By Swami Harshananda
Ādhāraśilā literally means ‘support-stone’.
Belief in God and making temples to worship him or to pray to him seems to be a common trait of human beings. There are evidences indicating the existence of places of worship, called devālayas or temples since very ancient times. These devālayas are typically built based on the science and art of temple construction (Sthapatyaveda).
Apart from the usual foundation laid to support the superstructure of the temple, there is an insistence on the laying of the ādhāraśilā or support-stone below the floor of the garbhagṛha (sanctum sanctorum). In the middle of the garbhagṛha, where the idol will be installed, the ground is excavated to a pre-determined depth. A number of articles are ceremonially fixed therein, one after another, with appropriate mantras. Of these, the ādhāraśilā is the first to be fixed at the lowest level, as the base or support. It is a square block of granite or any other hard stone of specific dimensions. On it are placed the other articles like the pot called nidhikumbha and the lotuses of stone and metal.
According to one of the interpretations of temple symbolism, the temple represents the body of the yogi (the spiritual aspirant practicing yoga) with all the cakras (centres of psychic power). The ādhāraśilā, then, stands for the mulādhāra-cakra (the lowest center).
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore