Hamsa (bird)

Hamsa (bird)

The Hamsa (हंस, in Sanskrit and often written "hansa") is a swan or goose, often considered to be the Mute Swan ("Cygnus olor"), but is really the Bar-headed Goose ("Anser indicus").Fact|date=September 2008 It is used in Indian culture as a symbol and a decorative element.

Identification with the swan

The word is cognate with Latin "anser", German "Gans" and English "goose" (all meaning a goose). Hamsa also refers to a flamingo or other water birds.

In India swans are never found in feral populations, domesticated flocks and hardly ever in zoos. But ornithological checklists about India [ [http://www.birding.in/orders/anseriformes.htm ANSERIFORMES - Birds of India - Ducks, Geese, Swans] ] clearly state that swans are a vagrant species in India, ie, wintering in India very rarely (as of now). The hamsa, or bar-headed goose, is said to reside on Lake Manasarovar in Tibet and would migrate to the Indian lakes in the winter. It is said to eat pearls and separate milk from water from a mixture of both. In many texts it is extolled as the king of birds. In one of the Upanishads, a hamsa is also said to possess the sacred knowledge of the Brahman. it is also the vehicle of goddess Saraswati.

Identification with Brahman

The Hamsa represent perfect union, balance and life. A constant repetition of the word "hamso" changes it to "Soaham", which means "That I am". Hence the hamsa is often identified with the Supreme Spirit or Brahman. The flight of the Hamsa also symbolizes the escape from the cycle of samsara. The bird also has special connotations in the monistic philosophy of Advaita Vedanta - just as the swan lives on water but its feathers are not wetted by water, similarly an Advaitin tries to live in this material world full of Maya, but is unsoiled by its illusionary nature.


A large volume of corpus of folklore and literature has grown around it, and a distinct mythology has evolved around the Hamsa. During Vedic times it was considerd to relationship with Surya. Then, it signified strength and virility. With the emergence and consolidation of the Hindu scriptures of Upanishads, hamsa acquired more attributes, including being treated as "symbol of purity, detachment, divine knowledge, cosmic breath (prana) and highest spiritual accomplishment". Such a high level of symbolism was attached to hamsh as it transcends the limitations of the creation around it: it can walk on the earth (prithvi), fly in the sky, and swim in the water.The Hamsa was also used extensively in the art of Gandhara, in conjunction with images of the Buddha. It is also deemed sacred in Buddhism.


A school of philosophy has endeavored to penetrate its name. "Ham-sa" when inverted reads as "sa-ham", which in Sanskrit means "the oneness of human and the divine." During pranayama, which is a yogic exercise of breath control, the inhalation is believed sound like "ham", while the exhalation is believed to sound like "sa". Thus, a hamsa came to epitomize the prana, the breath of life.


In view of the association of a hamsa with several attributes as indicated above, saints and other holy persons are given the title of "paramhamsa", that is, the "supreme hamsa". This title is affixed before the name and symbolizes that the particular person has reached a high level of spirituality and emancipation.

Further reading

*"The Goose in Indian Literature and Art" (Leiden, 1962) by J. Ph. Vogel


*"Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend" (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dallapiccola

ee also

* Greco-Buddhist art
* History of Buddhism
* History of Hinduism

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hamsa (disambiguation) — Hamsa can refer to: *Hamsa, a Near Eastern symbol often used as a protective amulet by Muslims and Jews. *Hamsa (bird), a goose or swan in Indian culture. *Hamsa (musical group) (חמסה), an Israeli musical quintet. *A subsidiary Purana in Hinduism …   Wikipedia

  • Hamsa —  Ne doit pas être confondu avec Khamsa (symbole). Hamsa reliquaire en cristal de roche découvert à Taxila dans une coupe en granite, avec l inscription sur feuille d or « Shira a d …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Meghadūta — (Sanskrit: मेघदूत literally cloud messenger ) is a lyric poem written by Kālidāsa, considered to be one of the greatest Sanskrit poets. A short poem of 111 stanzas, it is one of Kālidāsa s most famous works. It recounts how a yakṣa, a subject of… …   Wikipedia

  • Mythical creatures in Burmese folklore — A wide variety of mythical creatures are found in Burmese folklore and in mythology. Many Burmese creatures are part human or creatures capable of assuming human form. Most mythical creatures are endowed with humanistic mentalities, ability to… …   Wikipedia

  • Hansa — may refer to *Hansa, a Zeppelin airship *Hansa (board game), a German style board game based on the Hanseatic League *Hansa (brand), a writing instruments and luxury gift manufacturer * Hansa (butterfly), a genus of butterflies in the grass… …   Wikipedia

  • Air Ceylon — was Ceylon s (later Sri Lanka s) national carrier that began as Ceylon Airways in 1947, and was fully state owned. It ceased operations in 1978 and was replaced by Air Lanka.*IATA Code: AE History Initial services, which were domestic and… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Burma-related articles — Articles (arranged alphabetically) related to Burma include: compactTOC20 9.bu .mm 13 Carat Diamond and Other Stories (.) 1991 Bangladesh cyclone (.) 2007 Burmese anti government protests 8888 Uprising (. .)AAchang (. . . . . . . . . . .)… …   Wikipedia

  • Swan — For other uses, see Swan (disambiguation). Swans Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) Scientific classification Ki …   Wikipedia

  • Paramahamsa — (Unicode|परमहंस) (also spelt paramahansa or paramhansa ), is a Sanskrit religio theological title of honor applied to Hindu spiritual teachers of lofty status who are regarded as having attained enlightenment. The title may be translated as… …   Wikipedia

  • Ali-Shir Nava'i — Nizām al Din Ali Shīr Navā i (1441 1501) Nizām al Din ʿAlī Shīr[1] Herawī (Chagatai and Persian: نظام الدین على شير هروی; Uzbek: Alisher Navoiy; Uyghur: ئەلىشىر نەۋائى‎) (9 February 1441 – 3 January 1501) was a Central Asian Turkic politician,… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”