Pradakshina is going around or circumambulating the deity with devotion. It is one of the aspects of Shodashopachara. Shodashopachara is the worship of deity done in sixteen segments.
What is Pradakshina
The definition of Pradakshina is given as,
This simply means taking a round from the right side of the deity. Actually Pradakshina is ‘the act of moving around god or an honorable person by keeping at our right side is called Pradakshina’.
How to perform it
Kalika Purana mentions the method of Pradakshina as,
Prasarya dakshinamhastam svayamnamrashirahpunah
Dakshinam darshayanparshvamanasapi cha dakshinah
(By spreading the right hand in the front, by bending head and by showing our right part of body to the god and also by being modest, one should make Pradakshina.)
If it is not possible to go around the deity, one should move around him or herself. But in such Pradakshina back is shown to deity hence such Pradakshina should be avoided.
The number of Pradakshina to different deities
The scriptures mention how many Pradakshina should be offered to various deities.
Ekam devyamravousaptatrinikuryad vinayake
Chatvari keshavekuryant shivechardha prasakshinam
(One should offer one Pradakshina to goddess, seven to sun, three to Ganesha, four to Krishna and half to Shiva.)
Pradakshina offered to Shiva should be half. The water outlet of the Shivalingam should not be crossed during Pradakshina as it is a part of Shiva lingam. Hence the Pradakshina should be half. This Pradakshina is called as Somasutri Pradakshina.
Importance of Pradakshina
Importance of Pradakshina is stated in the Varaha Purana
Pradakshina ye kurvantibhaktiyuktenachetasanate
Yamapuramyantiyanti punyakruta gatim
(Those who offer Pradakshina with devotion in the mind obtain the path of virtuous people and do not go to the place of Yama.)
Some people offer Pradakshina as a vow. Desirous of a son or for any other, they make Pradakshina to banyan tree or udumbar tree or Lord Datta or any upasya deity.