The pran pratishtha of the idol at Ram temple in Ayodhya is approaching, and preparations for the ceremony have already begun. The ‘pran pratishtha’ ceremony is a simple concept of giving life to the idol through various rituals taken from the Vedas and Puranas, each with its own significance. The process of pran pratishtha involves imparting life to the worshipped by the worshipper, and it is carried out through the interdependence of the divine and the devotee in the Hindu worldview, where nature plays a vital role in many Hindu rituals.
The process of Pran pratistha involves transforming an idol into a deity, thus enabling it to receive prayers and bestow blessings. In order to accomplish this, the statue must undergo several stages of preparation. The number of these stages may vary depending on the size of the ceremony.
In the initial stage, a procession of the idol, known as Shobha yatra, is carried out in the vicinity of the temple. As the idol is paraded, the devotees offer cheers and greetings, thus transferring their devotion to it. This act instils the idol with faith and divine strength, initiating the process of turning a mere statue into a God solely through the devotion of the worshippers.
The commencement of pran pratishtha rituals is done once the idol returns to the temple. As per Dr Dipakbhai Jyotishacharya, who operates the Parashar Jyotishalaya in Gujarat’s Vapi, pran pratishtha can be performed for both chalit moorti (household idols that can be relocated) and sthir moorti (temple idols that remain fixed after installation).
Dr. Sunder Narayan Jha, a professor at the Department of Veda at the Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri National Sanskrit University, New Delhi, explained that during pran pratishtha, the chanting of the mantra serves as a prayer for the idol to come to life, as well as to be ready to give up that life. He further added that this is because if that particular statue gets damaged, another one will have to replace it. In such a case, life should flow from the damaged idol to the new one.
The idol is prepared for pran pratishtha through multiple adhivaas, where it is submerged in different materials.
During Jaladhivaas, the idol is kept in water for a night, while during Gandhaadhivaas, it is submerged in Gandha(a fragrant mixture of multiple flavours)
In Aushadhivaas, the idol is submerged in aushadhis (herbal medicine made from medicinal roots and flowers of plants & trees).
Meanwhile, Kesaradhivaas and Ghritadhivaas, mean submergence in Kesar(Saffron) and Ghee, respectively.
During Dhanyadhivaas, the idol is submerged in grain.
Sharkaradhivas, Phaladhivas, and Pushpadhivas rituals stand for submergence in Sugar, Fruits and Flowers, respectively.
In Madhyadhivas, the deity is washed with 125 urns.
The Shayadhivas ceremony marks the completion of the process of consecration, during which the sacred energy is infused into the deity.
According to Jha, the craftsman’s tools often cause injuries to the idol during its creation, which are healed through these adhivaas. Dipakbhai explained that these adhivaas serves another purpose as well – to identify any defects or poor quality in the stone used to create the idol.
The idol is given a ceremonial bath, and then its abhishek is carried out using different materials, which depend on the size of the ceremony. As per the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, this ritual can consist of “108 distinct kinds of materials, such as panchamrut, water that contains the essence of various fragrant flowers and leaves, water that has dripped over the horns of a cow, and sugar cane juice.”
After the statue has recovered from the stress of its fashioning and received its ritual bath, it is time for it to be awakened. Various mantras are chanted, requesting different Gods to animate its various parts, such as Soorya for the eyes, Vayu for the ears, Chandra for the mind, and so on. Finally, the statue’s eyes are opened, which is the last step of the ceremony. The process involves applying anjan, similar to kohl, around the deity’s eyes with a gold needle. This step is performed from behind because it is believed that the brilliance of God’s eyes can be too much to handle if one looks into them the moment they open. Jha said that originally, anjan was supposed to be brought back from the Kakood mountain. A black stone found on the mountain is used to make the black powder needed for the ceremony. However, since the mountain is now in China, Ghee and honey are used. Once the anjan is applied and the deity’s eyes are opened, it is considered ‘alive’ and can receive devotees.
The Vedas mention the process of pran pratishtha, and it is further explained in various Puranas such as Matsya Puran, Vaman Puran, Narad Puran, and so on.
According to Jha, the Shaligram discovered in the Gandki River and the Narmadeshwar, a Shivling found in the Narmada River, are inherently divine and do not require pran pratishtha.
Dipakbhai suggests that the idol should be brought to life prior to the completion of a temple. pran pratishtha only requires the garbha griha, which is the sanctum sanctorum, to be fully prepared.
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