A visual guide to Shiva symbolism

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.

shiva-symbolism

Decoding the symbolism of the cosmic dancer

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:
shiva-natajara-symbolism

A spotters guide to Aboriginal symbols

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.
australian-aboriginal-symbols

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.

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Jesus appoints the twelve

Twelve-Apostles
The Twelve Apostles – Ethiopian icon

This is the story of Jesus appointing the twelve as told in the Gospel of Mark:

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Jesus from a Rastafarian perspective

Rastafarians have a very unusual take on Jesus. Rastas accept the existence of a single triune god, called Jah, who has incarnated on earth several times, including in the form of Jesus. They accept much of the Bible, although they believe that its message has been corrupted over time by Babylon, which is commonly identified with Western, white culture. Specifically, they accept the prophecies in the Book of Revelations concerning the second coming of the Messiah, which Rastas believe has already occurred in the form of Haile Selassie I, the Ethiopian emperor from 1930 to 1974. Before his coronation, Selassie was known as Ras Tafari Makonnen, from which Rastafarian movement takes its name. Rastafarian images of Jesus seem to be almost invariably dreadlocked.

Jesus through Maori eyes

Here are some of my favourite paintings of Jesus from Mouri artists. The Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. A number of these images feature Jesus with a full-face moko (traditional tattoo) and trinitarian symbolism. Click through for more details.