Importance of ''Pradakshina'' in a Hindu temple and 17 interesting facts

open Prakaram Dravidian temple 1915 sketch

The ''Pradakshina'' (also spelled Prathakshina) in a Hindu temple  involves walking barefoot around the garbagriha or the shrine in a clock-wise fashion. The number of pradakshina or circles depends on the discretion of the devotees.   Almost every Hindu temple has a prakaram  (corridor or Pradakshina path) or more than one within the temple premises.  The pradakshina  path  around the shrine  may be an ''open one'' or  with a  ''covered roof''  and there are temples that have both open as well as closed prakara. In Tamil Nadu The Ramanatha Swamy temple of  Rameswaram  has closed   prakara(s) so are  the Nellaiappar Shiva temple of Thirunlveli and Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple. The Brihadeeswar temple at Thanjavur has an open prakara unlike the above-mentioned temples. 

Brihadeeswarar temple, Thanjavur, open prakaram.

Nellaiappar temple prakaram (closed)

Rameswaram temple, closed prakaram.

The following are interesting facts:

01. Pradakshina''  has been an integral  part of  Hindu worship in a temple and this tradition has been in vogue for centuries. The meaning of Sanskrit word ''Parikrama'' is  “the path surrounding something.” It is also also known as Pradakshina (“to the right”)  meaning  to circle or circumambulate  clock-wise ritually. The pradakshina worship ritual implies that our thoughts and actions should be centered on God. The subtle explanation is whatever we do it should be within the realm  of Dharma - following the righteous path. (just like the planets that orbit on the same path) Why  is pradakshina done clock-wise?  Right from the smallest electrons  to the planets  in the universe  every thing is  being controlled by  some force that forms the center around which they move around in the  clockwise direction. 

.clock-wise pradakshna

02. The Pradakshina worship starts  right from the flag-staff -  the Dwajasthambam  in clockwise direction; one  cycle completes upon reaching the flag-post - the starting point.  

03. Pradakhina  worship ritual should be done only after completing prayer and puja ritual in the main shrine. 

Pradakshina and positivity.

04. The number of Pradakshina depends on the wish of the devotees, it must be in odd numbers - 3, 9 and 11 (21 and 108 circles are rare).

05. Some learned  pundits say that we must do pradakshina in odd number in the case of goddesses and even number with respect to male gods. Specific number of Pradakshina is recommended,  say 7 as there are  Sapta-devtas such as  Shri Ganesh, Deity Shiva, Shriram, Deity Hanuman, Deity Datta, Shri Durga and Sri krishna.   Swayambhu Agama recommends   Pradakshina 21 times to any deity is well and good.

06. Upon completing the required number of Pradakshina, the devotee must fall prostrate (namaskaram) before the main shrine on the right side of the flag-post. Your entire body must be touching the ground. It is symbolic of total surrender to the all-pervading God. 

07. This is the reason why there are many sub shrines on the prathakshna path and they will  help us focus our attention on the almighty; the eternal truth is the almighty is the center of  main focus

08. Doing pradakshina is roughly equal to going around the fire (''Agni'') and holy trees. Devout  Hindus will never fail to go around Tulsi plant that is kept in their  house on a platform called ''Maadam''. They almost do it in the morning and also in the evening and it is done for the welfare of the family.  

09. Likewise childless  women , according to a common belief among Hindu women, particularly in the villages, will  walk barefoot  around the  Peepal tree daily  or on certain auspicious days for a particular period.  The strong belief is they will be blessed with a child.  In the interior villages of Tamil Nadu  devotees walk  barefoot around the shrine as well the tree and one can see a small shrine of God Ganesha under the Peepal tree. 

10. In the temple everything is related to the divinity in  the sanctum  or garbagriha (the most sanctified place on the temple premises) which forms the center point and devotees actually are walking barefoot around the God,  The belief is the positive energy - God's  grace  radiating from him in all direction will benefit the devotees. Your mind also  gets rejuvenated  at the end.

11. Doing Pradakshina is something like cleansing our body and soul and it should done with devotion and  dedication. Chanting Narayana or Shivaya namha  or any  short mantra like Ashtottara   is good  if visiting the Vishnu or Shiva temple, etc. 

12. From the health point of view  walking barefoot on the unpolished  rough stone floor of the temple will improve your blood circulation to a considerable degree. Chanting of mantra is a sort of meditation and this might calm your mind if agitated. If it is a big temple walking around the prakara  several times is a kind of aerobic exercise and is good for the heart. 

13. The pradakshina  must be done slowly and should not be done in a hurry. Don't ever engage in conversation while going around the shrine.

14. The  word  Pradakshina(m) (pra-da kshi na or nam) implies devotees will be blessed with healthy and prosperous life without fear and most importantly they will ultimately get salvation  

15. “Pra” implies removal of fears and worries,  “Da” (or 'TH'') refers to salvation or moksha / renunciation, “KSHI” implies curing  of all  sorts  of diseases (Sarva vyadhi nivarana), “NA (M)” suggests all round prosperity and wealth.

16. The overall Pradakshina worship is also a way of expressing our keen  desire to get  moksha (salvation; free from birth and death cycles); it is a symbol of total surrender to the lord, to be with him under his divine shadow. 

17. .Four kinds of Pradakshina:

a.  Atma Pradakshina –  We go around ourselves  and this done on completion of daily prayer, fasting, etc. It symbolizes the removal of ego from us. 

b.  Pada Pradakshina – It means devotees must go around the shrine  barefoot., preferably holding the hands in supplication.  

c.  Danda Pradakshina – A devotee is required to take a step  and  do sashtanga pranama, again take another step and do sashtang pranam (Sa ashta anga meaning  eight parts of the body touching the ground).

Anga Pradakshina. in a temple

d.  Anga Pradakshinam - This is the most difficult one, not advisable to senior  devotees. It involves a devotee lying on the floor and then roll around the shrine  with  wet clothes on.