The following is an Excerpted article from ‘Back To Godhead’ magazine, one of my favorite issues in recent memory. The “Special Panca-Tattva Edition” This issue was dedicated to the momentous event in the history of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON): the inauguration of the worship of life-sized deities of Sri Panca-tattva (Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His four principal associates) in Mayapur, West Bengal. Ten thousand Hare Krsna devotees from around the world attended the March festival, the culmination of years of preparation and the fulfillment of the vision of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, ISKCON’s founder-acarya.
From Back to Godhead Magazine Vol 38, No. 4, 2004
Matter to Spirit
The Anatomy of a Deity Installation
by Sri Prahlada Dasa and Braja Sevaki Devi Dasi
Vedic rites and mantras mark the appearance of Sri Panca-tattva in their deity forms.
As the festivities and formalities unfolded in the temple, thousands were drawn into the whirl of color and sound emanating from the main altar as Sri Panca-tattva were unveiled for the first time. Amongst the activities, one stood out in its beauty and intensity: the yajna, or fire sacrifice, being carried out center-stage. Huge flames licked the forty-foot-high ceiling, urged on by great wooden spoonfuls of ghee (clarified butter) and accompanied by a chorus of strong voices chanting Vedic mantras and prayers. This is tattva homa, one of the six rites of the deity installation process—a magical, spiritual, esoteric journey for the senses, mind, and spirit.
The Vedic scriptures teach that the Lord’s name, form, qualities, and pastimes are identical to Him. Thus the deity, as the Lord’s form, and the Lord Himself are identical. Then why the need for an installation? Essentially, the installation process formalizes the Lord’s manifestation. It is a conscious acknowledgment, a contract, so to speak, between the devotee and the Lord, whom the devotee requests to be formally present and to reciprocate with a certain standard of worship. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita (4.11), ye yatha mam prapadyante: “As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly.”