In the Yoga tradition, each of the seven Chakras has its own Chakra symbol, rich with metaphorical meaning and sacred symbolism. These Chakra symbols are sometimes used to contemplate the Chakra qualities and meaning and are yet one more interesting way of exploring the Chakras.
Let us look at each of the 7 Chakra Symbols and try to decipher their meaning.
Root Chakra Symbol
The Sanskrit term for the Root Chakra is Muladhara, which combines the syllables Mula (=Root) and adhara (=base, foundation). The Root Chakra is our foundation, the stable and solid ground all human evolution rests upon. Just as a tree needs its roots to be nourished and stable, so too does the human being need a healthy root chakra to grow and evolve.
The Root Chakra Symbol is a red lotus flower with four petals. At its center we often find a square and an inverted triangle. Let us look at all these elements in some detail.
Root Chakra Symbol: The color red
In the Hindu tradition, red is the color of Shakti which means energy, awakening, movement, and evolution. Red here is the red of dawn, the rising of consciousness from a sleepy, dormant state to awakened, active awareness. The Root Chakra is considered the birth of human consciousness, as it marks the transition from animal to human consciousness, the dawning of self-awareness, and the possibility of conscious spiritual evolution and transformation.
Root Chakra Symbol: The four-petaled lotus
As the root chakra is the birth of human consciousness, the four petals of the lotus symbolize four central aspects of the human psyche, that are seeded in the root chakra: mind (Manas), intellect (Buddhi), consciousness (Chitta) and ego (Ahamkara).
Another reading instead believes the four petals to represent the 4 goals of human life: dharma (a virtuous, moral life), artha (a life of meaning and purpose), Kama (a life of pleasure, sensuality and emotional fulfillment) and Moksha (a life dedicated to spiritual liberation and self-actualization). These four goals of human life are non-exclusive and taken together are called called “Purusartha” (= the object of human pursuit), a key concept of Hindu philosophy.
Root Chakra Symbol: The square
The number four again appears as the square, the most physical and inert of all geometrical forms. The number four also represents the four physical elements, the four cardinal directions, the four seasons and other such elements that govern the physical dimension.
Root Chakra Symbol: The inverted triangle
The inverted triangle is usually considered as downward pointing. In this sense, it symbolizes the seeding of consciousness into the root chakra, from which it flowers and grows. The soul is pulled and funneled down, into incarnated, physical form.
Read from the other side, it symbolizes the expansion and unfolding of consciousness from the seed to the fully blossoming peak of human potential.
More symbolism of the Root Chakra Symbol
Sometimes additional elements are added to the Root Chakra Symbol:
- The Seed Syllable LAM – this is considered to be a sacred syllable that can awaken the Root Chakra. It is sometimes written within the center of the Root Chakra Symbol.
- The Hindu deity Shiva – in combination with the Root Chakra Symbol, Shiva is depicted in his manifestation as the Lord of the animals (Pashupati Mahadeva), meaning that the animalistic tendencies are now being left behind for the human consciousness to evolve to higher, more refined states.
- An elephant with seven trunks – the elephant is the symbolic animal of the root chakra. It stands for both stability and wisdom. Its depiction with seven trunks refers to the seven elements of the human body according to Ayurveda, an ancient system for naturopathic medicine: Rasa (plasma), Rakta (blood), Mamsa (muscles), Meda (fat), Ashti (bone), Majja (bone marrow), Shukra (semen). They are also a reference to the seven levels of consciousness: Unconsciousness, subconsciousness, dream consciousness, waking consciousness, astral consciousness, supreme consciousness, and cosmic consciousness. But possibly they can also be understood as a reference to the seven Chakras themselves.
Sacral Chakra Symbol
The Sanskrit name of the Chakra Svadhishthana is comprised of the syllables sva (= self) and shthana (= place), which may be roughly translated to “one’s own dwelling place”.
The Sacral Chakra is considered to be the place of our basic emotions, desires, sexual energy, and much of our subconscious.
The Sacral Chakra Symbol is an orange lotus with six petals. At its center, we find two concentric circles, that together form a crescent moon shape. Let us again to look at all these elements in detail.
Sacral Chakra Symbol: The color orange
While red is the color of awakening, orange is the color of activity and aliveness. Interestingly, orange is also the color of purity or rather purified energy in the Hindu tradition, and monks and ascetics usually wear this color.
Sacral Chakra Symbol: The six-petaled lotus
The six petals of the Sacral Chakra Symbol traditionally symbolize six qualities which are to be overcome to purify this Chakra – anger, hatred, jealousy, cruelty, desire and pride. But the number six is also considered to be an extrovert feminine number and is very much connected to cycles. It is hidden in the 360 degrees of a circle, the 60 minutes of an hour, and the 12 months of a year.
Sacral Chakra Symbol: The Circles and the moon
This reference to cycles appear again as the two concentric circles forming the moon: Not only are circles itself a symbol of cycles, the moon they form is yet another famous symbol of cycles – again in connection with a feminine quality. These cycles refer to constant movement, never-ending change, a continuous stream of phenomena and experience, and invite us to jump into this flow without grasping unto any experience in particular, but rather finding joy in the flowing itself.
More Symbolism in the Sacral Chakra Symbol
- The seed syllable VAM – this is considered to be a sacred syllable that can awaken the Sacral Chakra. It is sometimes written into the center of the Sacral Chakra Symbol.
- The Hindu deities Brahma and Sarasvati – Brahma is the Creator of the manifest world and his daughter Sarasvati is the deity of fine arts and creativity
- A crocodile – The Crocodile is the traditional symbolic animal for the Sacral Chakra. The crocodile represents the duality of strength and weakness, indicating that there is a possibility of great power but also great weakness in this Chakra.
Solar Plexus Chakra Symbol
The Sanskrit name for this Chakra is Manipura, from the two syllables mani (= jewel) and pura (= city, place), roughly translatable to “City of Jewels”.
The Chakra Symbol for the Solar Plexus Chakra is a yellow lotus with 10 petals, again with a downward pointing triangle at its center. What do these symbols mean?
Solar Plexus Chakra Symbol: The color yellow
The color yellow is obviously associated with fire and the sun and has a strong radiating energy to it. It symbolizes energy in general and both refers to this Chakra as a major collection and distribution point of energy and to the radiation of will and power outwards into the world. In the Hindu culture yellow is also a symbol for meditation, competence, and mental development.
Solar Plexus Chakra Symbol: The 10 petaled lotus
Traditionally, the 10 petals in the Solar Plexus Chakra Symbols carry a double meaning. They either represent the 10 forms of subtle energy that the human body uses according to Ayurveda, which are known as the 10 pranas or vayus. Each of these energy-forms has their own place in the human body, their own movement, element, direction, and function. The Solar Plexus Chakra is like an exchange place between these Vayus and is one of the main powerhouses of the human body. As such, it governs our energy, vitality, and immunity. When it is open, it acts like a magnet that attracts energy from the cosmos and makes it usable for the human body, just like it is linked to the digestion of food in the physical realm.
Similar to the Sacral Chakra, other traditions rather feel that the petals represent 10 blocking qualities on the petals that must be overcome to fully open this Chakra: sadness, foolishness, delusion, disgust, fear, shame, treachery, jealousy, ambition, and ignorance.
Solar Plexus Chakra Symbol: The downward-pointing triangle
The Solar Plexus Chakra Symbol again features a downward-pointing triangle. In this case, it is mostly considered to be related to energy: attracting energy like a magnet from the cosmos and radiating energy, will, and power out into the world.
More Symbolism in the Sacral Chakra Symbol
- The seed syllable RAM – this is considered to be a sacred syllable that can awaken the Solar Plexus Chakra. It is sometimes written within the center of the Solar Plexus Chakra Symbol.
- The Hindu deities Vishnu and Lakshmi. Lord Vishnu represents the evolving human consciousness that no longer contains its animalistic quality, since in the Solar Plexus Chakra the human will can control and direct unconscious instincts and desires. Goddess Lakshmi represents material and spiritual prosperity.
- An Aries – interestingly another English word for Aries is Ram – exactly the seed syllable of this Chakra. But more importantly, the Aries is generally considered to be a symbol of will and fire-energy.
Heart Chakra Symbol
The Heart Chakra is the fourth of our Chakras. It is associated with the element of air and related to the qualities of love, relating, connection, and compassion.
The Sanskrit name of this Chakra is Anahata, which translates as “unstruck, unbeaten, unhurt”. This also relates to the Anahata nada, the “sound produced without touching two parts” – the eternal sound OM without any source, unstruck by any instrument or string. This name alone carries a lot of symbolism: Firstly, it means that the Heart Chakra at its deepest core is always unhurt, untouched by the drama and dream of this world, forever abiding in eternal love and peace. Secondly, it refers to the heart as its own source, without a second.
The Heart Chakra Symbol is a green lotus with 12 petals. In its center, we see a six-pointed star, also known as the hexagram.
Heart Chakra Symbol: the color green
Green represents life, nature, the interwoven web of all life. It is associated with the qualities of peace and happiness. This is very appropriate for the Heart Chakra ,since it is related to relationship, connection, and oneness in diversity.
Heart Chakra Symbol: the 12-petaled lotus
There are again two different interpretations of the 12 petals. They either represent the 12 divine qualities of the heart – bliss, peace, harmony, love, understanding, empathy, clarity, purity, unity, compassion, kindness and forgiveness – or they again refer to the 12 blocking qualities (vrittis) of this Chakra: lust, fraud, indecision, repentance, hope, anxiety, longing, impartiality, arrogance, incompetence, discrimination, and defiance.
Heart Chakra Symbol: The Hexagram
A Hexagram is made out of two intersecting triangles, one of them pointing up, the other one down. This refers to the fact that the Heart Chakra marks the middle of the Chakra ladder, the three more physical Chakras below it and the three more spiritual Chakras above it. As such, it is the meeting point between the flow of human consciousness upwards towards the spiritual and the flow of soul consciousness towards the manifest world. The Heart Chakra seeks a balance between these two flows, the integration of spirit and matter.
Also, the hexagram – or shatkona, as it is called in Hindi – is a symbol for the union of male and female energies: integrating immovable, penetrating consciousness and total surrender and devotion into one unified state of being.
More Symbolism in the Heart Chakra Symbol
- The seed syllable YAM – this is considered to be a sacred syllable that can awaken the Heart Chakra. It is sometimes written into the center of the Heart Chakra Symbol.
- The Hindu deities Shiva and Shakti. They represent the male and female principle of the supreme being. Another deity associated with the Heart Chakra is Vayu, the lord of the wind, air and breathing; the only deity not affected by demons.
- An Antelope – the Antelope represents shyness and vulnerability, but also attentiveness, vigilance, innocence, gentleness, and grace.
Throat Chakra Symbol
The Throat Chakra is associated with the subtle element of ether. It is related to communication, authenticity, and purification.
The Sanskrit name of this Chakra is Vishuddha, combined from the two words visha (= impurity, poison) and suddhi (= purify), which is mostly translated into “the purifier“. This name stems from the fact that the Throat Chakra is considered to be the source of a subtle energy called Udana Prana. The function of this specific Prana is to purify the body of toxic substances while breathing and to purify the psyche and the subconscious mind from everything we suppressed by “swallowing it down”, instead of fully experiencing and expressing it. The Throat Chakra invites us to allow an authentic expression of our inner world, first towards ourselves, then towards the outside world. In this way, we purify our expression until we can fully live as our true self, with a free flow between the outer and inner world.
The Throat Chakra Symbol is a blue Lotus with 16 petals. In its center, we again find a downward pointing triangle, this time with a circle drawn between its sides.
Throat Chakra Symbol: the color blue
Blue represents openness, space, purity, wisdom, faith, loyalty, and trust.
Throat Chakra Symbol: the 16-petaled lotus
The 16 petals of the Throat Chakra Symbol represent the so-called 16 Kalas (=abilities), 16 stages of development or ability, which span from the first Kala Annamaya (born from seed) to the 16th Kala Swarupavasthitha (established in the God-Self). Sometimes they are also said to represent the 16 Kalas of Lord Krishna, which are much more related to expression, as they include Nrityajna – Best of Dancers, Sangitajna – Best of Singers, Neetibadi – Embodiment of Honesty, and Satyabadi – Truth Itself, which also seem very appropriate for this Chakra.
Throat Chakra Symbol: The triangle and circle
The downward-pointing triangle is really better described as an upward-opening triangle for this Chakra. The Throat Chakra makes us a pure channel for the consciousness of the soul, a direct expression of our highest truth and self. In its center, we find a full circle which is believed to represent the full moon that is often understood to be a symbol of a purified mind.
More Symbolism in the Throat Chakra Symbol
- The seed syllable HAM – this is considered to be a sacred syllable that can awaken the Throat Chakra. It is sometimes written into the center of the Throat Chakra Symbol.
- The Hindu deity Brahma. A symbol for pure consciousness.
- A white elephant – the white elephant carries a quite complex meaning. More simply. it represents luck and has such an intimate connection to the Sky that it can bring rain, whenever it is needed. But it also represents the holy mountain Kailash or Meru that is said to connect heaven and earth.
Third Eye Chakra Symbol
The Third Eye Chakra is associated with the dimension of light. It is the center of clarity and wisdom.
The Sanskrit name for this Chakra is Ajna, which means “Command”. This refers to the fact that it is the Third Eye Center in which we gain the higher understanding and wisdom that should guide us in each of our actions. An open Third Eye Chakra opens us to both conceptual, intellectual understanding and discrimination, as well as to abstract, spiritual understanding through direct being and experience.
The Third Eye Chakra Symbol is a two petaled purple lotus – once again, with a downward pointing triangle inside of it. Inside the triangle, we see the holy symbol of OM, the source-sound of all creation.
Third Eye Chakra Symbol: the colors Indigo or Purple
The colors Indigo and Purple are mostly associated with royalty, wisdom, mystery, magic, and faith.
Third Eye Chakra Symbol: The two petaled lotus
The Third Eye Chakra Symbol features a lotus with only two petals. They are believed to represent the last remaining duality: that of Self and God. In the third eye Chakra, we realize our true self as soul but have still not merged into total unity with God itself.
Some feel that the two petals also symbolize the two sides of the brain and the two parts of the pituitary gland, to which this Chakra is connected.
Third Eye Chakra Symbol: The Om Symbol
The OM is the most important spiritual symbol in Hinduism, representing the ultimate reality, consciousness and the soul (Atman). It carries one beyond time, beyond knowledge, beyond ordinary conscious states, and beyond the duality of God and Soul.
Crown Chakra Symbol
The Crown Chakra is the last of the seven Chakras. It is associated with Space or Nothingness, with the qualities of self-transcendence, oneness, and with the merging into the one infinite source of all creation.
The Sanskrit Name for the Crown Chakra is Sahasrara, which means both “thousand” and “infinite”.
The Crown Chakra Symbol is a violet or white lotus with thousand petals.
Crown Chakra Symbol: The color white
White contains all other colors. It is the pure, undivided source of all other colors, and perfectly represents the meaning of this Chakra.
Crown Chakra Symbol: The thousand petaled lotus
The thousand petaled lotus represents the full blossoming of consciousness
Why are there so many downward-pointing triangles in the Chakra Symbols?
It is striking that so many of the Chakra Symbols include a downward-pointing triangle, while only one of them – the Heart Chakra – features an upward-pointing triangle, and none of them features the upward-triangle alone. Obviously, this has to carry some meaning.
The Chakras are energy exchange points between our subtle energy bodies and the physical body. It is the energy of the soul that animates the physical body through the Chakras and in this sense, soul-energy flows downwards from the subtle realms through the Chakras. This is what the downward-pointing triangle stands for: The soul flows inwards through the Chakras, while consciousness is expanding and expressing outwards from the Chakras.
It is also striking that the only Chakra that features an upward-pointing triangle is the Heart Chakra, which is often described as the “seat of the soul”. There are many ways to interpret this fact, but it surely points to the Heart Chakra being a source of some sort and indicates that this Chakra might have a special role among the seven Chakras.
A different reading of the petals in the Chakra Symbols
Some traditions believe that the petals of the Chakra Symbols stand for the number of main Nadis these Chakras are connected to. Other researchers have pointed out that the number of petals for the lower five Chakras seems to be always identical to the combined number of physical vertebrae and nerve pairs that these Chakras are related to.