A Hindu temple or Mandir (Sanskrit: मंदिर), is a house of worship for Hindus, followers of Hinduism. They are usually specifically reserved for religious and spiritual activities.
A Hindu temple can be a separate structure or a part of a building. A feature of most temples is the presence of murtis of the Hindu deity to whom the temple is dedicated. They are usually dedicated to one primary deity, called the presiding deity, and other subordinate deities associated with the main deity. However, some temples are dedicated to several deities, and some have symbols instead of a murti.
NomenclatureHindu temples are known by different names in different parts of the world, depending upon the language. The word mandir or mandira is used in many languages, including Hindi, and is derived from a Sanskrit word, mandira, for 'house' (of God by implication). Temples are known as kO-yil - கோயில் (and occasionally, especially in modern formal speech, aalayam - ஆலயம்) in Tamil. The etymology is from kO - கோ, or lord, and il - இல் - home (note that besides meaning God's home, this term could also mean a King's home, since the term kO - கோ is used interchangeably for royalty and divinity). Temples are known as Devasthana or Gudi in Kannada, as Gudi, Devalayam or Kovela in Telugu and Mondir in Bengali, as Kshetram or Ambalam in Malayalam.
ManagementThe Archeological Survey of India has control of most ancient temples of archaeological importance in India. In India and many countries, a temple is managed by a temple board committee that administers its finances, management and events. In some villages the more prominent and respected families are entrusted with leadership and management of the village temple.
North Indian TemplesNorth Indian temples centre around the murti or image of the deity. Above the murti is the Shikhara or spire. Statues of associated deities are placed around the murti, beyond the Garbha Griha, in order of their closeness to the deity. Beyond the mandap (pillared hall) and the arbha mandap (porch), is the Vahana or vehicle of the deity.
Customs and etiquette
The customs and etiquette when visiting Hindu temples have a long history and are filled with symbolism, solemn respect and veneration of God's creation.
Visitors and worshippers to Hindu temples are required to remove shoes and other footwear before entering them. Most temples have an area designated to store footwear, sometimes for a small fee.
The Hindu religion teaches that all life-forms are created by God and that humankind needs to share the world with the animal kingdom. It is common to see stray dogs, sacred cows and various species of birds congregated at temples, since often it is their only sanctuary from human persecution. However, on certain occasions and in many (especially rural) parts of India, animal sacrifice is practiced by lay devotees, albeit without the approval or participation of the priests. This is often done inside the temple compound, but outside the building.
Worshippers in major temples typically bring in symbolic offerings for the prayer or 'puja'. This includes fruits, flowers, sweets and other symbols of the bounty of God's natural world. Temples in India are typically surrounded by small mom-and-pop stores called 'dukan' in Hindi which offer them typically wrapped in organic containers such as banana leaves.
When inside the temple, it is typical to keep both hands folded together as a sign of respect. The worshippers approach the inner sanctum, recite sacred Sanskrit verses called 'mantras', follow the instructions of the priest called the 'pujari', meditate & pray called 'puja', and, present the offerings to the feet of the God-form 'the murthy' symbolising total submission and immersion into the All Loving Being. The 'murthy' is typically placed on a 'mandap' or pedestal surrounded by beautiful offerings such as colorful cloths, flowers, incense sticks or 'agarbati' and sounds such as from a conch or large bells.
The mantras you utter are typically words like "Om Nama Vishnu" or "Om Namo Shivaya" which means "Obeisance to Vishnu" or "Salutations to Shiva". These are followed by a series of shlokas or verses from the holy texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads or Vedas. Upon the conclusion of the prayer, devotees get down on their knees or even fall flat on their stomach and bow before the symbol of the All Loving Being and mentally states whatever you feel in your heart. If a priest or 'pujari' is present, he is likely to provide sacred symbolically-blessed food called 'prasad' to the devotee. He may also apply a holy red mark to the forehead of the devotee symbolising blessings. Visitors to famous temples often feel inner joy, harmony and peace at this point.
Finally the worshipper or visitor would walk clock-wise around the symbolic 'murthy', stop once on each side, close their eyes and pray to the All Loving Being. The worshipper may receive a sprinkling of the water from the holy river Ganges while the 'pujari' states "Om Shanti" which means "peace be unto all".
During religious holidays, temples may be swarmed with devotees chanting and praying loudly. While the initial impression might be a strong reaction to the chaos, it is hard to not get swept into the spiritual energy that surrounds you. There may be facilitators called 'paandaas' who can help you navigate through the crowds and complete the 'puja' or prayer rituals quickly.
Temple management staff typically announce the hours of operation, including timings for special 'pujas'. For example the 'anjali' prayers are in the early-to-mid morning while 'arati' prayers are in the evening. There are also timings for devotional songs or music called 'bhajans'. There are also dates and times for devotional dances such as the classical Bharata Natyam dance performed by accomplished dance performers.
The Hindu religion teaches compassion and tolerance towards the poor and weak. The exit areas of the temples are often lined with emaciated beggars, mentally or physically challenged individuals, destitute women & children. While it is possible to ignore them and walk out, devotees often provide spare change.
In the end the visitor exits the temple experience with 'prasad' in their hands and a changed mental make-up.
mandir in Bulgarian: Мандир
mandir in German: Hindutempel
mandir in Dutch: Hindoeïstische tempel
mandir in Norwegian Nynorsk: Hindutempel
mandir in Norwegian: Hindutempel
mandir in Polish: Mandir
mandir in Simple English: Mandir