Brahmasree M.N.Sreejith Nampoothiri
(Managing Trustee & Chief Priest, Astro Tantrik Research Centre)
Shadadhara pradishta –the six stages involved in the consecration of an idol in the temples of Kerala
“Kshathathu thrayethe ithi kshethra:” these significant words of a Puranic Rishi mean that “what saves a man from a ruined state is the holy temple, which contains the presence of God.” The life-force (chaitanya) of God resides in the temples and it brings forth the welfare of common man. Temples are the houses of worship, where man can feel the divine presence of God. Temples are mechanical institutions built by ancient pundits (masters) for the blessing of those who are unaware of the Tantric and Vedic rules. The omnipotent presence of God dwells in the temples. The holy presence of God flows into the minds of the devotees through temples. It’s a difficult task for common folk to create an image of a formless god in their minds. In order to rectify this problem the Puranic Rishis have endorsed form and shape to their demigods. Temples are constructed with the idols and statues of gods and goddesses to create a concept and image of god in the minds of the people. According to Indian doctrinal theory, the power of god dazzles in five forms, i.e. Nobility, Structure, Strength, and Supreme Soul and Worship. Out of these, nobility, structure, strength and supreme soul are the majestic forms of god which cannot be relished by normal human beings. But when the idols of the demigods were consecrated in the temples, it became easy for the common folk to feel the presence of God.
Nature is a congregation of millions and millions of heavenly bodies and living organisms. The human body is a short replica of nature. A temple symbolizes the totality of human body. “Idham shareeram kaundheya kshethramithyabhidhiyathe” is a verse from Bhagavad-Gita which conveys the same meaning. A temple is essentially a representation of human body itself. A temple made of stone and wood, is a representation of human body. “Deho devalaya : proktho jeevo deva sadashiva” is a famous `kularnava’ Tantric verse which proves the fact that human body is a temple which contains the presence of Lord Shiva i.e. the temple is a place where the life-force of God resides.
The human body can be broadly classified into two. One kind of body is visible to the naked eye (sthulasharira) and the second kind of body is not visible to the naked eye since it deals with the internal organs of the human body (sukshmasharira). Sthulasharira includes our legs, hands, head, and is visible to our naked eyes. When we take into consideration the parts of the human body from the hip to the head we can make out that the sukshmasharira is located in the vital nerve of the human system i.e. towards the middle of the backbone of the human body. The sukshmasharira consists of six chakras. From the bottom to the top, they are Muladhara (one of the prime centres situated between the anus and the genitals), Swadhinishtana, Manipuraka, Anahatham, Vishudhi, Aajna. Sahasrarapadma (a lotus with thousand petals) which is located in the forehead of human body is an abode of Lord Shiva. Goddess Parvathi (Tripura Sundari Kundalini) resides in the muladhara chakra in the form of a serpent in three and a half turns.
The Yogashastra instructs that one can attain `Moksha’ or Salvation only when the spirit of the Goddess Parvathi is raised from the bottom of the body to the top (the head) by constant meditation and chanting of holy rites, where the fusion or merging of the masculine (Lord Shiva) and feminine (Goddess Parvathi) powers takes place. Thus human body can be said to be the union of Sthulasharira and Sukhshmasharira. The concepts of Sthulasharira and Sukhshmasharira are used in the construction of temples.
The exploration of the order of construction of the temples may help one in arriving at certain inferences. The major parts of the temple like `Prakara’ (outer wall), `Bahyahaara’ or `Sheevelippura’, ‘Madhyahara’ (the middle room of the temple where the holy lamp is lighted), `Anthahara’ (the room for offering sacrifices), and `Antharmandala’ are the five ramparts (prakaras) of the temple which depict the Sthulasharira of the deity. The sanctum, the idol consecrated in the temple and the ‘Shadadhara Prathishta’ placed beneath the idol symbolizes the Sukhshmasharira of the deity. The essential and the amazing part of the temple is the idol of the deity which symbolize the ‘Parabrahmachaitanya’ (the Supreme Soul) which resides in the body of every human being.
The external ramparts (bahya prakara) of the temple represent the Sthulasharira of the deity and the consecrated idol in the sanctum (Sreekovil) of the temple depicts the Sukshmasharira of the deity. Beyond the external splendour and glory, an idol erected in the sanctum of the temple has an internal significance, especially the Shadadhara prathishta. The stone-seat designed for erecting this idol is fixed in the sanctum with a gum called ‘Ashtabandha’ (made of eight ingredients). The Shadadhara Prathista which lies deep below consecrated idol has greater significance. The six principal parts of the Shadadhara Prathishta are the stone-seat of the idol, `Napumsakashila’ (stone of eunuch), `Yoganala’ (made of copper), `Kurma’ (stone of tortoise) and `Adharashila’. The six parts of the Shadadhara Prathishta is usually sanctified before invoking the spirit of the deity.
The six fundamental parts of the Shadadhara Prathishta are Adharashila (foundation stone), Nidikumbha (pot of gems), Ashtadalapadma (a lotus with eight petals), Kurma (stone of tortoise), Yoganala, Napumsakashila (stone of eunuch) and they simultaneously represent the Muladhara, Swadhinishtana, Manipuraka, Anahatha, Vishudhichakra, Aajnachakra of the Sukshmasharira in the human body. Before constructing the sanctum of the temple, a big square shaped pit is dug and its bottom is cleansed and a few religious rites are done to please Vasthupurusha, the god of land and fertility. This is followed by the consecration of Shadadhara Prathishta.
Muladhara as the foundation stone
Muladhara is the starting point of Sukshmasharira. The square-shaped Adharashila has an opening towards the centre of the upper sector and it stands for Muladhara. The Muladhara is set in the pit made at the area reserved for the construction of the sanctum and Shaktipooja is done here to please goddess Parvathi.
The Swadishtana Chakra lies at the base of the penis. Brahma, the Lord of Creation is the deity associated with Swadishtana chakra. This chakra is made of grains since it depicts the beginning of new life. Swadishtana Chakra also symbolizes growth and fertility. Both Muladhara and Swadishtana represent the same stone.
Nidhikumbha is fixed on the top of Adharashila. Nidikumbha is designed in the form of a pot. It can be made either in stone or in copper. It is set on a grain-sprinkled stone-seat with the chanting of ‘Pranavamantra’. During the time of placement, Nidhikumbha is filled with gems and it’s a portrayal of Manipuraka.
Ashtadalapadma (a lotus with eight petals) carved in stone is fixed on the top of Nidhikumbha. This Ashtadalapadma symbolizes the anahathachakra which occupies a position in the heart of the human body. This Anahathachakra serves the part of a lid for nidhikumbha. A ritual called `Lipipankajapooja’ is done here. In addition to this, Kurma (a stone of tortoise) is fixed on the top of ashtadalapadma in a direction in which the idol of the deity has to be consecrated. Kurma is a life-sustaining force which has puranic significance and it lies in the anahathachakra.
The Yoganala is erected and fixed right on the top of Kurma. The yoganala which is made of copper has a hollow interior and has two inches width towards the foot and twelve to thirteen inches width towards the head. The Yoganala represents Vishudhichakra. The larynx or the voice box, a part of human Sukshmasharira which links the face and the chest is a depiction of vishudhichakra. The yoganala is an indication of larynx and vishudhichakra.
The Napumsakashila (stone of eunuch) is fixed on the summit of Kurma. The place where the yoganala touches the napumsakashila is called ajnaachakra. This ajnaachakra is associated with the Supreme Soul or the Paramatma whereas, the napumsakashila is indicative of omkara. The mind which is a part of sukshmasharira exists in the lotus of ajnaachakra.
The erection of idol on Sahasrarapadma
The idol of the deity is fixed on the stone-seat erected above the napumsakashila. The stone-seat of the deity is always made in a stone of feminine properties. The erected idol is a representation of Shiva and the stone-seat is a representation of Shakhty (Parvati). According to Hindu mythology, the fusion of male and female powers brings salvation. This phenomenon is a portrayal of the fusion of Shiva-Parvati powers in the sahasrarapadma (shivashaktisamyoga). The Shakhty (power) of goddess parvathi surpasses all the six chakras and reaches the sahasrarapadma of the yogi and there it fuses with lord shiva. The erected idol of lord shiva merges with this Shakhty of goddess parvathi. In other words, the shadadharaprathishta and the sanctum of the temple are built in the place of sahasrarapadma. A yogi who attains salvation will be blessed with the flow of nectar (amritadhara) from his head and this nectar is poured into the seventy-two thousand nerves of the devotee. The holy water (theerdham) that is showered on the idol of the deity in a temple signifies the concept of ‘amrithadhara’.
The major inference that can be drawn from this paper is that the shadadharaprathishta is actually a representation of the Sukshmasharira of a yogi. The Shadadhara pradishta is made in accordance with the tantric principles of construction existing in Kerala. It is an exact depiction of the sukhshmasharira of a yogi. It is really impossible for a materialistic man to attain the divinity experienced by a yogi. But it is believed that the temples of Kerala constructed with shadadharaprathishta can provide a devotee the divine presence of God, as felt by a yogi.