akṣimocana

(‘liberating the eyes’)

Temples are an integral part of Hindu religion and culture. The building of a temple is considered a very sacred act. It is built according to a plan and pattern as given in the Āgamas. The image of the Chief Deity installed in the main shrine (garbhagṛha) is the central focus of the whole temple complex. This image is prepared strictly according to the rules of the mūrtiśilpaśāstras, works of Hindu iconography. Normally, even after completing the sculpturing of the image, its eyes will not be ‘opened.’ This has to be done ceremonially before installing it. This process is called ‘akṣimocana’ or ‘netronmīlana.’

The image is first placed on the sthaṇḍila (ground specially prepared for the purpose). The śilpi (sculptor) works on the eye with a golden needle opening the sight. After honouring him and bidding farewell the image is cleansed with five kinds of earth and five products of the cow (pañcagavya). It is then established on another sthaṇḍila with grains spread over. A brief worship is performed with gandha (sandal paste) and the image sprinkled with honey, milk and ghee. The sun, moon and fire are invoked into the (three) eyes. Finally it is bathed in scented water.