Shiva is one of the most widely known and revered Hindu gods. In the Hindu mythology, Shiva is the Destroyer, working in concert with Brahma the Creator and Vishnu the Protector. Shiva has always fascinated his followers by his unique appearance: he has not two but three eyes, has ash smeared all over his body, has snakes coiled up around his head and arms, wears tiger and elephant skin, leads a wild life in the cremation grounds far removed from social pretences, and is known for his proverbial anger. Here is a visual guide to the symbols associated with Shiva.
Nataraja is a well known sculptural symbol in India and popularly used as a symbol of Indian culture. It depicts the Hindu god Shiva as the cosmic dancer and the Sanskrit word actually translates as Lord of Dancers. His dance is called Tandavam or Nadanta, depending on the context and the pose and artwork is described in many Hindu texts such as the Anshumadbhed agama and Uttarakamika agama. This dance relief or idol is featured in all major Hindu temples of Shaivism, though you will often see it in Indian restaurants and elsewhere. Here’s what the image actually means:
These are some symbols you will commonly come across in Australian Aboriginal art. An important point to note is that the perspective is generally that of looking down on the land from above, as is common for maps. Because that’s what Aboriginal artworks actually are.
Now try testing your new skills on this painting. Can you identify the camp, the river, and the trail? As you browse through some of the Christian Aboriginal art on Curious Christian see if you can decode their meaning. It’s much more rewarding when you can actually read them.