MOVEMENT OF THE BHAKTI AND THE BIRTH OF THE TEMPLE
The spread of the Puranic deities goes hand in hand with the development of the movement of devotion, bhakti and, around 5th century AD, of a refined architectural art that reaches its peak in the majestic temple cities typical of South India.
The sacred image of the Divinity offers the worshiper support for devotion. A statue, murti, is the hypostasis of the Divine itself. It is infused with life through a very complex series of rituals, that begin with the choice of the material to be used to make the statue, and with the chanting of mantras. The murti thus consecrated becomes a real channel of spiritual energy. Due to this great number of images of the Divine, Hinduism is unfortunately often accused of idolatry. However, this prejudice is unfounded since the devotee does not adore the statue before him but the expression of God it represents.
According to one’s attitudes and temperament, the devotee addresses different divine representations. Minds and spiritual paths are different, so the way of conceiving God varies significantly. Everyone can rely on one’s dearest deity, known as Ishta-devata.
The concept of avatara implies the assumption of a physical body by God or one of its aspects. The term itself indicates a “descent” of God to earth. The concept of avatara is typical of the Vaisnava traditions and mainly used to define the different incarnations of Vishnu. “So whenever order (dharma) fails and disorder advances, I manifest myself, to protect good and destroy ignorance and evil (adharma), to restore order, from age to age, I am born. ” (Bhagavad-gita IV. 7-8.)