Often I read different interpretations of the Forms of God. For example, the ten hands of Durga repesent the ten directions, the standing of Kali over Shiva repesent the Saguna Brahman or Prakriti standing on the Nirguna Brahman and so on and on and on.

What is the origin of such interpretations? Does any scripture provide such symbolic meanings of any Form of God? Or, more generally, does any scripture support such symbolic interpretations?

Also, if such meanings are accepted, how could the devotees get direct vision of the God with Form?

  • Krishnopanishad, Kaivalya Upanishad Some major upanishads like Brhadaranyaka uses a horse to explain the virat swaroopam Apr 21, 2019 at 7:04
  • the forms are in the puranas and tantras. descriptive forms are not in the vedas Apr 22, 2019 at 5:44
  • @SwamiVishwananda May be for Vishnu thats true. But Uma Haimavati is in Kenopanishad.
    – user17294
    Apr 22, 2019 at 6:17

2 Answers 2


One example of the symbolic interpretation of Vishnu's form is mentioned in the Vishnu Purana.


PARÁŚARA. (says) --Having offered salutation to the mighty and indescribable Vishńu, I repeat to you what was formerly related to me by Vaśisht́ha. The glorious Hari wears the pure soul of the world, undefiled, and void of qualities, as the Kaustubha gem. The chief principle of things (Pradhána) is seated on the eternal, as the Srivatsa mark. Intellect abides in Mádhava, in the form of his mace. The lord (Íśwara) supports egotism (Ahankára) in its twofold division, into elements and organs of sense, in the emblems of his conch-shell and his bow. In his hand Vishńu holds, in the form of his discus, the mind, whose thoughts (like the weapon) fly swifter than the winds. The necklace of the deity Vaijayantí, composed of five precious gems 8, is the aggregate of the five elemental rudiments. Janárddana bears, in his numerous shafts, the faculties both of action and of perception. The bright sword of Achyuta is holy wisdom, concealed at some seasons in the scabbard of ignorance. In this manner soul, nature, intellect, egotism, the elements, the senses, mind, ignorance, and wisdom, are all assembled in the person of Hrishikeśa. Hari, in a delusive form, embodies the shapeless elements of the world, as his weapons and his ornaments, for the salvation of mankind 9. Puńd́arikáksha, the lord of all, assumes nature, with all its products, soul and all the world. All that is wisdom, all that is ignorance, all that is, all that is not, all that is everlasting, is centred in the destroyer of Madhu, the lord of all creatures. The supreme, eternal Hari is time, with its divisions of seconds, minutes, days, months, seasons, and years: he is the seven worlds, the earth, the sky, heaven, the world of patriarchs, of sages, of saints, of truth: whose form is all worlds; first-born before all the first-born; the supporter of all beings, himself self-sustained: who exists in manifold forms, as gods, men, and animals; and is thence the sovereign lord of all, eternal: whose shape is all visible things; who is without shape or form: who is celebrated in the Vedanta as the Rich, Yajush, Sáma, and Atharva Vedas, inspired history, and sacred science. The Vedas, and their divisions; the institutes of Manu and other lawgivers; traditional scriptures, and religious manuals 10; poems, and all that is said or sung; are the body of the mighty Vishńu, assuming the form of sound. All kinds of substances, with or without shape, here or elsewhere, are the body of Vishńu. I am Hari. All that I behold is Janárddana; cause and effect are from none other than him. The man who knows these truths shall never again experience the afflictions of worldly existence.

  • Any clue to the last oart of the question? If the form is symbolical, darshana, Vaikuntha--everything will lose meanings immediately:)
    – user17294
    Apr 20, 2019 at 13:10
  • @commonman I think the answer to the last part of the question is subjective.
    – user16581
    Apr 20, 2019 at 14:59

Symbolism .. being that A: Everyone needs something to believe in but depending on what area of the world you are in is tending more to what you believe..

  • 2
    Welcome to Hinduism SE. Answers on this site should be detailed enough to solve the questioner's doubts and also should be backed up by proofs from Hindu scriptures like Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads, etc. Here, the questioner wants to know if there are anything in Hindu scriptures that indicates whether the things written are symbolic or not. So, please edit your answer to provide more details and proof from scriptures in order to make it more reliable.
    – Aby
    Apr 20, 2019 at 19:56

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