By Stephen Knapp

There have been some people who have declared that the worship of Deities or images or the murtis in the temples is but a recent invention of Vedic culture. However,that is not an accurate point. It is true that according to the different yugas or ages (such as Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga, Dvapara-yuga,and Kali-yuga) there are different processes for spiritual development that have been more recommended than others. For example, meditation was the recommended process for Satya-yuga, when people lived much longer and Could sit in meditation for long periods of time. Then in Treta-yuga it was best to engage in various and extravagant rituals, havans,yajnas, or fire ceremonies. Then in Dvapara-yuga it was best to engage in elaborate worship,with opulent offerings to the Deities and prayers and mantras sung to the Deities. 

 So, all of these processes have continued down through the ages to some degree or another. However, in Kali-yuga, though we still see all of these processes used, it is now the chanting of mantras, that is the most highly efficient and recommended process of spiritual growth in this age.So, Deity worship as seen in the temples has been around for thousands of years. And as evidence of that, we can find references in the Vedic texts,as well as in the historical holy sites around India.
HISTORICAL SITES OF ANCIENT DEITY WORSHIP
For example, seven kilometers south of Gokula, not far from Mathura, is the Dauji temple. Dauji is the Deity of Lord Balarama that was originally installed 5,000 years ago by King Vajranabha, Krishna’s great-grandson.From Lord Krishna and His queen Rukmini was born the great warrior Pradyumna, one of His prominent sons, who married the daughter of Rukmi, Rukmavati.

They gave birth to Anirudha. Anirudha married Rukmi’s son’s daughter, Rachana,and from her was born Vajra, who would remain among the few survivors of the Yadus’ battle. (Bhag.10.90.3537) In fact, King Vajra established a number of Krishna deities in the area.The present Dauji temple was built 200 years ago by Shyama Das of Delhi.Many people also attend this temple to get darshan of the singleDeity of the 6 feet tall Lord Balarama. From the other side of the temple you can see the Deity of Revati, Lord Balarama’s wife. Nearby is the Balabhadra Kund or Kshira (milk) Sagara (sea) where the Deity of Lord Balarama had been hidden during the Moghul invasion. Near this kund is a temple to Harideva, and in the bazaar is another temple to Banke Bihari.East of Mathura is Vrindavana, and in Vrindavan is the Radha-Govindaji temple that is another of the seven major temples of Vrindavan. It is across the road and a little farther down the street from the Rangaji temple. It was established by Rupa Gosvami a great saint, where he discovered the Gopala Deity. The beautiful temple is made out of red sandstone and was completed in 1590.The temple is now only two storeys tall but once reached up to seven storeys.

The Muslim fanatic Aurangzeb,doing his dirty work,dismantled the upper five storeys of the temple due to his envy.While his men weredestroying the temple, there was a loud thunderous noise that shook the ground. This put fear into the hearts of the men and they immediately stopped and ran away.Due to fear of the Moghuls, before they arrived the devotees moved the original deities to Jaipur where today many pilgrims go to see them. So the temple now has pratibhuh deities, or representative expansions, of the original Radha-Govindaji that are worshiped. The original Govindaji Deity is said to have been installed thousands of years ago by Vajranabha.Also, in Vrindavan, farther into the eastern part of town, are many other temples, including the large and ornate Lala Babu Mandir with Radha, Krishna, and Lalita deities. Then at the corner where we turn off from Loi Bazaar to go toward the Banke Bihari Mandir, we find the Gopishwara Mahadeva Shiva temple with a Shiva linga, said to have been originally installed by Krishna’s great-grandson, Vajranabha, and is the place where Lord Shiva did austerities in hopes of entering the rasa-lila dance as a gopi (cow-herdgirl).In the morning devotees wash the linga with milk and other items, and then later the pujaris dress the linga in bright colored clothes.

To be continued…

This article originally appeared in the website Stephen-knapp.com

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