The following pictorial presentation of Hindu iconography organisation structure serves to identify a particular deity associated in their pictorial or sculptural representations to various symbols like animals, flora, instruments, weapons, or even colour as well those deities themselves as personifications with links to particular natural forces like the Fire and the Sun or a human attribute, or profession. This pictorial presentation is by no means complete but attempts to illustrate the iconography in the simplest way.
Coming updates to this page or on new pages, will show presentations of some important symbols like the Shiva Lingam, The Lotus, The Veena, Conch, Chakra, Multiple heads and arms, and Vāhana.
A summary table of Hindu Gods, Deities, Mythological Figures and Their Associated Symbols will also be updated here.
SYMBOLISM OF HINDU GODS
Each Hindu God has many characteristics, like dress, ‘vehicle’, weapons, etc., that are themselves symbols of the deity’s power. Brahma holds the Vedas in his hands, which signifies that he has the supreme command over creative and religious knowledge. Vishnu holds a conch which stands for the five elements and eternity; a discus, which is the symbol of the mind; a bow that symbolises power and a lotus which is the symbol of the cosmos. Shiva’s trident represents the three gunas.
Many deities can be recognised by the symbols associated with them. Shiva is often symbolised by the ‘linga’ or ‘tripundra’ – the three horizontal lines on his forehead.
I make special mention of Murugan, as He is also known as Kārttikeya (“son of Krittika”), Shanmukha (“one with six faces”), Kumāra (“child or son”),Skanda (“attacker”) among other names. He is the youthful God of war and the patron deity of Tamil Nadu in South India. He is very a popular Hindu deity among Tamil Hindus, and is worshiped primarily in areas with Tamil influence, including Sri Lanka,Malaysia, and southern India.
The following slides describe the many symbols of Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha and Murugan.
SYMBOLISM OF HINDU GODDESSES
The following slides describe the many symbols of the Goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi, Parvati, Durga and Kali.