Images do make things clearer, don’t they? We’ve always related more with images, symbols and icons than with myths, legends and ideas. They, in different way help us understand ideas. Starting from literature to cinema and religion all use imagery to reach out to their audience and devotees. Coming to imagery in religion, there are certain symbols and images, which we always keep with ourselves in order to feel better. Religious faith is something we all have in some way or the other and imagery does help. Here’s how:
The eastern orthodox religions have a lot of imagery which symbolizes or signifies them. Many of our gods have blue skin colour (Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna) which actually is the colour of Heaven. The flute is also a symbol of Lord Krishna as are the animals: tiger, elephant and many more which are the symbols of other gods and goddesses. Each and every god and goddess in any religion (which follow idol worship) have some kind of a symbol which signifies them or their presence.
It’s a fact that the visual and audio stimuli make the greatest impact in the minds of humans. When we see something we are able to concentrate and connect much more. Otherwise we start thinking in our minds and it does start wandering doesn’t it? When you need to worship or concentrate or go for your prayers – if you have something in front of you it becomes easier for you to relate to and concentrate on your prayer. Remember people tell you to imagine some image in your mind where you may concentrate to meditate properly? Well, it follows from the same idea.
The religious imagery that we have in hundreds helps us make others understand some very important ideas. Religious ideas and significations are easily understandable if we use the imagery that we have. For instance, you could us the symbol of the ten hands of Goddess Durga to explain something which is otherwise not possible to explain, like multi-tasking? May be! To explain the plight of certain characters in books or paintings writers and artists sometimes infuse them with religious properties by profusely using them.
When we are in some kind of trouble or fall into one our immediate reaction is to think about the one we worship and the image or symbol symbolizing the one is always close to us. We carry small images or tokens carrying that particular image which is closest to us when we need it. You do need to hold on to something in times of need – and it’s easier when we have something tangible and visible in front of us. It is rather difficult to use our imagination in times of need; all we need is to hold on to (literally) something.
The Hindu religion has a number of images and symbols and specially sculptures of Gods and Goddesses in human form. Giving them the form of humans makes us closer to them and easier for us to relate to them. We can concentrate more that way, surely. This is not only particular to Hinduism. The oldest of religions follow this norm like the Greek and Roman civilizations. The oldest cultures and civilizations follow this unlike the newer religions of Christianity and Islam.
To follow religions we need imagery and to propagate religion we need it too. Religions like Christianity and Islam were initially started by propagation and conversion. They had to use symbols along with the preaching. But for the religions which were there from the beginning – they needed imagery to make the religious sayings easily understandable to them. Imagery is a sign for the idea or thought and understanding or following can never get easier without it.