The Hindu temples, especially in the Indian Subcontinent are a treasure trove of heritage and culture and there is no missing them out if you are traveling to this part of the world. The beautiful paintings, the carvings outside and within, the historical significance of the temple, legends associated with it – all adding to the enigma of the temple as a key tourist attraction.
At most of these temples, I have noticed a lot of tourists feeling unsure and hesitant about certain norms that they are expected to follow when entering the temples.This is where I though of listing down a few dos and don’ts of visiting the Hindu temples. So here goes –
- Dress: Dress appropriately when visiting the temples. Bare shoulders and short clothes are not allowed inside most temples. Keep a shawl with you to cover your shoulders in case you are wearing sleeveless.
- Footwear: All temples have to be entered bare-foot. Hence, please do remove your shoes outside the main entrance. At most of the well-known temples, there is a small shoe counter that gives you a token when you deposit your shoes, which can be later exchanged after you are done with your visit. This service could be charged or is sometimes free – hence, watch out for the sign on the shoe stall. It is also, advisable to use these stalls as there are lesser chances of your footwear being misplaced or stolen.
- Cameras: Most of the temples allow photography of the temple except the inner sanctum. Do respect the same and keep your cameras restricted only to the public areas of the temple.
- Flowers and Fruits: You will notice a lot of people selling flowers, fruits and plenty of other things for a pooja outside the temple. It is not compulsory to buy the same and one can go straight into the temple.
- Gesture: Fold your hands in a respect namaskar when heading to the inner sanctum
- Inner Sanctum: The inner sanctum is where the main idol is placed and generally, most people are not allowed into it. In the larger temples, this is the most crowded area and is generally, where one has to follow a queue and move with the line. In temples like Tirupathi Temple, you seldom get more than 15 secs in front of the idol. Do respect the same and move with the queue.
- Aarti and Prasad: At the inner sanctum, you may be offered some prasad. Take the same in your right hand, which is supported by your left hand. The same is true for the holy water that they give, which of course you should just touch to your lips and forehead. There are times when a lamp or aarti is passed around by the pandits. Here you must pass your hands over the flames and touch them to your face and eyes. While it is not compulsory, but when taking the aarti or the blessings, you will notice people adding loose change or notes to the plate. It is considered as a blessing to have done some – akin to a wishing well 🙂
- Vermillion or Tikka: In different temples, different things are used as a symbol of blessing. In some temples it is the red Vermillion while in a few others, it could be sandalwood. In any case, bow your head as the pandit applies the same to your forehead.
- Donations: Donations are not compulsory but if you wish, you could drop it in the Hundi or the Donation boxes that are kept in the main temple area. Add one rupee to the total amount you wish to donate is considered auspicious (INR 101, 151 etc). 🙂
These are some respectful gestures to the sentiments of the people and the culture of the place. As a tourist I believe, it is our duty to appreciate and respect the culture of the place.