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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.
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
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
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
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:
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
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,
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
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
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.
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?
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, what is it
What is the Mahamandapam? What is it symbolic of?
What is the Dwajasthambam? What is its purpose?
What is the Rajagopruam? What is it symbolic of? How tall will the Rajagopuram be in the
new Sri Venkateswara Temple?
What do we sacrifice at the Balipeetam?
Sri Venkateswara Stotram
kamalAkucha choochuka kunkumatO niyatAruNitAtula neelatanO
kamalAyata lOchana lOkapatE vijayeebhava vEnkaTa SailapatE (1)
sachaturmukha shaNmukha panchamukha pramukhAkhila daivata mouLimaNE
SaraNAgata vatsala sAranidhE paripAlayamAm vRushaSailapatE (2)
ativElatayA tava durvishahai: anuvElakRutai raparAdha Satai:
bharitam tvaritam vRushaSailapatE parayA kRupayA paripAhi harE (3)
adhivEnkaTaSailamudAra matEr janatAbhi matAdhi kadAnaratAt
paradEvatayA gaditAnnigamai: kamalAdayitA nnaparam kalayE (4)
kalavENuravA vaSagOpa vadhoo SarakOTi vRutAt smara kOTi samAt
prativalla vikAbhimatA tsukhadAt vasudEvasutAnnaparam kalayE (5)
abhirAma guNAkara dASarathE jagadEka dhanurdhara dheeramatE
raghunAyaka rAma ramESa vibhO varadO bhava dEva dayA jaladhE (6)
avaneetanayA kamaneeyakaram rajaneekara chAru mukhAmburuham
rajaneechara rAja tamO mihiram mahaneeyamaham raghurAmamayE (7)
sumukham suhRudam sulabham sukhadam swanujam cha sukAya mamOghaSaram
apahAya raghoodwaha manya maham na kathanchana kanchana jAtu bhajE (8)
vinA vEnkaTESam nanAthO nanAtha: sadA vEnkaTESam smarAmi smarAmi
harE vEnkaTESa praseeda praseeda priyam vEnkaTESa prayacCa prayacCa (9)
Jumble Words All words are from this lesson
S C A E E
Y E T D I
H P E O C
N S S E E
I C C M O S
T N I F I E N I
R M Y I E S
L B F E A
S R S G O
D P E I R