Category Archives: Temple Worship

The Lingaraj Temple in Odisha

View of the Lingaraja Temple, Bhubhaneswar, Odisha, dedicated to Siva.

It is undeniable that the Lingaraj temple was historically significant to Hindu tradition, and it continues to prevail today as a cultural icon. From its vast architecture both inside and out, to the detailed sculptures of the deities, the temple draws pilgrims in from across India to worship. Built during the Somavamsis era, this temple features Kalinga architecture prominent in its depictions of Harihara throughout the compound. The separate portrayals of Siva and Visnu, their vehicles, and their gatekeepers, are captivating and detailed. Within the temple, the Mallia and Badu both have very important jobs in the function of the worships and in the presentation of the deity. The Lingaraj temple also plays a very important part in the festival of Sivaratri as devotees go to the temple to offer food and recite passages from different Hindu texts. Ultimately, the Lingaraj temple is the home to many important aspects of Hindu practice, and has a detailed history of its development and role in modern day Hindu tradition.

For two hundred years, from the ninth century to the early twelfth century, Somavamsis (often referred to as Panduvamsis) were in political power over Odisha (Sahoo 14886-14887). This era brought together Kalinga, Utkala, Kondoga, and Kosala which gave rise to one of the most unique cultures in India and resulted in an increase in the richness and development of architecture and art. Identifying with the Kshatriya, who claimed that they descended from either the Sun or the Moon, the Somavamis were said to be a part of the Chandra, the family of the Moon (Sahoo 14886-14887). When they rose to power, they became very important for bringing culture, religion, and many different types of art to Odisha. As a result, Kalinga style developed substantially during this era. Many of said Kalinga style sculptures, art, and architecture can be found in the capital of Odisha known as Bhubaneswar. However, among them, the Lingaraj temple, standing tall above the rest at one-hundred and eighty feet, is the center of attention (Sahoo 14886-14887).

Built in the eleventh century between 1025 and 1065 CE first, although some argue the sixth century, the Lingaraj temple began construction under Yayati II and finished under Udyota Kesari. It is enclosed by a large wall (five-hundred and twenty feet by four-hundred and sixty-five feet) and has four parts (deul): vimana (main sanctum), jagamohana or mukhasala (assembly hall), natamandapa (“dancing hall”), and bhogamandapa (“hall of offering”) (Sahoo 14892-14893). Three gates provided entryways to the courtyard from the north, south and east; the east entrance was the primary gate. The vimana and the jagamohana were built first, with later constructions of the natamandira and then bhoga-mandapa (Shodhganga 2 237).

The vimana was built in pancaratha, meaning it has five pagas or rathas (“cart” or “chariot”), were rounded, and continued their shape to the bisama (top of the temple) (Shodhganga 2 235-244). Within the vimana there are five sections called the bada (vertical walls of the temple). These five sections of the bada are also divided by five to create the pabhaga (mouldings). The first three pabhaga create different levels in the bada which had sculptures and art, designs of flowers, and carvings. Depending on the level, different designs are featured on each creating uniqueness on each of the stories within the temple. The other two pabhagas are situated on top of each other, the bottom one being thinner. All of the pabhaga create the shape of a pilaster inside the bada (Shodhganga 2 235-244).

The assembly hall (mukhasala) was built against the main sanctum (vinama), with two windows facing north and south. The south window has been changed to an entrance, although it is unknown exactly why this happened. The most likely explanation is that when the natamandapa (dancing hall) was built the initial door was covered, so a new opening was needed. Furthermore, the later two of the four sections of the temple, the natamanpada and bhogamandapa (hall of offering), were built using different stone and materials to build the sculptures, thus making them more detailed and adding the unique architecture found within the Lingaraj temple (Unknown 242-243).

The main architecture in the Lingaraj temple is called Kalinga architecture, which originated in eighth century CE, and possesses multiple distinctive phases of development including: pre-Kalingan, formative, transitional, mature, and decline (Bhuyan 40-42). Similarly, it also has three groupings, Rekhadeula (tallest building with a mountain peak), Pidhadeula (square shaped with a pyramid shaped roof), and Khakharadeula (rectangular with a shortened roof). Kalinga style has features similar to the Nagara of Northern India, the Dravida of South India, and the Vesara. Kalinga temples also have copious amounts of sculptures. These sculptures are mostly of humans, animals, or icons, and often feature scrolls, mystical figures, plants and flowers in great detail. Often in Odisha the Kalinga temples feature very plain insides, with a great deal of pillars; the outside is where the majority of the detail is found (Bhuyan 40-42).

Throughout the temple, images and sculptures of Visnu and Siva are depicted as Harihara, the form of Visnu and Siva together as one equal god where they are worshipped as Hari (Visnu) and Hara (Siva). Although mainly dedicated to Siva, the Lingaraj temple worships the two gods as equals; thus, each gate into Lingaraj delineate the gatekeepers of the deva. This is shown by the portrayals of Jaya and Vijaya on one gate for Visnu, Nandi and Bhrkuti on the other for Siva. Seen amongst many of the other structures outside the temples is the depiction of the vehicles of Siva, Nandi, and Visnu, Garuda, next to Harihara sitting in dvibhanga pose (Mishra 147). According to some, Nandi, a bull, is named after Aanandi: “a realized soul is full of bliss” (Shodhganga 3 138). Therefore, when Siva is shown with Nandi, it is important because it is depicting the vehicle as blissful and always with his god. In addition, his large neck and body, and strong horns show his strength (Shodhganga 3 138).  Garuda, on the other hand, has two wings and is bending backwards. In this specific display, the vehicle is also highly decorated, and is said to be powerful and strong (Mohanty 1022-1023). Furthermore, there are many portrayals of the nayikas (heroines), known for their gracefulness, elegance, and beauty. They are depicted clutching a tree branch, taking off jewelry such as an anklet, and taking care of an injured bird (Shodhganga 2 243).

The Lingaraj temple is a very important aspect of festivals and ceremonies for the Hindu people. One of the many that is dedicated to the lord Siva is called Sivaratri. This festival is celebrated sometime in February/March, and is a day when devotees bring holy water to Siva temples where they bathe to cleanse their souls (Shodhganga 3 153). This day also includes fasting, bathing in the morning, and is followed by dressing in clean clothes before beginning their journey to the temples. Sivaratri is celebrated by men and women; however, it is more auspicious for women since it is the day that Siva’s wife Parvati prayed and fasted to hopefully keep evil spirits away from him (Shodhganga 3 153). Thus, women who are married pray for their sons’ and husbands’ well-being, and women who are not married pray to one day have a husband who is similar to Siva.  On this day, the devotees pray to Siva and recite “Om Nama Shivaya” (Shodhganga 3 153).

The night of Sivaratri is different because the night is divided into four quarters (yama) in which the devotees perform Vrata (penance) (Vepachedu 1-2). To achieve penance, there is a different offering to Siva in each yama. First, they worship Siva with the lotus flower, and offer him pongali. Pongali consists of a rice and mung bean cooked in milk. During this quarter of the night, they recite the Rg Veda until the end of first quarter. During the second quarter of the night, they repeat the Yajurveda, and offer Tulasi leaves and payasam which is rice turned to a liquid when cooked in milk.  Next, they say the Samaveda, and offer bael leaves and foods with sesame flour. Finally, devotees recite the Arthaveda and offer to Siva the lotus flower and a simple food. Once morning arrives, the foods offered to Siva can be consumed by the devotees (Vepachedu 1-2).

The Mallia are a caste of temple servants who are found only in Kapileswar. With a population of one-thousand and twenty-eight people, they are the largest population in the village (Freeman 125-126). In the village of Kapileswar, they are considered “high caste,” but their status overall is unsettled. Even though they do not have any hereditary services at the Lingaraj temple, they are a part of the community of worshippers because Kapileswar is within the sacred boundaries of Bhubaneswar (Freeman 125-126). It is said in Hindu mythology that these sacred boundaries are marked by four branches of a mango tree, where the trunk reaches the heavens. The Mallia are also part of this sacred community, because the Lingaraj temple is devoted to Siva and Kapileswar temple is dedicated to Dewan who is the advisor to Lingaraj. Therefore, there is a yearly ritual to worship when Lingaraj’s deputy visits the Kapileswar temple (Freeman 125-126).

The Mallia also work at the Lingaraj temple because the Kapileswar temple does not have very many devotees that visit. In addition, Lingaraj temple priests employ Mallia to bring in more pilgrims, offer them housing and provide them with food. Because Brahmin cooks are able to cook food and sell it to the worshippers, many Brahmins have left Kapileswar in search of employment at a larger temple because they have the hereditary right to cook at Lingaraj (Freeman 4). This has led to conflict and termination of work duties in Kapileswar as Mallias heavily rely on Brahmins for food (Freeman 125-126).

Grounds of Lingaraja Temple Complex in Bhubhaneswar, Odisha.

There is also a caste known as the Badu within the Lingaraj temple who serve within the temple, but are not Brahmin (Mahapatra 96-108). The Badu (sometimes “Batu”) credit themselves as the initial servants of this temple and claim their lineage to Badu. While Badu was journeying to Ekamravana to pray to Lingaraj, he was captivated by the beauty of a woman. They copulated with one other, which resulted in Badu being late for the scheduled worship time. He begged Parvati to forgive him, and when she did she gave him the upanayana (sacred thread) and made him her servant. The woman that Badu was intimate with had a son, creating the Badu lineage (Mahapatra 96-108).

Each Badu male goes through three rituals: ear piercing (Kanaphoda), marriage, and God-touching (Mahapatra 96-108). Kanaphoda rite happens when the Badu boy turns twelve. He and his caste brothers are invited to a meal, and through the day he wears a thread around his neck. In modern day rituals, he is accompanied by musicians as they wander through the servant areas of the Lingaraj temple. In the Badu tradition, a marriage rite is performed during the night. This is one of the many reasons why it is believed that they are not Brahmins because Brahmin marriage happens during the day (Mahapatra 96-108).

Other reasons that the Badu are not considered Brahmins include that they wear the thread around the neck, unlike the Brahmins who wear it on the left shoulder (Mahapatra 96-108). Another difference is how the Badu and the Brahmin refer to their family members. A Badu calls his father “Bapa,” older sister “Apa,” and older brother “Bhai.” In contrast, the Brahmin call their father “Nana,” older sister “Nani,” and older brother “Bhaina.” Badu, because of hereditary right, are not allowed in the kitchen of the temple, whereas Brahmins are given the right because of hereditary allowance (Mahapatra 96-108). Another aspect of the marriage rite for Badus is that even those who are not wealthy spend copious amounts of money on their weddings and the meals provided, so much to the extent that they will sell property to pay for the wedding (Mahapatra 96-108).

Finally, God-touching is the rite that gives the Badu male the certification to perform worship to the Lord Siva within the temple (Mahapatra 96-108). They start the day dressing in new clothes provided by the family, and the priest dresses in new clothes as well. The meal is eaten by the caste members and the servants who are working in the temple at that time (Mahapatra 96-108).

In the Lingaraj temple, the Badu are responsible for five services: Paliabadu, Pharaka, Pochha, Pahada, and Khataseja (Mahapatra 99, 103). Paharaka and Paliabadu are the two most important of the daily rituals because they involve the protection of the deity both day and night. The Paliabadu guards are responsible for the presentation of Lord Siva and other deities, such as cleansing, clothing, and decorating with flowers and leaves. They are also given the task of bathing the other most important linga. The Paharaka guards the deity at night. The role of the Khataseja is to make the bed for the deity before the closing of the temple. The Pochha dries the deity with a cloth after cleansing, and the Pahada is at the entrance throughout the food offering times (Mahapatra 99, 103).

Ultimately, the Lingaraj temple provides unique historical and cultural significance to the city of Odisha and to the Hindu tradition.

 

Bibliography

Bhuyan, Ramakanta (2017) “Evolution of Kalingan Style of Temple – A Study” Vol. 1:12 pg. 39-44. Odissa: Behampur University.

Freeman, James M. (1971) “Occupational Changes Among Hindu Temple Servants” Indian Anthropologist Vol. 1:1, pg. 1-13.

Freeman, James M. (1975) “Religious Change in a Hindu Pilgrimage Center” Review of Religious Research Vol. 16:2, pg. 124-133.

Mahapatra, Manamohan (1973) “The Badu: A Service-Caste at the Lingaraj Temple at Bhubaneswar” Contribution to Asian Studies Vol. 3, pg. 96-108.

Mishra, Kishore Ch. (2000) “Religious Syncretism and the Jagannath Cult in Orissa” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress Vol. 61:1, pg. 144-151.

Mohanty, Prafulla Kumar (2010) “Garuda Images of Orissa – An Iconographic Study” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress Vol. 70, pg. 1018-1027.

Sahoo, Abhijit (2015) Contribution of the Somavamsis to the Odishan Culture: A Critical Analysis. Bhubaneswar: KIIT School of Social Sciences.

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/82003/8/08_chapter%203.pdf.

Shodhganga 1. “Chapter III – Symbology of the Weapons and Vehicles of the Little Mothers” pg. 106-141.

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/128730/10/10_chapter%204.pdf.

Shodhganga 2. “Chapter IV – Temples of Bhubaneswar” pg. 236-243.

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/175579/12/12_chapter5.pdf.

Shodhganga 3. “Chapter V – Pujas and Festivals of the Shiva and Vishnu Temples” pg. 122-157.

Vepachedu, Sreenivasarao (2004) “Maha Shivaratri” Mana Sanskriti (Our Culture) Vol. 74:2 pg. 1-8.

 

Related Research Topics:

Somavamsis

Siva

Visnu

Deva

Devi

Sivaratri

Kapileswar

Bhubaneswar

Kalinga Style Architecture

Mallia

Badu

Yayati II

Nandi

Bhrukti

Garuda

Jaya

Vijaya

Harihara

 

Related Websites:

Architecture of Lingaraj Temple

https://www.mahashivratri.org/shiva-temples/lingaraj-temple.html

Meaning of Shivaratri

The early history of the Somavamsis

 

This article was written by: Janelle Harasymuk (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.

Puja

The devotional rite of puja is regarded as highly significant in the Hindu tradition, as the core Hindu ritual (Fuller 57). Through the practice of worship, individuals demonstrate their adoration and reverence towards one or more deity’s images; this act is pleasing to the gods and goddesses in Hinduism. Regardless of the type of puja conducted, temple, home, or festival worship, all share similar fundamental structures and goals of respectful honouring. This widespread rite of worship is fundamentally performed by Hindus across all castes and classes. It is conducted in temples by Brahmin priests or at home by laypeople, allowing all to actively practice their religion. Faithful puja dismisses the hierarchy between the Divine and the individual, resulting in the primary ambition of spiritually unification.

 

Overview of Puja

In Hinduism, suffering, despair, and societal complications are believed to be the result of unfaithful and untimely worship (Fuller 69). Deity worship is often performed to achieve protection and prosperity for one’s household, community, or region, and it is believed to bring about blessings, grace, and divine virtue. The response of the deities is solely based on their own discretion and will, as one’s devotion may influence the deities but does not offer any guarantees. For some, the act of puja is solely an act of loving devotion (bhakti), where they do not expect or hope for anything in return (Rodrigues 2006: 233; Fuller 70-71). Worshiping with the heart of personal gain is generally frowned upon, yet commonly practiced.

The meanings attached to offerings and practices of puja are also often viewed differently by the various schools of Hinduism; primarily, two perspectives are taken. First is the idea that deities are self-sufficient and are not in need of being washed and fed, etc. However, the sense of reverential honoring expresses the worshiper’s devotion. This practice of hospitality towards the gods and goddesses as though they were dependent on the offerings is pleasing to the divine. The second perspective is that the deities are wholly dependent on the offerings and practices making these actions necessary for their persistence. This perspective displays the interdependence of the deities and people on one another (Fuller 69-71).

Overall, both perceptions install the ideology that divinities are gratified by the ritual pious acts of ceremonial practices and services (upacaras) that make up puja. Symbolized by the camphor flame, the unity and identity of the deity and worshiper is one of the most sought-after goals of puja (Fuller 82), eliminating hierarchical separation between them. Taken together, the significance of puja is to create a relationship among the god or goddess and the individual. This may be done in the anticipation that their sanctified acts of tribute will promote security and favour from the deity.

 

Practices of Puja (Upacaras)

Puja is performed as an act of reverence towards the deities whose power is housed within iconographic pictures, statues, or symbols of the particular divine being. Each image containing the spiritual manifestation of the deity (murti) is specialized according to proportion, form, and features, and are typically man-made out of bronze, stone, clay, glass, or printed ink photographs. Within the rite of puja, the power of the deity is ritually consecrated into the image before the procession of the upacaras commence. This is done because the image itself is empty until employed with the power. The object of worship is not the image itself but the sacred power of the god or goddess.

The puja ritual varies greatly in terms of simplicity, size, and occasion. Regardless, all puja upacaras have the same general structure, involving a standard total of sixteen (sodasa), ten (dasa), or five (panca) upacara which are grouped into four phases (Rodrigues 2003: 253; Fuller 67). These services are accompanied by 16 verses of the Sukta and/or other additional Vedic mantras. To begin, the deity is summoned and installed within the murti. This phase consecrates the image making it divine. Next is the offering of a seat and water for the washing of the feet, head, mouth, and body. Third, the image is bathed, outfitted, decorated (with flowers), given the sacred thread, wafted with incense, illuminated by a lamp, and given offerings of food. This phase is commonly known as the heart of the ritual, where the image is glorified and adorned. Lastly, the deity is displayed signs of respect (such as the namaskara gesture) and is dismissed (in temples and homes this action does not take place once the puja is complete) (Rodrigues 2006: 228). Other additional acts of worship such as signing, dancing, prayer, and the chanting of mantras may accompany puja (Fuller 63). The upacara practice is seldomly completed in full and may only consist of a single camphor flame offering, known as arati, and a single food offering. Although partial practice is considered less good, synecdochally the entire ritual is produced since the overall structure and connotation of puja is maintained. Puja is specialized for each different deity based on their preference of offerings; offerings are also altered based on the means an individual has accessing materials due to their placement in society (Buhnemann 66). Unlike Vedic sacrifices, puja is inclusive to all, regardless of their gender and class, allowing for women to participate also (Michaels 2016: 9). This act of worship displays one’s hospitality and adoration for the deity, treating them like royal guests given their utmost respect.

 

Temple Worship

Temple worship is the process in which Hindus pay homage to certain deities permanently housed in a sacred temple space, such as the main shrine. The images within temples are usually immoveable (mula murti) and made of bronze or stone (Fuller 58). Within larger temples puja is conducted frequently (daily), where as lesser temples may perform puja semi-frequently (weekly) (Fuller 62). Devotees stand before a deity’s murti, particularly in temples, to perform/engage in darsana, meaning “vision.” Darsana is the process of going to see the deity and be seen by the deity, thus absorbing some of their power through an intimate union and gaining a promising blessing. Many individuals attend temples in the mornings, just after the deity has been awoken to enhance their fruits of darsana (Fuller 59).

 Puja begins in the morning with an elaborate ceremony to wake the murti, conducted by a Brahmin priest (purohita) known as a Pujari (the one who performs the ritual), on behalf of all (Buhnemann 56; Fuller 62 ). The appropriate offerings are made, and the god or goddess is bathed. The water poured over the Divine is considered sacred and can then be used as a prasada (blessing) by devotees throughout the day (Rodrigues 2006: 230). The priest’s ignition of the flame (dipa) and passing it before the murti is known as arati, and is the climax of the ritual. The boisterous sounds of bells, drums, and cymbals can be heard within the temple neighbourhood, marking this segment of the worship rite. Subsequently, the flame is passed amongst the devotees, allowing them to cleanse themselves of their sins with the consecrated smoke, which is done by wafting the smoke over their bodies. With the conclusion of arati, worshipers are invited to make their offerings (typically purchased at the entrance) through the officiant following the washing of their hands and removal of shoes (Rodrigues 2006: 231).

In certain temples, puja involves the participation of various ministrants in addition to the Pujari: the Benare (one who recites mantras), the Haridas (one who recites the aratis), the Paricarak (Pujari’s assistant), the Dingre (one who places the mirror), the Divte (one who transfers the torch), and the Dange (the mace carrier) (Buhnemann 63). In the afternoon the deity may be given a period of rest, in which the inner sanctum is temporarily closed (Rodrigues 2006: 231). Otherwise, rituals take place throughout the day, until the deity is put to sleep later in the evening, around 11 p.m. which entails another prominent puja. In sum, temple worship communally gathers large crowds of devotees. These individuals are free to participate in their own individualistic worship of expressing prayers and performing gestures towards the particular deity, as well as engage in the devotional ritual of puja.

 

Home Worship

Worship conducted in the home, although very different in terms of scale and simplicity compared to temple worship, maintains a similar structure and intent overall. Home worship takes place before a home shrine in which many icons are present, and the principle image is centrally placed (Jhala 106). The permanent installation of the divine within one’s home shrine can be done by a priest or by one’s self through frequent acts of service and adoration which eventually invoke the deity. Home shrines include various icons that were either gifted, inherited or bought, and which may symbolize or picture different deities, vehicles, gurus, and ancestors (Jhala 109). The arrangement and collection of these icons illustrates the vast network and history of the Hindu family, bringing about awareness of their collective interdependence and relationships with the deities and others.

The wealth of an individual’s family dictates the elaboration of the shrine. The wealthiest of families may have their own small temple or various shrine rooms within their home. They may also invite Brahmin priests into their home and pay them to perform the puja rituals daily (Rodrigues 2006: 228). More commonly, laypeople of any class/caste preform the ritual upacaras on their own, although only the upper three castes may recite Vedic literature. Similar to temple worship, home puja is characteristically performed daily in the morning, but depending on the family’s schedule and degree of personal pollution due to deaths, childbirths, and menstruation, puja can be postponed, shortened, or prolonged (Jhala 117).

The Pujari in home worship is usually the head of the household or the most significant member of the family. Once the ritual is complete, the rest of the family is invited into the shrine room to bow and present their gifts (Buhnemann 56). However, the idea that puja can be taken jointly rather than individually is controversial since some believe it is a personal formality, to be done privately by all (Jhala 123). Prior to taking part in puja, it is customary to bathe in order to purify oneself before entering the shrine room. The shrine usually consists of a cabinet symbolizing a temple, a shelf, or a lowered table flooded with adorned images and icons. Directly across from the shrine on the ground is a gadi, which is a large cushion, that the Pujari is to be seated cross legged on during the ritual (Jhala 111). Furthermore, the upacaras of puja are to be performed on the favoured principal deity. The doors of the cabinet are opened during the puja and then shut when it has ended.

 

Festival Worship

Separate from temple worship and home worship where the deity’s power is fixed within the image, festival worship involves the installation of the deity, veneration and worship, and release of the deity with each extravagant devotional event (Buhnemann 191-200). The movable images involved in festive pujas are known as utsava murti, which are either cast of bronze or made of painted clay (Fuller 58). A good example of festival worship is the Durga Puja, an elaborate festival which admires the Great Goddess Devi (i.e. Durga), the aggregate of all goddesses who possesses an immense array of attributes.

The commemoration begins on the sixth day of the larger festival, Navaratra (Rodrigues 2003: 37). The purohita who acts as the Pujari, prepares for the ritual through a series of preliminary obligations, concluding with a hymn. Moving forward, the Durga Puja commences the awakening of the Great Goddess through the bodhana rite. This process fixes the Goddess’ power (sakti) into a clay jar, topped with a coconut, swathed in a sari, and anointed with sandalwood paste (Rodrigues 2003: 38-39). Followed by the transformation/purification process, the technique of Kundalini Yoga is used to arouse Devi. The adhivasanam ritual of anointing takes place next, accompanied by procedures that eventually install the Goddess’ sakti into a clay figurine. Ritual bathing of Durga enveloped in numerous forms follows the next day as part of the Mahasaptami (Great Seventh) rite. As the Mahasaptami is drawn to completion, the Great Goddess Durga is filled with “life,” taking up her dwelling within as a living icon and marking her full arrival (Rodrigues 2003: 46-50).

Similar to conventional puja, the next portion of the service is the sixteen upacara where Durga is showered with extravagant devotional offerings of honor. The bathing rites (Mahasaptami) are then repeated in a process known as the Mahastami (Great Eighth). There after, the Sandhi Puja occurs between the eight and ninth lunar day when the Goddess is presented a blood sacrifice (a goat’s head) whilst another series of the elaborated sixteen step practice is conducted; this marks the pinnacle of the Durga Puja. Once again, a variation of the Mahasaptami rite, labelled the Mahanavami, is performed with the inclusion of homa a Fire Oblation ritual. Finally, to conclude the Durga Puja, one last ten-part ritual is held dismissing Devi (Vijaya Dasami). Her clay image is then immersed in the Ganga signifying the Great Goddess’ ultimate departure. Through this illustration of festival worship, comparisons and contrasts between daily puja and occasional puja are exemplified in terms of the structure, simplicity, and magnitude of the worship ritual.

 

Final Remarks

The devotional practice of puja is central to Hindu worship. Through the acts of deity adoration and respect, an individual expresses their devoutness to unify themselves with the Divine. Essential to puja, the power of the deity is invoked into an image, transforming it into murti, thus allowing for darsana and worship to take place. Another fundamental characteristic to puja, regardless of its size, is the demonstration of revealing one’s reverence to a deity through the use of offerings. These two processes of installation and veneration characterize the core elements of upacara within puja. Additionally, specific to festival worship the release of the deity also follows. Puja’s universality allows for it to be performed on a small and simple scale within the home by laypeople, or also on a massive and elaborate scale in temples or during festivals by qualified priests. Although the magnitude, amplification, and occasion vary, the structure and meaning of puja remains constant.

 

References and Further Reading

Buhnemann, Gudrun (1998) Puja: A Study in Smarta Ritual. Vienna: Institut fur Indologie der  Universitat Wein.

Eck, Diana (1981) Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. Chambersburg: Anima Books.

Ciraulo, Jonathan M. (2013) “The divine image: Hindu murti and Byzantine iconography.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 48: 505-522. Accessed October 28, 2018.

Fuller, Christopher J. (2003) The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India.   Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Hawley, John S., and Donna Wulff (1996) Devi: goddess of India. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Jhala, Jayasinhji (2000) “Puja, Pujari, and Prabhu: Religious Worship in the Hindu Home.” Visual Anthropology 13:103-128. Accessed October 28, 2018.   doi:10.1080/08949468.2000.9966793

Michaels, Axel (2004) Hinduism: Past and Present. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

______ (2016) Homo Ritualis: Hindu Ritual and Its Significance for Ritual Theory. New   York:   Oxford University Press.

Prasad, Birendra N. (2011) Monasteries, shrines, and society: Buddhist and Brahmanical  religious institutions in India in their socio-economic context. New Delhi: Manak Publications.

Rodrigues, Hillary P. (2003) Ritual Worship of the Great Goddess: Liturgy of the Durga Puja      with Interpretations. Albany: State University of New York Press.

______ (2006) Introducing Hinduism. New York: Routledge.

Yelle, Robert A. (2003) Explaining mantras: ritual, rhetoric, and the dream of a natural language in Hindu tantra. E-Book: Routledge.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation:

Darsana

Durga Puja

Devi

Arati

Murti

Hindu Shrines

Upacara

Pujari

Bhakti

Great Seventh

Great Eighth

Great Ninth

Vijaya Dasami

Sakti

Homa

Adhivasanam

Bodhana

Kundalini Yoga

Caste/Class System

Mantras

 

 Noteworthy Websites:

https://www.speakingtree.in/blog/what-is-puja-495215

https://www.hinduwebsite.com/puja.asp

http://svaroopa.org/puja

http://static.amritapuja.org/what_is_puja.html

http://www.durga-puja.org/

https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/clips/zh2hyrd

This article was written by: Hailey Rausch (Fall 2018), who is entirely responsible for its content.

Cidambaram Temple

Cidambaram Temple, also known as the Thillai Natarajah Temple is a sixteen hectare temple complex (Smith 4) located in the center of the city of Cidambaram in Tamil Nadu in south-eastern India, and was built and expanded between the 10th and 14th centuries. The official name of the temple is Sabhanayaka (Lord of the Hall) temple (Cush, Robinson, and York 143). This temple venerates Siva as Nataraja (Lord of Dance) in Sanskrit or Thillai Koothan in Tamil (Spencer).

The temple is famous for the veneration a 3 foot tall bronze statue of Siva (Srinivasan 433) in a dancing position and the local myth that inspired the depiction and the worship of Siva in that form in Cidambaram. The statue is meant to be used as an utsava murti (processional image) in festivals (Cush, Robinson, and York 366), but is usually located in an inner gold-roofed sanctum called the Cit-Sabha or Hall of Consciousness (Srinivasan 433, Smith 5). Siva is also represented in the form of a traditional lingam, and in the form of an empty alcove representing akasa (ether, space, or sky) and transcendence (Srinivasan 433). It is said that the Cit-Sabha embodies Siva as well (Ferro-Luzzi 516). Other deities worshipped at the temple include Sivakamasundari, Ganesa, and Visnu among other deities connected with Siva. The depictions of each deity can be found in alcoves and ambulatories around the edges of the temple.

This temple is one of five temples in south India dedicated to Siva which each represent elements and the supposed geographic locations where Siva has appeared and performed miracles. These temples collectively are called the Panca Bhuta Sthalam, (Spencer 233, Isaac 16, Dey 49) and Cidambaram temple represents the element of akasa.

 

Temple History

The Nataraja temple at Cidambaram was built in the 10th century during the reign of Cola ruler Vira Cola Raja and is among some of the oldest temples in south India (Sullivan 58). Cidambaram temple has been the center for the worship of Siva in a dancing form since the seventh century (Smith 1), however the depiction of Siva as Nataraja was popularized by the Saiva Siddhanta school of orthodox bhakti Saivites sometime later (Cush, Robinson, and York 799).

Cola rulers through the 10th to the 13th centuries considered Siva, especially as Nataraja, to be their family deity and sponsored massive expansions of the Cidambaram temple complex and other Saivite temple complexes in south India. Along with the level of temple construction and renovation, they also made efforts to increase the scale and organization of worship at these temples (Davis 16). Vikrama and his military minister Naralokaviran are credited with renovating and adorning the Cidambaram temple, as well as sponsoring and developing services and facilities to encourage patronage and worship such as grand festivals, lit processional walkways, ocean pavilions, etc. with the goal to secure the Cidambaram Nataraja temple as the capital of Saivite worship in south India (Davis 19).

Cidambaram temple is sometimes simply referred to as “the temple”, and the entire city is sometimes referred to as a temple in literature (Spencer 240). Historically in the Saivite temple culture throughout south India, the main keepers and collectors of information were travelling saint-poets called nayanmars (Spencer 234), who were advocates of bhakti (devotionalism), and whose Tamil (Sullivan 195) devotional hymns are still sung today (Sullivan 211). However, there were multiple schools of thought in place in the area in medieval times who each would have a variation on thought and their own canon. For example, the accepted canon for Saiva Siddhanta philosophy was the Agamas (Srinivasan 432). Numerous nayanmars are remembered and venerated at the temple, and their poems have been passed down orally through generations. Recently, the process has begun of writing the poems and stories down for posterity. The veneration of priests, saints, and poets at Cidambaram is hierarchical with more well-known figures such as Umapati Sivacarya who wrote the poem Kuncitanghristava or “The Hymn of Praise to Nataraja’s Curved Foot” (Ferro-Luzzi 515) being remembered and praised more often than lesser saints which included women and Dalits (Spencer 235). The lineages of Saivite saints, priests, and teachers is hard to decipher because of a patchy record and an initiatory re-naming tradition (Davis 9).

 

Temple Mythology

Cidambaram is considered the center of the universe (Smith 2), as well as the place where Siva first performed the anandatandava, or dance of bliss (Srinivasan 432, Smith 1), in the presence of his consort Sivakamasundari, and three sages who were awaiting his arrival in Cidambaram while worshipping a lingam (Cush, Robinson, and York 143). Cidambaram is said to be the sky temple in the series of five temples in south India which represent elemental forms of Siva, the Panca Bhuta Sthalam (Dey 49). Each temple in this collection of temples is said to have a connected story of Siva appearing at that location in the presence of devotees to perform a miracle in a new form. At Cidambaram the miracle was the anandatandava and the form that Siva assumed was that of Nataraja or Lord of Dance (Smith 1). The traditional lingam which would usually stand in the inner sanctum of the temple, the Cit-Sabha, is replaced in this temple by a bronze statue of Siva performing the dance (Cush, Robinson, and York 143). The representation of the figure of Siva performing the anandatandava is steeped in symbolism.

The speed of the dance is said to determine whether it will be creative or destructive, with a slower pace being creative and a faster pace being destructive (Cush, Robinson, and York 143). Siva as Nataraja is depicted with 4 hands, each having a specific meaning. The hand raised up in the abhaya-mudra (Cush, Robinson, and York 799) represents refuge, while the downward-pointing hand represents escape from samsara shown by the surrounding ring of fire (Cush, Robinson, and York 160). The other two hands hold a drum used for keeping time while dancing and a ball of fire, which each represent creation and destruction; fire can be creative in a Vedic sense by creating favor from the gods and the drum can be interpreted as destructive by marking the passage of time (Smith 1, Cush, Robinson, and York 160, Sullivan 148). In the 14th century in Cidambaram, the priest Umapati Sivacarya devoted a poem to the depiction of Siva in anandatandava entitled Kuncitanghristava, “The Hymn of Praise to Nataraja’s Curved Foot” (Ferro-Luzzi 515), the foot on the statue of Siva as Nataraja is said to grant anugraha (blessing) and salvation (Ferro-Luzzi 516). Siva’s other foot steps on a smaller person or demon named Apasmarapurusa in Sanskrit or Muyalaka in Tamil (Nayagam 120) which represents ignorance (Smith 1).

 

Temple Structure

The style of southern Indian temples is distinct from northern Indian temples. In the southern style, the gopuram (main towers) are raised high above the gates of the temple and set into the walls that encircle the inner sanctuaries, the walls are usually highly decorated and ornate (Sullivan 227). Cidambaram temple is one of the largest in south India, with the gopurams measured at 49 meters high (Sullivan 58).

The walls of the Cidambaram temple have been decorated with depictions of 108 Bharata Natyam (traditional Indian dance) poses (Cush, Robinson, and York 160). This style of classical dance is said to have originated in the surrounding area of Tamil Nadu and especially within Saivite temple culture (Tiruvalluvar 1201), and the temple also boasts a large performing arts hall shaped like a chariot called the Nrtta Sabha (Sullivan 58).

The Cidambaram temple is also set apart by the golden roof of the Cit-Sabha, extensive processional routes, and lamped walkways all added on by Cola rulers (Davis 19). Cit-Sabha, the innermost hall or sanctum of the temple contains three alcoves, the main alcove contains the three foot tall bronze statue of Siva Nataraja, with the other two alcoves containing the stone lingam usually representative of Siva and an empty space representative of Siva as the element akasa (Srinivasan 433). Several shrines to other deities are featured in the temple, most of whom have some connection to Siva in Hindu literature (Sullivan 58). All of the elemental Saivite temples are built in the same southern style but differ in their decorations and size.

 

Festivals

The main festival at temples dedicated to Siva is Mahasivaratri (Great Night of Siva) or simply Sivaratri (Sullivan 211). This festival is held yearly on the thirteenth night and fourteenth day in the dark half of Phalguna, the month that takes place in February to March in the Gregorian calendar (Sullivan 130). The festival is widely popular and devotees of many different deities attend. The festival consists of a night vigil at the temple which involves devotional hymns, darsana (auspicious viewing) of images of Siva either in statue or lingam form and highly decorated (Sullivan 130), and puja offerings which include sandalwood paste, flower petals, bilva and bel leaves, milk, curd, ghee, honey, rose water, and vermillion paste (Dwivedi 30, Sullivan 130). A drink made of cannabis, milk, and almonds is also said to be consumed at this festival (Dwivedi 30). The second day of the festival is a celebratory day reserved for feasting rather than solemn worship (Sullivan 130). The Mahasivaratri has many origin stories including Parvati venerating a lingam in Siva’s absence, a hunter accidentally venerating a lingam when out in the wilderness, and the gods Brahma and Visnu finding a pillar of fire which is revealed to be Siva in a different form (Dwivedi 72).

Other festivals include occasional processional temple festivals called mahotsava or brahmotsava in Sanskrit and tiruvila in Tamil. These festivals can last up to two weeks and involve the use of utsava murti (processional images) of deities used in festivals and temple rites (Cush, Robinson, and York 366). The icons are dressed in finery like silk, flowers, and gold ornaments and led down the streets either on the shoulders of followers, or pulled in chariots by devotees holding hemp ropes. There are also animals and musicians involved in these parades, which stop occasionally along the procession to allow people to view the gods and make offerings to them which is seen as very auspicious (Davis 15). Bronze figures and accompanying inscriptions show that this form of festival worship has been taking place in south India since at least the 9th century (Davis 16).

This festival takes place in Cidambaram as well with the obvious addition of the Nataraja statue. Other differences in the Cidambaram mahotsavas are the length and scale of the festival which is always very long, around fifteen days, and features two parades each day with the deities riding on different vahanas (vehicles). This culminates in the ratha-yatra where the deities are paraded on chariots which are much like individual moving shrines (Davis 15). At the beginning of any festival period devoted primarily to Siva, the temple flag is raised with the image of a bull on it which represents Siva’s vahana Nandi (Davis 30). Another practice which sets Cidambaram apart is the practice of applying a black balm to the statues, priests, servants, and lay people in hierarchical order if the festival is venerating Nataraja (Davis 51).

 

Staff and Important Persons

Important persons connected to the temple include the Saiva Siddhanta school of orthodox bhakti Saivites who popularized the veneration of Siva as Nataraja, as well as the other numerous lesser-known philosophical schools which helped inform the literature in medieval south India (Cush, Robinson, and York 799). Also of great importance were the travelling saint-poets called nayanmars (Spencer 234), whose Tamil devotional Saivite hymns recorded the mythology and chronology of the area and whose stories were passed down orally and are still told and sung today creating a rich illustration of the history of the area (Sullivan 211). Some of these poets became priests or teachers or gained fame from their writing which creates a useful image of the social landscape of the time.

The temple staff at Cidambaram are called diksitars because they undergo the initiatory process of diksa. This process involves numerous rites to be performed at different prescribed times before the initiate is accepted. The nitya-karman are the daily rites and show Saivite piety if they are done on one’s own behalf (atmartha), this category includes the nityapuja (veneration of a lingam), nityahoma (a small fire sacrifice), and suryapuja (sun worship). Daily rituals need to be completed before other rituals, they are the prerequisites. Naimittikarman, or occasional rites include pavitrosava and damanotsava and they are the prerequisites for the last set of rituals. The last set of rituals, on completion, marks the initiation of a diksitar as part of the Saivite community and released of earthly bondage. These rituals are therefore held in high regard as transformative. The initiate is consecrated as either a sadhakadiksa (mantra-adept), or as an acaryadiksa (priest) through a series of upanayana-like rituals including a mock cremation on the receiving of a special mantra (Davis 7).

 

References

Aghorasiva (1157) A Priest’s Guide to the Great Festival. Translation and notes by Richard H. Davis (2010) New York: Oxford University Press.

Cush, Denise, and Catherine Robinson, and Michael York (2008) Encyclopedia of Hinduism. New York: Routledge.

Dey, Nando L. (1979) The Geographical Dictionary of Ancient and Medieval India. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications.

Dwivedi, Anil K. (2007) Encyclopedia of Indian Customs & Rituals. New Delhi: Anmol Publications.

Ferro-Luzzi, Gabriella E. (1996) “Reviewed Work: The Dance of Siva. Religion, Art and Poetry in South India by David Smith” East and West 46:515–17. Accessed February 5, 2016. http://www.jstor.org/stable/29757302.

Isaac, Eric (1960) “Religion, Landscape, and Space” Landscape 9:14-18.

Nayagam, X.S. Thani (1970). Tamil Culture and Civilization. London: Asia Publishing House.

Smith, David (1996) The Dance of Siva: Religion, Art and Poetry in South India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spencer, George W. (1970) “The Sacred Geography of the Tamil Shaivite Hymns.” Numen 17:232–44. Accessed February 5, 2016. doi:10.2307/3269705.

Srinivasan, Sharada (2004) “Shiva as ‘cosmic dancer’: On Pallava origins for the Nataraja bronze.” World Archaeology 36:432-450. Accessed February 5, 2016. doi:10.1080/1468936042000282726821.

Sullivan, Bruce M. (1997) Historical Dictionary of Hinduism. Lanham: Scarecrow Press.

Tiruvalluvar (2000). The Handbook of Tamil Culture and Heritage. Chicago: International Tamil Language Foundation.

 

Related Topics

  • Bhakti
  • Diksa
  • Bharata Natyam
  • Saivitism
  • Viasnavism
  • Cola Dynasy
  • Tamil Poetry
  • Poet-saints
  • South Indian Architecture
  • Processional Festivals

 

Related Websites

http://www.chidambaramnataraja.org/

http://templenet.com/Tamilnadu/panchabhoota.html

http://www.religiousportal.com/Pancha_Bhoota_Temples.html

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/39328

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/south-asia/hindu-art/a/shiva-as-lord-of-the-dance-nataraja

Article written by: Katherine Christianson (March 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.