Sanathana Dharma or popularly called Hinduism, worship God as Nirgun or Sagun. In the Nirgun form of worship, God has no form and manifests itself as a flash of light. The spiritually evolved devotees perceive almighty as formless. Whereas the common man finds difficult to focus his mind towards this supreme power and needs something that his sensory organs can perceive and get hooked to. This is Sagun form of worship where deities are personified by giving them human or semi human forms. The idols of Gods are so realistic that devotees can intimately associate with them emotionally. These idols are placed in home or temples where are worshipped daily.
1.Temples are abode of Gods
Once the new idol of the deity is brought to the temple, Pran Prastistha is performed. This is the special Pooja in which the divine spirit is duly invited to reside inside the idol just as the soul lives in every alive human body. With specific mantras and ancient rituals, the idol is consecrated and finally established in the inner chamber. The eyes of the idol are uncovered and the almighty resides in the temple permanently. As devotees see god in human forms, they instantly develop an intimate emotional relationship with the divinity. Generally the Hindu gods are depicted with many arms, a third eye, an elephant head or monkey face. Every form of god has a very deep spiritual meanings and often they have extra celestial powers.
2. Temples have daily rituals which are followed stringently.
Since gods have been perceived as super humans, they do have symbolic daily routine of waking, eating, meeting their devotees and sleeping. Special priests are in service to do these temple duties. Every morning with Mangala Aarati, the deities are awaken. The priests chant mantras and do morning pooja. Then the idol is given bath and dressed in new or clean clothes with gold, silver and precious stones ornaments. Once the idol is ready to meet the devotees, Prasad or the food is offered which is later distributed among all people present there.
In the afternoon, the doors are closed as god retire to rest for few hours. Again in the evening the doors are opened for public. Aarati and Pooja are performed just before the sunset. With distribution of Prasad, the idol finally go for the sleep in night. This is basic timetable followed in all the temples.
On special religious days, elaborate Pooja is performed and people throng the temple to seek the blessings of their god.
3. Temples architecture is a complex science.
Ancient temples were very simple. Around 7 BCE to 4 BCE, the temples were only raised platforms with or without roofs, or toran, the ornamental arched gateway. These raised platforms were made out of wood or stones where vedic rituals or yagnas were performed.
Shilpa shastras and vastu shastras gave intricate architectural principals of temple construction adding beauty to the temple premises. The temple has four main parts.
- Santum santorum, or the garbha graha, a small womb like chamber where the main deity is placed. The main tower over it, is of pyramidal shape called kalasa made of gold or copper.
- There is hall around the griha where the general public can stand and have darshan (view) of the main diol.
- There is a circumambulatory pathway where devotees can get around the main idol.
There may be a Garbha Griha housing other deities in the same temple complex.
The temples are designed as a Sri Yantra with 8x8 grid and Manduka floor plan being the most popular and auspicious designs. Detailed description about this sort of architecture is given in Vastupurusa Mandal.
Largest temple complex is the Angkor Vat in Cambodia dedicated to Lord Vishnu but later turned into Buddhist temple. It is spread across 400 acres and is taller than 20 storeyed building.
4. Temples are centers of Spiritual and Religious activities.
In ancient times, the temples were the places of energy centers. Just like radio tunes into a station at certain frequency, similarly the energy of the subconscious mind gets tune to the cosmic energy if one meditates in such consecrated places. The ambience inside temple enables one to soak in the positive electric and magnetic field created by the mantra and other rituals. People sit quietly in the temple premises to feel the vibration within the energy centers present at the seven chakras inside our body.
With the advent of bhakti movement the temples became religious centres where people came to pray and worship the God. With intense feeling of devotion the devotees can activate their spiritual energy.
5.Visiting Temples have a soothing impact on our body and soul.
But temple visit has positive impact on one's life. people, in spite of the hectic schedule, queue up for hours to have a glimpse of their beloved deity.
A temple visit is for a thanksgiving prayer, wishing, or for merely to with the divine. The positivity of of temple calms down agitated souls giving them hopes for better tomorrow. Various aspects of temple Puja soothes the five senses of the body.
1.Eyes- It is a visual treat for eyes to see the impressive shringaar of the deity. The beautiful shining clothes and jewellery besides the flower garlands, the lightning of diya or earthen lamps and the rangoli adorning the floor enhances the beauty of the place.
2. Ears- During the Aarti, the bells, the blowing of conch shells, and mantra recitations creates magical sounds which makes one forget about all the worldly problems. This sounds transcend one to a mild trance and help one to focus on the divine.
3. Nose- The scents emanating from the flowers and incense sticks aromatically enhance our olfactory senses.
4. Tongue- The Prasad one gets at a temple has divine taste as it is always prepared with great devotion and love. The taste buds instantly get hooked to to its delicious flavor .
5. Skin- Applying of the Tilak which is the anointment with Kumkum and sandal paste at the third eye on the forehead, between the the two eyes, activates the Ajna chakra. Besides, the sprinkling of holy water by mango leaves or grass has rejuvenating effect on our skin. One always enters the temple barefoot to feel the vibrations of the place.
Temples are the integral part of Hinduism. They are integral part of Hindu society where gods live along with their devotees on the earth. They have positive impact on the psyche of common people. People wait in queues to have the Darshan or the glimpse of their beloved god.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Nidhi Gautam
Astha on November 05, 2020:
Wow...a fresh and enthralling take on temples!
Punam Sinha Shreyasi on November 04, 2020:
I have been visiting the temples since my childhood. But never knew the deeper meanings. Greatly impressed by your writing.
Preeti Shah from Delhi on November 04, 2020:
Great and very informative article Nidhi mam.
Pooja Sri on November 04, 2020:
Ashna Gautam on November 04, 2020:
Rahul Gautam on November 04, 2020:
Good insight of temple mechanics and human inner engineering.
One more aspect can be covered by way of political and social impact of temples from ancient times.