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Symbolisms in Hinduism A study on various day to day symbols in Hinduism and a system for an exhibition on the same

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Design Project 1 Vidhushri Ladha Graphic Design S0800015 Guide: Immanuel Suresh 2


The first project is like just entering into the deep part of the swimming pool, where we have been enjoying the shallow waters of the structured courses! So while I struggled to make my decisions and keep this project in place, a lot of people supported me and did not let me drown! Thanks...mom, dad, Madhu, Tanmay, my cousins, Suresh, my dearest friends, Samyak and all those who motivated me ...

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A documentation of the process followed in Elective 1 Printed at: Chaap printers, formerly Patel printers Typefaces used: Meta and Palatino LT Std

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Contents Project Brief 6 Project Details 7 Research 8 Analysis 38 Ideation 44 Final Concept 56 Bilbliography 89

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Project Brief Theme: Indian food and festivals In Indian context, food and festivals are important and integral part of our daily lives. It also influences the visual culture of India. Some keywords: food spices ayurveda remedial food taste organic food importance of life cycle of food energy map and food emotions and food food and sayings What is our objective? to learn from this rich visual culture around the food and festival in the Indian context to research inherent graphic/visual language using systems thinking to innovate graphic/visual design opportunities and realise them into a systems level graphic application Design Application Project deliverable/ application can be explored on the basis of research done Various steps in the process Information collection User research/ survey Analysis and identifying the opportunity areas User identification Ideation of innovative concepts The final strategy and concept along with the executed deliverable

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Project Details Introduction There are so many objects that surround us, which have something special to say and symbolise something unique. When I chose this topic, I had no clue about the vast field of study that Hindu symbolism is. To me these were questions unanswered around me. I just happened to wonder what does a kalash stand for? Why is it given so much importance? What are its various uses in our culture? And as I entered into researching and reading on the same I realised there are so many of such objects and rituals which I come across on a daily basis, but hardly know what it stands for. Why are these objects considered to be sacred and what do they symbolise?

Suresh as the guide Indian food and festivals have so many stories, many interpretations and decades of evolving culture attached to it. The kind of topic I had chosen, was abstract, would require a fresh perspective, an intricate understanding of semiotics and culture. I thought it would be interesting and a fun learning experience to take Immanuel Suresh as my guide as he would be able to make the process more interactive with his many experiences and stories.

Scope of work Research, information collection and analysis of the selected object/objects. Using this as the base to choose a medium and deliver a message or a piece of information.

Methodology Research from books, web and information collection by talking to people with knowledge on Hindu rituals Witnessing certain rituals & practices Putting together and information segregation Analysis and reflecting upon Taking forward an interesting fact and using it to deliver information or a message through graphical applications

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Research Symbolism Symbolism in Hinduism Hindu rituals Studying selected symbols Rights of Passage 16 Hindu Samskaras Mythilla paintings Warli and symbolism Audience survey

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As I started reading on this and related topics, some pointers and inputs from Suresh helped me gain a direction: Look at semiotics The inter-relation between rituals, objects and communication. How and when does an object become ritualistic? At which point does it become symbolic? Why are there rituals? What are they? Difference between rituals and beliefs Elements between rituals and beliefs in a narrative are objects Look at 'objects in narrative' Object can become identities Look at sacrifices and human mind Hence I started off my research with these questions and points in mind

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Symbolism in Hinduism The Hindu world is permeated by symbols. Religiously significant symbolic images adorn temples, statues of the gods and goddesses, sacred texts, and even individual people. Furthermore, most religious rituals are themselves highly symbolic, with each action and gesture resonating with symbolic significance. Hinduism employs the art of symbolism with amazing effect. No religion is so replete with symbols as this ancient religion. And all Hindus are touched by this allpervasive symbolism all through the life in some way or the other. These Hindu symbols are abstract representaion of God. They form a bridge between the formless god and the human mind, which expects and demands a form. Hindus achieve supreme things by simple ways of following symbols. Basic Hindu symbolism is enunciated in the Dharmashastras, but much of it developed with the evolution of his unique 'way of life'.

Rituals A ritual can be defined as a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. In Hinduism, these rituals are always meant to inculcate feelings of devotion and to bring about the divine orientation of human life. As a part of his householders responsibilities, a devout Hindu is expected to perform certain rituals every day starting from morning till evening.These rituals range from daily pujas to elaborate shrautas. These are meant to help to get rid of hostile influences and attract benefecial ones. Rituals are performed for several purposes and aims: material, spiritual, health and social. They are also performed for

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the better development of personality and purification of human life. Puja is essentially a ritual suggestive of symbolic offering of ourselves, our thoughts, desires, actions and things we own to God, as a mark of devotion and surrender, enjoying whatever that comes to us as a gift from Him. In Hinduism puja is the most popular form of divine worship. It is performed either by individuals or by groups and either directly by a worshipper or indirectly by a priest on behalf of the worshipper. The word ‘puja’ consists of two letters, ‘pa’ and ‘ja’. “Pa” means ‘parayana’ or continuous repetition of the names of God and ‘ja’ means ‘japa’ or continuous mental recitation of the names of God. So according to this interpretation ‘puja’ is essentially a kind of worship in which both parayanam and japam are practised by the devotees. In a nutshell, there is a wide range of ritual practices within Hinduism which focus on deities, each distinct to its tradition and region, yet at the same time displaying features which can be found throughout Hinduism from India to abroad. Hindus perform rituals of sacrifice and puja to propitiate deities and receive blessings, and some Hindus perform private rituals for the purposes of salvation (mukti) and to experience the pleasures of higher worlds or heavens (bhakti). Ritual provides continuity of tradition through the generations, arguably conveys implicit Hindu values, and sets the parameters for the Hindu’s sense of identity.


Studying chosen objects for symbolism Every object associated with the ritual of Puja or worship is symbolically significant. The statue or image of the deity, which is called ‘Vigraha’ (Sanskrit: ‘vi’+ ‘graha’) means something that is devoid of the ill effects of the planets or ‘grahas’. The flower that we offer to the deity stands for the good that has blossomed in us. The fruits offered symbolize our detachment, selfsacrifice and surrender, and the incense we burn collectively stands for the desires we have for various things in life. The lamp we light represents the light in us, that is the soul, which we offer to the Absolute. The vermilion or red powder stands for our emotions. This is a vast topic, so to understand symbolism further, I noted down a list of objects which are considered sacred and symbolise a range of things during day to day Hindu rituals. Most of these objects included ones which I come across on a regular basis, but little do I know of their symbolism. Kalash Tulsi Deepak Lotus Swastika Bell Om Cow

Shankha Bhasma Saffron colour Kumkum Trishul Rudraaksh Gangajal Agni

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Kalash First of all what is a kalash? A brass, mud or copper pot is filled with water. Mango leaves are placed in the mouth of the pot and a coconut is placed over it. A red or white thread is tied around its neck or sometimes all around it in a intricate diamond shaped pattern. The pot may be decorated with designs. Such a pot is known as a kalasha. When the pot is filled with water or rice, it is known as purnakumbha representing the inert body which when filled with the divine life force gains the power to do all the wonderful things that makes life what it is. A kalasha is placed with due rituals on all important occasions like the traditional house warming (grihapravesa), wedding, daily worship etc. It is placed near the entrance as a sign of welcome. It is also used in a traditional manner while receiving holy personages. Why do we worship the kalasha? Before the creation came into being, Lord Vishnu was reclining on His snake-bed in the milky ocean. From His navel emerged a lotus from which appeared Lord Brahma, the creator, who thereafter created this world. The water in the kalasha symbolizes the primordial water from which the entire creation emerged. It is the giver of life to all and has the potential of creating innumerable names and forms, the inert objects and the sentient beings and all that is auspicious in the world from the energy behind the universe. The leaves and coconut represent creation. The thread represents the love that binds all in creation. The kalasha is therefore considered auspicious and worshipped. The waters from all the holy rivers, the knowledge of all the Vedas and the blessings of all the deities are invoked in the kalasha and its water is thereafter used for all the rituals, including the abhisheka. The consecration

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(kumbhaabhisheka) of a temple is done in a grand manner with elaborate rituals including the pouring of one or more kalashas of holy water on the top of the temple. When the asuras and devas churned the milky ocean, the Lord appeared bearing the pot of nectar, which blessed one with everlasting life. Thus the kalasha also symbolizes immortality. Men of wisdom are full and complete as they identify with the infinite Truth (poornatvam). They brim with joy and love and respect all that is auspicious. We greet them with a purnakumbha (“full pot�) acknowledging their greatness and as a sign of respectful and reverential welcome, with a full heart. The kalash is used for creating seat for invoked deities during the puja ritual. First it is filled with water and then leaves of mango tree or that of betel vine are kept in it. These leaves are known as leaves of deity’s seat. The deity principle gets maximaly attracted to these leaves of seat. The water inside the kalash keeps this seat pure till the ritual of Pranapratishta (invoking deity into an image, idol, coconut or betelnut). Thus the invoked deity principle stays for a long period. In this kalash betel nut or some coins are then put. Thereafter a coconut is set up on the mouth of the kalash. The tuft of coconut attracts the deity principle from the atmosphere and it is then transmitted to the water in the kalash through the body of cococnut. The neck of the pot is tied with a white, yellow or red colored thread or cloth. The water is pure and clean to the highest extent. That is the reason it is able to attract the sattvik particles of frequencies of deities. But it contains less quantity of raja particles and therefore has poor capacity to project the sattva particles.


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Lotus The lotus is the symbol of truth, auspiciousness and beauty (satyam, shivam, sundaram). The Lord is also that nature and therefore, His various aspects are compared to a lotus (i.e. lotus-eyes, lotus feet, lotus hands, the lotus of the heart etc.). The lotus blooms with the rising sun and close at night. Similarly, our minds open up and expand with the light of knowledge. The lotus grows even in slushy areas. It remains beautiful and untainted despite its surroundings, reminding us that we too can and should strive to remain pure and beautiful within, under all circumstances. The lotus leaf never gets wet even though it is always in water. It symbolizes the man of wisdom (gyaani) who remains ever joyous, unaffected by the world of sorrow and change. This is revealed in a shloka from the Bhagwad-Geeta:

emerging from the navel of Lord Vishnu symbolically represents that life begins in water. It also symbolically suggests that all living and non living are connected to the ultimate source through an invisible thread but we unfortunately don’t realize it.

Brahmanyaadhaaya karmaani Sangam tyaktvaa karoti yaha Lipyate na sa paapena Padma patram ivaambhasaa

Padma: pink lotus, Kamala: red lotus, Pundarika: white lotus, Utpala: blue lotus

He who does actions, offering them to Brahman (the Supreme), abandoning attachment, is not tainted by sin, just as a lotus leaf remains unaffected by the water on it. It is believed that Lord Brahma emerged from the navel of Lord Vishnu sitting on a lotus. Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of learning, is shown sitting on a lotus. Lotus flower is a symbol of eternity, plenty and good fortune and Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, is usually depicted with a lotus flower. Numerous gods and goddess in Hindu pantheon are depicted as sitting on the lotus or carrying it. In Hinduism, Lotus represents the concept of primordial birth from the cosmic waters of creation. Lord Brahma

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The lotus bud is compared with a folded heart or soul which contain within itself the ability to unfold or awaken. The lotus is also a symbol for the centers of consciousness (chakras) in the body. The auspicious sign of the swastika is said to have evolved from the lotus. The ultimate aim of each human being is to be the lotus flower – perform the Dharma without being attached to the world.


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Swastika Swastika is not a syllable or a letter, but a pictorial character in the shape of a cross with branches bent at right angles and facing in a clockwise direction. A must for all religious celebrations and festivals, Swastika symbolizes the eternal nature of the Brahman, for it points in all directions, thus representing the omnipresence of the Absolute.

The right-hand swastika is one of the 108 symbols of the god Vishnu as well as a symbol of the sun and of the sun god Surya. The symbol imitates in the rotation of its arms the course taken daily by the sun, which appears in the Northern Hemisphere to pass from east, then south, to west. (It is also a symbol of the sun among Native Americans.)

The term 'Swastika' is believed to be a fusion of the two Sanskrit words 'Su' (good) and 'Asati' (to exist), which when combined means 'May Good Prevail'. Historians say Swastika could have represented a real structure and that in ancient times forts were built for defense reasons in a shape closely resembling the Swastika. For its protective power this shape began to be sanctified.

The left-hand swastika (called a Sauvastika) usually represents the terrifying goddess Kali, night and magic. However, this form of the swastika is not “evil” and it is the form most commonly used in Buddhism.

The symbol of Swastika is considered to be highly auspicious and thus it is quite often used in the art and architecture of Hindus. It finds a special place for itself in the wedding decorations. Swastika designs can be found in temples, doorways, clothing, cars etc. Most of the wedding cards have the Swastika symbol imprinted on them. The four wings of the Swastika cross point towards the four directions, namely North, East, South and West, which connotes stability, firmness and strength. It is used as the symbol of Sun, thereby representing Lord Surya. It also represents the world wheel around a fixed and unchanging centre; god. Some also regard it as a symbol of the Kaustubh mani, at the chest of Vishnu. Most of the religious scriptures contain the design of Swastika. Even, the Hindu god Ganesha is depicted as sitting on a lotus flower kept on the bed of Swastikas. Hindus worship it as a symbol of Ganesha as well.

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Swastika symbolizes an ideal life. This can be demonstrated by employing a simple device. Supply Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha — the four purusharthas (aims, essentials, in human life, according to Hindu tradition), into the four arms of a right-facing swastika, beginning from the top-left box. Again, it is worthwhile to place into the four boxes of swastika, the four traditional stages of life (ashramas), namely, Brahmacharya (celibate student-life), Garhastya (householder’s life), Vaanaprastha (retired life), and Sanyasa (renunciation)


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Tilak The tilak or pottu invokes a feeling of sanctity in the wearer and others. It is recognized as a religious mark. Its form and colour vary according to one’s caste, religious sect or the form of the Lord worshipped. In earlier times, the four castes (based on varna or colour)Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra, applied marks differently. The brahmin applied a white chandan mark signifying purity, as his profession was of a priestly or academic nature. The kshatriya applied a red kumkum mark signifying valour as he belonged to warrior races. The vaishya wore a yellow kesar or turmeric mark signifying prosperity as he was a businessman or trader devoted to creation of wealth. The sudra applied a black bhasma, kasturi or charcoal mark signifying service as he supported the work of the other three divisions. Also Vishnu worshippers apply a chandan tilak of the shape of "U", Shiva worshippers a tripundra of bhasma, Devi worshippers a red dot of kumkum and so on). The tilak cover the spot between the eyebrows, which is the seat of memory and thinking. It is known as the Aajna Chakra in the language of Yoga. Several different materials are used to apply tilaks of various forms, each of these are said to signify something unique: Sandal: White sandal symbolizes purity, calmness and tranquility Kumkum: Red kumkum signifies power, vigor, dynamism and stability Turmeric: Saffron colored turmeric stands for wealth, fortune, prosperity and opulence Holy Ashes or Vibhuti: Vibhuti represents dedication, devotion and commitment

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Tilak can be applied in varied forms as a mark of auspiciousness as well as blessing. Numerous mentions have been made about Tilak in the ancient scriptures such as Vedas and Upanishads. Rig Veda has given an elaborate description about the life of Goddess Usha, the consort of Lord Surya. She is portrayed as wearing a red dot on her forehead that signifies the rising sun. The tilak is applied with the prayer - "May I remember the Lord. May this pious feeling pervade all my activities. May I be righteous in my deeds." Even when we temporarily forget this prayerful attitude the mark on another reminds us of our resolve. The tilak is thus a blessing of the Lord and a protection against wrong tendencies and forces. The entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves - the forehead and the subtle spot between the eyebrows especially so. That is why worry generates heat and causes a headache. The tilak and pottu cools the forehead, protects us and prevents energy loss. Sometimes the entire forehead is covered with chandan or bhasma. Using plastic reusable "stick bindis" is not very beneficial, even though it serves the purpose of decoration.


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Shankha When the conch is blown, the primordial sound of Om emanates. Om is an auspicious sound that was chanted by the Lord before creating the world. It represents the world and the Truth behind it. As the story goes, the demon Shankhaasura defeated devas, the Vedas and went to the bottom of the ocean. The devas appealed to Lord Vishnu for help. He incarnated as Matsya Avataara - the "fish incarnation" and killed Shankhaasura. The Lord blew the conchshaped bone of his ear and head. The Om sound emanated, from which emerged the Vedas. All knowledge enshrined in the Vedas is an elaboration of Om. The conch therefore is known as shankha after Shankaasua. Each Hindu shankha has a specific name. Vishnu’s shankha is called “Panchajanya” . He carries it at all times in one of His four hands. It represents dharma or righteousness that is one of the four goals (purushaarthas) of life. It is believed that when it is blown, it announces the victory of good over evil. In the epic war, Mahabharata, the conch shell held a significant place. Arjuna’s shankha was called “Devdutta” , Bhima’s “Paundra”, Yudhisthira’s “Anantavijaya”, Nakula’s “Sughosa” and Sahadeva’s was known as “Manipushpaka”. Another well-known purpose of blowing the conch and the instruments, known traditionally to produce auspicious sounds is to drown or mask negative comments or noises that may disturb or upset the atmosphere or the minds of worshippers. Ancient India lived in her villages. Each village was presided over by a primary temple and several small

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ones. During the aarati performed after all-important poojas and on sacred occasions, the conch used to be blown. Since villages were generally small, the sound of the conch would be heard all over the village. People who could not make it to the temple were reminded to stop whatever they were doing, at least for a few seconds, and mentally bow to the Lord. The conch sound served to briefly elevate people's minds to a prayerful attitude even in the middle of their busy daily routine. The conch is placed at the altar in temples and homes next to the Lord as a symbol of Naada Brahma (Truth), the Vedas, Om, dharma, victory and auspiciousness. It is often used to offer devotees thirtha (sanctified water) to raise their minds to the highest Truth. People usually collect and keep water in conch shell and is sprinkled while performing pujas. While performing Lakshmi Puja, conch shell is filled with milk and then it is poured over the idol. Water collected in Shankh is offered while worshipping sun. It is worshipped with the following verse. Twam puraa saagarot pannaha Vishnunaa vidhrutahakare Devaischa poojitha sarvahi Panchjanya namostu te Salutations to Panchajanya the conch born of the ocean Held in the hand of Lord Vishnu and worshipped by all devaas


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Coconut In India one of the most common offerings in a temple is a coconut. It is also offered on occasions like weddings, festivals, the use of a new vehicle, bridge, house etc. It is offered in the sacrificial fire whilst performing homa. The coconut is broken and placed before the Lord. It is later distributed as prasaada. The fibre covering of the dried coconut is removed except for a tuft on the top. The marks on the coconut make it look like the head of a human being. Breaking a coconut in Hindu temples – especially in temples dedicated to Lord Ganesha - and before auspicious events and new beginning is considered highly beneficial in Hinduism. Lord Ganesh is the deity invoked before any auspicious event or new beginning. Coconut is one of the most favorite foods of Ganesha. This is one reason why coconut is broken during housewarming, after the purchase of new vehicle etc. The offering of a coconut is a common offering to a deity in Hindu religion and it is distributed later as ‘prasad.’ The most important reason for offering coconut is that is the purest thing that a human being can offer to a deity. The water and the white kernel inside the coconut are the only unadulterated offering that a devotee makes to the Lord. It is not polluted as it remains covered by the hard outer shell until it is offered to the God. The coconut is broken, symbolising the breaking of the ego. In the traditional abhishekha ritual done in all temples and many homes, several materials are poured over the deity like milk, curd, honey, tender coconut water, sandal paste, holy ash etc. Each material has a specific significance of bestowing certain benefits on worshippers. Tender coconut water is used in abhisheka rituals since it is believed to bestow spiritual growth the

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The coconut also symbolises selfless service. Every part of the tree -the trunk, leaves, fruit, coir etc. Is used in innumerable ways like thatches, mats, tasty dishes, oil, soap etc. It takes in even salty water from the earth and converts it into sweet nutritive water that is especially beneficial to sick people. It is used in the preparation of many ayurvedic medicines and in other alternative medicinal systems. The marks on the coconut are even thought to represent the three-eyed Lord Shiva and therefore it is considered to be a means to fulfill our desires. On Rakhi Purnima (Rakshabandhan day) the coconuts are thrown into the sea as offerings to sea-God Varuna. In western India, the festival is called Nariyal Purnima (Coconut Full Moon). Coconut is also an important aspect in Kalasha or Poorna Kumbha. It is also called ‘shreephal’ as it denotes prosperity. Sage Vishwamitri is said to have got the first coconut tree grown on this earth.


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Tulsi In Sanskrit, tulanaa naasti athaiva tulsi - that which is incomparable (in its qualities) is the tulsi. For Indians it is one of the most sacred plants. In fact it is known to be the only thing used in worship, which, once used, can be washed and reused in pooja - as it is regarded so selfpurifying. As one story goes, Tulsi was the devoted wife of Shankh chuda, a celestial being. She believed that Lord Krishna tricked her into sinning. So she cursed Him to become a stone (shaaligraama). Seeing her devotion and adhered to righteousness, the Lord blessed her saying that she would become the worshipped plant, tulsi that would adorn His head. Also that all offerings would be incomplete without the tulsi leaf - hence the worship of tulsi. She also symbolises Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. Those who wish to be righteous and have a happy family life worship the tulsi. Tulsi is married to the Lord with all pomp and show as in any wedding. This is because according to another legend, the Lord blessed her to be His consort. Satyabhama once weighed Lord Krishna against all her legendary wealth. The scales did not balance till a single tulsi leaf was placed along with the wealth on the scale by Rukmini with devotion. Thus the tulsi played the vital role of demonstrating to the world that even a small object offered with devotion means more to the Lord than all the wealth in the world. The tulsi leaf has great medicinal value and is used to cure various ailments, including the common cold. The presence of tulsi plant symbolizes the religious bent of a Hindu family. A Hindu household is considered incomplete if it doesn’t have a tulsi plant in the courtyard. Many families have the tulsi planted in a

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specially built structure, which has images of deities installed on all four sides, and an alcove for a small earthen oil lamp. Some households can even have up to a dozen tulsi plants on the verandah or in the garden forming a ‘tulsi-van’ or ‘tulsivrindavan’ - a miniature basil forest. It is also believed that pouring water to the tulsi plant eliminates sin. Yanmule sarvatirhaani Yannagre sarvadevataa Yanmadhye sarvavedaascha Tulsi taam namaamyaham I bow down to the tulsi, At whose base are all the holy places, At whose top reside all the deities and In whose middle are all the Vedas.


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Lamp

Bell

In almost every Indian home a lamp is lit daily before the altar of the Lord. In some houses it is lit at dawn, in some, twice a day – at dawn and dusk – and in a few it is maintained continuously (Akhanda Deepa). All auspicious functions commence with the lighting of the lamp, which is often maintained right through the occasion. Light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness, ignorance. The Lord is the "Knowledge Principle" (Chaitanya) who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge. Hence light is worshiped as the Lord himself. Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness. Also knowledge is a lasting inner wealth by which all outer achievement can be accomplished. Hence we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth.

Why does one ring the bell on entering a temple? Is it to wake up the Lord? But the Lord never sleeps. Is it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to be told, as He is all knowing. Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct? It is a homecoming and therefore entry needs no permission. The Lord welcomes us at all times. Then why do we ring the bell?

Why not light a bulb or tube light? That too would remove darkness. But the traditional oil lamp has a further spiritual significance. The oil or ghee in the lamp symbolizes our vaasanas or negative tendencies and the wick, the ego. When lit by spiritual knowledge, the vaasanas get slowly exhausted and the ego too finally perishes. The flame of a lamp always burns upwards. Similarly we should acquire such knowledge as to take us towards higher ideals. Whilst lighting the lamp we thus pray: Deepajyothi parabrahma Deepa sarva tamopahaha Deepena saadhyate saram Sandhyaa deepo namostute I prostrate to the dawn/dusk lamp; whose light is the Knowledge Principle (the Supreme Lord), which removes the darkness of ignorance and by which all can be achieved in life.

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The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om, the universal name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness. Even while doing the ritualistic aarati, we ring the bell. It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of the conch and other musical instruments. An added significance of ringing the bell, conch and other instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardour, concentration and inner peace. As we start the daily ritualistic worship (pooja) we ring the bell, chanting: Aagamaarthamtu devaanaam gamanaarthamtu rakshasaam Kurve ghantaaravam tatra devataahvaahna lakshanam I ring this bell indicating the invocation of divinity, So that virtuous and noble forces enter (my home and heart); and the demonic and evil forces from within and without, depart.


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Here I should mention about another important discussion that I had with my guide. As I was looking at each of these symbols and stories related to them, Suresh opened some new windows and also some interesting questions popped up: Read about symbolisms in other contexts like dresscodes Look into the concept of Rights of Passage Who is your target audience for this project? How will your approach in applying this research differ in each case? What do you want to convey? Do you want to use inspiration from these topics or direact analysis of the research? Keep religious bias aside.

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Rights of passage A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person’s progress from one status to another. It is a universal phenomenon which can show anthropologists what social hierarchies, values and beliefs are important in specific cultures. Rites of passage are often ceremonies surrounding events such as other milestones within puberty, coming of age, marriage and death. Initiation ceremonies such as baptism, confirmation and Bar or Bat Mitzvah are considered important rites of passage for people of their respective religions. This concept exists in several religions over the globe. I further directed myself to read about the rights of passage in Hinduism. These are called the samskaras. In Sanskrit the word samskara literally means, ‘making perfect’ or ‘refining’, and so a samskara is a ceremony of refinement, which is to say, refining or raising an individual beyond his or her mere physical existence and marking a higher spiritual existence. Samskaras bind an individual into his or her social group. Hence, Samskara is a religious ceremony or act regarded as an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace . These religious samskaras are performed majorly for two reasons: They mark clearly an important occasion of life transition to gain blessings from dieties, society, friends and family

picture is painted with various colors, so the character of a person is formed by undergoing various samskaras.” Thus, the Hindu sages realised the need of consciously guiding and molding the character of individuals, instead of letting them grow in a haphazard manner. 2. Spiritual: According to the seers, samskaras impart a higher sanctity to life. Impurities associated with the material body are eradicated by performing samskaras. The whole body is consecrated and made a fit dwelling place for the atma. According to the Atri Smruti a man is born a Shudra; by performing the Upanayana Samskara he becomes a Dvija (twice born); by acquiring the Vedic lore he becomes a Vipra (an inspired poet); and by realising Brahman (God) he becomes a Brahmin.

These are considered essential for the members of the three higher varnas and serve to purify the soul at critical junctions in ones life. Purpose of Samskaras 1. Cultural: The variety of rites and rituals related to the samskaras help in the formation and development of personality. In the Parashar Smruti it is said, “Just as a

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The 16 Hindu Samskaras There are about 40 of these, 16 are central to religion, out of which 8 are actually practised The 16 main samskaras can be broadly categorised into:

Pre-natal Samskaras 1. Garbhadan (Conception) 2. Punswan (Engendering a male issue) 3. Simantonayana (Hair-parting)

Childhood Samskaras (4) Jatakarma (Birth rituals) (5) Namakarana (Name-giving) (6) Nishkrama (First outing) (7) Annaprashana (First feeding) (8) Chudakarma (or Chaul) (Shaving of head) (9) Karnavedh (Piercing the earlobes)

Educational Samskaras (10) Vidyarambha (Learning the alphabet) (11) Upanayana (Sacred thread initiation) (12) Vedarambha (Beginning Vedic study) (13) Keshant (Godaan) (Shaving the beard) (14) Samavartan (End of studentship)

Marriage Samskara (15) Vivaha (Marriage Ceremony)

Death Samskara (16) Antyeshti (Death rites)

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Garbhadhan Garbhadhan is the first process for the birth of a human child. It is The first coming together of the husband & wife for bringing about conception. It is the first among the sixteen Samskaras. It has been accepted as the first duty after entering the Grihastha Ashram, to a life of a householder. It is the pious duty of everyone to raise family for the continuity of life, as we all know that each person is mortal. There is no family life if one fails to have children. Garbhadhan is performed for better and healthy children who are free from physical deformity. The manusmriti says that all the cultures and refined persons who have got another birth by different samskaras must perform Garbhadhan so that they can get better life here and hereafter.

Punswan Punswan Samskara is performed three months after conception for life-being and safety. It is explained as a samskara for begetting a son. However in reality, it is calling the life force to descend on the Earth and enter the womb of the lady to give life to the foetus. In fact, it is done for the balanced physical and mental growth of the child in the womb. It was also done as a measure to avoid abortion. This samskara is very important for the mental growth of a child. The shastras say that to correctly bear the responsibility of the birth of a child, one must make preparations to welcome the child.

Simantonayana The general meaning of the Simantonnayan samskara is upgradation of limitations but the real meaning is the prosperity of extreme quality. People wrongly believe that it is the combing ceremony in which the husband combs the hair of the wife. It is the part of a ritual. It is done in such a way that the 7th and the highest chkra, which is activated for the all round development of the

child in the womb. It gives confidence, solace, love and respect for caring family members, responsibility and attraction towards the child growing inside. This is done a month before the delivery for safe and secure birth. A son is needed, no doubt, but the son must be healthy and strong. Moreover, the girl who has become a mother must have the confidence that everything will be allright or else she may succumb to intense pain.

Jatakarma These rituals are performed at the birth of the child. It is believed that the moon has a special effect on the newly born. In addition, the constellation of the planets nakshatras - also determine the degree of auspiciousness. If birth occurs during aninauspicious arrangement, the jatakarmas are performed to ward off their detrimental effects on the child. The father would also request the Brahmanishtha Satpurush for blessings. Jatkarma liberates the father from all the four debts: debt to dieties, debt to sages, debt to ancestors, debt to society.

Namakarana Based on the arrangement of the constellations at birth, the child is named on a day fixed by caste tradition. In the Hindu Dharma, the child is frequently named after an avatar, deity, sacred place or river, saint, etc., as a constant reminder of the sacred values for which that name represents. At the time of this samskara, the tension of childbirth is over and hence it's a pleasurable ceremony.

Nishkarma The Nishkarma ceremony is performed when the child is three months old. The child is taken into the open to face the wind and sunshine, so that the sustaining power of the child can grow. The parents and the other members give the child into the care and protection of the Sun, the

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Moon, and the sky. The meaning is that the child now goes under the protection of the world and the society.

two definite purposes: one was to avoid paralytic attack, and the other was to give a sense of security to the child.

Annaprashana

Vidyarambha

Annaprashana is ceremoniously giving a child his first cereal food(anna) when he is six months old. The food offered is cooked rice with ghee. Some sutras advocate honey to be mixed with this. By advocating this samskara, the wise sages accomplished two important considerations, firstly, the child is weaned away from the mother at a proper time, secondly, it warns the mother to stop breast feeding the child. For an uninformed mother, many out of love, continue breast feeding the child, without realising that she was not doing much good to herself or the child.

Chudakarma This samskara involves shaving the head (of a son) in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 5th year, or when initiating him with the janoi (Upanayan). Besides longevity, strength and radiance, Chudakarma is performed to facilitate the cosmic electromagnetic waves to enter in controlled proportion as a bit of hair is cut from the four sides before the head is shaved off. A bit of hair is left at the centre to act as the antenna. The mind is the centre of all the actions and ideas. This ceremony enriches, activates and refines the mind. The meaning behind cutting off the hair that came with birth is to eliminate the animal qualities from the life and mind of the child. Hence this samskara erases the animal instincts and replaces them with human quality and nature.

Karnavedh The child’s ear lobes are pierced either on the 12th or 16th day; or 6th, 7th or 8th month; or 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th or 9th year. In the present time ears are pierced of both, the boys and girls for wearing ornaments. Earlier on, it had

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This samskara is also known as Akshararambha, Aksharlekhan, Aksharavikaran and Aksharavishkaran. It is performed at the age of five and is necessary before commencing Vedic study - Vedarambh. After bathing, the child sits facing west, while the acharya (teacher) sits facing east. Saffron and rice are scattered on a silver plank. With a gold or silver pen the child is made to write letters on the rice.

Upanayana Upanayana is also called vratbandhan. The munja is tied either to the waist or worn as a janeva, this samskar is said to give inner vision. The word Upanayana is formed of two words, Up(near) and Nayan (the eye and to take towards). Our eyes take us towards something. This is the rite that facilitates us with the power to get knowledge. Amongst all the foregoing samskaras this is regarded as the supreme. It is the dawn of a new life, hence dvija - twice born. The child enters studentship and a life of perfect discipline. This is like the foundation stone of human life. It is the preparation to know the social, moral, worldly and spiritual responsibilities and fulfil them.

Vedarambha This samskara was not mentioned in the earliest lists of the Dharma Sutras, which instead listed the four vedic vows - Ved Vrats. It seemed that though upanayan marked the beginning of education, it did not coincide with vedic study. Therefore a separate samskara was felt necessary to initiate vedic study. In this samskara, each student, according to his lineage, masters his own branch of the Vedas.


Keshant This samskara is included as one of the four Ved Vrats. When the other three faded, keshant itself became a separate samskara. ‘Kesh’ means hair and ‘ant’ means end. This samskara involves the first shaving of the beard by the student at the age of sixteen. It is also called Godaan because it involves gifting a cow to the acharya and gifts to the barber. Since the student now enters manhood he is required to be more vigilant over his impulses of youth. To remind him of his vow of brahmacharya, he is required to take the vow anew; to live in strict continence and austere discipline for one year.

Samavartan This samskara is performed at the end of the brahmacharya phase - the end of studentship. ‘Sama vartan’ meant ‘returning home from the house of the acharya.’ This involves a ritual sacrificial bath known as Awabhruth Snan. It is sacrificial because it marks the end of the long observance of brahmacharya. It is a ritual bath because it symbolises the crossing of the ocean of learning by the student - hence Vidyasnaatak - one who has crossed the ocean of learning. In Sanskrit literature, learning is compared to an ocean. Before the bath, the student has to obtain permission from the acharya to end his studentship and give him guru-dakshina, tuition fees. Permission is necessary because it certifies the student as a person fit in learning, habit and character for a married life. In todays time, this coincides with the concept of convocation.

Hindu marriage is also regarded as an important social institution. For developing a stable and ideal society, marriage has been regarded as an essential element in all cultures of the world. A society without loyal marital ties tends to degrade. It is said that promiscuity was one reason for the downfall of the Romans. By marriage, both an individual and society, while remaining within the moral norms, can progress together. Simultaneously it does not cause harm to others nor infringe upon one’s independence. This samskara boosts cultural values and dharma. It upholds and promotes moral righteousness and self control.

Antyeshi Life comes to a full circle. The samskaras that began before Punswam, end with the Antyeshi Samskara. Every person has to die. Yajur Veda regards vivaha as the sixteenth samskara while Rig Veda considers antyeshti. Though performed after the death of a person by his relatives, it is of importance because the value of the next world is higher than that of the present. The final rituals are performed with meticulous care with the help of Brahmin priests.

Vivah This is the most important of all the Hindu Samskaras. The Smrutis laud the gruhastha (householder) ashram as the highest, for it is the central support of the other three ashrams. In addition to being a religious sacrament,

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Another meeting was required to gain some direction as I read about this vast topic of the samskaras. The questions that were building up by now in my mind was how will I translate this research into an application. More than that what part of this research would I like to take to the audience and why? Books to refer: Whole Earth catalogue Indian Anti-Queries Customs and traditions for the world Golden Bough Read about the concept of hair, female hair are for men and male hair are for god Look at historic mediums of delivering information on such rituals, like the mythilla paintings from Bihar How can you connect symbolisms to the rights of passage? Try and question the audience and decide the target group

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Mythilla paintings While I was reading about symbolisms in hinduism and the rights of passage, I also had a look at the various traditional styles of portraying and depicting symbolism. One such miniature style that I read in detail about were the mythilla paintings of Bihar. These are one of the best known genre of Indian folk paintings, commonly known as madhubani paintings. Born in the early 1960s, it is made on the walls of kohbar/nuptial chamber on the occasions like a wedding, by women. It has evolved in these 40 years Styles are differentiated by region and caste Also known as chutrafugure painting and godhna, it started off as a decorative art for welcoming gods During the famine in 1964-65 in Bihar, it served as livelihood, shifted to papers, sarees, etc. Thin layer of cow dung and mud is applied on the walls and floors to form the base, a perfect black background created. Earlier natural colours were used, extracts from

henna, leaves, flowers, neem etc, along with resin from banana leaves and gum. Has two forms and varieties: Bhittichitra, made on the mud walls of puja rooms, drawing rooms, room of the newly wedded couple Aripana, drawing made on the floor of the house. Mostly used colours include deep colours like red, green, blue, black, besides pinkand yellow is also used Generally no space is left empty, the gaps are filled by paintings of flowers, animals, birds and even geometric designs. Two kinds of brushes are used, one for the tiny details, made out of bamboo twigs, other for filling in made out of twig and a small amount of cloth. History goes back to the time of ramamyana, where King Janak commissioned artists to make paintings of Ram and Sitas wedding.

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Warli and symbolism Warli paintings are folk paintings from Maharashtra and are very different from other folk and tribal paint ings in India. They do not narrate mythology in primary colours as did the Madhubanis nor did it contain the robust sensuality of the paintings found in Eastern India. Instead they are painted on mud, charcoal, cowdung based surface using only white colour, and are decorated with series of dots in red and yellow. Every symbols of Warli art has their own meaning and language. Men and women in spiral form and concentric circular designs in Warli paintings symbolize the circle of life. The harmony and balance depicted in these paintings is supposed to signify the harmony and balance of the universe. The sacred nature of the trees is suggested by their soaring heights in relation to the men and beasts. Dances of spring, of budding trees, of the meeting of lovers, and the poise and abandon form an important repertoire in tribal vocabulary. Nothing is static; the trees, the human

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figures, the birds challenge and respond to each other, create tensions and resolve them. The art of the tribal people symbolises man’s harmony with each other and with nature. These paintings also supposedly invoke powers of the Gods. Usually the warli paintings are done during the marriage ceremony and they call them as Lagnace citra meaning marriage paintings. The painting is very sacred and without it the marriage cannot take place. The warlis who are simple and happy in nature also include life around them in their paintings because they express everything they see, feel, and believe in life. Warli paintings have various subjects or themes, which depict a story from their daily activities. Each painting has numerous elements giving a vast panoramic view. The subjects found in these paintings are wedding scenes, various animals, birds, trees, men, women, children, descriptive harvest scene, group of men dancing around a person playing the music, dancing peacocks, and many more


Audience survey: a short questionnaire Another useful step in this process of information collection was that I prepared a questionnaire with the aim to know about what the various age groups of audiences know about these topics and how do they look at them. I was basically trying to get some answers to the question of ‘What do I want to convey further’ and ‘to whom’.

What do you think about rites and rituals? Do you know the meaning and symbolism behind objects like the kalash, swastika, lotus, deepak, tulsi etc, which form an important part of ritual ceremonies (especially in Hinduism)? Have you payed any attention to such symbolism while performing or witnessing rituals? What do the following objects signify to you? Tulsi: Kalash: Bhasma (holy ash): Swastika: Bell: Tilaks: Om: Shankh: Coconut: Deepak: Fire: Lotus:

Do you think children shall be exposed to such information? Why? Have any particular questions hit your head during performing a particular rite or ritual? What importance do these symbolisms and Rites of Passage hold according to you? How do you think the Rites of Passage help in the development of an individual? What sources of information have you come across which deliver information related to rites, rituals, traditions etc. (E.g. What kind of books?, Web etc)

Do you know about the concept called the Rites of Passage i.e. the ‘16 Samskaras’ in Hinduism? Have you performed/witnessed any of them? Please mention which. Would you like to know more about 1. Symbolisms in rituals 2. Rites of Passage? What would you like to know, read and see related to these topics?

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Analysis What, Why, to Whom, do I want to convey? Target Audience mapping Audience survey analysis Identifying the need in various groups What visuals can be used? Existing sources of information

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Here, I combine the discussion of 2-3 seatings with Suresh, which helped me analyse the research and the scenario better. What are the existing sources of such information? Look at symbolism in the rights of passage What new can you do or deliver with the existing elements You cannot fool around with religious objects Try and understand some selected audience groups, like when you take old people into consideration, they are lonely, have vision issues at times, need to be kept busy People from abroad, need to be informed, don’t really have knowledge about these topics Integrate, remove and add to the research material you have collected This is a hypothetical problem, you need to find the need and the solution Narrow down to the part of research that you would like to deliver Define audience firmly! Take up the role of a ‘Graphic Author’

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What Why To whom

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do I want to convey?


People studyin the subject

Educated or Less Educated

People living abroad

Rural or Urban

Tourists Hindu Practitioners or No specific religion group

Age groups

Children Youngsters Middle Aged/married Old

Priests, people intensively involved in ritual practises Housewives/married women Indians living abroad A larger audience - visiting the temple Educational Purpose

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Analysis of the audience survey

Identifying the need in each group

I got the questionnaire filled from people ranging from various age groups. My first observation was the fact that not many people know about these rituals and symbolisms, nor do they have the curiosity to inquire. But most of them are willing to be informed about the same by some interesting means of communication. Whatever information they had, the major sources included religious gatherings and elders. When we talk about the rights of passage, many of us follow some of the samskaras and have been a part of it, but do not know that they fall under a chain of rituals that define the lifetime of an individual. But the audience surely seemed to agree with the fact that these samskaras halp in the overall development of an individual. While performing a ritual many people wonder why are they doing this? what are they exactly doing? Answers to these questions to some extent would help them relate to these rituals better. Talking of Hindu symbols, It was very interesting to read how people associate these symbols with so many different things, with or without knowing their actual significance. This also made me question, do these symbols symbolise something concrete, or is it subjective to region, beliefs etc.

An important task was to recognise the need of such information in the various target groups that I was looking at.

This survey did help me understand various age groups better. Moreover the question about the need of such information, which was hovering on my mind, was also answered to some extent. My next step was to define the need within the various different target audience groups that I had identified.

Indians living abroad

People intensively involved in ritual practises Help them enlighten their audience while performing a ritual A guide for the young priests/ the ones who are new to the practice Help the elders in the family to pass on information to the younger generations

Educational purposes Helping institutions like Chinmaya Mission deliver such information Incorporating with academic learning Keeping the various age groups aware

Married Women/ Housewives A source of information for day to day routines Information guide for a particular occasion like first child For decorative purpose

To keep culture alive among younger generations Easily accessible source of such information

Aged People Help the elders in the family to pass on information to the younger generations A source to pass their time and keep them busy For decorative purpose

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What visuals can be used? In the case of symbols, they themselves form strong visuals which could be used to make several kinds of communication. Whereas when I looked at the 16 samskaras I realised that a visual could be attatched to each samskara, such that it speaks for itself. These, I thought could further help me explore applications and possibilities. Garbadhan: womb Simantonayana: hair parting of a lady Jatakarma: birth/new born Namakarana: Name/an elder saying the name in the child’s ear Nishkrama: baby under the sun and the moon Annaprashana: grains and child Chudakarma: child’s head getting shaved Karnavedh: ear being pierced Upanayana: sacred thread Vedarambha: slate and initial alphabets Samavartan: student taking blessings from teacher Vivaha: the knot Antyeshti: the fire Another important consideration was how should these visuals be with respect to the audience: They shouldn’t be very religious As the topic is abstract, they should increase the abstractness also. It basically required to strike a balance between the two. Easily comprehendable, by Hindus as well as others. Informative in themselves. Such that a wider age group can relate to them. Need to catch attention of the audience. Delivered in a way such that it can be reproduced in several sizes and mediums.

What are the existing sources of such information? Its important to study what is existing around on these topics in order to design a step further and fulfill the need of the target audience. So I looked at the existing sources of such information in every form of media: Books Websites Newspaper articles T.V. Programmes Elders Religious gatherings Pandits Word of mouth-stories

What, Why, to Whom? By this time, I realised that I was dealing with a lot of inter-connected information, and I would have to make the choice of which part of it would I like to communicate and take forward. I found it a good idea to bring to the notice of the selected target group the concept of symbolism and what do the objects used in day to day rituals symbolise. For this purpose I wished to target a larger audience, keeping children and old people aside though. If I made something which proved to be an indirect means of information to children, it was acceptable, but I did not want them to be the prime target audience. I thought targeting the youth, the student population would be a challenging situation.

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Ideation Concepts for deliverables Visual represntaion ideas Detailing out a concept

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As I started off with the process of ideation, I was somewhat lost in the middle of the questions of the target audience and the need. Here, Suresh explained to me that there are two kinds of needs which can be recognised in a project : the communication objective and the design objective. Under the communication objectives come the questions of what is the information that you want to pass on? What is its importance? What do you want to say through it? And under the design objectives come decisions of the visual language, representation, type, detailing, content. This input definitely helped me come up with ideas with a certain aim in mind.

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A quick ideation While I started ideating for concepts and deliverable, I quickly laid down the two broad topics under which my research could be categorised: Hindu symbols their significance The 16 Hindu Samskaras While I was reading on these topics, some vague ideas and concepts had come to my mind. Hence I made a quick chart of what potential do these topics hold as the basis for communication.

Hindu symbols

Symbols(visuals) Illustrations

Words(text) Several styles

Calendar Planner/diary The ‘WHY’ book Exhibition Wall graphics Story board

Timeline of events Samskaras

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Housewives/married women

Concrete poetry Traditional art Silhouettes


Concepts for deliverables Calender, integrating the information in the form of visuals and supportive text, this can be useful for elders in spaces like the kitchen/worship place. This could also be a supplement to a larger strategy like an exhibition. This becomes a source of information which you look at involuntarily, hence the information is not forced upon. Materials like leaflets/booklets/posters. These can be useful for priests to enlighten their audience, can be a source of promotion for larger events, can also be a part of worship places like temples. A travelling exhibition on symbolism or samskaras. Elders can take younger generations, this could also be travelling to educational institutions for general awareness. Wall graphics for a worship place. A visual representation of the samskaras using folk art. This can be for decorative purposes or supportive to text giving information. A range of posters applying the symbolisms in other contexts, to deliver required message. A planner/diary with interesting inserts on these topics. A guide/booklet for priests. The 16 samskaras woven into a story delivered according to the selected age group. A publication on ‘The Whys of Hindu rituals’. Interactive interface for religious spaces. Integrating samskaras with the concept of invitation or greeting cards.

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Further doodling and ideas for visual representation Illustrating using elements used in rituals: Kumkum Rangoli Haldi Aata Marigold flowers Mouli Kaajal Chandan Floor and wall art

These symbols are depicted in various different forms and styles in different kinds of applications. I tried to reproduce some from memory and looking around me. This was basically to just realise that it is important to explore before deciding how would I depict a symbol, as each form may have a definite use and symbolise something specific.

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Each of thise symbols formed a very simple and interesting contour and I felt that this could be used as a style of illustration.

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I thought each of these symbols could be used in a unique way to deliver a particular message based on what they symbolise. This could be through a range of posters. Various mediums of illustration could be used for the same.

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Some sort of interactiveness There were two other budding ideas in the process. One was to generate some sort of an interactive platform or a game which could connect objects to what they symbolise. Another idea was to incorporate the information about what these objects symbolise within their packaging design and graphics. For example, the packaging of diyas should also say what is its significance and why do we light them. This seemed very interesting!

Information along with packaging

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Detailing a particular application One of the ideas that I thought would be a nice idea to take forward and execute was a planner/diary which could either fulfill the use of a new year/diwali gift or target a larger audience specially religious Hindu adults and old people who would like to use such a diary for their day to day planning. I looked at diaries in the market and observed that there are so many varieties in terms of theme for todays youth and children. However, there are few such varieties which could interest adults and the aged. I laid down a rough structure for the planner and doodled options for pagination. I planned to have the inserts on the theme of Hindu symbols.

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At this moment, I did not have one particualar idea in mind, but wanted to explore the structure in such a way that the inserts are interesting enough to stop at, as well as the planner is interactive enough. There were several ideas which I doodled in terms of the language of the diary.

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Parallel to this, I explored styles in which the inserts could be treated. Die cut seemed a good option. Styles involving intricate line work also gave an Indian feel. One of the other styles that looked good was the stencil art, which could be done by the method of screen printing.

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Final Concept Laying out the final strategy and concept Narrative structure for the exhibition Selected space Exploring physical and narrative flow Final flow within the space Structure of panel suggested Schematic diagram Structure of the final exhibition Other supportive ideas

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Final strategy and concept The final idea that I decided to detail out and execute was the idea of an exhibition on Hindu symbolism. Whether the exhibition would be a travelling one or designed for a specific space would be decided further on. I thought of this as a suitable mode of communication for such information as the content is religious, and so I wanted the mode of communication to be such that it is open for one and all to have a look and understand it at their own will . An exhibition attracts people of several age groups, even if they just glance through and understand the essence of these symbols and the fact that such symbolisms exists, a need is met. This exhibition would be laid out in a way that it doesn’t only target the practitioners of Hindu religion, but anyone who is curious to know about symbolisms in general. What do I want to give the audience out of this exhibition? To bring to their notice that these objects that we see or observe so often, symbolise something Basic inputs about such symbolisms

talk of a display on symbolisms across various religions and cultures. This is a very vast and interesting topic with several attention catching facts. My theme for the exhibiton could be a part of this larger strategy. This idea of an exhibition on Hindu symbols can serve as the larger picture to which can be several applications attached that I could choose to work on. An identity Visual language and structure of panels Supportive installations Wall and floor graphics Promotional items for the exhibition Website Posters Materials for sale on the topic So with this I moved forward into understanding the basics of exhibition design.

Information flow in this case can happen in two ways. If this is a travelling exhibition to educational institutes like NID or even higher secondary colleges, the flow of information can be from the younger generation to their elders. Whereas if this a general exhibition organised by a group in a city, it can be the elders who can take along their children to have a look at it. This exhibition would give information in brief and to the point, not meant for study purpose but for the purpose of general knowledge and awareness. This exhibit could be a part of a larger picture where we

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Theme Target audience Physical flow Narrative

Organisers Content

Hierarchy

Exhibition/Display

Experience

Space ergonomics Installations

Space graphics Interactiveness

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Visual language

Related materials


Exhibition Design in itself is a intensive process in which you need to follow certain principles and requirements. Suresh, explained to me how to go about this process and give form to my concept, according to the requirements of the project. Suresh, cleared my confusion about the fact that to take a space within the campus and give a structure to the exhibition. A travelling exhibition would require more time as we need to explore the structure of panels and other dynamics. 1. The first step is to understand your content and make a schematic diagram for the exhibition, defining the narrative structure and being clear about what you want to communicate and in what hierarchy. 2. Next is visualising the exhibition in terms of the physical and narrative flow. This also includes the step where you take in the exhibition in the context of the selected space. This helps visualise better. 3. To detail the exhibition in terms of its structure and visual language. That is enhancing the human experience.

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Detailing out the content

Forming the narrative

The first step was outlining the content and detailing out key words in order to understand it better. There were two major key words in this case, Symbolism and Hinduism, these led to the main topic of the exhibition, Symbolisms in Hinduism.

Based on the content that I had laid out for the exhibition, I tried to form a narrative structure out of it. This may not be the final narrative but the first step towards providing a structure and flow to the information in the exhibition. This is very important as it forms the basis of enhancing human experience within the exhibit.

Symbolism What is symbolism? Symbolism in context of religion When does an object become symbolic? Symbolisms existing within various religions and cultures over the world Some common threads between them

Hinduism What is Hinduism? The basis of the religion What are rituals?

Symbolism in Hinduism Why and where does it exist? Examples from day to day rituals How can these symbols be categorised? Effect of region and culture

Symbols What do they symbolise? How are they used in rituals? Significance in other religions.

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1. Introduction to the overall theme 1.1. Symbolism 1.2. Hinduism 1.3. Symbolism in Hinduism 2. Introduction to the exhibition 3. Symbols 3.1 to 3.20. Each symbol in detail 4. Summary and conclusion 4.1. Interesting facts about these symbols in other religions 4.2. Inspiration to know more on symbolism and keep oneself aware. 5. On sale and takeaway items So, as it can be made out from the flow chart, this is a linear narrative, in which the audience sees a larger picture before they are introduced to the details of it.


The theme introduction forms the outer layer

An intriduction to the exhibit is a step ahead The symbolisms form the focus of the exhibition

1.1

1.2

4.1 2

3.1 to 3.20

1.3

4.1

Hence, the narrative is a linear one, which moves gradually towards the focus of the exhibition.

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Selected space: The Design Gallery I selected a particular space within the campus, on the basis of which I could further explore on the concept. The Design Gallery was a nice option as it is specially built as an exhibition space. The first step was to observe the space, take note of the dimensions and understand the language of the space itself.

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17.90m

The design gallery is a rectangular space of dimensions 10.20m by 17.9m approx. This has no pillars or beams, the walls are painted a shade of white and the only entry or exit point is a double glass door placed along the breadth. The floor has been divided into a grid of 28 sections, which helped me explore structure and flow to a great extent.

10.20m

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Floor plan

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Section diagram

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Exploring physical and narrative flow I had by this time somewhat laid down the narrative structure and I also had the space. The next step was to explore the flow of the narrative as well as the audience within that space. This is a very important exercise while designing an exhibition as it makes navigation and understanding easier for your audience. It was not that difficult to carry out this exercise in terms of the design gallery as the floor tiles provided a strong grid os 28 sections, on the basis of which I explored several structures and navigation. While I divided the space into sections which could be allotted to the sections of the narrative, I also kept in mind, what will the audience see and experience at every step. I started exploring navigations by making grids on paper, out of these, I chose five options which had certain potential, and made a top view as well as a 3d model in order to visualise it better. Moreover, I have also tried to depict how the various ways of audience flow can happen in each section. In every diagram, the various sections of the narrative are colour coded:

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This is the introduction section which talks about the overall theme. I would like the audience to see this first thing

This is the conclusion section, which gives a summary of the content, inspires you to read further and tells about the sources too.

This is a short section which introduces the audience to the symbols coming up ahead, falls somewhat under the introduction section.

This falls at the end, and is the section for give aways and sales. This makes the viewers stop and relook at the contents once more.

This forms the main exhibition with the symbols in detail. I want the audience to atleast walk through this region, and read about symbols that interest them.

This has been used for places which are just walkways.


I call this option ‘The Maze’. When I started exploring structures, I had the narrative set so well in my mind that I built up a flow such that the viewer strictly follows the flow of the narrative. This idea is such that once a viewer enters, he has to have a glimpse at the various sections, before he reaches the exit. This is a good option in terms of the narrative structure.

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This one is totally opposite to the one before. Here, though the flow of narrative remains, it is not strict. A viewer who enters the exhibition get a good view of the set up and then takes a round depending on how much he wishes to see. This I think is a good options when visuals are involved and you want the audience to see all of them together to understand the overall style and theme. But in the case of this narrative, I feel its a little lose in terms of regulating the physical flow parallel to the narrative.

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I actually started exploring with structures forming a swastika, supporting the theme. But that was somehow getting complicated, so I tried out these structures forming a + sign. The idea was to let there be some sort of a structure rather than the leaving the entire gallery as it is. The problem was, there was little control over the flow of the audience. This could be a drawback in terms of the narrative and also create a chaos in case of more number of people.

69


This one was another exploration in which I was trying to strike a balance between the physical and the narrative flow patterns. This was a simple option, and had less problems as compared to the earlier one. The first board created a great section for the introduction, which couldn’t be missed by the viewers. Moreover, the viewers had the option to see the first few symbols in detail and decide if they wanted to read about the remaining or not. Anyhow some purpose of the exhibition was achieved.

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This option I feel strikes the best amount of balance between narrative and physical flow, among these options. I was confused between the first and this one, I decided on this as there was also some amount of simplicity, and it did not dissect the place completely. This structure gives enough emphasis on the main section of the exhibit as well. The space within the structure I felt could be used for some installations along with the displayed symbol. Overall, I felt this structure would work well for the narrative.

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While I was in the process of doing this exhibition, a mail from Suresh made the path ahead quite clear, Design gallery is quite a big space, however you need to get the plan with dimensions of the space and do a schematic Diagram of the subject with reference to zones from the point of view of the viewer What he/she should be seeing at each and every point . what are the experiences that you are Anticipating that the viewer requres. so from a schematic diagram with the narratives to some block diagrams of zones If possible make a model of the space if not in axonometric projection And detail out one area of the information and conclude

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Exploring panel structures I was thinking of what sort of a panel structure and layout could make the exhibition look more interesting and attract audience. I explored several structures, aiming at keeping the visual of symbol as the first thing that should be visible from a distance. I wanted the panels to be a little away from the ordinary rectangular layouts, so that the overall exhibition looks interesting.

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Suggested panel for symbols The final structure that I have suggested for this exhibition, is inspired form the form a Hindu yantra. This structure seemed interesting to me, it gave enough emphasis to the symbol in the center, moreover this form could be used to create interesting wall and floor graphics for the exhibition, leading to a good visual language. At this point, I could also visualise the panels creating a very Indian looking pattern when placed on the walls together.

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Why is the Lotus considered sacred?

The question Franklin Gothic medium 96 pt

Lotus flower is a symbol of eternity, plenty and good fortune. Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, is usually depicted with a lotus flower. The Goddess of Power, Durga, was created by Lord Siva to fight demons and was adorned with a garland of lotus flowers by Varuna. And virtually every God and Goddess of Hinduism--Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, Agni, Ganesha, Rama and Surya--are typically shown sitting on the lotus, often holding a lotus flower in their hand. The lotus which serves thus as the seat of the Deity, signifying their divinity and purity, is called padmasana or kamalasana.

The lotus is the symbol of truth, auspiciousness and beauty (satyam, shivam, sundaram). The lotus is the foremost symbol prosperity and fertility. According to Hinduism, within each human inhabiting the earth is the spirit of the sacred lotus. It represents eternity, purity and divinity and is widely used as a symbol of life, fertility, ever-renewing youth and to describe feminine beauty, especially the eyes.The Lord is also that nature and therefore, His various aspects are compared to a lotus (i.e. lotus-eyes, lotus feet, lotus hands, the lotus of the heart etc.).

Body text Franklin Gothic book 26 pt leading: 33pt

The lotus blooms with the rising sun and close at night. Similarly, our minds open up and expand with the light of knowledge. The lotus grows even in slushy areas. It remains beautiful and untainted despite its surroundings, reminding us that we too can and should strive to remain pure and beautiful within, under all circumstances. The lotus leaf never gets wet even though it is always in water. It symbolizes the man of wisdom (gyaani) who remains ever joyous, unaffected by the world of sorrow and change. This is revealed in a shloka from the Bhagwad-Geeta:

In Hinduism, Lotus represents the concept of primordial birth from the cosmic waters of creation. Lord Brahma emerging from the navel of Lord Vishnu symbolically represents that life begins in water. It also symbolically suggests that all living and non living are connected to the ultimate source through an invisible thread but we unfortunately don’t realize it. The lotus bud is compared with a folded heart or soul which contain within itself the ability to unfold or awaken. The lotus is also a symbol for the centers of consciousness (chakras) in the body.The auspicious sign of the swastika is said to have evolved from the lotus.The ultimate aim of each human being is to be the lotus flower – perform the Dharma without being attached to the world.

Brahmanyaadhaaya karmaani Sangam tyaktvaa karoti yaha Lipyate na sa paapena Padma patram ivaambhasaa He who does actions, offering them to Brahman, abandoning attachment, is not tainted by sin, just as a lotus leaf remains unaffected by the water on it.

Lotus flower is frequently mentioned in the ancient Sanskrit Hindu scriptures, as padma (pink lotus), kamala (red lotus), pundarika (white lotus) and utpala (blue lotus). The earliest reference can be found in the Rig Veda.

It is believed that Lord Brahma emerged from the navel of Lord Vishnu sitting on a lotus. Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of learning, is shown sitting on a lotus.

beauty

purity

good fortune

Words Franklin Gothic medium

creation chakras in the body

LOTUS seat for diety

ignorance enlightment

primordial birth

55 pt

50.8 cm

75


Exploring colour palette

Why is the Lotus considered sacred?

Lotus flower is a symbol of eternity, plenty and good fortune. Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, is usually depicted with a lotus flower. The Goddess of Power, Durga, was created by Lord Siva to fight demons and was adorned with a garland of lotus flowers by Varuna. And virtually every God and Goddess of Hinduism--Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, Agni, Ganesha, Rama and Surya--are typically shown sitting on the lotus, often holding a lotus flower in their hand. The lotus which serves thus as the seat of the Deity, signifying their divinity and purity, is called padmasana or kamalasana.

The lotus is the symbol of truth, auspiciousness and beauty (satyam, shivam, sundaram). The lotus is the foremost symbol prosperity and fertility. According to Hinduism, within each human inhabiting the earth is the spirit of the sacred lotus. It represents eternity, purity and divinity and is widely used as a symbol of life, fertility, ever-renewing youth and to describe feminine beauty, especially the eyes.The Lord is also that nature and therefore, His various aspects are compared to a lotus (i.e. lotus-eyes, lotus feet, lotus hands, the lotus of the heart etc.). The lotus blooms with the rising sun and close at night. Similarly, our minds open up and expand with the light of knowledge. The lotus grows even in slushy areas. It remains beautiful and untainted despite its surroundings, reminding us that we too can and should strive to remain pure and beautiful within, under all circumstances. The lotus leaf never gets wet even though it is always in water. It symbolizes the man of wisdom (gyaani) who remains ever joyous, unaffected by the world of sorrow and change. This is revealed in a shloka from the Bhagwad-Geeta:

In Hinduism, Lotus represents the concept of primordial birth from the cosmic waters of creation. Lord Brahma emerging from the navel of Lord Vishnu symbolically represents that life begins in water. It also symbolically suggests that all living and non living are connected to the ultimate source through an invisible thread but we unfortunately don’t realize it. The lotus bud is compared with a folded heart or soul which contain within itself the ability to unfold or awaken. The lotus is also a symbol for the centers of consciousness (chakras) in the body.The auspicious sign of the swastika is said to have evolved from the lotus.The ultimate aim of each human being is to be the lotus flower – perform the Dharma without being attached to the world.

Brahmanyaadhaaya karmaani Sangam tyaktvaa karoti yaha Lipyate na sa paapena Padma patram ivaambhasaa He who does actions, offering them to Brahman, abandoning attachment, is not tainted by sin, just as a lotus leaf remains unaffected by the water on it.

Lotus flower is frequently mentioned in the ancient Sanskrit Hindu scriptures, as padma (pink lotus), kamala (red lotus), pundarika (white lotus) and utpala (blue lotus). The earliest reference can be found in the Rig Veda.

It is believed that Lord Brahma emerged from the navel of Lord Vishnu sitting on a lotus. Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of learning, is shown sitting on a lotus.

Why is the Lotus considered sacred?

beauty

good fortune

Lotus flower is a symbol of eternity, plenty and good fortune. Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, is usually depicted with a lotus flower. The Goddess of Power, Durga, was created by Lord Siva to fight demons and was adorned with a garland of lotus flowers by Varuna. And virtually every God and Goddess of Hinduism--Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, Agni, Ganesha, Rama and Surya--are typically shown sitting on the lotus, often holding a lotus flower in their hand. The lotus which serves thus as the seat of the Deity, signifying their divinity and purity, is called padmasana or kamalasana.

The lotus blooms with the rising sun and close at night. Similarly, our minds open up and expand with the light of knowledge. The lotus grows even in slushy areas. It remains beautiful and untainted despite its surroundings, reminding us that we too can and should strive to remain pure and beautiful within, under all circumstances. The lotus leaf never gets wet even though it is always in water. It symbolizes the man of wisdom (gyaani) who remains ever joyous, unaffected by the world of sorrow and change. This is revealed in a shloka from the Bhagwad-Geeta:

In Hinduism, Lotus represents the concept of primordial birth from the cosmic waters of creation. Lord Brahma emerging from the navel of Lord Vishnu symbolically represents that life begins in water. It also symbolically suggests that all living and non living are connected to the ultimate source through an invisible thread but we unfortunately don’t realize it. The lotus bud is compared with a folded heart or soul which contain within itself the ability to unfold or awaken. The lotus is also a symbol for the centers of consciousness (chakras) in the body.The auspicious sign of the swastika is said to have evolved from the lotus.The ultimate aim of each human being is to be the lotus flower – perform the Dharma without being attached to the world.

Brahmanyaadhaaya karmaani Sangam tyaktvaa karoti yaha Lipyate na sa paapena Padma patram ivaambhasaa He who does actions, offering them to Brahman, abandoning attachment, is not tainted by sin, just as a lotus leaf remains unaffected by the water on it.

Lotus flower is frequently mentioned in the ancient Sanskrit Hindu scriptures, as padma (pink lotus), kamala (red lotus), pundarika (white lotus) and utpala (blue lotus). The earliest reference can be found in the Rig Veda.

It is believed that Lord Brahma emerged from the navel of Lord Vishnu sitting on a lotus. Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of learning, is shown sitting on a lotus.

purity

good fortune

creation chakras in the body

LOTUS ignorance

enlightment

76

creation chakras in the body

LOTUS ignorance

enlightment

The lotus is the symbol of truth, auspiciousness and beauty (satyam, shivam, sundaram). The lotus is the foremost symbol prosperity and fertility. According to Hinduism, within each human inhabiting the earth is the spirit of the sacred lotus. It represents eternity, purity and divinity and is widely used as a symbol of life, fertility, ever-renewing youth and to describe feminine beauty, especially the eyes.The Lord is also that nature and therefore, His various aspects are compared to a lotus (i.e. lotus-eyes, lotus feet, lotus hands, the lotus of the heart etc.).

beauty

purity

seat for diety primordial birth

seat for diety primordial birth


The final layout Why is the Lotus considered sacred?

Lotus flower is a symbol of eternity, plenty and good fortune. Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, is usually depicted with a lotus flower. The Goddess of Power, Durga, was created by Lord Siva to fight demons and was adorned with a garland of lotus flowers by Varuna. And virtually every God and Goddess of Hinduism--Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, Agni, Ganesha, Rama and Surya--are typically shown sitting on the lotus, often holding a lotus flower in their hand. The lotus which serves thus as the seat of the Deity, signifying their divinity and purity, is called padmasana or kamalasana.

The lotus is the symbol of truth, auspiciousness and beauty (satyam, shivam, sundaram). The lotus is the foremost symbol prosperity and fertility. According to Hinduism, within each human inhabiting the earth is the spirit of the sacred lotus. It represents eternity, purity and divinity and is widely used as a symbol of life, fertility, ever-renewing youth and to describe feminine beauty, especially the eyes.The Lord is also that nature and therefore, His various aspects are compared to a lotus (i.e. lotus-eyes, lotus feet, lotus hands, the lotus of the heart etc.). The lotus blooms with the rising sun and close at night. Similarly, our minds open up and expand with the light of knowledge. The lotus grows even in slushy areas. It remains beautiful and untainted despite its surroundings, reminding us that we too can and should strive to remain pure and beautiful within, under all circumstances. The lotus leaf never gets wet even though it is always in water. It symbolizes the man of wisdom (gyaani) who remains ever joyous, unaffected by the world of sorrow and change. This is revealed in a shloka from the Bhagwad-Geeta:

In Hinduism, Lotus represents the concept of primordial birth from the cosmic waters of creation. Lord Brahma emerging from the navel of Lord Vishnu symbolically represents that life begins in water. It also symbolically suggests that all living and non living are connected to the ultimate source through an invisible thread but we unfortunately don’t realize it. The lotus bud is compared with a folded heart or soul which contain within itself the ability to unfold or awaken. The lotus is also a symbol for the centers of consciousness (chakras) in the body.The auspicious sign of the swastika is said to have evolved from the lotus.The ultimate aim of each human being is to be the lotus flower – perform the Dharma without being attached to the world.

Brahmanyaadhaaya karmaani Sangam tyaktvaa karoti yaha Lipyate na sa paapena Padma patram ivaambhasaa He who does actions, offering them to Brahman, abandoning attachment, is not tainted by sin, just as a lotus leaf remains unaffected by the water on it.

Lotus flower is frequently mentioned in the ancient Sanskrit Hindu scriptures, as padma (pink lotus), kamala (red lotus), pundarika (white lotus) and utpala (blue lotus). The earliest reference can be found in the Rig Veda.

It is believed that Lord Brahma emerged from the navel of Lord Vishnu sitting on a lotus. Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of learning, is shown sitting on a lotus.

beauty

purity

good fortune

creation chakras in the body

LOTUS ignorance

enlightment

seat for diety primordial birth

77


Experimenting with the center circle Since the symbols form the most prominent part of the exhibition, I thought their appearance should be made interesting, in such a way that when one enters the exhibtion, these visuals attract you towards the panels, to atleast have a look.

Having Indian patterns supporting each symbol

White sillouette on an orange background. Direct and simple.

Taking a bright colour which supports the symbol in each case.

A very religious, identifiable way of representation.

Taking wood as the material and carving out the symbol.

Having the symbol protruding out of wood.

Using laser cut to remove the silhouette of the symbol from the wood and play with lighting from behind

Using the colour of the object itself

78


Placement of the panel on the wall

50.8cm

25.4cm

262cm

19cm

10cm

91.37cm

Eye level is taken approx. at 5ft

79


Levels to the panel unit

This is the bottom-most level, which is the connector.

The centre visual protrudes out the most.

The information panels are in between and at a good readable distance.

80


User experience While deciding the placement of the panel on the wall, I kept in mind several details of ergonomics, reading issues, eye level, the space, to enhance the user experience further.

81


Laying out panels within the structure I had by this time somewhat laid down the narrative structure and I also had the space. The next step was to explore the flow of the narrative as well as the audience within that space. This is a very important exercise while designing an exhibition as it makes navigation and understanding easier for your audience.

82


A schematic representation Each panel representing one symbol Space for wall graphics/ some other interactive ideas Introduction to the main exhibit

Introduction to the theme

Space for wall graphics/ some other interactive ideas

Summary and conclusion panels The same point for entry as well exit

Take-aways and sales counter

83


The overall look and feel If I have to comment on the overall look of the exhibition, I would say it looks neat, easily approachable and the panels definitely give a unique touch to it. The structure in the middle creates kind of curiosity in the person who enters. Even though there is enough breathing space and free flow, the flow of the narrative is taken care of.

84


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Supporting concepts There were some concepts that I really feel improve the user experience within this exhibition. I have listed these down with a few doodles.

86


Concept 1

Concept 2

87


Concept 1 : Interactive involvement of the audience One of the concepts that I would like to include in the design of this exhibition is to increase the interactive involvement of the audience. For this I suggested a section at the beginning which I call ‘The interactive wall’, where the user can write down and share with others what he thinks some of these objects and actions symbolise. Even though I have realised during the research that every object symbolises something specific and unique, the audience survey said a lot of other things as well. I observed that people have their own views and perceptions of these symbols, and this is an interesting point. Hence this concept can help in a way that it is interesting to read what others have written for the symbols, as one moves forward into the exhibition to gain further information on these symbolisms. It could also be an interesting idea to have the same interface at the end of the exhibition, where the written words by the user makes him realise the new knowledge that he has gained. Another idea to increase the interactiveness within the exhibition is by creating installations to give the actual look and feel of some of these objects that the exhibition talks about. This would also help break the monotony of the exhibit.

Concept 2 : Planting the seeds of questions The other concept came up from the many questions to which these symbolisms are sort of answers. One of my ideas is to set the feel of the topic, by planting questions in the mind of the audience before and as the audience enters into the exhibition. So some form of illustrations with dominant? marks and Whys can be placed before the entry and also as wall graphics. This is what I call ‘The why wall’. These same graphics can used in promotional posters, and thus this becomes a theme for the visual language of the exhibition.

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References and sources of information Information by Suresh Google maata! Several blogs on Hindusim, Hindu rituals and symbolisms www.religiounfacts.com www.about.com www.ehow.com www.indianetzone.com www.hinduwebsite.com www.hinduismnet.com www.hindu-blog.com www.religiousportal.com Paper on Hindu rituals by professor K.Srinivas 16 Hindu Samskaras by Prof. Shrikant Prasoon In Indian culture Why do we... by Chinmaya Mission Trust Golden bough Went through a lot of books on symbolisms and Hinduism, in bookstores like Crossword and Landmark as well as the KMC Observing rituals

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National Institute of Design, 2011 90

Profile for Vidhushri Ladha

A study on symbolisms in Hinduism  

This is the documentation of my process followed for Design Project 1 at NID. A study on symbols, concentrating on symbolisms in Hinduism, r...

A study on symbolisms in Hinduism  

This is the documentation of my process followed for Design Project 1 at NID. A study on symbols, concentrating on symbolisms in Hinduism, r...

Profile for vidhushri
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