A Hindu temple or mandir or devasthana (house of the god) is a symbolic house, seat and body of divinity for Hindus. It is a structure designed to bring human beings and gods together, using symbolism to express the ideas and beliefs of Hinduism. Hindus may have a small shrine in the home – which is the home temple – or they may visit a temple in their locality. All villages in India have at least one temple of worship. A temple may house shrines to many different gods.
We hope over time to include different personal responses from within these traditions to illustrate the diversity of views. We hope this resource will be particularly helpful to those whose school is located in an area where there a few examples of different places of worship.
Hindu Place of Worship
I love this question as for Hindus, worship is a whole-being – mind-body-spirit awareness activity! I find it easiest to drop into my connection with sacred wonder and gratitude near stretches of water, especially moving water. In India, where Hinduism began, the Mandirs (which means ‘still mind’ and is the Sanskrit name for a Hindu place of worship), did not traditionally have walls, despite ancient Hindus being extraordinary Architects! This is because for Hindus the Divine is not distant, but in every breath of air and clod of earth. So, whilst I can feel this connection anywhere, it is easiest when I am barefoot, preferably outdoors, with a breeze on my cheeks and the sound of flowing water. The next best places are on top of a mountain, in my home or in my local Mandir.
Some Hindus go every day or week, whilst others may only go on festival days or for special family thanksgiving dates such as after a wedding, new baby or even passing exams!
The correct Hindi/Sanskrit word for a Hindu Temple is ‘Mandir’ meaning ‘still mind’. The primary purpose of the Mandir is to allow each individual to leave the distractions of the outer world and find inner stillness as its name suggests. In this peaceful state visitors may tune in to a feeling of connection with divinity however their own nature and level of spiritual development allows. This last statement is crucial to understanding Hindu forms of worship.
A mandir is a super-special place for Hindus to visit. Its atmosphere has been carefully maintained for quiet reflection, and prayer. So that people can think deeply about how they are living their lives and do better. If they wish to, they can pray to particular Deities (HIndus prefer the word Deity to God, as it recognises that there are other Deities (such as Rama, Krishna, Jesus), available for people to pray to, rather than trying to force everyone to see God the same way).
Mandir is a Sanskrit (ancient Indian Language) word which means ‘Still Mind’. This is because HIndus find that it is our own busy mind that stops us listening to God’s wisdom, and advice on how to live a good day. Having a still Mind, from going to a Mandir (or doing Puja at home), helps us live a more kindly and peaceful life.
There are a few different reasons:
- One is because in Hindu culture, shoes are traditionally removed at the front door of homes and temples, as a sign of respect so as not to bring the dust and dirt of the street into people’s homes. A temple is like an extra special home, so we use the same manners.
- Secondly Shoes are often made of leather. Whilst leather is an incredibly useful thing, it is made out of something that has died. Since Hindu temples are a place to celebrate life, Hindus traditionally try to only bring things that are full of life and energy like light, water, fruit and flowers inside.
- Thirdly, taking off our shoes, is important as it allows us to enter with bare feet. Hindus think of the Earth as our mother. When we want to pray or meditate, we want to be as close to the Earth as possible. So being barefoot, allows us to feel closer to the Earth. This again links to feeling close to the natural lively energy of the earth.
Hindu traditions vary enormously across families and regions. There is not the same set ‘Holy day’ in the week for Hindus. That said, every day is dedicated to a deity so for a particular Hindu or family they may visit the Mandir on that day each week.
In addition, communities around a particular Mandir may often agree a particular day such as Saturday or Sunday for a weekly service and community gathering but this is more practical logistics to ensure they meet and connect rather than religious prescription for a given day. Some Hindus will visit a Mandir every day on their way to work or will light a sacred flame at their family home Mandir.
Aside from a regular Mandir attendance practice, Hindus will also gather at the Mandir on special festival days and invite family members to attend for special thanksgiving services for such rites of passage as weddings, birthdays, graduations, etc.