Kumbhabhishekam – The Hindu Ritual of Temple Consecration

What is Kumbha Abishekam?

Kumbha abhishekam (Kumbhabhishekam) is a ritual performed in every Hindu temple once in twelve years.  This renews the divinity of the existing idols of God. It is the belief of the gods that the tower urns are also divine and that one can receive the grace of God through the vision of the tower without going into the temple.

Kumbabishekam Srirangam 2015 Kumbabishekam Srirangam Golden Vimana Abisheka Arathi
Kumbabishekam Srirangam 2015 Kumbabishekam Srirangam Golden Vimana Abisheka Arathi

Symbolically, the Rajagopuram represents the feet of the deity. A devotee bows at the feet of the Lord at the entrance as he steps into the temple and proceeds towards the sanctum sanctorum, leaving behind the world of worries. On a cosmic level, the temple tower acted as a lightning conductor in olden days, as it was the highest structure in that area. And the towers on top of the altar where the deities are installed, are comparatively shorter than RajaGopuram and are called Sannidhi (Altar) Gopuram or Vimanams.

Then after 177 years, ‘Kumbabishekam’ was performed to the temple on April 3, 1980 by the then district collector Gangappa. Next ‘Kumbabishekam’ was done in 1997 and now consecration is scheduled on February 5, 2020.
1,000-year-old Big Temple’s consecration in February

Kumbhabhishekam (reconsecration) is the process of infusing divinity and spiritual power into the vigrahas (images of the deities) of a temple. This is a special event that is done once every 12 years. The Kumbhabhishekam will be performed for all the deities and religious structures of the during the one-week period.

Kumbhabhishekam being performed on a temple
Kumbhabhishekam being performed on a temple
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The temple consecration is called the kumbhabhishekam. Literally, this term means the “sprinkling” (abhishekam) of the temple with sacred waters carried in a “water-pot” (kumbha). This is the most important ritual in the life of a newly built temple.

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The consecration rites extend over several days. The first rite in the series is the honoring of Ganesha, the Lord of Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles. There will also be prayers to the earth (bhumi puja) for the support and blessing of the new building. The priests will tie a thread of blessing and protection (raksha bandhanam) around their wrists as they commit themselves to the rituals ahead. Sometimes grains will be planted and sprouted to assure the fruitfulness of the rites.

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The main rites take place in a large tent erected adjacent to the new temple. The tent becomes a yajnashala, a “House of the Fire Offerings,” where the powerful rites of consecration are performed around the brick fire altars that have been constructed for the occasion. Surrounding the fire altars are hundreds of kumbhas, or copper pots, sponsored by various members of the community. Each pot is topped with mango leaves and a coconut and each sits on a bed of rice, the picture of which is a symbol of sheer auspiciousness.

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At the brick fire altars sit the participating brahmin priests or acharyas, the learned ones, who kindle the fires and make offerings and libations into the fire. They chant the mantras and sacred texts that invoke the Divine presence to the fire altar and to the pots of water to be consecrated. It is through these powerful words, mantras, that the Divine is made present. The “root mantras” (mula mantras) are different for each deity installed in the temple. The recitation of the mantras and the hymns required for these consecrations often takes hours.

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Along with the offerings of words, offerings of grain, flowers, spices, honey, and many other substances are poured forth. All are fed into the sacred flames along with ladles of vegetable oil, often used to replace the traditional ghee, clarified butter. When the offerings are complete and all the mantras have been uttered, the priests and the community stand for the purnahuti, the ritual of completion.

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The rites of consecrating a temple include and parallel the rites of consecrating its primary images (murtis) of the gods. At the conclusion of the rites, priests will circle the temple in festival procession bearing the largest of the kumbha pots on their heads. Hoisted to the temple roof on hydraulic lifts, they sprinkle the waters of consecration over the cupolas and on the eager crowd assembled below.

Kumbabishekam Srirangam Rajagopura Kalasam
Srirangam Temple Gopuram

What are the various types of Kumbhabhishekam?

There are many types of consecration which are described as follows:

  • Avarttam – Consecration of idols to a new temple in one place.
  • Anavartham – Reconstruction and consecration of a temple without pooja, even though it is ruined by rivers and seas.
  • Punaravarttam – If the sanctum sanctorum, prakaram, tower etc. have been repaired, the temple will be renovated and consecrated with Ashta Bandhanam Sarti.
  • Antaritam – The junction made for the purpose in case of any mishap in the temple.
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Classification by number of containers:

  • Eka Kundam – Setting up one kundam
  • Panchagni – Setting up five kundams.
  • Navagni – Setting up nine kundams
  • Uttama Paksham – Setting up 33 kundams

There is a rule as to how many times the sacrifices made for the consecration must be made. It is customary to do it for: 2 kalams, 4 kalams, 8 kalams, or 12 kalams.

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What are the rituals part of Kumbhabhishekam ceremony?

  • Anujna – {Obtaining permission} Selecting and appointing a priest with the Lord’s permission to do this work.
  • Sankalpam – Asking for our needs to the Lord.
  • Utensil Pooja – Performing poojas for the Lord in order to clean the utensils of the respective utensils.
  • Ganapati Pooja – Worship of Ganapati to complete the action.
  • Varuna Puja – Worshiping Lord Varuna and the Sapta river deities to cleanse the place.
  • Pancha Gavyam – A ritual performed with cow’s milk, yoghurt, ghee, green water, cow dung, etc. for purification of the soul.
  • Vastu Shanti – Worshiping the gods and performing kumbabhishekam without any hindrance; The act of preventing the act and the doer from being disturbed.
  • Entrance Sacrifice – To give due pleasure to the Dik paalas in the eight diks and make them stay in their respective place in order to prevent the evil angels from coming
  • Ceremony – Obtaining permission from the Ashta Dik paalas and taking soil from a clean place and anointing it in the abyss.
  • Germination – germination by sowing seeds in the soil taken. Of these 12 are the worship of the Sun, Vaikarthan, Vivasvathan, Marthandan, Baskaran, Ravi, Lokaprakasan, Lokasakshi, Trivikraman, Adityan, Suriyaan, Amsumali, Divakaran and the Moon.
  • Rakshabandhanam – Insulation in order to prevent any disturbance to the priest who performs the deeds and to the Lord who performs them. Magically tying the bracelet rope in his hand.
  • Kumbhalankaram – Adorning the urn
  • Kalakarshnam – Magical summoning of the power present in the idol to kumbha.
  • Yaga shala Pravesham – Bringing the urns to the Yakshala.
  • Surya, Soma Puja – Worship of the Sun and Moon at the Yakshala.
  • Mandapa Puja – Performing Puja at the mandapa which is set up.
  • Bimba Suddhi – Magical cleansing of idols.
  • Naadi Santhanam – Connection to the Yakshala place and the Moola Thirumani with darba rope, gold wire, silver wire or silk rope. Adding a portion of the power of the Lord to the idols through this link
  • Vishesha Sandhi – Giving meaning to all the 36 philosophical angels, giving meaning to all the Atma Pitrs in the world.
  • Bhuta Suddhi – The magical transformation of this Bhuta-human body
  • Sparshashuddhi – Adding 36 Principles from Sacrifice to Source Idols.
  • Ashta Bandhanam – The combination of the eight elements of this medicine with the murti and the peeta.
  • Purnahuti – Completion of the Yajna.
  • Kumbabhishekam – The anointing of the respective idols with the urn of water kept for the idols on the road as Kudamuzhukku. Thus the idol rises in that idol.
  • Mahabhishekam – The formal anointing of the original idol after the completion of Kumbabhishekam.
  • Mandalabhisekam – Doing special anointing pujas for 48. days to make the Lord who is enshrined in the idol as a newborn child to be at full power.
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Why is Kumbhabhishekam done?

It is a ritual is held to sanctify the crown of the temple (Kumbha shikhara) with spiritually charged water. It is performed to consecrate new shrines or re-consecrate existing shrines after a renovation or every twelve years. Kumbhabhishekam is a Hindu temple consecration ceremony that involves sprinkling (abhishekam) the temple with sacred waters brought in a water pot (kumbha). The consecration ceremony takes several days and begins with honoring Ganesha and praying to the Earth (bhumi puja). The central events take place in a large tent by the temple and include a fire altar ceremony, offerings of words and goods, and a closing ceremony, purnahuti or completion.

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Benefits of Kumbhabhishekam

The Kumbhabhishekam ceremony has everlasting effect on the entire society. The Aagama sastra says:

Sarvaroga nivirtyartham, sarva yaaga phalapradam,
Sarva sampathkaram nrunam putrapoutrabhi vardhanam

It is conducted with the sole purpose of eradicating all illness, obtaining good benefits from various Yagaas, deriving rich benefits for the well being and for the health propagation of the progeny.

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Indeed, the Kumbhabhishekam brings all round prosperity not only to any particular group of devotees, but also to the society as a whole. Through the participation of the community, the powers of the chanted mantras are multiplied thereby benefitting the devotee and their community.

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Symbolically, the Rajagopuram represents the feet of the deity. A devotee bows at the feet of the Lord at the entrance as he steps into the temple and proceeds towards the sanctum sanctorum, leaving behind the world of worries. On a cosmic level, the temple tower acted as a lightning conductor in olden days, as it was the highest structure in that area. And the towers on top of the altar where the deities are installed, are comparatively shorter than RajaGopuram and are called Sannidhi (Altar) Gopuram or Vimanams.

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Kalasams are assembled set of concentric cone, cylinder and globe shaped metallic structures which are installed on top of the Gopurams. The Sannidhi Gopurams or Vimanams have just a single Kalasam, whereas the Rajagopurams have multiple Kalasams. The Kalasams are usallly made of an alloy of five metallic elements, such as Copper, Gold, Silver, Brass and Lead. They are filled with seeds of essential grains and pulses, such as rice, millets, corn etc., and completely sealed with special compounds. The seeds are very well preserved for years, through natural irradiation from Sun, against infestation (from within the grains) and decaying. In case of need the stored seeds from the Kalasams are to be used for re-germination and development. Traditionally, the Kalasams are refurbished and refilled with new selected grains, about once in 12 years.

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BENEFITS OF KUMBHABHISHEKAM

The Kumbhabhishekam ceremony has everlasting effect on the entire society. The Aagama sastra says:

Sarvaroga nivirtyartham, sarva yaaga phalapradam,
Sarva sampathkaram nreenam putrapoutrabhi vardhanam

It is conducted with the sole purpose of eradicating all illness, obtaining good benefits from various Yagaas, deriving rich benefits for the well being and for the health propagation of the progeny.

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Indeed, the Kumbhabhishekam brings all round prosperity not only to any particular group of devotees, but also to the society as a whole. With above said, we invite you to partake in this spiritual event and receive divine energy that will permeate the temple. There are many opportunities where the devotee can touch the Gopura Kalasas & Offer Navarathnams to Gopura Kalasas, Offer Oil in their own hands to Ganapati and Shiva inside their shrines and perform some of the pujas throughout the five day event. Through the participation of the community, the powers of the chanted mantras are multiplied thereby benefitting the devotee and their community.

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What is Ashtabandhanam?

Ashta means 8 in Sanskrit and Bandhanam means tying or fixing. Ashtabandhanam is the process of affixing an icon to its pedestal (peetham) with a clay-like paste made of 8 specific herbs mixed with wood lac, limestone powder, resin, red ochre, beeswax and butter. The paste is formed into long rolls about 2 cm thick and applied directly around the base of the icon, so that the cemented joints become watertight. This process is believed to keep the icon rejuvenated for a period of 12 years. When the Bandhanam is performed with gold (Swarnabandhanam), the rejuvenating power of the deity is believed to last for a period of 100 years.

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The ”Ashtabandhanam” paste is pliable like rubber. Through repeated interactions with abhishekha dravyams – materials used to bathe the icon during daily worship like water, milk, buttermilk, sandal paste and oils – and atmospheric oxidants, the paste loses its flexibility, becomes rigid and gets riddled with a lot of fissures. Through these fissures, the abhisheka dravyams percolate and attack the Yantra embedded under the peetham, obliterating the Bijaksharamantras — mantras of sacred syllables (bija) — that are inscribed on the Yantra, and this is believed to contribute to the lowering of the pranic spiritual power of the deity with the passage of time.

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What is consecration of a temple?

In most South Indian Hindu temples around the world, Kumbhabhishekam, or the temple’s consecration ceremony, is done once every 12 years. It is usually done to purify the temple after a renovation or simply done to renew the purity of the temple.

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What is inside Kalasam? What is the significance of kalasam? What should be kept in Kalash?

Kalasam is made of five metals combine to call impon. 1) Gold. 2) Silver. 3) Brass. 4) copper.

Kalashams on top of a Temple
Kalashams on top of a Temple

Kalasams are assembled set of concentric cone, cylinder and globe shaped metallic structures which are installed on top of the Gopurams. The Sannidhi Gopurams or Vimanams have just a single Kalasam, whereas the Rajagopurams have multiple Kalasams. The Kalasams are usallly made of an alloy of five metallic elements, such as Copper, Gold, Silver, Brass and Lead. They are filled with seeds of essential grains and pulses, such as rice, millets, corn etc., and completely sealed with special compounds. The seeds are very well preserved for years, through natural irradiation from Sun, against infestation (from within the grains) and decaying. In case of need the stored seeds from the Kalasams are to be used for re-germination and development.   Traditionally, the Kalasams are refurbished and refilled with new selected grains, about once in 12 years.

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In how many years is Kumbabishekam done once?

As per the customs of Hinduism, ‘kumbhabhishekam’ is done once in 12 years.

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Kumbhabhishekam Video

Footage of the Kumbhabhishekam of the 14th century Sri Vidyashankara Temple at Sringeri by the 36th and present Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Dakshinamnaya Sri Sharada Peetham, Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamiji on the 15th February 2012.

Published by The Cowherd

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