What Are These Symbols?

Take a good look at these pictures. Are they symbols of higher consciousness? Are they graphic description of advanced knowledge and superior consciousness sharing individual attainments with others – literate or illiterate? Are they images of Gods and Goddesses in the Hindu pantheon or acknowledgement and depiction of superior human consciousness to guide people through the mediocre to the sublime? Is human life limited to simply eat, sleep and procreate? Isn’t that the life of other living things? If human beings have larger brains than other species,  employ it to unravel the mysteries of the universe and improve their life with the aid of such knowledge, it can be recorded either in writing or graphic descriptions. There is no limit on the species and phenomenon in the universe. In a way, it is infinite. That explains the innumerable images in the Hindu pantheon.

Let us begin with image 1, that is Saraswati.

Goddess Saraswati

Saraswati is the depiction of musical notes and languages. She is holding a musical instrument called the Veena. The strands of the Veena are indicative of the need of languages. In the universe, it is sound that reverberates non-stop. All living and non-living beings also make sounds of different kinds. They need to communicate with each other. They need language. Can it be controverted? Learning the language needs understanding the sounds that make letters, which in turn make words, which make sentences and speech. Learning in every society is accorded top slot. Communication starts even before a child is born- by touch, smell, warmth, taste and sound. As the need for enhanced communication grows, the need for language establishes priority. As music begins before language is learnt properly, the symbol of the Veena in her hand in a gesture of playing the instrument. Before the child utters her first word, she makes some kind of a gurgling sound, which sounds sweet. Language is the vehicle which leads us through life and steers us through all the ups and downs in life. It is the tool for us to learn and acquire knowledge, skills, character, manners, personality and individuality. Does it not attain the top slot in our priority in life? When we revere such an image, we have no proof, neither we need one, whether it is that of a God or Goddess, but we acknowledge its utmost importance in our life and we respect it for that reason. We may or may not worship it as a Goddess, but we certainly must draw an inspiration from it to acquire knowledge of languages. The fact that the instrument has more than one string is indicative of the existence of more than one language available to the human species. It guides us towards learning. Learning imparts a special kind of glow to our face, which becomes radiant. Instruments have already been devised by modern science and technology to capture the halo around our head, which is not visible to the naked eye. Unless a learner devotes her energies fully to pursuit of learning, she can’t attain knowledge, skills or capabilities to earn wealth to live comfortably. Other things like decent clothing, personal hygiene and personality development complete the process. If a single image guides one to so much accomplishment in life, can reverence to it be grudged? It is not through granting a boon but guidance and inspiration to self-achievement that the image rises to the stature of a Goddess.

Look at image 2, that of Ganesh.

Lord Ganesha

This image lays emphasis on memory. Gods and Goddess are not hybrids of man and animal. It is lack of proper understanding and appreciation of the message contained in the depiction. The elephant head on Ganesh conveys the critical importance of memory. Elephants are supposed to have very good memory, they remember their herd members and have a wonderful family life. Memory is absolutely important for any learner. A learner can’t ever learn anything if she forgets the very next moment all that she has learnt just now. The note pad and pen in the hands of Ganesh emphasize the significance of writing down every detail. A learner can’t properly learn and retain everything by simply memorizing. Oral as well as written proficiency in language is a sine qua non for pursuing higher knowledge and specialization. Scholars are so deeply involved in their work that they don’t find time to even eat properly. The sweets or Laddo are food tablets eaten by Ganesh to get necessary energy to continue with his work of reducing knowledge gained to writing before it flies out of mind. It is not only the uneducated people but the learned like school teachers, who have no qualms in making little of the significance of memory. It is not unusual to hear teachers of geography and history telling their students that these two subjects are so unfaithful that they are memorized in the night and forgotten in the morning! What kind of a teaching? On the other hand, there are many memory pills and herbs advertised to strengthen memory. The fact remains that good memory is essential, which needs adequate nutrition. Mental work is more tiring than physical work. The Ladoo is the symbol of nutritious food. Can it be replaced with chocolate, ice cream, chips or any such product? May be or may not be, but these were not available when the image was drawn! Shouldn’t one aim to be a scholarly person in life? A fool can squander a treasure but a scholar can build a treasure. How many people come across a mentor in life who encourages them to march on the path of self-empowerment? If they get that inspiration from the image of Ganesh, without any discrimination of race, religion, place, language or gender at no cost, reverence to the image of Ganesh is nothing more than a thanksgiving.

Image 3 is that of Laxmi.

Goddess Laxmi

This image is the representation of wealth. The words rich and poor make things simple for us. The rich are better placed in life in education, economic or political spheres. Making honest money or creating wealth demands better education than other competitors. Inspired by Saraswati and Ganesh, one gets admitted to the grace of Laxmi. Who will not revere the image that leads the skilled to convert it to wealth? There are any number of people to misguide the youth into believing that money has no value, that it is nothing more than the dirt on your palm, that it is burguoi mentality to even think of money, that wealth is a capitalist obsession, that it is better to associate with party work and serve the poor/ down trodden/ disadvantaged/ have-nots/ labourers/ peasants. It is very late in life that such misguidance exposes its hollowness. The reality is that skill and expertise are not meant to be wasted. They must be converted to wealth. It helps the individual as well as the society equally. It provides better opportunities to render quality service to the poor sections of society. A Guru is one who leads the disciple on the right path to growth and not distract, divert, misguide or mislead the learner, who approaches him in good faith. Not everybody is capable of tendering honest advice in matters financial and economic well being. It is advisable to acquire a good understanding on one’s own in financial and economic well being. Money makes the mare go, and the skilled jump all hurdles in life. IF such knowledge evokes reverence for the image, it is nothing less than a Goddess for the individual. We can learn from one’s experience or leave it at that.

Image 4 is that of Shankar.

Lord Shiva

An epitome of equipoise, equanimity and self-control, He inspires people to take the negativity in its stride and not to allow it to ruin their health or endanger life. Churning through life, successes and failures come and go. The dynamism of life needs to be taken a bit rationally to live a healthier life. This image depicts his throat as blue, since He is portrayed as the One who drank the deadly poison halaahal, which emerged at the churning of the ocean along with the nectar. It turned His throat blue. The river flowing from His head is to keep Him cool from the heat of the poison. Shankar is portrayed as the source of the art form of dance. In essence, the image holds for us valuable lessons in self-control or Yoga and fine arts.

These images are a source of enormous energy. If they are images of Gods and Goddesses, they ought to be respected for they are objects of worship for the believers of the Hindu religion. But without bringing in religion in this analysis, it needs to be understood that these portrayals of the sookshma(ethereal) in sthool(material) are much higher than all theism, atheism, agnosticism and secularism. These images are modes of applied higher knowledge. What use is advanced knowledge if it does not lead to improvement in living standards of the people. Scientific knowledge is of little use unless transferred to even the most ordinary in the layman’s language- written, visual or graphic. These images  are portrayals of the subtle knowledge in an easy to understand communication format. of the  Without proper education, we are wrapped in a veil of ignorance. We labour our existence and survival in an environment of ignorance. That can be termed the circle of poverty: economic, educational or intellectual. To breach such circles or chains of circles, our consciousness has to be catalyzed.

Life might offer free lunches but never knowledge. One reason of half of the human beings remaining uneducated or inadequately educated is because they can’t afford to pay for it. In that situation, it must be appreciated, these images do for these ordinary people what educational or skill training institutions do for the better placed sections of society. They would have served their purpose if they inspire people to learn and earn for a better living. Using these images of Gods and Goddesses for religious purposes alone amounts to misguiding the people. That would be akin to misguiding a tourist to a city! They are symbols of higher consciousness and sublimity and deserve to be so popularized. They deserve to be respected. Nobody owns them. They are not covered by any IPRs. They are public property. But like all public properties, they too deserve respect. These images should never be used for commercial purpose. They should not be used on packaging materials or invitation cards. When used, they should not be discarded or thrown on ground as carelessly as now. They should better be disposed off in private with due dignity and honour. There may not be any punishment for any offence by making their disposal as showing disrespect to these images. But it is poor culture to follow good behavior rules only under fear of legal punishment. Laws can’t replace all demands of good social behavior: certain qualities have to be practiced as a norm, custom, ritual or pattern of good conduct. It pains to see such images on paper, clay, stone, wood, plastic or other material lying in garbage dumps in the most disrespectful manner. People have even gone down to the level of fixing these images in stair wall corners in offices and other public buildings to deter uncivil spitting of paan or tobacco ; or in boundary walls of public property to deter them from using walls as open urinals. Such misconduct is extremely uncivilized and offending to the sensitivities of people. It is a sign of decadence of culture of a country and calls for government to make it a punishable offence. Such uncultured behavior is not witnessed in Christian or Muslim countries. Even in India, images of Buddha or Mahavir have never been allowed to be misused in this offending manner. What should be a matter of national pride, has been subjected to uncouth treatment. It is challenging the tolerance of the peaceful, non-violent and liberal Indian society. Because there is no fear of law, it is necessary for the government in the ministry of culture to get the necessary legislation to check this vulgar and highly offending commercial use of these images, these symbols of advanced knowledge rendered in graphic depictions for all to learn their value and the message they give. Can we use for these offending purposes the pictures of national leaders, Members of Parliament, Members of Legislative Assemblies, politicians, policemen, judges, lawyers, doctors, engineers, professors, artists, journalists, HNIs or international luminaries? If not, why only these figures?

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