Different yantras, for tantricpuja or meditation,
are used by tantric pundits. Among the many yantras
prevalent the shree yantra (shree stands for 'Lakshmi'
the goddess of prosperity) 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.
A noted Nepali Scholar
says that Shakti is always in unison with Shiva,
existing within each and every being as the inner
self; the state of existence, consciousness and
bliss. 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 it's 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 this great 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.
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, that indicates the union of the two, 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 Bhotahiti Tol in Kathmandu, has one
of the most exquisite Satkon patterns in its windows.
Many people seem to mistake the Star of David,
which has nothing to do with it. 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 story about the Satkon says that it 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
principal) united. This ancient symbol appears
to be the central core of all the highly sophisticated
symbols in Nepali religious culture.
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
In Buddhism, the
four hands of Swastika signifying Maitree (friendship),
Karuna (compassion), Mudita (happiness) and Upershya
(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 mediate 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.
The linga is the phallic symbol of 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 diety signifies its determined
creative function. Creation, in tantra is described
as sexual self-relation. The Brihadaranyaka Upanisad
says that one alone knows no delight and so the
female partner was generated.
According to the
Puranas, Lord Shiva assumed the form of Lingam(the
phallic symbol of universal pro-creation), on
the night of Shivaratri, to save the universe
from a big threat of destruction. It is said that
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 hangs above the Shivalinga).
It is believed that Shiva was not cooled enough
even after Ganga poured all the water she possessed
over him. He was cooled only when the whole of
the moon was tucked in the matted lock of his
head. Shiva, after having cooled himself became
ecstatic and started dancing the Tandava Nritya.
OBJECTS & SUMBOLS IN THE CONTEXT OF NEPAL
In Nepal, we have
thousands of fascinating old buildings and temples
almost all of which have religious figures and
symbols. It would be almost impossible to know
about each and every one of them. So, we discuss
some important figures and symbols.
Shankha is a Sanskrit word used to denote a sleek
and smooth conch shell. It is believed that if
the Shankha 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 Shankha before
they break a fast and almost all temple prayers
are accompanied by the blowing of the Shankha.
It is strongly
believed that the Shankha 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.
wheel of right action)
Chakra or the wheel of righteousness is an emblem
or tool used as a holy symbol by Hindus and Buddhists.
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 it's purpose is similar in Buddhism
and Hinduism because the first teachings of Buddha
began with the turning of the wheel of Dharma.
This ceremonial container is used for storing
vermilion powder for religious purposes. The consecrated
vermilion inside the container represents Laxmi,
the goddess of wealth and abundance. The upper
portion of the Sinhamoo is either shaped like
three, five or seven tiered oriental umbrella
serving as a ceremonial canopy of Laxmi. Sinhamoo
is used in almost all-religious ceremonies particularly
in the Newari community.
(A ceremonial metal mirror)
Jwala Nhyekan, an ancient religious object, has
a plain circle as the central portion surrounded
by stylized flames that come to the peak at the
top. It is indispensable in all kinds of religious
ceremonies in the Newari community of Kathmandu
Valley. This is used by Buddhist`s as well as
Hindu`s to symbolize inner vision and is also
regarded a representation of Saraswati, the goddess
of learning and creative arts.
(a holy ceremonial water jar)
Kalash is a typical traditional water jar usually
made of brass, which has a round body with the
base and mouth beautifully designed like a full
blown lotus. Kalasha, the symbol of the universal
mother goddess, is supposed to contain Amrit(inexhaustible
elixir) which never dries and makes one immortal.
It was said in ancient times that the sprinkling
of Kalash- water, accompanied by mantra, over
ones head would ensure plenty, purity and prosperity.
flower of wisdom)
The lotus is among the most popular motifs in
Nepali arts, it is a symbol of mental purity and
detachment. In Nepal, it is also a symbol of divinity
as some Hindu as well as Buddhist gods are seen
sitting on them showing that they are divine.
Torana, a gateway leading to a temple or a holy
place of worship, is semi-circular in form and
is placed above temple doorways. Torana`s mostly
found made on wood or stone and some are lavishly
gilded with brass, others are even beautifully
embellished with several artistic designs.
Vajra, which means "thunderbolt", is
used in the Vajrayani as well as Mahayani sect
of Buddhism. It is described as an ever illuminating,
indestructible and adamantine element, often identified
as a divine symbol of the changeless absolute,
in a Buddhist text. The Vajra is always accompanied
by a bell, for Vajra stands for the male principle
whereas a bell for the female principle. A Vajra
accompanied by a bell is a ritualistic requirement
for every Buddhist religious ceremony. In every
Buddhist religious ceremony, the Buddhist priest
holds a Vajra on his right hand and a bell on
The sound of a bell in Hindu philosophy symbolizes
the Nata-Brahma(seed-sound) originating from Brahma,
the supreme being. The ringing of a bell has always
been an integral part of prayers for most religions
in Nepal. We find bells in every temple and thus,
it is of importance to every religion.
Almost every Buddhist temple have prayer wheels
which was introduced by Tibetans. These cylindrical
wheels have prayers carved on them. The prayer
seen in almost all prayer wheel is- om mani padme
hum (I bow down to the divine jewel or Buddha
seated on the lotus).
Sukunda is a traditional Nepali oil lamp made
of brass. The front part of a Sukunda is shaped
like the god Ganesha, the god of success and good
luck. It has a tiny cup to put the wick and a
fascinating loop handle designed with a five-
headed serpent raising its head. It also has a
small spoon, with the Naga-kanya atop, used for
replenishing the oil from the reservoir. The artistic
work on this traditional lamp reflects the remote
past of a very famous Buddhist legend about a
Naga(snake) and a lake. A long time ago Kathmandu
valley was a lake inhabited by snakes. In the
middle of the lake, there was a beautiful flame
of a lotus with a thousand petals. Buddha Mahamanjushree
after hearing about it rushed to the valley, all
the way from China, and he drained the lake by
striking his magic sword at the southern hill
of the valley leaving the valley open to all.
The most famous Buddhist stupa of
Swayambhunath is believed to have originated from
the same legendary lotus-flame.
In Newari language sukunda means a beautiful lake.
It is said that the oil reservoir of a sukunda
represents the legendary lake, its mouth with
the unfolded lotus motif represents the lotus
with a thousand petals and the cup attached to
it in which the lamp is lighted represents the
self- existent divine flame. The lord Ganesha
in front represents the great guru who is there
to teach everyone the supreme acts of god. No
ceremony in Nepal is started without the lighting
of the Sukunda.
This traditional is a bit different from the Sukunda.
Khaadalu, in Newari, means a hanging window lamp.
Many years ago, when there was no electricity,
these lamps were used for lighting shrines and
the streets of Kathmandu. We can still see these
oriental brass lamps, with a few mythical dragons
watchfully guarding its flame from both sides,
hung in many old houses but they are only lighted
on festive occasions. As the age- old custom has
it, only housewives are supposed to light this
lamp and many still have faith in the myth that
if this lamp is not lighted after it gets dark,
Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, would be displeased.
"Shubham bhavatu kalyanam aarogya dhanasampati
mamashatru vinashaya deepajyot namastute"
an old prayer recited while lightening the Khadaalu
means- You, the great doer of welfare for your
devotees, the one who bestows upon us health,
happiness, wealth and the destruction of our enemies
(darkness and ignorance). Salutation to you, the
great divine light.
Janai, a holy thread, worn around the neck by
Brahmins and Chhetris, is worn to denote Brahma,
Vishnu and Shiva. It is believed that all the
three gods reside in the holy thread making it
a divine. The Mantra to invoke the desired diety
Begins with the word "Aum". It is believed
that the one who realizes the significance of
this Mantra will easily reach god.
According to a very old Nepali tradition, a person
planning a journey first consults an astrologer
to figure out the right time for the person to
begin a journey. Then on the day fixed for the
person to leave the person's family organizes
a farewell ceremony the main highlight of which
is a ritual dish (sagun) which is supposed to
bring the person good luck. The ritual dish consists
of a boiled egg, a thick round lentil cake, a
dried fish, a piece of meat and a piece of ginger.
The sagun is usually given, accompanied either
by alcohol or yogurt and a vermilion mark on his/her
forehead locally called Teeka.
Makara, meaning crocodile in Sanskrit, is a traditional
motif used in decorative art, which is very common
in Nepal. This motif can be found used in Nepali
temple toranas (tympanums), traditional water
and wine jars, spouts, bronze containers, jewelry
etc. The makara is shown having watchful eyes,
very sharp teeth, flaming lips, two little legs
and at times it is shown having a tough scaly
body, four legs and a long floriated tail. Makara
is more a symbol of a perennial source of life
than a mere decorative piece of art. The incessant
flow of water from the mouth of makara in spouts
reflects the cycle of creation.