By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Balalaya, BAlAlaya, Baalaalaya
Bālālaya literally means ‘little temple’.
Temples, with their images, are built with materials like stone for durability. However, due to the ravages of time, weather, accidents or other reasons, occasionally they suffer from damage. When the temple structure or the image is damaged, repairs are needed. A provision has been made in the āgamas for the necessary ritualistic processes to transfer the ‘kalā’ or the power of the deity temporarily through a kalaśa (consecrated pitcher of water) to a new image installed in a new temple that is provisionally built for this purpose. Once the renovation work is completed, the ‘kalā’ is transferred back to the old renovated temple and image.
The temporary structure put up for this purpose to house the deity during the renovation work is called as "bālālaya" or "little temple". It is made so that the usual rituals can go on undisturbed. It is ‘small’ compared to the original structure, hence the designation. It is generally built in the front of the old temple, but to its left side, and its door facing the old one. It should have both a garbhagṛha (sanctum sanctorum) and a maṇḍapa (hall) attached to it. The image may be made of either metal or wood. The entire process of consecration of the bālālaya is identical to that of any newly built temple.
Once the old temple is renovated, the kalā is transferred back to the old image in the renovated shrine, or to the new image installed there, if the old image had been damaged beyond repair. Care is taken to ensure that :
- The image of the bālālaya is burnt if it is made of wood
- The image is melted if it is made of metal and presented to the ācārya or preceptor.
- The old image of the original temple, if replaced, should be taken in a procession and immersed deeply in sea or river or lake.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore