God exists. He is the creator and controls the universe. His grace gives us happiness and peace. Mankind all over the world has cherished this belief in some shape or other. If God is present, there must be a simple way of approaching Him and propitiating Him. That’s the temple. So what is a temple? In this excerpt, we will look at the importance of a temple and different parts of a temple.
What is a Temple?
Temples are the structure we set up with devotion to the house of God when He descends to this world for our sake. It’s something similar to the camping of the King in a part of his vast kingdom.
Essential parts of a temple
The essential parts of a temple are: the ‘Garbhagriha’ housing the icon of the deity, the ‘Shukanasi’ and ‘Antarala’ which are the adjoining passages, the ‘Navaranga’ or ‘Mantapa’ which serves as a multipurpose hall for religious-cultural activities, the ‘Dhvaja-stambha’ or flag post and the ‘Balipitha’ or the pedestal for offerings. Bigger temples possess smaller shrines for the small deities associated with the main deity, large walls enclosing the entire campus, places earmarked for performing sacrificial rites and cooking, for housing the deity (taken in procession), sheds for the temple automobile, wells and tanks, along with gardens.
The importance of a temple also lies in its arrangement which is highly symbolic. Mostly it indicates God as the Cosmic Person. The Garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum is His mind or head, the Gopura (tower in the primary entrance) is His toes or feet, the Shukanasi His nose, the Antarala His throat, the Prakaras (the surrounding high walls) His hands, and so forth. Alternately, it represents the body of man, with God residing in his heart. The temples could also represent the whole creation.
The importance of a temple consecrated according to the scriptural rites is because the images are “alive”. Hence, formal worship is essential. This worship ranges from one to nine times each day, based on the scope and resources of the temples. On special festival days, we also conduct celebrations. The biggest of such celebrations is termed Brahmotsava (brahma=big). The ‘Rathotsava’ is also held during this period.
People who wish to pay a visit to the temples are expected to enter it physically clean and with the proper mood of devotion and faith. Walking quietly directly to the sanctorum, and after the offering, they ought to come out and circumambulate the shrine. Formal obeisance should be done from a location outside the flagpost. Afterwards, they ought to pay a visit to the minor shrines and spend some time in meditation, sitting at a secluded place on the north-eastern side of this temple. It’s incumbent on the visiting devotees to keep the atmosphere, purity, sanctity, and importance of the temple unhindered.