ādhāraśilā

(‘support-stone’)

Belief in God and putting up structures to worship him or to pray to him seems to be a common trait of human beings irrespective of their geographical boundaries or differences of culture. There are evidences to show that the Hindu places of worship, called devālayas (temples, houses of God), have been existing since very ancient times. These devālayas are highly symbolic and attempt at unravelling this symbology, in concrete terms, have resulted in a regular science and art of temple construction. Apart from the usual foundation laid to support the superstructure of the temple, these works on temple construction insist on the laying of the ādhāraśilā or support-stone below the floor of the garbhagṛha (sanctum sanctorum).

In the middle of the site for the garbhagṛha, where the idol will be installed, the ground is excavated to a pre-determined depth. A number of articles are ceremonially fixed therein, one after another, with appropriate mantras. (See ṢAḌĀDHĀRA-PRATIṢṬHĀ.) Of these, the ādhāraśilā is the first to be fixed, and at the lowest level, as the base or support. It is a square block of granite or any other hard stone, of specific dimensions. On it are placed the other articles like the pot called nidhikumbha and the lotuses of stone and metal.

According to one of the interpretations of temple symbolism, the temple represents the body of the yogi (the spiritual aspirant practising yoga) with all the cakras (centres of psychic power). The ādhāra-śilā, then, stands for the mūlādhāra-cakra (the lowest centre).

See also CAKRAS.