It is a common practice among Hindus to do pradakshina or circumambulation after paying obeisance to the deity. Worshippers move in a circular manner, starting right, around the deity or innermost chamber where the deity is kept. The pradakshina is often done around the deity if the temple is small and on the pathway around the innermost chamber in case of a large shrine.
The term pradakshina is a Sanskrit word and translates as “to the right”. The circumambulation must always be done with a meditative mood and intention to achieve the maximum benefit.
Let us now see how you should do pradakshina when you go to a temple.
Go Around Slowly
The pradakshina must be done slowly by the worshipper. There should be no rush while doing the circumambulation. Focus your mind and thoughts on the Divine when doing pradakshina. Many Hindus recite a mantra in honour of the god/goddess with folded hands when they do pradakshina.
Move in Clockwise Direction
Pradakshina is always done in a clockwise direction. This follows the belief that God will always be on our right side.
It is said that moving in a clockwise direction with the lord on the right is a reminder for the devotees to incorporate a righteous lifestyle and follow the right path of dharma.
After the Pooja
A pradakshina is typically done after standing in front of the god/goddess and praying to him/her. If a pooja is being done to the deity after the worship is done, the person must wait for the pooja to get over before proceeding to do the circumambulation.
There are essentially three types of pradakshina apart from the standard circumambulation. They are the atma pradakshina, the adi pradakshina, and the anga pradakshina.
The first method is known as atma pradakshina. This is done after the pradakshina around the deity. It is an act of going round the Self.
The second method is the adi pradakshina where the circumambulation is done similar to the standard way. However, it must be done using very small steps with the toes of one foot touching the heel of the other foot.
The third method called anga pradakshina is done wearing wet clothes after taking a bath in the well or pond in the premises of the shrine. The devotee rolls on the ground chanting the god’s name and has someone to guide him/her.
There is an interesting legend behind performing a pradakshina. It is said that once Ganesha and his brother Kartikeya engaged in a duel as to who was the better of the two. Lord Shiva wanted to end the dispute between his two sons. He asked both of them to go around the universe seven times. He also told them that whoever accomplished this first would be the winner. While Kartikeya took off instantly on his peacock, Ganesha thought for a minute and went around his parents, thrice over. When they asked him why he did so, Ganesha calmly replied that the whole world was contained within them. He further explained that in going around them, he had encircled the universe. Lord Shiva and his Mother Parvati were impressed by the answer and declared him the winner. It is believed that the circumambulations that a devotee does in a temple today is a representation of what Ganesha did.
Often, three pradakshinas are done around the temple. According to the Skanda Purana, the first pradakshina is said to help the worshipper get rid of the sins in his/her mind. The second one eliminates the sins committed through speech while the third circumambulation destroys the sins done by the body. However, some Hindus associate a specific number with certain deities. For example, they perform one pradakshina for Lord Ganesha and two for Lord Surya. Similarly, these devotees do three circumambulations for Shiva, four for Devi and Lord Vishnu and seven for a peepal tree. It is believed that the person who does 21 pradakshinas in a day is blessed with the maximum benefits.