The iconography of lord Vishnu: 4 Symbols

Lord Vishnu, the preserver God, is also called Hari, Ananta, Narayana, and many more. He is considered the supreme being in the Vaishnava tradition. Lord Vishnu has thousands of names, and the “Vishnu Sahasranamam” praises him with all thousand names. Lord Vishnu is one of the Trimurti (supreme trinity) along with Lord Shiva, the destroyer, and Lord Brahma, the creator.

As a preserver God, Lord Vishnu means one who preserves the universe and keeps it in order and balance. He takes forms called avatars to maintain existence in order; there are 24 avatars of Lord Vishnu mentioned in the ancient scriptures. All Gods and deities are shown with certain symbols in the Sanatana tradition. Lord Shiva is shown with a trishul, snake, crescent moon, and the third eye. Lord Brahma is shown with Vedas, Japamala, lotus flower, and water pot.

Likewise, Lord Vishnu is shown with a Conch, Padma (lotus flower), Sudarshana chakra, and Gada (mace). They are not just symbols but the representation of certain aspects of creation. In this blog, we are going to discuss the 4 symbols of Lord Vishnu in a detailed way.

Shankha, lord Vishnu’s symbol of source (Conch):

Lord Vishnu is shown holding a conch in the left upper hand. Him holding the conch represents that he is the source of all sounds. Some of his avatars like Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, and Narasimha are also shown holding the conch. The Padma Purana mentions that bathing with the water pouring from Shankha (conch) is as auspicious as bathing in the Ganga river.

The conch is a shell formed by a sea snail. The creation of the Shankha is described in scriptures with various stories. When Lord Shiva burned Asuras with his Trishul, their ashes became conches in the sea. Another legend says that when Lord Vishnu in his Matsya Avatar killed Shankasura, his body became conches in the sea. The conch is considered the abode of goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. The conch was used as an instrument of announcements on the warfield in ancient times. In the Buddhist tradition, the conch is considered one of the eight sacred symbols, known as Ashtamangala.

Shankha conch symbol of lord Vishnu

Gada, an icon of strength (Mace):

The Gada is shown in the lower right hand of Lord Vishnu and is called Kaumodaki. The Gada symbolizes strength and mastery over warfare. It is also personified as Gada Devi. Gada in Vishnu’s hand represents that he is the source of strength and courage. Lord Hanuman is popularly shown holding the Gada, which symbolizes his courage, strength, and muscular power. At the end of the Kurukshetra war, Bhima and Duryodhana engage in Gada Yuddha, a form of martial arts. Balrama and Jarasandha were also known for the art of Gada Yuddha.

Mace Gada Iconography of lord Vishnu

Sudarshana Chakra, a symbol of time:

The Sudarshana Chakra is shown in the upper right hand of Lord Vishnu. The Sudarshana chakra represents the cyclical nature of time and the destructive nature of Lord Vishnu. The Sudarshana Chakra is personified as Ayudhapurush (man of weapons) who destroys Asuras (demons). Krishna avatar often uses the Sudarshana Chakra in the Mahabharata to destroy demons and stop their evil acts. The Sudarshana means showing good to the evil; su means good, darshana means experience of the divine presence. There are many temples solely dedicated to Sudarshana Chakra. In the Jagannath Temple, the deity is accompanied by Subhadra, Balarama, and Sudarshana.

Sudarshana Chakra of Vishnu

Padma (Lotus Flower):

Vishnu is depicted holding a lotus flower in the lower left hand. The lotus flower represents eternal beauty. The Vishnu Purana mentions that Lord Brahma was born from the lotus flower emerged from Vishnu’s navel. Goddess Lakshmi is shown sitting on a lotus flower grown in muddy water. Padmanabha is one of the names of Lord Vishnu, and the Padma Purana, one of the eighteen Puranas, comes from Lord Vishnu’s association with the lotus flower. Lord Vishnu is depicted as one who has lotus eyes in the Vaishnava tradition. The lotus flower growing in muddy water shows that no matter what situations a person faces, they can rise above it and live.

Lotus of Vishnu

This blog was contributed by Naveen PK, an author, and blogger at Visit his blog to read more fascinating articles.