There is no superiority or inferiority amongst the different Gods
Images according to Hindu authorities, are of two kinds: the first is known as Sayambhu or self-existent or self-revealed, while the other is Pratistha or established.
The Padma Purana says:
“the image of Hari (God) prepared of stone, earth, wood, metal or the like and established according to the rites laid down in the Vedas, Smritis and Tantras is called the established images . . . . . . . where the self-possessed Vishnu has placed himself on earth in stone or wood for the benefit of mankind, that is styled the self-revealed.” (B. K. Mukherjea – Hindu Law of Religious and Charitable Trusts:5th Edn.)
A Sayambhu or self-revealed images is a product of nature and it is Anadi or without any begining and the worshippers simply discover its existence and such images do not require consecration or Pratistha but a manmade image requires consecration. This manmade image may be painted on a wall or canvas. The Salgram Shila depicts Narayana being the Lord of the Lords and represents Vishnu Bhagwan. It is Shila – the Shalagram form partaking the form of Lord of the Lords Narayana and Vishnu.
Hindus have in Shastras “Agni” Devta; “Vayu” Devta-these deities are shapeless and formless but for every ritual Hindus offer their obalations before the deity. The Ahuti to the deity is the ultimate – the learned single Judge, however, was pleased not to put any reliance thereon. It is not a particular image which is a juridicial person but it is a particular bent of mind which consecrate the image.
18. One cardinal principle underlying idol worship ought to be borne in mind:
“that whichever God the devotee might choose for purposes of worship and whatever image he might set up and consecrate with that object, the image represents the Supreme God and none else. There is no superiority or inferiority amongst the different Gods. Siva, Vishnu, Ganapati or Surya is extolled, each in its turn as the creator, preserver and supreme lord of the universe. The image simply gives a name and form to the formless God and the orthodox Hindu idea is that conception of form is only for the benefit of the worshipper and nothing else.” (B. K. Mukherjea – on Hindu Law of Religious and Charitable Trusts – 5th Edn.)
19. In this context reference may also be made to an earlier decision of the Calcutta High Court in the case of Bhupatinath v. Ramlal Maitra, (1910) ILR 37 Cal 128 wherein Chatterjee, J. (at page 167) observed:-
“A Hindu does not worship the “idol” or the material body made of clay or gold or other substance, as a mere glance at the mantras and prayers will show. They worship the eternal spirit of the deity or certain attributes of the same, in a suggestive form, which is used for the convenience of contemplation as a mere symbol or emblem. It is the incantation of the mantras peculiar to a particular deity that causes the manifestation or presence of the deity or according to some, the gratification of the deity.”
20. God is Omnipotent and Omniscient and its presence is felt not by reason of a particular form or image but by reason of the presence of the omnipotent:It is formless, it is shapeless and it is for the benefit of the worshippers that there is manifestation in images of the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being has no attribute, which consists of pure spirit and which is without a Second Being, i.e. God is the only Being existing in reality, there is no other Being in real existence excepting Him – (see in this context Golap Chandra Sarkar, Sastri’s Hindu Law:8th Edn.).
It is the human concept of the Lord of the Lords – it is the human vision of the Lord of the Lords: How one sees the deity: how one feels the deity and recognises the deity and then establishes the same in the temple upon however performance of the consecration ceremony. Shastras do provide as to how to consecrate and the usual ceremonies of Sankalpa and Utsarga shall have to be performed for proper and effective dedication of the property to a deity and in order to be termed as a juristic person. In the conception of Debutter, two essential ideas are required to be performed: In the first place, the property which is dedicated to the deity vests in an ideal sense in the deity itself as a juristic person and in the second place, the personality of the idol being linked up with natural personality of the shebait, being the manager or being the Dharam karta and who is entrusted with the custody of the idol and who is responsible otherwise for preservation of the property of the idol.
The Deva Pratistha Tatwa of Raghunandan and Matsya and Devi Puranas though may not be uniform in its description as to how Pratistha or consecration of image does take place but it is customary that the image is first carried to the Snan Mandap and thereafter the founder utters the Sankalpa Mantra and upon completion thereof the image is given bath with Holy water, Ghee, Dahi, Honey and Rose water and thereafter the oblation to the sacred fire by which the Pran Pratistha takes place and the eternal spirit is infused in that particular idol and the image is then taken to the temple itself and the same is thereafter formally dedicated to the deity.
A simple piece of wood or stone may become the image or idol and divinity is attributed to the same. As noticed above, it is formless, shapeless but it is the human concept of a particular divine existence which gives it the shape, the size and the colour. While it is true that the learned single Judge has quoted some eminent authors but in our view the same does not, however, lend any assistance to the matter in issue and the Principles of Hindu Law seems to have been totally misread by the learned single Judge.
Their Lordships of the Supreme Court in P. F. Sadavarthy v. Commissioner, H. R. and C. E., AIR 1963 SC 510, held:
“A religious institution will be a temple if two conditions are satisfied. One is that it is a place of public religious worship and the other is that it is dedicated to or is for the benefit of, or is used as of right by the Hindu Community, or any section thereof, as a place of religious worship.”
To constitute a temple it is enough if it is a place of public religious worship and if the people believe in its religious efficacy irrespective of the fact whether there is an idol or a structure or other paraphernalia. It is enough if the devotees or the pilgrims feel that there is some super human power which they should worship and invoke its blessings.”
SOURCE: Ram Jankijee Deities and others Versus State of Bihar and othersAIR 1999 SC 2131 : (1999) 3 SCR 442 : (1999) 5 SCC 50 : JT 1999 (3) SC 592 : (1999) 4 SCALE 36