By Swami Harshananda
Brahmotsava literally means ‘the big festival’.
Temples and worship of the images permanently fixed in their garbhagṛha (sanctum sanctorum) are quite ancient. Out of the several public festivals observed by these temples, the ‘brahmotsava’ is the biggest.
However, the orthodox belief is that the four-faced Brahmā (the creator-god) himself conducts this festival in honor of the chief deity of the temple. Hence he is named as ‘brahmotsava’. Generally it is the grandest and the most spectacular of all the temple festivals. The celebrity of a temple is often measured by the extent of the grandeur of its brahmotsava. Āgāmic works speak of five varieties of brahmotsavas. They are:
- Brāhma: It is celebrated just for a day and is supposed to increase the spiritual power of the temple.
- Śaiva: It is conducted for three days and is aimed at removing all the obstacles of the people.
- Aindra: Spread over five days, this is believed to prevent famine and drought.
- Ārṣa: Conducted for seven days, this is meant to secure prosperity for the kingdom.
- Daivika or vaiṣṇava: This is a nine-day affair purported to bring about all-round protection and happiness.
This last one is considered as sāttvika (pure) against the others which are either rājasika (middling) or tāmasika (inferior). Some of the more important aspects of a brahmotsava are:
- Bherītāḍana - Beating the drum
- Dhvajārohaṇa - Hoisting the temple flag
- Āvāhana - Inviting the deity to the yāgaśālā or place of sacrificial rites,
- Establishing of kalaśas (holy pots filled with water)
- Performance of homas
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore