Indian people are highly religious whether they are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs or Buddhists. As for the Hindus, temple worship is a must and an integral part of their lives. For any family functions, people go to the temple for prayer and blessings from God. There is a saying in Tamil ''Don't live in a place that does not have temples." There are plenty of atheists as well here as in many countries who shun worship of numerous gods and goddesses and consider it foolish.
Indian temples normally are repository of a vast number of art forms, stone images, sculptures, intricate art works, etc., exhibiting the highly talented Indian artisans 's workmanship, An orthodox Hindu starts his day with a prayer to the Sun - "Surya Namaskaram" and then prayer. The uniqueness about Hinduism is due importance is given to the nature, animals and trees . So they are not only objects of admiration but also of veneration.
|Banyan tree or aalamaramausram.blogspot.com|
Trees and Hinduism: Hinduism believes in close relationship between the trees and humans, taking their growth in to account. Further, our lives, including those of animals are dependent on them and without them, the earth will be barren and devoid of human activities. People, visiting the temple, especially women must go round the "Aalamaram" or Banyan tree.
"Mooladho Brahmaroopaya; Madhyatho Vishha roopenea; Agraha Ssiva roopaya; Viruksha rajayathe Namaha."
All Hindu temples have a particular tree dedicated to the temple called "Isthala Viruksha." Sastras say that one must go round the tree 7 times and it is equal to propitiating Lord Shiva. Scientifically speaking, we get a lot of oxygen under the big tree in the cool, soothing shadows. As you may be aware, the tree absorbs CO2 and gives out O2. Yet another factor is going round such trees assures of one's longevity. Among trees, Aalamaram is one of the few trees considered holy. Childless women worship Banyan tree on an auspicious day for fertility and good health. Aalamaram is believed to be a symbol of not only fertility, but also of immortality.
|The form of prostration differs for men and women,www.himalayanacademy.com|
Men can prostrate with his entire body on the ground - "Shashtaingha namaskaram" before the deities and elderly people, where as women don't have to do it. Such custom may cause bodily pain, etc., considering their physiology. In Shastanga Namaskaram the entire body - forehead, chest, legs, etc., touch the ground and for men it is not painful unless, they are elderly. Such an act emphasizes the fact that ''I surrender to thee.''It is a way of paying respect to the God, Gurus and holy men, besides senior people.
03. Abisheka theertham and prasadam are given only after pooja and prayer, The abisheka water (after anointing the presiding deity) has medicinal properties. Such Theertham is mixed with leaves of Tulsi, Lotus, Mantharai and turmeric and is good for blood circulation and body immunity.
04. It has been a pretty long tradition to give donations to the temple, depending on one's capacity and money power. In Kerala devotees offer elephants (ex. Guruvayur Sri Krishna temple) as part of their prayer. In the olden days, Maharajahs used to offer lots of jewelry, precious stones, etc to the deity. Tulaparam- weighing against one's weight and offering grains, etc is prevalent in many temples (ex. Guruvayur, Kerala, Palani, TN, Tirumala, AP. Such a commitment will boost one's trust in God, for 'He' is the one who guides us and recognizes our sincere and hard work.
05. Offering of Pongal -
Rice flour mixed with country sugar-jaggery is a common feature in all Devi temples (goddess temples). Ladies mainly participate and light numerous oil lamps. It is symbolic of removal of veil of ignorance. It is supposed to remove darkness and bring in light (hope). It is a way to have our wishes fulfilled. Women get the mental strength to manage any difficult moments in their lives. If mud pot is used for cooking Pongal, it will remove the unwanted toxic elements in the food.
06. Chimes of bells in temples:
During puja times chiming (in Tamil Maniyosaai) of bells is a must. Priests normally use small bells. Temple bells are big and heavy and it
|A small bell in a Hindu temple. onebagnomad.wordpress.com|
07. Tanzampoo and pooja: This flower that has a plasing aromatic smell, but is not used for pooja because of a curse by Shiva.
08. Worship of Nandi or bull in the temple: Nandi is Shiva's mount and is adorned right before facing the main shrines of Shivalayams (Ambalams/ temples). The sacred bull is symbolic of hard work and bulls were widely used in the agriculture lands during ploughing, planting of crops, etc., in the past. In the last two decades or so the entire work is done by machines. Further, bulls' dung was widely used in the past as a natural fertilizer. Worshiping of bull/Nandi in the temple, is strongly believed by people, will increase the productively of agricultural produce. During harvest festival Mattu Pongal in January every year (in Tamil Mattu means bull as well as cow), special pooja is done for them. At temples, people with personal problems tell the Nandi in their ears, in the belief, their personal problems will be taken to the presiding deity Lord Shiva for redress. It will be good for the family if one witnesses Pradoshakala pooja - special pooja will be done for the Nandi, first and then to the deity. Another belief is that both bull and Bhaivarva (dog) guard the precincts of Shivalayas.
|oil lamp with wcks.fullnfenil7.blogspot.com|
|oil lamps wth many wickswww.thehindu.com|
|Karthigai Deepam, Thruvannamalai, Tamil Nadynavrangindia.blogspot.com|
(Minor corrections made: March 05, 2016)