The temple, sacred in its presence and alive with energy that sets the heart beating when a devotee walks in wanting to catch the sight of Paramatman again in his aniconic form, is the seat of the universe itself.
The walls don't just house the supreme emblem inside but fortify the very energy center along a ground plan that is the blue print of the yantra that forms the mystic symbol of the individual Gods and Goddesses.
The yantra is the mystical base on which either temples rise or Gods descend into puja rooms. Be it an elaborate architectural wonder or be it a picture of deity well decorated within the puja room, the form takes on that which is intricately woven into the sacred syllables within the yantra - the geometrical representations of these deities.
This is not just about geometrical patterns that mystically define a form that we feel a lot familiar with in pictures, these are sacred beeja mantra syllables that define a lot more and call upon the very living force to bless the home or the temple with their presence.
Entering into the main temple shrine is defined by the number of gates that surround it, in the south of India, this is defined by the gopurams in four cardinal directions as well as the number of walls one crosses to get to the main shrine, which is the same as depicting 4 square gateways that lead into the center of the yantra from its four square sides describing the same gates geometrically in abstraction. This in popular terms is possibly called Vaastu Shastra.
Coming into the vicinity of this energy center entails one to be pure physically as per the scriptures. Be it a bath before the puja or be it a dip in the temple tank one is purified physically before they make their way to the main shrine. With offerings of flower and fruit, coconut and small flame of life the devotee offers moments of contemplation to the Istha Devata.
Walking around the temple as one advances towards the sanctum, brings the devotee face to face with the many Avatars the deity took to bring calm into the universe, the same is described by sacred syllables and minute depiction of the sacred self in the geometry of the yantra either obviously or through direction that emphasizes the respective forms as in the case of Sadashiva who is made of 8 forms of himself, each representing a cardinal direction. Back in the picture, this might not be depicted altogether but is largely understood.
In contemplation, deities appear either 2 handed,4 handed, 8 handed or 16 handed. Each hand carries an element, that visually appears like a noose, a sickle, sword, axe, arrow or bow etc. but also carries a profound sound that is capsuled with energy around the deity, defining their presence a lot more effectively in contemplation. These profound sounds are small syllables that appear in petals around the main geometrical form, in numbers of 4, 8, or 16 petals of a lotus inscribed in the yantra. In the picture at home, the deity is seen carrying these elements or is seated on a lotus seat of similar number of petals.
The Yantra described triangles with colors representing various Gods and Goddesses, the same is redefined in the clothes they wear in the pictures. Authentic pictures always show Devi in red and Ganesha in green and yellow. Decorating the deity with a crown and ornaments with flowers and clothes is similar to doing alankaram to the yantra after regular abhishekam. The same is done in a more elaborate way within the temple walls where the deities are dressed in the same colors in silks.
Contemplation involves invoking these forms of the supreme by regularly reciting the sacred syllables and mantras that bring them alive. Back at home, this leads the bhakta into silent japa, at the temple the priest utters these sounds during abhishekam. The energy is kept alive and the deity invoked blesses the bhakta.
On completion of this contemplation, as the peace sinks in, the devotee raises the small deepam in aarti, culminating the puja to an end. The priest raises the aarti in various lights, of numbers 1, 3, 5, 27 and 108, with mudras and offerings of a parasol, fanning and other sacred symbols of divine praise, offering them to the devata who is seated on their throne, beautifully decorated within their sanctum. This is the same form that is captured in a picture that comes alive within the puja room, a visual and far more familiar and understandable form as compare to a yantra, that strangely asks for more rule and greater care in its worship.
As one goes deeper into worship, spending more time in contemplation, one comes into understanding deeper levels of worship, superior forms of ritual that define methodology that helps realize the secrecy of this mysticism which brings alive a different world to the bhakta. This mysticism can just be realized and experienced, as the devotee is blessed with heightened emotion, mesmerized by the very form that they see of the supreme paramatma. These are in the form of mudra, natya, song, japa, vrata and sadhana.
This entire ritual through life, awakens the istha devata within the self and triggers energy of a different kind within the physical temple that we are built of, awakening each chakra within our system and converting us into a living temple where the apasmara is smashed to give way for the supreme to be enthroned within the seat of our sanctum - hrudaya kamalam.