By Swami Harshananda
Arcā literally means ‘that which is worshiped’.
- The ‘para’ or the Supreme
- The ‘vyuha’ or the emanation
- The ‘vibhava’ or the incarnation
- The ‘arcā’ or the icon
Out of these, the arcā represents the images or icons installed and worshiped ceremonially in temples and shrines. Such icons are classified into four groups :
- Svayariivyakta or self-manifested
- Daiva or established by gods
- Ārṣa or consecrated by the ṛṣis (sages)
- Mānuṣa or prepared by human beings
Even the man-made images, though prepared out of inanimate substances, can become ‘alive’ if they are duly consecrated through the prescribed rites. God who is omnipotent ‘descends’ into such images with a subtle body. This is the ‘arcāvatāra’ or incarnation for purposes of ordinary worship.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore