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Yantra Meaning: A Comprehensive Guide
Yantras are geometric forms similar to mandalas that have been in use for thousands of years. In fact, there have been stones found in India with drawings of yantras dating back 10,000-12,000 years. The word “yantra” means “instrument.”
Yantras have a central form with shapes radiating out from the center, including triangles, circles, hexagrams, pentagrams, octagons, lotus petals and tridents. Each shape has symbolic importance. Yantra meaning also varies based on the overall structure of the image.
YANTRA TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Sahasrakshi Temple in Andhra Pradesh, India was built in the shape of a Sri Meru Yantra.
Forms of Yantras
Yantras can be in three main forms. In smaller forms, yantras are a central part of the ancient practice of using visual aids for meditation :
- a 3-D pyramid called a meru
- a circular form called a mandala
- a square form with numbers and letters
Entire buildings (temples, cathedrals) have been constructed as yantras. In ancient India, building a temple and positioning a temple within a village was the most significant part of aligning the inhabitants’ lives with the divine. The temple was built first. Residential dwellings and buildings for businesses and government facilities were constructed afterwards.
Yantra Meaning and God
Yantras can represent a specific deity, an aspect of God or a single sound. Yantras are mystical diagrams associated with particular thoughts and rituals. Yantras can be combined with mantras to accompany chanting and meditation.
In some schools of thinking, the yantra is a dwelling place for a deity. A yantra can also store energy to provide protection to a person or geographical location. The symbols of the chakras themselves are a form of yantra.
Four Aspects of Yantra Meaning
There are four main aspects to two-dimensional yantras:
- symbols used
- drawing surface
- drawing materials
- process used to energize
Specific geometric forms used in yantras include circles, triangles, squares and the lotus. The symbols used for each of the seven major chakras are types of yantras.
There are also yantras for the major Hindu deities. See information on yantras below for Hanuman, Lakshmi, Shiva and more. The deities can be viewed as representing a specific vibration or aspect of consciousness. By placing attention on that aspect of God, the energy can be multiplied and returned to the viewer.
In addition, yantras are used (often on copper plates) on the walls outside of temples. They are also used on personal altars in homes. The geometry of a yantra is said to connect the human form with cosmic forces.
Yantra Meaning: Bindu Point
The geometric forms of yantras each have specific meanings. In addition, the forms channel energy in specific ways. The center is always the focus of a yantra. The central point of a mandala or yantra is called the bindu. This is the same term that is used to refer to the dot applied to the forehead that represents the third eye.
The bindu is a tool for harnessing concentration. The bindu symbolizes the source or deity for the yantra. This central dot also can be viewed as a symbol of the cosmos or as a simplified version of the yin-yang symbol where masculine and feminine are perfectly balanced.
The center of a yantra radiates energy out as well as absorbs energy into itself. Ultimately the yantra is a focus for visualization, one of the fundamental powers of consciousness. This is a reflection of the development of spiritual vision associated with the third eye. Learn more about the Third Eye Chakra.
Functions of Yantras
Private yantras may have been derived from the larger forms used in temple construction. As depictions of universal vibrations, yantras are a type of microcosm. Rituals involving mantras and yantras can become very complex.
The rituals may be performed only on certain days of the year. The mantras are repeated with mathematical precision for each aspect of the yantra. The rituals are done at certain times of the day, and certain types of food or offerings are given.
Yantras are sometimes used in vastu (the Hindu form of feng shui) to correct negative configurations or influences in the environment. Yantras may be worn as talismans or charms.
Yantras can be created for specific purposes such as the mitigation of astrological influences, the healing of a particular disease, or for spiritual protection. Yantras may be guarded by Hindu priests to prevent unauthorized access to them.
Color Meaning in Yantras
Yantras may be black and white, carved on wood, engraved on stone or painted. Painted yantras utilize symbolic colors. Although there are traditional colors for each yantra, the colors can be decided in relation to the goal and purpose of the yantra. If the goal is abundance or auspicious outcomes in a practical sense, the yantra is generally red. If the purpose is to reconcile or appease, the color is often yellow.
Black: Black in a yantra symbolizes inertia, can also mean the withdrawing of the world back into the Goddess; a sum of all colors.
Brown, orange-brown or yellow-brown: Brown or tawny colors in a yantra mean dissolution and destruction.
Gold: Gold in a yantra means transcendence, abundance and good fortune; wealth, light and spiritual bliss.
Red: Red in a yantra means activation, flaming fire; red is associated with the solar plexus and the breath of life; red is the color of preservation.
White: White in a yantra represents purity, traditionally created from finely ground rice; associated with water; the color of liberation.
Yellow: Yellow in a yantra is associated with the earth element as well as the sun; also associated with the lightning bolt of Indra, the sky god; yellow conveys the power to initiate action.
Yantras and Sacred Geometry
Every aspect of a yantra is purposeful and meaningful. The circles, triangles, lotus petals, squares and other forms carry a specific energy. The symbols are connected to the five elements in the Ayurvedic tradition. The sum total creates a story of the soul’s journey based on that particular form. Some of the more common geometric forms and their meanings are included in the article Sacred Geometry in Art.
Circles and Yantra Meaning
The circle is a physical manifestation that is a counterpart to the spiritual realms. A circle is a primordial form that cannot be further reduced. A circle at the smallest size becomes a point or the bindu, as discussed above.
The circle symbolizes infinite space (the element akasha) and expansiveness. The circle also represents the cycles of nature at all levels from the atom to astronomy. The central quest of spirituality is to experience the oneness of these realms.
Lotus and Yantra Meaning
The lotus symbolizes purity, enlightenment and transcendence. In a yantra, the lotus is usually viewed from the top, with the petals extending out on the rim of a circle. The lotus illustrates the unfolding of the divine essence within. The lotus is like the navel of creation. In fact, the lotus is sometimes depicted as springing from the navel of Vishnu and giving birth to Brahma, two of the gods in the Hindu trinity.
The lotus is also a symbol of the heart, especially the inner or secret chamber of the heart. This is sometimes called Brahma’s cave or the city of Brahma in the East or the inner castle in the West. This is the core of being that remains untouched by everyday living.
Triangles and Yantra Meaning
The downward triangle is a symbol of the divine feminine, often associated specifically with the goddess Kali or Parvati. The downward triangle is a depiction of the water element. An upward triangle represents the masculine energy and the element of fire. The upward triangle is specifically associated with Shiva.
Numerous triangles can be interlocked in the center of a yantra. Each of these triangle represents different planes of existence. The root chakra symbol includes a downward triangle indicating the descent of spirit into matter.
Hexagon and Yantra Meaning
The hexagon or hexagram symbolizes the union of male and female forces in intertwined triangles. This is the fusion of polarities that remains in perfect balance. Since the two larger overlapping triangles create six smaller triangles, the numerical equivalent of this symbol is a six.
A star-pentagram can also be created. This is associated with the number five. This form is connected to Shiva in his five major aspects: the conqueror of death, the embodiment of knowledge, the source or being of life, the master of lust, sexuality and the lord of the elements.
Squares and Yantra Meaning
The square represents the four cardinal directions in yantras. A square symbolizes the foundation or base of the material world. Most yantras have a square as their fundamental form. The numerical equivalent, of course, is four. The square connects to the earth element in the Vedic tradition (earth, water, fire, space, air).
On each side of the yantra are gates that open up to invite the viewer into the center of the yantra. These portals also represent a passage between the heaven world and the plane of material existence. They also symbolize the opening between the inner and outer realms of the individual. The gates protect the center from disintegrating or negative forces.
Sanskrit Characters in Yantras
Some yantras have numbers and letters or words written on them. These yantras tend to be square rather than circular. The words may form a mantra related to the yantra. For numbers, the numbers have symbolic meaning for good fortune, protection or other purposes.
The Hanuman Yantra is an example of a yantra with an entire mantra written in the center. Not only does the mantra have specific meaning, but each of the sound-s\syllables have a different impact on the environment and the viewer. See the information below or refer to the in-depth article on the Hanuman Yantra.
Specific Yantra Meanings
Yantras are said to contain the energy of a specific deity. In fact, a yantra can be thought to ensoul a particular mantra which is in turn related to the deity. In some cases they may contain the energy of a particular planet when they are viewed astrologically. Most teachings concerning yantras are found in the Tantras, books written one to two thousand years ago.
The teachings themselves are much more ancient, probably several thousands of years. The Tantras were originally part of the ancient oral tradition. The yantras below have specific meaning associated with their symbolic forms as well as the mantras and deities connected to them. Some are associated with multiple deities.
Sri Yantra Meaning
The Sri Yantra is a 12,000-year-old symbol known as the holy wheel. The Sri Yantra is used in the Vidya school of Hinduism. The Sri Yantra represents the union of the divine masculine and feminine. This is symbolized by nine interlaced triangles with upward triangles meeting downward triangles in a kind of star tetrahedron. The Sri Yantra is the most well-known and widely recognizable of the Hindu yantras. Read a full article on Sri Yantra Meaning.
Gayatri Yantra by Rose Karlsen
Gayatri Yantra Meaning
The Gayatri yantra symbol meaning includes multiple layers of spiritual significance. The Gayatri yantra symbol is a visual counterpart for a family of mantras known as the Gayatris. Central to the Gayatri yantra symbol meaning is the Sanskrit syllable OM. The form of the yantra is viewed as condensed or crystallized sound.
Gayatri is a Vedic poetic meter of twenty-four syllables or any hymn composed in this meter. Hence, there exists a whole family of Gayatri Mantras, all of which serve as meditative aids. Estimates are that there are over 400 Gayatri poems in the Hindu tradition.
One level of meaning is the geometry used to create the Gayatri yantra. Yantras usually have a central form radiating out from the center. The intent of a yantra is to focus the mind as well as to serve as a repository of spiritual energy. For this reason, yantras can be used for protection.
MORE RESOURCES: Article on the Gayatri Yantra.
Hanuman Yantra by Rose Karlsen
Hanuman Yantra Meaning
The Hanuman yantra is a symbolic representation of the Hindu monkey-god and his primary mantras. He is the hero of epics and stories in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Hanuman is the ardent devotee of Lord Rama. He is a central figure in the epic Hindu poem Ramayana.
Some interpretations of the name “Hanuman” are the Sanskrit words “han” meaning killed or destroyed and “maana” meaning pride. With this interpretation, Hanuman would mean “one whose pride was destroyed.”
The mantra associated with the Hanuman yantra is “OM HUM Hanumate Rudratmakaya Hoom Phat.” Hanuman is known for fierce loyalty and unfailing energy. Hanuman is often appealed to for solutions in seemingly impossible circumstances.
Read full article on the Hanuman Yantra.
Durga Yantra by Rose Karlsen
Durga Yantra Meaning
The mantra associated with the Durga Yantra is “Om Aim Hrim Klim Chamundaye Viche.” The word “Chamundaye” is a reference to Durga and the slayer of Chamunda, an evil demon.“Viche” means a “shield” and indicates Durga’s role in protecting her own. Durga has the role of destruction for the sake of universal harmony.
The Durga Yantra and mantra are based on the idea that it is better to protect yourself and divert misfortune whenever possible.For this reason, the Durga Yantra is viewed as a protection yantra. Durga is a warrioress with indomitable strength. Like Kali, she will help you to let go of anything that is no longer serving you. In addition, she can serve as a shield on many levels as you move through the world.
Durga cultivates a unique combination of fearlessness, courage and love. The many upward pointing triangles in the yantra emphasize spiritual freedom. Durga’s colors are white, silver, gold, saffron, orange and red.
Lakshmi Yantra by Rose Karlsen
Lakshmi Yantra Meaning
The Lakshmi Yantra is dedicated to the Hindu goddess of wealth and abundance. She is also connected to the solar plexus chakra. The geometric forms creating Lakshmi’s Yantra include interlocking triangles, the lotus flower, the circle, square and the gates in each cardinal direction.
The interlocking triangles are the balance of the masculine and feminine. The consort of Lakshmi is Vishnu, an incarnation of Krishna. There are eight petals in the lotus flower that surrounds the interlocking triangles. The eight petals represent speech, transaction, departure, transcendence, bliss, absence, giving and neglect.
Lakshmi is said to have been born when the gods and demons joined together to stir the primordial ocean. Without Lakshmi, the world is said to become dark and infertile. Lakshmi is often associated with white elephants, a symbol of good luck and fortune. She is depicted seated on a lotus, just as the lotus is a central feature of her yantra.
Baglamuhki Yantra by Rose Karlsen
Baglamuhki Yantra Meaning
The Baglamuhki Yantra is a yantra of protection on personal and professional levels. Baglamuhki is a goddess of strength and power, particularly with the power to neutralize gossip and negative speech. For this reason, she is a goddess of protection.
The inner lotus flower with eight petals is surrounded by a larger lotus ring with 16 petals. Like many other yantras, the interlocking triangles in the center establish the balance of yin and yang or masculine and feminine. These petals in the larger ring represent the 16 sacred vowels.
The sacred vowels correspond to the 10 senses of perception, the five elements and the mind. The yantra or symbol for the throat chakra also has the same 16 petals. Learn more about the Chakra Symbols. The gates on the perimeter of the yantra represent the four cardinal directions. The seeker can enter the yantra symbolically through each of these gates.
Ganesha Yantra Meaning
The Ganesha Yantra utilizes many of the same basic shapes as the Sri Yantra. The six-pointed star is a simplified version of the nine interlocking triangles of the Sri Yantra. The interlocking stars in Ganeha’s yantra symbolizes balance and harmony. Another six-pointed star takes the place of the bindu in the center of the yantra.
The mantra associated with this symbol is “Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha” and means “Salutations to the remover of obstacles!” Ganesha is the master of both inner and outer journeys. Ganesha is known for knowledge, patience, preparation and grounding.
The sheer weight of an elephant is a wonderful metaphor for the earth-based energy necessary for successful projects and endeavors. For example, the energy of Ganesha can form a strong foundation for a new business. The energy of Ganesha can also help to clear away the uncertainty and self-doubt that may hinder a new venture.
Tales of Ganesha’s origins differ widely. In some stories, Parvati created him from clay. Another legend says that Parvati created him from the soap suds in her bath. Another myth claims that Shiva’s laughter created him. In yet another tale, Ganesha simply appeared mysteriously and was found by Shiva and Parvati.
Ganesha is the patron of the arts, crafts and sculpture. When colored, the Ganesha Yantra usually includes deep, rich earth colors like forest green, golden yellow, primary red and orange. Like many other yantras, the four gates around the Ganesha yantra represent the four directions. The circle around the lotus is a symbol of expansiveness, the cycles of nature and the infinite universe encompassing all.
Read article about Ganesha Symbolism.
The Surya Yantra Meaning
The mantra associated with the Surya Yantra is “Om Hram Hrim Hraum Saha Suryaya Namaha.” As the god of the sun, Surya brings illumination, healing and spiritual magnetism.
The Surya Yantra is sometimes called the Radiance Yantra. The twelve outer petals are known as the celestial beams of the sun. They are symbolic of the twelve months of the year and the twelve astrological signs. The sun is the regal master of the entire solar system and the visible universe.
The yantra and the mantra are both tools for guiding the thoughts and feelings in healthy patterns, but the viewer’s intention is paramount. When colored, the Surya Yantra is decorated with flaming red, orange, silver and gold.
Focusing on the Surya Yantra can be particularly appropriate for extending yourself into new social situations, travel or undertaking adventures in life. Surya is a celebration of light and illumination in yourself and others.
There are twelve names for Surya, each with their own meaning:
- Mitraya: the friend of all
- Ravaye: praised by all
- Suryaya: the guide of all
- Bhanave: the besstower of beauty
- Khagaya: stimulator of the sense
- Pushne: the nourisher of all
- Hiranyagarbhaya: the creator
- Marichaye: destroyer of disease
- Adityaya: the inspirer
- Arkaya: the radiant one
- Bhaskaraya: the illuminator
Shiva-Shakti Yantra Meaning
Like the Surya yantra, the Shiva-Shakti yantra has two concentric rings of lotus petals. The Shiva-Shakti yantra also features multiple concentric circles around the lotus petals. Shiva and Shakti are the two fundamental forces also known as yin and yang or male and female.
The multiple triangles in the center show these forces balanced with one another. The masculine energies are symbolized by the upward pointing triangles (fire energy). The feminine energy is symbolized by the downward pointing triangles (feminine energy).
Like other yantras, the Shiva-Shakti yantra has four gates or entrances around the geometric figures. These are the four cardinal directions. Shiva is one of the principal deities of Hinduism. Shakti is a name for the energy of the cosmos. Shakti is formless, capable of creating any aspect of physical manifestation.
Yantras and Buddhist Mandalas
Yantras tend to be linear and geometric, whereas mandalas are more figurative. The yantras associated with Hinduism are generally simpler and less colorful than the mandalas often associated with Buddhism.
Mandalas are often made from fragile or perishable materials or destroyed after creation to emphasize the impermanence of the world. The creation process itself is a meditation. On the other hand, yantras are retained as a channel and receptacle for divine energy.
The choice of a yantra depends on the aims and goals of the practitioner. Traditionally, both a mantra and yantra were chosen for a spiritual aspirant by a teacher or guru. The purpose was to find the yantra and mantra combination that would be the most effective in stimulating the devotion and life force of the seeker.
Additional Benefits of Yantras
Yantras can function in several ways. As discussed above, yantras can be used for protection. They can also be used as a means of concentrating on a particular aspects of God’s consciousness embodied in a particular deity. If you are using a mantra to shift a situation or circumstance in your life, using the yantra and mantra together will increase the effectiveness of your efforts.
Additional benefits of using these ancient mystical symbols include the following:
- Focusing on a yantra helps to train the mind in the practice of visualization. In turn, mastering the use of visualization is helpful in supporting health, accomplishing goals and creating a calm and centered attitude in life.
- Some believe that the yantra itself holds spiritual energy. By chanting or focusing attention on the yantra, it can be charged like a battery. The stored energy can be utilized at a later point.
- The yantra reinforces the positive effects of the associated mantra. Since the yantra is a crystallized form of the mantra, the two strengthen each other synergistically.
- The beauty and symmetry of the yantra will help to uplift your consciousness simply through gazing on the yantra or having the yantra visible in your environment.
- The symbols for each of the chakras are also yantras. These can be used to help visualize the clearing and healing of each chakra. Learn more in the article Chakra Symbols.
Tantra, Yantra and Mantra
There are three basic forms of practice in Hinduism that are used individually or together for self-liberation. Each of these three practices can be used or misused. The key is the intention and purity of the practitioner. For example, in the worst-case scenario, mantras can be used to cause harm or create suffering (tamasic). They can also be used purely for self-centered reasons (sattvic). Ideally, they are used for universal spiritual liberation (rajasic).
- The path of action or physical practice (tantra, physical power, nervous system, nadis)
- The path of the mind and knowledge (mantra, thought power, invocation, devotion)
- The path of will power (yantra, spiritual power, individual will, renunciation)
Energizing a Yantra
Yantras can be used to store divine energy much like a battery or protective shield. In addition to concentrating on a yantra when chanting or meditating, you may want to consider the following practices in association with energizing a yantra:
- Take a shower or bath to start with a sense of purity on the physical level
- Find a place where you will not be disturbed (you may want to face east)
- Light incense or diffuse essential oils (especially sandalwood, cedarwood, myrrh)
- Create some kind of altar with special objects and/or fresh flowers
- State your intention or desire (personal or universal)
- Choose a set number of times to repeat a mantra (108 is a common number)
Yantra Meaning and Cymatics
The science of cymatics relates directly to the art of yantras. Cymatics is a branch of research that explores the power of sound to change matter and to create stunningly beautiful or discordant patterns in sand, water and other materials.
The term cymatics was coined by Hans Jenny (1904-1972), a Swiss researcher who explored the nodal patterns formed by materials subjected to continuous sound. The patterns for specific sounds are remarkably like the forms depicted in traditional yantras.
The Sri Yantra, for example, is the visual equivalent of the sound OM. Each yantra has a specific use and potential spiritual power. The Sri Yantra is the most well-known of all yantras. The Shri Yantra is also called the “queen of yantras” because it is a symbol of the divine mother, source of all energy, power, and creativity.
The Sri Yantra represents the union of the divine masculine and feminine. This is symbolized by nine interlaced triangles with upward triangles meeting downward triangles in a kind of star tetrahedron. There are forty-three intersecting triangles organized in nine concentric levels radiating out from the central bindu point.
More Resources for Yantra Meaning
Yantra meaning is a vast topic that is gaining more attention in the arenas of symbolism, meditation and personal growth. The intersection between visual forms and sounds is also an expanding area of research and study. Additional resources for yantra meaning include the following: Yantra Blessings: Ancient Tools. Other yantras on this website. Explore the Gayatri Yantra. Learn more about the Hanuman Yantra.
Author Kathleen Karlsen
Vocal Medicine reveals Kathleen Karlsen’s personal journey and years of research into mantras, chanting and kirtan. Learn more about using mantras and singing to invigorate your life! Explore the chakras and the impact of sound in every area of your life.
Flower Symbols by Kathleen Karlsen features fascinating information about the folklore of the world’s most beloved flowers. Flowers accompany us in nearly every major event in life. This book is a perfect gift for every flower lover in your life!
Symbolic Art & Yantras
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YANTRA MEANING ARTICLE SUMMARY
This article on yantra meaning includes the meaning of the basic geometric forms in yantras: circles, squares, lotus petals, triangles, hexagrams and more. Specific yantras including the well-known Sri Yantra are discussed as well as the use of yantra forms in building temples.