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Puja Ritual
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By Sowmya Ramkumar

Object of Puja Ritual

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 magnificently 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 (shoDaShopachaara) to the God invoked and installed in the idol or image or photo during the puujaa.

The sixteen offerings are made in five steps.

bulletFirst 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

bullet1. dhyaayaami
God 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.
bullet2. aavaahayaami
bullet3. aasanam samarpayaami
bullet2nd 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 for paadyam, then at the hands for arghyam and lastly at the chest and then from head to feet doen for snaanam (bath or oblation).

bullet4. paadyam samarpayaami
bullet5. aachamaniiyam samarpayaami
bullet6. arghyam samarpayaami
bullet7. snaanam samarpayaami
bullet3rd step

Then we have the 3 phased offering of gandha or sandal paste, raw rice mixed with kumkum called axata and flowers.

bullet8. gandham samarpayaami
bullet9. axataan samarpayaami
bullet10. puShpaaNi puujayaami
bullet4th 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.

bullet11. dhuupam aaghyaapayaami
bullet12. 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.

bullet13. naivedyam nivedayaami

At that time a little water is poured into the right palm and offered as the naivedya, chanting thus:

bulletOM PraaNaaya svaaha
bulletapaanaaya svaahaa
bulletvyaanaaya svaahaa
bulletudaanaaya svaahaa
bulletsamaanaaya svaahaa
bulletbrahmane svaahaa
bullet14. 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 taarakaM
nemaa vidyuto bhaanti kutoyamagniH
tameva bhaa,ntamanu bhaati sarvam
tasya 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.

bullet5th step

the next step consists of performing pradakshinaa and offering namaskaara.

bullet15. pradakShiNaa namaskaara samarpayaami
bullet16. 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


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


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Last Updated on 07/05/03