The Concept of Pradakshina
by Vikas Kamat
According to a Hindu legend, once Lord Shiva wanted his two sons to get "worldly experience" and asked them take a "tour of the universe". While Shanmugam spent decades traveling the world on his peacock, lazy son Ganesh just walked a full circle around his father and is believed to have explained "since the world is contained within you, I have already encircled the world"!
This funny story is the essence of the concept of Pradakshina or circumambulation in Indian culture. You take something sacred, something powerful and encircle it in devotion, symbolic of its consummation. For example, the newly weds walk around the fire, housewives circle the temple of Tulasi, and devotees circle the sanctum sanctorum in a temple. The act of Pradakshina has the connotation of honor.
Types of Pradakshina
While walking is the most common offering of Pradakshina, some devotees roll as well. Extreme vows of Pradakshina involve self-humiliation in temples by rolling over the temple trash and in wet clothes. The path of Pradakshina is always clockwise.
Folks who cannot walk around the temple (for accessibility problems, crowds or other reasons) often perform "auto-pradakshina" by going around themselves -- this is like glorifying the God within oneself.
Many people take vows to perform pradakshina rounds if their requests for divine help at the time of need are met. So it is common to see Hindus perform 10, 108, or 1000 rounds after a successful surgery, after a wedding or after the birth of a male child.
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