Why Hinduism Prescribes Idol Worship


Hinduism has been described not as a religion, but as way of life practiced from times immemorial as denoted by the term ‘Sanatana Dharma’. While most religions would accept God as the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the universe, every religion talks of the ways in which man can establish connection with the divine. The universe having emanated from the infinite energy or God, man has also come from God. When everything is bound to perish and dissolved one day, the cycle of the universe is all about going back to the source. When the relationship between God and man are inseparable and indisputable, the true essence of life is enjoying the sense of oneness with the divine and looking for ways to go beyond the confines of the limited human self to experience infinite power, infinite energy and infinite bliss.

The essentials of Hinduism stems from the belief that man is immortal. Man is composed of something much more than the body and mind that are bound to perish. Physical death is not the end of man and life stretches beyond death. Therefore, religion exhorts man to stretch beyond the day to day mundane life of just eating, sleeping, recreating and enjoying the physical world. This means attempting to enjoy the infinite self in some way or the other. The awareness of the infinity in man and the attempts directed towards raising beyond the senses is believed to pave way for permanent state of happiness enhanced by a sense of freedom and a relief from the sufferings and troubles of the world. It means that the world is there, but you are not under the illusion to believe the world. You are woken up into the belief that you are infinite and is not bound by the worldly experiences and existence. How to attain this is the question.

From birth to death man experiences the universe with his five senses. The data supplied by the five senses are the primary sources of knowledge about the world. This sensory data can tell man about the properties of the world around him, but not about the nature of divinity that is beyond the purview of the senses. Senses cannot perceive the infinity. However, there is no way man can suddenly escape into the ultimate reality overtaking the senses. Man needs a ladder, a support and a middle world to peep into the ultimate reality. This is the starting point of idol worship.

An idol is like a telescope that helps man visualize divinity at least in part. Infinity or almighty God should be necessarily capable of listening to the prayers of man. It can respond to the queries of man, it can answer his prayers, it can reveal its true nature to man if it wills to do so. Prayers invoke the presence of God in the idol that an individual likes to worship. In fact, the new idol bought for Ganesh Chaturti celebrations is immersed in the waters after worship meaning that the arrival of Ganesha raises man’s awareness of the true nature of divine and he is woken up into the awareness of perceiving the infinity. Thus, idol worship has two justifications namely to start his spiritual journey man needs something that can be felt through his senses and secondly God can descend into an idol to interact with man and reveal himself eventually.

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