Hindu Dharma contains a broad range of philosophies. It is unique with its many and varied rites and rituals. The most notable feature in religious ritual is the division between purity and impurity. Honoring of purity with devotion to the god is Puja. Puja is the most valuable aspect of Hindu adoration which consists of a variety of ritual offerings and prayers. The adoration may be in the form of a person or a symbol or an idol, representing the presence of divine energy.
There is always a clash on how the word ‘Puja’ came into being. There is an axiom that ‘Puja’ is derived from Sanskrit roots where ‘P’ stands for ‘Paapa’ or sin and ‘J’ stands for ‘Janma’ or birth. ‘Puja’ is an acronym for ‘Purna Jagruti’ which means ‘Complete Awakening’. While some believe that ‘Puja’ is derived from the Dravidian word ‘pu-they’ meaning offering flowers. Let’s not argue about how and when the word ‘Puja’ is formed. Let’s just say, in the simplest words, ‘Puja’ is honor and gratefulness. Puja is offering back everything to the divine. Puja is where you surrender impurity and take purity.
Puja is an expression of the expanded consciousness honoring the whole creation.
Puja is also primarily done to uplift the five senses and to raise a higher level of consciousness that will push good thoughts and actions. Secondarily, it is a simple way for ordinary beings to get connected with the divine. The intent of the Puja is to eliminate negative energy and create positive energy. Puja is like Samskara (mental impression), which demands sincerity, discipline, and respect. The arrangement of puja items used in Puja Vidhi is based on the level of the Pancha-tattvas (Five Cosmic Principles).
The Puja Vidhi as in practice is as follows:
Dhyana means contemplation and meditation. Dhyana in Puja is meditating on the almighty that is being invoked. To remember and meditate the chosen god or goddess is the very first step of ‘Puja’. The Bhagavad Gita also quotes that dhyana brings a devotee closer to the supreme soul than other paths.
Aavaahana is the invitation made to the chosen God for their presence in the place of worship. In Puja, you invite the god to your home rather than worshipping them in heaven.
Asana is giving the deity the seat with devotion.
Once the divine energy or deity has arrived or seated the worshipper washes the feet of deity with clean water (Jal). The water is kept on Kalasa as it makes the water pure for offering to the divine.
Arghya is offering the deity water (Jal) to rinse hands and mouth.
Aachamana is offering the deity the water (Jal) to drink.
Snana is bathing the deity with various auspicious items like water, milk, honey, etc.
Vastra is dressing the deity in clean clothes.
Yagyopavita (Yajnopavita) is offering the deity with the clean sacred thread also known as ‘Janeu’ or ‘Janai’. Yajno-Pavita means ‘thread of sacrifice’ that symbolizes the sacrifice of ego, anger, and selfishness.
Gandha is offering the deity with sandalwood paste. The deity is offered scented pastes like turmeric powder, saffron, sandal paste and curd mixed with ghee. Gandha represents Vasanas (attachments) and desires. By offering them to god we purify ourselves from all the negative longings.
Pushpa is offering flowers to the deity along with chanting of mantras. The flowers that we offer represent goodness in us. It represents purity and sincerity of the devotion.
Dhoop is offering the deity with incense sticks or camphor which symbolizes our dubious consciousness that creates a barrier on the path of self-realization. Offering Dhoop signifies surrendering our deceptive mind to God. Dhoopam signifies the life-breath or prana within us.
Dipa is waving a lamp to the deity. Dipa represents the light residing within us, the true self. By offering Dipa, it shows us light and leads us towards the right direction.
Naivedya is offering the deity with food. Naivedya is usually offered in metal vessels such as brass and silver.
Tambula is offering the deity with a refreshing mix of betel nuts and leaves.
16. Pradakshina and Namaskara
Pradakshina and Namaskara are bidding farewell to the deity. It is being thankful for the presence of divine energy.
Among these Vidhis, five of them represent the Cosmic Principles. Gandha represents Touch, Pushpa represents Hearing, Dhoopa represents Smell whereas Deepa represents Sight and Naivedya represents Taste. This Vidhi will definitely uplift the five senses and brings positive energy to oneself.