Rituals and Worship

Hare Krishna pilgrims visiting India often also visit a third site, the city of Puri along India's East Coast. Puri is the center of the worship of Lord Jagannath, an alternative form of Krishna, and holds the most important temple dedicated to the worship of Jagannath. Puri hosts the original Ratha-Yatra or chariot festival, and devotees seek to visit during this festival, held in midsummer, and worship at the major Puri temples. Additionally, ISKCON devotees visit sites associated with Chaitanya, who spent much of his lifetime in Puri.

Though ISKCON generally looks to the geography of India in its marking of sacred space, in their daily lives devotees also signify their own bodies as sacred through the use of tilaka, marks made of sacred clay that members apply to their bodies. As part of their morning purifying rituals, and sometimes also before attending communal worship, both male and female devotees apply twelve tilaka marks to their bodies. As they do so, they repeat holy mantras, marking the body part as sacred and dedicated to the worship of Krishna. These twelve sites -- the forehead, stomach, chest, throat, side (right and left), arm (right and left), shoulder (right and left), and back (upper and lower) -- create a sacred space within the body, and helps individual ISKCON devotees understand themselves as sacred beings.

Study Questions:
     1.     What are the sacred centers for ISKCON followers?
     2.     Do ISKCON temples encourage idolatry? Why or why not?
     3.     How are pilgrimage sites determined? Which spaces are most important?
     4.     How does the body engage the sacred?

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