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Ornaments Of Hindu Gods And Goddesses

The ornaments of Hindu gods and goddesses are known as abharana. A Hindu deity is generally identified by ornaments, color of dress, weapons and instruments (mostly musical). The same deity may have more than one form and in dhyanashlokas (verse uttered in meditation before worship), various ornaments are referred to. Anklets, bangles, armlets, a gold chain or pearl necklace, rings and crowns are commonly found. The same deity can appear in different forms – Nataraja (dancing Shiva), Ardhanarishwara (an image of Shiva representing both male and female principles). Bhikshatana (the form of Shvia carrying a begging bowl), and so on.

Some deities have one or more identifying ornaments. For instance, Bhagavan Vishnu wears a jewel called kaustubha on his breast. (This gem emerged from the milky ocean when it was being churned by Devas and Asuras). Vaijayanti is Vishnu’s necklace, made of five gems set together. Shiva has snakes as his ornaments. Nala and Kubera, two celestial beings, are said to have taken the form of the two earrings of Shiva. Shiva is also described as wearing earrings known as kundala in the form of makara (fish). Adishesha, the serpent, is the anklet of Shiva. Goddess Parvati wears a string of crystals and rudrakshas called sphatik akshamala. She also wears tatanka (ear ornaments).

Goddess Kali has a string of human skulls as her necklace. She wears wild elephants as ear ornaments. Only Goddess Durga wears the nose ornament. Karnikara (golden flowers) are also used as ear ornaments. Dhyana Sloka of deities describe the special ornaments worn by gods and goddesses.

Adi Shankaracharya writes in his Saundaryalahari that this tatanka of Durga, the mother Goddess, saved him when he consumed the deadly poison. He celebrates the nose stud of Mother Goddess Shakti just as Lalita Sahasranama does. It is said that the diamond nose-stud of the Mother Goddess (Kanyakumari) at the Kanyakumari temple at the southernmost tip of India served as the lighthouse for ships voyaging in the eastern seas – such was its brilliance.

Vedic gods are described as wearing gold ornaments, carrying weapons and traveling in chariots. To this day this custom persists and in Vaishnava temples of the South the deities are fully decorated with dazzling ornaments on festive occasions.