Repair vs Replace


In Hindu culture, broken icons are usually disposed and replaced by new ones.
However, should we "replace" broken murtis or "repair" them ?

Though this is sometimes an emotive issue, I would like to proffer my views.

1) God is like a family member in my house.  Just because a family member is ill, injured or disabled, I would not replace him / her. 

2) Shri Rama Krushna Paramhansa had the same quandary.  One of the murtis at Dakshineshwara where he did his sadhana, was damaged and temple authorities were talking about replacing it.  Shri RamaKrishna repaired the murti and gave the above example for doing so.

3) The main murti at BadriNath is damaged.  It was damaged when Buddhists hid it in the hot water pool before going away to avoid an open debate with Adi Shankaracharya.  When Adi Shankara found the deity, he was asked to put it back in the pool and consecrate new one for the temple.  Shri Adi Shankara himself insisted that the original murti, which had been worshiped for so long, should not be abandoned because of some damage.  The "tej" (aura) and power of the murti was still intact.  To this day, we worship that repaired murti of Badrinath and make such special pilgrimage for it.

4) As everyone knows the world famous murti of Tirupati has a gash in its forehead.  Yet, it is worshiped by us all with great love and reverence.  The ultra large tilak of camphor is applied to his forehead to “heal” the pain caused by the gash. 

5) Shri Ganesh was fatally wounded and his head was chopped off soon after his creation by none other than Shiv himself.  In the biggest botched repair job ever, Shiv replaced a handsome head of a boy with an elephant’s head !!  Not only did it ruin the face of the GanaRaja Parvati had created, it pushed the stomach out and made him ungainly on his feet.  Parvatiji was sad and worried no one would ever want to talk to her son due to his deformities.  Shri Shiv himself blessed the child so that everyone will have to worship Parvati’s Ganapati’s before any work is under taken.

6) Ganapati’s one tusk was broken by Parashurama while practising for combat.  Being God, either of them could have fixed the tusk.  But, Shri Ganesh insisted on keeping the tusk broken as a memento of the moment.  We all worship Ganesh whose tusk is broken.


Contrary to what most non-Hindus believe, Hindus do not believe in “idols” being Gods. They sincerely believe idols are simply repositories of the divine spirit.  That is why they invoke the divine spirit to enter an idol and after the ritual / festival is over, request the spirit to leave the idol.  As a result, a broken idol is easily replaced by requesting the residing spirit to move from one icon to another.  For Hindus, this is a simple trans-migration of the spirit and is in keeping with their ideas about reincarnation as well. 

Hinduism is a highly consumer orientated society.  Hindus insist everything should be “new”.  In our festivals, even the clothes worn by the people should be new and everyone – from the baby upwards, gets gift of money, clothes or jewellery.  Everything in Hindu rituals must be “new”.  From lamps, clothes to all the items used for worship should be new.  This was especially true in temples.  Any broken or damaged item was immediately replaced.  Everything in Hindu rituals is “disposable”.  From plates and things (made of banana and khakhara leaves) to all items used and sometimes even the murties !!   

At home, in the seva, all old things are renewed and replaced as soon as is possible.  Truly antique jewellery, un-tampered over time,  is hence difficult to find.  Old paintings are disposed off and old utensils – even if they are made of the precious metals, are recast into new shapes.  Often after the death of a person, their old icons and murties are handed over to major temples or disposed off in rivers and lakes.  One major consequence of disposing temple items, even slightly damaged, has been that you will find very few “true antiques” in our temples.  Jewellery gets mended or transformed, statues and paintings on walls get repaired or replaced, divine icons damaged or worn out over time are respectfully disposed and replaced.  Often westerns buy such disposed items and put them in museums around the world.


 Here are a couple of other links for visarjan
1) Visarjan 1
2) Visarjan 2


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