Hindu Pooja Devotions And Rituals

Hindu Pooja or rituals of worship followed by devotees in Hindu temples as well as at home are rich and sophisticated in appearance, but actually represent certain basic elements of devotion to the almighty Lord of universe. These elements include tilak, dhyan, arti and prasad, in addition to others.
Hindu Pooja Devotions and Rituals
Source - Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3A(An)_aarti_ritual_near_ganga_rhishikesh-India_2008.jpg)

Ancient Indian tradition includes devotion or Bhakti as one of the three paths of self realization. One can indulge in devotion in several forms, ritualistic pooja is one of the popular ones. While the underlying sentiment is that of devotion, it has come to acquire many rituals like tilak, dhyan and arti and are common in Indian households.


Hindu Pooja: An Exercise in Mystique Rituals?

For an outsider, Hindu pooja would appear as an exercise full of mystique rituals difficult to understand, but for an Indian it is just an exercise to express your devotion to the almighty God. The primary idea

is simply to remind yourself that your ego is of little consequence in the vastness of this universe, and that we all owe our existence to the powers of nature, from which we borrow our existence and in which we all merge at the conclusion of the time allotted to us.

Ancient Indian Traditions of Self Realization: Gyan, Karma & Bhakti

In ancient Indian tradition, there are three paths that lead to MOKSHA or self realization. First is the path of 'Gyana' or knowledge, which means understanding the concepts of universe, life and god. The second is the path of 'Karma' or actions to perform the duties assigned to you by society with extreme sincerity and religious dedication; and the third path is 'Bhakti' or devotion, in which the individual devotes all his attention and submerges his identity to the almighty god in one or the other form. The form could be 'saakar' or in the human like form, or it could be 'niraakar' or formless, but the individual loses his own ego in that form and almost attains a merger with it.

Among these paths, most people follow a combination of 'Karma' and 'Bhakti', thereby concentrating on whatever duties are assigned to them, and regularly spending some time for devotion to the Lord. Hindu pooja is actually just that expression of devotion, wherein the devotee indulges in certain actions depending upon the traditions followed by his ancestors, neighbors and other people of that region, but the sole aim of which is to express his or her devotion to the Lord. These rituals change from place to place but have certain commonalities. First and the most common part of all pooja rituals is prayer or 'Aarti' - a prayer describing the magnificence of the Lord along with a request to keep us under his shelter, bless us with his compassion and show us the right path in life. These prayers are the primary feature of every pooja.

Rituals commonly followed in Hindu Pooja

Other rituals that are near universal include 'tilak' or placing the red powder on the forehead of the idol or the photograph of the Lord or the Goddess, depending upon whichever form you prefer to remember him. Often people think that there are many gods and goddesses in Hindu religion, but actually they are all forms of the almighty, which may appear in male or female form. They are many legends and large volumes of mythology that are associated with each form, but in the end they are all forms of the single almighty power, and

in fact some sections also prefer to worship the same almighty god as a formless entity, without having any conflict otherwise with other followers who prefer to offer their prayers to different forms of the same Lord.

The prayers are sometimes associated with music, and some sections of devotees also express their emotions in the form of bowing or prostrating before the Lord's idol. Some even dance with devotion, feeling the proximity of his presence while others with close eyes just seem to have entered into a trans, almost as if away from this world. All of these are ways of focusing one's attention on the almighty. The prayers could be associated with certain sounds, bells etc - typical pooja music that marks the 'aarti'.

Rituals of Worship in the Hindu Temples

Other rituals can be very elaborate, and often followed only in big temples. They include cleaning of the idol, its dressing with new cloths, and its decoration, both as a mark of devotion as well as to help devotees to focus their attention. During major festivals, of which there is no dearth whatsoever, the temples are cleaned and decorated. Then offering are made to the idol - a symbol of devotees offering whatever they have in the service of the Lord. As a tradition, sweets are often first offered to Lord, and then savored as his blessings called PRASAD, which one is supposed to share with as many people as one can - so that the blessings of the Lord are spread out throughout humanity.

Different parts of India have their own rituals too. Some of these rituals are unique to certain places of pilgrimage, and have developed more as a tradition and faith. In 'Tirupati temple' in South India, one of the most famous Hindu temples in the world, the offerings are worth millions of Rupees every day, and most devotees also offer all their hair as a mark of respect and a symbol of devotion before they go and worship before the idol. Such practices are considered auspicious and irrespective of anything else, bring satisfaction to the devotees.

Faith in these rituals have carried them now for several thousand years. Sometimes, they also tend to take precedence over the real essence of pooja, yet they play a very important role in ensuring the survival of faith of the vast masses that follow them in spite of the difficulties that life confronts them with. Faith in god helps men and women to leave their fate in the hands of an all powerful force that they trust and which is good and fair and benevolent. Even in the worst of adversities this faith helps them survive, and Hindu pooja and rituals are a very important means of sustaining it.

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