IDOL WORSHIP IN SANATANA DHARMA
The idol worship is called the vigraha prarthana. What is vigraha? It is that which helps us to worship / meditate. Vigraha symbolises that which cannot be seen or experienced. We invoke the divine power in the vigraha and we worship that vigraha.
There are different types of vigraha
1. Mandala vigraha:
It is the tantric diagram drawn with different colour powders and in that tantric diagram the divine power is invoked and worshipped.
We light a lamp while doing pooja and in that lamp the divine power is invoked. When we light a lamp and worship it as God, then the divine power is automatically invoked in that lamp. Some people decorate the lamp itself in the form of the deity.
A pot is filled with water and it is assumed as a vigraha; usually this type of worship is done for kula deva worship or devi upasana during the Navaratri festival, graha pravesha or varalekshmi poojas etc. People decorate the pot itself as a deity.
The painted photos of the divine forms are framed and worshipped. These are the very common form of worship. One of the famous portrayers of divine pictures was Raja Ravi Verma. The pictures are worshipped as vigraha.
Some symbols like the symbol of Om, swastik, srichakra, mahameru etc are worshipped as the vigraha. Mahameru is the three-dimensional structure of Srichakra. Any divine form in spatika or saligram are worshipped as vigraha.
Bhimba means idol. It is very commonly seen in temples. In some houses they use bhimba as vigraha for worship.
There are different types of bhimba.
The idol made of mud (Prithivi) is called parthiva bhimba and they are used for worship for a very short period of time like for festivals like ganesh Chaturthi, Navaratri etc. The divine power is invoked in that idol by chanting mantras and then the idol is worshipped. After that festival is over then the idol is given back to Prithvi by dissolving it in water. One should take care that the idol is not broken before dissolving it in water. If it breaks before the idol is dissolved in water then the invoked divine power will dissipate and it will affect the person doing the pooja in a negative way.
They are the bhimbas made of wood. They are mostly used in houses. In some temples also they use the dharu bhimba. Care must be taken to maintain the bhimba, else it is easily prone to damage.
It is the bhimba made of stone. It is used in temples. The divine power invoked in the shila bhimba will be very powerful and it is suitable for temples only. If it is kept in houses then the poojas must be done with care following ritualistic tradition.
They are the bhimbas made of metals. These bhimbas are commonly used in temples, some people use it in their home. Just like shila (stone ) the divine power invoked in the metal will also be very powerful and proper pooja practices must be followed.
The divine power pervades the entire universe. It is dissipated everywhere. When we do pooja and worship, the same power become concentrated in that vigraha or bhimba. This practice will help us to dissolve our prarabhdha karmas.