What is a Puja
Puja is the act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals. An essential part of puja for the Hindu devotee is making a spiritual connection with the divine. Most often that contact is facilitated through an object: an element of nature, a sculpture, a vessel, a painting, or a print.
During puja an image or other symbol of the god serves as a means of gaining access to the divine. This icon is not the deity itself; rather, it is believed to be filled with the deity’s cosmic energy. It is a focal point for honoring and communicating with the god. For the devout Hindu, the icon’s artistic merit is important, but is secondary to its spiritual content. The objects are created as receptacles for spiritual energy that allow the devotee to experience direct communication with his or her gods.
Performing a Puja
A worshipper is required to be pure of body and mind. The Puranas lay more stress on the quality of devotion and good behaviour than on rigid puja procedures. Puja originated as a substitute to homa and other Vedic sacrifices which women and Shudras could not perform and which required animal sacrifices. Due to Dravidian (see Dasas), Buddhist and Jain influences that preached non-violence, the killing or sacrifice of animals was discontinued and with the development of iconography, idol worship and puja took the place of sacrifice. It was also recognized that worship was essential for all, whatever the gender or caste (see Varna) and therefore puja was formalized as a universal option instead of the exclusive homam.
Pujas in Temples
A Hindu temple is believed to be the earthly seat of a deity and the place where the deity waits for its devotees. As such, temple structures are sacred spaces where gods partake of human offerings and in which the people can be with the gods. Many temples resemble palace architecture; this is not surprising, as deities are often considered kings.
Temples are normally dedicated to one primary god. Often they are elaborately decorated on the outside with stone or plaster carvings depicting religious stories, and their decoration is specific to the deity being worshiped. Mythological scenes are juxtaposed with scenes of everyday life and important political events, such as royal coronations, conquests, and celebrations, or with portraits of royal and secular patrons. These divine images and mythological scenes on the outer walls of the temple help worshipers recall the sacred stories they have heard or read.
One should remove one’s shoes before entering a Hindu temple in order to pay appropriate respect to the deity within the temple.
The innermost sanctuary of the temple contains the principal image of the deity. The character of each shrine is determined by the deity being worshiped.
Short Pujas/ Daily Pujas
Each time when you say ‘Samarpayami’ (literally: I am offering), please offer two axataas to the LORD with love and devotion.
(Akshatha is uncooked rice, if possible colored with kumkum , saffron powder, termaric and a little bit of water. Can be prepared well advance for a week and kept near the ALTAR).
1. Dhyaanam Samarpayami (Think or meditate on the LORD) 2. Aawaahanam Samarpayami (Offering invitation the LORD) 3. Aasanam Samarpayami (Offer a seat to the LORD) 4. Paadyam Samarpayami (offer water to wash the feet) 5. Arghyam Samarpayami (offer water to wash the hands) 6. Aachamaneeyam Samarpayami (offer water to drink ) 7. Snaanam Samarpayami (Give bath to the LORD) 8. Maha Abhishekam Samarpayami (main head bath) 9. Pratishtaapayaami (make him seated ) 10. Vasthram Samarpayami (Offer clothes to the LORD) 11. Yajnopaveetham Samarpayami (Offer the Holy Thread to the LORD) 12. Gandham Samarpayami (offer sandalwood paste/powder) 13. Akshatham Samarpayami (Offer Akshatha to the LORD) 14. Pushpam Samarpayami (Offer flowers to the LORD) 15. Ashthothtra Poojam Samarpayami (Offer the Holy 108 names of the LORD) 16. Dhoopam Aaghraapayaami (offer agarbatti) 17. Deepam Darshayaami (offer light ) 18. Neivedyam Samarpayami (Offer food to the LORD) 19. Phalam Samarpayami (Offer Fruits the LORD) 20. Taamboolam Samarpayami (offer beetle nut and leaves) 21. Dakshinam Samarpayami (Offer money to the LORD) 22. Maha Nirajanam Samarpayami (the main aarati) 23. Pradakshinam Samarpayami (taking clockwise rounds in front of the lord) 24. Namaskaram Samarpayami (prostrations offer them) 25. Mantra Pushpam Samarpayami ( both incantations and flowers 26. Praarthanaam Samarpayami (offering prayers; List your requests) 27. Xamaapanam Samarpayami (offering apologies to lord for any mistakes)
This word is the common term for worship of which there are numerous synonyms in the Sanskrit language. Puja is done daily of the Ishta-devata or the particular Deity worshipped by the sadhaka – the Devi in the case of a Shakti, Vishnu in the case of a Vaishnava, and so forth. But though the Ishta-devata is the principal object of worship, yet in puju all worship the Pancha-devata, or the Five Deva – Aditya (the Sun), Ganesha, the Devi, Shiva, and Vishnu, or Narayana. After worship of the Pancha-devata, the family Deity (Kula-devata), who is generally the same as the Ishta-devata, is worshipped. Puja, which is kamya, or done to gain a particular end as also vrata, are preceded by the sangkalpa; that is, a statement of the resolution to do the worship, as also of the particular object, if any, with which it is done.
There are sixteen upachara, or things done or used in puja: (1) asana (seat of the image); (2) svagata (welcome); (3) padya (water for washing the feet); (4) arghya (offering of unboiled rice, flowers, sandal paste, durva grass, etc., to the Devata in the kushi) (vessel); (5 and 6) achamana (water for sipping, which is offered twice); (7) madhuparka (honey, ghee, milk, and curd offered in a silver or brass vessel); (8) snana (water for bathing); (9) vasana (cloth); (10) abharana (jewels); (11) gandha (scent and sandal paste is given); (12) pushpa (flowers); (13) dhupa (incense stick); (14) dipa (light); (15) naivedya (food); (16) vandana or namas-kara (prayer). Other articles are used which vary with the puja, such as Tulasi leaf in the Vishnu-puju and bael-(bilva) leaf in the Shiva-puja. The mantras said also vary according to the worship. The seat (asana) of the worshipper is purified. Salutation being made to the Shakti of support or the sustaining force (adhara-shakti); the water, flowers, etc., are purified. All obstructive spirits are driven away (Bhutapasarpana), and the ten quarters are fenced from their attack by striking the earth three times with the left foot, uttering the Astra vija “phat,” and by snapping the fingers (twice) round the head. Pranayama (regulation of breath) is performed and (vide post) the elements of the body are purified (bhuta-shuddhi). There is nyasa (vide post); dhyana (meditation) offering of the upachara; japa (vide post), prayer and obeisance (pranama). In the ashta-murti-puja of Shiva the Deva is worshipped under the eight forms: Sharvva (Earth), Bhava (Water), Rudra (Fire), Ugra (Air), Bhima (Ether), Pashupati (yajamana – the Sacrificer man), Ishana (Sun), Mahadeva (Moon).