Netronmīlanam is a special ceremony performed as a part of rituals of consecration for Temple mūrtis (icons). Through these rituals, channels are opened to the inner realms and powerful spiritual energies established. A normal space becomes sacred, and mere statues (bimbas) or paintings / images (citrapaṭa) becomes sacred embodiments for Divine shakti. Prāṇapratiṣṭhā is the name for the “life-giving” ceremony through which a mere stone statue, called a bimba, becomes a living, breathing, icon, called a vigraha or mūrti.
The word idol is often used to describe these sacred temple images. This word was introduced along with its many negative connotations by Christian missionaries with the intention of weakening the Hindu traditions. Vigrahas are not idols, because idol worship implies that people are worshiping something less than God as God. Hindu theology teaches that God pervades all of creation. Sacred temple images are not viewed as God, but a point of focus for people’s prayers and meditations, and also powerful sacred object which hold spiritual energy and act to help open channels to the inner realms for the Devas (Gods / Angelic beings) to confer blessings upon souls in the physical realm. They are created with special imagery which uplifts human consciousness toward righteous thoughts and deeds which help bring about spiritual awareness. If we must use an English word to describe vigrahas in Temples, the word icon, which is also used by Christians for sacred images, is more appropriate.
Kumbhābhiśekam is the name for the ceremonies conducted to empower sacred images. Water is placed along with herbs and gems in sacred water pots called kumbhas. They Lord is worshiped in the waterpot, and through this process the water becomes imbued with Divine shakti (energy). Special maṇḍalas (mystical diagrams) are drawn with colored powders and energized with mantras to further empower the process. A series of yajña rituals is performed, offering various herbs, foods, fruits, flowers, ghee, and honey into the sacred fire, to remove negative energies and help manifest spiritual energy which is stored in the water. After the water is energized, it is carried to the Temple with pomp in a procession before being used to bathe the vigrahas. Bathing the deity is known as abhiśekam, and through this process, intense spiritual energy generated through the many rituals is transferred to the Vigraha.
Netra means “Eye.” And Unmīlana means “becoming visible, unfolding, or opening of the eyes.” After various rituals to purify the sacred space of the Temple and the images, Netronmīlana homams are performed to prepare for the ritual of Netronmīlanam. The ritual is performed to open channels to the inner realms so that the Devas can see the devotees in the Temple and hear their prayers. It is also performed to heighten the spiritual awareness of the Temple devotees of the sacred presence of the Devas. Normally people have trouble to see the Devas, because they dwell in the inner realms. The Devas likewise have trouble to see and to help the people. There is a veil between realms which obscures communication and interaction. The ritual of Netronmīlanam helps to increase visibility between realms in order to help inform and empower the efforts of the Devas to bless the people, and to increase human awareness of and receptivity to the blessings received.
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