As its common meaning and wider use suggests, ‘vedika’ is a makeshift altar for shifting the deity image from its regular position to a periodical one. In ritual worship traditions in India, in Hinduism, Jainism, or Buddhism, shifting of deity from its place is effected on two kinds of occasions, one for taking the deity into a periodical procession, and second, for the performance of special rituals. Besides ritual processions like those held on Nava-Ratri or Ganesha-Chaturthi, in which clay-images are usually massive or large in sizes and are taken to immerse in water, almost all religious systems have a calendar of processions taking the deity on a round. In such processions the deity is shifted from its regular altar in the temple or in a domestic shrine to a ritually consecrated and variously driven chariot and taken to a temporary site, installed there, worshipped and brought back the same day or as scheduled. In Himalayan hills there is a regional calendar and more often these are the deities from personal and domestic shrines that are taken out in the form of processions.
In Krishna’s temples the season-wise shifting of the enshrining image is a routine. In hot summer the idol would be shifted from the inner chamber, which is relatively hot, to an outer space in a temporary chamber erected using festoons comprising flowers and green leaves and other cooling agents. At seats like Vrindavana and Nathadwara seasonal adornment of the deity is always a special feature. This tradition is observed on microcosmic scale also at domestic shrines. The season-wise shift is effected even in the same space, but the deity is dressed anew and with an altar is shifted to the temporarily consecrated space. In Jain tradition the procession of an image of one of the Tirthankaras, more often Mahavira, is a regular feature to take place following the ten days’ long ‘Paryushana-parva’ – a ritual period of rigorous fasts. As the sanctum sanctorum in a Jain temple is designed with a ‘vedika’ in the centre and one, two or three each flanking it on either side making three, five or seven ‘vedikas’ in a row the Tirthankara images enshrining them constitute a group. As such, when a particular Tirthankara’s rituals are to be performed, the deity image is shifted away from its place and consecrated into a new space, often a makeshift ‘vedika’. Obviously, this piece of great art might also be used for any of such rituals or processions.
The square ‘vedika’, cast from fine gold-like lustrous brass, consists of four broad segments. A plain but mirror finished square moulding out-sizing the rest of the structure comprises the base of the ‘vedika’. A beautifully turned rising : its plinth – about one and a half inch high, consisting of stylized lotus-petal moulding, takes it to the vedika’s floor-height. The inner floor of the ‘vedika’ has been adorned with beautifully conceived floral designs : entire space divided into squares and a four-petalled flower motif covering each one. On its four corners are seated four pairs of bulls, each comprising one head but two bodies. In between its two bodies there rise the four pillars which support on them a roof, a plain frame with an upwards slanting rising consisting of stylized lotuses. In its centre the roof has a projected square base with a thin lining consisting of plain moulding for holding on it the tiny dome with a flame-like sharply pointed plain finial. The neck of the dome has been most artistically conceived and the dome itself has been adorned with creeper-designs.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.