Stone is God, but God is NOT Stone!

Stone is God, but God is NOT Stone!

A reader has written to me: “Why do Hindus worship Idols? Why don’t they understand it is just a stone? Why don’t they try to learn from the modern religions like Islam and Christianity and stop this childish Idol Worship, Uday?”

I wrote back to him: “The only religion in the world that doesn’t need to worship an idol is Hinduism. It is optional for Hindus to worship idols or not. But for all other religions, it is a MUST and mandatory.”

Surprised? Many people have raised similar question on Hinduism.

The Webster’s Dictionary says: “Idolatry is the worship of a physical object as a god of any object, person.” That means Idol is an image or representation of a god. One that is adored, often blindly or excessively can also be called Idol worship.

All religions have been engaging in idolatry without actually knowing it – it’s always hard to see whether someone is really worshipping something, or just using it as a symbol of a totally different thing.

Are Christians idol worshippers? Exodus 20:4, 5: “You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.”

The Christians worship the statue of Jesus or the Cross or Jesus in the cross in their Church. Catholics pray to Mary and have statues of her. Isn’t that idolatry? If you come to India, especially South India, you can see thousands of new Churches made as replica of Hindu temples, with Dwaja Sthamba (flag banner high column) among other things, creating more idols to worship. I don’t think anything other than the cemetery in the Churches that doesn’t fit into external culture. Christianity is almost Indianised.

During first few centuries Jesus was pictured as Asiatic – bald, bearded and short – because of Asian origin. Later all images of Jesus became that of a European white man. So their idol clearly is Jesus Christ of European race. Can a Christian worship a black or Asian Jesus? Their main idols are Christ and Cross.

Islam doesn’t have direct “idol worship” as Christians or Hindus do. The first condition to be a Muslim is: the act of worship should be devoted to Allah Alone. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, and worship none but Him Alone (abstaining from ascribing partners to Him).” [Al-Bayyinah 98:5]

But you can see Idolatry in that religion too. Islam asks Muslims to pray towards Mecca. Direction or destination is focal point – an idol as per definition. Something becomes sacred only when you worship it. Muslims worship the black Kaaba Stone in Mecca.

There are three explanations for the stone – (1) As per Islamic belief- it is sent by their god, Allah (2) Some serious historians say it’s a Shiv Linga (3) some people claim it’s a Meteorite. Whatever it is, Kaaba is an important icon that they worship. Zamzam water in Makkah is also sacred for them.

Let alone idols, Islam strictly prohibits worshipping any man-made objects. Millions of copies of Holy Quran are printed in many printing presses by men and made into book form by man. Isn’t it a man-made object? How can it be worshipped? If you say it is a representation of god’s words, it is an idol by definition. The printed quotes are photo-framed, kept in the wall and worshipped. It’s also man-made. Alphabets used to describe god are also man-made images. Most of the Mosques (place of worship) have photograph of Kaaba. Some are visiting Dargah (grave of a revered religious figure) to offer worship.

To my understanding, Muslims are forbidden to, and therefore do not, worship Prophet Mohammed. Muslims shouldn’t even keep images of him. But indirectly they do. If anybody talks one word against him, he/she will be cut into pieces. Isn’t that fanatic worship? Millions of Muslims worship holy hair of Prophet Mohammed and now building India’s biggest mosque Sha’re Mubarak Masjid (literally: Blessed Hair Grand Mosque) in Kerala.

You can also find images of Muhammad’s face in manuscript illustrations from hundreds of years ago, some of which are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Some of the earliest Islamic coins were minted with Muhammad’s face on them! The celebration of Muhammad birthday is contradictory to Islamic law. But India has official Holiday on Prophet’s birthday similar to Christmas and Krishna Jayanti. What is it other than iconic worship?

I agree lot of Muslims still worship only the formless God. But, they are still praying to a God which has all other attributes except that of “form”. Therefore they only seem to be rejecting the attribute of “form”, whereas they still seem to accept all other attributes in God (omnipotence, omnipresence etc.) which are also accepted by people from other religions who worship and pray to God using idols.

Even atheist philosophies like Marxism follow Idolatry. They have created Martyrs who they worship with garland and flowers. They call it “Rakthasakshi Mandapam”- Temple for martyrs. The world capital of superstitious worship is communist China. Even African tribals are better than Chinese when it comes to superstitions and idol worships.

From a Western viewpoint, Hindus are still worst. They worship almost everything. Apart from 33 crores Gods and Goddesses, they worship rat, cow, stones, birds, sexual organs, mountain, weapons etc. They have made idols or icons out of almost everything in this universe. But Hindus have the honesty and courage to admit that, “Yes we do have idol worship and that is important to our religion.”

An Idol is an adjective of God. Idol is NOT an equivalent word for Vigraha (body or form) and Bimba (image, picture or object) in Sanskrit. The word ‘idol’ may be inadequate to mean ‘Vigraha’, except to indicate that the ‘shilpa’ or ‘figure’ indicates a kind of ‘model’ through which to visualize God.

In Sanskrit, “Viseshal Grahyathe ithi Vigraha” (The One which is acceptable or liked or holds passionately) is Vigraham.

In early stages of one’s quest for divinity, a representative form becomes necessary. That’s how the concept of Vigrahas (idols) came up in all religions. Vigraha (Vishesham Grihamiti = Special abode), Pratima (Mam prati = In front of me), Bimba smile emoticon Image) or Moorti smile emoticon the utensil to fill) are synonyms of Vigraha.

The purpose of Vigraha is actually to help the seekers to focus on the concepts. So, the seekers are seeing the manifestation of a divine power in such idol. They believe use of an idol or a physical symbol in worship and prayer is intended to enhance the focus on Brahmam (the universal or supreme god) with respect to a certain attribute (Saguna) of Brahmam. Such Idol worship is called “Saguna Aradhana” (Worshipping forms and names) in India.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, idol is not the god for Hindus. For the beginners, it is like this: Those who wish to offer worship to the Brahmam in whichever form he/she prefers, invite ‘That’ into the favourite ‘Vigraha’. Aavahayami (I invite), Sthapayami (I establish/seat), Poojayami (I worship). Then we offer water, flowers, leaves, fragrant substances, delicious food, music, dance etc. as part of worship to ‘That’. Then we ask ‘That’ to grant our wishes and needs. At the end of the day or period of worship, we offer the pooja again and ask ‘That’ to leave the Vigraha. This process is called Visarjana (disperse). Then it becomes just an idol.

In short, if you carefully observe you can see all religions and ideologies have some form of idol worship – it may be a statue, book, person, symbol, icon or thing. Everybody worships either images and or political symbols. The only difference would be in the method or degree in worshipping.

It is thus quite apparent for the entire mankind – all religions – whether it is atheism, pluralism, animism, fanaticism, fundamentalism, gurudom, kingdom of priests and extreme materialism, the idol worship comes natural. Man creates various idols or images and then stuck there. They fight and kill for those idols. So, there is no point in anybody holding a “Holier than Thou” attitude. Why can’t a believer move beyond idols or images? Because human mind needs some form of image or imagery to its very survival. This is the limitation of all religions.

So, our ancestors, the great sages, found that humans have to move beyond beliefs if he/she wants to realize the truth. They should go beyond idolatry – it is Nirguna Aradhana. The only religion that talks about truly formless and undefined god is Sanatan Dharma. It says the Brahmam – the divine power – is truly without a form, a gender or anything for that matter, while all other religions believe that god has a gender, a race and a language.

As Sankracharya says, “To describe Brahmam even the words recoil.” So anybody trying to describe god through words or images (Idolatry) is like blinds describing elephant. You have to go beyond a name and a form (shape) to realise the Brahmam. (Lalitha Sahasranamam says ‘Nama roopa vivarjitha’)

Vedas say the Brahmam is formless, ineffable (nirguna) and Unmoved Mover. Upanishads describe Nirguna Brahmam- the ineffable God as, “Whole is that, whole too is this and from the whole, whole cometh and take whole, yet whole remains.” This cannot be understood with using mind as the mind CANNOT go beyond images (idols) or beliefs.

That’s the reason our ancestors said God is an experience to be experienced by the experiencer. It cannot be explained. It cannot be described. In his final stages of quest, a Sanatan Dharma follower realizes and sees god’s presence in everything in the universe (Isavasyam idam sarvam). That’s why he prays “May all beings be happy” (Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu). That’s how the universal compassion develops. That’s how the inclusive philosophy of non-violence, equality and tolerance develops. That’s why ancient Indians could welcome and accept all religions, ideologies and philosophies including Atheism. No beliefs in the world can take a human being to such elevated higher dimension.

Put simply, a Hindu believes God exists in stones. But he understands that, it doesn’t mean god is the stone.

~ Udaylal Pai, Freelance Journalist, Writer and Researcher



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  • Should Hindus worship – Ambedkar Statue, Periyar Statue, Mayadevi Statue, Queen Victoria Statue, King Edward Statue, Nehru statue, Indira statue, Rajiv statue, Rahul statue?

  • Very nicely written. There is life in that stone, we cannot see because it doesn’t move..but there is life in it. We worship that life, which is the same that is within me.

      • Good question 🙂 My thought is: if you make something out of ice, it will melt. If you make something out fire, it will fade away when fuel runs out. If you make a god out of wood, it will erode with time. Stones are solid materials, and will take millions of years for it erode even with water damage. Going back in time…I’m sure stone was the best option available and as you can tell the pyramids in egypt, mayan temples, and hindu temples survived even with all many changes on the planet gone through. I actually did a google fact check but was unable to find much info on this … hope this helped.

  • reply to the q asked above –
    perhaps hindus were enough intelligent to use stone to make GODS .
    iron get rusted , gold is precious metal so there is fear of its get stolen .
    mud is not long lasting . so STONE was the best option to make deities . u need trained sculpturers n stone only n ur art is living for thousands of years under sun n rain . u can give nice curves to a stone .
    hopefully so .

    • You are bit right.. but let me add you ll find people have regular practices of making idols since men existance in India not only of stones but also of gold silver wood( types of wood) mud .. depends on the intention for making the idol, condition and fisibility of the makergolds idol is considered the best.. even ij todays times ull find some hindus has shiv ling with mercury withing..
      lastly every damn thing in Indian culture and all what i said including making temples or idols has a scientific reasoning.. eg. gold mercury crystals attract energy of high frequency.. directions as per earths poles are built and so on

  • Idol worship or paganism often attracts a religious person. It is said that Leonardo da Vinci was a pagan. A colleague of mine converted to Catholicism from Protestantism – he said that he had failed to concentrate without an image before him. In the Holy Bible i.e. Old Testament i.e. Jewish Bible the Lord, YHVA always warned the Kings through the Jewish prophets not to commit sin i.e. worshipping anything but YHVA or the Lord; but stories of their great kings that were attracted to idolatry is not a secret.

  • Y Always Talking About God … Did he Does anything to us … People or Dying in Poverty … No Proper food .. Lots of Homeless People, if he is Alive … Y people Suffering like a Hell …

  • real Christians never worshipped an idol before. we believe in one eternal God. get your facts right. don’t compare some denomination with all of Christianity…

    • not true, Danel, all Christians worship idols. they hang everywhere in the churches and most Christian homes, Christians even consider the king james Bible a ” holy Book ” ( idol) even thou it was written in the mid 1600 by 30 scholars, all from different countries, every one of them was unable to speak or read the language of the Bible text they were translating and all of them lived in fear of losing their life if they angered a very crazy james I – please get your facts straight, danel

  • The God who created the deer who eats grass and the Tiger who eats the deer!

    The God who created the rich created the poor!

    This is the perfection of the natural fabric of cration – the design of the creator !

    So first seek to know the creator and then all the other mystries will be revealed!

    This is the revelation of :
    The Brahman means hidden truth. No body can easily feel Brahman. In Hindu Vedas clearly explain the Brahman is the truth and find the truth about Brahman. So that is what people call as Brahma ragasya.Ragasya means hidden truth.

    Brahma, God, paramātmā, khudā are all synonymous names for Supreme God, the Lord of the universe. The literal meaning of brahma is great or big. He is not only bigger than other big things, He is the biggest of all. A mountain is big, the sea is bigger than a mountain and the sky are bigger than the sea. So how big is He? The Vedas say-

    सत्यं ज्ञानमनंतम् ब्रह्म । (वेद)
    “satyaṃ jñānamanaṃtam brahma” (Veda)
    He is infinitely big. Nothing is bigger than Him. So, the definition of brahma in the Vedas is-
    वृहति वृंहयति इति तत्परं ब्रह्म । (रहस्य अग्नाय ब्राह्मण)
    “vṛhati vṛṃhayati iti tatparaṃ brahma” (Rahasya Āgnāya Brāhmaṇa)
    Brahma is the one who is infinitely big and who also makes others big (great). This is because God bestows all His powers upon the individual soul after that soul attains God realization
    जानत तुमहिं तुमहिं है जाई ॥
    “Jānata tumahiṁ tumahiṁ hai jā’ī”
    No other entity is even equivalent to God, let alone being greater!
    न तत्स्मश्चाभ्यधिकश्च दृश्यते । (श्वेताश्वतरोपनिषद् ६-८)
    “na tatsmaścābhyadhikaśca dṛśyate” (Śvetāśvataropaniṣad 6-8)
    Altogether there are only three entities in existence: God (brahma), the souls (jīvātmā) and the cosmic energy (māyā). All of these are eternal and everlasting, but God and the individual souls are conscious and māyā is inert. The world created by māyā is temporary. The souls and God both have consciousness, but God is infinite consciousness while the consciousness of the souls is restricted only to their respective bodies. God is Himself unlimited bliss while the souls are devoid of that bliss. God is omniscient while the souls are ignorant. God is the supreme controller of all while the souls are controlled (by māyā). God sustains everything while the souls are sustained (by God). God is omnipresent while the souls can only exist at one place at a time. God is almighty while the souls are endowed with very limited powers. So, although God and the souls are both conscious and eternal, there are vast differences between them.

    There are many forms of the same Almighty Supreme God. We can divide them mainly into two forms:

    Nirākāra Brahma
    This is the imperceptible, all pervading, formless aspect of Supreme God. All powers of God are dormant in this state except for the power of sat (the unlimited power of existence), chit (the unlimited knowledge) and ānanda (unlimited divine bliss). That is why the abstract form of brahma is called the form of “saccidānanda.” The followers of the path of nondualism (gyanis) worship this aspect of God to attain the ultimate goal of absolute liberation. After being liberated from the clutches of māyā, their soul merges into the formless aspect of Supreme God. From then on they unceasingly enjoy divine bliss and the extent of that bliss never changes.

    Sākāra Brahma
    This is the perceivable divine personal form of God. Supreme God appears in two types of sākāra forms:
    (1) Paramātmā
    Parmatma a form of Brahma
    Paramātmā is endowed with form, name, attributes and abode. It is a majestic form of God with four arms also known as Mahāviṣṇu. The yogis worship this form of God. Devotees of this form attain the divine abode of Vaikuṇṭha, unlimited divine bliss and unlimited divine knowledge. They also enjoy the association and the vision of God constantly. This bliss is superior to the bliss of absolute liberation.
    (2) Bhagavan
    Hanuman Serving Lord Ram
    Hanuman Serving Lord Ram
    The appearance of the same sākāra brahma on the earth in a human-like form is called Bhagavān. In this form, the Supreme Lord hides all of His divine powers and reveals the unique power of divine love through His form, name, attributes, pastimes and associates. This form of God is what is adored by devotees because God’s love potency is predominant in this form. So, the devotees drown in their feelings of love for God. They forget about His divinity as God and enjoy intimate loving relationships with Him as their Master, Friend, Son and Beloved. The nectar of this form of God and freedom of loving Him, without an inkling of His divine status as almighty God, is unfathomable. That’s why devotees reject the bliss of liberation and the bliss of Vaikuṇṭha. Lord Rāma offered Hanumān Jī liberation as a reward for his selfless service. Hanumān Jī refused to take it, saying:
    भवबंधच्छिदे तस्मै स्पृहयामि नमुक्तये।
    भवान्प्रभुरहं दास इति यत्र विलुप्यते।। बा. रामायण
    Bhavabandhacchidē tasmai spr̥hayāmi namuktayē.
    Bhavānprabhurahaṁ dāsa iti yatra vilupyatē.. Vā. Rāmāyaṇa
    “If I accept liberation, I will be bereft of that inexplicable joy of being a servant of my Lord Rāma!! Hence, I do not wish to attain liberation at all.”
    Shri Krishna – Originator of all cosmos
    The Supreme God is known as Lord Kṛṣṇa. There are many descents of Supreme God. All those manifestations are revelations of one power of the Supreme Lord. That’s why all other forms of God are called avatāra (descents), whereas Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself is called avatārī (source of the descents). The avatāras are the revelation of Kṣīrodaśayī Mahavishnu. Kṣīrodaśayī Mahavishnu is the revelation of one power of Garbhodaśayī Mahavishnu. Garbhodaśayī Mahavishnu is in turn the revelation of one power of Karaṇārṇavadaśayī Maha Vishnu. Karaṇārṇavadaśayī Maha Vishnu is a revelation of one power of Lord Krishna Himself (स्वयं श्रीकृष्ण).
    Lord Krishna Himself descends after the completion of every kalpa (4,294,080,000 human years). In every cycle of the 4 ages or cycles of time called a chaturyuga (4,320,000 human years) several avatāras of God descend on this earth. Those descents are called yugāvatāra. Being uninformed of this secret, many think Mahāviṣṇu is “Supreme God.” Scriptures clarify that Kṣīrodaśayī Mahavishnu is on the fourth level of supremacy. Vishnu is the manifestation of merely one power of Lord Krishna. The Bhagavatam says,
    यस्यैक निःश्वसितकालमथावलम्ब्य जीवन्ति लोमविलजाः जगदण्ड नाथा।
    विष्णुर्महान्स इह यस्य कलाविशेषो, गोविंदमादि पुरुषं तमहं भजामि ।। भागवत
    Yasyaika niḥśvasitakālamathāvalambya jīvanti lōmavilajāḥ jagadaṇḍa nāthā.
    Viṣṇurmahānsa iha yasya kalāviśēṣō, gōvindamādi puruṣaṁ tamahaṁ bhajāmi.. Bhāgavatam
    One can attain divine love bliss only after realizing Lord Krishna. That is possible only with His grace, which is attained by exclusively and constantly practicing His sincere devotion. Also, one must desire exclusively for the Lord’s happiness. Selfless love is essential to practice devotion and receive the grace of brahma Lord Krishna.j

  • This is the worst answer possible – when, in fact, this is one subject in which Hindu philosophy/spirituality etc. is extremely superior. Next time, please take the time to collect your thoughts, structure them appropriately, cater to the audience and start with your main point emphatically – instead of ending it in an abstract and weak manner.

  • Great research & study .Being Hindu we know little abut the the meanings ,reasons & pros of our rituals & customs .Usally people deemed that we are orthdox & tied with old shackles but reason of our such image
    is least knowledge of our own religion .You are making us aware