Abhisheka (Abhiseka) means the ritual arts of consecration (Rodrigues 345). The term Abhisheka occurs many times in the Atharva Veda and not in the Rig Veda or Sama Veda. It is a ceremonial anointing, sprinkling, and baptizing of a person (Kapoor 3), and may be performed during religious practices such as puja. It is also performed on daily basis at houses or during visits to the temple. The Agamas Shastras gives the basis and method of how this rite should be completed. In this scripture, there are steps given how rituals such as Abhisheka should be performed.
The Abhisheka ceremony is a bath or sprinkling of water. It is the procedure of giving a ceremonial bath to a king during his coronation (Murdhabhiseka), to a Tantrik devotee during the several stages of his initiation (Saktabhiseka, Mahabhiseka), or to an icon (Bimbabhiseka) (Ramachandra Rao 52). There are very little data shown of this practice performed by common maharajas or kings. The Kausika Sutra of the Atharva Veda distinguishes the Abhisheka of a simple king (Ekaraja) from that of a higher (Varsiyas) (Kapoor 4). Many details about the performance of Abhisheka is taken from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Agni-Purana, and Manasara. At the time of their composition, this ceremony had undergone multiple modifications, even though it was a special priestly ceremony. There were two different Abhisheka performed by Yudhisthira in the Mahabharata: first, Sabha, which is led by successful expeditions in all directions and celebrated as part of a rajasuya in the presence of minor kings. The second one is performed as a follow up of the conclusion of the great war (Kapoor 4). Abhisheka was also performed for some ministers of state or counselors of royal rank.
An animal that is sacred in Hinduism is a cow. It said that all 33-crores of gods and goddesses are present in a cow. Therefore, it is worshipped and the ingredients for Abhisheka are also derived from a cow. When performing the Abhisheka of a deity during puja or on a daily basis there are various materials that may be used, However, the main materials that must be present during Abhisheka are water from a river, ocean, mountains or rain along with Pancamrta. Pancamrta is made of five ingredients including milk, curds, ghee (clarified butter), honey and sugar. The way to bathe a deity is with rich ingredients that are sign of purity. Each ingredient in Pancamrta is linked to the five elements and senses. Milk is associated with the element water and the sense taste. Curd is associated with earth and touch, ghee with fire and sight, honey with ether and hearing, and sugar with air and smell (A Practical Guide to Understanding Hindu Abhishekam). In the scientific world, it has found that ingredients of pancamrata help remove toxins from the body. This ritual of Abhisheka is performed on many occasions such as Adhivasa (installation), Pratistha (when its installed) and , Netronmilana, when eyes are delineated, Arcana: when its formally worshipped, Pravitra: when it is purified after a defilement, Yatra:when the processional image is about to return to the temple after sojourn around the town or at avabhrta: when the festival is undertaken for the icon completed (Ramachandra Rao 52).
There are many festivals in Hinduism that are associated with worshipping a deity. On every festival or occasions, Abhisheka of a deity can be performed with a different material. For example, during a special ceremony of Durgapuja, ingredients are added along with pancamrta including pure water, water in a conch, water from a sacred river, water in which sandal paste (gandha) is mixed, cow urine, cow dung, water in which kusa grass is immersed, dew water (sisirodaka), water from flowers (puspoodaka), sugar-cane juice (iksurasa), coconut water (phalodaka), eight kinds of mud (astamrttika) hot water and water form eight jars specially consecrated (kalasa). There are also regional and limited differences in the ingredients used for ritual baths given to a deity (Ramchandra Rao 52).
There are other ways of performing the ceremony which also can be varied, such as using a plate is taken with thousand holes held over a deity’s head. Water is poured into it so that it creates a water fall called Sahsra-Dhara (thousand streams). In some daily based Abhisheka, water is made to tickle down continuously up the Siva-linga. When Abhisheka is being performed, mantras are chanted in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is an ancient language that is said to be a language of the gods as its every syllable carries with it potent vibrations which are capable of uplifting and energizing. Sanskrit is used in order to create an ambiance which will please the deity that has graced us with his presence (A Practical Guide to Understanding Hindu Abhishekam).
REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING
Unknown (2018) “A Practical Guide to Understanding Hindu Abhishekam.” Bhakti Marga UK. Accessed October 6, 2018.
Rodrigues, Hillary (2016) Hinduism-The Ebook. Toronto: Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd
Snehashree Bhat (2016) “Importance Of Abhishekam In Hindu Religion.” Most Inside. Accessed October 8, 2018.
Unknown (2007) “Why temple?” Yoga magazine. Accessed October, 8 2018.
Subodh Kapoor (2000) The Hindus Encyclopedia of Hinduism 1 volume A-C. Published by Rani Kapoor. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications.
Prof. S.K. Ramachandra Rao (2003) Encyclopedia of Indian Iconography volume 1. Delhi: Shri Satguru Publications.
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Article written by: Rutu Prajapati (October 2018) who is solely responsible for its content.