‘Why is the lingam placed eccentrically to one side, Papa?,’ the elder one asked, as we filed out of the KV Dham Corridor, and started to retrace our steps to the barge which waited for us at the Lalita ghat.
I smiled, delighted at where I knew the conversation was going. The walk back would be spent well…….
‘There is a story,’ I said, and then paused, for effect.
Both the girls looked up at me, their curiosity pricked. After all, THE keyword had been spoken – ‘story’! Their eyes bright, their mouths open, they waited, expectantly…..
‘Well,’ I began, ‘when the idol was placed inside the new premises which we see now, a great pooja, a ceremony was done. This ceremony is always done whenever a new idol is set inside any temple. It is called the prana pratishtha. It means ‘infusing life into the idol’. Henceforth, the stone deity is regarded as a living person, a living god, because it has been infused with prana, life! The deity is woken up in the morning, allowed siesta in the afternoon, and sleeps at night. He or she is served food, and clothes, even jewellery. He or she, can hold property, and people donate land, property, furniture, even servants in the service of the deity. The deity can accept all.’
I paused to draw breath, and also to look at the effect my ‘story’ was having. The girls were spellbound.
‘So the lingam here is alive, Papa?’, Vatsala chirped, eyes wide in amazement; I could see Vandita, the elder one, nodding as if asking the same question vicariously.
‘In a manner, yes,’ I replied. ‘He or she does not actually move or eat or sleep or talk, but for the devotees it is assumed that the stone is a living god. It has great value in the traditional system of belief. An idol which has undergone prana pratishtha must always have a purohit, a priest, in attendance since the daily activities of the deity MUST be performed. It is considered a great sin to do prana pratishtha, and then not take care of the deity, like it is very bad to invite someone to your house and then not look after them. One person has to be in attendance all the time for the living deity. People who install idols in their house, usually do not do prana pratishtha, since they cannot be around all the time to look after the idol. The spiritual value, thus, of these idols is not the same as those for which this ceremony has been done. But all temples have living idols, since one, or even a team of purohits is always there to care for the deity.’
‘So,’ I continued, ‘when the prana pratishtha of the lingam at the newly constructed Vishveshwara shrine was done, the doors of the inner room of the temple were closed at night, and the deity was put to sleep. Next morning when the doors were opened to wake up the deity with chants, and hymns, the stone lingam had rolled to one side, and could not be moved by any possible human intervention.’
I paused again, letting the story sink in.
‘Believing it to be a sign from the deity himself, that he wanted to stay where he was, the lingam was left where it was; in a corner of the room.’
‘Wow,’ Vandita said, ‘what a story’
‘Tell us more Papa,’ this was Vatsala.
Their curiosity had been awakened, their appetite whetted, the fire which I alluded to in the last blog, had been lit…..
‘Ok, here goes,’ I said, ‘ there is another story I will tell you’……..
To be continued……..
Check out these Amazon Bestsellers from the author –