Hinduism believes in eternal energy which can take any form and mold itself in the form of an Avatara (Physical form of god). This form is in accordance with the perception and situation of the devotee. That is the reason why Hinduism is said to have millions of gods. You can literally worship any god you deem fit as all of them are forms of one and only eternal energy. For instance, if you are a person who is a gym freak and you can relate with Lord Hanuman, he is your god. If you are just a baby who can relate more with a motherly figure, you can worship Devi Saraswati. Also if you cannot relate or even imagine a form of any god you can worship idols as an interface.
1. Myths and misinterpretation about idol worshipping
There are some half-educated scholars who would say that idol worship is prohibited in Hinduism and give references from few wrongly translated verses of Yajurveda and Svetasvatara Upanishad. So, let us set the record straight.
1.1 The most misunderstood verse of Svetasvatara Upanishad (4:19)
“नैनमूर्ध्वं न तिर्यञ्चं न मध्ये न परिजग्रभत्।
न तस्य प्रतिमा अस्ति यस्य नाम महद्यशः॥”
“nainamūrdhvaṁ na tiryañcaṁ na madhye na parijagrabhat |
na tasya pratimā asti yasya nāma mahadyaśaḥ ||”
“Him one shall not seize as on high nor as one on a level plane nor in the middle; there is no image for him whose name is a mighty glory.”
This actually means that there is no one like him (god) and there cannot be any image/idol which can resemble the real glory of God. It is nowhere said that idol worship is wrong. It merely states that any image/idol cannot match the glory of God himself.
1.2 Yajurveda 32:3 and 32:4
“Na tasya pratima asti yasya nama mahadyasha
Hiranyagarbha ithyesha ma ma hingseethithyesha yasmanna jatha ithyesha
Esho ha deva prathishonu sarva poorvo ha jatha sa u grabho antha
Sa eva jatha sa janishyamaana prathyang janasthishttathi sarvathomugha”
“O God your mightiness, supremeness is the top, you are unmeasurable, only you knows your true form, you created the things like sun, the God who is not born from anything is worshipable, let him not hurt us
The Supreme God is filled everywhere, he was in the mind and in the creations of all times, he is in everything in a secret form. He exists in all times, his strength is filled everywhere.”
1.3 Yajurveda 40:9
“Antham thama pravishanthi yesambhoothimupasathe
Thatho bhooya iva the thamo ya u sambhootyang retha”
The correct meaning is:
“One who ignores the truth enters darkness. He worship or follows the worldly subjects (for material desire) he thinks there is nothing beyond this world and tries to gain pleasures from it.”
Nowhere does it say that those who worship idols will go to hell.
What it says is that the universe is made from a part of god’s energy hence the universe itself is just one of many parts of God. In other words, god is like sunshine, as sunshine has a different identity from the sun, this universe which is made from god has a different identity from god himself. From here you can relate to the verse of Yajurveda which says that there is no existence of anything which is not God but none of that exists is exactly like god because everything is part of him. To put it simply, the nose exists as a part of your body but the nose itself is neither your identity nor your entire body.
2. The Beauty of Hinduism
Similarly, when you worship an idol, you are not only worshipping the idol because the idol is there to represent the ultimate energy. If you think even deeper, while honoring any idol (doing Archana) one of the steps is to meditate while keeping your eyes closed, even while praying we meditate to that supreme energy and call upon him/her/it. The beauty of Hinduism is that the devotion of the devotee gives shape to the omnipresent formless god. It is the devotee who decides how his/her god will look like and god being the most flexible energy takes the shape of what a devotee can relate to. Moreover, to ease this process idols are best suited for us humans to be able to relate to god in the most physical and humanly perceivable way possible.