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Lotus Shaped Stones In Hindu Temples

Lotus shaped stones in Hindu temples are known as Balipitha, representing gods and goddesses installed in front, and around, the sanctum sanctorum of a Hindu temple. The ten dikpalas (protectors of the ‘sides’ or ‘directions’) and saptamatrs (seven mothers) are represented in lotus-shaped stones that are generally found in a temple are – Ishana, Brahma, Indra, Agni, Yama, Nirti, Ananta, Varuna, Vayu, Soma (gods), Brahmi, Maheshwari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varati, Indrani and Chamunda (goddesses). These balipithas, which are granite, are installed at definite points around the sanctum sanctorum. Offerings (bali), in the form of water, flowers and cooked rice (havis), are made to the accompaniment of instrumental music and the chanting of hymns.

Balipithas, which are similar to the garbhagriha, are installed within a structure in some temples, or in the open in some others. Specific measurements for the construction of a balipitha in the temple are given in texts such as Tantrasamuccaya, Vishnusamhita, Mayamata and Gurudevapaddhati.

From the center of the garbhagriha of the temple, in front and outside of it, the balipithas should be housed in a structure built for the purpose. In actual practice, though there are instances of permanent structures to the house the balipithas, there are also exceptions, where temporary sheds are put up on certain festive occasions.

The texts also mention the dimensions (height and breadth) of the balipitha. The height of the balipitha, from its bottom (paduka) to the top of its lotus blossom (padma), will be equal to the height of the pedestal on which the murti stands (pujapitha) or one-sixth less than this height. The various divisions and moldings of the elevation features will be done on the pattern of the prasada or the main shrine. The texts also lay down details of the parts and moldings of the balipitha by dividing it into 27 parts. The names of some parts are – paduka, jagati, kumuda, kumudapattika, gala, kambu, nidrava, kapota, agrapatti and padma. Another alternative for the division of balipitha into 32 parts is also laid down in the texts, with slight variations of the moldings and parts.