It is customary to install these images in temples which millions of
Hindus visit to offer worship. What is the justification for this?
Also, what is the significance of a temple?
God exists. He is the creator and controller. His grace gives us
happiness and peace. His wrath brings about sorrow and suffering.
Mankind all over the world has cherished this belief in some form or
other. Once it is conceded that such a God exists,
there must be an easy means of approaching Him and propitiating Him.
That is the temple. The temple is the structure we put up with
devotion for the residence of God when He descends to this world for
our sake. It is something like the camping of the king of a State in
a part of his territory.
The essential parts of a temple are: the
Garbhagriha housing the icon of the deity, the Shukanasi and
Antarala which are the adjoining passages, the Navaranga
or Mantapa which serves as a multipurpose hall for
religio cultural activities, the Dhvajastambha or
flag post and the Balipitha or the pedestal for offerings. Bigger
temples have smaller shrines for the minor deities associated with
the chief deity. high walls surrounding the whole campus, places
reserved for performing sacrificial rites and cooking, for housing
the deity (taken in procession), sheds for the temple car, wells and
tanks, as also gardens.
The structure of a temple is highly
symbolical. Primarily it indicates God as the Cosmic Person. The
Garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum is His head, the Gopura (tower at
the main entrance) is His feet, the Shukanasi His nose, the Antarala
His neck, the Prakaras (the surrounding high walls) His hands
and so on. Alternatively it represents the body of man, with God
residing in his heart. The temple may also represent the whole
In temples consecrated according to
scriptural rites, the images are considered to be alive. Hence,
formal worship is a must. This worship ranges from one to nine times
per day, depending on the extent and resources of the temple.
On special festival days, celebrations are conducted. lie biggest of
such celebrations is termed Brahmotsava (brahma=big). The
Rathotsava or temple car festival is also held during this
period. The temple car is a moving symbol of the temple.
Those who want to visit the temple are
expected to enter it physically clean and with the proper mood of
faith and devotion. Walking silently straight to the sanctorum, and
after offering, they should come out and then circumambulate the
shrine. Formal obeisance should be done from a place outside the flag post. Then, they should visit the minor shrines and spend
some time in meditation, sitting in a secluded spot on the north
eastern side of the temple. it is incumbent on the visiting
devotees to .maintain the purity and sanctity of the temple.