There are thousands of symbols in Sanatana Dharma, but the most important one is OM (picture on the left), often also written as AUM (in English); it is a mystical word and part of all (important) mantras. OM is the breath of the universe that first sounded during its creation. This Holy symbol is seen in the beginning of all Hindu religious texts.
The goad (hook) held in the Lord Ganesha's right
Antelope is a vehicle of Vayu (Lord of the winds) and Chandra (a lunar deity).
Bindi (and Bindu)
Bindi is a small ornamental and devotional dot drawn
on the forehead. Bindu is the "central point" or "central
dot" (of Yantra, of knowledge, etc.).
Buffalo is a vehicle of Lord Yama (Lord of death).
Bull is a vehicle of Lord Shiva.
It is the color of Lord Agni and it symbolizes all aspects of Sanatana Dharma. It is therefore the most important color of Hinduism.
Red represents purity and sensuality. Many typical Hindu symbols (such as a dot on the forehead) are in red color. Red color destroys evil. It radiates healthy aggression - vigor, determination, sexuality and passion.
This color is typical for festive occasions. It symbolizes peace and happiness. It emanates nature and it brings peace to the mind.
It represents knowledge and acumen. It is the color that initiates spring growth. Lord Vishnu is often displayed in yellow, but Ganesh too, because yellow is the symbol of wisdom. However, this does not mean that other Hindu Gods, if not displayed in yellow, lack wisdom. What black color means for Kali (strength), yellow means (is typical) for Lord Ganesh and Lord Krishna.
It represents peace and purity. This is the color of Saraswati.
It is the color of rivers, seas, and the sky, thus it symbolizes distance, depth and height. This color radiates energies of the remotest ends (the footstool of God) of the universe.
The Lord Krishna's, but also the Kali's color. Black symbolizes power, because it absorbs all other colors, thus it is the badge of superiority.
Color symbolism of chakras
Colors are also associated with chakras. Although many Internet websites describe the system of chakras (and what every chakra means) quite well, the association of colors to chakras shows the picture on the left. There are several chakra systems. The one that is the most famous here in Europe and in the US uses seven chakras: 1) Red - Root Chakra, 2) Orange - Sacral Chakra, 3) Yellow - Solar Plexus Chakra, 4) Green - Heart Chakra, 5) Blue - Throat Chakra, 6) Indigo - Third Eye Chakra, 7) Violet - Crown Chakra.
Sir John Woodroffe (1865-1936), a British scholar,
established a belief in the system of the seven chakras, but in the
Nepali or Tibetan system there are only five chakras.
Crescent moon is the Shiva's and Parvati's symbol. There are rumors that Muslim Kaaba in Mecca was originally a Hindu temple and a recent archeological finding of a gold-plated statue of Ganesh in Kuwait suggests a strong connection between Hindu and Arabic civilizations. The Kaaba shrine comes from the times of pre-Islamic ages and some Hindus suppose it was originally an Indian temple of Lord Shiva.
Crow is a vehicle of Lord Shani, one of the nine primary celestial beings in Hindu astrology.
The orange or red banner a visitor can see above
temples, or which is used in festivals. It is a symbol of victory.
Dog and horse
These are the vehicles of Lord Shiva in His form as Bhairava.
Elephant (or Akupara) is a vehicle of Lord Indra.
This is a large mythical bird - a half-man, a half eagle, and the vehicle of Lord Vishnu.
The bell used in ritual pujas.
The fire altar and the symbol of ancient Vedic rites.
The wheel or circle of time is a symbol of perfect creation. Eight spokes of the Kalachakra wheel (Wheel of Time) mark the directions in time and each one is governed by a deity, or by a specific aspect of Shakti. To learn more about Kalachakra, click here.
Purna Kumbha, or Purnakumbha, sometimes also Kalasha, is an essential part of worship practices in Hinduism. The term is derived from the word Purna (full) and Kumbha (pitcher) and it denotes a metal (silver, copper, gold, or brass) pitcher full of water, but also with fresh leaves of the mango tree and a coconut placed on its top. Matsya Purana and Skanda Purana, too, mention this object. It is used during various religious rites. An arrangement of this pitcher is called Purnakumbha or Purnakalasha. It is considered to be a symbol of abundance. It is the Brahmani's weapon (one of the goddesses Durga created in Her battle against demons; this story is described in Devi Mahatmyam).
A divine cow in the Hindu mythology which is believed to be the mother of all cows.
Kolam is a form of art (sandpainting) resembling
yantras usually drawn with rice or powder on the ground, outside of
doorways. Kolams are drawn without interruption. Similar drawings
are used in Voodoo (veves).
Shakti followers use kumkuma, or powdered red turmeric. They draw one vertical line or a dot on their forehead.
The standing oil lamp, a symbol of dispelling the ignorance.
Linga and Yoni
Objects of worship that can be found in many places; in temples too. They symbolize the best fusion or communication, a fulfillment of the nature's laws when man and woman become like Shiva and His Shakti. Thus, Linga represents manhood and Yoni womanhood.
Lotus (or Padma)
The holiest flower in Hinduism; it symbolizes creation.
A picture of square in a circle that helps to open the gate to the divine light.
A round, lemon-sized sweet made of rice, coconut, sugar and spices; devotees give it to Lord Ganesha.
The mouse (or rat) is the Lord Ganesha's mount.
The Lord Shiva pictured (or sculptured) as "King Of Cosmic Dance".
Mudra is a symbolic (ritual) gesture. Mudra in Sanskrit is a "spiritual gesture" and it is usually performed with hands and/or fingers, but this is not the rule. In Tantric rituals Mudras can follow a certain numbering system - 64 in Chatuhsasthi Yogini rituals, or 108. Mudras are also used in Indian dance. Literature about them is available in a number of books such as Finger Yoga, etc. Another source is Hasthalakshana Deepika, which is a book about hand gestures. Double-hand and single-hand symbols can be used.
Owl (Ulooka in Sanskrit) is the vehicle of Goddess Lakshmi.
Parrot is the vehicle of Kamadeva (Hindu deity of love).
Peacock (Paravani) or Mayura
Vehicle of Lord Murugan.
Ram (he) is the vehicle of Lord Agni.
Rudraksha beads: The Tears Of Lord Shiva
Rudraksha is a tree that can be found at the foothills of the Himalayas; the trees are, according to legends (for example, Shiva Purana), a product of Lord Shiva's tears. Shaiva rosaries are made from the Rudraksha beads. The Rudraksha beads are the natural product of Rudraksha trees and are used for many things. 108 Rudraxa beads are used for sacred Shaiva rosaries.
The rosary used by shaivists is made from Rudraxa beads, the number of which is 108.
Shri Paduka (Tiruvadi)
The sacred sandals worn by saints.
Stupa is a little tower on tops of Hindu or Buddhist
temples - it symbolizes organization of the
universe. It is composed of parts that symbolize five
elements (tattwas): earth, air,
fire, water, and spirit.
This symbol (a sign of the sun) was stolen and smudged by the Nazi ideology (read my article about Lord Ganesh). Svastika is a symbol of prosperity and it is the second holiest symbol in Hinduism. Its four directions represent also the four points of the compass. It is also a symbol of good prospects.
Swan is a vehicle of Saraswati and Lord Brahma.
Tattwas or five elements
These are the Vedic symbols for earth, air, fire, water, and spirit, and they also have their visual forms.
Tiger (and lion too)
Tilaka (or Tilakam)
A mark worn on the forehead; it shows a path (Vishnu, Shiva, Durga) such a devotee follows. Ganapatyas use a kind of red paste (rakta candana); shaivists use ash, and vaishnavists clay from a holy place or river (like Ganga).
Tortoise symbolizes a place on which Mother Earth (Prithvi) rests.
Trident or Trishul
This symbol (weapon) belongs to Shiva, but also to Ganesha and Skanda. The symbol can also be found on pictures of Goddess Durga. The Greek god of the oceans, Poseidon, is also pictured with it.
The triangle, a symbol of Lord Siva.
It is an Indian stringed instrument similar to European
lyre. Veena is the symbol of art and learning; Goddess Saraswati is
pictured with it.
This is a symbol of Lord Murugan (Skanda). Vel is a spear with which Lord Murugan kills evil and subjugates any knowledge.
Vitthakalai is a gold-decorated chariot of Maa Kali according to the belief of Ayyavazhi (a South Indian religious faith and sect that originated in South India in about the 19th century).
Yantra is a visual representation of a deity most
frequently drawn as geometric shapes (but this is not the rule) -
is the same thing as mantra, but instead of sounds the devotee works
with pictures. There are many Yantras (circle-type, square-type, triangle-type,
etc.) and their lines and shapes can have many meanings. The devotee
may choose a Yantra suited for his/her specific spiritual needs.