Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanatana Dharma “the eternal tradition”, or the “eternal way”, beyond human history. India with its overwhelming cultural diversity is rich with unique traditions that almost always amusing. These traditions can be magnificently seen in all the Hindu temples across India. A Hindu temple often called “Mandir” is a spiritual destination for many Hindus, as well as landmarks around which ancient arts, community celebrations, and the economy have flourished. Being a symbolic house and an abode of God, the symbolism and structure of a Hindu temple are rooted in Vedic traditions.
TEMPLE – an acronym for Tranquillity Education Medication Purification Love and Engagement – is also an Institute which offers many valuable services to society. All the cosmic elements that create and sustain life are present in a Hindu temple – from fire to water, from images of nature to deities, from the feminine to the masculine, from the fleeting sounds and incense smells to the eternal nothingness yet universality at the core of the temple. Here, we are summing up some 5 traditions that are very peculiar to these temples and are worth observing as they give an insight into the culture and the tradition.
A Bath To The Deities
Panch Snaan means giving a bath to the idols of the temple with 5 things that are considered as sacred by Shastras. These are – Cow Milk, Curd, Ghee, Honey, Liquid Jaggery along with water. These things are also called Panchamrit which is then distributed among all the devotees who very spiritually take the Panchamrit on their palms and drink it without making any noise. It is believed that just like we take a bath daily, the deities are also to be given the same. The ceremony is accompanied by chanting of Mantras like “Om Namah Shivay” which means “I bow to Lord Shiva” or the Maha Mritunjaya Mantra. The ritual is best observed in a Lord Shiva Temple where it is believed that in order to make “Bhole Baba” happy, one should do this.
This ceremony has a deeper significance in Hindu rituals as per Puranas and Vedas. This is just like offering clothes to the deities after giving them a bath. It includes the offerings of fresh flowers and fruits. Amongst the marigold, rose, and white lilies what also finds a place of pride is a Bilva leaf or Bel Patra. It is believed that the pagan Lord – Lord Shiva is very fond of these leaves. It is believed that the one who offers a trifoliate of these leaves on to the Shivalinga – (the name given to the Idol of Lord Shiva) Lord Shiva blesses them with whatever they desire. The trifoliate of these leaves signifies the Holy Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Apart from the holy meaning connected with these leaves, these Bel Patra are also considered as immersed with many medicinal and healing benefits. Accompanied by the Chantings of Shiva-mantras, the ceremony is concluded with offerings of Prasad that one brings in for Gods and Goddesses. A portion of this Prasad along with few Bilva leaves are then taken back by the people at their homes with a belief of taking the Shiva’s energy to purify their surroundings and bring positive energy.
It is the ceremony of lights, the waving of lamps before the idols in Hindu temples. A lamp made of mud or metal or ghee is used for this. In many temples, we have seen that the head-priest holds a big metal lamp in his hand filled with oil and some camphor is burnt inside or it is lighted with the use of cotton wicks and offers in the circular motions to deities. After every two or three full circular motions, the performer or the priest waves it backward while remaining in the bottom and then continues waving it in a clockwise fashion. It symbolizes that God is the center of all our activities. It reminds the devotee that God comes first and all other activities are secondary. It also signifies the songs sung in praise of the deity when the light is being offered. It is an act of immersing oneself in God’s divine form. Symbol of five elements – Space (Akash), Wind (Vayu), Fire (Agni), Water (Jal), Earth (Prithvi), it is believed to be performed in the spirit of humility and gratitude.
In Hindu Tradition it is seen in many temples that people break coconut in front of the idol of Lord Ganesha after performing Aarti. Coconut is considered as a pure (Satvik) fruit that is normally offered to Lord Ganesha. It is believed as the purest form of offering to God since the milk and the white kernel is not polluted due to the hard outer shell. According to Hindu Mythology, the coconut symbolizes one’s own head, specifically the person’s ego. In the process of breaking the coconut, the person breaks his ego and pride which he might have achieved or is going to achieve, in front of Almighty. It is always said when the ego is broken, only then you can taste the sweet milk of success, or the fruit itself.
This refers to a mark on someone’s forehead, usually priests, in the Hindu temples. It is a ritual of marking someone’s forehead with a fragrant paste, such as of sandalwood or vermilion as a mark of devotion when they bow their head in front of their revered deities. It is also done as an expression of welcome or of honor when they arrive at home after a long gap. Applying of tilak in your midbrow is a kind of ritualistic worship of God. It is believed that this imparts peace and positive vibrations to the person, the entire day. These marks are of different shapes and relate to different deities.
Thus, visiting a Hindu Temple makes us familiar with so many rituals and traditions related to Hinduism. Some of them you can even witness during our Wagah Border Tour where we cover the most famous Mata Lal Devi Temple and makes you familiar with these ceremonies.