Religion Wiki

Abhisheka (also abhiseka, abhishek ~ amongst other such transliterations) is a Sanskrit term comparable to puja, yagya and arati that denotes: a devotional activity; an enacted prayer [1], rite of passage and/or religious rite or ritual. It is a ritual common to all Dharmic faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Bon and Jainism.

Abhisheka as a ritual

Abhisheka, also called Abhishekam, is conducted by priests, by pouring libations on the idol of the deity being worshipped, amidst the chanting of mantras. Usually, offerings such as milk, yogurt, ghee, honey, Panchaamrutam, Sesame oil, rosewater, sandalwood paste may be poured among other offerings depending on the type of abhishekam being performed. This ritual is routinely performed in most Hindu and Jain temples. "Rudraabhisheka" (रुद्राभिषेक) (Abhisheka of Rudra) is performed on Shiva lingams.

Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism)

Abhisheka is the name given to a late Vedic rite of anointing government officials, particularly heads of state, at the time of their taking power or to mark a signal achievement. It is also the bathing ceremony and anointing performed on certain festival days for the temple deities.

Shingon Buddhism

List of Abhiseka initiates in 812 at Takaosan-ji (高雄山寺)

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, an abhisheka can be a method for performing esoteric transmission, a way to offer blessings of a lineage to participants, or it can be an empowerment to begin a particular meditation practice.[2] The Abhiseka Ritual (灌頂 kanjō?) in Shingon Buddhism is the initiation ritual used to confirm that a student of esoteric Buddhism has now graduated to a higher level of practice. The kanji used literally mean "pouring from the peak", which poetically describes the process of passing on the master's teachings to the student. The ritual was popular in China during the Tang Dynasty, and Kukai, founder of Shingon, studied there extensively before introducing this ritual to the Japanese Buddhist establishment of the time.[3] A separate initiation ritual exists for the general public called the kechien kanjō (結縁灌頂?), and symbolizes their initiation into esoteric Buddhism. This ritual is only offered at Mt. Koya in Wakayama Prefecture in Japan.

The Shingon ritual utilizes the one of the two Mandala of the Two Realms, depending on the occasion. In esoteric ritual, after the student receives the Samaya precepts, the teacher of the esoteric Buddhism assumes the role of the teacher, usually Mahavairocana Buddha, while the master and student repeat specific mantras in a form of dialogue taken from esoteric Buddhist sutras. The student, who is blindfolded, then throws a flower upon the Mandala that is constructed, and where it lands (i.e. which deity) helps dictate where the student should focus his devotion on the esoteric path.[4] From there, the student's blindfold is removed and a vajra is placed in hand.

Famous Abhishekas

  • Mahaabhishekam conducted at the Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain.
  • Mahamastakabhisheka at Shravanabelagola in Karnataka.

Cultural examples

  • In the Mahavairocana Sutra Mahavairocana Buddha reveals the Mandala of the Womb Realm to Vajrasattva and teaches the rituals that relate to the Womb Mandala which are known as, and an example of, abhisheka.
  • Lord Rama was asked to go for 14 Years of living in Jungles, just before his Abhisheka was round the corner.
  • Lord Rama performed Abhisheka after installing a Jyotirlinga in Rameswaram with presiding deity Ramalingeshwar.

See also


  1. Meditation, contemplation, intentionality and wishing are inherent in this usage of prayer.
  2. Hayward (2008) p.114
  3. Abe (1999). pp. ?. 
  4. Hakeda (1972). pp. 44. 

External References

ja:灌頂 ru:Абхишека zh:灌頂