The practice of idol worship among Hindus has been a subject of debate and misinterpretation over the centuries. Idol worship has been condemned in many religions. But among the Hindus, idol worship has been a practice since a very long time.
So, why do Hindus worship idols? We are sure many of you must have pondered over this question and not found satisfactory answers. So, let us find out why there is the practice of idol worship followed in Hinduism.
An idol is an image or statue of a deity fashioned to be an object of worship. In this sense an idol represents or signifies the deity. An idol, in Sanskrit is also known as murti or pratima which means the ‘form’ or ‘manifestation’. So, you may say that an idol is a symbolic representation of the deity being worshipped.
So, the question now arises that why do people need to worship the symbolic representation of God? Let us find out. Mental Association Of Humans Going by the laws of out mental associations, we humans tend to associate the idea of infinity with material objects like the endless blue sky. Similarly we tend to connect our ideas of holiness and spirituality with our images of temples or mosques or churches or wherever we pray. The same idea is true for idol worship. The Hindus have associated the ideas of holiness, truth, purity etc with certain symbolic representations. These representations are nothing but the idols of various Gods and Goddesses. The idols are the materialistic or the physical existence of the Supreme Transcendental Being.
Idol Worship- The Lowest Stage?
Vedanta envisages that idol worship is only the lowest or the first stage of realising God. An idol is the physical image of the Divine. It helps human beings to concentrate and move on to the next stage of realising God. From the worship of the idol, the person moves to the next stage of mental prayers and then to the last stage when he finally realises the Divine.
Idols are just a means to an end. The idol is a visible support, a reminder of God that helps the person to pray with concentration in the initial stages. It is a concrete form of the Divine which is essential for practicing concentration. Now of course, idol worship has become the most easiest and convenient form of worship for modern Hindus. People who are unaware of the real nature of the idols, they confuse the idols with real Gods. But this is not true. Idol worship is just a way or path to reach the Supreme Being who is formless and yet present in all forms.