From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Adhivasa literally means ‘to live in’.

Idol's built to the standards defined by scripture and iconography are considered unfit to be installed in temples and worshiped unless they are transformed into murti-s by by the rites defined in the āgamas.

‘Adhivāsa’ is such a rite which invokes the Diety to ‘live in’ the idol and thus transforms the idol into a murti. There are three types of adhivāsa rites:

  1. Jalādhivāsa - It is to remedy the effects of chiseling.
  2. Dhānyādhivāsa - It is for purifying the physical image.
  3. Śayyādhivāsa - It is for inducing spiritual effulgence.

In jalādhivāsa (‘living in water’), the image is taken in a procession round the village, placed on level ground on the bank of a river or tank, sprinkled with the water of the same, wound round with kuśa grass and new cloth and ceremonially immersed in the water, so that the head lies towards the east and mouth upwards. The duration of jalādhivāsa is from one night to nine nights, though three nights are more common. After taking it out of water, the image has to undergo physical and ceremonial cleansing once again.

Dhānyādhivāsa (‘living in grains’) and śayyādhivāsa (‘living in the bed’) are actually one ritual in practice. On the vedi (special platform) a sthandilu (an esoteric geometric design) is inscribed. Grains like wheat, rice, barley and black sesame are spread and a lotus of eight petals is inscribed on the grains. A bed is now prepared over this with five materials viz., wooden plank, skin of a deer or tiger, a rug of animal hair, feathers of birds and cloth. In the absence of the first four materials, five layers of cloth can be used. The image is now made to lie for three nights on this bed, with kuśa grass underneath it, the head being towards the east and mouth upwards.

The word ‘adhivāsa’ is also used in the sense of ‘perfuming’ or sanctifying with perfumes or other approved materials, any object or objects used in ceremonial worship.


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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