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    Vedic Conception of Time

    A Hindu Temple

    The Vedas are the great Hindu scriptures. They tell us about God. He is said to be larger

    than the largest and smaller than the smallest. He exists at all times. In order to measure

    the infinite, the rishis and sages invented a time system to measure the life of God. Its

    smallest measurement of time is one paramanu, which 60,750s of a second! On the bigger

    side, it measures days, nights, and lifetimes of Brahma, Shiva, and the Divine Mother. These

    last trillions of years!

    To make time more manageable, we usually think of four great time periods in Hinduism.

    Those are Krita Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga. Throughout these four Yugas,

    Lord Vishnu is said to incarnate in ten different avataras, known as Dashavataras.

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    The first of these four epochs, Krita, is also known as Satya Yuga, or the Age of Truth. During

    this age, people are completely pure. It is a golden age without envy, malice or deceit,

    characterized by righteousness. All people belonged to one caste, and there was only one

    God who lived amongst the humans as one of them. They live very long lives and are not

    troubled by health problems. During this Age of Truth, human beings were spiritually most

    advanced and had great psychic powers. The length of Krita yuga is 1,728,000 years!

    In the next epoch of Treta Yuga, the righteousness of the previous age decreases by one

    fourth. The chief virtue of this age is knowledge. The presence of gods is scarce and they

    descend to earth only when men invoked them in rituals and sacrifices. Lord Rama of the

    fabled Ramayana lived in Treta Yuga. It lasts 1,296,000 years.

    In the third great division of time, Dvapara Yuga, righteousness declines another one-quarter

    from the previous age. Disease, misery and the castes came into existence in this age. Men

    become even less righteous. The Gods multiply. Men make their own images, worship them,

    and the divinities come down in disguised forms. Lord Krishna was born in this age, as did the

    other people portrayed in the Mahabharata. This Yuga lasts 864,000 years.

    The first three epochs are already elapsed. Kali Yuga is the present age of mankind. It is

    believed that this age began about 5000 years ago. Righteousness in Kali Yuga has declined

    another one-quarter from the previous yuga. True worship and sacrifice are now lost. It is a

    time of anger, lust, passion, pride, and discord. We are now more preoccupied with our

    physical self than God. Due to our preoccupation with our physical bodies and our lower

    selves, and because of our emphasis on the pursuit of gross materialism, this age has been

    termed the Age of Darkness an age when we have lost touch with our inner selves, an age

    of profound ignorance! BUT the good news about this age, the saints tell us, is that even a

    little spiritual effort brings about great spiritual progress.

    TEMPLES: To preserve righteousness and spirituality in Kali Yuga, Temples appeared. Temples

    began to be built and idols of God installed to worship. Though the Gods ceased to come

    down and appear in their own or disguised forms, their presence could be felt when the idols

    are properly enshrined, temples correctly built, and the rituals are appropriately performed

    with devotion. Temples act as safe haven where ordinary mortals like us can feel ourselves

    free from the constant vagaries of everyday existence, and communicate personally with

    God.

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    Hindus believe that their lives are merely stages in the progression to ultimate

    enlightenment. Thus temples have become a focus for all aspects of everyday life in the

    Hindu community religious, cultural, educational, and social. All aspects of the Hindu

    temple focus on the goal of enlightenment and liberation. These include the principles of

    design and construction, the forms of its architecture and decoration, and the rituals

    performed. All of these are determined by ancient texts called Shastras compiled by our

    Rishis.

    Temples vary in structure and design in different parts of India. The temples in the South of

    India are built as per the Agama Shastra and Shilpa Shastra. Agamas are scriptures that are

    used as framework for constructing temples. The Shaiva Agamas focus on Shiva, Vaishnava

    focus on Vishnu, Shakta focus on Devi, Ganapatya focus on Ganapati, Soura focus on Surya,

    Kaumara focus on Muruga, etc. However, the most popular ones are Shaiva, Shakta, and

    Vaishnava Agamas. There are 28 Shaiva Agamas, 77 Shakta Agamas, and 215 Vaishnava

    Agamas.

    One way to imagine the Temple is to think of it as the God lying down. The ancient scriptures

    mention that the Temple is not only a home of God but stunningly the form of God Himself,

    by comparing the structure of the Temple to God as perceived in human form. Some of the

    parts of the temple compare to parts of the human body:

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    The Garbha Griham (sanctum sanctorum) where the main deity is, it is like the Head of God:

    This is where the Moola Virat (idol of the main deity) is found. In the South of India, only the

    priests of the temple are allowed to enter it.

    The Vimanam (gopuram on the temple roof above the garbha graham) is like the nose. It

    attracts cosmic energy, just like the nose attracts oxygen.

    The Ardha Mandapam (the outer sanctum adjoining the Garbha Griha) is like the neck of

    God.

    The Mahamandapam (main hall) is like the stomach of God: This is the place where we all

    gather and perform various rituals, and prayers.

    The Dwajasthambam (the flag pole) is an indispensable feature of South Indian temples. The

    flagpole is made up of pure teak wood, and a brass cladding with an optional Gold plating

    around it. This is placed between the Rajagopuram

    and the main sanctrum. It receives cosmic energy

    from the resident deity in the

    sanctum sanctorum and charges the premises. The

    Dwajasthambam is referred to as being a medium

    for the heavens to be connected to the earth. The

    Dwajasthambam is holy and all festivals are

    conducted only after performing Pooja for the

    Dwajasthambam and a flag is hoisted. The top

    portion of the Dwajasthambam has three horizontal

    perches or three branches pointing towards the

    Sanctum. It symbolizes righteousness, reputation,

    and the propriety or the Trimurtis Brahma, Vishnu,

    and Maheswara.

    The Dwajasthambam also symbolizes the spine or

    back-bone. It is believed that each Devata (Indra,

    Anandan, Vihakesanan, Vasuki, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Lakshmi, Saraswati, etc.) resides in

    different parts of the Dwajasthambam.

    The Rajagopuram (the entrance gateway to the temple enclosure) symbolizes the feet of

    God. Rajagopuram means the grand entrance tower of the temple. The big toe of the foot is

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    an important part of the body where in all the nerve systems of the body end there. Those

    who know acupuncture can very well appreciate the importance of the big toe of the foot. It

    is a custom in Hindu way of life that one should salute a

    saint by laying down his body on the earth and by

    touching the tip of the big toes of the feet of the saint.

    The Rajagopuram is considered as the gross body of the

    Deity installed in the Temple. Devotees unable to visit

    the Temple simply consider the Rajagopuram itself as the

    Deity and offer their obeisance from wherever they are.

    The Sri Venkateswara Temple Rajagopuram is very big,

    rising 54 feet from the ground.

    Generally, Rajagopuram consists of an odd number of

    stories - 3, 5, 7, 9 etc. Three represents the three states -

    waking, dream and deep sleep - in which we gain all our

    experiences. Five indicates the five senses through which we experience the outer world;

    seven signifies, the mind and intellect in addition to the five senses; and nine represents the

    above seven to addition to ego and heart (not the mechanical organ `heart' in our gross

    body).

    The significance of entering through the Rajagopuram is that when one visits a Temple, one

    should turn his antakarana or inner equipment (consisting of the five senses, mind, intellect,

    ego and heart through which he experiences the outer world), toward the Deity installed in

    the Temple and attempt to merge with the Deities from Hindu puranas.

    Balipeetham: Near the Dwajastambham in case of South Indian temples there is a

    Balipeetham. It is the sacrificial altar near Dwajasthambam. People mistake this to be the

    pedestal where animal sacrifice is done. We need to sacrifice our bad qualities before

    entering the temple. Rice and other anointments are offered here by the priests, who then

    progress to all other presiding deities around the temple and subsequently to the main deity.

    QUESTIONS:

    What are the four ages in Hinduism?

    How long do each one last?

    How much does righteousness decline in each age?

    What is the name of the age we are in now?

    About how long have we been in this age?

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    What is the nickname of this age?

    Is there anything good about this age?

    In this age, what are being built to preserve righteousness?

    What is the Garba Griham? If we think of the Temple like a man lying down