(Last Updated on : 31/03/2015)
In Hinduism, Puja is refered to ceremonial worship. It may range from brief daily rites in the home to an elaborate temple ritual. Puja is derived from the Dravidian
term 'pu-chey'or worshipping with flowers.The Dravidian word 'pusu'has a similar meaning that is, to anoint or smear with sandalwood paste or vermillion .
Puja includes many ceremonial practice from the most simple daily offerings of flowers ,fruits ,leaves ,rice and sweetmeats to the sacrifice of goats in temples for the worship -of Kali
and other female deities .Pujas can be classified into three categories; great, intermediate and small..
Steps in Performing Puja
Any puja is conducted in the following manner.
First comes the 'Avahana' where the deity to be worshipped is invoked and a seat isoffered called 'asana'. Next the deity is welcomed where the devotees honor the deity and anoint or smear with sandalwood paste or vermillion called 'svagata'.
'Padya' is the next step where the feet of the deity are washed with water.
'arghya', the next ritual is the offering of water to the god and the water is mixed with sandalwood paste, vermilion and rice.
'Snanajala'is the next step of offering water to the deity.
'Abharanasya' is the stage where clothes jewels and ornaments are offered.
The last and the final stage where the deity is given a farewell 'Visarjana'.All pujas end with arati .
The distribution of prasada to devotees and applying of tilaka is the most important part of any puja. Puja also involves japa or meditation
.The most important aspect of puja is that a devotee should have a pure body and mind . The Puranas
lay more stress on the quality of devotion and good behavior than on rigid puja procedures.
Puja At Home
Every Hindu home normally has a special room for puja, a sacred space set apart for honoring and worshipping the gods. A devout Hindu may visit the temple everyday, but the normal custom is going to temple on celebration day or to fulfill specific vows. The pujas that take place everyday in a house are the foundation of all family actions and decisions.
Puja In A Temple
A Hindu temple is the earthly seat of the deity where it is believed that god wait for the devotees. Hence, temple structures are sacred places where god grants human offerings and where people can be with god. So the temples' atmosphere is always serene and tranquil. Many temples often resemble the structure of palaces, as god is often considered as king.
Puja is considered as a multi-sensory experience to the Hindu devotees. The worshipper offer the god with the lightened lamps, touches the ritual objects and the feet of the deity, hears the ringing of the bells and the holy chants being recited, smells the incense and taste the blessed food offered at the end of the ritual.
According to Hindu philosophy the sacred sculptures are used to help the devotees to understand the incomprehensible divinity. In most cases the images are anthropomorphic i.e. resembles a human being and in other cases these images are abstract. The icons may be made from wide variety of materials ranging from clay to gold and all are considered equally sacred. The simple philosophy of visual metaphor is thus supported by expressing invisible divine reality through visible icons to the common men.
The images of Hindu gods, goddesses and saints are believed to be always filled with the spirit of the deity they represent. Some idols are daily bathed and dressed to invite the deity or saint to enter the image temporarily. Many of the idols are washed with sacred water, milk, yoghurt, honey, sandalwood paste and ashes before being dressed in ceremonial robes. The idols are lavishly adorned with garlands of flowers and sometimes decorated with expensive jewelries.
Hindus believe that even a glimpse of a sacred image filled with the spirit of god or saint serve for a direct visual communication with the deity, which is commonly known as 'Darshan' and is believed to bring the blessings to the worshipper. Darshan is reciprocal act between the worshippers and the deity. It is thought that the devotee only does not see the god but the god also see the worshipper. For this reason Hindu images often have strikingly large eyes to facilitate the exchange of glances between the devotee and the deity.
There are also puja performed in open air. Many pujas take the form of religious celebration like Durga puja in Bengalis, Ganesha puja among Marathis, Shiva puja, Kali puja, Laxmi puja, Saraswati puja, Narayana puja etc.