Tag Archives: religion

Symbolism of Light

Apart from the philosophical connotations that light posses, it also is utilized throughout many cultures around the world as both a literal and metaphorical symbol. The Yin and Yang is one of the best examples of this concept as discussed previously, but there are many others as well. When different world religions are analyzed from a lighting perspective, it can be seen that different cultures and religions view light through its symbolic nature. Several global holidays use the symbolism of light as a marking of celebration. Following are some holidays which use light for its symbolism.

In Buddhism light is used as a symbol in the ritual of the eight offerings where it plays a central role. Apart from Buddhism, Islam also uses light as a symbol, most visually through its interpretation of ‘the lamp’ in the Qur’an;

“God is the Light of the heavens and the earth.
The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp
the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star
Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the West,
whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it
Light upon Light! God doth guide whom He will to His Light
God doth set forth Parables for men: and God doth know all things.”

Another symbol commonly used if the candlelight as a symbol of wisdom. In our physical world we see things through the medium of light. If we do not have sun or electric light, this world is so dark that we cannot see anything. In our spiritual and mental world the physical light cannot help us to see. We see only through wisdom. We may stumble many times in daily life because we lack ‘light’ and ‘wisdom’. Light in this sense can also be translated into a more eastern sensibility through the term ‘enlightenment’. Jung writes in the foreword to An Introduction to Japanese Buddhism;

“This strange perception is called Satori, and may be translated as “Enlightenment”. Suzuki says (see page 95), “Satori is the raison d’etre of Zen, and without it there is no Zen.” It should not be too difficult for the Western mind to grasp what a mystic understands by “enlightenment”, or what is known as “enlightenment” in religious parlance.”

Religion:

• When different world religions are analyzed from a lighting perspective, different cultures and religions view light for its symbolic nature. Several of the global holidays use the symbolism of light celebration. In the images that will be shared in the talk, the following are the different holidays which use light for its symbolism.

Symbols of Light:

• Obon Festival [Japan]

• Hanukkah

• Loy Krathong [Thailand]

• Diwali

• Paper Lantern Festival [Singapore]

• Christmas

• Ramadan

• Cathedral of Light 1936

• Tribute in Light, New York

• Symphony of Lights, Hong Kong

• SRBS Bridge, Dubai

Elements of Culture

As mentioned before, as the description of culture gets broader, the more accurate it becomes. The definition of culture is therefore better understood when the different variables that define it are studied. In order to get a better resolution on what culture really stands for, it is important to understand the ingredients/ elements that contribute to a culture. Some of these elements include Industrial Design, Graphic Design, Architecture, Climatic Conditions, Philosophy, Technology, Economics, Religion, Literature, Politics, Tradition, Ritual, Custom, Human Biology, Physiological Differences and Natural Resources. Lighting solutions in different cultures carry certain unifying elements, and then there are local variations that may arise due to any of the reasons listed above. To begin by establishing a metaphor for our theory of cultural lighting adaptations, we can take the example of the McDonald’s fast food chain and the many iterations of its standard menu that appear around the world.  While the McDonald’s brand and the connection to its standard American menu is maintained in the style of presentation and with the continuation of certain standard items, regional variations are frequently taken into account in order to make McDonald’s more accessible to cultures with specific dietary requirements and restrictions. 

The signature Big Mac burger, well-known to Americans since 1968, has become a veritable symbol of capitalism, used by The Economist as a gauge of purchasing power parity between currencies in what is termed the ‘Big Mac Index’. A standard Big Mac includes a three-part bun (including the middle ‘club’ bun layer), double beef patties, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and special sauce.  In India, however, you will find the Maharajah Mac, or perhaps a Chicken Tikka Burger, instead.  Since local custom prohibits eating beef, both versions of the Mac here have incorporated lamb or chicken in deference to the local population.  In Pakistan, you would likely find a McChutney Burger, developed using a popular regional type of condiment.  In Japan, a Tsukimi Burger (Moon-Viewing Burger) co-opts the appeal of the yearly autumn tradition of moon-viewing and incorporates a fried egg, which resembles the full moon.  Israel’s McShawarma substitutes the commonly found shaved meat composite for beef patties and is served on local flatbread, rather than a sesame-seed bun.  In some cases, the Mac varies so much that it little resembles the American prototype, but adaptations to the local context make the product more familiar and appropriate, while retaining the brand ‘aura’ of the original.

  • Belgium:   Croque McDo
  • France:   French fries are fried potatoes
  • Hong Kong:  Rice-Fan-Tastic, McRice
  • India:   Maharajah Mac, chicken tikka burger, veg burger (no beef)
  • Israel:   McShawarma, barbecued vs. fried beef patties
  • Japan:   Tsukimi Burger (Moon-Viewing Burger!)
  • Pakistan:  McKofta, McChutney Burger
  • South Korea: McBingsoo (Korean shaved ice)
  • USA:  Super-Sizing

What is Culture?

The definition of culture is better understood when the different variables that define it are studied. In order to get a better resolution on what culture really stands for, it is important to understand the ingredients/ elements that contribute to a culture. Some of these elements are listed below:

  • Arts and architecture
  • Technology
  • Economics
  • Religion
  • Literature
  • Politics
  • Tradition and Ritual
  • Human Physiology
  • Context / Climate

Lighting solutions in different cultures carry certain unifying elements, and then there are local variations that may arise due to any of the reasons listed above. We use the McDonald’s metaphor to explain the local variations. The following is a listing of the different McDonald staples internationally:

  • Belgium:  Croque McDo
  • France:  French fries are fried potatoes
  • Hong Kong:  Rice-Fan-Tastic, McRice
  • India:   Maharajah Mac, chicken tikka burger, veg burger (no beef)
  • Israel:   McShawarma, barbecued vs. fried beef patties
  • Japan:   Tsukimi Burger (Moon-Viewing Burger!)
  • Pakistan:  McKofta, McChutney Burger
  • South Korea: McBingsoo (Korean shaved ice)
  • USA:  Super-Sizing