SYMBOLISM OF HINDU TEMPLE
Hindu religion can not only be confusing but also seem contradictory to any person who is not clear about certain basic aspects of the religion. Unlike other religions, Hinduism does not insist that there is one and only way of knowing God or Godhood. Every individual has three options. He selects these paths according to his propensity or inclination. Though the Sanskrit word, which describes this, is ‘VASANA’, I opt to use the word propensity.
The three options available for an individual is
- JNANA MARG
- KARMA MARG
- BHAKTI MARG
A person who is philosophically or meditatively inclined can hope to attain Godhood using knowledge as the path. JNANA (knowledge) MARG is ideal for people of such temperament. Since this is the path of pure reason, not many are inclined to follow this. It contemplates of God in the abstract form.
For persons who are men of action, and are disinclined for philosophical speculations, the other option is KARMA (action) MARG. God realization here is not through the dialectics of reason, but by doing the duty, which is expected of a person. This path is arduous as the goal can be attained only by strong commitment and effort .So only a few opt for this.
To the common man who has neither the intellectual capability nor dynamism of the man of action, the best option would be to adopt the path of devotion, which is called BHAKTI (devotion) MARG. The abstract God seems remote and meaningless and he seeks a Personal God with which he can relate. It gets so personalized that every one can opt for an ISHTADEVATA or a GOD of once choice, and so we have a pantheon of Gods in Hinduism. Amongst the other two paths to Godhood, BHAKTI MARG is considered not only the easiest, but effective too as it appeals to the masses. Temples are just means to help the devotee to attain communion with God; a place where he can bask in the divinity of the Almighty.
The Hindu temple in Sanskrit is called ‘DEVALAYA’, a place where ‘God dwells on Earth’. A temple must therefore reflect the glory of God. The outer walls called PRAKARA are walls of the Lord’s fort, and the DHWAJASTHAMBA is his insignia. The various parts of the temple plans are reflective of the divine body of God. When viewed horizontally, the GARBHA GRIHA or sanctum sanctorum represents the head. ARDHMANTAPA or the small enclosure in front of the sanctum sanctorum the nose, ANTARALA is the neck, MANTAPAS the body and the PRAKARA the hands.
The temple while symbolizing the various parts of the divine body is also identical to the human body. This is not only due to the anthropocentric representation of God but also to impress upon the devotee the need to seek the Lord within the heart rather than search for it in vain outside. The temple and the rituals associated with it are intended to aid the devotee to seek the Almighty within him. This is what JNANA MARG and KARMA MARG also try to achieve; but with out the aid of either Temples, idols or rituals