Idol Worship : What Every Person in the Age of Science Should Know

Entering Poorngarh
Entering Poorngarh

Idol worshipers are always looked down as ‘tribal people’ by the progressive ones. Certainly, idol worship is probably one of the oldest forms of worship and is condemned much these days. Western world especially associates idol worship with lack of awareness, education and scientific mind set. While I am exploring philosophy and spirituality for a few years, I was personally never fond of idol worship. What I saw last week, gave me a totally different perspective.


Floral Decoration at Pallinath Temple
Floral Decoration at Pallinath Temple

I happened to spend my last weekend in Konkan, the coastal area of Maharashtra state of India. I and my wife were in Konkan to perform Kirtan in a small temple in Poorngarh. I have visited Konkan for quite many times but this was first time that I interacted people over there. I do Kirtans because it takes me closer to people and gives a platform to share my thoughts and no-thoughts. It was quite surprising and delightful to see hundreds of the devotees singing and dancing along with us. After the Kirtan was over, people there were still singing and dancing, not bothered about time. They were all dancing and rejoicing because it was birthday of Lord Hanuman, someone whom they had never seen in their lives. I somewhere realized that we have lost our ability to rejoice without a reason. We always need reasons and causes; we do nothing if there is no cause and hence, our life is controlled by the causes.

Soon after the Kirtan, we headed to Deole, a small village in Kokan where my wife’s grandmother has a typical ‘Konkani’ house with mango, coconut, and cashew and many more plants in the yard. After reaching Deole, we had lunch and retired for rest as I was driving for a long time the earlier night. After a bit of rest, we had a walk around this small village, contained wholly in a radius of 1 km. This tiny village has four temples, clean and maintained very well, decorated with fresh flowers, with proper arrangements to prevent dogs and other stray animals from entering.

Idol of Lord Pallinath
Idol of Lord Pallinath

In the night, all of us went to a temple some 15 km away as they had celebrations going on. Though I otherwise avoid going to temples, I was quite interested to see the celebrations. Within half an hour we reached this temple of Lord Pallinath. The arrangement of flowers and earthen lamps was enough to take me to a different world. The bright yellow and amber color of petals, the array of earthen lamps, boxes of sweets, devotees running around to see that everything is going fine, bright colors of cloths of gods…everything was heavenly. Inside, there was the idol, lit by lamps in the front.

After the Darshan, we sat in the assembly hall and prayers started. The temple had Tabla, Organ and other musical instruments. Soon, hundreds of the devotees started singing the prayers and this was the point which completely transported me. Hundreds of voice coming together to sing one song.  I had learnt from my wife that there were quarrels on going between the trustees of the temple. I wondered what could be the intensity of these prayers had there been no conflicts! Idol worship is beautiful…..

I know, idol worship has raised hundreds of problems in front of us. Honestly, we have built up same problems in modern social structure also and hence, I think, no point in blaming idol worship. A very commonly raised point is exploiting people based on their belief in idol worship. The solution to stop this exploitation is not condemning idol worship. Doctors are also exploiting patients every day on a much larger quantum; are we going to ban study of medicine? It is worth considering that there are always some people who take the benefit of their position in terms of resources and start exploiting others. Same has happened with idol worship. Should we not spare idol worship from the condemnation?

My time spent in spiritual world tells me that idol worship is the most blissful way towards self-realization.  Someone will certainly raise the question- ‘So many people are worshiping idols, why no one reaches the state of realization?’

This question is as foolish as asking- ‘So many boys and girls are going to school and why only a fraction of them get Nobel Prize?’

Attaining self-realization is certainly more difficult than winning a Nobel Prize. People are worshipping idols for ages but only handful of them have attained enlightenment simply because most of them do it as a custom and not out of their longing and love. Anything when reduced to a custom or a formality loses its value and potential to bring about a change. Same has happened with everything- education, values, religions, meditation; and idol worship is no exception.

The prayers in the temple continued for half an hour. Out of two hundred devotees there, some were singing because they were supposed to sing; a few had already left for the dinner; few were physically present, but mentally absent, may be wandering hundreds of miles away; and yes, there were one or two of them, pouring out their hearts while singing, drenched in devotion. I guess, they were these one or two of them who brought in the magic and divinity in the atmosphere. I think, because of these two devotees, who were singing from their heart, the temple was electrified, with a delicate field which could transport someone with a bit of awareness into an altogether different world.

It is very easy to condemn a system, idol worship in this case. It is quite easy to offer an alternate system be condemning the existing system. It is impossible to keep the system intact, away from the hands of exploiters. Though crippled by exploiters, idol worship still offers the possibility of creating this delicate electric field, which I am afraid alternate systems proposed by progressive people cannot offer.








5 responses to “Idol Worship : What Every Person in the Age of Science Should Know”

  1. Darshan Jadhav Avatar
    Darshan Jadhav

    But till the end i didnt understand what exactly made you realise that idol worship is good?

    1. Mandar Karanjkar Avatar

      Hi Darshan.
      In this article, I do not want to conclude that idol worship is good; or bad for that matter. I just wanted to point out that it is also a way towards self discovery. Though to a layman it looks tribal, those who do it out of feeling and devotion, can get transformed!

      Thanks for comment

  2. Devayani Avatar

    Moreover this article clearly convey the message that it is better to continue the time tested spiritual practice than to venture for sophisticated novelty. Those who never experienced the spiritual bliss cannot understand the value of prayer or worshiping. An analysis of Worship across the globe would reveal that the most popular are those reformed from our own system.

    1. Mandar Karanjkar Avatar

      Great comment, Devayani!
      I totally agree with what you have said about idol worship and prayer.


  3. Amol Jeurkar Avatar

    Good article!Idol is essentially means to transform the mind to infinity.Darshan of Dagdusheth Ganpati with its granduer,gold & silver ornaments is perfect example!

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