Life moves around ‘symbol’
Symbols are the most important discoveries in progressive human civilizations. Life moves around tangible and intangible symbols. The whole world of religion is intangible; we can’t see, can’t touch supreme God but imagine them, get inspiration. We build adobe of God in the form of magnificent temples in mortal life. Meaning that matter; that is why the picture of God Shiva differs from one place to that of another. Symbol helps improve our knowledge base; generates happiness, sorrow, empathy, sympathy etc. and above all, it boosts confidence when we enter into ourselves through meditations and praying. Modern science uses symbols at large scale.
Contrary to other mammals, humans by intelligence created an amazing world of symbols. Human civilization, million years ago, had started creating symbols and fixing their meaning. Thereby, words were formed and thereafter languages developed.
Language is the simple and easy mode of communication. Contrary to other animals, the Human brain is enough developed to create series of words and sentences.
The Chinese language is pictographic. As for example, 子 means child (zǐ), = means mouth (kǒu), 月 means moon (yuè), 木 means tree (mù), 田 means field, (tián). Here picture/symbol represents distinct meaning.
In Hindu, from birth to end of life; there are 16 rituals and in each ritual symbols are used. Religion is the most important part of life. It played important role in making and fall of kingdoms in Europe. Similarly, it had been important in turning the history of India too.
India was Hindu nation, Mir Quasim successfully defeated king Dahir of Sindh in 712AD. According to the description available, Mir Quasim, a General of caliphate of Bagdad, invaded king Dahir, but initially he was not successful. One day, Mir Quasim asked a noble man of Dahir, who was going to relieve in wee hour, ‘what was the secret of king Dahir?’
Noble man pointed out to a Hanuman temple and replied, ‘until the red flag was over the temple, no power could defeat us.’
Mir Quasim knew the secret of power that was in the ‘symbol’. He cut down the flag and whole army of king Dahir scattered. King was arrested and the Muslim rule started in India. Thus “symbol” turned the fate of our nation.
Symbol shapes family, society, economy, polity and mode of communication. We use symbols to rationalize content around us.
Culture; This is the power house of society. In the festival of Pongal, Holi etc. symbols play important role and generates happiness, brotherhood, sympathy, coherence, truthfulness. Social scientist says, ‘it also works as safety valve and releases tension from the society.
Symbol connects people in Trobriand Island of Australia; In Trobriand culture Armshells and Necklaces are considered as auspicious and play vital role in society and economy. Armshells are made up of counus, whereas Necklaces are made up of spondylus. Armshells travel in an anticlockwise direction between the island groups in the Milne Bay Province, while the necklaces travel only in a clockwise direction. When a group reaches next Island, the leader is greeted and enjoys warm hospitality there. Both leaders talk about one another and marriage talks are also discussed. Meanwhile, both group personnel exchanges food grains and other materials at sea shore. They use yams and banana leaves as currency – £1 is equivalent to 50 leaves.
Family; when a child gets birth, he is taught to understand symbols and meanings. When child becomes uneasy or weeps, mother understands child is feeling hungry and needs breast feeding. And soon child develops understanding, whenever he is hungry; he needs to go to the mother. Similarly, baby laughs, when sees laughing faces. So, they learn where to prostrate and what does it mean. A symbol may have different meaning in different societies. For English, keeping hat out of head is a way of giving respect to others. Making cross sign is a way of paying reverence to God in christianism. Hindus pay respect by prostrating both before God and elders. Primitive African tribe spit on each other face in a way of giving respect. These are intangible symbol move.
Society; Marriage institution is the most important in this segment and for marriage to perform in each society developed number of symbols. For bride and groom, there are especially made dress that makes them different from others. Coconut, sandal, water, trees, food grains etc. are used to perform rituals. Playing Sahnai, beating drum also symbolizes marriage ceremony. Similarly, vermillion on the forehead, bangles in arms and ring in the finger etc. also symbolizes a married Hindu lady. Thus group of symbols are used in making marriage ceremony successful and thereafter law of inheritance comes in force.
Religion; This is matter of faith and symbols play major role. From primitive to modern society, region role has not changed. Religion plays two major roles; vanishes fear and induces confidence. As for example, Ganesha idol explains followings; big head means think big, small eyes denotes concentration and foresight, large ear messages listen more, axe in one hand communicates to protect and cut off all bond of attachment, rope in other hand to pull all nearer to the truth, sweet on third hand means reward of devotion, small mouth reminds to talk less, trunk notify to have high efficiency and adaptability, fourth hand’s blessing means to have indomitable spirit on spiritual path to supreme God, large stomach peacefully digest all good and bad news in life, one tusk means retain good and throw away bad, mouse warns do not ride on desire and keep it under control and do not allow desire to ride on you. Thus religion has lot of life managing symbols.
Economy; Faith is everything, if we lose this we lose everything. Currency is a matter of faith. If people lose faith in currency, economy is bound to crash. From barter to paperless economy; in every system symbol plays important role. It is not important what is the material used in making of currency (gold, silver, copper, rubber, paper), but faith in it is vital. Symbol and faith run parallel. There are reports in some parts of our county that people deny accepting 10 rupees coins. This is because there is suspicion and the faith in the denomination of 10 rupees coin is on stake.
Polity; In this system symbolism is as important as in other walks of life. Flower stands for BJP, hand for congress, bicycle for SP etc.
Ghana’s most distinctive emblems originated in the nationalist movement. The most prominent is the black star, which evokes black pride and power and a commitment to pan-African unity, which were central themes for mobilizing resistance against British rule. It is featured on the national flag and in the national anthem. Both symbolize whole national identity.
(Writer is Journalist and soft skill trainer) email;arbind03@yahoo.