Ālayam deva śarīrah bhūtam – Temple is the physical form of the deity.
Hindu temples are not mere places of worship. They are the structure where the particular deity ‘lives’ in subtle form, literally accepting the worship.
As indicated by the word ‘Kovil’ (‘Ko’ + ‘il’ = house of king) and ‘Devālaya’ (= House of God), a temple is venerated as the house of God, the King of kings.
When we pay a visit to someone superior, or highly placed in society, we have to observe a certain code of conduct. Just so, when we visit the Lord of the universe in a temple, we have to observe certain etiquette, norms, and decorum.
We have to bear in mind that there are Daivāpacāras, conducts which may offend the deity in the temple. Consequently, it may bring misery and suffering to the transgressor. Some of it are as follow:
- Not observing personal, environmental and ceremonial cleanliness
- Not attending the important festival of the temple
- Not making obeisance and circumambulations
- Treating the Prasadam / offering carelessly and without respect.
- Not offering the best kind of things even though one can afford do so
- Engaging in secular and non-religious activities in the presence of the deity
- Boisterous behavior
- Observing caste restrictions
- Misusing the things belonging to the temple
- Before entering the temple, please salute the Gopuram.
- Do not step on the stone.
- Remove shoes and keep it at the designated area.
- Wash your legs, hands and sprinkle a little water on your head.
- Before saluting the main deity, seek permission from the Dvārapālakas.
- Please do not enter the Sanctum Sanctorum (Garbhagriha) or other shrines.
- Please do not touch the deities or lean over into the shrines.
- Do not step beyond the Dvārapālakas (and not past the steps where there are no Dvārapālakas) of the Sanctum Sanctorum.
- Do not walk across in front of the Vahana.
- Please do not block the central aisle of the main temple.
- Do not point your feet towards the deity when seated on the ground.
- Do Pradakṣiṇā (circumambulation) of the Sanctum Sanctorum, 3, 5 or 7 times, to get the blessings of the Lord.
- Please go around clockwise, starting at the left side of the sanctum and complete on the right side and come to the front of the Lord. Do not cross if the main deity is Śiva.
- Please do not do a Pradakṣiṇā during a puja ritual.
- The form of Pradakṣiṇā may be triangular (for Devi), crescent-like (for Sivalinga) and circular for other deities.
- The number of Pradakṣiṇā to various deities are:
~ One for Devi
~ Three for Ganapati
~ Three for Siva
~ Four for Visnu
~ Seven for Surya
- Do not prostrate to anyone else in the temple premises (including priests).
- Prostrate to the deity from a place outside the Dhvajastambha or Kodimaram (flag column) towards the North, taking care that the feet do not point in the direction of any of the deities.
- Male devotees can do the asthanga pranama (done with eight limbs viz, the two feet, the two knees, the two arms, the chest and the head touching the ground).
- Female devotees should do panchanga pranama (done with five limbs, viz, the two knees, the two hands and the head touching the ground).
- It is customary to offer something to the Lord when one visits a temple.
- Whatever offered to the Lord must be in good condition and if possible the best that you can afford. Avoid the rotten, dirty, or polluted things.
- You can bring fresh fruits, milk, garlands, or flowers and give it to the temple priest to do the offering. Alternatively, you can drop coin/cash into the Hundil box.
- Naivediyam must be cooked in the temple kitchen. Therefore, do not bring food cooked outside for offering.
- Please take a bath and wear clean clothes before going to a temple.
- Women should wear traditional Indian clothes, such as saree, Punjabi dress, or pavadai tavani in a modest way. For safety, please avoid excessive jewelry and revealing attire which may cause any distraction to others.
- Men should wear shirt or jippa with long trousers or dhoti. Hats and caps of any form should be avoided.
- Please avoid black colour attire (except in Ayyappan temples).
- Please remain silent during the pooja and other rituals. Avoid chatting.
- Please avoid public displays of affection and physical contact with the opposite gender minding that you are in places of purity and sanctity.
- Please restrain your children from running around, playing or causing disturbance to others.
- Please help the Temple to maintain its campus clean and tidy. Do not litter.
- Treat the temple things with care and respect.
- Videography and photography are not allowed inside the Temple unless specifically allowed.
- Please switch your mobile phones and beepers to vibration mode.
- No pets are allowed inside the Temple.
- No inappropriate or loud music shall be played in the Temple.
- Sale of books, tapes, or other material to raise funds for any charity within or outside the temple is not allowed without prior approval from the temple management.
- Do not eat or drink in the main hall but at the allotted dining area.
- Alcohol, smoking, and chewing gum are not allowed anywhere in the Temple complex and surrounding areas.