It is an age old tradition to ring the bell of the temple upon entering its premises. Bell ringing is an ancient Vedic ritual and one can see multiple bells hanging over the domes in many Indian shrines. It is said that the devotees knock God’s entrance to ask permission upon entering his holy sanctum.
What is a bell?
Ghanta is the Sanskrit word for bell. Bell is a musical instrument made up of bronze or brass. It has a hollow interior and has a tang in it which creates sound. A temple bell or ghantais symbolicofantarala, the gap between sky and earth. Kansyaghanta, tala, ghatika, jayaghantika, kshudraghanta and krama are the types of bell mentioned in the Sanskrit literature.
Bells are mainly classified into two broad categories; one which can be hung on the hook. This type of bellcan be seen in the temples. The otherone is a small hand bell which can be rung by holding in the palm. This type of bell is normally used in the home sanctum.
The bell is the spiritual abode of all Gods and Goddesses and it also acts as an instrument of many deities.
(Bell is said to be the embodiment of all Gods and musical instruments, hence it should be sounded.)
The bell which has a handle in the shape of Vajra is known as Vajraghanta. In Buddhist monastery, the bell which has a Stupa shaped handle is used for prayers.
Interestingly, thebell with a sign of an eagle removes sorrows arising from snakes, fire and lightning. It is believed that this bell is much dearer to Lord Vishnu.
When and how it is performed?
In most cases, bells are found hung over the temple domes outside the sanctum. It is the general tradition to ring it before entering into the sanctum to inform God about his/her arrival. Various smaller types of bells are rung in front of God while performing regular puja and arti. As bell is used for the worship of deities, bell itself is worshipped as well.
Lord Krishna saved the inhabitants of Gokulfrom the anger of Indra, during the time of Govardhana puja, by lifting the GovardhanaMountain. After this incident, the bell which was tied to the neck of Iravata, elephant of Indra, was gifted by Him to Krishna. The same is mentioned in the following verse,
Athopavahyadaya ghantam airavatad gajat
(Brahma P. 188.36 ab)
This is considered as the beginning of the use of a bell in deity worship.
Following verse should be recited during the act of ringing,
Panchalohamayi ghanta rudrasyalhadakarini snanedhupae cha dipe cha ghantadernada macharet
(Ghanta which is made of five metals is dear to Lord Rudra and it should be rung during the worship.)
Snanarchana kriyakale ghanta nadam karoti yah purato vasudevasya tasyapunya falam shrunuvarsha
Kotisahasrani varshakotishatani cha vasate devaloketu apsarogana sevitah
(During the spiritual bath and worship of Lord Krishna the one who rings the bell stays in the land of God for years and years by getting service from Apsaras.)
Why is it performed?
Agamanartham tudevanam gamanartham turakshasam kurughanteravam tatra devatahvana lakshanam
(O bell, for the arrival of Gods and the removal of demons, you make your sound which is for invoking the Gods.)
In the above verse, the sound of bell is considered as the invoker of the Gods. The sound of bell is believed to beauspicious. It welcomes Gods and removes evil. In ShathapathaBrahmana, it is mentioned that ‘evil should be driven out by making good quality sound.’ This good quality sound is made by a bell or conch shell.There is a common belief among people that one who performs the ringing of a bell for God obtains merits.