HINDU GODS

June 28, 2008

WORSHIP OF HINDU GOD






In a perfectly conducted pooja the body, mind and the soul of the devotee are so completely integrated that he feels one with his god. Doing poojas and prayers on a regular basis brings equanimity and peace to one's mind.

The several steps involved in such worship may be briefly stated as follows:
Avahana - invoking the presence of God in the image or symbol
Asana - offering a seat
Padya and Arghya - giving water for washing feet and hands
Snana or Abhisheka - ceremonial bath
Vastra - offering Clothes
Candana - smearing sandal paste and other unguents
Pushpa - offering of flowers and garlands
Dhupa - burning incense
Dipa - waving of lamp
Naivedya - food offering
Visarjana - bidding goodbye
In the temples, the Abhisheka (bathing) of the image and its decoration are done more elaborately.

Puja or pooja refers to ritual worship of a consecrated idol or image. Most Hindus perform some sort of puja at their homes or temples on a daily basis. Many pujas are quite complicated and require the expertise of a priest while some pujas are simple enough to be performed by the regular householder who does not have time to study scriptures or perform elaborate spiritual practices. At the same time, pujas also hold deep symbolic meaning for the advanced seeker. For example, the simple hand gesture called "namaste" in India, done by pressing the palms together, has been interpreted to represent the union of the spiritual and mundane nature of ones self, connecting him to the Supreme
Puja is a word in Sanskrit language. In Sanskrit, words are formed with meaning in mind. For instance in the word puja,'p' stands for 'paapa' meaning sins.'j' stands for 'janma' means birth. With 'p' it removes all accumulated sins, and with 'j' it makes your life's (birth) purpose fulfilled. The Lord being not accessible to our eyes, ears, nose, touch and beyond the ken of ordinary (un-refined) intellect, the ancients devised a method of bringing Lord within the realm of the senses. This method is to worship Him (Her or It) in an object (photo, water, fire, precious jewel, idol etc) which you can touch, feel, smell, see, feel the taste of. Thus all wandering senses are brought to a focus, by belief (faith) and by daily practice.
Pooja is a unique way in which a Hindu communicates with his god. This may involve a silent meditation or a loud chanting of mantras with or without offerings to the god. Common offerings to the god during a pooja include flowers, incense, light (Deepa), food items (Naivedya), and sandalwood paste. These offerings are said to represent the five elements of space, air, fire, water, and earth.
A puja is believed to harness cosmic energy to achieve material or spiritual goals. Certain pujas, such as the Satyanarayan Puja, may be performed for a specific occasion such as a festival or a housewarming ceremony. Usually either a priest or the eldest member of a family performs the puja. However, there are no specific rules that determine who can perform a puja.
Pujas are performed after a bath. Early morning is considered auspicious for daily pujas though an astrologer may be consulted to select an auspicious time for some special pujas. In addition, certain rituals may be performed on certain days, depending on which deity is to be propitiated. Every year, traditional festivals based on elaborate pujas such as Durga Puja
The way a puja is performed may differ but typically includes the following practices:
Different meditation techniques such as visualising the form of the deity with eyes closed and hands pressed together in the namaste gesture.
Sanskrit mantras or sacred sounds are chanted. Sometimes, the different names of the deity are also repeated. It is believed that the resonant effect of the mantras helps to harness cosmic energy.
The idol may be bathed in water or milk and anointed with chandan (sandalwood paste).
Fruits, leaves, flowers, water, rice, and betel nuts are offered to the deity. Food offered to the deity is mostly vegetarian though certain fringe sects offer meat, alcohol, and other articles that are considered unholy by orthodox Hindus. As with many Hindu practices, even the food items have symbolic value. A coconut, for example, represents the ego that must be "broken" in order to come closer to God.
Sticks of incense are burned for fragrance.
In a ritual known as aarti, a plate with a flame and vermillion (kumkum) is moved in a clockwise direction in front of the idol. The wick is usually soaked in ghee (clarified butter) or camphor.
Devotional songs and prayers may be recited during pujas.
Paying obeisance to the deity is done often, throughout the ritual to show respect. It could be either a simple bow with hands pressed together or a prostration that is more elaborate involving touching the floor with one's forehead.
Vermillion (kumkum)is applied in the space between the eyebrows, believed to be the third eye, a spot that has deep significance in Indian spirituality.
Usually, at the end of a puja, the metal plate with a flame and vermillion is passed around. Devotees use their palms to cup the flame and raise them to the forehead. The belief is that the deity's cosmic energy has passed to the flame, which is then transferred to the devotee.
Food (prasad) and water (tirth) that was offered to the deity is distributed among people, and is believed to possess the energy of the deity. Though most Hindus do not consume food from the same plate, prasad, being pure, is openly shared. A drop or two of tirth is poured in the devotees' palms (always the right hand), and is imbibed with great respect. The word "tirtha" also means a shallow pool of water that can be crossed easily, alluding to the importance of crossing the ocean of material existence to attain liberation.
Puja is a word in Sanskrit language. In Sanskrit, words are formed with meaning in mind. For instance in the word puja, With 'p' it removes all accumulated sins, and with 'j' it makes your life's (birth) purpose fulfilled. The Lord being not accessible to our eyes, ears, nose, touch and beyond the ken of ordinary (un-refined) intellect, the ancients devised a method of bringing Lord within the realm of the senses.
This method is to worship Him (Her or It) in an object (photo, water, fire, precious jewel, idol etc) which you can touch, feel, smell, see, feel the taste of. Thus all wandering senses are brought to a focus, by belief (faith) and by daily practice. Unshakable faith and long practice, evokes and unfolds hitherto unknown dimensions in awareness, which are generally not communicable in the normal way.

To attain the blessings of God, our Hindu philosophy advocates two paths, namely· the path of GNANA ( that of wisdom ) · the path of BHAKTHI (that of devotion). The Wisdom path considers the Almighty as a concept with out any form or any feeling etc., On the other hand the Bhakthi path considers God as One, with or without a form, but as one who incorporates many divine feelings. 'PRARTHANA' in other words 'Prayer' or 'Worship' is the first step towards pursuing the Bhakthi route for Godliness.
Why should we do Pooja?
The second step is Pooja. In other words, a specific form of worship which also involves a physical offering of either a material object, or the body , mind or soul to God. The Pooja, when done properly guides oneself towards God, and while doing 'Prarthana' (praying), the Almighty draws closer to the devotee. Therefore it is a two way motion that brings the Worshipper and the Worshipped closer. By means of puja, the appropriate Gods are appealed to for removal of affliction, protection and prosperity.
Preparing for a puja
The preparations we require before puja are:
1) Sattvic quality ( feeling) - The greater the predominance of the sattvic feelings, the more effectively can the vehicles serve as an instrument of the higher consciousness.
2) Attunement of mind - The mind should be full of right attitude and aspirations.
3) High degree of self surrender.
4) Heart to yearn - for union with Divinity.
Thus the development of aspirant's character along the right lines and preparatory and purificatory practices form an integral part of upasna or worship.
Basic steps before starting any puja
Place of worship
Cleaning oneself (Atma Shuddhi)
Dressing up for the puja
PavitrikaranPuja
Asan (taking seat)
Application of Tilak over forehead
Sankalp
Place of worship:
The ideal place should be one that is secluded, away from the passage and toilets and not a place where people normally rest. If such a place is unavailable, mark any area, cover it with a curtain or a clean cloth with the objective of providing seclusion and privacy.
Cleaning oneself(Atma shuddhi):
The idea of having a clean bath before puja is that one feels light and cleanses all the 11 sensory organs-- eyes, nose, ear, tongue, mind, navel chest, hands, genitalia, legs and anus. The body should be clean and pure. If bath is not possible, wet the legs and hands, then put water on the hairs and head. For special pujas, the symbolical purification of body is done by keeping water first in the right hand, bringing it over the head and sprinkling the water on the body. Follow it up with the left hand.
Dressing up for the puja:
The gents should keep the upper half of the body above the waist exposed and cover the lower half by a clean cloth/dhoti. If exposing the upper half is inconvenient, use a banyan.
The ladies may wear any clothes, The cotton clothes worn once during puja, should not be re-used for puja purposes. It is therefore advisable to wear woolen or silken clothes as they can be used again .
Pavitrikaran:
Clean the pictures of God with a clean cloth. The idols should be bathed with Ganga jal(water from the holy ganges). Even a drop of Ganga jal mixed with clear water may be used for these purposes. If Ganga jal is unavailable clear water obtained from any river will do.
Puja asan (taking seat):
One should not sit directly on the floor. Instead sit on a woolen carpet, mat or a cushion foam. The seat must be comfortable. Elderly people who are unable to sit prostate on the floor may sit on a low chair. While sitting cross legged, the left leg should be placed below the right legs, however if one gets tired the legs may be alternated.
Application of Tilak over forehead:
As per the custom, before commencing puja, the tilak should be applied on the forehead between the two eyebrows. This is believed to help provide concentration during puja. The ring finger of the right hand must be used to apply the tilak. The items used for tilak are Bhasm(ash), chandan(sandalwood),roli or haldi(turmeric). The bhasm tilak is believed to be the best and can be obtained from wood ash or the remains of previous havans.
Sankalp:
After having offered water over the idols, place some flowers before them. Then take water and rice in the palm , do sankalp and place them on the floor. Follow it up by applying tilak on the Deity.
Symbolic importance of items used in puja:
Coconut - The breaking of coconut before God coaxes us to break the hard nut of our ego before God.
Flower , incense and light waving - they indicate progressive types of atmarpana to God.
Camphor - Lighting camphor before God symbolises that if we burn our illusion or ego with the fire of true knowledge, we shall merge with the God, leaving no residue.
Dhruva grass, arka flower and leaves - These are the least coveted by the common people, buthave a lesson. It signifies that no part of creation is repellent to God. He is much pleased with the lowliest of creation as with the highest.
Turmeric powder - It is used in auspicious ceremonies as it is found to be germicidal in effect aside of the psychological effect of the colour.
Stone - The stone ,for instance, that is used in marriage symbolises permanence, even as the pole star( Dhruv Nakshatra) .
Sesamun seeds and cereal rice - symbolise fertility
Mustard seeds and grains are thrown into the fire to counteract evil forces and evil eyes.
Water - The sanctified water is sprinkled or sipped to wash away impurities and sin.
Agni or Fire is an invariable constituent of the functions. It personifies the living God, the patriarch of the home.It is Grahapati or Lord of the house protecting the members of the household. He is also called Sakshi.

The temples even as Rathas are replicas of the human body. The deity in the sanctum reminds us of the truth that God is seated at the heart of each individual. Parikrama suggests pranayama. Prostrating before God signifies complete surrender of self including the five Jnanendriyas and five Karmendriyas to God's will.
Chanting of mantra was a concept of the Vedic saints that includes mantras as one of the main forms of worship, whose end is seen as salvation. Basically, Mantra Jaap means repeating the mantra. Reciting Mantra has become an established feature of the Hindu practices. Mantra Japa involves repetition of mantra again and again, usually 108 times completes one cycle. Due to this, the rosary (mala) used for mantra jaap has 108 beads in it.It is believed that through mantra jaap, the devotee attains concentration and focus on the chosen deity or the main idea of the mantra. One can attain peace of mind quickly by chanting mantra. With prolong and constant practice, the inherent power of the Mantra (Mantra-Shakti) will be awakened, which will fill your very existence with the Divinity of the Mantra.Practical Aids to Japa
Select any Mantra and repeat it from 108 to 1,080 times daily (one to ten malas).
Take a bath or wash your hands, feet, face and mouth before sitting for Japa in the morning.
Sit facing east or north during the practice. This enhances the effectiveness of the Jaap.
Sit on a rug to conserve body-electricity. Sit in a separate meditation room or in any suitable place, such as a temple, on a river bank or under a banyan or peepul tree.
Maintain a steady pose. You can sit in Padmasana, Siddhasana or Sukhasana. Resolve to complete a certain minimum number of malas before leaving your seat.
Use a rosary of 108 beads. Do not allow the rosary to hang below the navel. The rosary (mala) must not be visible to you or to others, so cover it properly. Use the middle finger and the thumb of the right to roll the beads. The use of the index finger is not allowed. Do not cross the meru (main bead) while rolling the beads.
Do mental Jaap for sometime without a rosary or mala. When the mind wanders, do the Japa aloud, or whisper the Mantra for some time and come back to mental Japa again as soon as possible.
Do not chant mantra in haste. Do it slowly with feeling, concentration of mind and devotion.
Try to associate the chant with the rhythm of the breath and meditate in the form of your Deity. Keep a picture or idol of the Deity in front of you. Think of the meaning of the Mantra while repeating it.
Observe silence and avoid distractions, calls and engagements. It is important not to leave the place at once after the Japa is over and mix with everyone or get into worldly activity. This keeps the spiritual vibrations intact.
One can leave the place after a dedicated prostration, with a feeling that everything belongs to that almighty. The Puja, Sadhana, Meditation and Jaap etc, any kind of prayers offered to the Almighty must be done with a sincere heart. The Supreme Being answers all the questions and doubts of the devotee, sooner or later. One must understand that the ultimate purpose of life is the realization of divine.
Puja ritual or worship of idols or images of God has become in recent times a great and potent tenet of faith and belief in out Hindu Religion or Sanatana Dharma.
Puja is not only performed in temples but also in most of our homes. So too, we worship God in our Satsangh meetings before we start our days' programme of kirtans and /or study of scriptures.
The object of the puja ritual is to create and setup thoughts of spiritual forces in and around us. This is best achieved by singing or chanting of some mantra, performing certain actions and making offerings in three defined stages.
Each mantra is a magazine of vast spiritual forces.

First Stage

The first stage of worship consists of purification by driving out the devils or bad tendencies and invoking devas or good tendencies. This is done by ringing a bell and chanting "HariH OM" and 'aagamanaartham ...". All must join in the singing of this mantra.
After this is over, the leader says "Om bhur bhuvah svah". This is called "digbandhana" and consists of chanting the sacred OM and the above three words called "vyaahrites". By chanting this, we make a protective shell around us. All the portals of the heart are closed against the ingress of the raakshasaas or evil tendencies. At the end of the puja we break the shell by chanting the three vyahrities first and OM last.
iti digbandhaH
thus the shell is formed.
Second Stage
Now commences the 2nd stage of puja ritual.
Our attempts here would be to tune our minds to meditate upon God with a form by chanting prayers and then contemplate upon the eternal purusha by chanting the purusha suukta. The Lord of the universe is very magnifiecently described and praised in this vedic hymn.
These prayers are called the dhyaanam or "mantras of invocation".
Third Stage
Then we come to the third stage of our puujaa ritual. The maNDala brahmana upanishhad explains the spiritual significance of the sixteen phased offerings to the God invoked and installed in the idol or image or photo during the puujaa.
The sixteen offerings are made in five steps.

First Step
the 1st 3 phases are called the dhyaana seat. "tasya niShTha dhyaanaH". When we are merged in it without any other thought or feeling it is called meditation or dhyaana. We chant
1. dhyaayaamiGod or Goddess to reside in the idol or image or photo for the time being, so that the spiritual forrce may flow thru the medium of the idol etc. towards all the people assembled.
2. aavaahayaami
3. aasanam samarpayaami
2nd step
Then follow the three phases of "water ceremony". They are the offering of paadyam, arghyam and snaanam. Water is offered for washing the feet, the hands and for oblation. These phases are possible only in case of idols in temples or houses. As our idol or image or photo would be decorated before or at the commencement of the satsangh, the water is sprinkled by maens of the middle finger of the right hand first at the feet fro paadyam, then at the hands for arghyam and lastly at the chest and then from head to feet doen fro snaanam (bath or oblation).
4. paadyam samarpayaami
5. aachamaniiyam samarpayaami
6. arghyam samarpayaami
7 snaanam samarpayaami


3rd step
Then we have the 3 phased offering of gandha or sandal paste, raw rice mixed with kumkum called axata and flowers.
8. gandham samarpayaami
9. axataan samarpayaami
10. puShpaaNi puujayaami


4th step

After these, we have the waving of lights and offering of naivedya viz. food, fruits, etc. dhuupa is burning of incense and waving it before God or Goddess and diipa is the waving of a light. All waving of light and incense is done in circular motion from the right side.
11. dhuupam aaghyaapayaami
12. diipam sa.ndarshayaami

Next the naivedyam is offered by pouring a few drops of water in our right palm and by uttering the names of praaNa and brahma. After naivedya, taambula or betel leaf is offered.
13. naivedyam nivedayaami
At that time a little water is poured into the right palm and offered as the naivedya, chanting thus:
OM PraaNaaya svaaha
apaanaaya svaahaa
vyaanaaya svaahaa
udaanaaya svaahaa
samaanaaya svaahaa
brahmane svaahaa
14. taambuulam samarpayaami
then we have the 3rd waving of lights called niiraajana or ma.ngala aaratii. All must stand in their respective places.
ma.ngala niiraajana samarpayaami
A light is waved for the 3rd time in the manner stated in the instructions, chanting the following mantra
na tatra suuryo bhaati na chandra taarakaMnemaa vidyuto bhaanti kutoyamagniHtameva bhaa,ntamanu bhaati sarvamtasya bhaasaa sarvamidam vibhaati
The leader waves the light 3 times before the feet of the lord, then 3 times before the head, then 3 times from feet to head - all in circular motions from right side to left side. All chant the above mantra.
the lighted lamp or camphor is taken to all the persons assembled as a reminder of the eternal light of spirit shedding its glory within each one of them.

5th step
the next step consists of performing pradakshinaa and offering namaskaara.
15. pradakShiNaa namaskaara samarpayaami
16. puShpaa.njali samarpayaami

Fourth stage of puja ritual
This consists of performing the visarjana by sending back the God or Goddess invoked for the ritual and breaking up the shell by chanting of "bhuurbhuvasvarOM".
The mantras:
yathaasthaanam pratishhThaapayaami
digvimokshaH
bhuurbhuvaH svarom.
End of puujaa
At the closing of puujaa ritual, shaanti mantras are chanted and the entire puujaa ritual is dedicated to the supreme lord or eterna purusha called brahmana.
OM purrnamadaH ...
OM bhadraM karNebhiH ...
svasti na indro ...
OM sarve bhavantu sukhinaH ...
OM asato maa sadgamaya ...
OM tatsatbrahmaarpaNamastu
To perform this, one does not need the special deeksha. This can be performed in a simple short way. First, one should understand the proper rules and methods to perform the pooja. Let us first see which way we should keep the figurine or the picture and which way the person should sit to perform the pooja.
If the picture of figurine is kept facing East, the person should sit on the right side facing North. If it faces North, they should sit facing East. They should not sit in front of the image facing it directly. If these two directions are not possible, then we can set the image facing West and sit in front of the Image facing East and perform pooja. One should not sit on the right side facing South to perform pooja. One should not sit on the left side of the Image. The Image should not be set facing South. The person should not sit facing South.It is not proper according to sasthra to eat food prior to performing the pooja. When it is possible, one should always learn from a Guru about the proper sasthras and rules and receive deeksha before performing pooja at home.

Whatever be your Favorite God - ,Ganesha , Vishnu , Shiva or Hanuman the way of doing pooja is the same.

Every Pooja has 16 steps. That is why is it called Shodasa Pooja (Shodasa means 16 in Sanskrit). Depending on one's convenience one can do 5,10 or all the steps.

a)One should take bath before doing any pooja.
b)A lamp must be lit near the place where pooja is going to be performed.

Step 1 Dhyana:
Sitting before the Image or Idol of our favorite deity, meditate on his form. For example, for Vishnu, should think of conch and chakra-he has in hands and the lotus flower.

Puja or worship is a loving entertainment of God, even as we entertain our friends and relatives whom we love.
The several steps involved in such worship may be briefly stated as follows:
Avahana (invoking the presence of God in the image or symbol),Then, invoke the deity into the pictures or idol through prayers. After this is performed, what is was previously an object becomes potent and holy. At this time, worshippers say "God, I know you are everywhere. I know you are also in this Photograph/Idol." While doing the Pooja, onw should not think of this not as a Picture. The picture or idol is GOD ("you") sitting opposite to me, accepting my pooja and prayers.
Asana (offering a seat),The next step is offering God a seat. This is done by just touching the picture, as if asking God to sit. Mentally imagine each step- Like God coming and sitting in front of us etc.

Padya and Arghya (giving water for washing feet and hands), In this step God's feet are washed with water. (This is a custom followed in India- where the feet of holy men are washed when they come to a house.) Washing feet of the idol is done by pouring a few drops of water before the image.
Water is offered to God to wash his hands. This is again done by pouring a few drops of water before the idol.Water is offered to wash his mouth and face in the earlier prescribed manner. Madhuvarga (Madhu-Honey) is a beverage made of honey and milk is offered for the God to drink. This is offered to GOD by keeping the vessel mixed with honey and milk in front of the image.

Snana or Abhisheka (ceremonial bath)Abishekam literally means bathing (GOD). For an Idol, a few drops of water can be poured on the idol and then dried. For a picture it is sufficient if you pour a few drops of water before the image.

Vastra (offering Clothes) Offering of dress including an upper garment and/or ornaments. Usually flowers are offered in place of these. While doing this, imagine putting a necklace on God and then place a flower at his feet.
Candana (smearing sandal paste and other unguents) Sandalwood powder and kum-kum (red powder hindus wear on their forehead) is offered to him.

Pushpa
(offering of flowers and garlands) Flowers of various types are offered to the Lord along with the chanting of his holy names, Dhupa (burning incense)Then show him an incense stick. The incense (argharbathi) can be light it and circled in clockwise manner three times in front of GOD.
Dipa (waving of light)The next is offering of a lighted lamp. This can be a lit candle or oil lamp.

Naivedya (food offering)Offer GOD food- fruits or cooked food. The food offered to GOD - usually bananas, apples, oranges, sweets and freshly cooked rice, is called prasadam and one can eat this food right after the pooja is completed. If this food is offered to one in a temple, do not recieve it with your left hand. Also, during puja do not offer anything to GOD with your left hand. The left hand can be used for support, but not for offering or doing rituals.)

, and finally Visarjana (bidding goodbye).
Arthi:
Light camphor and show it in front of the deity and at the same time as reciting prayers. This light can be circled in front of GOD three times in a clockwise manner, and after praying you can take from the flame by putting your hands to the tip of the flame and then to your eyes.And Pradakshina and Namaskara:
Offer flowers at the feet of God indicating your surrender to him. Then you prostrate before the deity. You then offer all your prayers/songs etc.


In the temples, the Abhisheka (bathing) of the image and its decoration are done more elaborately. If worship is performed with faith and devotion, it generates peace and joy in our minds. It is to be stated here that , according to the Agamas, God manifests Himself in a subtle form in the image or symbol duly consecrated and accepts the worship thus offered

Hindus worship their Gods and Goddesses and is referred to as Puja. It is conducted to an idol/vigraha made of gold, silver, bronze or even clay. Those who can not even afford these worship the Gods in paintings/pictures. Before the puja, one bathes to signify the outer purification. Mantras and stotras are recited for inner purification. A puja is always done in a special place in a room. Many different sacred items can be kept on the puja room and used during worship like Vigrahas (Idols), Incense, Meditation Oils, Chanting Books or Chalisas. Every object associated with the ritual of Puja or worship is symbolically significant
Place the table (or box) against a wall, cover it with a clean cloth, preferably white, and secure the same by tucking it under so that it won't slip off easily. Tape it if necessary such that the tape is not visible.
The idol or image/picture of the deity, which is called 'Vigraha' (Sanskrit: 'vi'+ 'graha') means something that is devoid of the ill effects of the planets or 'grahas', must also be arranged on the altar in a way that it leans against the wall.
Prepare one or two lamps with cotton wicks soaking in oil. Place the lamp/s about 6" in front of the picture if it is one lamp, or about 10" apart if two lamps. Do not light these until you are ready to begin the Puja. Please note that it is ideal to light two wicks in the lamps one facing the dieties and the other towards you. The lamp we light represents the light in us, that is the soul, which we offer to the Absolute.
Prepare a worship plate (stainless steel, silver or any other metal) by placing on it small vessels (cup-like, preferably metallic) of kumkum (vermilion), turmeric, one packet of camphor, sandal paste, a dozen agarbatti sticks (incense sticks) and a match box. The incense we burn collectively stands for the desires we have for various things in life. The vermilion or red powder stands for our emotions.
Prepare another plate, 12" or 24" diameter, metallic or wicker and put a variety of fruits (bananas, apples, oranges, etc.) and a couple of varieties of leaves and flowers. The flower that we offer to the deity stands for the good that has blossomed in us. The fruits offered symbolize our detachment, self-sacrifice and surrender.
You will need an aarti plate. This can be a small plate with a few vertical wicks soaking in oil or ghee or an aarati receptacle with a few wicks soaking in oil or ghee.
You will also need a small cup of akshata (raw unbroken rice).
Covered dishes of your favorite prasaadam or sweets may be placed in front of the altar on the cloth covered ground. A metallic vessel large enough to contain a couple of mugs of water should be filled with water and placed in front of the altar. You will need a smaller vessel, preferably a metallic straight-walled tumbler into which water will be poured during the service.
A dispenser (called uddharana or a simple metallic spoon) to dispense water from the tumbler will be needed. You will need a piece of cloth, white for a male deity and colorful cloth for a Goddess.
Now you are ready to begin. Light the lamps and a couple of incense sticks. Keep them safely in the vicinity such that they present no hazard. Direct the agarbatti smoke towards the altar such that the smoke does not cause discomfort with chanting by the assembled. You must realize that in a few moments you will be invoking and receiving a godhead and therefore the principal mood should be one of joy and devotion, but the mind should be relaxed. Make sure nothing starts until you are certain that a pleasant, sincere, reverential, relaxed environment is created to fill yourselves with joy as you begin to surrender to the Godhead through worship.

According to the traditional Vedic system, the Hindus are prescribed five daily Vedic pujas for all round prosperity and to ward off all evils. The pancha pujas are: Ganesha Pooja, Soorya pooja, Shiva Pooja, Devi Pooja and Vishnu Pooja.
There several types of poojas of these deities and some of them can take a whole day. The way a pooja is performed also varies depending on ones regional and traditional back ground. Various pooja books and websites prescribe long preparations and rituals for poojas. It is not possible for every one to perform a pooja like an ordained Vedic priest. Hence our scriptures allow one to do a pooja "Yatha shakti" or as per ones capability and convenience. Doing it with faith is what really matters. The minimum is: light a lamp and an incense stick and offer some prasad - if you don't have anything at home the simple milk or sugar will do. You can rest assured that that the Gods will not curse you! Preferably keep an idol or photograph or picture

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