Worshiping of IDOL and using the ICONOGRAPHY/ICONIC symbols are based on spiritual scriptures or cultural traditions. Use of icons varies with time, regions and wishes of the devotees. Aum is as symbolic for Hinduism. ‘Swastic’ also has wider symbolic iconic useses in our religious ceremony /puja. Symbolic icons are considered
sacred and used as sign of devotion. Our Sanatan dharma allows worshiping in different forms. Worship of IDOLS/MURTI or IMAGES are practiced as per wishes of the worshipers.
TILAK: – marked on forehead, may be other parts of the body, indication of sign of spiritual devotion. Individual devotee may mark tilak regularly or on the day of religious occasions. ‘U’ shape tilak indicate devotion to Vishnu. Three horizontal lines, indicates individuals’ devotion to Shiva. Saffron, vermilion, turmeric, clay or simply ash is generally used for tilak. Individual Icon/ Idol becomes indicator of Hindu faith ofworshiping.
VERMALIN Dot/Bindu: – Symbol of married women. There are some changes in color in respect of local custom.
RUDRAKSHA: – Seeds of the rudraksha tree.
It is called as tears of Shiva/Rudra. Generally used as necklace, a symbol of divinity.
The idol is a substitute or symbol. The image in a temple, though it is made of stone, wood or metal, is precious for a devotee as it bears the mark of his Lord, as it represents something which he holds holy and eternal. The image arouses devotion in the devotee.
The Lord is superimposed on the image and the image generates divine thoughts in the worshipper.
In Vedic period worshiping was generally conducted around the open-air fire altar /yajna-kunda. There were no physical representations of the divine.
Shukla Yajur-veda reads, “Of Him there is no likeness (pratima), whose glory is infinite”.
“The Upanishads, the philosophical ‘conclusions’ of the Vedas, repeatedly stress the formlessness (nirakara, no material form) and unimaginable nature of God. Advise the aspirant to realise the divine presence inwardly.” In spite of no one objected worshiping
Swami Vivekananda said,
“It is not easy for everyone to focus on God as the un-manifested than God with a form, due to human beings having the need to perceive via the senses.”
Vedanta mentioned, “The first stage for a layman is the external/material worship; struggling to rise high, mental prayer is the next stage, but the highest stage is when the divine has been realized”
“The Hindus believe with regard to God that he is one, eternal, without beginning and end, acting by free-will, almighty, all-wise, living, giving life, ruling, preserving; one who in his sovereignty is unique, beyond all likeness and unlikeness, and that he does not
resemble anything nor does anything resemble him.” Understanding God is important than finding him as SAKAR OR NIRAKAR.
“Vedas never ruled out IDOL worshiping. Vedas mentioned God as power beyend imagination. GOD is formless and idol worshiping is counted as Bhakti. Idol/ image worship (Murti-PujA) is an ancient tradition of Hindu. The idol is just a symbol, a form, with which the mind can be connected and concentrated upon. Idol worship gives immense freedom to an individual to worship God in his own way.”
“The idols help the devotee to become deeply religious. Once installed in the house or in a puja mandir (place of worship
in a house), the very house becomes a place of God’s residence, a very sacred place, a temple by itself. The image that stands there reminds the devout members of the household to become constantly aware of the divine presence amidst them and of their religious duties and responsibilities. It inspires devout men to keep their houses pure and clean and not to indulge in sacrilegious acts.”
“Idol worship helps us to concentrate the energies that emanate from a prayer into one strong flow of current in one particular direction. Besides, the supposed physical proximity to God intensifies the emotional fervor and makes the prayer charged with ones devotion and faith.”
“The idol is a support, a form or image is necessary for worship in the beginning. It is an external symbol of God for worship. Steadiness of mind is obtained by image worship.
Idol worship is the easiest form of worship for the modern man.”
A symbol is absolutely necessary for fixing the mind. Without the help of some external aid the mind cannot be centralized. In the beginning therefore, concentration or meditation is not possible without a symbol.
“All matter is a manifestation of God. God is present in everything. Everything is an object of worship, for all is a manifestation of God who is therein worshipped. The very act of worship implies that the object of worship is superior and conscious. This way of looking at things must be attained by the devotee. The untutored mind must be trained to view things in the above manner.”
As per Vedas and Upanishads,
“Na tasya pratima asti”
“There is no image of Him.” Yajurveda.
“He is bodiless and pure.” Yajurveda
“Na samdrse tisthati rupam asya, na caksusa pasyati kas canainam.”
“His form is not to be seen; no one sees Him with the eye.”
Svetasvatara Upanishad .
“The approach of Vivekananda to idol worship can only be marginally different from that of a common man, because the meaning of ‘idol’ and ‘idolatry’ haven’t yet been fixed. ‘Idol’ is a deduction of ‘deity’. So, idol would be understood only after deity could be outlined. However, the continuing religious tradition hasn’t yet been able to even draw a line of demarcation between ‘God’ and ‘deity’.”
Swami Vivekananda, on idol worship,
“It has become a trite saying that idolatry is wrong, and every man swallows it at the present time without questioning. I once thought so, and to pay the penalty of that I had to learn my lesson sitting at the feet of a man who realized everything through idols; I allude to Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. If such Ramakrishna Paramahamsas are produced by idol-worship, what will you have — the reformer’s creed or any number of idols? I want an answer. Take a thousand idols more if you can produce Ramakrishna Paramahamsas through idol worship, and may God speed you! Produce such noble natures by any means you can.”
Swami Vivekananda While discussing religion and faith, the Maharaja of ALVAR and his minister expressed doubts about idol worship.
Swami Vivekananda said, “Take this picture of your King, the Maharaja of Alvar, and spit on it. Can you do it?”
There was pin drop silence in the room. Nobody knew how to react.
Swamiji said, “Even though he is standing next to you, you have the ‘emotion’ that Maharaja is there in the picture, hence you cannot spit on it. Similarly, when a Hindu worships an idol, he doesn’t say, ‘O stone, I am worshipping you.’ He has the ’emotion’ that God resides in that idol.”
Veda-centric Hindu followers were against worshiping of murthi/idol. Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj were interested with the ancient Vedic and Upanishadic teachings.