Man's pursuit for personification of God in Temple by Shweta Joshi SignUp

Man's pursuit for personification of God in Temple
Shweta Joshi Bookmark and Share

An idol or an image in a temple is not a lifeless form for its devotees; it’s a living entity which should be revered with devotion and praise. Devotion is the power which not only induces life but also taps the supernatural & divine energy of the deity which then starts flowing through the idol and becomes a medium to reach its devotees.

The idol worship is prevalent in Hinduism and is practiced relatively on a minor scale or almost non-existent in monastic religions like Buddhism or Jainism. Also for all the other faiths which firmly holds on to belief of only one God, one sacred text and one life, the idea of existence of divinity via an image is not preferred . Hence it’s conveniently regarded that for generations this unique tradition of elaborative rituals of idol worship is followed only in the Hindu temples.

But a closer and deeper search into the primeval cultures which formed the basis of most ancient civilizations reveals that the ideal worship and rituals of it were quite significant for our Mesopotamians counterpart-covering Sumer and Babylonia which stands as modern day Iraq.

The pantheon of Mesopotamians was as vast as Hindus consisting the God/Goddesses representing aspects of cosmos and Heroes as well Deities including Humans deified, this sums up to 3000 name of various Gods!, quite similar to huge pantheon of 33 crore Hindu Gods & Goddesses. The most sacred and starting point for the idol worship for Hindus is 'Prana Prathishta': to bring in life force to the deity and similarly it has equally significant and exhaustive ritual corresponding to it know as a ritual of Mis-pi: Washing of the mouth by Mesopotamians.  

It involved around eleven stages: in the city, countryside and temple, the workshop, a procession to the river, then beside the river bank, a procession to the orchard, in reed huts and tents in the circle of the orchard, to the gate of the temple, the niche of the sanctuary and finally, at the quay of the Apsû, accompanied by invocations to the nine great gods, the nine patron gods of craftsmen, and assorted astrological bodies.

A rite or a ceremony by which a ‘Murti’-idol or image of God is consecrated into Hindu temple, Hymns & Mantras are recited to invite deity to be resident guest in the sanctum sanctorum. In certain practices this is also the first time when idol's eyes are opened which also literally means that eyes are sculpted during this ritual itself. The rituals facilitated the idol taking on the persona of the deity, awakening the supernatural force within it, and enabling it to see, act, eat and drink the offerings and smell the incense.

Similarly, in Ancient Mesopotamia, the ritual and incantation of series for the cultic induction or vivification of a newly manufactured divine idol was conducted and 'Washing of the mouth' was done on the first day to cleanse the statue of all traces of human contamination in the process of production of the idol.

The Sanskrit word 'Pratistha' in general usage means resting or position, a term used by Hindus for consecration of idol when placing it in temple on a specific spot selected basis the valued analysis and advice of Brahmans. While In the Mesopotamian way the image of deity is encased in gold/silver and is formed from a wooden core, the Hindu Gods/Goddesses and Deities are given a special place and installed in their most revered form. The entire temple area is established as grand own house of God/Goddess/deity to be worshipped.

For Hindus and Babylonians both, the ritual is considered to have infused life into the temple deity and brought the presence of divinity and spirituality by awakening the icon of the temple. The structure of the temple God is the way for a simple, devout Hindu to understand and relate with the formless and omnipresent divine whole which otherwise only creates awe and reverence in their minds. Both the ancient most civilizations did their ritual in order to become imbued with the divine presence.

The primary belief of the primitive man through the rituals of worship and opening ceremonies in both of these anteduvilian cultures can be seen as actually serving a medium for them to give a persona to the temple deity which in turn was essentials for their own existence and identity. When given a personal touch wherein deity is lively, the devotees would feel that their God is accessible and approachable.
Such rituals have now become a mundane and mechanical over the time and is only regarded as practice mandatory to be followed for the newer generations to follow, however these rituals gave the sense of belongingness to the society of beliefs or a culture and helped our ancestors to gain a direction and meaning to their humanly life which otherwise felt purposeless and dull due to lack of clarity on the natural forces which at that time seemed to be controlling and myriad.

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Comments on this Blog

Comment @ "huge pantheon of 33 crore Hindu Gods & Goddesses" In the South, specifically in the Telugu land, we were taught as kids that there are "mukkoti devatas" (three crores of gods) in songs and lullabies. I always go by that it is the number of Hindu deities. When I read the number as 33 crores here, I went to google search and found 33 crores is the correct number. As they say, live and learn. Glad I am able to comment on this article. Blissfully, the direct posts on Boloji no longer have comment section. I have something to say about idol worship, but I save it for another day. God bless.

P. Rao
02/12/2017 12:39 PM

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