The symbolism of Hindu Gods and Rituals

‘The Vedas, the very source of Hinduism, authoritatively proclaim that the Reality is one and one alone ! Why then do Hindus pray to so many gods ? Why do they not concentrate on one God, one ritual and one practice like other religions ? Such questions have baffled even intellectuals.

The Hindus are not polytheistic. Hinduism speaks of one God that is the supreme self in all, Atman, Brahman. The different gods and goddesses of the Hindu Pantheon are mere representatives of the powers and functions of the one supreme God in the manifested world.

Hinduism has thoughtfully brought in gods and goddesses, rituals and festivals, ceremonies and celebrations. The master plan of the Hindu sages is to divinise everything in this world since main attention has always been upon the world. The plan has been drawn logically, scientifically, practically. For instance, Hinduism has personified wealth and riches in the form of the goddess Lakshmi. So a man who runs after material wealth is made to remember the goddess in all his transactions. Thus a touch of divinity is lent to his material pursuits. Everything is divinised from the cradle to the grave.’ So says Sri A. Parthasarathy in his book ‘The Symbolism of Hindu Gods and Rituals.’

The writer has explained in detail the symbolism behind the image of each God like Ganesa, Subramanya, Siva, Nataraja etc.

For instance in his description of Lord Vishnu he explains why Vishnu is blue in colour and wears yellow.

‘The blue colours of Vishnu indicates His infinite stature. Blue is associated with the infinite like the sky or ocean. Yellow isusually attributed to the earth for two reasons. One, the earth glows with a yellow fire when introduced in a colourless flame, and two, anything that is buried in the earth for a long period of time gathers a yellowish colour. Vishnu, blue in colour and clothed in yellow, therefore, represents the descent of the infinite, immeasurable, transcendental truth to the terrestrial realm i.e., God in a human form.’

He also explains why Vishnu has to be prayed. ‘Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, sits at his feet serving him. When man seeks the higher truth and is disinterested in the world, the sense objects seek him. When Vishnu is sought, Lakshmi necessarily follows the seeker. The moment man runs after wealth, the object of desire leaves him. That is the law.’
The writer has elaborated on the Hindu epics, rituals and festivals too in a lucid style. To quote just one festival Dassehra, he gives a graphic description of how we should pray to the three Goddesses.

‘The nine days’ worship is divided into three days’ worship for each of the three Goddesses. The worship of Durga for the first three days signifies the destruction of negative vasanas / tendencies inherent in man. The next three days’ worship of Lakshmi signifies the establishment of positive tendencies. The last three days dedicated to Saraswathi is the gaining of knowledge of the supreme self. They indicate symbolically the training at three levels physical mental and intellectual to achieve the goal set for each type of worship. The victorious tenth day Vijayadasami represents the day of enlightenment.’

The location of temple has its own significance. ‘The location of the temple at a high altitude signifies that spiritual evolution is above all mundane achievements in this world. The seeker has tso be single pointed and consistent in his efforts. The single file footpath to the temples indicates that the seeker of truth is all alone in his spiritual pursuit.’

There are many more such beautiful illustrations to every minute ritual followed in Hinduism. This book should be read and digested by every Hindu who follows Bhakti Marg.

Reviewed by: Smt. Madduri Rajyasri

Name of the book - The symbolism of Hindu Gods and Rituals
Writer’s name - Sri A. Parthasarathy
For copies - Sri A. Parthasarathy
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