In Hinduism, a murti (Devanagari: मूर्ति) typically refers to an image which expresses a Divine Spirit (murta). Meaning literally "embodiment", a murti is a representation of a divinity, made usually of stone, wood, or metal, which serves as a means through which a divinity may be worshiped. Hindus consider a murti worthy of serving as a focus of divine worship only after the divine is invoked in it for the purpose of offering worship. The depiction of the divinity must reflect the gestures and proportions outlined in religious tradition.
The murti is regarded by Hindus and also by some Mahayana Buddhists (e.g. Muktinath) during worship as a point of devotional and meditational focus. Puja of murtis is recommended, especially for Dvapara Yuga, and described in Pañcaratra texts.
Role of murtis in worship
Murtis are sometimes abstract, but are almost always representations of gods in anthropomorphic or zoomorphic forms like Shiva, Ganesha, Rama, Kali, etc. Murtis are made according to the prescriptions of the Śilpa Śāstras. The alloy Panchaloga is sometimes used. They are installed by priests through the Prana pratishta ('establishing the life') ceremony.
Devotional (bhakti) practices centered on cultivating a deep and personal bond of love with a god often include veneration of murtis. Some Hindu denominations like Arya Samaj and Satya Mahima Dharma, however, reject it, equating it with an idol worship.
According to Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, “This is similar to our ability to communicate with others through the telephone. One does not talk to the telephone; rather the telephone is a way to interact with another person. Without the telephone, one could not have a conversation across long distances; and without the sanctified image in the temple, one cannot easily talk with the Deity.” 
According to the Agamas, the स्थूलमूर्ति / बिम्बमूर्ति (bimbamurti, corporeal idol) is different from the मन्त्रमूर्ति (mantramurti, the idol with power), which is worshipped in classical temples. The mantramurti in the bimbamurti is worshipped only by the use of the appropriate rituals, gestures, hymns and offerings.
Materials used in Murtis
In Southern India, the material used predominantly for murtis is black granite, while material in North India is white marble.
- Klostermaier, Klaus K. A Survey of Hinduism. 1989 page293-5
- Kumar Singh, Nagendra. Encyclopaedia of Hinduism, Volume 7. 1997, page 739-43
- Garuḍa Purāṇa 1.223.37, 1.228.18
- For Śilpa Śāstras as basis for iconographic standards, see: Hopkins, p. 113.
- Lo Bue, Erberto (1991). "Statuary Metals in Tibet and the Himalayas: History, Tradition and Modern Use", Bulletin of Tibetology. 
- Naidoo, Thillayvel (1982). The Arya Samaj Movement in South Africa. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 158. ISBN 8120807693.
- Lata, Prem (1990). Swami Dayānanda Sarasvatī. Sumit Publications. p. x. ISBN 8170001145.
- Bhagirathi Nepak. Mahima Dharma, Bhima Bhoi and Biswanathbaba
- Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, "Ten Questions people ask About Hinduism …and ten terrific answers!" (p. 7) 
- The Goddess lives in upstate New York, by Corinne Dempsey, pg. 228,
- Hopkins, Thomas J. (1971). The Hindu Religious Tradition. Belmont, California: Dickenson Publishing Company.
- Deity worship site (ISKCON, Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya)
- Bhakti Dayita Madhava Gosvami Maharaja on difference between idol and murti
- India Murti Art, Architecture, History and Culture Study Project
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