Installation of Images
BY: STAFF CORRESPONDENT
Aug 22, CANADA (SUN) Instructions for the installation of Deities and images, from Brhat Samhita chapter LX
A learned man ought to construct in the south or east the 'Platform for the Installation ceremony' with four archways and covered with the sprouts of auspicious trees. For the eastern side of the platform variegated garlands and flags have been prescribed; for the south-eastern corner, red ones; for the southern and south-western sides, black ones; for the western side, white ones; for the north-western corner pale-white ones; for the northern side, multi-coloured ones; and for the north-eastern part, yellowish ones.
A temporary platform is constructed for performing the preliminary ceremonies which include planting seeds in small earthen vessels. These ceremonies go on for a week or so until the seeds sprout up in all the vessels.
An image, made of wood or clay, confers longevity, prosperity, strength and victory; one made of precious stone leads to the weal of the world; one of gold bestows health or growth; one of silver, fame; one of copper, increase or prosperity, of children; and an idol or Emblem of Siva made of stone, influx of immense landed property.
An image being hurt by a wedge would destroy the chieftain and family; one being damaged by a hole would cause diseases, troubles and ruin.
In the centre of the Platform the ground must be cleansed, and smeared with cow-dung. Then sand must be spread on that, and lastly sacred grain. The image should be placed there with its head resting on a throne and feet on a pillow.
The image should be bathed with a decoction of the sprouts of Plaksa (Ficus arnottiana), Asvattha (Ficus religiosa), Udumbara (Ficus racemosa), Sirisa (Albizzia lebbeck), and banyan mixed with all kinds of herbs bearing auspicious names (such as Jaya, Jayanti and Jivanti), with holy grass etc., with the clay dug up by elephants and bulls, from mountains, ant-hills, river-banks at the confluences, and lotus-lakes, mixed with water from holy rivers, along with the five products of cows, and with scented waters containing gold and gems; and then it should be laid with its head pointing to the east, to the accompaniment of the sounds and various musical instruments and of the chantings of the Punyaha and other Vedic hymns.
[The commentator gives a long list of auspicious herbs viz. Jaya, Jayanti, Jivanti, Jivaputri, Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa), Visnu-kranta, Abhaya, Visvambhari, Mahamodi, Sahadevi, Purnakosa, Satavari (Asparagus racemosus), Sahasravirya and Laksmana.]
Learned Brahmanas should chant in the east hymns in praise of Indra; and in the south-east, of the Fire-God. Those high priests ought to be honoured with monetary gifts.
The Priest should worship the sacred fire with the hymns sacred to the God who is to be installed. The symptoms of the sacred fire have to be observed. These symptoms have already been explained by me in connection with the raising of 'Indra's Banner' (XLII.32). If the fire is filled with excessive smoke, turned to the left, making murmuring sounds and sending out sparks continuously, it is not auspicious. The priest's loss of memory and moving forward are not considered to be auspicious. [The author possibly means that any movement of the priest's body, forward, backward etc. is harmful.]
After the image has been bathed, clothed in new garments, tastefully decorated with ornaments, and worshipped with flowers and scents (like sandal paste), the priest who performs the installation should lay it on a well-spread couch.
After the sleeping image has been properly consecrated with the materials for waking up, accompanied by dance and songs, the installation should be done at the time prescribed by the astrologer i.e., in the northern solstice, bright fortnight etc.
Being worshipped with flowers, clothes and unguents, the image should be taken, to the accompaniment of the sounds of conchs and musical instruments, into the sanctum sanctorum with all precautions in a clock-wise procession. After making profuse offerings and worshipping Brahmanas and members of the religious assembly, the image should be placed in the pit of the pedestal, in which a piece of gold has been deposited. Then the installer of the idol, astrologer, Brahmanas, members of the assembly and the carpenter (sculptor) should be specially honoured. By doing this, one will be blessed with all glorious things on earth, and with heaven in the next world.
The priests who should install an idol of Lord Visnu should be Bhagavatas (i.e. devotees of the same Lord); of the Sun-God, the Maga-Brahmanas; of Lord Shiva, the Pasupatas who are smeared with the holy ashes; of the Divine Mothers (Brahmi etc.), those that are adepts in the methodology of the Mandala-puja (circular worship); of Brahman (creator), Brahmanas (well-versed in spiritual lore); of the Buddha, the All-benevolent, and of serene mind, the the Sakyas (red-robed monks); and of the Jinas, naked (Digambara) Jain monks. The installation of the different Deities should be performed by priests who are devoted to the respective Deities, according to the rules peculiar to each sect.
[It is interesting to note that our author is a devotee of the Sun-God and a scion of Sun-worshippers. For, his father was known as Adityadasa, servant of the Sun. Scholars like Sudhakara Dvivedi are of the opinion that Varahamihira's family originally belonged to the Magadha country. It is possible that that country was a great colony of the Maga priests.
Since they were the original worshippers of the Sun, a Maga priest alone was considered competent to perform the installation. According to (CXVII-55, they are called Magadhas as they think of Maga. We cannot say if there is any connection between the Magas and the Magi. Perhaps the former became Magi in ancient Persia. It may also be argued that Magadha derived its name from a settlement of the Magi from Persia.
The procedure of worship in temples is governed by scriptures called Agamas such as the Pancaratra, Pasupata and Vaikhanasa. Visnu's worship is regulated by the Pancaratra school, Siva's by the Pasupata one, the Sun's by the Saura one, Buddha's by the Paramita method.
The installation of Deities would be favourable and fortunate, if done in the northern solstice (i.e. when the Sun is in any of the six Signs beginning with Capricorn), in the bright fortnight, when the Moon is situated in a Varga (part of the Zodiacal Sign) owned by Jupiter, when a fixed Sign and a fixed Navamsa rise when benefics (Jupiter, Venus and Mercury) occupy the 5th, 9th and Kendras (1st, 4th, 7th and 10th) and malefics (the Sun, Mars and Saturn) Upacaya houses (3rd, 6th, 10th and 11th), and when the Moon is in any of the asterisms, viz. the three Uttaras, Rohini, Mrgasirsa, Citra, Anuradha, Revati, Sravana, Pusya and Svati, and on any convenient day except Tuesday.
[Generally six Vargas are considered in election astrology. They are the Rasi, Hora, Drekkhana, Navamsa, Dvadasamsa and Trisamsa. Among the fixed Signs only Taurus, Leo and Aquarius ascendants are recommended for this ceremony. The Taurus Navamsa of any Sign is also recommended. Suppose we forced to elect Gemini, Cancer, Virgo, Libra, Sagittarius or Pisces for the ascendant. Then we have to go in for a fixed Navamsa therein. Saturday is not forbidden for this purpose. For it is considered as a fixed Day. It should be such a day that it is ruled by a star which is favourable i.e., 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, or 9th, to the star of the owner of the house or temple.]
I have thus expounded succinctly this subject in general terms for the benefit of mankind. However, in the work entitled Savitra the subjects of consecration and installation are explained in detail for each deity separately - or the consecration and installation of the Sun have been separately treated of extensively in that Sastra revealed by the Sun-God. [Our author refers here to an ancient work called Savitra-sastra bearing on this subject.]