Click to go back to the home page  
Search artworks  |  Recommended works
> bNotes > bCA reports...
  »  The Rising Stars of Indian...
  »  5 things you probably didn...
  »  Top 5 Reasons Why Art Fest...
  »  Artist's Resale Rights
  »  Whither the Art Mentor?
  »  The Changing Face of the A...
  »  Role of Art Museums
  »  Affordable Art
  »  The Quest for the Perfect ...
  »  The Role of the Art Galler...
  »  The Other Masters
  »  The Survival Game
  »  Art for Masses
  »  Art - The Dark Side!
  »  The Lost Art of Portraitur...
  »  Art Market Rallies in 2010
  »  The Indian-ness of Art!
  »  Art and the Environment
  »  Indian Nudes and Prudes
  »  Why invest in emerging Ind...
  »  Tibetan Art
  »  Rabindranath Tagore
  »  Tyeb Mehta - The Silent He...
  »  Figurative vs. Abstract Ar...
  »  Why Print?
  »  Indian Folk Arts & Crafts ...
  »  Indian Folk Arts & Crafts ...
  »  Eye on limited edition pri...
  »  Global Recession and the A...
  »  Women in Indian art
  »  Indian Art - Truly 'Symbol...
  »  Fake Art!
  »  Art online!
  »  Traditional Art of India
  »  Grandtour 2007
  »  Prospects of Indian Artist...
  »  Censorship in Art
  »  The Taxman Cometh...
  »  Art as an Investment
  »  Face to face with Jivya So...
  »  Influx of Foreign Artists
Our door to the contemporary art world bNOTES
 » Indian Art - Truly 'Symbolic' :
 |  Download mp3 file

Indian Art – Truly ‘Symbolic’

Symbols in Indian art

Right from the time of the Egyptian hieroglyphic symbols have been an important tool for conveying thoughts and ideas between individuals. While some symbols have been closely guarded secret to be shared only between members of a particular sect, others have been more or less universal. Artists have also used symbols to define a thought process in their art. The best seller The Da Vinci Code would have us believe that all of Leonardo Da Vinci’s works were in a sense a symbolic subterfuge and encrypted messages being passed onto a secret society. Indian art too is replete with symbols. In fact in India art symbols tend to be associated with superstitions believed to attract good fortune and repel evil.

We could enumerate some of the more common symbols that recur in Indian art and their associated ideologies:

The Dot (Bindu): The dot, in its many variations is the most common and oft use symbol in Indian art, and still finds pride of place in contemporary art. It is regaled by Indian philosophers as source of light and energy. Besides, most all creative activity, be it writing or painting originate from a point or a single nucleus. It has also been used to define a point of meditation where you focus all your energies on that one point or ‘dot’ in front of you oblivious to all. The artist who has immortalised the ‘bindu’ in contemporary art is S H Raza, who used it along with other geometric forms to create his artworks. When rendered as a circle, the dot can also be interpreted to mean infinity and wholeness. It is the shape of all celestial bodies like the sun and moon and also represents divinity.

The Lotus: This is one that is very visible in most sculptures, carvings on temple walls and used by artists even today to denote purity. The logic is simple – just as the lotus grows in muck and marshy water but rises above it and retains its pristine colours, so too do enlightened souls remain pure and ethereal even while living in the world where corruption and violence abound. The Hindu god of creation Brahma is always shown seated on a lotus. At the same time, when a lotus bud is rendered in a semi-open state it represents spiritual realisation. When teamed with Goddess Laxmi (the goddess of wealth), a cascade of lotus buds represents plenty. A simile sometimes drawn between the lotus and the feet of God, for the Mahayana sect of Buddhists, every soul emerges from a lotus. Though the lotus is a predominantly Hindu symbol, it also finds pride of place in Mughal miniatures and sculptural carvings. In fact, the Taj Mahal, the pride of Indian architecture was built by a Muslim ruler and its central dome is designed as an inverted lotus resting on its petals. Little wonder then that the lotus is India’s national flower.

The Sun (Surya): The Sun represents everlasting glory. It was used extensively on the shields and insignia of royalty. There is sometimes a conjugal representation of the sun and moon in some sculptures and paintings, the symbolism stems from the fact that these two celestial bodies are believed to be immortal and even today when some great personality or hero is remembered the slogan chanted is, “as long as there are the sun and the moon, you will live forever in our thoughts” (rough translation). In contemporary Indian art, the sun still finds place as a symbolic representation. Another interpretation for the Sun is an agent of purification. The sun’s rays can burn all impure objects; homes are often opened to allow the sun’s rays to enter in the day time, where the sun is considered a ‘mitra’ or friend of the living. Even the ‘suryanamaskar’ a yogic pose offers homage to the Sun and its healing powers – destroying all that is decadent and impure.

The Wheel (Chakra): The wheel is a symbol closely related to the sun. In some art it is used to represent the sun as it traverses the skies. In the famous Konark Sun Temple in the Indian state of Orissa, the Sun God is shown travelling across the heavens in this chariot, the focal point of the temple are it decorated wheels. The wheel can also be interpreted to mean destruction as the Hindu God Vishnu is believed to use his ‘chakra’ to vanquish evil demons. In the annals of meditation, the chakra represents the centre of psychic energy in the body.

The Swastik: This is one symbol that evokes myriad emotions in people across the world, depending upon which culture you hail from. For the Indians it represents something most holy, every household will have a swastika at the doorway. It is said to represent the Sun and the four directions. The Swastik also represents creativity and continuity, the symbol is believed to be derived from the weaving of baskets where the ends of a simple cross design are turned to the right to form a swastika. For the Europeans who have lived through the Second World War, the Swastik represents of the Nazis and their racistic ideology. For them the Swastik stood for "race emblem of Germanism", the reason why the German Swastik ‘moved’ in a direction opposite to the Indian one is because it was it was interpreted as the representation of the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man, and, by the same token, the victory of the idea of creative work, which as such always has been and always will be anti-Semitic [Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler]

The Pot (Kalash): The Kalash or the Indian pot is yet another symbol used extensively in decorating Indian architecture and also in contemporary art. The ‘pot’ cannot be considered uniquely Indian though as it has been symbolically associated with other riverside civilizations. The pot is always considered to be filled with water, in some instances it be rendered with water or milk flowing from it. In all instances the pot represents fertility and the source of life. Sometimes the pot may have the symbols of two eyes across it, this can be interpreted to mean divinity and omniscience of even denote day and night. It also represents the contradictory concepts of fragility and strength which is how we view the concept of Nature. The earthen pot has for this reason been chosen as the symbol of the Ecomark – eco-friendly logo for products by the Indian government.

Footprints: Through the ages, Gods have been represented in Indian art in the form of footprints. They are specially used to depict the Hindu God Vishnu – the protector. The Buddhists also use the footprint symbol to represent the Buddha. This symbol is sometimes rendered in the form of the ‘padukam’ or ‘khadau’ – the traditional name for the wooden Indian slipper.

The Tree: This is one symbol that is universal across the globe, representing life, hope, prosperity. It is seen as a link between the earth, the heavens and the netherworld. The tree with its rejuvenating properties is also seen as a symbol of health. The Indian art normally depicts a banyan tree which is symbolic of growth and prosperity. When the peepul tree is depicted it takes in religious tones as with the Bodhi tree which is equated with knowledge by the Buddhists as it was under this tree that the Buddha is believed to have received enlightenment.

Snakes: The serpent is regarded differently as the divine and the harbinger of death. The snake symbol represents power, sexuality and rejuvenation. The snake in Indian art is also regarded as a protector and guardian. The symbol of two serpents intertwined represents fertility. The snake symbol is a particularly potent one as it combines strength with danger.

There are other symbols that have been employed in Indian art through the ages and are still used today albeit in a more contemporary form. The artists can have their own reasoning behind employing a certain symbol as well. But when it comes to traditional art, each symbol tells its own story and when one reads the logic behind the symbol, the pictographic story reveals itself to us quite clearly. At festival time, like Diwali (the festival of lights in the month of October), many Indian households create patterns from powdered limestone on the threshold and use these age-old symbols which will welcome good energies and repel evil from their homes.
In fact, we at bCA Galleries have used the ‘b’ in our gallery name to denote the ‘bee’. As it represents cooperation, diligence and productivity, it symbolizes our company, its staff and its work ethic completely!

~ Razvin Namdarian

Search Artists
Search Artworks
Quick Links
  » Virtual Gallery
  » Traditional Art
  » Testimonials
  » Current Quarterly Magazine
  » FAQ
  » How to...
  » Art Events - Mumbai
  » bReports - Articles and interviews
  » Media room - News and press releases
  » Indian Artists Database
  » Request for Information
Associated Artists
» A Achari
» Aamrapali Jadhav
» Aaswad Tamboli
» Abdulla Pathan
» Abhijit Bhattacharya
» Abid Shaikh
» Aditya Dev
» Ajay De
» Ajay Deshpande
» Ajay Garg
» Ajit Choudhary
» Ajit Shevade
» Albert Ashok
» Alok Porwal
» AlokeKumar Paul
» Amit Pawar
» Amit Sharma
» Anand Bekwad
» Anand Mali
» AnandSwaroop Manchiraju
» Aniket Khupse
» Anil Mahajan
» Anil Tato
» Anil Vangad
» AnilKumar Saxena
» Anirban Seth
» Anita Bhad
» Anita Mashe
» Anjali Thakur
» Anshu Pawan
» Anto George
» Anupam Halder
» AnupKumar Singh
» Apurba Biswas
» Apurba Mazumder
» Aradhna Tandon
» Araine Mercier
» Archana Mohite
» Arpita Das
» Arpita Ganguly
» Arpita Khaskel
» Arunabha Ghosh
» Arvind Mahajan
» Arvind Patel
» Arvind Wagh
» Ashish Kanik
» Ashok Khant
» Ashok Kumar
» Ashok Kumar Dey
» Ashok Patil
» Ashok Roy
» AshokKumar Hiremath
» Ashutosh Apte
» Ashwin Chauhan
» Asif Upadhye
» Asmani Kamat
» Atish Tamgadge
» Atul Dake
» Atul Vadadoriya
» Avi Roy
» Avijit Roy
» Avinash Deshmukh
» Avinash Manekar
» Avinash Mohire
» Avinash Mokashe
» Azelio Corni
» Bahadur Singh
» Balu Jivya Mashe
» Balu Sadalage
» Beena Pradhan
» Beenu Gupta
» Bhanu Dudhat
» Bhanwarsingh Panwar
» Bharvi Trivedi
» Bhaskar Mandolu
» Bhavesh Zala
» Bhupat Dudi
» Bhupesh Godkar
» Bibhuti Chakraborty
» Bilasendu Shil
» Biswajit Das
» Brajbhushan Prasad
» Bratati Mukherjee
» C M Bhatti
» Caifun Jun
» Chandra Ganacharya
» ChandraBhanu Pal
» Chandrakant Channe
» Chandrakant Tajbije
» Chandrashekhar Kumavat
» Chandrashekhar Patil
» Charaka Simoncelli
» Charushila Gawde
» Chetan Katigar
» Chikkamath FV
» Chinmoy Pandit
» Chirayu Sinha
» CPB Prasad
» Dariyav Mayoor
» Darshana Rajvaidya
» Datta Shrimali
» Dayanand Kamakar
» Deepak Sorte
» Deepali Mundra
» Deeshaa Belani
» Devendra Bhardwaj
» Dhananjay Takalikar
» Dhananjay Thakur
» Dhirendra Mandge
» DhirenKumar Saha
» Digambar Chichkar
» Dileep Kosode
» Dinkar Jadhav
» Dipankar Sankrityayan
» Dipika Rajgarhia
» Dnyanesh Bembade
» Dnyanesh Gholap
» Dnyaneshwar Bhingare
» Dnyaneshwar Jagadale
» DS Chougale
» DS Rane
» Dulal Sarkar
» Durbananda Jana
» Elayaraja S
» Fatima Rajkotwala
» Fernando Viscasillas
» Gajanan Thakurwar
» Gajraj Chavan
» Ganesh Gorintala
» Ganesh Panda
» Ganesh Patil
» Ganpath Lakshmana Katiya
» Gayatri Desai
» Ghanashyam Gupta
» Gopal Chowdhury
» GopalSwami Khetanchi
» Gorakhnath Shinde
» Gulbanu Merchant
» Gurukinkar Dhang
» H R Das
» Halak Pandya
» Harmish Devhare
» Harvinder Singh
» Hemang Dave
» Hemant Dixit
» Hide Nasu
» Houserao Patil
» Indranil Banerjee
» J Nandkumar
» Jaee Morey
» Jagannath Paul
» Jahar Dasgupta
» Jaiprakash Chouhan
» Jalpa Pandhi
» Jana D
» Jayanta Maity
» Jayavant Tambare
» Jayshree Bhagwanani
» Jayshree S Mashe
» Jayshrie Goradia
» Jenny Bhatt
» Jiaur Rahman
» Jignesh Panchal
» Jimmy Chisi
» Jivya Soma Mashe
» Joyanto Deb
» Joydeep Chatterjee
» Juilee Mahajan
» Jyoti Sutane
» JyotiRanjan Panigrahi
» Jyotsna Pawale
» Kailash Chhatrasal
» Kala Shah
» Kalyani Gulage
» Kamala Talaulikar
» Kamalkant Jain
» Kamalkumar Mukherjee
» Kamasuthra Miniatures
» Kariyappa Hanchinamani
» Karuna Pawar
» Kasthuri V
» Kavin Natarajan
» Kazi Salahuddin Ahmed
» KC Patel
» Ketaki Pimpalkhare
» KG Narendrababu
» Khanderao Pawar
» Khushboo Sethi
» Kinnari Sanghavi
» Kiran Chopra
» Kishore Dangle
» Kishore Mashe
» Kishore Shikhare
» KishorePratim Biswas
» Komal Talwalkar
» Kousik Mondal
» KPrakash Raman
» Krishna Dey
» Kriti Saxena
» Krushna Dambre
» Krushna Kuchan
» Lakshman Chavan
» Laxman Kumar
» Laxminarayan Sharma
» M Senthilnathan
» M Singh
» Maciej Gador
» Madan Lal
» Madhukar Mahajan
» Madhulika Verma
» Madhumita Bhattacharya
» Madhuri Kathe
» Mahaveer Swami
» Mahendra Padte
» Mahesh Prajapati
» MaheshKumar Reddy
» Mahmood Ahmad
» Maka Fidyka
» Mamata Kharote
» Mamata Kharote
» Mamta Sharma
» Manas Halder
» Mangal Vadhali
» Manish Hatkar
» Manish Sutar
» Manissha Khanna
» Manoj Sananse
» Mantukumar Mandal
» Manu Singh
» Mayank Sharma
» Mayura Deshpande
» Meena Deora
» Meena Wani
» Meenal Bhawsar
» Meghanad Ganpule
» Michele Lombardelli
» Milind Gadkari
» Mintu Deka
» MinYa Yao
» Mohan Shingane
» Mohd Hamza
» Mohit Srivastva
» Mona Kenawy
» Mrinmoy Debbarma
» Muktanand Nawaghare
» Mukund Jethva
» Murlidhar Gawli
» N Kanhaiya
» Naba Das
» Nanasaheb Yeole
» Nandini Verma
» Narayan Patidar
» Natu Makwana
» Naveena Ganjoo
» Navita Sawant
» Nawal Kishore
» Nayana Mewada
» Nazia Pithapurwala
» Neeta Makwana
» Neeti Hegde
» Nehal Shah
» NikkiSingh Ureti
» Nikole
» Nilesh Pawar
» Nilesh Prajapati
» Nilmoni Chatterjee
» Nirupam Ghosh
» Nitai Das
» Nitin Gupta
» Nivas Kanhere
» Onkar Kshirsagar
» Padmaja Sawant
» Padmanabh Bendre
» Palak Babani
» Pallavi Barooah
» Pallavi Pagar
» Pankaj Sharma
» Parag Kundargi
» Paramesh Paul
» Parashar Naik
» Partha Das
» Partha Dey
» Parul Mehta
» Parul Shah
» Pawan Kumar
» Philip Dmello
» Pinaki Acharyya
» Pintu Biswas
» Piu Sarkar
» Pooja Panchal
» Pooja Zanwar
» Prabal Mallick
» Prabir Shaw
» Pradeep Kanik
» Pradeep Kate
» Pradeep Nerurkar
» Pradeep Singh Bais
» Pradeep Verma
» Pradip Maitra
» Pradip Sarkar
» Pradip Sengupta
» Prafulli Ajit Shevade
» Prakash Nayak
» Pramod Apet
» Pramod Singh
» Prasad Shetty
» Prasanna Musale
» Prasanta Acharjee
» Prashant Hirlekar
» Prashant Pujari
» Prashanta Nayak
» Pratap Morey
» Pratiksha Parulekar
» Pravin Mashe
» Pravin Mukhekar
» Preeti Arora
» Prerna Kewalramani
» Priti Kahar
» Priya Pariyani
» Priyadarshini Gandhi
» Priyanka Dua
» Purnendu Mandal
» Puspen Niyogi
» R K Sharma
» Raghu Neware
» Rahul Venkatesh
» Rajani Shingane
» Rajendra Autade
» Rajendra Kurulkar
» Rajendra Patil
» Rajendra Shyam
» Rajendraprasad Singh
» Rajesh Deoria
» Rajesh Roy
» Rajesh Shah
» Rajesh Srivastava
» Rajeshree Kadam
» Rajiv Pathak
» Rajiv Waingankar
» Rakesh Bani
» Rakesh Sharma
» Rakesh Suryawanshi
» Ram Kasture
» Ram Viranjan
» Ramchandra Kharatmal
» Ramesh Gujar
» Ramesh Jhawar
» Ramesh Kher
» Ramesh Mehta
» Ramesh Sharma
» RamKrishna Sharma
» RamPartap Verma
» Ranadip Mukherjee
» Ranajit Adhikary
» Rani Rekha
» Ranjit Kokate
» Ranjit Kurmi
» Ranjith Raghupathy
» Ratnakar Ojha
» Ravindra Pabrekar
» RB Bhaskaran
» Reba Mandal
» Reha Shishodia
» Renu Parkhi
» Revati Dalvi
» Ribaka Ingale
» Riccha Khemane
» Riki Shah
» Rina Mustafi
» Rita Khanna
» Rita Mitra
» Ritesh Meshram
» Ritu Soni
» Rohan Dumbre
» Rohit Supakar
» Rukshana Hooda
» Rupal Dave
» Rupinder Kaur
» S Murthy
» Sabita Kundu
» Sacha Greenwood
» Sachi Vajani
» Sachin Chandorkar
» Sachin Raut
» Sachin Shinde
» Sadhana Raddi
» Sahaj Patel
» SajalKanti Mitra
» Samir Halder
» Samvedna Vaishya
» Sandeep Ghule
» Sandeep Paradkar
» Sandesh Khule
» Sandhya Arvind
» Sangeeta Babani
» Sangeeta Pathak
» Sanjay Khilare
» Sanjay Kumar
» Sanjib Singha
» Sanjiivv Sankpal
» Sanjoykumar Samanta
» Sanju Manna
» Santhosh Rathod
» Santosh Bhoir
» Santosh Chattopadhayay
» SantoshKumar Tiwari
» Sardar Jadhav
» Saroj Parmar
» Sateesh Dingankar
» Satish Dhoke
» Satish Kale
» Satish Patil
» SatyaDheer Singh
» Saurabh Kadam
» Sekhar Roy
» Shahed Pasha
» Shailendra Bokshe
» Shailesh Dudhalkar
» Shailesh Shinde
» Shalaka Patil
» Shankar Gojare
» Shankar Khola
» Shankar Sonawane
» Shantaram Belkar
» Shantaram Ghakram
» Sharad Sonkusale
» Sheela Padmanabhan
» Sheetal Chamat
» Shilpa PanditPatole
» Shital Gohil
» Shivani Mathur
» Shivani Soni
» Shola Carletti
» Shrabanti Saha
» Shraddha Rane
» Shravan Pendyala
» Shreyas Dhongde
» Shrikant Kolhe
» Shriram Jog
» Shruti Gupta Chandra
» Smita Shinde
» Snehal OakLimaye
» Somava Dutta
» Somnath Dutta
» Sonal Varshneya
» Sonalli Iyengaar
» Sopan Kshirsagar
» Soumen Saha
» Soumya Chavan
» Souvik Banerjee
» Sripad Kulkarni
» Stuti Agarwal
» Subhash Babhulkar
» Subhash Kharat
» Subhashbabu Ravuri
» Subrato Maji
» Sucheta Ghadge
» Suchita Raut
» Sudeep Mukherjee
» Sudha Barshikar
» Sudha Bhadani
» Sudhir Bangar
» Sudhir Deshpande
» Sudhir Talmale
» Sudip Das
» Sudipta Adhya
» Sujata Sahay
» Sujit Das
» Sukanta Chowdhury
» Sumant Shetty
» Sumatilal Badge
» Sunil Bambal
» Sunil Chawdiker
» Sunil Kale
» Sunil Kumar
» Sunil Mathad
» Sunit Gamre
» Sunita Mashe
» SunitaAnand Rao
» Supriya Wadgaonkar
» Suresh Gulage
» Suresh Telore
» Suruchi Jamkar
» Suryakant Lokhande
» Sushanta Dutta
» Sushanta Kundu
» Sushil Nimbark
» Susmita Adhya
» SwapanKumar Mallick
» Swapna Malvade
» Swaroop Biswas
» Swati Jadhav
» Swati Kale
» Sweta Mashe
» Tanul Vikamshi
» TapanKumar Das
» Tapas Gangopadhyay
» Tarun Ghosh
» Taxi Duo
» Tikendra Sahu
» Trupti Goswami
» Umesh Prasad
» Vaibhav Athaley
» Vaishali Pargaonkar
» Vandana Khedikar
» Varinder Dhawan
» Varna Sindhu
» Varsha Kharatmal
» Ved Sandip
» Venus Sanghvi
» Vijay Chouhan
» Vijay Dhumal
» Vijay Mashe
» Vikesh Jandial
» Vikram Kulkarni
» Vilas Bhad
» Vilas Chormale
» Vipta Kapadia
» Vipul Shende
» Viraj Dandagaval
» Vishakha Apte
» Vishal Bhansali
» Vishnu Pawan
» Vishwajeet Naik
» Vitthal Bhingare
» Vivek Kumavat
» Vivek Vadkar
» Wenfeng Li
» Xiang Chunsheng
» Yadnyesh Shirwadkar
» Yasha Sharma
» Yashpal Kamble
» Yashwant Pawar
» Yashwant Shirwadkar
» Yejneswar Subramony
» Yogesh Patil
» Yogesh Shirwadkar
» Yolanda DeSousa
» Yusuf Arakkal
» Yuvaraj V
Artist in Focus
Traditional & Tribal Art
Social Networks
MMIV-MMXIII. All Rights Reserved with bCA Galleries™   | Privacy Statement | Contact us | bHIVE | Intranet | Sitemap | RSS              585  |  194,424,791   
  Recommended Artworks
Sandeep Paradkar: Your immortal presence (AVAILABLE)
Your immortal presence »
Mohd Hamza: Havas (AVAILABLE)
Havas »
Abid Shaikh: Local Spine 4 (AVAILABLE)
Local Spine 4 »
Prafulli Ajit Shevade: Nest - III (AVAILABLE)
Nest - III »
Abid Shaikh: Soft Land V (AVAILABLE)
Soft Land V »
Abid Shaikh: Soft Land Viii (AVAILABLE)
Soft Land Viii »
Jivya Soma Mashe: Farming 2 (AVAILABLE)
Farming 2 »
Sachin Shinde: Floating on the Wall (AVAILABLE)
Floating on the Wall »