adhivāsa

(‘to live in’)

Temples form a very important part of the Hindu religious institutions and culture. Building of temples has developed, over the years, into a great art. Architecture and iconography have grown both vast and deep because of it. The images, though prepared strictly according to the standards of iconography, are unfit to be installed in them unless sanctified ceremonially by rites recommended in the āgamas (a class of religious works connected with temple worship). ‘Adhivāsa’ is such a rite, making the image ‘live in’ various substances like water and grains. The adhivāsas are three: jalādhivāsa, dhānyādhivāsa and śayyādhivāsa. The first is to remedy the effects of chiselling, the second for purifying the physical image and the last for inducing spiritual effulgence.

In jalādhivāsa (‘living in water’), the image is taken in a procession round the village, placed on level ground on the bank of a river or tank, sprinkled with the water of the same, wound round with kuśa grass and new cloth and ceremonially immersed in the water so that the head lies towards the east and mouth upwards. The duration of jalādhivāsa is from one night to nine nights, though three nights are more common. After taking it out of water, the image has to undergo physical and ceremonial cleansing once again.

Dhānyādhivāsa (‘living in grains’) and śayyādhivāsa (‘living in the bed’) are actually one ritual in practice. On the vedi (special platform) a sthaṇḍila (an esoteric geometric design) is inscribed. Grains like wheat, rice, barley and black sesame are spread and a lotus of eight petals is inscribed on the grains. A bed is now prepared over this with five materials viz., wooden plank, skin of deer or tiger, a rug of animal hair, feathers of birds and cloth. In the absence of the first four materials, five layers of cloth can be used. The image is now made to lie for three nights on this bed, with kuśa grass underneath it, the head being towards the east and mouth upwards.

The word ‘adhivāsa’ is also used in the sense of ‘perfuming’ or sanctifying with perfumes or other approved materials, any object or objects used in ceremonial worship.

See also PRATIṢṬHĀVIDHI.