The garbha-griha is so named because it is literally the womb of the temple. It is the geometrical centre of the temple site, with its centre, the brahmasthana, occupied by the primary deity. It is called the womb, because under the deity, the ‘seed’ of the temple is inseminated in a kalasha (pitcher) and buried. It is directly above this that the image of the deity is installed.
Some shastras instruct that this pitcher is buried beneath the doorjamb of the garbha-griha. This kalasha contains the ‘seed’, the supreme potentiality, from which the whole world emerges. The kalasha contains hidden components as Rao explains:
“The kalash has an important hidden component, viz. ‘the golden person (suvarna purusha)’, who is regarded as the very soul of the temple. The belly of the kalash is made to contain a tiny cot made in silver, copper or sandal-wood, over which is laid on a soft-feather mattress the golden icon of this ‘person’, with one hand holding a lotus flower over the heart and the other carrying a triple-flag. Four little pots made in gold, silver or copper, and containing consecrated water are placed on the four sides of the cot. Near the recumbent ‘person’ is kept a golden or silver pot filled with ghee.”
The symbolism of temple reflecting the entire cosmos is also contained within the kalasha. It contains all the precious elements or metals that constitute the world. In this way, it represents the cosmos in the seed form. The garbha-griha symbolizes the Supreme Consciousness, which is the origin of the universe. The ritual of putting the ‘seed’ or the kalasha under the garbha-griha is called as Garbhadhana, ‘the insemination process’ as Stella Kramrisch tells us:
“The seed is deposited at night in the womb of mother Earth, as Garbha, Germ of the temple, close to the door jamb of the Garbhgrha. In the vertical, in the upward direction, which is that of growth, from below, along the jamb of the door and above it, the power of germination lifts as it were the lid of the Garbhagrha, and transcends the flat ceiling of the Garbhagrha, step by step, level by level in ever diminishing tiers to the top of the superstructure; there once again it rests and is level as the Skandha (shoulder course) before it attains its crown and is surmounted by the finial.”
Center for Indic Studies