The kalash (kalasha) and deepak (dipaka) are prominent Vedic symbols that symbolize respectively the manifestations of Gayatri
and Yagya. As Gayatri
and Yagya are revered to be the origin of the Vedas and Vedic Science and Culture, the presence and worship
of kalash and deepak in every sacrament, on every auspicious occasion is quite natural in the Vedic Culture
and hence in the Indian System of life. Both are essential parts of all the important Hindu rituals and also, in varied forms, in the holy celebrations of other religions - for example, deepak (as fire or candle) in case of Zarathustric and Christian and kalash in case of Jain and Buddhist worships.
The symbol of kalash is physically represented by a metal or earthen pitcher or urn. It is filled with water (preferably the water of holy Ganga, any sacred river or clean, running water). Its top open end holds betel or mango leaves and a red-yellow sanctified thread (kalawa or mauli) is tied around its neck. This kalash is placed on the pujavedi (worship dais or table) near the idols or pictures of the deity. It is placed facing the North, in the center. This positioning signifies balance; balance that one needs to achieve success in every walk of life. Often it is topped by a coconut or a deepak and kept on the sacred Vedic swastika
symbol or a Vedic swastika
is drawn on it by using wet vermillion, sandal-wood powder and turmeric. The kalash has many symbolic meanings and teachings associated with it as described below.
or rituals, leaves from some select trees are used as essential accessories, but among them all the betel leaf (pana) enjoys a place of pride in India. In Hindu weddings, a betel leaf is tucked into the headgears of the bride and the groom. The betel leaf is symbolic of freshness and prosperity. The Skanda Purana says that the betel leaf was obtained by Gods during the grand ocean-churning. The use of betel leaf in India is mentioned in the great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as well as in Buddhist and Jain literatures.
Paan (betel leaf) has rich herbal properties as well. It is invigorating and energizing, it kills germs and bacteria, and is an anti-cold chewable recipe. The blackish variety is said to be constipating and the whitish green one eliminates cold and is a laxative and helps in digestion. Mango leaf also has many medicinal properties, as cited in Ayurvedic scriptures. Mango is regarded as the king of all fruits in India and its wood is used in the holy fire of yagya. Mango leaves are described as sacred and are also used in making toraña (door-string) which is tied on the entrance of the house as an auspicious sign.
The coconut (Nariyala) is a symbol of the Godhead - the three eyes symbolic of the eyes of Lord Shiva. In India, for success in an important undertaking, the beginning is done with the breaking of a sanctified coconut. All religious functions and rituals start with the worship
of the coconut, along with the kalash, since it is regarded as symbolic of Lord Ganesha, the deity who helps in the successful completion of any undertaking.