Everything exists ( and that includes God) in three forms: as gas (energy), liquid an solid. If God exists as gas or as liquid, he cannot have a form of his own. He can have a form only in a solid state. As gas, he can be sarva vyapi (omnipresent) as solid he will be confined to a geographic space.
The Vedic men saw a spirit behind each force of nature. Then propitiated the malovolent ones and worshipped the benign ones. They placed the fearful ones at a distance, and the lovable ones near to themselves.
As spirits were without form, no idols were made for them. Nor was it possible to house these spirits in temples. Which explains why there were no temples in the Vedic age.
So the Vedic Aryan invited the spirits to ?enter? the materials (samagrih) at the homa. Only a spirit (energy) could enter a material object (like electricity in a copper wire). A solid could not.
It took the Aryans a thousand years more before they changed their concept of God from the impersonal (spirit ) of the Vedas to the personal of the Puranas. But when they did change, their gods were not only in a solid state, but also in the form of men. Anthropomorphism had become a norm. No wonder, God was not only provided a temple, but a stool to sit on. The stool is extant even today. Manimekhalai of the Tamil epic worshipped at a temple with a stool.
Thus the image of the divine as a personal god is central to the theistic tradition of India and the image of an impersonal. Absolute is central to the Monistic tradition of India. While the theistic tradition of India affirms the infinite attributes of the personal god, the Monistic tradition of the Absolute places Brahman beyond all thought and speculation.
The Jains are said to have made the first idols in India. The Buddhists worshipped the footprints of the Buddha, the wheel and the lotus. It was emperor Kanishka who ordered the first Buddhist idol. It was made by a Greek artist. The Hindus followed the example of the Jains and Buddhists. Thus idols became popular with the lower orders of society. In the process, the formless was given a form, the impersonal was made personal, the omnipresent was fixed to a habitat, the eternal was given a temporal setting. All to meet the needs of the lower orders of society.
Naturally, they put the idol on the stool, more often in a human shape. There was logic behind the idol in human form.
Vivekananda argues: ?If God has a form, it is better if it is that of a man and not that of an animal.? One can stretch his logic further: If God is to be like a man, it is better if he has senses like a man. You cannot talk to a god who has no ear!
And after having given eyes, ears, mouth, nose and feeling to the anthropomorphic gods, it was only natural that the Hindu should have set about to gratify the senses of the deity. To gratify the deity was a form of worship.
?Lord,? say T.S. Elliot, the poet, ?shall we not bring these gifts (senses) to your service? Shall we not bring to your service all our power?? It was in trying to please the senses of their gods that the Hindus built their great civilisation, which has no parallel.
How did the Aryans please the senses of the deity? They created the most beautiful things for their gods to see, poetry and music for their ears, incense and flowers for fragrance, the most delicious savouries for heir taste and dance and drama for their feelings. And how else can you express your awe for the majesty of your gods except by housing them in the most magnificent temples?
It was the intense desire of the Hindus to please his gods which led him to perfect all that he did. ?Nothing but the best for my gods,? he seemed to say.
Drama was conceived as a great spectacle of music and dance and acting. Bharata tells us that the first drama was presented to the gods, who in turn created the stage for him including some stage-crafts.
Thus did Hindu civilisation attain its unmatched glory and perfection in the service of their gods. To have conceived the gods in human terms might have been our weakness, but it was as great a ?discovery? as the invention of the wheel!
The Hindus created 64 kalas (arts)?all to please their gods, which is why the entire Hindus civilisation is a feast of sounds and colours and sights, of tastes and smells, of beautiful people and sensuous pleasures.
Had the gods no eyes to see, the painter would not have painted, had the gods no ears to hear, the poets would not have sung, had the gods no feelings, the dancers would not have danced. And why should we have built the great temples if our gods had been without form? The senses were there not without logic.
?God with us is not a distant god (as is the case with Semitic faiths). He belongs to our homes as well as to our temples,? says Tagore.