(Last Updated on : 05/03/2014)
The rites and ceremonies are celebrated all round the year in the Hindu temples. Some of these religious rites and ceremonies are discussed here:
Consecration Ceremony (partisthavidhi):
This ceremony is performed after successful completion of constructing a Hindu temple. After the temple building is completed, it is sanctified formally with proper rites and ceremonies. For this purpose, a separate pandal is erected in the north-eastern corner of the main structure and the important religious ceremonies are performed there.
At first a usual puja and homa are performed for the vastupurusa. Then, nine balis (offerings) are given to the minor (and usually fierce) deities, by placing the balis all round the temple. Thereafter, the minor deities are requested to leave the place permanently.
This religious rite of the temple then allows the acharya, the yajamana and their assistants to enter the yagasala. Now, they establish kalasas (ceremonial pots filled with water, the number being up to a maximum of 32) all round the place. They perform particular preliminary rites and homas in the several homakundas to appease the main deity of the temple and other associated deities. In the meantime, the image of the main deity is taken in the ratha to a nearby source of water like a river or a pond and immersed in it for the first of the three adhivasa ceremonies (adhivasa=abode), called jaladhivasa.
This is performed only after the ceremonial opening of its eyes, i, e, netronmilana. After three days, the image of the deity is brought in the ratha to the yagnasala and then put in grains for another three days, which is called 'dhanyadhivasa'. From there, it now taken out and put on a specially prepared bed for three days more and this rite is called 'sayyadhivasa'.
This ceremony of the Hindu temples continue by placing a yantra in the centre of the garbhagriha, (a gold plate with occult designs) along with some precious stones, minerals and some seeds. The next ritual of this ceremony is the 'astabandha'. Above this yantra, a paste of butter or oil and other eight materials like conch, whitestone, lac, perfume is smeared. The image is then fixed above this. The next rite is to connect a gold wire or a long thread, to the main homakunda in the yagnasala. This is called 'nadisandhana' whereby the nadis or internal passages will become opened up as it were, to receive life. Thereafter, the deity is invoked into the image by 'pranapratistha' (a simple ceremony for infusing life-force) and a simple worship is performed.
The image of the deity is then bathed with the water from the main kalasa of the yagasala. This is called kurhbhabhiseka. An elaborate worship follows then with offerings and waving of lights. Now, the acharya, the yajamana, the sthapati and their assistants needs to take a ceremonial bath (called avabhratha-snana). This bath thereby indicates that they have successfully completed a great and meritorious act. After this, the devotees and poor people of the place are fed lavishly and the daily worship (nityapuja) is performed.
After the construction of the temple and the ceremonial consecration is done, daily worship must be done regularly. This daily worship should be done from a minimum of one time to a maximum of six times. It should be performed before sunrise, after sunrise, between 8 and 9 a.m., noon, evening and night.
During the performance of worship, all the dress and ornaments of the deity are removed and the image should be bathed successively with oil, ghee, milk, water and scented water. Then the image is dressed again and smeared with sandal paste as well as decorated with ornaments. Now, the ceremony continues with the offering of food articles to the deity. These rituals are performed after closing the doors of the garbhagriha.
Thereafter, the doors are opened, the lights are waved and several upacharas (items of special service) are done, including chanting of hymns and music. This ceremony also involves the ceremonial worship of the consort of the main deity and minor deities associated with it.
Occasional Worship (naimittika-puja):
The religious rites of the Hindu temples include the special pujas on particular occasions. These pujas performed mainly during Sivaratri, Vaikuntha Ekadasi or Dasara are known as the naimittika-puja. The occasional worships or ceremonies vary from place to place, or even from temple to temple. These are done in addition to the daily worship. The unique features of this type of worship include special homa, japa (repetition of the divine name), and abhiseka (bathing the image) as well as elaborate worship. The utsavamurti, which is taken out in procession, must be well decorated and exhibited to the devotees.
Rathotsava and Brahmotsava:
The religious rites and ceremonies may continue for several days during the special occasions. The Brahmotsava is the biggest among these festivals, which is also called rathotsava. It is called so because the utsavamurti is taken out in a procession in the temple car (ratha). This festival involves some other rites like beating the drum (bheritadana), hoisting the flag of the deity (dhvajarohana), inviting the deity to the yagnasala (avahana), establishing the kalasas and performing homa. Two days before the close of the festival, the temple car 'ratha' is taken out. The 'teppotsava' (boat-festival) is also performed on the next day of the 'rathotsava' in those temples where there are facilities of a river or a big tank.
Hundreds of devotees take part in the 'Rathotsava' and without any distinction of caste, creed or colour they draw the ratha, shoulder to shoulder. The deity is elegantly decorated on the festival day and the procession proceeds with music, lights and crackers.