Ashtottaram 49) OṀ ĀLAYABHŨMYAI NAMAH:
Ashtottaram 49) OṀ (AUM)-AA-LAYA-BHOO-MYAI—NA-MA-HA
ॐ आलयभूम्यै नमः
(Ālayam: Temple; house of God, the abode)
Alayam is a word derived from Sanskrit, meaning a sanctified and pure place of living, where Gods and Goddesses are consecrated in the form of images with powerful Veda-mantras according to the Vedic traditions.
The temple is a link between man and God, between earthly life and the divine, between the actual and the ideal. As such it has got to be symbolic. The history of mankind has shown that man cannot live without God. ‘If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him’ declared, Voltaire, a French philosopher, and writer. Recent polls suggest that even 60-75% of scientists believe in God and attend their churches.
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Atheists, while not believing in God, also agree that there may be some higher power than humans. Belief in God, in a cosmic power or cosmic Law, in a superhuman Spirit or Being, is basic to all cultures. It is as if it were in the very blood of mankind. Once this fact is recognized, it becomes irrelevant whether this belief has been brought about by man’s awe, wonder, and fear of the powers of nature, or by the teachings of god-men who are supposed to have had mystical experiences of that God.
Man is human and not divine. This is so, at least, as long as he is conscious of his frailties and impulses. It is exactly because of this that he turns towards the Divine in times of need. Though the Divine transcends all temporal limitations, the human, needs a temporal setup that can help him to visualize the Divine or establish contact with it. This is precisely where a symbol or an image or a place of worship comes to his rescue.
All religions have their sacred places, places of worship. All words that denote such places of worship, etymologically speaking, mean more or less, the same thing. Devālaya means- a house of God. Temple and Synagogue mean- a building for religious exercises and a house for communal worship. A Church also means the same thing. A Masjid (Mosque) is a place of prostration before God.
Temples do not seem to have existed during the Vedic age. The view is that yāgaśāla of the Vedic period gradually got metamorphosed into temples. Considering the vast size of our country, it is remarkable that the building of temples has progressed more or less on a set pattern because there is a basic philosophy behind the temple. The architecture and the style of the temple symbolically represent our gross human body. As the saying goes, ‘deho devālayaha’ meaning- the body is the temple.
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The temple also represents the subtle body with the seven psychic centers or chakras. Broadly speaking, temples are of northern and southern styles. These are nāgara (northern), drāviḋa (southern), and vesara (as a combination of the two). There is a comprehensive text called the Vāstu Sāstra laying down the formal architectural styles, and it has its sources in the sūtrās, purāṇās, āgamās and Bṛuhat Saṃhita. The temple helps us as a means of crossing the ocean of saṃsāra (transmigratory existence).
Thus, the temple was the all-in-all of the social life of our country for centuries and our country is thus ‘Ālaya Bhūmi’.