Temple Etiquettes


இப்பதிவை தமிழில் படிக்க இங்கே கிளிக் செய்யவும்.

Ours is probably one of those rare religions that doesn’t insist on too many rules or restrictions on worshipping practices. Our religious practitioners can be of any type – the temple goers/non-goers, the chanters/non-chanters, the ritual followers/non-followers, the vegetarians/non-vegetarians and everyone in-between. When a religion is as old as ours, it does not look closely on following the rules. Like a kind mother, it also looks away from our misdoings .

However, it is prudent to adhere to some guidelines lest the fine thread that is linking us to our roots ceases to bind us. We have already violated several regulations and guidelines and reaping the consequences for the same. As stated by our several preceptors and Gurus, shastras and rituals never go against science. Or common sense. So, ignoring them as misconceptions, superstitions or rejecting them as  anti-modern will only bring us more agony as experienced in several instances already.

One of the simplest gesture on the part of a believer is to visit a temple. We see people thronging to temples for various reasons – to get out of an adverse situation like debt, sickness, problems etc; to thank the Lord for achieving a particular milestone; for providing offerings; to attend temple festivals; to attain peace of mind; the list goes on. No matter what the reason is, once we plan to visit a temple it is better to adhere to some temple etiquettes that will maximise the benefits for such a visit.

Temple of South India

Here are some temple etiquettes for those visiting a temple:

1. Maintain hygiene

Ideally this should be self-explanatory, but in the current setting it is worth a mention. It is important to be clean (both body and mind) while visiting a temple. A temple is a congregation of people and it is important that we don’t make anyone uncomfortable or worse, sick. The ideal time to visit a temple is early morning after a shower.

2. Follow the dress code

For the most part, we plan our temple visits ahead. Hence it is preferable to wear suitable traditional attire replete with facial markings (naamam, holy ash, sandal or kumkum).  A temple is clearly a place where the presiding deity is king and we are his subjects. It is necessary to show Him due respect by wearing the right attire as well as displaying the right conduct. Excessively expensive costumes and ornaments can be avoided. Also,  wearing dirty or torn clothes is frowned upon – won’t this show the king in bad light?

3. Carry some offerings to the Lord

According to our Shastras, we need to take something along whenever we visit the temple, the elderly, the sick or children.  Carrying flowers, tulsi leaves, accepted food offerings etc.,  are ideal. In fact there are several temples today which struggle to light the lamps on a daily basis. So we can even offer oil/ghee or other similar items to fulfil the needs of the temple.

4. Do not get distracted

Each of us visit a temple for a specific purpose.  So, the focus must be on the Lord throughout.  It is not the time to check our phones, or observe the people around us or engage in gossip or small talk. Even if there is a long wait time in the temples, we can spend the time in meditation or  chant suitable hymns (shlokas) as a group.  Once we start, others will automatically join our group. 

5. Do physical service

While the economic conditions of several temples leaves a lot to be desired, the most important shortage today in even economically better temples is man-power shortage.  It is relatively easy to find a donor today than finding someone to carry the deity along the pathways for a festival or cleaning the temple premises or cooking prasada (holy food). So, if you have some time available at your hands, please engage in some physical work near your local temple (or family temple). Activities can include, making garlands, applying kolam in front of the deities, cleaning, helping in the temple kitchen, chanting, feeding the cows etc.

6. Observe the history of the temple

Most of our temples are several centuries old (in fact some are several thousands of years old) and each of them have a unique history associated with it. It is important to know the significance of the temple before visiting the same. This will help us appreciate the temple better.  Each temple is a historic treasure trove with links to several epics and puranas that happened several millennia ago. It will also be fascinating to the kids  to relate to various events by looking at the sculptures and other structures within the temple. As a result, the memory of the temple will remain with them forever.

7. Research the temple to know its special procedures

Finally, there are specific protocols associated with each temple and it is important to know about those before visiting them.  For example, some temples have very specific opening and closing times, some temples restrict men from wearing shirts, some offerings and/or flowers are not allowed in some temples and in some there are specific areas only in which prostrations are allowed.  Learn the protocols in advance so that the time is well-spent inside the premises.

I hope you find these guidelines on temple etiquettes useful while visiting the temples and I hope you receive all you desire and deserve through the blessings of the lord.

If you have any additional pointers, please do add them in the comments section!

Author Details

Rangarajan has been blogging for over 12 years now on various topics. With Thedal, he becomes one with the universe and he is hoping that his search will help him discover the eternal truth.  Please join him as he traverses through the universe across temples, philosophies and science!

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