Hindu Symbols and their Meanings

Hinduism is rich in symbolism. Temples and homes display such sacred emblems to invoke good fortune. Hinduism signs and symbols are very popular in India and are also known as Indian symbols. 


Om is perhaps the most important symbol in Hinduism and is regarded as the emblem of Hinduism. Also written as “OM,” The prolonged intonation of OM is associated with the primeval sound through which the universe was created. 

It consists of three syllables a-u-m which are sounded progressively from the throat to the lips. The three sounds symbolize many items, but perhaps most importantly, the three states of consciousness- waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. The symbol of OM represents the fourth state, which is the awareness of one’s own spiritual identity. Om is the most important mantra and is thus chanted at the beginning of many prayers, mantras, and rituals. 


Swastika is a holy symbol and is considered to invoke auspiciousness. It is an ancient solar sign representing the Sun god Surya. Swastika shows how Hinduism is part of every aspect of a Hindu’s life.

Lotus Flower (Padma)

Lotus is a very important symbol in Hinduism and symbolizes purity/transcendence. Brahma (the Creator) originated from a lotus flower, and Hindus rever this flower. Despite growing in muddy soil, the lotus becomes a beautiful flower, symbolizing any person’s transformation, irrespective of his/her current situation/scenario. 

Lord Vishnu

Lord Vishnu holds a lotus flower or “Padma” in his lower right hand. Goddess Lakshmi is often depicted sitting on a fully blossomed lotus. Vishnu is often depicted resting on the cosmic serpent Shesha with a lotus emerging from his navel. Lord Brahma is often depicted sitting on a lotus emerging from Lord Vishnu’s navel. Sometimes, Brahma is also shown holding a lotus. Goddess Saraswati is seated on a lotus.

The lotus symbolizes detachment, a quality needed on the path to moksha. The Padma also appears as a pedestal on which gods and goddesses reside. In such instances, it is a symbol of divinity.

The Tilak

The tilak (Sanskrit tilaka, “mark”) is made on a person’s forehead with a fragrant paste such as sandalwood or vermilion paste. Tilak marks are applied by hand or with a metal stamp. Tilaka may be worn daily or for special occasions such as rites of passage or special religious occasions only, depending on regional customs.

A tilak is also applied by a priest during a visit to the temple as a sign of the deity’s blessing for both men and women.

Hands in Prayer (Namaste)

Based on their culture, people around the world greet others. Greeting other people by placing two hands together and bowing the head slightly is prevalent in Nepal, India, and other nations. When there were cases of COVID-19, people were afraid of shaking hands or kissing each other as part of their cultural greetings, so many opted for Namaste or Namaskar. 

Though not the culture of only Hindus, almost all people, this culture of Namaste is popular among Hindus. When Hindus visit a temple, they also similarly greet the god in the temple or a holy person. This is seen as offering respect to the atman (soul) and God within the heart (Paramatman) of whoever is being greeted.

Conch Shell (Shankha)

This is used as part of a ritual such as arati. It is one of the four symbols of Lord Vishnu; the others are the lotus, club, and disc. The conch is blown to at home and temples to commence religious ceremonies (Puja, Rituals, or Worship), symbolizing the beginning of an auspicious event. The sound of the conch is believed to purify the environment and ward off negative energies.

Mahabharata also mentioned specific conch shells used by Krishna and Pandavas. Find more here.

Trident (Trishul)

Trishula is a trident or spear with three points, a highly revered symbol in Hinduism. It is the favorite weapon of Lord Shiva, who is usually depicted holding a trishula. The Trident is often carried by Shaivite Sannyasis (renunciates).

The trishula represents the triple aspects of god: creation, protection, and destruction (the three gunas). The three gunas are: Sattva (good, constructivity, harmony), rajas (passion, activity, confusion), and tamas (darkness, destruction, chaos).

While these three gunas are present in everyone and everything, their proportions vary. The proportions and their interplay within an individual define the character of someone.


Ceremonial kalasha or vases with water are an important aspect of Hinduism. The kalasha (vase) is a coconut circled with mango leaves on a pot. It is often used in rituals such as the fire sacrifice.


A bindi is a small rounded sign made with kumkum between the eyebrows on a Hindu woman’s forehead. The bindi, which also represents the third eye, is believed to retain energy and strengthen concentration. It is also believed to protect against demons or bad luck.


A cow is the most sacred animal for Hindus. Cows are considered to be symbolic of purity, motherhood, and ahimsa (non-violence). The cow is a symbol of the divine bounty of Earth. For many Hindus, feeding a cow before eating one’s breakfast is a sign of reverence and piety.

Dipa (Lamps)

Dipa lamps are symbols of light.


This is considered a respectful greeting for an elder in the family, for someone who is deeply respected, and for statues of deities. This pranama is usually followed by a blessing from the person (or is assumed in the case of a deity statue). Touching the feet of superiors shows an attitude of submission and service.

 Sudarshan Chakra

Sudarshana Chakra is a weapon of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu received this wonderful weapon as a result of Shiva’s grace. 

Sudarshan chakra (disc) signifies the universal mind or awareness. It rids all darkness wherever it appears and thus shows the path to higher awareness. This limitless power and light are believed to destroy all forms of ignorance.

Lord Vishnu allows it to cut off the heads of envious demons. It has six spokes and shows the evolving nature of the universe (maya) around an unmoving and changeless center. 

The Sudarshan Chakra, when shown alone, is often viewed as a person with four, eight, or sixteen arms, holding such items as a bow, arrow, trident, noose, and poker. These represent the will and the power of the Lord to create and destroy the universe. 


Vajra is a wonderful weapon of Lord Indra. It is sometimes identified with thunder and sometimes with a club.


Lingam is a representation of Lord Shiva. It may also be called a shivling or ling. The meaning of the symbol is disputed, with some believing it to symbolize the union of Lord Shiva and Yoni of Shakti, and others believing it to represent the infinite nature of Shiva.

Why Hindu

We, a group of youths born into Hindu families, were raised in the rich culture of Vedic Sanatan Dharma, embracing its cultures and traditions. Post-graduation, recognizing the immense value of our Sanatan Dharma for humanity, we initiated the "Why Hindu" project. With guidance from our elders, we aim to create awareness about Hindu Dharma, delve into Vedic scripture, explore Vedic mantras, and elucidate the significance of festivals. Through this endeavor, we strive to share the profound teachings of our heritage, fostering understanding and appreciation for the timeless principles of Sanatan Dharma.

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