Religious Symbols

Shree-Yantra – Among the many different religious symbols, the Shree Yantra is said to be the most important and is called the King of Yantras by the Tantric adepts. Shree Yantra is composed of two sets of triangles one of which is composed of Shreekanthas (four male Shiva triangles denoting gradually involved energy) and the other set of triangles is composed of Shivayavatis (five female or Shakti triangles denoting five senses of knowledge and action, and five subtle and gross forms of matter). These two triangles reflect the unison of Shiva and Shakti.

It is believed that Shakti is always in unison with Shiva, existing within each and every being as the inner self. Shiva is the Ashraya (basis) of Shakti which in turn, being his creative faculty, is the basis of the whole universe. Hence, she is known as Shree the primordial energy existing within Shiva and Yantra is her divine extension network. Without her operation, this visible cosmos would not be possible.

This universe and all its contents are basically composed of Panchtatva or five basic elements comprising of Prithvi (earth), Apas (water), Tejas (light), Maruta (wind) and Aakaash (sky). It is believed that our body is also composed of the same basic elements called Pinda. The unison of Pinda, the individual body, with Brahmaanda, the cosmic body, is beautifully represented by Shree Yantra.

The objective of meditation on Shree Yantra is to unite with the universal mother, in her forms of mind, life and matter, to attain consciousness and divinity. The Yantra is, therefore, transformed from a material object of lines and curves into a mental state of union with the universe.

Satkon – The Satkon is composed of two sets of overlapping triangles. One is the symbol of Shiva, which stands for eternal being (static by nature), and the other is a symbol of Shakti, the most active female. This popular symbol of the union of Shakti and Shiva, is represented in several Nepali works of art like the Mandala paintings ,windows and doors etc. The beautiful temple residence of Devi Annapurna Ajima, at Ason Tol in Kathmandu, has one of the most exquisite Satkon patterns in its windows. The Satkon signifies the five basic senses and the extra sensory perception that significantly makes it the six pointed star. This symbol is believed to have originated from ancient Tantric Hinduism. On the other hand the Buddhist believe that Satkon symbolizes the perfection of the highest form of wisdom (Pragya), however, the Mahayanists accept it as a great symbol of Pragya (knowledge or enlightenment) and Upaya (active force or the power of the female) united.

Swastika – Swastika, a Sanskrit word which means doing good for all, is a very ancient oriental symbol. This symbol can be seen in wood-carvings, bronze castings, Thangka paintings and many other traditional forms of art. In Buddhism, the four hands of Swastika signifying Maitree (friendship), Karuna (compassion), Mudita(happiness) and Upekshya (indifference), are four divine merits or talents. This theory is very dominant in our culture. According to Sadhanmala (one of the most authentic Buddhist texts), the four merits represent four ideal ways to Nirvana every aspirant should meditate on. It is believed that the Mahayanists, in due course of time, developed an iconography based on all those four merits and soon created Swastika to proudly add to their pantheon of gods. The many deities were all given the same merit names like Maitree, Karuna, Mudita and Upekshya. Hindus as well Buddhists worship them in Nepal. Among many such deities of Nepal, the four most beautifully built bronze statues of these merit gods can be seen in Hiranyavarana Mahavihar (Golden Temple) of Patan built by Vaskar Varma in 12th century.

Shiva Linga – The Linga is the phallic symbol that represent Lord Shiva and it displays supreme power generally identified analogue of cosmic deity. It occupies the “womb cell” in temples while the outer structure of this double sex deity signifies its determined creative function. According to the Puranas, Lord Shiva assumed the form of Lingam (the phallic symbol of universal pro-creation), on the night of Shiva Ratri, to save the universe from the threat of major destruction. According to another legend, when Lord Shiva swallowed the Halahala poison, which had emanated from the intensive churning of the milky ocean, the heat of the poison proved to be so unbearable that he could not wait for a Himalayan shower. Ganga, the river goddess, is said to have rushed to him and poured all the water she had in possession. This helped him and so, even today, holy water is offered through Jalahari (a copper cup that is placed above the Shiva Linga in most temples).

Sankha - Sankha is a Sanskrit word used to denote a sleek and smooth conch shell. It is believed that if the Sankha is blown with skill, it can scare away evil spirits and is described as a killer of germs and enemies. According to some scholars, it can also be used for preparing many kinds of Ayurvedic medicines and that a certain dose of its powder can cure jaundice, gall bladder etc. The Hindus as well as the Buddhists drink water from a Sankha before they break a fast and almost all temple prayers are accompanied by the blowing of the Shankha. It is strongly believed that the Sankha had been shaped from the holy waters showered from heaven. Thus it is regarded as a divine jewel always held by Lord Vishnu on his right hand. It was also used as safety bands for young ladies to wear, around their hands, in the form of bracelets, and its necklaces were worn to cast away evil eyes.

Chakra (The wheel of right action) – Chakra or the wheel of righteousness is an emblem or tool used as a holy symbol by Hindus and Buddhists. Lord Vishnu, the Hindu God of Preservation, always holds a chakra to do away with demons and to protect his devotees and to make sure that Dharma (righteousness) does not retrograde. In Buddhism, some interpret the Chakra as the wheel of life and see it as the teachings of Buddha. We might as well say that its purpose is similar in Buddhism and Hinduism because the first teachings of Buddha began with the turning of the wheel of Dharma.