PROLOGUE ON HINDU MASS TEMPLE WORSHIP AND THE NEED FOR SPIRITUAL FOCUS
(I-DISCOURSE BY N.R.SRINIVASAN, JANUARY 2012)
A vision of temple in India evokes among Hindus feeling of reverence, sanctity and spirituality as Temple symbolizes as the abode of Gods and a place of worship. For migrant Hindus here Temples also serve as Hindu Cultural and Socializing Centers. Temples here have also developed some what a composite view on Siva-Vishnu-Devi worship absorbing the concept of Panchayatana Pooja of Sankara a composite pooja for Shanmata deities at one place which finds favor with Smaarta Sampradaaya of Hindus. In India Temples have mostly moved away from its original social, economic and cultural reach of the society. In the earlier days it wielded political power also with the direct participation of ruling kings.
Krishna Vasudeva belonging to the Yadu Clan founded the Bhagavata School, a devotional school of Hindu Religion. He was known as Bhagavaan and was fore-runner of Lord Krishna. He was affectionately called Bhagavan and probably the author of Bhagavadgita (Kalpataru Research Academy, Sankara Matha, Bangalore) which later got the deft touches of Vedavyaasa and made Lord Krishna the spokesman. This school brought Bhaktimaarga to the fore-front pushing back Japayoga and Vedic Sacrificial form of worship about which I have spoken earlier. As a center of worship the temple is mainly a product of Puranic Trdition. Hindu pantheon of gods have their origin mainly in the Puranas of Vaishanva and Saiva Traditons. The Brahminical form of worship which still maintains a small part of Vedic Sacrifice today in its rituals, gradually absorbed beliefs and practices of folk tradition. Vithoba and Kandobha of Maharashtra, Murugan of hill tribes of the South, Ganesha a god venerated by farmers, Mother Goddess Kaali in Bengal, Bhagavati of Kerala, Mariamman of Tamil Nadu are all from folk and village traditions which later got absorbed into the Vedic Tradition, some even glorified as Brahman, the Supreme Principle. Buddhism had also its influence on Hindu Temple Tradition. Some believe temple as direct descendant of Buddhist Stoopa which in turn might have evolved from the funeral mound as you could witness today in Toda Tribe practice in Nilgiris. Buddha is also absorbed as an Avataar of Vishnu by many. The divine aspects of awe-inspiring rich Hindu Temples' architecture is based on Hindu Scripture of Vaastu Saastra. Its origin goes back to Pre-Christian era.
Pilgrimage centers in India abound in Sthala Puranas and surround with mythological stories though the temples themselves are modern. Their origin is linked to hoary past. For example in Puri Jagannath a verse from Rigveda (10.155.3) is quoted to support the theory that this place with its temple of wooden image is a very ancient center of pilgrimage. Puranic accounts declare that Indradyumna, the pious king of the Maalava country with his capital at Avanti (modern Ujjain) came here and built the temple at the command of Lord Vaasudeva (Krishna). According to the local legends, the temple in Sabaraimalai was built by Visvakarma, and the original image of the deity prepared by the sage Parasurma who is venerated mostly in Kerala. The present image is made of Panchaloha (five different metals) and installed after the fire destroyed the temple in 1951 A.D. The original faith continues. Rama met Sabari near a lake Pampa near Narmada River as given in Valmiki Ramayana. But there is a place earmarked for Sabari in Sabarimanlai for her. The chief priest of Sabarimalai clarified in 2008 that Makara Vilakku is a fire lit by locals on the hill neighboring Sabari Malai while Makarajyoti was a star that appeared in days of yore marking the culmination of the festival. It is this star that is worshiped as celestial light symbolically. There seems to be also no connection between the mythological Harihara Putra and the child of the Pandala Raja worshiped in the temple as Aiyapaan who is believed to be Hariharaputra's incarnation.
Mystery also surrounds as to the origin of the image of Tirumala Hills and also whether it is Vaishnava deity or Saiva deity or Devi, a Sakta Deity! The temple itself dates back to about 1000 years. These hills are considered as Bhoo Vaikuntha—Heaven on Earth.
It is interesting to hear about all these myths and mysteries but a true spiritual devotee leaves the place with his concentration on Five Elements and the Supreme Principle as he leaves the temple as described by me elsewhere.
We in America have introduced the concept of American-Hindu culture besides into Hindu Temple worship for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. May be in due course we may add Valentine's Day to honor the deities Kaama and Rati. Here we need not have to wait for Aagam Saastra authority or the Religious Maths and the founding fathers of temples can convince the priests to modify worship to our needs. Thus we are able to add American-Hindu Culture to Sanskritization and Vernacularization of Hindu Temple worships prevailing in India. Buddha, Mahaveer, Swami Narayan, Saibaba have graced the Hindu Temples here with individual sanctums. We may also find a day suitable during Christmas and Hanuka fortnight suitable for Hindu worship without prejudicing Aaagama or Tantric forms of worship. We have adopted Kris for Krishna already. May be this Kris may turn Chris and then Christ one day? What remain is the Halloween, Labor and Independence Day. It is better to leave these along with Thanksgiving as American secular holidays keeping their original intent. May be Independence Day could be dedicated to Aindra-Maata (Statue of Liberty), parallel to Bhaarat-maata of Vande-Maataramfame, and worshiped too as we live in Aindra-kanda according to religious American-Hindu concept, which we declare in our religious resolves (Sankalpas). Our Temple priests should also focus on mentioning Aindrakanda and Kraunchadveepa in Sankalpa while administering sankalpas to Hindu-Americans. It was so while World was not divided and Sanatana Dharma prevailed for all humanity. Civilization in Aindrakanda is of very recent origin. It remained as Mother Earth and Aindrakanda without any habitation for long.
The accompanying series of discourses on Tempe worship and Temples in continuation will explain current practices; focus on Spirituality while performing worship as per Aagama or Taantric forms of worship; and need to spread the message to the world wherever Hindus are located. It is also necessary to study Sanskrit. Jews are similarly focusing their attention to revive and spread their scriptural language Yiddish. It will be more meaningful and beneficial to restrict our ritualistic part to Vedic deities instead of adding more and more deities to 33 crores+ deities at least in USA since our objectives are very clear--meditation on Brahman and surrender of the Self to him to advance towards liberation. That way we will be practicing monotheism directly instead of the present polytheistic approach, then start explaining symbolism and avoid much needed explanation for all our acts of worship which is subject to lot of criticism from outsiders as well as within.