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Pooja - Woship: Brief description about the Customs and Rituals are a part of all culture.

Customs and Rituals are a part of all culture. In this scientific day and age when one doesn't take anything for granted, customs and rituals come under special scrutiny. Do we understand their significance? Are we following them just because our forefathers did?  

Questions like these lead us to try and gain a better understanding. When we do gain an understanding, we realize that our ancestors were indeed wise and that these once seemingly meaningless and insignificant customs and rituals are full of meaning and help give us our very identity. 

Pooja is believed to be derived from the Dravidian  word 'pu-chey', (flower action) or worship with the offering o flowers.  Some trace it to the Dravidian word 'pusu', to anoint or smear with sandalwood paste or vermilion.

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.
    Unshakable faith and long practice, evokes and unfolds hitherto unknown dimensions in awareness, which are generally not communicable in the normal way. Remember the British king who sent his friend Becket to sabotage the Church. Once Becket started working for the church, he got convinced and got converted to their line of thinking and found that the king's views were neither noble nor fair.
    Brenen writing in 'Power Play' says that the easterners are centuries ahead in the control of mind and related topics. By puja you will be in a position to inject the noblest thoughts in the subconscious. Above all, one will succeed in solving the mystery of 'Life' .
The term pooja is now used to include all forms of ceremonial worship, ranging from the simple daily offerings of flowers, fruit, leaves, rice, sweetmeats and water to the deities in homes or temples.
There are three kinds of pujas: great, intermediate and small. A great puja is usually a community affair or performed during important occasions like religious festivals.

Pooja is the commonest of rituals that all Hindus  performPerforming a Pooja in the simplest of terms constitutes the worship of God so as to please Him and seek His blessings. God is our creator and protector. He gives us all that we have, and in a Pooja, we worship and praise Him so that He continues to do so. A Pooja can be a very simple affair or an elaborate one. It is performed by each according to ones means; a less elaborate Pooja doesn't take away from the meaning of the ritual and a more elaborate Pooja doesn't please God any more.Pooias may be performed in temples or at home or wherever one deems fit, because Hinduism preaches God's omnipresence.

We have many Gods and Goddesses and by performing a Pooja for a particular God or Goddess, we seek to gain something different from Him or Her, e.g. Goddess Saraswati bestows knowledge and learning upon us while Goddess Lakshmi gives us wealth. During the course of a Pooja, it is customary to chant Mantras, sing Bhajans and make offerings of fruits, flowers and incense to God. 

Mantras are sacred verses that praise God and seek his blessings. In the more traditional Poojas, the Mantras are recited by the priest performing it. 

A Bhajan is a devotional hymn that is sung by all attendees and may have musical accompaniment. Both Mantras and Bhajans have intense meaning and have a greater effect on those that understand them but it also has a soothing and peaceful effect on those that don't. 

A Pooja ends with the Aarati in which fire or incense is moved in a circular motion before God. After the Aarati, all the attendees of the Pooja partake of the blessings by feeling the warmth of the fire
Hinduism is extremely scientific when it comes to the performing of rituals. Astrologers are consulted before performing rituals and they provide us with the right day and also the time of day to perform a ritual.

One could go on ad infinitum about all Pooja  rituals and customs but the most important thing to know is their significance. One cannot know of all the rituals and customs that exist but if an effort is made to learn about as many of them as is possible and also to learn of their significance, the quality of one's life as a whole improves and it takes us one step closer to salvation. 

Performing and knowing about rituals causes us to improve as human beings and most important of all makes us help others do the same. If we know what a certain ritual or custom signifies, then we can help others understand it and prevent them from assuming it to be meaningless and boring. 

This cycle will surely carry on because learning is contagious and it will pass from one person to another. In conclusion, it is important for us to know about our rituals and customs for they were meant to help us lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. 

Performing our rituals and customs and speaking our language are probably the only ways by which we can remember our roots.
            Prasad    Charanmrit    Abhisheka
  • Method of performing Pooja. Answer
  • Why do we light a lamp? Answer 
  • Why do we worship the Diya in Pooja? Answer
  • Why do we have a prayer room? Answer
  • Why do we do namaste? Answer
  • Why do we prostrate before parents & elders? Answer
  • Why do we wear marks on the forehead? Answer
  • Why do we not touch papers, books and people with the feet? Answer
  • Why do we apply holy ash? Answer
  • Why do we offer food to the Lord before eating it? Answer
  • Why do we do pradakshina? Answer
  • Why do we regard trees and plants as sacred? Answer
  • Why do we fast? Answer
  • Why do we ring the bell in a temple? Answer
  • Why do we worship the kalash? Answer
  • Why do we worship the tulsi? Answer
  • Why do we consider the lotus as special? Answer
  • Why do we blow the conch? Answer
  • Why do we say shaanti thrice? Answer
  • Why do we offer a coconut? Answer
  • Why do we chant Om? Answer
  • Why do we do aarti? Answer
There are 16 Main steps in performing while sometimes it varies here is an outline of them.

AawahanInviting of the Devta
AasanamThe offering of a seat to the Devta
PaadyamThe washing of the Devta's feet
ArghyamWater for washing hands
AachamaneeyamWater for rinsing the mouth
Panchaamrita SnanBathing the murti with nectar comprising of dahee(curds),milk,ghee(cow's butter),honey and sugar.
Udvartan Snaan
Devi pooja only
Offering scented water or perfume
Shud Jal SnaanBathing the murti with purified water
VastraOffering of clothing
Aachamaneeyamsame as above
YagyopaveetamOffering of the sacred cord(Janew)
ChandanOffering sandalpaste
Sowbhagya Sutra
Devi pooja only
Offering Mangal Sutra or jewels
AkshatWhite rice coloured with Kum Kum
Mala or PushpamOffering of garlands of flowers or just flowers
Durva or DoobThe offering of dew grass
Sowbhagya DravyaThe offering of Kajal,Haldee,sindoor and Kum Kum.This can be offered separately or all mixed together.
DhoopThe offering of incence
Deep DaanThe performance of Aartee or the waving of lights with a deeya(earthen lamp)or any similar instrument
Naivedyam or MadhuparkhamOffering Prasad most acceptable to that particular Devta or a composition of honey,ghee and sugar
AaachamaneeyamWater for rinsing the mouth
PhalamOffering sooparie,desert
TamboolOffering betel-leaves(paan) with other spices for cleansing and scenting of the mouth
DakshinaOffering money
NirajanamOffering a light
PushpanjaliOffering flowers

At the end, arati is performed. An intermediate puja includes the steps from madhu-parka to naivedya and is performed during fasts or birthdays of deities. A small puja involves the steps from gandha to naivedya and is performed everyday. All pujas end with arati.

The object of performing the puja in this manner is to treat the deity as one would a guest, with honour and respect. In temples, the deities are treated as kings.

Though the steps of worship are the same for all deities, there is some difference in the puja of each. For instance, the kind of flowers offered is different for each deity.

Presently, a puja might also involve japa or meditation. A very important part of any puja is the applying of tilaka and the distribution of prasada to devotees.

A worshipper is required to be pure of body and mind. The Puranas lay more stress on the quality of devotion and good behavior than on rigid puja procedures.

Puja originated as a substitute to homa and other Vedic sacrifices which could not be performed by women and Shudras and which required animal sacrifices. Due to Dravidian ,Buddhist and Jain influences which 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 formalised as a universal option instead of the exclusive homa.

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