Idolatry is the worship of an image or an idol, being a physical image, such as a statue or a person in place of god. In Abrahamic religions, namely Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, idolatry connotes the worship of something or someone other than god as if it were a god. However, modern terminologies have confused the word ‘idol worship’ with ‘Murti Pooja.’ Let’s explore this difference in our article today.
A Murti in Hinduism is itself not god; it is an “image of God” and a symbol and representation. A Murti is a form and manifestation of the formless Absolute. Idol is understood as a superstitious end in itself, unlike a murti.
Just like your photograph is not the real person, a Murti is a photograph in Hinduism but not the real thing, but in both cases, the photograph reminds of something of emotional and real value to the viewer.
When anyone worships a Murti, it is believed to be a manifestation of the spirit or essence of the deity, the worshipper’s religious ideas and spiritual needs are meditated through it, yet the concept of eternal reality – called Brahman in Hinduism is not confined in it.
Unlike idols, the murtis of gods are the structure made strictly according to Puranas and shastras. They are made in the same way described in the Puranas. Hence murtis made according to Puranas are made up of things that are mentioned in shastras like clay, wood, and prescribed stones.
Idols are worshipped out of the fear of gods. However, while worshipping a murti, hymns, Japa, and songs (kirtan, bhajan, or aarti) are performed as a sign of love and respect for god.
Murtis are neither random nor intended as superstitious objects; rather, they are designed with symbolism and iconographic rules which set the proportions, style, colors, the nature of items the images carry, their mudra, and the history associated with the deity.
Murtis are a reflection of the goodness of truth and moral living, compassion, love, history, and emotions.