All the heavenly bodies rotate on its axis as well as circumambulates around other objects like earth around the sun. It is symbolized in the Hindu custom of doing Pradakshinam around the deities in a temple or during a pooja.
Circumambulation around sanctum sanctorium in the temple or deities is called Pradakshinam (Pradakshina). It has to be done always in a clockwise manner with the deity on our right side during circumambulation.
The number of Pradakshinam that has to be done in a temple depends on the deity to whom we are offering it. According to some sources it is as follows.
1 – Ganapathy
2 – Aditya, BhadraKali
3 – Shiva
4 – Vishnu, Devi
5 – DharmaShastha
6 - Subrahmanya
7 – Durga, Banyan Tree
21 - Swayambhu
There are four different parts in a Pradakshinam. Walk one step at a time slowly, like measuring the length with our foot. Keep the hands folded like a lotus bud holding it close to the chest. Chant the names of the respective deity. Keep the thoughts fixed on God. During a Pradaskshinam one must walk as slowly as a full term pregnant woman walking with a vessel full of oil, taking care that not a drop of oil spills.
The manthra that is chanted during a Pradakshinam is
“Yaani kaani cha paapaani janmanthara kruthaani cha
Thaani thaani vinashyanthi pradakshina pade pade”
It means “Let the omissions and commissions done in this life and also in the previous births and the resulting afflictions perish with each and every step of a pradakshina.”
After the Pradakshinam, Namaskaram follows. If we do namaskaram to a deity inside the temple, we might inadvertently show our back to yet another deity. So in temples, it is safe to do namaskaram near the Dvajasthambam. It is believed that the divine chaitanya flows from the deity towards us in a serpentine fashion. Hence offer the namaskaram at about 30 degrees angle and not facing the sanctum sanctorum. It is better to do the namaskaram facing the north.
The mantra that is chanted just before the namaskaram after a pradakshinam is
“Thava thvam na jaanaami keedhrushosi mahaeshvara
Yaadhrushoasi mahaadaeva thaadhrushaaya namo namah”
It means “I don’t know your nature, Oh Maheswara. Whatever be your nature, I offer salutations to you who are of that nature.”
Then we offer salutations, chanting
“Pradakshina namaskaaraan samarpayaami”
It means “I offer you circumambulation and prostration.”