About the Rituals
An elaborate series of rituals and offerings have been proscribed by the Āgama Śāstras for the purification and consecration of images intended for worship. These rituals turn inanimate statues (bimbas) into living vigrahams of the Lord. A Vigraha or Mūrti is an energized Icon, a sacred Image of God which possess Divine attributes. Channels are opened to the inner realm so that the Devas can manifest a presence in the physical realm and use that Sacred Icon as a conduit for their blessings to the people. The rituals are elaborate and require weeks of work and the efforts of many people to complete. Well trained Vedic priests are required who have studied for 10 or more years to learn the complex rituals. Swamiji is in the process of performing an elongated series of ceremonies to add special shakti and power to the Shri Yantra for our Temple. The process will require four months of daily rituals and will culminate with pranapratishtha ceremonies and maha kumbhabhishekam for the Yantra. Details about the rituals are given below.
Vighneśvara pūjām - Prayers to Lord Ganesha to remove obstacles; and to pray for proper organization of the needed items for the successful completion of the rituals of consecration.
Puṇyāha vācanam - Ritual of purification. Water is placed in a sacred water pot, kumbha. Lord Varuna is invoked and worshipped with 24 offerings. Then Veda mantras are chanted to energize the water. Then the sacred water, called puṇyāha jalam, is used for aspersion (sprinkling while reciting mantras) in order to purify the people performing the rituals, the place where the rituals are conducted, and the items used for worship.
Kumbha sthāpanam – The Deity is invoked into special waterpots called kumbhas or kalaśas. The Deity is worshipped in the water pot, which begins the process of energizing the water which is later used to energize the statue. After worship of the Deity through the water pot, homam (fire ceremony) is conducted to further energize the water.
Nityā Homam – Each day during Navaratri, we will be performing homam to one of the Nityā Devīs, Goddesses related to the sixteen lunar phases. These homams will be performed on the corresponding lunar days. This is the beginning of a months-long process of Homams being done to energize the Jade Shri Yantram. In total there are many millions of Gods and Goddesses dwelling within the Shir Yantram, which is a representation of the entire cosmos. Through the process of navāvaraṇa pūjā, different Deities are invoked into the Yantra and worshipped there. In total there are over 124 Deities invoked in the Yantra. We will be conducting Homam to each of the Deities on a separate day along with Kumbha sthāpanam and Kumbhābhiṣekam. This process will take over 4 months to complete.
Devī Gāyatrī Homam – Each day we perform Homam for various Deities in the Yantra, we will also be conducting Homam with the Gāyatrī mantra of goddess Śākambhari Devī, the Goddess of our Temple.
Śānti Homam – Each day we will conclude the Homa rituals with special prayers and offerings for the peace of the world.
Kumbhābhiṣekam – Kumbhabhishekam is the principle ritual for energization of temples. This is how murtis are energized but also how vimanams and gopurams (temple towers) are energized. Kumbha means a water pot, and abhishekam is the ritual of bathing, or pouring water. Water from the sacred kumbhas which has been energized with mantras and homams (fire ceremonies) is poured over the murti to transfer Divine shakti. Each day, we will be performing kumbha abhishekam after the daily homams for 124 days.
Saṅkalpaḥ - Sankalpa is the statement of intent to perform the rituals. Details about the time, and place; the rituals to be performed; the reason the rituals are being conducted. The names of the sponsors of the puja are included in the sankalpa.
Pratisara Bandhanan – Special threads, usually white cotton threads colored yellow with turmeric, are blessed with a variety of Vedic hymns. These are tied around the wrist of those participating in the ceremonies (right hand for men, left for women). They help insure the successful completion of the rituals. Statues of the deities are often given thread as well.
Aṅkurārpaṇam – is a part of all auspicious rites of Temple consecration. It is a ritual of sowing seeds. It is said that performance of Aṅkurārpaṇam increases mindfulness of the priests and devotees of the Temple and increases fortune and success for the Temple. First bhūmi pūjā is conducted to honor mother Earth. Then Sarpa Deva is invoked into the spade used for digging and worshipped. Then soil is dug in a ritual called mṛttika saṁgrahaṇam. To this is added cow dung, and other auspicious items which are combined in special pots. Then seeds are sown and milk is poured over the soil to nourish the seeds. Each day the seeds are tended to and their growth is said to symbolize the growth of the Temple.
Adhivāsam – means submerging. Several rituals of Adhivāsa are recommended for new statues to be used for worship. The statue is completely submerged within the prescribed substances for the purpose of purifying and energizing the statue. For jalādhivāsam, the image is submerged in water scented with special herbs like vetiver root, spikenard root, calamus root, and costus root. For dhānyādhivāsam, the image is submerged in grains, unhusked rice, white rice, sesame seeds, and the navadhānya (the nine grains and legumes related to the Nine Planets). For kṣīrādhivāsam, the bimba is submerged in scented milk. For puṣpādhivāsam, the statue is submerged in flowers of various types and colors. For oṣadhyadhivāsam, the statue is submerged in a blend of powdered medicinal herbs. For ratnādhivāsam, the image is submerged in precious gems and metals. We are using solidified mercury, gold, silver, copper, the navaratna (the nine precious gems relating to the Nine planets), and uparatna (various semi-precious gems). For śayanādhivāsam a special bed is made for the Deity with pillows and special silk sheets, and the Deity is put to rest in Yoga Nidrā. These rituals form an important part of the purification and consecration of new images which transforms them into living a breathing mūrti.
Murti Samskara – is the process of physical cleansing for the statue. This is accomplished by washing with various substances and rinsing with pure water. Mud from the banks of a sacred river is used, cow dung, banana, ash, and tamarind pulp are used to scrub the statue. This process is repeated 32 times. This process helps to cleanse physical impurities from the carving and shipping process.
Bimba Shuddhi – Is the ritual of spiritual purification for the statue. It consists of bathing the statue with the pancha gavya, the five sacred substances from the cow; milk, yogurt, ghee, cow dung, and cow urine. Special Vedic mantras for purification are used for this ritual.
Brahma Kurcha Homam – Before use for bimba shuddhi the pancha gavya is consecrated in a special homam called brahma kurcha. Kurcha means a bundle of darbha grass, which isused to offer the pancha gavyas to the sacred fire.
Rakshoghnam – Is a ritual in which special Vedic hymns are recited and offering made to the sacred fire to remove demonic influence, magic, or other negative energies. It is conducted as a part of all Temple consecrations.
Vaasu Shaanti – Is a special puja to purify the physical space of a Temple. The Lord of the space, the Vaastu Purusha is invoked in a special mandala and worshipped with offerings into the sacred fire. This puja helps to remove the negative influence of vaastu doshas (deficiencies or difficulties with the physical space) which may otherwise obstruct or adversely affect the energy of the Temple. Effigies of the vaastu purusha are burned in the Temple to remove negative influence of vaastu (the space). We are making special grihya prayashcitta offerings also (atonement for storing the statues in a building where people live). Large statues energized for worship are not conducive to life for people living in the same space, because their energies are too strong to endure on a continual basis.
Navagraha Shaanti - is a puja to appease the navagraha (nine planets of Vedic astrology). Difficulties with the timing of rituals and the negative influence of the planets can be mitigated through these prayers. Vedic hymns are used to invoke the nine Planets into a special mandala made up of nine colored cloth and nine grains (or legumes).
Nakshatra Shaanti - Nakshatra shaanti, like Navagraha shanti, helps to appease negative astrological influences. When these two ceremonies are performed together, they have great effect to overcome the difficulties posed by ashubha muhurta (inauspicious timings). The 27 Nakshatras are like the 12 rashis (Zodiac Signs). The 360 degrees of sky is Divined by 12 signs (constellations) for a rough idea of planetary effects. The finer division of 27 Nakshatras (constellations) is a key to precision in Vedic astrology. The Planets are all male in Vedic astrology and the Signs and Nakshatras are female, because theye are said to hold the power to activate various effects of the Planets.
Murti Dosha Nivaranam / Shilpi Dosha Nivaranam – Shilpi is the word for sculptor. When statues are carved a violent / tamasic energy of chipping away at the statue is put into the image. Also any impure thoughts or feelings experienced by the shilpi at the time of carving can be put into the finished statue. To remove these energies, the image is bathed with the pancha gavyas. It is ideal to have a flawless statue, without cracks or chips. In practice, this is not always possible. But murtis with cracks are said to be inauspicious and capable of causing harm when worshipped. If there is a crack or chip, special offerings must be made to help compensate for this flaw. Our yantra has a small chip on the bottom. We will anoint this chip with sandalwood and bath the satue with a decoction of strengthening and calming herbs to help remove the negative effects of the chip and to fortify the yantra to protect from further damage.
Lakshmi Puja – Is conducted to attract devotees to the Temple and to help attract donors so the Temple can afford to perform the regular pujas. Temple pujas are performed for the benefit of the public and society in general benefits. Sponsors, in particular, benefit the most because their donation connects them energetically to the offerings being made.
Navavarana Puja – Is the system of worship for the Shri Yantra. It is a complex ritual involving many offerings and mantras. First the Goddess is invoked into the body of the priest. Then special vishesha arghya water is blessed for usein worship. Then a series of Goddesses is invoked into specific places in the yantra design. The Shri Yantra is said to be a mystical representation of the body and of the cosmos. It is a special tool for linking the body to the cosmos.