Breathing Life into statues at the Edinburgh Hindu Mandir - Shipra Kholi
[In 1986 the Hindu community were offered a derelict church by the Edinburgh District Council for use as a dedicated temple: the refurbished building opened it’s doors in October 1989. However at first the Mandir had no temple priest, wasn’t dedicated, and statues hadn’t been installed. This all changed two or three years ago, when the Mandir was entirely completed, and statues were installed from India.]
If you’re going to the Mandir specially, your conditioning comes into play, and seeing photos is not [enough when] you’re used to seeing statues… so we preferred to go to the Glasgow temple then, to get the feel of a Mandir. But two years ago, we got all the murtis, the statues from India. [When they arrive they’re just statues, not gods, so the community had a ceremony] it’s called Prana Pratistha, you are actually putting prana, which means life, into the statues. We had heard about this ceremony, but we had never seen it, because all the temples in India were made a long, long time ago. [The ceremony lasted for a week, full of rituals, mantras and pujas. During the week the statues were blindfolded] you can’t look God directly in the eye [during Prana pratistha] the force is too strong. [At the end of the week] all the blindfolds were opened. And nobody was allowed to look, you had to close your eyes… I’d never seen anything like that. That’s when they become God, otherwise you would just be praying to some statues.
In the South, they still have these massive temples that are dedicated to only Vishnu, only Shiva or Ganesha. It’s more modern, especially in the North, that you have more than one God in the same [Mandir]. And in Edinburgh it totally makes sense, because you have just one temple, you can’t have separate ones [for each god]; that way you can include all the different communities as well. And even now they’re doing festivals of different communities, all the time, everybody’s welcome. [In the Edinburgh Mandir] the main deity is Radha Krishna, but you have the other gods, and Krishna and Rama are the human incarnations of Vishnu. [In] this Mandir, specifically, we have a certain order [to the gods]. Ganesha, the elephant god, is the first one. Before doing anything, even a puja, before starting a business, before starting school - you always pray to Ganesha. Because he removes the hurdles in anything. And then you have his dad, Shiva, and mum Pavati, and then the goddesses, we have Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, Sararwati, the goddess of knowledge, and Durga, the mother god. Then Krishna and Radha, then Rama and his family, and then - it’s Venkateswara Balaji, that’s from the south, although again he’s a form of Vishnu, but that’s the south Indian word - him and two of his wives are the only statues that are black. Then the next one is Hanuman, the monkey god, that’s for success.