In India, but also among Buddhists, a statue or a sacred image (murti) before being venerated is consecrated: the consecration of a statue aims to give it life: it is no longer just a form representing a divinity but it becomes its channel of expression, it is animated by its presence, its force: it can then symbolize the qualities of the divinity, the principle for which it is honored: Shiva as a yogi, for example, who is adored by the Sannyasins (the renouncers who having broken all ties with their family, their caste ... devote their existence to the sole search for the absolute), Durga as a powerful destructive force of hindrances, Ganesh who remove obstacles ... It is important to understand that it is not a question of honouring an idol but the divine, pure consciousness: the representation allowing to shape, to symbolize forces at work specifically.
The consecration is done both during the inauguration of a temple and for the installation of a new statue in a temple or in a private sanctuary (altar in his house for example).
Consecration of a hinduist statue has many stages
First, the Brahmins by consulting sacred texts and studying astrology will determine the most auspicious date for consecration.
The process involves many stages: first, the statue will be purified, it will spend several days in water (usually three), then it will be buried in grains of wheat or rice, then covered with flowers.
The elements that have had contact with the statue are in no way thrown away: water is poured at the foot of a tree, cereals cooked and distributed to the renouncers, beggars ...
The installation ceremony of a sculpture
Then comes the time of the installation ceremony: depending on the place, the nature of the consecration, the statue can be led in procession in the village, in the streets near the temple in town ... lying down, covered with flowers in a palanquin carried on the backs of men and accompanied by musicians and songs.
Then inside the temple ceremonies will complete this consecration: food offerings (fruits, flowers, spices ...), pujas, songs ... in honor of the deity. This ceremony is spread over several days: the last day is really the moment when the statue becomes the icon of the divine: the blindfold that covered the eyes is removed and the “opening of the eyes” ceremony is carried out and is different depending on the tradition: this can be done with Tulsi leaves, basil leaves, a gold needle….
The breath of life
The choice of location is also essential, especially in a house: there too, this place will be consecrated with perfume, a yantra (geometric symbol).
Before being definitively installed, the carried statue goes around the temple three times accompanied by the chants of the faithful: then it is sealed, the priest deposits mantras at the symbolic places: on the feet, the navel, the head, traces with vermilion powder sacred symbols on the heart and the base and finally sprinkles the statue with water from the Ganges. The water from the pot used to invoke the god is then poured over the statue, the Brahmin recites mantras, blows on the statue thus breathing life into it, the prâna.
Particularities of the Buddhist consecration
Among Buddhists, the ceremony is different and one of the peculiarities of the consecration is the filling of the statue with "objects" that will be sealed in the statue: these objects can be of different kinds, they can be sacred texts, relics of a sage (hair, nails, bones, teeth) or goods that belonged to him and with which he was in close contact. It can also be sacred images, clay models, medicinal plants: the choice of his objects is made according to the statue, the divinity represented, the situation and will be adapted on a case-by-case basis. It should be noted that a statue can be consecrated several times depending on the need.
Murtis or sculptures born of her own
There is a situation where the divine image is not consecrated, it is when the divine image is born of itself "Svayambhu": these divine representations or statues were not created by man but are revealed to him and appeared spontaneously: often thanks to dreams, to an animal (very often a cow whose milk flows in the place where the divine image is buried): this is the case of the Salagrana stone, a natural form of Vishnu from the Gandki river in Nepal or the temples of Naina Devi....
All that has been offered to the gods cannot be thrown in an impure place: offerings are distributed and the sacred images, when they are renewed return to nature, most of the time in the water of the ocean, of a river...