Tag Archives: Hinduism

Importance of Temples – 2 Mahadwara and Courtyard

The entire temple complex is an excellent, vast positive energy field. Most of the temples were built near the ocean, rivers or large lakes. Temples were associated with the seat of power. They also functioned as education and art centers, and provided shelter, food and water for travellers.  The main aspects of a temple are as follows: we enter the MAHADWARA (the main entrance) which has the tallest GOPURA and then move further through the smaller DOORWAYS with small GOPURAMS to reach the PRAANGANA or the COURTYARD of the temple. The DHWAJA-STAMBHA along with the BALI-PEETA are located in the courtyard right in front of the sanctum. Next comes the MAHA MANTAPA with its exquisitely carved pillars and then the ARDHA MANTAPA, which is arch-shaped. Finally one arrives at the GARBHA GRIHA or the Sanctum Santorum with the VIMANA or SIKHARA on the top. All of them – mahadwara to the garbha griha with the vimana – are in ONE STRAIGHT LINE and they represent the physical body structure in the horizontal position (lying-down position). 

The mahadwara represents the feet of the Lord, the various prakaras and their doorways represent the various layers of Matter-vestures around an individual. The dhwaja-stambha represents the bottom of the spinal cord, the maha mantapa represents the belly, ardha mantapa the chest and garbha griha the face. Finally the vimana represents the head. The dhwaja-stambha which represents the end of the spinal cord signifies the mooladhara chakra and the vimana signifies the sahasrara chakra. Hence during puja or meditation, an individual is expected to keep the head, neck and back absolutely straight. The lower portion of the body (represented by the dhwaja-stambha upto the mahadwara) is in sitting position – sukhasana or padmasana. This indicates that the extroverted-ness has been contained and the seeker has become introverted. Therefore, entering the temple and reaching the sanctum signifies the spiritual pilgrimage from the lower to the Higher within oneself – an evolutionary process.

The Science of Temple Building – Vastu and Shilpa Sastra were strictly followed in the construction of the temple. The dimensions and architectural design of the temple complex ensured complete harmony between Nature and the temple complex, as well as harmony between the temple and the pilgrims. The height of the deity, the dhwaja-stambha and the main gopura are inter-related. Aestheticism, beauty, symmetry, stability, coherence, astronomy, astrology, art-forms like sculpturing, painting, music, dance and drama, rhythm, inclusiveness, integrity, light-sound-air-flow management through the various structures and temple-tanks were an intrinsic and integral part of the temple-construction.

MAHADWARA represents the feet of the Lord. The main entrance with its high walls and tallest gopuram (many temples have four entrances – one in each direction) denote the boundary within which the electro-magnetic fields are very strong. The entire city is laid out around the temple and hence known as TEMPLE-CITY. In fact, the streets around the temple are known as North Temple Street, East Temple Street etc depending on their direction with respect to the temple. The Main Tower is also known as Maha Gopura, which means: City or Store-House (Pura) of Knowledge (Go). It consists of a specific number of tiers and is inlaid with stories and illustrations from epics and puranas. An odd number of Kalashas made of gold or gold-plated metal adorn the top of the gopuram. The height facilitates the drawing or absorption of the cosmic energy by the kalashas. Not only are they excellent absorbers but good emitters too. They continuously radiate the cosmic energy in all directions for the benefit of all. Hence it was customary not to have any building in the city taller than the gopuram. The kalashas also act as good lightning conductors. In many of the ancient temples, the kalashas are supposed to be connected through unseen metallic strips to the deity in the sanctum. As one crosses the threshold of the Mahadwara, a few seconds right under the vast and spacious Maha Gopura is extremely rejuvenating! One cannot but feel a sense of freshness and liveliness under its umbrella!!

The outermost parikrama (going round the temple) beyond the mahadwara is also known as Nagara Pradakshina. The temple utsavas, collective sankirtan and bhajans are a part of the Nagara Pradakshina.

TEMPLE COURTYARD: On crossing the mahadwara, and the inner prakaras, there is the spacious courtyard of the temple with the dhwaja-stambha right in front of the sanctum. It is customary to perform the Parikrama or Pradakshina starting from the dhwaja-stambha and back. Parikrama means “to put forth steps with the full awareness of the Divine Presence of the Lord”. Pradakshina means “to keep the Lord on our right side” while going round. This is to ensure that we receive the divine vibrations of the deity emanating from all sides of the sanctum. We keep the Lord to our right, because our right side represents Purusha Tattva (Energy Aspect). Pradakshina is undertaken bare-foot. This helps the pressure-points on the feet to get activated. Also in ancient temples, there are metal strips concealed within the ground in the courtyard. This helps absorption of positive energy from the ground below.


Next Post: Significance of Dwaja-stambha, Mantapams and the Sanctum.

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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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Raksha Bandhan – Significance

Raksha Bandhan is a day on which sisters tie the sacred thread (rakhi) on the wrist of their brothers. A sense of responsibility, well-being, bonding between family members, sharing, etc., is inculcated into the family members through the ritual of raksha-bandhan. The ritual not only stands for the health, wealth, prosperity, happiness and long life for the brother, but it also represents the brother’s commitment to protect the honour and dignity of the sister.

However, in its larger perspective, “Rakhi” is known as “Raksha Sutra” (thread for protection). The day chosen, who ties the raksha-sutra, and to whom, etc., depends on the occasion and the purpose. The raksha-sutra is first placed at the altar of the Lord. It is sanctified by prayerfully invoking the Lord’s Grace and Blessings. It is then tied round the wrist of the individual.

The raksha-sutra is used to invoke the Lord’s blessings for protection from all dangers, harms, calamities etc. Usually, after invoking the Lord’s blessings, the sacred thread, is tied round the concerned individual by the priest or the eldest in the family. By tying the raksha-sutra round the wrist of relatives, friends and well-wishers it also encourages a sense of oneness and harmony in the society.

In almost all puja-sankalpas and vratas undertaken, during celebrations like marriage, namakarana, grihapravesha etc., tying of raksha-sutra is mandatory. The raksha-sutra symbolizes the sacred bonding between the individual (jivatma) and the Lord (Paramatma). The sanctified raksha-sutra is tied round his wrist with appropriate chants and rituals. In this case it is called “kankana”. The individual is “kankana-baddha”, meaning committed to his sankalpa or vow. When the sankalpa or vow is fulfilled, the “kankana-visarjana” (removing the thread round the wrist) is carried out with specific chants. The colour (red, yellow, black, etc) of the thread depends upon the sankalpa. Undertaking a sankalpa or vow demands discipline and earnest self-effort on the part of the individual. The thread or sutra or kankana itself represents the SANKALPA or VOW. It is a TAPAS, whether undertaken for one’s own self or for someone else. It is a reminder that the wearer should constantly engage himself or herself in noble and purposeful activities ensuring the well-being and welfare of everyone around including himself or herself.

The use of Raksha-Sutra or Rakhi goes back to the Puranic age. On the Poornima (full moon) day of Sravana, Goddess Lakshmi pleased with the hospitality of Bali Chakravarti’s tied the “raksha-sutra” round his wrist; and the divine couple, Sri Lakshmi Narayana bestowed upon him their grace and blessings. Hence the tradition of women tying the “raksha-sutra” not only to brothers, but to all their well-wishers, wishing them happiness, health, plenty and prosperity, and they in turn promise to protect the dignity of their mothers, sisters and daughters. Also, during Yudhisthira’s Rajasuya Yagna, Draupadi tore a part of her vastra and tied it round Lord Krishna’s finger which was injured and bleeding because of the sharp edges of the revolving Sudarshana Chakra which had just killed the evil Sishupala. The Lord reciprocated by protecting her with “akshaya vastra” in the Kaurava court. Therefore, Raksha Bandhan also represents Sri Krishna protecting Draupadi who considered the Lord as her brother.

O, Adimoola (Primordial One)! thou art my ANGA-RAKSHA (My Sole Protector & Saviour)! Lord of Sree, thou alone art my JIVA-RAKSHA (Protector of Life)! Purushottama, the consort of Bhudevi, thou art my BHUMI-RAKSHA (Protector from Terrestrial Calamities)! Lord who reclines on the vast ocean is my JALA-RAKSHA (Protector from Water Calamities)! Yagna-murthi, in the form of the sacrificial fire, thou art my AGNI-RAKSHA (Protector from Fire Calamities), Lord of Hanuman, the son of Vayu, thou art my VAYU-RAKSHA (Protector from Air Calamities)! Vishnu, the All-pervading One, who measured space with His lotus foot, thou art my AKASHA-RAKSHA (Protector from Spacial Calamities)! Lord of Venkatadri thou art my SARVA-RAKSHA (my All-in-all Protector)! The kirtan can also be interpreted as: “the Lord who supports, nurtures and nourishes the BEINGS in the form of the Elements of Nature – Earth, Water, Fire, Air & Space” ~ Sri Annamacharya (Poet-Saint).

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Arunagirinathar : the divine transformation!

Arunagirinathar was born to a pious couple in Tiruvannamalai (15th century). Soon after his birth he lost his father. Arunagiri was brought up by his mother and sister and they instilled in him the religious and cultural traditions. He was intelligent, religious and devoted to the Lord. However as he grew up, he associated himself with court dancers and started spending all his time in their company. He spent all the money he had on the women. He sang praises of the rich and wealthy people and whatever he earned from that was all invested in his sensuous life. He totally neglected his duties, and constantly demanded money from his sister. His mother and sister were worried about him but there was nothing they could do to stop his wayward life. His health started to fail him because of his wrong habits but still he continued his extroverted life.

One day, as usual he asked his sister for money. She replied that she did not have any money to give him. Extremely angry with her for denying, he picked up a quarrel with her. Overcome with anger and tired of his unethical and immoral habits, she told him that she had no money to give him and if he still wanted money, the only way was by “selling her”. Her words stung him to the core. It was like molten liquid being poured into his ears. Suddenly it dawned on him as to how selfish and sinful he had been all these years. He was a shame to his family and the entire town. Overcome with remorse and feeling extremely guilty, Arunagiri hit his head hard on the stone pillars of the temple and decided to end his life. He climbed up to the tower of Arunachaleswara temple and jumped down. But instead of landing on the hard granite, he landed in the hands of his saviour. He looked to see who had saved him. The smiling saviour told him, “You are not to fall and die. Yours is a life to save and help others to rise. You have a divine mission to accomplish. Write and sing the glories of Lord Muruga“. 

Arunagiri’s saviour was none other than Lord Karthikeya himself! Lord Muruga in all his glory and splendour stood in front of him with the Vel in his hand. His vehicle, the peacock stood next to him. Arunagiri was overwhelmed and overjoyed at the compassion of the Lord who had come all the way to redeem a sinner like him. He prostrated to the Lord. Lord Shanmukha wrote his sacred six-lettered mantra, SARAVANABHAVA on Arunagiri’s tongue with the pointed tip of his Vel. Arunagiri was initiated by Lord Muruga himself! What a blessing! What a transformation! Arunagiri was instantaneously blessed with all the knowledge of Kavya (poetry) and Sangeeta (music). Lord Muruga started the devotional-poem for Arunagiri with his own words: “muthai tharu patthittirunagai!” Being blessed, Arunagirinathar continued singing praises on Lord Kartikeya which came to be known as “Tiruppugazh”.

Arunagirinathar’s, “Tiruppugazh” is a masterpiece which was initiated by Lord Muruga himself. The glory and grandeur of Lord Muruga in his six sacred abodes is beautifully described in these verses. The beautiful lyrics are woven intricately with complex rhyme and rhythm. The philosophical content soaked in devotion is beautifully couched in divine music! His “Kandar Alangaram” is another beautiful garland of verses describing the beauty and splendour of Lord Muruga from his sacred head to his lotus feet! Arunagirinathar’s works are incomparable and they ushered in an era of Naada Upasana.

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