We go round the sanctum sanctorium in the temples and sometimes the deities in the pujas or yajnas at home in a clockwise direction. This is called Pradakshinam. We always assume God is the center of our existence. He also exists everywhere. So when we do Pradakshina or circumambulation, we accept that our actions and thoughts are always centred around God. The center point is always fixed and remains the same at whatever distance we do the pradakshina. So we are reminded of the eternal truth that God is the center of gravity and the main focus of our existence. This is the main principle of pradakshinam.
The world is always rotating around itself on its own axis as well as around the sun. All the planets also rotate on their own axes. This is called rotation and their rotation on their orbits is called revolution. Just like in solar system, the sun is at the center around which the planets rotate, our pradakshinams should be done with god at the center. The Pradakshinam should be done slowly and never in a hurry, as though we are running to finish that mission. Paramacharyal says when we do Pradakshinam, we must walk as slowly as a fully pregnant woman walking with a vessel full of oil, taking care to see that not a drop of oil spills ! Our thoughts and actions must dwell on God.
It is customary to do Pradakshinam always in a clockwise direction. This is because we assume that Lord is always on our right side. This reminds that we must always lead a righteous life , in the right path called Dharma.
At the end of the pujas , it is a custom to do pradakshinam around ourselves three times & this is called “ Atma Pradakshinam”. We bow to the supreme divinity within us, chanting
Yani kani cha paapaani janmanthara kruthaani cha
Thaani thaani vinas(h)yanthi pradakshina padae padae
May those omissions and commissions done in this life and also in the previous births and the resulting afflictions perish with every pradakshina.
After Pradakshinam, Namaskara is done as a sequel. If the deity faces east, we must do it facing north and vice versa. Inside the temple, we must do only “ Anjali” (folding the palms together, bowing the head). If we do namaskaram to a deity inside the temple, we may inadvertently show our back to yet another deity. So in temples, it is safe to do namaskaram near the Dvajasthambam, with the main deity on our right side. But it is necessary to make sure that we do the namaskaram, facing only the north. In case it is otherwise, always face north and only then do the namaskaram.
Thava thvam na jaanaami keedhr(u)s(h)o(a)si mahaes(h)vara
Yaadhr(u)s(h)o(a)si mahaadaeva thaadhr(u)s(h)aaya namo namah
Oh Lord, what is your nature? I do not know your nature. Whatever be your nature, I offer salutations to you who are of that nature.
Then we offer salutations, chanting
Pradakshina namaskaaraan samarpayaami
Oh Lord, I offer you circumambulation and prostration.
Thus, pradakshinam is yet another concept, typical of Hindu culture.