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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