Information | Religious
Dakshin - This means the south. The four cardinal points are called in Sanskrit - Poorv, Pashchim, Uttar, and Dakshin. When we get up in the morning, first we see the Sun rising - that is Poorv. When we look at the rising Poorv in East, Dakshin is on our right side. So Dakshin got another meaning - the right (its antonym is Vaam, means left). So Pradakshinaa means turning to the right. When we are standing and want to do a Pradakshinaa, we keep the God's idol to our right. In English it came to be called "keeping to the left" or clockwise. It means reverential manner of circumnavigation of the person respected.
In temples it became a practice of doing a Pradakshinaa around the Moorti. This is the practice almost in all the temples except in Shiv's temples. There the going round has to be stopped at the northern side of the idol and one has to come back on the round till he reaches the same point in the north.
Why do we Pradakshinaa (circumambulate)?
What Ganesh did to his parents, millions of devout Hindu do day in and day out at temples : Pradakshina or Pradakshinam (in Sanskrit) word for the practice of circumambulating the sanctum sanctorum housing the temple deity, sacred object or fire.
While the origin of the practice is hazy and lost in time, what is clear is the mechanics of it.
Typically, the devotee enters the temple and offers prayers to the presiding deity, or his Isht Devtaa or deity of his choice in some of the bigger temples. Once this is done, he will start on his Pradakshinaa. In the bigger temples, there is the Prahar or a pathway for going around the shrine housing the main deities. That path is for Pradakshinaa. However, in smaller temples, where there is no formal pathway around the central shrine, devotees just walk around the deity itself.
All the while that they walk around, the deity is to their right. This is on account of using this as a symbol to remind ourselves that we should walk the right path of Dharm by leading a righteous life. While walking around in circles, the devotee chants: Om Namah Shivaaya, Om Namah Shivaaya, continuing to move in a clockwise direction. The exception to this is when the devotee is doing the Som Sookt Pradakshinaa in a Shiv temple on a Pradosh day, which is the 13th day of the lunar cycle dedicated to the worship of Shiv. In this instance, the Pradakshinaa is in anti-clockwise direction.
On completing the Pradakshinaa, devotees traditionally stand in front of the main deity again and slowly turn around in a motion that resembles the earth spinning on its own axis, but in a measured pace - normally three times. This is called Aatm Pradakshinaa. "Some devotees do this at the temple, but many people who are too old or infirm to make the trip to the temple do the Aatm Pradakshinaa at home instead. The Aatmaa is a symbol of both the temple and the deities in the temple - by going round it, we are simulating the act of going around and worshipping every divine manifestation."
The palms are brought together one last time in prayer and a final Namaskaar or prostration is done. Traditionally this means that the devotee would not show his back to any deity so this Namaskaar is to the Dhwaj Stambh, which is the flag pole of the temple. The devotee takes a few steps back folding his hands in front of the deity and then goes back to home. The ritual is now complete.
Is there a prescribed number of times to go around?
Is the practice of Pradakshinaa prevalent only in Hinduism? No, not strictly. While the practice of going around a deity is particular to Hinduism the idea of Pradakshinaa is common to quite a few religions across the world.
In Islam, Muslims go round and round the Kaaba, their most sacred site, in a practice they call the Tawaf and Buddhists do Pradakshinaa the Stoop which normally houses relics of the Buddha. Or they go around the Bodhi tree in much the same manner as Hindus do their Pradakshinaa. All of them believe that the holy spot or image is at the very center of life and so is the main focus of their existence. The faithful believe that God is at the centre of our existence. So when we do Pradakshinaa, we accept that our actions and thoughts are always centered on God.
It is a common Hindu practice to perform a Pradakshinaa around temples. Even Muslims perform such Pradakshinaa at the holy Mecca. The specific benefits can be seen by the specific number of times a Pradakshinaa is done in temples.
It is important to note that the term Pradakshinaa around the temple does not mean a brisk walk. It denotes a slow devotional walk around the temple so as to fully absorb and benefit from the positive energy present there. It is described that the pace of Pradakshinaa should be equivalent to ‘a 6-months pregnant woman walking while carrying a vessel full of water’. This importance to a slow pace is given since the object around which we are performing circumambulation (god’s idol) is one which radiates immense positive energy all around it, and the aim of the Pradakshinaa is to fully make use of this energy. The slow pace along with the chanting of the god’s name, influences us psychologically. The effect of the positive energy from the temple and our own concentration on the god, enables our stress to be relieved and increases the sharpness of our mind.
Pradakshinaa can also be used as a form of Saadhanaa for the fulfillment of one’s desires. Below is a list of the number of Pradakshinaa and the specific desires which are said to be fulfilled through them ----
3 times – attainment of desired skill/talent
The ritual of Pradakshinaa is to be performed daily for a minimum period of 21 days to fulfill one’s desire. It is important to chant god’s name/Mantra and pray with devotion while performing the Pradakshinaa slowly for it to be beneficial.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 8/9/09
Updated on 05/20/12