Prana pratistha refers to the rite or ceremony by which a murti (image of a god) is consecrated in a Hindu temple, wherein hymns and mantra are recited to invite the deity to be resident guest, and the idol's eye is opened for the first time. Practiced in the temples of Hinduism and Jainism, the ritual is considered to infuse life into the Hindu temple, and bring to it the numinous presence of divinity and spirituality.
The ceremony, states Heather Elgood, marks the recognition of the image of god to represent "a particle of the divine whole, the divine perceived not in man's image as a separate entity but as a formless, indescribable omnipresent whole", with the divine presence a reminder of its transcendence and to be beheld in one's inner thoughts during darśana in the temple.
The Sanskrit word pratiṣṭhā, which in general usage means "resting" or "position", used in connection with a murti is translated by Apte as "the consecration of an idol or image". The corresponding adjective pratiṣṭha means "installed" or "consecrated". Prana means "life force, breath". The phrase Prana Pratishtha is a ritual that means, state Bhame and Krusche, "bringing life to the temple". It is also referred to as Murti Sthapana (image placement inside the temple), or the composite word Pranapratishtha. Traditionally, this was the step when the eye of the murti was sculpted open, inside the garbhagriha (Purusha space of the temple) of a Hindu temple.
The ritual typically involves a Puja, chanting of Sanskrit mantras as the deity is moved from outside into the center place, inviting the deity as resident guest of the temple, bathing and cleansing the deity whose feet may be washed just like a revered guest arriving after a long journey, dressing and seating in a place of comfort, placing the image's face towards east (marking sunrise), followed by Nyasa with hymns (act of touching different parts of the murti signifying the presence of various gods as sensory organs – Indra as hand, Brahma as heart, Surya as eyes, and so on), spraying of scented water and flowers, with the Chaksu͡unmilan (Sanskrit: "chakshu unmilan", opening of the divine eye) ceremony marking the high point of the ritual. The image is then considered as consecrated. In large and ceremonial public temples, the murti may be retired at sunset just like a guest retiring to bed, and then woken up at sunrise with pleasantries, washing, offering of fresh clothes, food and interaction with the devotees. Some temples may include elaborate procession, as community events such as traditional singing and dancing events to mark the celebration.
According to Gudrun Buhnemann, the esoteric Hindu tantric traditions through texts such as Tantra-tattva follow elaborate Prana Pratistha rituals to infuse life into a murti. Some tantra texts such as the Pancaratraraksa state that anyone who considers an icon of Vishnu as nothing but "an ordinary object" made of iron "goes to hell". The use of Murti and particularly the prana pratistha consecration ceremony, states Buhnemann, has been criticized by Hindu groups. These groups state that this practice came from more recent "false tantra books", and there is not a single word in the Vedas about such a ceremony.
Digambara Jains consecrate the statue of a Jina by the ritual of Abhisheka, where the statue is awakened by pouring of auspicious liquids such as water, clarified butter, coconut milk, yellow sandalwood water, cow milk and other liquids successively. The temple is considered active only when the main Jina image has been consecrated. The ritual of consecrating an image to bring "life to temple" is attested in medieval Jain documents.
- Heather Elgood (2000), Hinduism and the Religious Arts, Bloomsbury Academic, ISBN 978-0304707393, pages 14-15, 32-36
- V Bharne and K Krusche (2012), Rediscovering the Hindu Temple, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, ISBN 978-1443841375, page 53
- For "the consecration of an idol or image" for pratiṣṭhā see: Apte, p. 653, column 1, meaning 13.
- For the meaning of pratiṣṭha as installed or consecrated see: Apte, p. 653, column 2, meaning 4.
- Heather Elgood (2000), Hinduism and the Religious Arts, Bloomsbury Academic, ISBN 978-0304707393, pages 32-36
- C Fuller (2004), The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691120485, pages 67-68
- Hillary Rodrigues (2003), Ritual Worship of the Great Goddess, McGill Studies in the History of Religions, State University of New York Press, ISBN 0-791453995, Chapter 3
- For the technical term utsava vigraha for consecration of festival icons, and role in providing darśaṇa see: Flood (2003), p. 7.
- Buhnemann, Gudrun, Puja: A Study in Smarta Ritual, Publications of the De Nobili Research Library, Gerold & Co., Vienna, 1988. p. 27 with footnotes
- Buhnemann, Gudrun, Puja: A Study in Smarta Ritual, Publications of the De Nobili Research Library, Gerold & Co., Vienna, 1988. p. 57 with footnote 354. "The mantras used for infusing the icon with life (pranapratistha) have come from false tantra books, which are opposed to the Vedas (p. 485.7-13)." [...] cf. Furquhar (1915), pp. 297-350"
- For añjana śalākā, the "eye-opening" rite, see: Cort, John E. "Overview of the Jain Purāṇas", in: Doniger, p. 197.
- Lisa Owen (2012), Carving Devotion in the Jain Caves at Ellora, BRILL, ISBN 978-9004206298, pages 44, 146-147, 184-186
- Apte, Vaman Shivram (1965). The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 81-208-0567-4. (Fourth revised and enlarged edition).
- Doniger, Wendy (editor) (1993). Purāṇa Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts. Albany, New York: State University of New York. ISBN 0-7914-1382-9.
- Gavin Flood, ed. (2003). The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-4051-3251-5.