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Meaning Of Murti In Hinduism – It Is Not Idol

The word murti is a commonly used word in Hinduism. The widely used meaning of the word murti is an image or an idol. The word ‘idol’ cannot be considered the proper translation of the Sanskrit word murti, for the simple reason that ‘idol’ has many connotations in English, most of which are derogatory.

On the other hand, murti in Hindu religion is generally considered to be the embodied representation of the Divine principle. Such a representation could take any form, most of which are human. However, it is not uncommon to see many animal forms or the forms of other living beings as representing some divine power. The iconography in the different forms of murti is interesting as most of these forms are visual developments of the bodies that we find naturally. For instance, it is quite common to see a murti with a human form having multiple arms or heads. These represent the supra-normal powers of the divine beings.

A murti does not merely represent a symbol of the Divine, but the murti itself is made divine by invoking the power of the Divine by a ritual called prana-pratishtha or the invoking of life.

Sri Ramakrishna tested the murti of Kali at the temple in Dakshineswar to see if it was a living murti, and found to his great relief, that the murti was indeed breathing! Thus, a murti in the traditional Indian sense cannot be considered as a mere symbol, icon, image, or idol, but has to be seen only as a living manifestation of the Divine.