People have always looked up to someone in their life to follow in their footsteps. It can be their own parents, one of the relatives who are close to them, or friends. It can be anyone. But very few people look up to God as their source of inspiration and role-model! Because according to us, God is very high up there, with whom we cannot compare ourselves with. He/She is someone whom we run to only when we face troubles in our life. So we rarely remember God all the time.
Hindus have millions of Gods, or so we claim. It is always confusing to the youths when they see people putting in so much faith in so many Hindu Gods, and that too at the same time. Each and everyone of us have different “favourite” God (Ishta Devata). Where did all these God characters like Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Muruga, Durga, Kali all come from? From our scriptures of course.
Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva Vedas – Mention of 44 Vedic Gods such as Agni, Vayu, Varuna, etc.
Agamas – Mention of Mahadevas and Mahadevis under three main sects: Shaiva, Vaishnava, Shakta
Puranas – Mention of Devas and Devis such as Ganesha, Muruga, etc… Devas are also Gods with specific functions/duties, but Mahadeva/devi is the supreme to them.
So it is in the Puranas and the Agamas which have the mention of these Gods we know about. Their stories are extensively described in our Puranas. So, why were they created? I mean, they don’t really exist, as they are only representations of God, but in various different forms. But think about it, why would our Rishis waste their time sitting around and creating these images, if not to teach us some important values through them?
As the saying goes, Hindus don’t pray to idols, they pray to the ideals that the idols represent. Similarly each idol in the Temple we worship has an ideal to it, and many people are ignorant about it. Once they become aware of why one prays to Kali, for example, their prayer becomes meaningful.
Ganesha – Remover of obstacles, giver of knowledge.
Rope and axe in both hands – He is the one who binds us to sense-objects and He is also the one who detaches us from the sense-objects. He gives us this experience to remind us that attachment to sense-objects (something that binds you emotionally to a thing) gives us only misery.
Lots of sweets (modaka) – The sweets represent knowledge. Knowledge is sweet and gives you happiness, as it removes your ignorance. When the darkness in your mind is removed, you will not fear anything, and so you will be in peace. Peace = happiness.
Mouse eating sweet – The mouse represents the human mind, something which doesn’t remain in one place. Just like our thoughts, which keep moving and never stopping in one place. But the mouse, in the presence of the God, remains in one place, still. Not only that, we also see it here as eating the sweet, meaning consuming knowledge given by God.
Durga – Slayer of the negativities in us, and granter of wishes.
So many weapons in her hands – She multitasks!! Seriously, this is something only God is capable of doing. Though she is in a killing spree, look at her face. She is always calm and cool. She has taught me many things in life. During times of stress, I just remember Her and pray to Her, and I will forget all my stress for a while and move on. She does so many things at one time, and yet she never looks tired but looks calm. She is my inspiration!
Buffalo (Mahishasuran) – Represents laziness, animal quality in man. She slays this demon, and this represents that by praying to Her, we are asking for Her grace to remove the negativities in our minds.
Lion (vehicle) – So many Gods have animals as their “vehicles”. A vehicle is something that is in our control. Similarly, the lion itself is in Her control! She is not scared of the lion, but she controls it!
Kali – Goddess of Time, and Slayer of the negativities. She is a very fierce Goddess, but I personally like Her very much. Anyone, who sincerely prays to her, She will grant them their wishes. Also a God who is controversially involved in black magic as well, which I will come to later.
Kali (very fierce) – The word “kali” means time. Kali appears fierce because time doesn’t stop for anyone. Most of us, or maybe all of us, hope that we could turn back time and correct all our mistakes. But it doesn’t happen! As such, she is fierce like time. Time just keeps moving on, not stopping for anyone. Not even for God!
Decapitated heads in her hands – The head represents the ego. Our ego has to be surrendered to the Mother Divine, if not She will take it by force! Only by surrendering our ego will we be able to experience the Truth. It is our ego that gives us the sense of “I-ness”, “I am the do-er”, the sense of ownership. It is our ego that gives us both pleasure and pain. Surrendering the ego is our only way to attain eternal bliss. This statement is something that is not easily comprehensible by everyone. It has to be experienced to be understood very well.
So many weapons – Why does she appear to be so violent? Because that is how BAD our negativities are!!! She has to use all kinds of weapons to chase away the demons in us!! Just think about it! If you are in Her place, you will definitely need those weapons wouldn’t you??
Kali and Shiva – While Kali represents the “changing” reality, Shiva represents the “changeless” reality. Let me explain more clearly: When you measure time, you take final time minus the initial time right? This shows that to measure time, a change has to take place! If no change takes place, then you cannot measure time!! The entire universe is constantly changing, and thus the existence of time. Another fact is that to measure change, you need to have a reference point, something which is changeless. Therefore, change is always measured with reference to something changeless, and this changing reality (Kali) is therefore dependent of the changeless reality (Shiva). That is why Kali is stepping on Shiva. This is the significance of the whole image.
Why is Kali sometimes used in black magic? – Whatever the tantric mantras produce are just energy. And energy is just energy by itself. It can be used for good and for bad, depending on us. So if it is used for bad, then it becomes black magic. Whereas, if the energy from the mantras chanted are used for good, then good results.
Murugan – A Beautiful Philosophy (Just like Him)
Depicted always with 2 consorts – Lord Muruga is always depicted with 2 consorts and they are not really His wives!!! This is the part where many don’t really know why some Gods have more than one wife. First of all, they are not wives, they are consorts or forms of Shakti (energy). So what do they represent? Deivanai (Consort from the Heaven) represents Kriya (action). Valli (Consort from the Earth) represents Iccha (desire). Murugan has another Shakti with Him and that is His Vel (spear) which represents Jnana (Knowledge). Basically, to attain a goal, firstly you need desire for that goal, then you need to have the right knowledge to attain that goal, then finally you perform actions to attain that goal. That is the philosophy explained from the image. Also if you notice, Valli (who represents iccha/desire) was married by the Lord due to His desire for Her. Whereas Deivanai (who represents kriya/action) was married by the Lord as a “gift” for His good actions of eliminating the demons.
Vel (spear) – As said earlier, the Vel represents Jnana, knowledge. The breadth of the spear-head, the length of the spear and the sharpness of the spear all tells us that our knowledge should be broad-based, deep and sharp respectively.
After learning all this, I found myself to be more open in my views about Hinduism. Sure, there are many superstitions. But don’t just be passive about them! Do something! Find out whether they are really true or not! Never stay with doubts in your mind! Hinduism is so much more meaningful than it really seems to be! My perception of Temples, prayers and all changed after learning even more than this!!
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3 thoughts on “Beautiful philosophies and ideals explained through images of Gods”
Excellent.Great information about the ideals behind the idols.You must have come across this picture: Ganesha SymbolismYour concluding para is very meaningful:"Hinduism is so much more meaningful than it really seems to be"Keep posting.
Hi Swaroop,Yes I have seen the picture before, but I know the symbolisms even before I saw that pic. It is interesting how the things we ought to know are right there in front of our eyes, everytime we pass by the prayer room in our house, but just that we don't realise it!!Thanks for your comments. Yes, I will keep posting!! 🙂
Thankyou very much for these excellent photos of Goddess and Gods! My favorite is indeed Goddess Durga!
Hinduism is a great expansion of our own universe and consciousness!
See how colourful and unique the manifestations are of the same God!
Thankyou for your excellent work!