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SYMBOLS AND CULTURE

Symbols play a vital role in a human’s life and in the things he deals with for socio-cultural sustainability. Symbols are an important feature in facilitating communications and identification of ideas of their representation. To be precise, symbols are a cultural representation of a human mind that undoubtedly triggers the mental, emotional as well as physical state of a human being. It occurs and still retains vast stone canvases drawn by prehistoric people till the depth of the darkest corner in our mind of the present day without even holding anything that could be non-verbal and unwritten. Symbols draw immediate attention to our minds and reflect in our ensuing acts. It can be established through physical forms, figurative meanings, iconography, literal, written forms, kinesiology, etc. Symbols are powerful to unite a community, belief, ritual, purpose, concept, etc. giving it a shape of culture and social norm. It is the basis of culture. Everything that we do is based and organized through cultural symbolism.



Symbolism also represents abstract ideas and concepts. It is often related to faith and beliefs. Some symbols are gained from experience and others from culture. Symbols can also be misinterpreted in a different cultures. For example, the age-old holy ‘Swastika’ of the Hindu religion which is the symbol of conduciveness was used by the 20th-century German Nazi Party in a slightly tilted form to popularize Nazism and antisemitism. The ‘Swastika’ symbol is found in the archaeological remains of the Indus Valley Civilization, Samarra Culture and also in the early Byzantine and Christian artwork. The ‘Swastika’ is believed to be a Eurasian religious symbol that dates back at least 11,000 years.


Maybe the most powerful symbol is language but simultaneously, none can ignore the importance and deliberation of kinesics too in terms of communication, conducting rituals, expressing feelings, etc. Humans to a great extent in their early days took interest in utilizing kinesics for the purpose of establishing symbolism. Making use of their limbs, facial expressions and body gestures, they deliberately communicated their concept, purpose and mission. For example, ‘Mudra’ is an important aspect in this regard that we often witness being incorporated in Indian classical dance and Yoga as well as in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.



Each ‘Mudra’ represented a symbol, and purpose and is blended with rituals. It is also used in deeper meditation and it plays a crucial role during self-healing. And apart from keeping themselves confined within the hand and finger placements, which we all know as ‘Hasta Mudra’, ‘Mudras’ have found their place in other segments too, like the Mana (head Mudra), Kaya (body Mudra), Bandha (heart Mudra) and Adhara (perineal Mudra). Mudras are also used in our daily life in greeting others and exchanging thoughts or gestures. Like the ‘Anjali Hasta Mudra’, joining both the palms together in ‘Pataka Hasta Mudra’ is used by many Asian countries for greeting purposes and also during prayer, salutation and offering whilst reflecting a balance between the mind and body.


One of the most common cultural symbols is language, which is why it is considered the most powerful in symbolism. It is nice that the usage of symbols is adaptive, which means, humans can learn to associate new symbols with a concept or new concepts with a symbol. That is why an individual can learn more than one spoken language which he can very well write too. For example, the alphabet symbolizes the literal and verbal context of a specific spoken language. The ‘AUM’ or ‘OM’ of the Hindu culture is a strong representation of both verbal and written symbols. It is used to chant during meditation, and holistic prayer rituals and its written symbol are considered to ward off evil and bring peace and prosperity to the dweller.


Each of the alphabet of a language helps one to form a word and later a sentence to describe and express oneself within a formal set of symbols and grammatical rules and later transmit the language from generation to generation. This is the strongest of all symbolism because it primarily reflects the identity of a community and a nation at large. And with the help of language symbols, great literary works have taken place in the past and present. It also holds to conjure the folklore of a place and culture.



Symbols hold a special place in Mathematic too. It codifies a specific system to complete a calculation. Systems of writing a particular format or theorem of Arithmetic are wisely used as symbols as a whole or section. In Hindustani music and the Indian classical dance system, the ‘Theka’ of a particular Taal (rhythm pattern) is codified and represented in specific formats like the Algebra formulas. With the help of this basic ‘Theka’, a complete composition can be noted down.


In the present day, the logo of a company is a vital symbolic part of that particular company, industry and mission. Seeing a logo like that of TATA, Birla, Reliance, UTV, ZEE TV, Sony TV, ICICI Bank, Tanishq, Amazon, etc. immediately reflects its execution and establishment.

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