By Swami Harshananda
Āvaraṇa-devatā literally means ‘deity installed in the area surrounding the main deity’.
The garbhagṛha (sanctum sanctorum) of a temple is generally surrounded by āvaraṇas or enclosures whose number may vary from one to seven. Though the main purpose of these āvaraṇas is to provide space for pradakṣiṇā (circum ambulation) round the main deity, they also serve to accommodate the images of other deities considered to be the attendants or the retinue of the main deity. These deities are called ‘āvaraṇa-devatās’ or ‘parivāra- devatās.’
The Vaikhānasāgama lists as many as 135 parivāradevatās spread over seven āvaraṇas for a Viṣṇu temple. Some of them have been mentioned below :
In a Śiva temple, Devī, Caṇḍeśvara and Brahmā find a place in the āvaraṇas. In a Devī temple, Śiva, Viṣṇu, Gaṇapati and Kārttikeya or Subrahmaṇya are placed as āvaraṇas.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore