The Central Deity
Hinduism like the majority of the other religions in the world not only has a huge influence on the lifestyle of its followers but also on different aspects of the society’s history and art. Prominent across India and the other South-Eastern Asia, Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world with a history dating to as far back as 500BC. As already mentioned, Hinduism is a way of life containing spectrums of beliefs and practices manifested in almost all aspects of the society as well as believers’ personal life for example religion, history, art, and literature. One of the most important tenets of Hinduism as a religion is the element of puja. Puja in Hinduism refers to an act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit or any other aspect of divinity through various practices which include prayers, invocations, songs, and rituals.
For a Hindu devotee, making a spiritual connection with the divine facilitated by an object, sculpture, painting or an element of nature is an essential aspect of puja. Puja has over the recent past become the most popular form of divine worship in Hinduism performed either individually or in groups across all temples. Deities are the most prominent facilitator’s many Hindu devotees across the world are using in conducting their Puja. This paper is an account of my visit to a Bellechasse street temple during a puja ritual specifically focusing on the temple?’s central deity of Radha and Krishna.
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As instructed to visit one of the Hindu temples in the city as a requirement for this course, I visited one named Hindu Mission of Canada Temple on the second day of September 2017. The temple is located in Belle Chasse Street, East Montreal, and was established by the Hindu Mission of Canada mainly for the purpose of providing a place of worship for the Indian community within the city and its environs. Open to people of all ages from children to adults, traditional Hindu pujas and other festivals in the Hindu calendar are usually held within the temple. According to a regular member I talked to during the visit, the temple is structurally arranged like those seen in Northern Indian.
The difference compared to the arrangement of southern Indian temples is seen regarding the modesty where Northern India temples are much humble regarding representation of temple idles like deities and paintings. Their deities are usually made of white marble while in the south the deities are usually made from gold, silver, copper, iron or lead (Fuller, 2004).
As I already mentioned, the main theme I am going to focus on in this paper is the element of deities and specifically the central deity which for this temple is the murtis of Radha and Krishna. Apart from this main deity, there are also some other deities scattered across the temple. A statue of Lord Ganesha one of the most popular and most worshipped deities of Hinduism, is amongst the most outstanding and visibly noticeable deity status in the temple. Her popularity is obviously evident from the humble base around her statue which is presumably provided to allow people to conduct devotional activities and prayers. There is also a statue of Lord Vishnu to the left corner of the temple and another one of Goddess Lakshmi to the right corner of the temple. Lord Vishnu is a deity responsible for the creation, upkeep, and protection while Goddess Lakshmi is the deity believed to be responsible for wealth, prosperity and fortune (Stutley, 2006).
The most important deity for this temple’s Hindu devotees, in my opinion, is the deity of Radha and Krishna, with its white-marble murtis strategically located at the centre of the temple to reflect its importance. From the inquiries I made from the people in the temple as well as from my research, I found that Radha and Krishna are two highly revered deities in the Hindu literature telling a legendary romantic story of the union between Goddess Radha and her beloved. The couple has become a deity to the Hindu followers with many of them of them conducting puja rituals from time to seek its favour in romantic matters.
Symbolically, many Hindus believe Krishna and Radha’s love story represents a union between the Jivatma and Paramatma, which has also been interpreted as a union between individual self and universal self. Other scholars have also interpreted it as a combination of the masculine as well as the feminine aspect of God. Rituals that I observed the Hindu followers conducting around Radha and Krishna murtis involved offering specially prepared food as well as reciting prayers either individually or even in groups. The prayers which are referred to as Hare Krishna maha-mantra are perceived by the devotees to liberate the mind from ignorance (Knott, 2016).
In summary, my trip to the temple opened my eyes to several concepts of Hinduism that we had already covered in class especially on the aspect of deities. Hinduism as a religion possesses this unique aspect of deities which as evident from my visit to the temple, forms an important in almost every aspect of puja rituals. Studying this kind of concept helps us to understand and appreciate the uniqueness of Hinduism as a religion as well as a way of life for its devotees.
Fuller, Christopher John. The camphor flame: Popular Hinduism and society in India. Princeton University Press, 2004.
Knott, Kim. Hinduism: a very short introduction. Vol. 5. Oxford University Press, 2016.
Stutley, Margaret. Hindu Deities: A Mythological Dictionary with Illustrations. Munshirm Manoharlal Pub Pvt Limited, 2006.