CONSECRATION CEREMONY FOR REJUVENATION OF TEMPLES
Hindu Religion gives us the freedom to worship the Supreme in many ways and forms of which 'Prathima Upaasana' (worship by concentration through the medium of consecrated images or symbols, chakras etc.), and, 'Praatika Upaasana' (worship by meditation through sound symbols like OM) are widely practiced. Both these forms are conveniently practiced in Temples, where one can feel the presence of God (Saannidhyam), which practice leads to greater heights in a spiritual atmosphere. Electrical energy is everywhere. But, in order to bring this to our daily use, we need to build generators and include transmission systems to channelize and distribute the same at places where we need it. In the same way, in order to get the grace of God we have to build temples where we can focus the Lord in consecrated idols. This process of consecration is called "Praana Pratishta". The vital airs, the organs of perception and activity in the devotee or the learned priest who performs the rituals on his behalf, who is the microcosm of the Universe that is macrocosm, are transferred by gestures to the accompaniment of mantras on to the image or idol, wherein the manifestation of the Supreme (Ishta Devata) is devoutly invoked. After the consecration, the image in the sanctum is no more looked upon as a stone or bronze image. Now it is the Lord Himself worshipped in all His glory.
The "Pratishta " ritual begins with "karshana" ploughing done when the temple site is selected, followed by "vaastu pooja" (a fire ritual to please the deities of vaastu mandala, that is earmarking the site in a square dividing it into 64 or 81 parts, putting each part in charge of a deity, and, to obtain their permission to use the site for temple building) and ends with "Kumbhaabhishekam", the consecration ceremony of the temple. These rituals are done in accordance with the procedures laid out in Aagama Saastras. The word aagama generally refers to Vedas. Aagama sastras ordain performance of a "Punaruddhaarana " (rejuvenation) Kumbhaabhishekham of every temple once in twelve years. Sometimes, major repair works have to be carried out to the temple. Then it is called "Jeernoddhaarana Kumbhaabhishekam" (repair and restoration)
Through unintended deficiencies (apachaaraas) while conducting poojas to the installed deities or due to deficiencies in the absolute merits and physical purity of the performing priests or in the improper pronunciation and intonations of reciting the mantras prescribed or a host of other related factors, the installed idol's omnipotence (saannidhya) gets progressively diminished and demand rejuvenation or restoration, even if there is no major repair work.
The Kumbhaabhishekam ceremony consists in the erection of the Baalaalaya (miniature temple or abode), japaas, chanting of Vedas, sanctifying Kalasaas; conducting Homas and Yagnas and others. The finale is the pouring of the sanctified waters from the Kalasas over the stupis (steeple) on the top of the central Vimaana of the sanctum sanctorum, the temple tower (gopuram), Dwajasthamba (flag post), Bali peetha(sacrificial altar), the main deity as well as other deities, either by bathing (Abhisheka) or sprinkling(Samprokshana).
BAALAALAYA—During Jeernoddhaarana, the divine presence in the Murtis must be transformed to the sanctified holy waters in the Kalasaas. The Kalasaas and Utsava murtis(bronze idols taken out in procession) remain in a miniature structure known as Baalaalaya. During the period of restoration, the devotees will not be able to view or do poojas to the Moola vigrahas(stone idols) but the scheduled poojas will be conducted in the Baalaalaya. The divine presence will remain here until it is transferred back to the moola-vigrahas with further fortification of the utsava murtis (processiojnal deities).
Homas ande Yagnas are conducted in the Yaagasaala(place where fire sacrifices are conducted) under the direction of a knowledgeable priest, aachaarya. Five Homakundas are established for the presiding deity signifying five sacred forms of fires. Other deities belonging to the Saiva faith will have one Homakunda. There will be an additional Homakunda for all deities belonging to Vaishnava faith. Main Kalasa is established at the center. Communication between the Kalasaas and deities in the main temple is maintained by silver wires interwoven with twisted holy yellow cotton threads and holy dharba grass cable representing three life-forces Ida, Pingala and Sushma, called naadees. Homas are conducted according to prescribed ritualistic code of practice and attention as per Aagama Saastras.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the power secured by the performance of the various homas is transferred to the Main Homakunda and then on to the Main Kalasa. The sacred fire is then extinguished. Elaborate poojas are conducted to Kalasas to energize them with all divine powers. The highlight of the pooja is when the sanctified energized water from the kalasa is poured over Vimaana(steeple) and all deities which is followed by the sprinkling of the holy water on the entire temple premises and the devotees by the priests, called Mahaa Samprokshanam. .
Mahaa Deepaaraadhanam, prasaadam distribution and 'Annadaanam' of the blessed food bring down the curtain to the grand rituals of great significance.
Traditionally, Kumbhaabhishekam ceremony is followed by a chain of special poojas for the benefit of mankind as a whole. These are, Kalyaana Utsavams(marriage ceremonies for the deities) and Mandala Poojas for 45 days, to enhance the divine presence in the already consecrated moola vigrahas and Archanaa deities.
An important ritualistic repair work carried out during 'Jeernoddhaara' is 'Ashtabhandana'. This is to carry out repair work at sanctum pedestal of the moola vigrahas, when the idols are firmly fixed to the base with a special glue made from eight natural special ingredients, by an expert Shilpi(sculptor). This work commences with a pooja called 'Ashtabandhana Pooja' and ends with honoring the Shilpi with temple honors.
Kumbhaabhishekam brings all round prosperity not only to any particular group of devotees but also to the society as a whole to eradicate illness, bring benefits of sacrificial homas conducted on behalf of all, for the healthy progeny, welfare of the rulers and prosperity of the land. Temple Poojas invariably end with the prayer "Sarvejanaaha sukhinoh bhavantu" meaning 'May all people live happily'. Sanatana Dharma postulates that the World is one family, ('Vasudeka kutumbakam') and THE ONE that is the Supreme, the wise call by many names and forms, 'Eko vipraha bahuda vadanti'.
A Kumbhabhishekam can (or should) be performed annually for a temple deity. A Maha Kumbhabhishekam is performed in a grand fashion every twelve years to honor and renew the spiritual powers of the deity in the temple.
The sole purpose of Jeernoddhara Kumbabhishekam or Samprokshanam, is for repairing of the temple. It occurs once in 10 to 15 years, depending on the temple’s tradition. Repair includes fixing of damaged statues, walls, ceilings, paintings, as well as cleaning of temple tank and the temple, and the replacement of grains in the kalasam as well as polishing it. This will ensure a good health of the structure and the environment.
The purpose of filling grains in the kalasam is to make the temple tower/gopuram withstand lightning. The grains act as natural lightning conductor, which reduce the impact on the structures. For this reason, the kumbam is also designed to have a pointed edge facing the sky. Sometimes, addition of new mandapas, expansion of space or addition of deities is also done as part of Kumbabhishekam.
Sanatana Dharma, popularly known as Hindu Religion gives us the liberty to worship the Supreme in many forms of which “Prathima Upaasana” and “Praatika Upasana” are widely prevalent. One should begin by seeking God at least in one object (Saligraama, Linga, Sculpture, Sri Chakra etc) through concentration, which is the rationale behind “Prathima Upasana”, concentration through the medium of consecrated idol or symbol. The other form of worship is the meditation through sound symbols, like “OM”. Both these forms are conveniently practiced in Temples, where one can feel the presence of God (Sannidhyam) that leads one’s thoughts to greater heights in a spiritual atmosphere. The sun rays contain a lot of heat energy. If we keep a piece of cloth in the sun it does not catch fire. But, if we place a lens and focus the sunrays on the piece of cloth, after sometime it will catch fire. Similarly, in order to get the grace of omnipresent Lord, we have to build temples where we can focus the power of the Lord in a consecrated idol. The process of the consecration is called “Praana Pratishta”. The devotee or the learned Priest, on behalf of the devotee, performs “Aatma pooja” first, that is, he meditates on his inn inner Self encased in his body. By appropriate mantras he first purifies his body including his life forces (praanas) and his sense organs. The vital airs and the organs of perception and activity animating in him as the microcosm of the universe, which is the macrocosm, are transferred by gestures to the accompaniment of mantras on to the idol or the image, wherein the manifestation of the supreme (ishta devathas) is devoutly invoked. The following prayer is uttered before the “Praana Pratishta”: “Svaatma-samstham ajam suddham twaa-madhya Parameswara Aranyaa-miva havyaasam moortau aavaahayaam-yaham” “Oh Lord of the world, you are unborn and pure; Thou art in my heart; I invoke you in my concentration even as fire in “aarani‟ wood comes out by friction. The “Aagama” texts deals with the manner of conducting the Kumbhabhishekam ceremony (pouring the consecrated waters on the deity and the temple Gopurams (steeples)) at the end of “Praana Prathista” periodically which consists of a group of rituals beginning with the selection of site up to and including the installation of the deity.
The process of homogenizing, synergizing and uniting the mystique powers of the Murti (vigraha ore icon) of the Lord constitutes “Kumbhaabhishekam”. “Kumbha‟ means head and denotes “Shikara‟ or crown of the temple. On the appointed day and at the auspicious time(subha muhurtam) fixed thereto, the “Kumbha‟ is bathed with the charged sanctified holy waters in the sanctified pots and by a mystique process the life forces (Praanic powers) trickle down a silver wire and enter the Deity installed in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.
“Kumbhabhishekam‟ consists of a number of rituals that may extend from one to nine days. “Navaaham sowkhyadam proktam saptaaham devikam param, Panchaaham saantikam proktam, trayaaham tu sivapriyam; Ekaaham rogasaantyartam tasmat sampoojaye Sivam” Nine days of ceremony will bring in well-being; seven days will please Devi (Goddess); Five days will bring peace. Three days will please the Lord Siva. One day will cure you of all diseases, so it is said and therefore worship accordingly.
The “Pratishta‟ ritual begins with “Karshana”, ploughing done when the temple site is selected, followed by “Vaastupooja‟ and finally Kumbhabhishekam. After the consecration, the image in the sanctum is no more looked upon as a stone image. Now it is the Lord Himself worshipped in all “His‟ powers and “Glory‟. The Aagama shastras, ordain performance of a “punar-uddhaarana kumbhabhishekam” of every temple once in twelve years. Sometimes, major repair works have to be carried out to the temple at this time, then it is called “Jeernod-dhaarana Kumbhabhishekam”. This ritual is required to be performed to all the deities, in the garbha-grahas of all temples in a temple complex. Through the medium of an elaborate chain of Yaagas and Yagnas (fire sacrifices) the full potency of infused powers (Sannidhyam) is restored to the idols at the appropriate muhurtam (time) on an auspicious day. Through the redress of genuine difficulties and grievances of the discerning and deserving devotees, the inherent and infused spiritual powers of the installed idols are diminished over a period of time. It is also possible that through unintended deficiencies (apacharaas) while conducting of poojas, prayers, aaraadhanaas etc., to the installed deities in the sanctum sanctorum, by either, in the absolute merits and physical purity of the performing priests or in the improper pronunciation and recital of the prescribed number of mantras or a host of other related factors, the installed idol’s omnipotence (sannidhya) gets progressively diminished and demand rejuvenation or restoration. This is the purpose with which Kumbhabhishekam is done periodically. The Kumbhabhishekam ceremony consists of the erection of Balaalayam, japas, chants of Vedas, sanctifying Kalasaas (pots of water), Homas and Yagnas. The finale is the pouring of the sanctified water from the kalasas over the stupis (steeple) on the top of the central Vimaana or the sanctum sanctorum, the gopurams and the main and other deities, by the priests.
BALAAALAYAM: During the Jeernoddhaarana (renovation period), the divine presence of the Murtis (idols) must be transferred to the holy waters contained in the Kalaasas. Pooja is done to these Kalaasaas and Ustava deities (bronze idols taken out in processions). The kalasaas remain in a miniature structure known as Balaalayam. “Baala” means mini and “aalaya‟ means temple or structure in Sanskrit. During this time the devotees will not be able to see or do poojas to the stone sculpted moola vigrahas (icons or Murtis). The scheduled poojas will be done only to Utsava moortis. The divine presence of the Lord will remain here until it is transferred back to the Moola vigrahas. Scheduled Poojas to Moola vigrahas will start only on the Mahaa Kumbhaabhishekam day. According to Kaarana-aagama, for this transfer to happen, depending on the time required for the renovation (Jeernodharana), kalasaas with water may be provided for a month long duration, a sword for two months, photo of a deity for six months period, or a wooden carved figure for a year in the Balaalayam. “Eka maasancha kumbhancha, dwou maasou khadgamevacha, Shaan maasaaha pratimaachaiva, samvatsaram daaru bimbancha, Baalaalaye pratishtitaha” Usually the kalasa of water is widely installed as the renovation is done expeditiously. During the Jeernoddharana (restoration and renovation) time, important temple repair work is carried out around the pedestals of the idols that are installed. During this process, natural glue specially prepared consisting of eight ingredients called “Ashtabandhana” is used to cement the idol firmly to the pedestal. Priests perform a special pooja called the “Ashtabandhana pooja” prior to the construction work in the shrine around the vigrahas. Experienced Shilpis (temple sculptors) participate in this and are graced with temple honors. An “Aacharya‟ who is sufficiently experienced in conducting such spiritual rituals is identified and the temple management requests him to conduct the Kumbhabhishekam. Recitation of the Vedas inside the temple premises is an important prerequisite for this ceremony. A Yagnasala is built by the side of the main temple. Apart from the pedestal for the main kalasa at the center of the yagna shala, five homa kundas are generally prepared for the main deity, besides individual homa kundas for the other deities. These five homakundas are intended for the five forms of fire- Sabhya, Aahavaniya, Anvaharya, Garhapatya and Avasathya. The main kunda is sanctified by the performance of the various homas. Along with the Kumbhabhishekam done to the main deity, the same is being repeated to the other deities of the temple simultaneously. Vimaana (steeple), Dwjasthamba (flag post) and Balipeetha (sacrificial pedestal) abhishekams are also done at the same time. After this ceremony is over, the priests come around, sprinkling this holy water over all the devotees present. This is considered very auspicious and is called “Prokshanam‟.
Homas, ordained in the Aagama sastras, to be performed during this time, are performed with due ritualistic care and attention. Poornahuti and Mahaa Deepa-aaradhana are performed at the end of the proceedings. At the conclusion of the ceremony the power secured by the performance of the various Homas are transferred to the main homakunda. Thereafter, rituals follow to transfer the divine power accumulated in the main homakunda to the main kalasa installed at the center of the Yaagasala. The sacred fire of the Homakunda is extinguished thereafter. Elaborate poojas are conducted to kalasaas to energize the same with all the power. The highlight of this process is bathing of the Vimaana (steeple) and all the deities from the water of the kalasaas, by the priests. The Aacharyas are the center of attraction with their prominent turbans. Mahadeepa Aradhana to the sanctified deities after the kumbhabhishekam, and performing Shodashopachara (sixteen steps) Pooja is a memorable sight. Theertha, prasada distribution and “Annadhaana ‟ (free food distribution) bring down the curtain to the grand ritual of great significance. Traditionally, the Kumbhabhishekam ceremony is followed by special poojas for the benefit of society and mankind as a whole. Accordingly, on the evening of this ceremony Kalyana utsavams (marriage ceremonies) are performed followed by taking the deities in a procession. According to the Aagama sastras that guide temple rituals “Mandala Abhishekam” must be performed for over a month (normally 45 days) after the completion of the Mahaa-Samprokshanam or Maha Kumbhabhishekam. The Mandala pooja enhances the divine presence in the consecrated (recharged) archana and moola (main) vigrahaas. Kumbhabhishekam ceremony has everlasting effect on the society as a whole, besides on devotees. Aagama sastras mention, “Sarvaroga nivrityartham, sarva yaaga phalapradam Sarva sampathkaram nreenam putrapoutrabhi vardhanam,” It is conducted with the sole purpose of eradicating all illness, obtaining good benefits from various Yagaas, deriving rich benefits for the well-being and for the healthy propagation of the progeny. The kumbhabhishekam brings all-round prosperity not only to any particular group or devotees but also to the society as a whole. As we all know Sanatana Dharma postulates “Vasudheka kutumbakam‟ the whole world is one family and “Eko vipraha Bahuda vadanti‟, wise men call the ONE (Supreme) by many names and forms.