Hinduism is the oldest Civilisation and only one which is based on Science. In Hinduism whatever is practised is not only based on beliefs but there are scientific reasons behind each and every tradition. There are many images of Hindus walking around temples; this is called Circumambulation around the Deity and temple. Walking around the innermost chamber of the shrine of the temple is also called Circumambulation. Circumambulation is also done around fire, trees & plants.
Why is Circumambulation Done?
The world is always rotating around itself on its own axis as well as around the Sun. All the planets also rotate on their own axis. This is called rotation and their rotation on their orbits is called revolution. Just like in solar system, the Sun is at the centre around which the planets rotate, Circumambulation is done with the Deity at the centre. The Circumambulation should be done slowly and never in a hurry, with thoughts and actions dwelling on the Deity.
The Circumambulation is done in a clockwise direction in an odd number of times. But usually it is done three times. It is done slowly with folded hands AND visualising the Deity in the mind all the time. There are shlokas (sacred verses) for Circumambulation which many repeat while doing Circumambulation The shlokas are;
यानि कानि च पापानि जन्मान्तरकृतानि च ।
तानि सर्वाणि नश्यन्ति प्रदक्षिणां पदे पदे ॥
Meaning: Whichever Sins have been committed by me in various births, all those gets destroyed with every step of the Circumambulation. O Lord, please accept my Circumambulation
पदे पदे या परिपूजकेभ्यः सद्योऽश्वमेधादिफलं ददाति ।
तां सर्वपापक्षयहेतुभूतां प्रदक्षिणां ते परितः करोमि ॥
Meaning: One who at every step of the Circumambulation performed every day, offers worship to the Deity, that act gives the fruits of the great sacrifices, which becomes the cause of the destruction of all the sins, I do the Circumambulation all around You (with the same attitude).
The legend related to the Circumambulation is:- Once Lord Kartikeya & Lord Ganesha had fight regarding who is the best and so to solve the fight Lord Shiva told that the one who takes the Circumambulation of the universe seven times and comes back first is the best. Lord Kartikeya starts doing Circumambulation of the universe on his peacock as he felt that he has a peacock and Lord Ganesha only has a rat so Lord Ganesha will not be able to win this. But, Lord Ganesha was very clever. For him, parents are his universe. So, he started Circumambulating around his parents (Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati) and justified his action to them by stating that the universe is contained within the figure of the parents and so he wins. This legend highlights the importance of the Circumambulation and why all Hindus are attached to the practice of Circumambulation. It also shows the importance of parenthood in Hinduism.
Circumambulating in the clockwise rotation is associated as a straightforward, honest, impartial, amiable, compliant, submissive & auspicious gesture in praying the Deity. We assume that the Deity is on our right side, He being righteous in all ways. Typically, Circumambulation is done after the completion of traditional worship (puja ritual), after paying homage to the Deity and after taking the sight of the Deity.
Lord Shiva Temples
There is the same way of Circumambulation around all the Deities and around the plants, trees and the fire. But, there is a difference in doing Circumambulation at Lord Shiva’s temples. The circumambulation around the Shiva Lingam is done half. The devotees of Lord Shiva should start the Circumambulation as usual from the front and go clockwise keeping the right hand towards the Shiva Lingam till one reach the outlet for ablution water of the Sanctum. The outlet for the ritual ablution offered on the Shiva Lingam with water, milk, curd, coconut water, ghee, ashes, etc. is not to be crossed because that ablution water is Sacred in Hinduism the Sacred water is believed to be very auspicious and so, one should not cross that outlet for ablution water of the Sanctum. So, the devotees have to return in anti-clockwise direction till they reach the other side of the outlet to complete the circle. After reaching the outlet they have to return to the front in the clockwise direction. Thus, one Circumambulation is completed.
Significance of doing Circumambulation
1. As the temple area is covered with the trees & plants, while circumambulating around the Deity one is surrounded by the trees, thus getting oxygen and inhaling fresh air.
2. While doing circumambulation one can improve the blood circulation.
3. It also helps in improving the mood.
4. Doing circumambulation one can unburden stress, ego, worries, negative thoughts & negative energies.
5. While doing circumambulation one absorbs positive energy activated inside the temple.
6. It helps getting mentally calm & peaceful.
7. It helps to get spiritually connected to the Deity.
8. Circumambulation also signifies that the Deity is the centre of our existence. As the centre point is always fixed and remains the same. So this reminds that the eternal truth i.e. the Deity is the centre of our life.
9. It helps destroying the sins done through thoughts, speech and body.
10. It also represents the respect total surrender towards the Deity.
11. While doing circumambulation we do it with bare feet, this helps improving the balance & sleep.
12. Circumambulating with bare feet regulates the nervous system.
There is also the significance and a belief of the 3 times circumambulation.
The first circumambulation is to shed and unwind yourself from your worldly possessions and materialism.
The second circumambulation signifies disconnecting yourself from the attachments.
In the third and final circumambulation you should unwind and disconnect from your own ego and sense of self. Thus, you disconnect yourself from materialism, attachments & ego.
When you have successfully disconnected from all these three barriers in your thoughts, then you can easily connect yourself with the Deity. It is also believed that, the sins committed by the body are destroyed in the first round of circumambulation, the sins committed by speech are destroyed in the second round and the sins committed by the mind in the third round.
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