There is a sequence of actions to be done during a temple visit, practices which we have imbibed through observation and association since childhood. Frankly i had never given a thought to the reasons behind some of the actions that we do till someone sent a forward that sought to ascribe a ‘scientific’ reason to these. Upon further reading and some internet research, here are some interesting explanations i found~
# Removing one’s footwear before entering the temple
Temples are supposed to be places that contain pure vibrations of magnetic and electric fields with positive energy. In olden days, temples were built in such a way that the floor of the sanctum was a good conductor of these positive vibrations allowing them to pass through our feet to the body. Hence it is considered necessary to walk bare feet while you enter the core center of the temple. Another more practical reason being the fact that shoes and chappals are used everywhere and tend to collect impurities like dirt, germs etc which spoil the pure environment of the temple and are the source of negative energy.
# Activating the five senses through rituals
The positive energy in the temple is absorbed properly only if you ensure that all five senses are activated in your body while you are in the temple
~ First you activate the sense of hearing by ringing the temple bell.. It is a common practice that people who visit a temple, ring the bell before entering the inner sanctum where the main idol is placed. They say these bells are made in such a way that the sound they resonate with creates a unity in the Left and Right parts of our brains. The moment we ring the bell, it produces a sharp and enduring sound which lasts for minimum of seven seconds in echo mode. The duration of echo is good enough to activate all the seven healing centres in our body. This results in emptying our brain from all negative thoughts.
~ Activating your sense of sight through the lighting of ‘deepam’ or camphor…The inner core of the temple where the main idol is placed is usually dark. As a normal practice, you close your eyes to pray and when you open your eyes you should see the camphor (or deepam) which was lit to perform the ‘aarti’ in front of the idol. This light seen inside the dark activates your sense of sight.
~ Activating touch… Once the ‘aarti-thaali’ is brought to you after offering the prayer, you usually put your hands over the flame to warm your hands and then take them to touch your eyes with that warmth. This action ensures that your sense of touch is active.
~ Activating the sense of smell through fragrant flowers… Flowers are aesthetically pleasing to our eyes and also spread fragrance around. Only specific flowers are used for offering to the divine– rose petals, jasmine, marigold being chief amongst them. The fragrance of the flowers, the camphor and insence-sticks all combine to keep your sense of smell active inside the temple.
~ Activating taste through partaking of the ‘charnamrit’or the holy-water. The next part of your temple-act would be to drink ‘theertham’ or ‘charnamrit’, ideally from a silver or a copper vessel. The water used for this usually contains Tulsi leaves dipped in water that as per tradition should be stored for at least eight hours in the copper vessel. According to Ayurveda, water stored in a copper vessel has the ability to balance all the three ‘doshas’ in your body, (vata, kapha and pitta) and it does so by positively charging the water. By drinking this Tulsi water you activate the sense of taste. (Some claims say other benefits of drinking Tulsi water from a copper or silver vessel also include cure for soar throats and cough, fever and common cold, respiratory disorders, formation of kidney stones, even reducing chances of heart disorders).
# The Pradakshina…Finally, after performing all the above rituals, you have to walk around the idol inside the Garbhagirha, the inner most chamber of temple in clockwise direction for nine times. (Well we grew up doing this three times!). Pradakshina literally means right side in Sanskrit. The idol inside the Garbhagriha absorbs all the energy from the bell sound, camphor heat and vibrates the positive energy within the Garbhagriha for a certain duration of time. When you do the pradakshina at this point of time, you tend to absorb all these positive vibrations once your five senses are activated. This enhances your ‘aura’.
# Applying tilak on the forehead…The spot between the two eyebrows is considered as a major nerve point in the human body since ancient times. The ‘tilak’ is believed to prevent any loss of “energy”, the red ‘kumkum’ between the eyebrows is said to retain energy in the human body and control the various levels of concentration. While applying kumkum the points on the mid-brow region and Adnya-chakra are automatically pressed. This also facilitates the blood supply to the face muscles.
# Offering of coconut and bananas
Coconut and Banana are the only two fruits in this world which are considered to be “Sacred fruits”. All other fruits are tainted fruits (partially eaten fruits). For example, the apple tree grows from the seed of another eaten fruit and that fruit is treated as tainted. In the case of coconut and banana, the shell or the sleeves is not used for anything. To grow a coconut tree, you have to sow the entire coconut itself and a banana tree grows with a sapling. This is the reason why Coconut and Banana have an important place in all our religious activities.
# Some other interesting explanations of miscellaneous rituals
~ The holy-water used during worship to wash the idol of the deity is not just plain water used to clean the dust off the idol. It is a concoction of various condiments and washing the idol with this water is to charge the water with the magnetic radiations, thus increasing its medicinal value. Three spoons of this ‘energized’ water are distributed to each devotee to help them stay healthy.
~ A lot of importance is given to “aarti” and other special times in a temple. When people collect for something like a ‘deep-aradhana’, the positive energy gushes out onto them when the sanctum doors open up. The water that is sprinkled onto the assemblage passes on the positive energy to all. It is said this is the reason why in some temples men are not allowed to wear shirts and women are requested to wear more ornaments. (specially true for a couple of temples in South India)