Question 9. Is it customary to install these images in temples which millions of Hindus visit to offer worship. What is the justification for this? Also, what is the significance of a temple?
God exists. He is the creator and controller. His grace gives us happiness and peace. His wrath brings about sorrow and suffering. Mankind all over the world has cherished this belief in some form or other. Once it is conceded that such a God exists, there must be an easy means of approaching Him and propitiating Him. That is the temple. The temple is the structure we put up with devotion for the residence of God when He descends to this world for our sake. It is something like the camping of the king of a State in a part of his territory.
The essential parts of a temple are: the Garbhagriha housing the icon of the deity, the Shukanasi and Antarala which are the adjoining passages, the Navaranga or Mantapa which serves as a multipurpose hall for religio cultural activities, the Dhvajastambha or flag post and the Balipitha or the pedestal for offerings. Bigger temples have smaller shrines for the minor deities associated with the chief deity. high walls surrounding the whole campus, places reserved for performing sacrificial rites and cooking, for housing the deity (taken in procession), sheds for the temple car, wells and tanks, as also gardens.
The structure of a temple is highly symbolical. Primarily it indicates God as the Cosmic Person. The Garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum is His head, the Gopura (tower at the main entrance) is His feet, the Shukanasi His nose, the Antarala His neck, the Prakaras (the surrounding high walls) His hands and so on. Alternatively it represents the body of man, with God residing in his heart. The temple may also represent the whole creation.
In temples consecrated according to scriptural rites, the images are considered to be alive. Hence, formal worship is a must. This worship ranges from one to nine times per day, depending on the extent and resources of the temple. On special festival days, celebrations are conducted. lie biggest of such celebrations is termed Brahmotsava (brahma=big). The Rathotsava or temple car festival is also held during this period. The temple car is a moving symbol of the temple.
Those who want to visit the temple are expected to enter it physically clean and with the proper mood of faith and devotion. Walking silently straight to the sanctorum, and after offering, they should come out and then circumambulate the shrine. Formal obeisance should be done from a place outside the flag post. Then, they should visit the minor shrines and spend some time in meditation, sitting in a secluded spot on the north eastern side of the temple. it is incumbent on the visiting devotees to .maintain the purity and sanctity of the temple.