A Place of Hindu Worship

Describe the main features of a specific place of Hindu worship.From the outside, many people can notice the Hindu temple with its prominent dome. As you go up the long flight of stairs you come to a shine of Hanuman decorated with flowers, giving of food and red curtains on the side. Before you get to the temple you face a door with the sun on it representing life as well as Brahman. There is also a notice board with schedules, events and a quote saying “Open the door of your calmness and let the footsteps of silence gently enter the temple of all our activities.Perform all duties serenely, saturated with peace, behind the throb of your heart you shall feel the throb of Gods peace”. As in Hong Kong there is little space the entrance couldn’t face the east, the direction of the rising sun although if there were it would be. Before entering the main hall all worshipers must remove their shoes. Facilities have also been provided for the devotees for washing their feet. The shrines are at the end of the large hall where the congregation gathers for worship. The worshippers sit on the carpet on the floor, below the level of the shrines.The symmetrical and rectangular prayer hall is well lighted, painted in pink and ventilated by several large and small windows as well as fans. All these windows have been ornamented with circular arches. The temple opens for everyone at 8 until 12 at noon for lunch, its re opened at 4 then closed at 8. On Sunday a minimum of 200 people attend and maximum of around 600 – 700. Overall there are about 25, 000 Hindus in Hong Kong. Leading to the three arched shrines are stairs. One shrine had the “sea god” who is popular among Hong Kong Hindu worshippers, above the shrines is the dome, which is lit with a blue light and decorated with circular symmetry. The other has Shiva Parvati and the third one has Lukshmi and Vishnu.The shrines have gaps between them enabling devotees to walk around the middle shrine with the right shoulder to the shrine cleansing them of their sins. The shrines are decorated at the bottom with elephants and patterns; just above there is a small fence around them only usually allowing the priest in showing their status. Infront of the statues are puja trays for devotees use. However the temple is not only used for worship, it can also be used for celebrations such as marriage. They are many prayer rooms as well as a kitchen which many worshippers bring food to cook to celebrate occasions.(ii) Analyse and explain the role and function of the Mandir in the local Hindu community.Every temple has a priest. The priest’s main task is to help those who come to worship, and to act as an intermediary between the worshipper and the god represented by the image. Brahmins, which are usually leaders in temples as they are the highest and priestly caste, are expected to always worship Brahman, give reverence to the saints and the holy men by reciting the Veda, show proper respect for parents and elders, give shelter and alms to the poor or to holy men as well as instruct to feed animals because Hindus believe all living things form one community.In small temples there may be a part- time and non Brahmin priest. Small temples usually have a small room for the priest’s use and a veranda with steps leading up to it. The priest is the only one that enters the shrine; he takes the gifts people have brought and offers them to the images of the god as he carries the important responsibility of looking after the image of god. Most large temples have a full time Brahmin staff. The priest conducts worship in the temple as they are the only ones that can enter the holiest part of the temple and at festival times the priest is invited to some families’ homes to conduct the worship.In Britain the resident priest leads the devotions each day, usually early in the morning, midday, late in the afternoon and in the evening which is when people who would like to join can join the priest at prayer. In the morning he rings the temples bells, also known as ‘Ghant’, washes and clothes the deities, offers them fresh flowers, incense and food and then opens the doors to the inner shrine. People arrive to then witness puja.There are three main stages of worship, first havan, an offering of fire to god which is when the priest lights a small fire using wood and liquid Ghee. Prayers are offered for purity and the good of all mankind. The priest then performs arati, when the five symbols are used to represent the five elements from which everything else is made. The first is fire. A Ghee lamp with five lights is waved in front of the shrine. When people enter the shrine they walk around it clockwise, offering prayers to the murtis. Incense and flowers are offered representing the earth, a fan is waved symbolising the air, a conch shell is blown which symbolises the atmosphere, and it holds the fifth symbol, water.Whilst performing arati, mantras are sung accompanied by tambourines, triangles and other instruments. Often people start to dance as the worship gets livelier. After arati, the helper sweeps the temple and people come to sing bhajan to the deity. In some temples in the evening kirtan is carried out by a visiting priest. Men sit on one side of the priest, ladies and children on the other intently listening to him talk about the importance of doing ones religious duties which is followed by a story to illustrate the moral lesson. It is then ended with Prasad.

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