The whole Indian subcontinent is studded with temples and shrines where a devout Hindu goes to worship. It is perhaps impossible to think that there can be any home without a small place for the deities or there can be any village without a temple. However, it is interesting to note that visiting a temple is not mandatory for the Hindus and a devout visits a shrine or temple on his own sweet-will and not under any socio-religious pressure.
Since time immemorial Hindu temples have come up near the banks of rivers or tanks where the deity is purified with water regularly. And down the generations worshipping of gods and goddesses is going on in an unending manner.
Generally speaking, the institution of temple is as old as the Indus Valley Civilisation. Furthermore, great Hindu temples grew up at places which were made sacred by the legend. Down the ages the artistic flair and technical skill of Hindu architectural creativity got expressed in unique sculptures of temples. On the score of temple architecture an account of 19th century was found where the author described that "Broadly speaking, a temple compound is made of a pyramidal gateway, a terrace, a courtyard with a metallic bell hung on it. The temple building proper has an inner shrine, and within that the most sacred inner room where the chief deity is kept." It can be observed that the room of the main deity is not big, rather is small enough and not well illuminated. This room is symbolic of a cave where the deity resides. And these deities are worshipped regularly by the devotees.
Ritualistically speaking, temple worship is disciplined and has a strict schedule which is to be followed by the purohit or priest without fail.
Temple worship starts at the Brahmamuhurtam or around four in the early morning by lighting up the lamp and ringing the gong-bell accompanied by rhythmic mantras. This is the symbolic act of awakening the deity. This is followed by washing the whole temple and sanctifying the same with Gangawater. Then at sunrise the God's bathing ceremony is done privately. There the God is given a bath with water and dressed in fresh clothes. After bathing of God the deity is applied with sandal-paste tilaks. For example, a Shiva-Linga is marked with Tripundra Tilak and Salagram Shila is markedwith Urdhapundra Tilak. Then the morning worship takes place with the japa and the deity is offered with fruits and sweets.
At the middle bfthe day bhogamis offered by the devotee. This bhogam is generally cooked by Brahmin or twice-born only. This prashador offered food of the God is later taken by the devotee as prashadam. However, it may be noted that Lord Shiva is not offered with any cooked food, rather is given uncut fruits which become the prashadam later on. After the mid-day's meal the deity is put to rest; none disturbs him.
At the sunset Sandhya Arati is performed. This time the deity is put on gorgeous clothing or Raj Vesha. At the beginning of the evening ceremony the lamps are lighted and drums are beaten and mantras are chanted. After the puja, with a brief pause the deity is offered the evening meal and arrangements are made for Shayana or the sleeping ceremony. The purohit (priest) prepares the bed where the deity retires for the day.
In day-to-day life of the temples and house as well, hymns are chanted and prayers offered. The priest who performs the puja or religious rites should be well-versed with Vedic codes. However, for the worshipper of Mother Goddess Kali the priest should be trained in Tantra Shastras.
In the temples, another important part of worship is the element of sonorous music. In most of the temples the Bhakti (devotional) songs are sung which have generally pauranic or legendary base and devouts are asked to join the Bhakti chorus.
Thus the music is one of the important symbols for Hindu devouts to worship God to the accompaniment of beating of drums and other musical instruments, which are mandatory for temple worship.