Kalaśa

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Kalasa, KalaZa, Kalasha


Kalaśa literally means ‘that which sounds when filling with water’. The word ‘kalaśa’ is commonly used in two senses:

  1. A ceremonially established water pot
  2. Finial of a temple

Kalaśa, water pot

Usage

The waterpot kalaśa is used in many rituals. It is considered as a replica of the amṛtakalaśa, the celestial pot prepared by Viśvakarma[1] at the time of churning the ocean to hold the amṛta or nectar.

Making & Dimensions

A kalaśa may be made of gold, silver, copper or even clay. The dimensions recommended are:

  • Maximum circumference: 101 cm (40 inches)
  • Diameter of mouth: 16 cm (6.4 inches)
  • Height: 32 cm (12.8 inches)

Contents

It should be filled with water. Other things that may be put inside it are:

  • Precious stones
  • Flowers
  • Fruits
  • Herbs

Deities Presiding in a Kalaśa

The kalaśa is regarded as a composite divinity. The deities preside in each of it's part. They are:

  1. Brahmā - mouth
  2. Rudra - neck
  3. Viṣṇu - bottom portion
  4. Devī - middle portion

It is sometimes described as containing all the seven seas, the seven islands, the planets and the stars in it's belly. It is the replica of the whole universe.

Types of Kalaśas

Nine varieties of the kalaśas are also mentioned in some works. Eight are arranged in the eight directions and the ninth which is called as ‘indriyaghna,’ with five mouths, is kept in the center during certain rituals. Establishment of a kalaśa is a must in the Durgāpujā. The Kālikāpurāna[2] recommends that all the gods should be worshiped in kalaśas only.

Kalaśa, the Finial

It is an important part of the superstructure over the sanctum of a temple. It may be made of copper or silver or gold. Inside it a ‘suvarṇapuruṣa’[3] is installed with an elaborate ritual known as ‘hṛdayavarṇakavidhi’.

References

  1. Viśvakarma was the architect of the gods.
  2. Kālikāpurāna chapter 87
  3. Suvarṇapuruṣa means a golden person.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore