Sandalwood or chandana is the Asian evergreen tree, Santalum album. Most of the world’s sandalwood is grown in South India, in the state of Karnataka. Its sweetly fragrant heartwood is ground into the fine, tan-colored paste distributed as prasada in Saivite temples and used for sacred marks on the forehead, tilaka.
The betel leaf, from the vine Piper betel, is used as an auspicious offering in homes and temples, and eaten as a digestive aid.
Shadkonam is the “six-pointed star,” formed by two interlocking triangles, the upper one representing Siva’s transcendent Being, and the lower one Siva’s manifest energy, Shakti. The shadkona is part of Lord Karttikeya’s yantra. A similar emblem in Judaism is of independent origin and signification. The cactus garden near Iraivan Temple is designed in the shape of a shadkonam.
The peacock is the vahana, or mount, of Siva’s son, Lord Murugan, symbolizing effulgent beauty and religion in full glory. The peacock can control powerful snakes, such as the cobra, symbolizing the soulful domination of the instinctive elements—or control of the kundalini, which is yoga.
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Flute and Cymbals
Flute and cymbals, traditional musical instruments from ancient times still used today.
The tambura is a long-necked, four-stringed, fretless lute that provides a drone accompaniment for a singer or instrumentalist.
The vina is a sophisticated stringed musical instrument widely played in India.
Mridangam is a two-sided drum common in South India.
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Here is a Saiva sannyasin, a renouncer who has taken sannyasa diksha, which makes him a Hindu monk, swami, and one of a world brotherhood (or holy order) of sannyasins. Some are wanderers and others live in monasteries. He carries a bamboo danda and a kamandalu, a copper water pot.
Siva Nataraja, King of Dance, is the Cosmic Dancer. Perhaps Hinduism’s richest and most eloquent symbol, Nataraja represents Siva, the Primal Soul, Parameshvara, as the power, energy and life of all that exists.
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