It is a very controversial thing about this verse along the religious websites, especially non-Hindu websites, they claim that idol worship is prohibited in Hinduism.

They are arguing with this verse.

They enter darkness those who worship natural things (for e.g. air, water, fire, etc.). They sink deeper in darkness those who worship sambhuti i.e. created things. (Yajurved 40:9)

Now , what is the true meaning of this phrase?

5 Answers 5


The verse you are referring to is as below:

andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti ye 'sambhūtim upāsate
tato bhūya iva te tamo ya u sambhūtyām ratāḥ

This is present in the Isha Upanishad or the Shukla Yajur Veda chapter forty. But to say that this verse prohibits idol worship would be incorrect. All that it says is, those who worship only the asambhuta (which has not originated) and those who worship only the sambhuta (which has originated) enter into darkness.

But the thing is, because Sanskrit words can mean multiple things, people give it different meanings. But simply speaking, asambhuta here means the unmanifested absolute formless mode of supreme Brahman and sambhuta means the different manifested forms like the devas or demigods. It is because, the absolute neither comes to exist nor ceases to exist (without origin), but the various gods come to exist and also after their time is over cease to exist (with origin). Similarly, there is another verse which forbids both knowledge and ignorance:

andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti ye 'vidyām upāsate
tato bhūya iva te tamo ya u vidyāyām ratāḥ
[Isha Up. - 9]

Now tell me, what kind of logic is this! It is understandable if we say one will enter darkness if he worships or follows ignorance, but why would any one enter darkness if he follows knowledge?

So these verses only encourage to have a complete knowledge of the both the aspects instead of following or knowing only one partially. It is because both knowledge and ignorance are part of God:

vidyāvidye mama tanū [SB - 11.11.3]
- Both knowledge and ignorance are my body (energy potencies)

And God is both with and without forms:

dve vāva brahmaṇo rūpe, mūrtaṃ caivāmūrtaṃ ca [Brh. Up - 2.3.1]
- God (Brahman) has two modes, formless (nirakara, asambhuta) as well as form (sakar, sambhuta).

The Vedas and scriptures are full of contradicting statements for a certain reason. If one takes up only one statement and tries to define everything else as per it, then he will only reach biased and wrong conclusions. Complete knowledge is always required. So another verse of that same Upanishad explicitly mentions to known both knowledge and ignorance. Because only by knowing both the modes of God that one will be able to have the complete and absolute knowledge:

vidyāṁ cāvidyāṁ ca yas tad vedobhayaṁ saha
avidyayā mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā vidyayāmṛtam aśnute
[Isha Up. - 11]

Only one who can learn the process of nescience (avidya) and that of transcendental knowledge (vidya) side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality.

So don't take any such arguments seriously. Idol worship is neither mandatory nor prohibited in Hinduism. In fact puranas like Shrimad Bhagavatam itself mention the process of deity form worship of the God and what the idols can be made of:

śailī dāru-mayī lauhī lepyā lekhyā ca saikatī
mano-mayī maṇi-mayī pratimāṣṭa-vidhā smṛtā
[SB - 11.27.12]

The Deity form of the Lord is said to appear in eight varieties — stone, wood, metal, earth, paint, sand, the mind or jewels.

- Ishopanishad
- Significance of idol worship
- Shrimad Bhagavatam - 11.27

  • Very nice answer Mr. Be Happy Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 16:37
  • From this ...those who worship only the asambhuta (which has not originated) and those who worship only the sambhuta (which has originated) enter into darkness. What I can infer from this is that, whichever way you worship you endup in darkness. Can you make it more clear?
    – Ubi.B
    Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 8:32

Idol worshiping is not prohibited in Vedas, but considered as least kind of worshiping. Preference is given to Manasika Pooja which means a person who wish to worship any god, need to assume god's image in his mind and concentrate on that god and worship in his mind Manasika. This method is possible to only those who have a lot of meditation practice, and those people are mostly be saints or Rushi. So all other people who can't achieve this method, they can use alternate way. Idol worshiping is one of the alternate way which can be followed by a common man.

Ways of worshiping will also differ in each Yuga. Difficulty is reduced from one Yuga to another.

In Kruta Yuga or Satya Yuga worshiping is only by Yagna or Yaga and Tapass because gods were coming to earth more often and people were living like few 1000 years. Only those who have ability to do Tapass for many 100 years will be considered for special reward.

In Treta Yuga still Tapass and Yagna or Yaga is the way to worship. But because people live like few 100 years, less than Kruta Yuga, the duration and count also reduced.

In Dwapara Yuga this is again reduced. In Kali Yuga as all we know, no guaranty to live 100 years, among all of it 50-60 years will be spent for career building and settle down. So common people can't follow those difficult methods to worship. So this is again reduced to Nama Smarana. Just chanting gods name is enough. If they have will power then can perform Manasika Pooja for few Seconds.

Update : There are few Shlokas in Vedas which will describe a god. They are called as Dhyana Shlokas. By which one can assume a god with those descriptions.

Most of them can't imagine what they think for very long time, its because of Manasika Chanchalatva, so for those people who can't do Manasika pooja they can follow Idol Worshiping. Nothing wrong in worshiping god in any way.

Kalaya Tasmien Namaha

  • 3
    Where is proof that deity worship is the lesser form ?
    – user808
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 10:15
  • 1
    please provide reference from scriptures, about each yuga having a different preferred/recommended way of worship
    – zaxebo1
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 1:34

This is one of the most hot topics, especially on the internet, to cause disturbances in the mind of simple Hindus unaware of scriptural complexities. First two answers, one by Mr.Javahar and other by Mr. Bharadwaj are giving some clues to this, so I refrain myself including those answers.

Quotations like EKAMEVA ADWITEEYAM from vedas have no connections with ritual performance, the way anti Hindus are trying to connect it. It is a philosophical statement which signifies that ultimate truth is one and no one is equal to him. The most notorious sentence that anti Hindus use is from svetaasvatar upnisad-- न तस्य प्रतिमा अस्ति, but they use it totally out of context. In first sight the meaning seems to be --He has no Image. But this meaning is absolutely incorrect if complete sentence is read , WHICH THESE COWARDS DO NOT CITE OUT OF FEAR.

The complete sentence is this--न तस्य प्रतिमा अस्ति यस्य न‌ाम महद् यशः। The root verb in the word PRATIMAA is MAA which means--to measure. When the words न प्रतिमा of above sentence is compounded as per the rule of sanskrit it becomes अप्रतिम/ APRATIMA. Any one can check the meaning of this word in any standard dictionary. It has absolutely no connection with Idol. This simply means who cannot be compared, non-comparable, non-parallel etc. This word is used in Present Indian languages too, with same meaning. Again this is talking about only philosophical aspect of ultimate truth, not the ritual aspect. Now coming to the main sentence, the object of comparison is very clearly mentioned here--MAHAD-YASAH , which means great glory. So the conclusive meaning of this sentence is that--no one can compete with his great glories, he is supreme glorious. Please go and read the commentaries of Sri Shankar or Sri Rang Ramaanuja on this verse of SVET. Up 4/19.

I am providing some evidences from veda, not from puranas which is definitely loaded with such evidences. One of which has been cited by Mr.Javahar from Bhaagavtam. Please read these sentences:

  • मा असि प्रम‌‌ा असि प्रतिमा असि।-- (तैत्तिरीय प्रपाठक अनुच्छेद ५)
  • सहस्रस्य प्रतिम‌‌ा असि..। ---(यजुर्वेद १५/६५)
  • अथैनमात्मनः प्रतिमाम् असृजत यद् यञ्जम् (yajnam)....।--(शतपथ ११/१/८/३)

These are few evidences which directly involve the word PRATIMAA and confirms that LORD has it. There are many other evidences in the vedas related to the PRATIMAA or worshiping media such as stone. Stone is not GOD it is worshiping media only, like fire. I do not want to prolong it.

Now the question is that can the word IMAGE/IDOL represent the meaning of word PRATIMAA used in vedas? The resounding answer is NO. The SRI MURTI used in the temples for worshiping is called ARCHA, It is not equivalent to IDOL of english language.

All the YAJNAS, as per satapath Brahamn are PRATIMAA of the lord. Fire, water, earth, stone, air etc are used in YAJNA. There are different tyes of YAJNAS. Please read Bhagavad-Gitaa 4/24-31 for this.

  • The verse in Swetaswatara clearly says प्रतिमा and not अप्रतिमा. There is no way 'a' can be read preceding 'p' there. The word preceeding pratima in the original text is तस्य and removing the last अ from it makes it a meaningless तस्. Even if you bring न there immediately before प्रतिमा, there is no way an अ can be extracted out of न leaving a meaningful particle. And traditional scholars have always interpreted the verse as saying what it does, namely that "There is no likeness of Him". See the Bhashya that goes in the name of SreeSankara: तस्याऽऽनन्दात्मनः प्रतिमोपमाऽनेन सदृशोऽयमिति नास्ति। Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 23:38
  • 1
    And spewing hatred on other people like Dr. Zakir Naik, and calling people absolutely objectionable names like "foolish creature" is not something you can do to enhance the reputation of this site or of the Hindu religion. It speaks more about you than him or anyone else. Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 23:43
  • Brother Unnikrisnana! You have read this answer with a negative mood. As you charged--The verse in Swetaswatara clearly says प्रतिमा and not अप्रतिमा. There is no way 'a' can be read preceding 'p' there. The word preceeding pratima in the original text is तस्य and removing the last अ from it makes it a meaningless तस्. Even if you bring न there immediately before प्रतिमा, there is no way an अ can be extracted out of न leaving a meaningful particle.' Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 13:49
  • **** I have said that if one make a compound of न ‌अस्ति प्रतिमा यस्य it becomes अप्रतिम. And I have given its meaning as--'no one is equal to him.' So there is basic fault in your understanding about my answer and hence charges are absolutely baseless. The use of this word अप्रतिम, you can find in the verse of Geeta 11.43. Without guilt, I have said adjectives for Zakir what he deserves, it is not to enhance the reputation of any one. I have written अप्रतिम and you are charging over me for अप्रतिमा। May Ishwar bless you a good sight.. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 14:09
  • 1
    "You have read this answer with a negative mood." Why don't you apply that same standard to your reading of your so-called "anti-Hindus"? Now to the Sanskrit part: "I have said that if one make a compound of न ‌अस्ति प्रतिमा यस्य it becomes अप्रतिम." What? How? how do you make a compound of न ‌अस्ति प्रतिमा यस्य with what to make it अप्रतिम?? You don't. Can you quote what rule of Sanksrit allows you to do what you want? Do you add whatever you want into scripture? That statement doesn't even make sense. The word अप्रतिम is of course quite common in Sanskrit literature. Commented May 4, 2017 at 10:14

Idol worship (archa) is not prohibited but as per bhagavata puraNa it is considered rajasic i.e. lower form of worship compared to satvika & nirguNa :

विषयानभिसन्धाय यश ऐश्वर्यमेव वा । अर्चादावर्चयेद्यो मां पृथग्भाव: स राजस: ॥ ९ ॥

viṣayān abhisandhāya yaśa aiśvaryam eva vā arcādāv arcayed yo māṁ pṛthag-bhāvaḥ sa rājasaḥ

9. He who, with a desire of worldly pleasures or of fame or authoritative power, worships me in my images and entertains notions of difference, is a devotee of rājasa type.

10.He who wishes to purge all (his) karmas, or desires to dedicate them to the Supreme Lord or worships the Lord with the simple objective of worship (and expecting no return for it) but entertains the idea of difference, is called a devotee of the Sāttvika type.

11-12. Just as the waters of the Gaṅgā continuously flow into the sea, similarly by merely listening to (the description of) my qualities the mind incessantly flows to me who reside in the hearts of all (beings). This close and intimate devotion to the Lord (Puruṣottama), without any ulterior motive, is definitely regarded as the characteristic of the nirguṇa type of Bhakti yoga.


Is idol worship really prohibited in Hinduism according to the following verses?

  • Chandogya ch 6 section 2 shloka 1 (GOD is one without )

  • Shvetashvatara upansihad ch 6 v 9 (Of there GOD there are no lords, have no parents, no superior, no mother, no father, )

  • Shvetashvatara upansihad ch 4 v 19 (of that GOD there is no pritima means no pictures, no idols, image, picture, statue, painting)

  • Yajurveda ch 32 Mantra 3 (of that GOD there is no image primita)

  • Chandogya Upanishad Chapter #6, Section #2, Verse #1; ekam evaditiyam God is only one without a second.

  • Swethaswethara Upanishad; Chapter #4,Verse #19 Na Tasya Pratima Asti of that God there is no Prathima, there is no likeness, there is no image, there is no picture, there is no photograph, there is no sculpture,there is no statue.

  • Swethaswethara Upanishad; Chapter #4, Verse #20; no one can see the Almighty God.

  • Bhagwat Gita Chapter #7, Verse #20; all those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires, they worship many Gods.

  • 4
    but where its written, do not worship idols.
    – Mr. K
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 7:33
  • 6
    You sound like Zakir Nakayak, flexing the verses to prove that idol worship is not condoned. Confirmation bias.
    – Bharat
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 14:54
  • 4
    Hopelessly wrong. Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 15:16
  • 1
    ok, if he is wrong, then what is the correct meaning of those 'sloka' lines. even he is explaining those slokas with its number no.
    – user2428
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 17:23
  • 1
    @user2428 How is BG 7.20 supporting Monotheism?? Read this bhagavad-gita.us/bhagavad-gita-12-5 and bhagavad-gita.us/bhagavad-gita-12-2
    – Yogi
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 18:14

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