08 November 2011

Symbols part two

Significant to both Hindus and Buddhists, the lotus flower is a symbol of purification from the imperfections of the body, speech, and mind. Many Buddhist deities are portrayed sitting on lotus flowers.

The endless knot represents the unity of religious knowledge and non-religious knowledge. This symbol is endlessly popular on architecture, particularly as the filler on railings and fences.

Popularized by the Lama in Kipling's novel Kim, the wheel symbolizes the rotation of life in accordance with Buddha's teachings.

This picture, the center of the tapestry around which the other pictures are stitched, unites the eight auspicious symbols into a single, cohesive whole. The picture is the unity of doctrine and meaning, the ultimate symbol of Buddhist thought.

Prayer beads. Each of these strings contains exactly 108 beads, which the Tibetans will often wrap around the wrist and tick while walking to work or school. These beads are similar to rosary beads in other faiths. When Amalah used her prayer beads, she would say "om mani padme hum" each time as she slid a bead, all the way around.
These are Tibetan monks wearing wine-red robes. The robes symbolize the vows they've taken as they have become monks, and they always wear them. Robes like this come in small sizes, for the 13 year old monks I met at the TCV, and up.

The turban is symbolic in the Sikh faith. Sikh warrior men do not believe in cutting their hair, so they keep it wrapped up in turbans on their heads. This functions as an automatic head covering when they visit holy sites such as the Harmandir Sahib, the holiest site in the world for Sikhs. The turban is one of the five traits of a Sikh warrior; the other four are a special comb, a silver dagger, particular undergarments, and a metal bracelet.

Pilgrims walking around the Harmandir Sahib must cover their heads. Women cover their heads with a dupatta and men with a turban. Covering your head in a holy place is a sign of respect for the sacredness of the setting.

This bell, hanging at the entrance to the Hindu temple in Amritsar, is a ghanta, a bell used to rid the area of devils and invite gods to come. Bells are traditionally used in Hindu pujas, religious rituals.

As the sign indicates, this statue is of Lord Shiva. Shiva is one of the three main Hindu gods, the destroyer god. He is often portrayed in meditation, but because he is such an important god, he is portrayed in many different actions.

These hats add to the highly theatrical aspect of the entire Indian-Pakistani border closing ceremony. Their behavior and dress emphasize the "official" status of their countries as peacefully separate, but the truth of the matter is that violence continues between the two nations.

This is me (and an elephant!) and I am wearing a salwar kameez. The dupatta is the scarf around my neck, and it is a symbol of female virtue. In a traditional mindset, an Indian woman would never be seen without her dupatta because it would be tantamount to being a prostitute.

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This is me with my host family the day I left McLeod. We have khalags around our necks, the white silk scarves that Tibetans give to family and friends at greetings, at weddings, and at partings.

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