When cultures adopt motifs they evolve and take on new meanings. A notable example is the parasol which was a symbol of royalty and protection in ancient India. Thirteen parasols were reserved for kingly status.
Octagonal and square parasols in yellow and red skils are always seen draped above the throne of a Dalia Lama.
Early Buddhism adopted the symbol and the number to define the Buddha the ‘universal monarch’.
Later on, the parasol became a symbol of protection. The shade under the dome protects from the blazing heat of suffering, obstacles, illness, and harmful energies.
Since an umbrella held above the head, the parasol represents honour and respect too.
The emblem is also considered to be a metaphor of the vastness of space and a universe unfolding.
The vase is as a symbol of wealth deities like Jambhala, and Vasudhara. ‘The vase of inexhaustible treasures’ or ‘the vase of plenty’ symbolises unconstrained wealth.
In Tibetan Buddhism, a golded vase appears with three gems set in the lid. The three jewels are representative of the Threefold Refuge.
Therefore, to take refuge in the three gems is to have faith in the Buddha, his doctrine of dharma, and sangha, the monastic order.
A red silk scarf is tied around the vase with the figure of a wish-granting tree crowning the lid. The sealed vase is then moved to a sacred pilgrim site, a running river or spring. A place where it may spread abundance and appease the nature spirits is ideal.
A victory banner is generally accounted for under standard military practices. And in Tibetan Buddhism, the victory banner or the dhvaja has eleven different types. With each depicting a path to overcome difficulties.
The roots of Tibetan Buddhism and the sacred symbols lie within the history, culture and geography of India.
Symbolism and motifs have always played an essential role in religion. As have their varied interpretations. By giving them deeper dimensions we transcend their value as mere embellishments.
Between their genesis and the modern age, the pre-Buddhist emblems changed. Leading to the Tibetan symbols we observe today.
Now, it is difficult to pinpoint when anthropomorphising became a norm across religions.
Yet, we can place the origins of Buddhist teachings and the symbols of this religion to the 4th century BCE.
When did the sacred symbols change?
The first major change in interpreting iconography came in the 1st century BCE.
At that point, the second Greek invasion of Central Asia had taken place. Ancient India became flooded with Hellenic influences. Practices like anthropomorphising symbols were accepted, even encouraged.
This led to the birth of new ideas such as the Greco-Buddhist art - Gandhara - and the arts of Mathura. Both of these cultures created the first images of the Buddha based on Greek techniques.
Interactivity between the Greek and Buddhist cultures flourished for close to eight centuries. It began to dwindle with the Hephthalite invasions and later expansion of Islam.
Even when it was no longer the predominant religion of ancient India, Buddhism endure. With parts of the Buddhist culture trickling into the Islamic faith as time went on. Take for instance the knot of eternity - a symbol associated with both creeds.
In the end
Although not of Buddhist origin, these symbols have permeated aspects of our lives and cultures through our interactions with the Buddhist heritage.
In an attempt to appease the universe and bring good fortune we carve them on furniture and walls of homes, temples and monasteries. Weave them into carpets, paint them on ceramics, and embroider them on cushions.
If you were curious to understand what the Buddhist sacred symbols are, we hope this article has satiated some of that curiosity.
At Studio Covers, we have always asked why before what. And that is probably also why we are choosing tradition and timelessness over trend. We are choosing motifs that are inspired by everyday India, the craftsmanship that defines our vibrant country and fabric that is quintessentially Indian.
Fall is the season of warmth, comfort, pumkin spiced latters, and just embracing the idea of staying in with a book! We love Fall as does our Creative Partner Rukmini (Trumatter), who has penned down ways to incorporate cushions into your home this Fall like a dream.
Studio Covers is a designer furnishings brand that believes in creating sustainable luxury for those who appreciate the finer things in life. We started out as a soft furnishings studio in the 1990s and have worked on over 80 5-star projects and 500+ high-end residences across India and overseas. We strive to keep design and craftsmanship at the centre of everything that we do. Explore luxury cushion covers, bedspreads, throws, table runners, bedsheets, pillowslips, and body pillows that are meant to last for years to come. We ship across India.
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