I had once typed the explanation of the symbols in my welcoming gift for Shiva’s parents and wordpress did not keep the text. So here we go again *crosses fingers*.
The dish is actually a “Seder plate” used in Jewish Passover celebrations. I selected it because until Shiva’s father, his family was known for their dish making skills. Of course their specialty was centered in brass and not ceramic. I chose the symbols in part due to religious reasons, but definitely confused the family when I presented only a handful of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism and a set of lotus blossoms that seemed to not fit in. As much as it may have seemed a discontinuous work of art, the family welcomed it and Shiva’s mother explained that she couldn’t bear to eat off it and intended to hang it in their home back in Kathmandu. I told her she was welcome to do what she wished, but that I had chosen paints that were safe for eating. I was delighted to hear that they ate breakfast off of this plate the very next morning.
Either used for decoration or for eating, the meaning of the symbols remain the same. The flowers around the rim are Rhododendrons, the Nepali national flower. In the center, a Dharma wheel. Surrounding the Dharma wheel are three of the Eight Auspicious signs. One is a conch shell a sign of Buddha and the Brahmin caste. It is a right turning conch, considered especially rare and represents the movement of the stars, moon, and sun. Also, a white conch swirling to the right can make a sound calling for Dharma to awaken beings out of ignorance. Cuts of this shell are sometimes called “Shiva shells” although the conch is typically a symbol that represents Vishnu. I wear a Shiva shell that Shiva gave me to me a year and a half ago, it seemed like a significant symbol in our life. Another symbol is the endless knot. Also present in the cloth given to Shiva’s parents in their parting, the endless knot represents the interconnection of everything. When included as a gift it is thought to be a bringer of righteous karma. The two fish are at the top in yellow and are difficult to see. This is somewhat a part of myself that I integrated into the artwork. I am a Pisces and represented by two fish. I did not use the traditional Piscean symbol of two fish swimming in opposite directions, but used the Auspicious symbol to represent no fear. At the time that I made this dish, Shiva’s family was not certain of how they would accept or not accept me into their family. I was told that they were especially fearful of gossip and slander. I hoped to embed this gift with a sense of fearlessness. The remaining symbols are all different representations of the lotus. The blue lotus representing wisdom and knowledge. Shiva’s father’s birthday often coincides with a goddess of wisdom and both of his parents have really encouraged Shiva to seek a wise path. The red lotus represents love and compassion, something I had hoped they could appreciate that Shiva and I share. The white lotus represents purity, both spiritual and mental.
I was unable to share the entire meaning with his parents as they were so excited with their gifts, I barely had a chance to explain them. I was delighted to learn that the very next meal they ate after receiving this gift was eaten on this plate. I couldn’t be more thrilled about how the gifts were received.