Why do we circumambulate (Pradakshina) the Temple and Deities?
We cannot draw a circle without a centre point. The Lord is the centre, source and essence of our lives. We acknowledge this by performing Pradakshina recognizing him as the focal point in our lives and go about doing our daily chores. This is the significance of Pradakshina.
Also, every point on the circumference of a circle is equidistant from the centre. This means that wherever we may be or whoever we may be, we are equally close to the lord. His grace flows towards us without partiality.
According to Adi Shankaracharya, real pradakshina is the meditation that 10008 universes are revolving around the great Lord, the unmoving centre of all forms.
Skanda Purana chapter 9 Verse 68 – In the word Pra-da-ksi-na, the syllable Pra dispels sin, the syllable Da bestows what is desired , the syllable Ksi cuauses the destructions of Karma and the syllable Na is the bestower of salvation.
Why is Pradakshina done in a clockwise manner?
Hindus go round the sanctum sanctorum in the temple and sometimes the deities in the puja or yajnya at home in a clockwise direction. We always assume God is the centre of our existence. He also exists everywhere so when we do Pradakshina or circumambulation we accept that our actions and thoughts are always centered around God. The centre 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 centre 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. Just like in the Solar system, the sun is at the centre around which the planets rotate, Our Pradakshinam should be done with God at the center. The Pradakshinam should be done slowly an never in a hurry. Our thoughts and action must dwell in God.
It is normal to do Pradakshinam always in clockwise direction. This is because we assume that the Lord is always on our right side. This reminds us we must always lead a righteous life, in the right path called Dharma.
Skanda Purana chapter 9, verse 28 :-
The sin commited by the mind are destroyed by the 1st step (of Pradakshina), The sin commited by the speech by the 2nd step and the sins perpetrated by the body by the 3rd step.
Accordingly the number of Pradakshinam are 1 for Ganapathy, 2 for Soorya(Sun), 3 for Shiva, 4 fir Devi and Vishnu, and 7 for Peepal tree (Sacred tree). Generally these Pradakshina are done in temple in Kerala. Accordingly the 1st Pradakshina destroys all sins including Brahmahathya paap (sin due to slaying of Brahmans). The 2nd makes the worshipper an Adhikari (Qualified person for material and spiritual persuits). and the 3rd helps the person in obtaining Naindra-Sampaada (Pleasure of life which lead to final libration). A number of 21 pradakshinas in a day is considered most beneficial as per Swayambhooaagama.
Further he makes Pradakshinas (devotional rounds) slowly with folded hands and visualizing the Diety in his mind all the time. All these action knowingly or unknowingly have salutary effect to ward off the ego from the mind of the Devotee. It is not worthy that the purpose of temple worship is never achieved unless one understands that visits to temples are meant to help the devotee to shed his ego. The purpose of visits to temples is one's own cultural emancipation which functions on fundamental values known as Dharma.