buddhism and Jainism as well. Aum is also the symbol’s corresponding sound or chants interpreted in mentioned religions and other similar faiths as the sound of the universe.
The bottom curve of the Aum symbol denotes the waking state, the dream state is represented by its middle curve, and the upper curve is interpreted as the state of deep sleep. The crescent above these curves means illusion (“maya”), which obstructs the route to the ultimate state of bliss. The dot on top of the Aum symbol is meant to represent the state of bliss or the absolute state.
The Aum symbol is interpreted as the most untainted base of life and of everything that is. It is eternal knowledge and language, infinite and without end.
Both the Aum symbol and the chant are conducive to relaxation, slowing down, and being conscious of our breathing.
The Aum symbol is also identified with the Hindu god Ganesha because the symbol’s shapes are quite similar to his elephant form. What this Hindu god and the Aum stand for is also very much alike. Ganesha removes obstructions and lets go of corporeal desires in order to attain the state of bliss.
Trishula is a spear or trident, a divine symbol used as one of the primary symbols in Hinduism.
This symbol is associated with Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. Shiva’s trishula is the three-pointed spear or trident that he carries.
In India and Thailand, the term “trishula” is also used to refer to a short-handled weapon mounted on a staff or danda. The trishula often comes bladed.
In Hinduism, the trishula symbol represents the destruction of old ways in order to create new ones. It is also a symbol of the nadis or energy currents within the subtle body.
The three prongs or points of the trishula are representative of the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction. These are all attributed to the god Shiva. In weaponry, the trishula is symbolic of Shiva’s ability to destroy evil.