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Understanding Vigraha In Hinduism

Vigraha in Hinduism the word used to refer to the murti worshipped in temple. We need to have a proper understanding of the term Vigraha in Hindu religion. There is no equivalent word for vigraha or murti in English and idol, image or figure and icon do not explain the real meaning of the term. Vigraha is a word derived from ‘vi’ and ‘graha’ and means ‘spreading’, ‘taking up’, and ‘assuming’ as well as a ‘physical form’, ‘body’ or ‘image’.

In the epics, the word suggests an embodiment of an incarnate entity, by such phrases as vigrahavat and vigraharupin, besides being employed to convey the concept of war. In the Puranas, all these meanings of the word are implied at various levels of expression, the most significant one being the sense of a body or form, both visible and invisible. In Ayurveda, it signifies an embodied existence or physical being.

The Buddhist and Jaina literatures use the word for an ‘image’ or ‘figure’. In Jaina philosophy, vigrahagati refers to a specific type of transmigration of mundane sail. In the Vedanta philosophy, vigrahavattva (corporeality of the Ultimate Reality) is a moot point of discussion. Agama Tantra raises the question whether or not gods posses a body. The word is used with reference to the icons deserving divine service. In Arthashastra, vigraha evolves as one of sadgunya (the six codes of diplomatic relationship). In the science of art, vigraha denotes the symbolic or iconic ‘body’ or figure of a deity.

The popular connotation of vigraha is a deity’s figural form or image, and this might have evolved only in the post-Vedic world. This idea was developed in the epics, Puranas, Pali literature, and Jaina Agamas. Vishnudharmottara Purana exclusively narrates the actual figures of all Hindu gods and goddesses. The concept of vigraha has also been elaborated in different Shilpasastras (texts of architecture).