A Temple usually refers to “a place of worship” – the core of our social-cultural life for most of us expressing reverence. Every major religion worldwide has a worship space where people congregate and offer prayers to the divine. Those spaces exist for the devotees to assemble, to pray.
But the Hindu temple is a space where the deity is invited to reside in the sanctum. Not in a philosophical sense or a metaphorical sense.
The mūrti in the sanctum is not just a way to focus.
- It is not a talisman
- It is not a representation
- It is not an idol
According to the tradition, the mūrti in the garbhagṛha sanctum is alive. There is someone in the sanctum – someone who has been invited to live there forever – till the sun and the moon exist. So much so that offering hospitality to this ‘person’ is the prime function of a temple – whether there are devotees or not. Understanding this and internalizing it is the first step towards understanding and managing India’s complex temple heritage.
- What do we mean by alive?
- Who is that someone?
- How do we understand that presence?
- What is a devotee’s relationship to this presence?
- And what is the relevance of this presence to a practicing Hindu’s life?
All these questions require understanding the Siddhānta or philosophy. Not philosophy in the lay sense of thinking deeply and objectively about the world and the human condition. But a living construct that is the foundation of a society, a way of life, and the complex temple heritage.
Today, much discussion is about managing temples – their resources, revenues, working structure, administration, and ritual schedule. Yet, it is impossible to do justice to these lovingly built mammoth edifices without appreciating their spirit and meaning. These spaces are also complex ecosystems diligently fostered by people of every stratum for millennia. It is also irresponsible and futile.
To understand this ethos, we are presenting a streamlined course on ‘Temple Management in the Agamas‘ that seeks to give the participant a thorough understanding of the temples’ framework through the Śaivāgama canon.
With a comprehensive approach, we would explore and answer questions like:
- What really is a temple?
- What is the need for a temple?
- What are the roles of the temple in medieval India?
- Who are the people who are part of this ecosystem? What are the āgama-s? Why are they important for temples?
- Do they really say only Brahmins can perform worship at temples? Why do we have so many rituals?
- Are we wasting material when so much milk gets used in a temple?
- Don’t we talk about one God? Then who are the different deities in the temple? What is their relationship to each other?
We will attempt to see beauty and art, through texts and inscriptions, all the way to the fundamental belief structure that gives rise to the ritual structure.
Get answers to your questions on temples – join me in this journey of discovery. There are no prerequisites, except love for temples and a genuine quest to understand them.