Glossary of Temple terms
Posted by: "VijayaRaghavan R" firstname.lastname@example.org
Sun May 13, 2012 8:52 am (PDT)
Glossary of Temple terms
*Alwaar*: The term literally means one who is "immersed" in the depths of
enjoyment of God, the omnipresent mysterious one. The Alwaars were
vaishnava saints who were born in present day Tamil Nadu. There were a
total of twelve Alwaars, historians have placed their dates between 200 AD
to 800 AD while according to orthodox tradition they were born at the start
of Kaliyuga. The outpourings from their love for the divine came out in the
form of 4000 hymns in tamil. The collection of these verses is known as the
divya-prabandha(divine hymns). These sacred hymns are inspired from the
philosophy and stories of Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Puranas and the
Upanishads. The divya-prabandams are also known as dravida veda as they are
considered to be the equivalent of sanskrit vedas in terms of their
*Sri Garudaji*: He is the King of birds, and is the Vimana(carrier) of Lord
Krishna. Garuda is the son of Kashyap, a great sage, and Daksha's daughter
*Sri Rangam*: It is famous for Sri Ranganathaswamy temple which is the
largest temple in India. In this temple the main deity Sri MahaVishnu is
present in reclining posture on the serpent king Sheshnaag. It is the
foremost of the eight svayam-vyakta kshetras(self-manifested shrines) of
Lord Vishnu. It is also considered the first, foremost and the most
important of the 108 main Vishnu temples (Divyadesams). Sri Ranganathaswamy
temple is also known as Thiruvaranga Tirupati, Periyakoil (The great
temple), Bhooloka Vaikuntha (earthly Vaikunth), Bhogamandapam. Sri Rangam
is bounded by the Kaveri river on one side, and the Kaveri tributary
Kollidam (Coleroon) on the other.
*Gopuram*: Its a prominent feature of the South Indian temple architecture.
Its in the form of a rising tower at the entrance of a temple. Gopurams are
exquisitely decorated with sculpture and carvings and painted with a
variety of themes derived from the hindu religion, particularly those
associated with the presiding deity of the temple.
*Pushkarni*: It is the sacred pond of the temple. The water from the pond
is used for LordАааТ▓s abhishekam and for preparation of Lord's prasad. On the
day of Shravani Poornamasi(Raksha Bandhan), Gajendra-Moksha leela is held
here. This day is marked to celebrate the liberation of Gajendra, King of
elephants from the clutches of a demon crocodile. Hearing the pleas of his
bhakta, Lord Vishnu came out on his mount Garuda and rescued the elephant
by killing the crocodile with his Sudarshana Chakra. On this day a
procession of Sri Goda-Rangamannar on Sri Garudaji is taken out before
enacting of the leela on the banks of Pushkarani. During the month of
August the three day Nauka Utsav (boat festival) is also held here. In this
festival Lord Sri Goda-Rangamannar enjoys a boat ride in the waters of
*Vahana*: They are the divine mounts which are used for carrying the Lord.
The vahana accompanies, pulls the chariot of, or serves as the seat or
mount of his god. The vahana is also used on banners and emblems to
identify the god or the cult affiliation of the devotee. Eg. Garuda of Lord
Vishnu, Bull of Shiva etc
*Barahdwari*: Its a twelve gated (Barah-Dwar) platform which exists just
outside the temple. This is used as a resting place for pilgrims and
certain utsavs are also celebrated here.
*Vaikunth Dwar*: Vaikunth means a place where Lord Sri Narayan resides and
dwar means door. Vaikunth dwar means door which leads to Lord Narayan's
abode. This door opens once in a year on the day of Vaikunth Ekadashi.
Passing through this door on this day allows the devotees to attain
*YagyaShala*: Yagya means offering obligations in the holy fire. The wider
meaning of Yagya is to dedicate one's capacity and insight for making
others life fragrant. Yagyas in the temple are performed for makings
offerings to the gods which would result in the welfare of the society.
Shala is a sanskrit word meaning a holy space or a school so Yagya-Shala is
a place to conduct yagyas which would bring peace, happiness and prosperity
in the society.
*Pavitrotsava*: "Pavitra" means "purification" and "utsava" means
fesitival. Pavitrotsava is a ceremony of purification which is performed
annually in Vaishnava temples. According to the Agama Shastras, this
religious function is performed to maintain a very high level of purity in
the temple environment so that the Lord's divine power (sannidhyam) is
fully manifested. The Pavitrotsavam is also a "Prayascitta" or penance for
any inadvertent omissions or shortcomings that might have occurred in the
rituals and festivals over the past year.
*Utsav-Vigraha*: The Utsav Vigraha is the procession-image of the Lord
which is taken out during festival processions. In His love for His
devotees Lord comes out of the temple to meet those devotees who because of
some reasons are not able to come to the temple themselves. The
utsav-vigraha is also used for the abhishek of the Lord.
*Mool-Vigraha*: The mool-vigraha is the installed-image of the Lord. These
are never taken out and always remain fixed at the sanctum sanctorum.They
are normally bigger in size than utsav vigraha.
*Jaya Vijaya*: They are the gatekeepers at Vaikuntha;the heavenly abode of
Lord Vishnu. Wanting to spend some undisturbed moments with his wife
Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu instructed Jay and Vijay not to allow any visitors. It
so happened that the four Sanakas dropped in to meet Lord Vishnu. Jay and
Vijay refused to let them in, angered by this they promptly let loose a
curse on the gatekeepers. They were cursed that they will take birth three
times as evil demons and Vishnu would himself appear on earth and liberate
them by killing them. Jay and Vijay first took birth as twin demon
brothers, Hirnyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. Jay and Vijay then took second
birth as Ravana, the evil king of Lanka, and Kumbhakaran, his younger
brother. Finally, Jay and Vijay took birth as Shishupal and Dantavakra
during Vishnu's incarnation as Sri Krishna.
*Vaikunth Ekadashi*: There are 24 Ekadashi's observed by Hindus during the
year, one each during each half of every hindu month on the hindu date of
eleventh. Vaikunth Ekadashi is observed in December/January. This festival
marks the famous event narrated in the Bhagavatham when Lord Vishnu
incarnated as the Tortoise for facilitating the churning of the ocean of
milk by the gods and the demons, to obtain the nectar of immortality. On
this day the gates of Vaikunth are kept open for spiritual aspirants to
*Brahmotsav*:It commemorates the first utsav of Lord Vishnu which was
conceived by Brahma - hence the name Brahmotsav. This is the biggest
festival of the temple and is held in the month of March/April. The
festival is celebrated in strict accordance with the shastras. For ten
days, the utsav vigraha of Lord is taken out on different vahanas both in
the morning and in the evening. Each vahana has it own religious
significance attached to it. Of particular importance is the darshan on Sri
Garudaji which is on the morning of the third day and Ratha (Chariot) on
the eighth morning. The Ratha of the Sri-Goda-Rangamannar is 50 feet high
and made of wood and is pulled by thousands of devotees. Other major
attractions during Brahmotsav are Holi in which Sri Goda-Rangamannar plays
holi with His devotees, firework display, Yamuna Snan(Sri Goda-Rangamannar
goes to Yamunaji for a bath with devotees), Mohini Avatar Leela.
*Vahan Ghar*: It houses the divine mounts of the Lord. During festivals
procession of Lord is taken out on these mounts.
*Sri Vaishnavaism/Sri Sampradaya*This is a school of Vaishnavism which
considers Sri Devi or Goddess Lakshmi as its founder who in turn was
initiated by Lord Himself. It treats Sri or Lakshmi along with Lord Vishnu
as the principal reality. The Alwaars of the ancient times were the
followers of this school of thought and then in the later times the bhakti
movement of Kabir, Tulsidas and Meerabai was also strongly influenced by
*Vishistadvaita*: This is the philosophical doctrine which forms the basis
for Sri Vaishnavism. The great acharyas starting from Sri Nathmuni had
started the work of formalising Sri Vaishnavism and it was Sri
Ramanujacharya who culiminated the process. The term Vishishtadvait
signifies monism of the qualified whole, in which Brahman alone exists, but
is characterised by multiplicity. It is a school of Vedanta philosophy
which believes in all diversity subsuming to an underlying unity.
SriRamanuja, the main proponent of Visishtadvaita philosophy contends that
the Prasthana Traya i.e. the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and The Brahma
Sutras are to be interpreted in way that shows this unity in diversity, for
any other way would violate their consistency. Visishtadvaita provided the
philosophical basis for the establishment of Sri Vaishnavism and gave
Vedantic backing to the brimming devotion of the Alwaar saints and their
composition of wonderful poetry and devotional songs in praise of Lord
*Sri Ramanujacharya*(1017-1137A.D): He is the greatest exponent of
Visistadvaita philosophy. He was born in 1017 A.D in a pious brahmana
family. He became the foremost Acarya in the Sri Sampradaya and is reputed
to be the incarnation of Sri SeshNaga. He provided an intellectual basis
for the practice of bhakti in major commentaries on the Vedas, the
Brahma-sutras, and the Bhagavadgita.
*Ksheeranna*: It is a dessert made of sweet milk mixed with rice offered to
the Lord at the temple.
*Dwajha Stambha*: It is the flag tower of the Lord and it also marks the
place where sacrificial ritual is performed. In Vaishnava temples instead
of animals, rice is used as sacrificial offering.
*Sri Goverdhan Peeth*: This is one of oldest seat of SriVaishanva sect.
When Sri Nathmuni Swamiji had toured North India he was so much enchanted
by the beauty of the Goverdhan region that he settled down here and
established this seat. He was later succeeded by his son Sri Ishwarmuni
Swamiji. The lineage was broken for sometime after that but was again
started during the 16 century A.D.
(From the net)