Symbolism of Sky in Hinduism

Symbolism of Sky or Space

by Jayaram V

In the Vedic world the sky represented the playground of the gods as well as their abode. Gods lived in the higher regions of the sky while mortal lived upon earth and looked to them for support. In the following essay you will find archetypal meaning, cultural significance and symbolism of Sky (Akasa) or Space in Hinduism.

In Hinduism the sky (akasa) is synonymous with space. It is beyond the mind, and it cannot be grasped by the senses. Hence, it is compared to Brahman himself. In the descriptions of the Vedas, the sky represents many aspects of creation, such as infinity, divine authority, the highest realm, Brahman or Father God, heaven, home to higher worlds, expansiveness which is an attribute of Brahman, the element ether, celestial abode of gods, wonders, and divine beings, purity, support, body of Supreme Purusha, carrier of winds and sounds, a golden sphere that was separated from the earth at the time of creation, and the mysterious region where the sun, the moon, and the stars shine. It is also the battle ground of the divine and demonic forces where they wage battles and precipitate rains, thunder, lightning, and violent storms.

It is also the divine theater, from where gods and celestial beings watch the divine drama that unfolds in different planes of existence. When they see an auspicious event or the victory of good over evil, they express their joy and happiness by showering flowers and blessing upon the players who exemplify virtue and manifest the will of God.

The sky or the space is the element ether, which acts as the medium of sounds and facilitates direct communication between gods and humans. According to the Vedas, it is where the divine voice is heard by the gods and seers. The power and the knowledge of God enters into human minds through space only. Breath or Prana also travels into the human body as well as inside the body thruogh space only. The inner space is more important in spritual practice. The space in the heart is the abode of the Self. When the inner space is pure, it lets the effulgence of the Self spread. However, when it is permeated with the impurities of rajas and tamas, it becomes like the night sky or the sky covered by dark clouds.

The sounds of the Vedas which exist in the highest heaven descend into the mortal world through space only. It is also the medium of sounds and a divine messenger who facilitates communication across the worlds. During the sacrificial ceremonies the sounds that arise from the chanting of the Vedic mantras travel upwards through space, aided by the expansive power of Brahman who is hidden in it and reach the gods. When the sounds reach them, they promptly descend to the earth to receive the offerings.

In scriptures and literature, sky is also compared a many-storied building (akasa-harmyam), a travelling place, path or a street where stars and celestial beings journey from one place to another, a place, a subtle body made of breath and pure intelligence, a substance (as stated in the Vaisheshika philosophy), peace, clothe, roof, superiority, witness, emptiness (of the sunyavada), radio or heavenly voice (akashavani), and gods such as Brahma and Indra (as an epithet).

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