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As I understand from this question , through prana pratishthana ritual God comes and resides in the murti. And if not mistaken, the idols have to be sculpted in line with what is mentioned in Agamas in order for prana pratishthana to be successful.

But my question is on photos and paintings. As mentioned in SB , the deity form is worshipped in 8 forms

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

Since paint is an acceptable form of deity, my question is whether Agamas (or any other scriptures) mention prana pratishthana process for paintings ? If not, then on what basis can we differentiate between paintings/photos that are worship worthy and ones that aren't ?

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  • the vigraha murtis in many temples are 'painted' upon with colors from natural herbs. – mar Oct 12 '20 at 5:15
  • @ram - thanks. But my question is on sketches/photographs. – Carmen sandiego Oct 12 '20 at 5:37
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Yes, without Prana-pratishtha being done, if Puja is done, whether on idols, images or Yantras, such Pujas do not succeed as Lord Shiva says:


Sakala-kritya tat-prAnAn samuddipyAndriyAni cha |
PratishthApyArchayed-devi chAnyathA nishphalam bhavet ||

Devi! The deity must be gone through the process of Sakalaikarana, the Prana and Indriyas are to be established and energized before performing the Puja; Otherwise, the worship results in failure.

KulArnava Tantram 6-80


And, in just the previous verses of the same Chapter, Lord Shiva gives the list of ten places, where it is allowed to perform deity worship.


Linga SthandilaVahnyamvusurpa Kubhyapateshu Cha |
Mandale Phalake Muddhni Hrudi VA Dasha KirtitA ||
Eshu SthAneshu Devesi Yajanthi Paramam ShivAm |
ArupAm Rupinim KritvA Karma KAndaratA NarAha ||

The worshiper visualizes the Formless Devi Parama Shiva in Form and adores Her in the linga, sign-symbol, altar, Fire, Water, winnowing fan, wall, image/idol , Mandala (diagram), plank, in the head or in the heart. These ten places are known to be the different places of worship.

Kularnava Tantram, Chapter 6, Verses 74-75.

(Here, the word "pata" is used for image)

So, the verse 6-80 is applicable for all the allowed modes of worship (mentioned in 6-74) including the one done in an image. Therefore, prana pratishtha is required in all such cases of worship.

And, the prana pratishtha process is the same whether one is using an idol or image or a Yantra for the object of worship. They all involve Chakur-dana, regular installing the Indriyas, Prana etc..

As regards, what kind of images are not acceptable, this answer provides the details- https://hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/28954/4732

[Lord Sadashiva says] The wise man should not worship the image of a Deva which is broken or is holed, or which has lost a limb, or has been touched by a leper, or has fallen on unholy ground (100). The image of a Deva with missing limbs, or which is broken or has holes in it, should be consigned to water. If the image has been made impure by touch, it should be consecrated, and then worshipped (101). The Mahapithas and Anadi-lingas are free from all deficiencies, and these should always be worshipped for the attainment of happiness by each worshipper as he pleases (102).

Mahanirvana Tantram Chapter 14

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    Thanks. What are Mahapithas and Anadi-lingas ? Is the verse saying that these can never get desecrated ? – Carmen sandiego Oct 12 '20 at 7:05
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    Anadi Lingas are probably the Swayambhu Lingas in Kashi, Somnath etc. & the mahapithas probably are the idols that are naturally formed in the shakti peeth s like in Kamakhya etc. @Carmensandiego – Rickross Oct 12 '20 at 7:18

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