Why Do Hindu Deities Have so many Arms?


Eleven heads and one thousand arms
Lokeshwar Statue
Sahasrabhuja Avalokiteswara


Image worship crept almost imperceptibly into Indian religions and was not only finally sanctioned in the religious scriptures but the images themselves, and the rituals for their worship were also described in greater detail. One of the results of this process, more especially the merging of two or more deities, was that some of the gods were shown as having several qualities. The visual problem that this created for the sculptor or artist when he made images of the gods was solved by Showing them with several arms. Each hand would hold some object which would symbolize or represent the various qualities of that particular deity. Some of the hands would be empty but the position of the fingers and the palms would signify the character of that god. For example, if the fingers are pointing towards the ground, it means that the god is of a charitable whereas the fingers pointing upwards, as in a blessing, signify a protector (see illustration). These gestures mudras symbolized their individual powers and differentiated them from other deities.

3 comments:

Ella Baker said...

nice article. I am also asking same questions my self that Why most of the god have so many arms but today i found the answer. Thanks for this article.

Lakshmi said...

Dear sir / madam

Thanks for creating this useful website. But kindly correct the typing mistake in your text.

" The visual problem that this created for the sculptor or artist when he made images of the gods was solved by Showing them with several anus."

It must be " several arms " at the end of the sentence.

thanks a lot.

Buddha Shakya said...

Thank you Lakshmi for showing the error, much appreciated!!! Namaste