The Tools of Hindu Deities, From My Perspective

I invite you to join me as I share a condensed and intriguing perspective on a vast and complex narrative, part of an even greater story. Let’s begin by exploring a unique interpretation that I, as a curious seeker and amateur archaeoastronomer and philosopher, have come to understand through my research and personal experiences with ancient philosophies. It’s important to clarify that this perspective is solely my own and does not encompass the entirety of Hinduism. Rather, it focuses on a specific aspect related to Hindu gods that I found fascinating during my studies. As I delved deeper into the subject, particularly examining the concepts of ancient agriculture and burgeoning civilizations, I began to unravel a profound connection. I noticed a symbolic representation within the hands of the deities, which seemed to embody the ancient wisdom embedded within these divine entities.

While researching diverse cultures and their beliefs extensively, I noticed cross-cultural references and links from one philosophy to another. As a result, I discovered numerous intriguing connections to ancient religions, revealing their remarkable similarities, and in doing so, I created the Fertility Wheel, a tool or guide that may have held significance in ancient cultures, offering insights into fertility and growth.

The four seasons

Take a moment to reflect on the Hindu art you have encountered throughout your life and the profound symbolism it encapsulates. Now, let’s shift our perspective away from the prevailing notion that these representations solely depict the four cardinal directions and instead embrace the idea that they symbolize the four seasons. This shift in interpretation is pivotal for a more accurate understanding of the tools held by the deities in their hands, representing the specific tasks and items associated with each season.

A shift in perspective

In making this fundamental shift, I recognize it may no longer be accurate, or even respectful, to refer to this as Hinduism. So I offer that perhaps instead, we consider this a new way of thinking, a different belief system that has its basis in the concepts of Hinduism but is its own system of thought and interpretation. It is never my intention to offend anyone’s beliefs, but rather, to change the perspective and look at traditional ideas from different angles – to understand them in a new way and maybe even expand our understanding. By recognizing this connection to the seasons, we can categorize them into three phases dedicated to sowing and harvesting, while the fourth season provides a time for rest, preservation, and the pursuit of knowledge. By aligning ourselves with the natural cycles of these seasons, we can gain a deeper comprehension of the vast universe and our rightful place within it. Allow me to unveil the tools I have observed in the hands of deities, such as Durga, and establish their connection to the seasons. In an attempt to provide an explanation for each item, I shall now share the reasons for each item.

The deities and their hands can be divided into quadrants, symbolizing the different seasons. So, let’s commence our journey with spring, which finds its representation in the deities’ lower right hand(s) or area. 

The items in the lower right hand

A plow is a sacred tool held in the divine lower right hand or hands, symbolizing the plowing and seeding of the land. It cultivates the fertile soil, preparing it for the growth and nurturing of life during the vibrant season of planting in the spring. The divine hand holds a wand to wave and fertilize the land as a conduit for transformative energies during this auspicious time, much like the wand waved by Inanna, a Mesopotamian goddess, to ensure the fertility of the earth and all creatures far and wide.

The cobra, positioned near the right lower hand(s) and sometimes on the lap, symbolizes spring awakening, as it does in many other cultures. This is also the cobra’s mating season, an important part of this seasonal equation. The celestial cow or bull emerges at the beginning of spring, signifying the commencement of a new year at the equinox. Its presence symbolizes the promise of growth and abundant renewal as the earth awakens.

These sacred symbols in the divine hands tell a story of rebirth, renewal, and the cyclic nature of life. The plow prepares the soil, the wand invokes transformative energies, the cobra represents spring awakening, and the celestial cow or bull heralds the dawn of a new chapter. Together, they depict the plowing, sowing, and boundless potential for growth and transformation within the embrace of spring.

The items in the upper right hand

To symbolize the essence of summer, I propose embellishing the upper right hand(s) or quadrant of the deity with distinct summer symbols. For instance, adorning the deity’s hand with a bow and arrow, reminiscent of one of Mesopotamia’s gods and the food provider, Dumuzid, and his trusted weapon, would be a fitting choice. Additionally, a sickle or a harvesting knife should be depicted in the upper right quadrant to signify summer’s association with oats and grain harvesting. Other symbols linked to the summer season include representations of the sun’s highest point in the year, the summer solstice, such as a sun, a flame, or a ball of fire, which can be illustrated in or above the deity’s hand. Furthermore, the lotus flower, which blooms during the summer, should also be considered a symbolic representation of this season.

The items in the upper left hand

This new perspective suggests positioning the symbols in the deity’s upper left hand(s) or quadrant to symbolize the autumn season. This quadrant is often adorned with a trident, traditionally used for fishing, and the deity is frequently depicted holding a goat horn or the horn of plenty. Autumn is represented by a pair of fish and a ram flanking the fall equinox on the Fertility Wheel. This season is also associated with the sowing of winter crops like wheat, barley, and rye.

Therefore, it is suitable for the deity to be depicted with farming and fishing tools such as a trident, tiller, and a pitchfork while holding the horn of plenty, signifying the abundance of food at this time.

The one item in the lower left hand

In my interpretation, to capture the essence of winter, the deity’s lower left hand(s) or quadrant portrays a scene of tranquility and hidden resources. Within this realm, an empty hand symbolizes the dormant earth and the scarcity of new growth during the season. A shell can be shown in their hand to share the information that underneath the icy waters, a vibrant world teems with life, including crabs and shellfish. This is when they are at their largest and easy to catch when food on land is hard to find. As a tribute to this concealed abundance, the various deities’ hands hold the shell, a reminder of the ocean’s bounty and the nourishment it provides during winter.

In most portrayals, the divine entity establishes a profound connection with the majestic tiger or lion. Frequently shown together, the deities are seen seated or riding upon these magnificent creatures. During the winter season, the regal cats embark on their mating rituals. Their union represents the eternal cycle of life, culminating in the season’s end, as depicted by the shell and the majestic cat positioned at the bottom of the artwork.

Agriculture, the roots of us all

Let us contemplate the profound importance of this specific transformation. While it emerged from a personal dream of mine, I am eager to share its profound message with others. It is essential to note that this dream is one of the many I have experienced. If it evokes any uneasiness, I am more than willing to discuss other visions and their details instead.

My mission revolves around educating those unfamiliar with farm life, offering them a glimpse into the realm of agriculture. Furthermore, I find immense importance in the artistic representation of agriculture throughout ancient times. Deep within my dream, a potent message urged me to share the knowledge of farming with individuals from every cultural background. With unwavering determination, I seek to convey the wisdom depicted in art and harness the tools held by deities to enlighten future generations of Hindus about the nuances of agriculture. I aspire to secure their lasting prosperity and well-being for the forthcoming eras by equipping them with this invaluable knowledge.

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