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26 February, 2013

Why do we ring the bell in a temple?

In Indian Culture

Why do we ring the bell in a temple?

      It is believed that deities remain manifest in temples in which bells are rung. In most temples there are one or more bells hung from the top, near the entrance.  The devotee rings the bell as soon as he enters, thereafter proceeding for darshan of the Lord and prayers.  Children love jumping up or being carried high in order to reach the bell.

       The bell is rung prior to arti to inform devotees to rush for arti's darshan.  During arti the bell's auspicious sound wards off evil.  When rung with a tuned rhythm, the bell's sound has the power to focus the wandering and hyperactive mind on the deity and sentiments of the arti's lyrics.  During artis, the bell's sound has the effect of spiritually boosting a person in the morning and relieving the day's mayic stress in the evening.  

       In India, bells can be heard ringing in the morning and evening artis, in every city, town and village.  This collectively, spiritually energises the immediate vicinity of a shrine.  The ringing bell ineffably attracts people's attention.  If they happen to pass by a shine during arti, regardless of whether the deity is their Ishtadeva  (one's favourite God) or not, they devotionally offer slight bow or place their right hand on their chest or offer pranams.

       Such is the devotional reverence (bhavana), inherent in the hearts of Hindu.

Why do we ring the bell?

     Is it to wake up the Lord?  But the Lord never sleeps.  Is it let the Lord know we have come?  He does not need to be told, as He is all-knowing.  Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct?  It is a homecoming and therefore entry needs no permission.  The Lord welcomes us all times.  Then why do we ring the bell?

       The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound.  It produces the sound Om, the universal name of the Lord.  There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness. 

       Even while dong the ritualistic aarati, we ring the bell.  It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of the conch and other musical instruments.  An added significance of ringing the bell, conch and other instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardour, concentration and inner peace.

       As we start daily ritualistic worship (pooja) we ring the bell, chanting the following mantra:

Aagamaarthamtu devaanaam
gamanaarthamtu rakshasaam
Kurve ghantaaravam tatra
devataahavahana lakshanam

I ring this bell indicating
the invocation of divinity,
so that virtuous and noble forces
enter (home and heart);
And the demonic and evil forces
From within and without, depart.

Source: 1. Excerpts from the Book on "In Indian Culture Why Do we..." by Swamini Vimalananda and Radhika Krishnakumar.

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