Puja or Pooja
Puja, also spelled pooja or poojah, in Hinduism, is a prayer ritual performed by Hindus of devotional worship to one or more deities, or to host and honor a guest, or one to spiritually celebrate an event. It is also the act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals.
The word puja is derived from the Dravidian “Pu” (flower) and “ge” (make), or a form of “making flower sacrifice”. In its simplest form, puja usually consists of making an offering of flowers or fruit (Puja Samagri) to an image of a god. An essential part of puja for the Hindu devotee is making a spiritual connection with the divine. Most often that contact is facilitated through an object: an element of nature, a sculpture, a vessel, a painting, or a print.
Essential ritual of Hinduism
The word “puja” in Sanskrit means reverence, honour, homage, adoration, and worship. Puja, the loving offering of light, flowers, and water or food to the divine, is the essential ritual of Hinduism. For the worshipper, the divine is visible in the image, meaning an image or other symbol of the god serves as a means of gaining access to the divine, and the divinity sees the worshipper. The interaction between human and deity, between human and guru, is called darshan, seeing. It is a focal point for honoring and communicating with the god.
A puja may also include a circumambulation (pradakshina) of the image or shrine and, in an elaborate ritual, a sacrifice (bali) and oblation to the sacred fire (homa). Special ceremonies according to the festival calendar may also be observed, such as swinging the god or playing games according to the season. In Hindu, puja is done on a variety of occasions, frequency and settings. It may include daily puja done in the home, to occasional temple ceremonies and annual festivals. The two main areas where puja is performed are in the home and at temples to mark certain stages of life, events such as Bhoomi Puja, Griha Pravesh Puja, Annaprashan Puja, Engagement (Sagai) or some festivals such as Durga Puja, Diwali Lakshmi Puja, Navratri Puja, Saraswati Puja, Satyanarayan Puja, Ganesh Puja (Ganpati Puja). Puja may vary by region, occasion, deity honored, and steps followed. Puja may be performed by an individual worshipper or in gatherings.
Puja in Hinduism sometimes involves themes beyond idols or images. Even persons, places, rivers, concrete objects or anything is seen as manifestations of divine reality by some Hindus. The access to the divine is not limited to renunciatory meditation as in yoga school of Hinduism or idols in bhakti school. For some the divine is everywhere, without limit to its form, and a puja to these manifestations signifies the same spiritual meaning to those who choose to offer a prayer to persons, places, rivers, concrete objects or anything else.
An act of devotion: Worshipping deities in shrines
One important type of puja in Indian temple and private worship is arati, the waving of lighted lamps before an image of a deity or a person to be honoured. In performing the rite, the worshipper circles the lamp three or more times in a clockwise direction while chanting a prayer or singing a hymn. In Indian households, arati is a commonly observed ritual element accorded specially honoured guests. It is also a part of many domestic ceremonies.
Some pujas may be performed by the worshipper alone, whereas others may require the services of a ritually qualified person such as a priest (also called pandit or pujari or purohit). A puja may be performed for a specific announced purpose or simply as an act of devotion. Hindus commonly conduct pujas in shrines in three different environments: in temples, in the home, and in outdoor public spaces. It is equally common for any of the deities to be worshiped in any of these three types of shrines.
Temple (Mandir) puja is more elaborate than the domestic versions and typically done several times a day. They are also performed by a temple priest, or pandit or pujari or purohit. In addition, the temple deity (patron god or goddess) is considered a resident rather than a guest, so the puja is modified to reflect that; for example the deity is “awakened” rather than “invoked” in the morning. Temple pujas vary widely from region to region and for different sects, with devotional hymns sung at Vaishnava temples for example. At a temple puja, there is often less active participation, with the priest acting on behalf of others.
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