We often worship in temples without knowing much about the significance of each of them. But it is important to acquaint ourselves with the mythology behind a temple, its significance and stories that relate to it. That would make our worship more meaningful, said M.V. Anantapadmanabhachariar, in a discourse.

Often even the names of the temple towns have a story behind them. For example, there are stories about why Naimisaranya got its name. Nemi in Sanskrit means a circle. It is said that when celestial beings asked Brahma where they should do penance, Brahma flung his ring, and told them that they should do penance in the place where the ring fell. It fell in the place we now know a Naimisaranya. It acquired its name from Brahma’s ring. Another story says that after Lord Narayana used His discus (Sudarsana) to slay demons, He told Sudarsana to clean himself up in the place now called Naimisaranya. Because the discus bathed there, it came to be called Naimisaranya.

In some temples, the Lord appeared of His own accord. Then there are other temples where the image was installed by sages, celestial beings or human beings. Seven places are said to be very holy — Ayodhya, Kasi, Mathura, Puri, Kanchi, Avantika and Dwaraka. It is important to visit these places.

Mathura is the place where Ambarisha did penance. It was at Mathura that the young boy Dhruva did penance. It used to be originally known as Madhu vanam. It was here that Krishna was born. In Kanchipuram, there is a temple where the deity is known as Deepa Prakasa. Vedanta Desika composed a Sanskrit work in praise of this deity. In one of the verses, he points out that Narayana is worshipped in temples according to one of two agamas — Pancharatra or Vaikhanasa. The Pancharatra was taught by the Lord Himself. As for the Vaikhanasa agama, it was taught by the sage Vikhanasa. Although the celestial beings worshipped the Lord on many occasions, their worship was invariably for a purpose. They wanted to get back lost power, or they sought protection of their status. But when we worship God, we must not seek such trivial things from Him. We should be motivated by love for Him.