The Symbolic Language of Hindu Iconography and Its Impact on Indian Society

By: France Azema  

The interpretation of religious symbolism in Hinduism is one of the main tools for understanding the religion and all the rituals around. This paper faces with the task of recognizing and understanding the meaning of both religious symbols and the whole process of their application in the social everyday life. I examine the phenomenon of implicit learning, the process by which behaviors and beliefs are acquired independently of conscious wills to do so. Hindu iconography is very rich in symbolism. I will focus here on the various representations of the same goddess: Kāli, and attempt to decipher the complexity of her iconographic symbols. Assuming that Kāli represents the Goddess, mother of all Hindus, loving and protector, why does she look terrifying? (holding weapons and men's bloodied decapitated heads, in her hands) This paper wants to clarify these two seemingly opposite paradigms. Implicit learning of the religion produces a tacit abstract knowledge base that is representative of the structure of the societal environment. Such knowledge is optimally acquired independently of conscious efforts to learn but is very deeply integrated by the whole society.

Hinduism, Goddess, Symbolism
2019 Special Focus—Universal Religious Symbols: Mutual Influences and Specific Relationships
Virtual Poster

France Azema

Teacher, Sciences of Theology and Religions, ISTR, France

France Azema is a Sociologist of Gender and Religion : specialist in the religions of India and an PhD Anthropologist in Indian studies. The research area and the topic of the doctoral thesis is : The Position of Women in the Hindu Religion & the importance of the Hindu feminine symbolism in the religious practices of women. She lives from several years in India where she was first working with women in a slum in Delhi. Her field of research is Punjab and the northern India. Now, she shares her time between India, where she is teaching in polytechnic university, and France, where she is teaching in the Toulouse University of Theology. She is fostering the higher values and contributing to enhance intercultural understanding and civilization dialogues across cultures. She hes been extensively involved in both creating and managing research projects in human sciences.