Tag Archives: Hindu Temples

Importance of Temples – 3 Dhwaja-stambha and Sanctum

In the courtyard of the temple, right in front of the sanctum is the DHWAJA-STAMBHA – the flag post. It is perfectly aligned with the deity in the sanctum. It is a tall metallic or metallic coated structure. On the top of the dhwaja-stambha is a flag like structure constituted of three horizontal metallic strips with tiny bells suspended from them. The three prongs (flag) are directed towards the sanctum and represent peace, victory and power. They also represent the Trimurtis. The metallic structure again helps in drawing the energy from the cosmos. During the important utsavas, a ceremonial flag is hoisted (Dhwajaarohana) to indicate to everyone about the utsava event. There are various deities consecrated in the temple complex, in different directions, around the main sanctum. But all of them are well within the area marked by the dhwaja-stambha at the circumference. Hence it is customary to go around (pradakshina) starting from the dhwaja-stambha, keeping the Lord at the centre, in a clockwise direction, come back to the dhwaja-stambha and then offer prostrations to all the deities at the dhwaja-stambha preferably facing East or North. Prostrations are not offered in the sanctum. The dhwaja-stambha represents the base of the spinal cord and the deity represents the face (head) in our physical body-structure – in one line. The bali peetam is where the naivedyam is offered to the presiding deities of the various directions. In its significance, as the name suggests, it represents the platform on which all our negativities are to be sacrificed before entering the sanctum for the Lord’s darshan. The vast courtyard gives sufficient time for a pilgrim to stay within the energy-system and benefit from the same.

The main or MAHA MANTAPA is where the various utsavas are held. Music concerts, Nritya events, Bhajan melas, Discourses on Epics, Puranas, Scriptures are also held in the maha mantapa. Through the ARDHA MANTAPA, we reach the sanctum or the sannidhi of the Lord. In some temples, there is provision for an innermost parikrama also, very close to the deity. 
The SANCTUM (garbha-griha) is small compared to the huge temple complex. To enter the garbha-griha or the space nearest to it, is to enter into the “cave or womb” (garbha) of our own physical body (griha). The doors of the sanctum also are not wide. This is to contain the divine energy of the deity. The deity (vigraha or idol) is sculpted with stone; and the size, form, features and all other minute details are strictly according to the Sastras. The prana-pratishta or the installation of the deity is performed by invoking the powers of the deity through appropriate chants and hymns, rituals and homas. At the base of the idol, along with the various materials, metallic strips, gold, and precious gems are also embedded for enhancement of the energy-system.

The gopuram directly on top of the deity is known as VIMANA. The Kalasha on top of the Vimana helps channelize the cosmic energy and direct it to the deity. In turn the divine vibrations of the deity reaches the pilgrims in the temple complex through the kalasha, which acts both as an absorber and emitter. Vimana means “without maana or without ego”. The Vimana also represents the physical human structure. It indicates that an individual who is able to transcend his ego in the auspicious presence of the Lord surely reaches the Highest State of Mukti. In many of the ancient temples, a straight line from the top of the Mahadwara, inclined downward at an appropriate angle grazes the top of the dwaja-stambha and reaches the centre of the eyebrows of the deity – the spiritual yatra of a seeker from the external materialistic world to the inner spiritual domain!!

It is an all-round spiritual therapy or healing – a detoxifying process for the pilgrim inside the temple complex which culminates in the worship and rituals in the divine presence of the Lord. It is a physio-psycho-spiritual therapy! And there is a drishti-shabda-gandha-sparsha-ruchi (visual-audio-aroma-touch-taste) therapy also!! The entire charged atmosphere within the temple complex energizes the pilgrim totally and completely. The soft breeze, the rustling sound coming from the peepul trees along with the cool and comfortable shade under its canopy, the pleasant tinkling sound of the bells of the dhwaja-stambha – all contribute to the spiritual dimensions of the pilgrim.

The sanctum is dark, and the deity is to be seen only in the light of the ghee lamps. The deity gathers to itself an “aliveness” in the flickering light of the lamps. Whereas in the artificial electric light, the idol seems frozen. Not only this demands more attention and focussing on the part of the pilgrim to have the darshan of the deity, but it has a profound, inexplicable soothing effect on the eyes. The chanting of mantras and hymns, the ringing of the bells, the blowing of the conch take care of the audio/vocal aspect. The fragrance of the ghee from the lamps, the flowers and leaves (patra) used for the Lord, the fragrance of the chandana and bhasma, the camphor, the teertha and prasada contribute to aroma therapy. The teertha and prasada take care of “rasa or taste” therapy as well. The slight and soft movement of the warm air inside the sanctum, the warmth of the arati-flame and the touch of the teertha felt by the hand contribute to the sparsha aspect. All this significantly helps in elevating the bhava or state of the mind. The dress-code and the body posture while walking, sitting or prostrating reinforce the same. And Mudra-therapy is automatically taken care of whilst we fold our hands in prayer and prostrations, or when we offer flowers or accept the teertha or prasada. 

To come out of the sanctum, lift our gaze and have the darshan of the Vimana and offer our prostrations at the dhwaja-stambha is the total and complete fulfillment of our Spiritual Pilgrimage – a Yatra which signifies our inner journey to the Beyond!
“PILGRIMAGE is a very powerful means of self-purification; for, if the pilgrim has eyes and ears to watch and experience the beauty and majesty of Nature, then his capacity to contemplate explodes within himself and he reaches hitherto unknown heights. The TEMPLE is a place conducive to “fine-tune” your mental equipment in order to receive the Divine Message” ~ Swami Chinmayananda

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Importance of Temples – 1 : Introduction – Devaalaya

TEMPLE COMPLEX is an institution and not just a place of worship. They are called as Devaalaya, Praasaada, Teertha Kshetra, Yaatra Sthala. DEVA means “divine”. LAYA is “dissolution”. AALAYA means total dissolution. A place wherein we can connect with the Divinity in order to completely eliminate our ego is DEVAALAYA. It also means “the House of God”. 
PRASADA means “Grace, Blessings or even Peace”. It also indicates the “State of Enlightenment bestowed upon a seeker by the Lord’s grace”. Therefore that place wherein an individual can obtain the grace and blessings of the Lord, and ultimately reach the highest state of liberation is called PRAASAADA. 
KSHETRA stands for “place”. TEERTHA means “to move towards the Higher State”. TEERTHA KSHETRA therefore “represents a place which helps the seeker to move towards the Higher State within himself. YA means “to move or to go”. TRA means “to cross over”. STHALA means “place”. YATRA STHALA means that “place which helps an individual with the pre-requisites which will ultimately help him to cross over the ocean of samsara”.
Temple complexes are built where there are large geo-electro-magnetic fields. The place or site as well as the temple structures are  excellent absorbers and radiators of the divine, spiritual vibrations in the cosmos. Since the human personality has inherent and inbuilt magnetic properties within himself, the effect of such places on him becomes very profound. Infact, the place and the area, the dimensions and shape of the temple, the various types of materials used, the architecture and intricate designs and carvings are all factors which significantly contribute to absorption, containment and distribution of cosmic spiritual energy at individual (micro) and at congregational (macro) level. 

The entire temple structure resembles a human body (Jeeva). Every part of the temple can be identified with one aspect of our physical body. Since the Lord (Deity) is also invoked in our own image, the entire temple structure represents the Lord (Iswara) as well. There are various deities in different parts of the temple complex. Most of the temples have shops, and houses inside the temple complex – a mini universe (Jagat) indeed! Therefore, the temple complex includes and incorporates the Universe (Jagat), Presiding Deity (Iswara) and the individual pilgrim (Jeevatma) – ONE WHOLE!
The temple complex is situated mostly in the centre of the village or town with large doorways or “GOPURAMS” in all the four directions making it easily accessible for the pilgrims. Since the temple is at the centre, the city, the people and their transcations are automatically TEMPLE-CENTERED or GOD-CENTERED. The tall gopurams are landmarks for the travellers and pilgrims. The vast temple complex area not only provides shelter for travellers but provides an opportunity for the devotees to walk around and thereby stay in the serene and peaceful environment of the temple premises for a longer time for maximum benefit. Trees like the PEEPUL tree are an important aspect of the temple complex. They are rich in ozone content and have enormous medicinal value. They provide a holistic atmosphere and their energy and vibrations is very conducive for upasana and meditation.                                                 

Next Post: significance of the gopuras (towers), dhwaja stambha, mantapam, praangana (courtyard) and garbha griha (sanctum) & their relation to the human body structure.

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Devi Mookambike

The great Kola Maharshi performed intense tapas in the valley of the Kodachadri hills near Udupi in Karnataka. Pleased with his tapas, Lord Shiva appeared before him and granted him a boon. The Sage said that he wanted nothing for himself, but he wanted the Lord to reside in the sacred valley for the welfare of all the people. The Lord agreed and took the form of a Linga. However, the Sage wanted the presence of Devi Parvati also along with the Lord. In response to the rishi’s request, a golden line appeared on the Shiva linga to indicate the presence of Shakti along with Shiva. The place became known as Kollur.

Long after that, a rakshasa by name Kaumasura went about creating havoc amongst the pious and virtuous people. He undertook penance to propitiate Lord Brahma and ask for the boon of becoming invincible. His tapas was almost becoming fruitful and the Creator was about to bestow on him whatever boon he wanted. All the devatas were worried. If Brahma gave him the boon of becoming invincible, he would become a threat to all the three worlds. They all invoked Vagdevi – the Goddess of Speech and asked her to withdraw her grace from him. She agreed and withdrew the power of speech from the rakshasa, and as a result of that he became dumb. He could not ask the Lord for anything. From that day onwards, he came to be known as Mookasura. Mooka means ‘dumb’.

The angry Mookasura continued to trouble the devatas and sages. The devatas again prayed to Shakti. Devi appeared before them. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva along with their Sakti-s, Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvati, along with all the devatas transferred their powers to her. There was a fierce battle between Shakti and Mookasura and finally she killed Mookasura. From that day onwards she became known as Mookambika. She represents the power of speech (Vak) which destroys dumbness (mookatva).
Years later, as Adi Sankara was travelling through this region, pleased with his tapas, Vagdevi appeared in front of him desirous of bestowing a boon upon him. Sankara was overjoyed at the darshan of the Mother of the Universe and prayed to her to come with him and dwell in the land of his birth. She agreed to come with him, but she put forth one condition. While walking, he should not turn back and look. Sankara agreed and started walking. Mookambika walked behind him. He could hear the sound of her anklets. As they were approaching Kollur, suddenly Sankara did not hear the sound of Devi’s anklets. He turned around and looked. As per her condition, Mookambika or Vagdevi remained permanently there in Kollur, on the banks of the sacred Sauparnika river.
Sri Mookambika is the Goddess who destroys mookatva (ignorance) and confers speech (Knowledge) to all those who invoke her. Hence, during the Navaratri festival on the most auspicious day of Vijayadasami, Devi Mookambika is invoked and “Akshara Abhyas” or “initiation of the alphabets” is performed for little children before they start their formal education.

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Lord Rama answers a Britisher’s Prayer!

Madurantakam is a small town in Tamilnadu which has one of the oldest temples dedicated to Lord Sri Rama constructed by the Chola kings. There is also a huge lake or tank measuring 13 square miles and 21 feet deep also built by the Chola kings. From 1795-1799, a British officer by name Colonel Lionel Blaze was the collector who was in charge of Madurantakam. During this time he saw the tank breach twice and create havoc. He therefore decided to camp at Madurantakam and construct a strong bund to the lake to save the people and the agricultural land. 

Lionel Blaze saw a large number of granite stones near the temple and decided to use them for the tank bund. But the priests of the temple told him that they were for the extension of the temple complex. He ridiculed them saying that it was much better to use the stones for the bund rather than for the temple. He asked them, “Will your Rama come and protect the tank from breaching?” He had made up his mind that the granite stones would be used for protecting the tank.

One night it rained very heavily. The waters in the tank were continuously rising. When Lionel Blaze was apprised of the grave situation, he immediately went and camped near the tank praying and hoping that the tank would not breach. But the waters were continuously rising. At that moment, in utter desperation, he surrendered to the Lord and prayed that if the Lord saved the tank from breaching, he himself would build a temple for the Lord. He looked up to the skies helplessly. There in the lightning-flash he saw two handsome and charming youngsters with bow and arrows standing on the tank bund guarding the tank! The rains mysteriously subsided. The tank was full and almost overflowing, but it did not breach! The people and the fields were saved. Lionel was sure that the two youngsters who were on guard were none other than Lord Rama and Lakshmana.

As a mark of his gratitude and as he had promised, Collector Lionel Blaze constructed the temple. The Collector’s name is inscribed as a benefactor in the temple and the Lord is known as ERI KATHA RAMA – “Rama who saved the tank!”

Madurantakam is also the sacred place where Sri Ramanujacharya was initiated by his Guru Periya Nambi. It also houses one of the most well known Sri Ahobila Math Sanskrita Patasala.

“Sri Ramaya Tubhyam Namaha!”

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