Pradakshina is a ritual of circumambulating a sacred object, be it a temple or deity or a sacred plant or a saint or a mountain or a cow or elders and one’s own parents. It is done always clockwise with the sacred object on the right side all the time. To circumambulate a sacred object is considered auspicious in Hindu traditions. It is said to bestow upon a person who goes around health and prosperity while removing all kinds of worries.
There is a popular legend about the importance of pradakshina. The story of Lord Ganesha who circumambulates around his parents reveals from the Hindu scriptures that circumambulating around the parents is accorded a higher status than circumambulating the entire universe.
It is performed by circumambulating around a sacred person, sacred image, a sacred object or a temple in a clockwise direction. It identifies four key elements such as destination, movement, magnitude and motivation.
The movement here encompasses an object: a temple, a holy site, a sacred mountain, a lake, a river, a city, and even includes circling around oneself. It has several meanings such as honoring, centering, bonding, setting apart, and reaffirmation of the sacred territorial claim. It also symbolizes the completeness yet continuity, fulfillment and quest, contentment and pursuit, comprehension and mystery.
The Hindu temples are designed in such a way with passageways to facilitate the circumambulation.It takes the worshipper from the doorway of the sanctuary, housing the image of symbol of the Deity, around the sanctuary in a clockwise direction where further icons introduce other aspects of the divine.
Types of Pradakshina:
While walking is the most common offering of Pradakshina, some devotees roll as well. Extreme vows of Pradakshina involve self-humiliation in temples by rolling over the temple trash and in wet clothes.
Who cannot walk around the temple (for some problems, crowds or other reasons) often perform "auto-pradakshina" by going around themselves -- this is like glorifying the God within oneself.
- Atma Pradakshina:Atma is felt to be inside the body, this would mean that he has made one Pradakshina around his own Self.
- Giri valam: circling the hill.
- Adi pradikshana: take short steps, with the heel of one foot being placed where the tips of the toes of the other foot.
- Anga pradikshina: This will be done in the temples' prahara with wet body and cloths after bathing in the temple pond or well. Lie prostrate, and then roll around the temple, chanting the Lord’s name. It is a prayer which has good effect in many cases.
- Walking on knees
- Pradkshina around trees like peepal & Tulsi plant
How to perform pradakshina?
As pradakshina is meant for mental peace it has to be done most reverently. The Amsumathi-aagama further spells out the following.
Padaath padaanuramga chheth karouchala uivarffithou
Sthuthirvaachihpdi dhyaanam chathurangam pradakshinam
Meaning: Four rules are to be observed while doing pradakshina it has to be done slowly by small paces and not hurriedly. With folded or stationary position of hands, by chanting mantras of deity visualizing the presiding deity seated in the heart of the worshipper.
If one does pradakshina at regular intervals and daily, it results in changing the disturbed poise of the mind of the worshipper taking it to deeper contemplations of the ultimate truth. During pradakshina one forgets one's own body and mind. The worshipper will be chanting hymns and perceiving the deity with total surrender.
Number of Pradakshinas:
For each deity, the minimum number of Pradakshinas to be done is specified.
- Ganesh: 1
- Shiva: 2
- Vishnu: 3
- Ayyappa: 4
- Subrahmanya (Karthikeya): 5 Durga: 6
- Peepal Tree: 7
Doing Pradakshina 21 times to any deity is sanctified.
Mantra when doing pradakshina:
"Yaani kaani cha paapaani Janmaantara krtaani cha Taani taani
vinashyanti Pradakshina pade pade."
Meaning: All the sins committed by an individual from innumerable past births are destroyed by each step taken whilst doing pradakshina.
- There are three layers when you go inside a temple according to the temple architecture. The first layer is herbal gardens, full of trees and plants. The direction in which the tree is to be planted comes under temple architecture. All plantations are done according to the directions and windflow. There are medicinal herbs, flowers and trees in this outer layer and whenyou pass through this layer, you breathe in those herbal fragrances that cure emotional and physical problems, and body imbalances. It used to be around one kilometer longand while passing through it, your whole body circulation is improved. Essentialfragrances and oils needed by the body are absorbed especially those of the Ashvat (peepal) tree. It is the onlytree which emits oxygen all the 24 hours. All other trees emit oxygen half thetime and carbon dioxide rest of the time. The tree helps a person to overcome many problems, especially infertility.
- ‘Pradakshina’ is not done for the sake of the divine or some otherpurpose but for health benefits.Then there is a second circle in which statues of many menand women are kept. One was asked, in earlier days, to sit and meditate there for a while.This way first circle makes you physically fit, vatta-pitta-kapha balances happens by inhalingthe air. The second circle frees your mind from all fantasies. Then finally youmove on to central part - ‘sanctum sanctorum’ - where you sit with your eyesclosed and experience the nothingness.
- While performing Pradhakshina the mind gets purified and the devotee gets the divine aura that surrounds the deity. Pradakshina signifies that all human activities revovlve around God being at the centre.
- When we encircle the idol we symbolically absorb all the energies emanating from the lord.... all around
- Everything under the sky is subject to rotation and revolution and the soul value of a planet and human is equal and same. Thence, this revolution is translated into Indian languages as 'pradakshina' - i.e., keeping the relationship. In temples also, to keep the relationship for our revolution of life, we entrust the God to be the center.
- The concept of temple is that of the solar system.Like planets benefit energy from sun by moving in clockwise direction to our right around the profound energy source Sun - the devotee walks around the idol for obtaining the energy.
- The concept of mammoth solar system is reflected in micro level molecular system where electrons revolve around the nucleus.
Pradakshina is always done only in a clockwise manner the reason behind this is that the Lord is always on our right. In India the right side symbolizes auspiciousness. So as we circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum we remind ourselves to lead an auspicious life of righteousness, with the Lord who is the indispensable source of help and strength, as our guide - the "right hand".
Indian scriptures enjoin - matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, and acharyadevo bhava. May you consider your parents and teachers as you would the Lord. With this in mind we also do pradakshina around our parents and divine personages.
After the completion of traditional worship (puja), we customarily do pradakshina around ourselves. In this way we recognize and remember the supreme divinity within us, which alone is idolized in the form of the Lord that we worship outside.
In Shiva temples, the devotees start the Pradakshina as usual from the front and go clockwise till they reach the gomukhi (the outlet for abhisheka water) from the Sanctum Sanctorum. As usual the clockwise perambulation is maintained outside of the Bali stones. The outlet for the ritual ablution offered on the Shiva Linga with water, milk, curd, coconut water, ghee, ashes (bhasma)etc. is not to be crossed. So the worshippers have to return in anti-clockwise direction till they reach the other side of the drainage outlet to complete the circle. During this anti-clockwise perambulation, the devotee should tread a path inside of the Bali stones. The Bali stones are always to be kept the right side of the devotees. After reaching the drainage outlet, they have to return to the front in the clockwise direction keeping the path outside the Bali stones. Thus one Pradakshina is completed. If you don’t find a bali stone it doesn't matter, make sure you don’t cross gomukhi.