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Friday, 30 December 2011

Religious Idols

These days there are many of us who have Indian friends and colleagues that we wish to gift something special to, but have no idea what will be appreciated. Knowing of their religious standing or practices is not enough to go out and buy a religious gift, at least for a Hindu. After all, there are more than a 100 million gods that are worshipped in the religion. You might be better off casually asking the recipient what his favorite religious idols are. Chances are you will come across names like Ganpati or Ganesh, Krishna, Saraswati, Shiva, Vishnu, Rama Sita, Natraj, Lakshami, Kali, Bal Gopal, and Balaji. An ideal gift would be to find a beautiful statue and present it on the special occasion. Most religious Hindus love being gifted gods’ idols and statues, to keep in their prayer room or at focus places within the house for decorative purposes.

All the gods and goddesses in Hinduism have legends and stories about them that have been passed down from generation to generation. In fact, if you search the internet, you can find quite a few interesting stories about each of the names mentioned above. One of the most common stories told is about Lord Vishnu and the mighty demon King Bali that made all the gods in heaven apprehensive of the universe’s future. The story goes something like this:

There was once a Demon King named Bali. The king was said to be a true devotee of Lord Vishnu and spent many hours a day in prayer. The Lord was once so pleased with his devotion that he had made him invincible in the battle field as a reward. The King had realized the boon he had been given and started taking undue advantage of this by defeating all gods in battle. All the gods in heaven worried about his growing strength and wondered how he could be distracted or controlled. At last Lord Vishnu came to the rescue, by disguising himself as a common human being in the form of a dwarf Vamana. King Bali was always known as a generous king and prided himself for being so. Hence, when the dwarf asked the mighty king for space which could be covered in three steps, he gladly agreed to oblige against the warning given by his Guru Sukracharya. Soon Vamana grew so large that in one foot he touched the entire Earth, another foot touched the heavens and then King Bali did not have a third foot to provide so he bowed his head to Vamana who then put his third foot on King Bali’s head. However, being worshipped by Mahabali and his ancestor Prahláda, he conceded to them the sovereignty of Patala (netherworld).

Such stories make the various Hindu religious idols all the more appealing. Plus, once you take a look around at the many varieties of statues available in the market, you will be tempted to pick up an idol or two for your own home.

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