Why Americans Visiting India Need To Include A Visit To A Temple In Their Itinerary

Sanchi Stupa

Temples of India are the towering edifices of rock that have stood the test of time to tell the tales of the magnificent country’s glorious past. They are the fruit of labor of several thousand craftsmen and builders, artists and sculptors. Temples are the jewel in the crown of a powerful king, proclaiming his greatness to the world…

Whatever your faith, your visit to India will be incomplete without including a visit to a temple. There is a lot you can learn about India, both its present and its past, by visiting a temple. If you have a more spiritual bent of mind, you will discover a great many things about your own self, and ‘the brahman’, or the Supreme Being.

Significance Of Temples

The Konark Sun Temple

Deeply rooted in ancient Vedic traditions, temples in India are structures that were constructed with the idea of being the place for devotees to have a ‘darshan’ (or view) of the Supreme. The temple embodies the all the elements of Hinduism – the good, the evil, the human, the elements of cyclic time that represent dharma (righteousness), moksha (liberation), artha (material prosperity), and Kama (emotional fulfilment), and the ultimate freedom from the cycle of birth and death.

Hindu temples show us the diversity of the religion itself. The architecture of temples vary in each region, village, city, or town depending the spiritual inclination of the people living there. Interestingly, it is not necessary for every Hindu to go to a temple. In fact, there are some schools of Hindu thought that don’t even encourage the rituals associated with temple worship.

Understanding The Concept Of Many Deities

Hinduism believes in the one ultimate Brahman, the basic consciousness that defines our very existence. But by architectural design, every temple will have one primary deity and several other smaller shrines for other deities (called ‘Moorthi’). Devotees will follow a circular path and offer their respects to all the deities. This shows how monotheism and polytheism co-exist in Hinduism.

Rituals That Are Performed In Temples

Somnath Temple

There are always mythological stories of valor, righteousness, justice, and compassion associated with the deity that make him worthy of the exalted position he is accorded. Inside the temple, several rituals are performed every day. These are considered as offerings to the deity.

These rituals involve waking the primary deity in the morning by chanting hymns in Sanskrit language, cleansing the deity with ghee (clarified butter), bathing the deity with rose water and milk, dressing the deity and adorning with ornaments, and even singing lullaby to make him sleep.

Aarti is a ceremony that is performed many times a day by the priest. He illuminates the deity by circling the deity with a flame and then extends this flame to all the people assembled there, one by one. This represents the complete surrender of the individual’s soul to the divine Supreme.

Such rituals of humanizing God are meant to signify the relationship between the devotee (Jeevatma or human soul) and the Supreme power (Paramatma). They also imply that the Brahman or the Supreme is within every individual’s heart.

Helpful Tip: Remember to wear clothes that will cover your arms and legs. Salwar kameez would be the ideal attire for women. A recent ruling banned women from wearing jeans or leggings to temples in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Do check with the local tour guide before visiting a temple.

Some temples don’t allow men to wear shorts. Full trousers would be a safe bet for men. Check with the authorities before you plan to visit a temple.

Hope you found this article informative!

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