|Puja, or prayers, in different forms.|
Pūjā is a ritual performed by Hindus to host, honour and spiritually celebrate one or more religious deities, or an event. Sometimes spelled phonetically as Pooja, it may honour or celebrate the presence of special guest(s), or their memories after they pass away. The word Pūjā (Devanagari: पूजा) comes from Sanskrit, and means reverence, honour, homage, adoration, and worship. Puja rituals are also held by Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs.
In Hinduism, 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, to few lifetime events such as birth of a baby or a wedding, or to begin a new venture. The two main areas where puja is performed are in the home and at temples to mark certain stages of life, events or some festivals such as Durga Puja and Lakshmi Puja. Puja may be a routine daily affair for some Hindus, periodic ritual for some, and infrequent for other Hindus. In some temples, various poojas may be performed daily at various times of the day; in other temples, it may be occasional.
Puja varies according to the school of Hinduism. Within a given school, puja may vary by region, occasion, deity honored, and religious recommendations. In formal Nigama ceremonies, a fire may be lit in honour of deity Agni, without an idol or image. In contrast, in Agama ceremonies, an idol or image of deity is present. In either ceremonies, a diya or incense stick may be lit while a prayer is chanted or hymn is sung. Puja is typically performed by a Hindu worshipper alone, sometimes in presence of a priest who is well verse with procedure and hymns. Food, fruits and sweets may be included as offerings to the deity, which after the prayers becomes prasad - blessed food shared by all present at the puja.
Both Nigama and Agama puja are practiced in Hinduism in India. In Hinduism of Bali Indonesia, Agama puja is most prevalent both inside homes and in temples; the puja is locally called Sembahyang.
Puja (Sanskrit: पूजा) is an ancient word, with unclear origins. Joshi claims the word puja was first used in vedic times when Sūtra were composed, to describe prayers and worship before yajna or homa - fire deity, Agni. The origin of the word Puja may lie in the Dravidian languages. Two possible Tamil roots have been suggested: Poosai "to smear with something" and Poochei "to do with flowers".
|Diverse forms of Puja|
Pūjā is modelled on the idea of making an offering or gift to a deity or important person and receiving their blessing in return. This practice was explored by Paul Thieme who deduced from passages in the Rāmāyaṇa that the word pūjā referred to the hospitable reception of guests and that the things offered to guests could be transferred to the gods and their dwellings. The rituals in question were the "five great sacrifices" or pañcamahāyajña recorded in the Gṛhyasūtra texts (for this literature, see Kalpa). The development of pūjā thus emerged from Vedic domestic traditions and was carried into the temple environment by analogy: just as important guests had long been welcomed in well-to-do homes and offered things that pleased them, so too were the gods welcomed in temple-homes and offered things that pleased them. Copper-plate charters recording grants of lands to temples show that this religious practice was actively encouraged from the mid-4th century.
Temple pūjā is more elaborate than the domestic versions and typically done several times a day. They are also performed by a temple priest, or pujari. 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.
A full home or temple puja can include several traditional upacaras or "attendances". The following is an example puja; these steps may vary according to region, tradition, setting, or time particularly in ways the deity is hosted. In this example, the deity is invited as a guest, the devotee hosts and takes care of the deity as an honored guest, hymns and food are offered to the deity, after an expression of love and respect the host takes leave and with affection expresses good bye to the deity. Indologist Jan Gonda has identified 16 steps (shodasha upachara) that are common in all varieties of puja:
- Avahana (“invocation”). The deity is invited to the ceremony from the heart.
- Asana. The deity is offered a seat.
- Padya. The deity’s feet are symbolically washed.
- Water is offered for washing the head and body
- Arghya. Water is offered so the deity may wash its mouth.
- Snana or abhisekha. Water is offered for symbolic bathing.
- Vastra (“clothing”). Here a cloth may be wrapped around the image and ornaments affixed to it.
- Upaveeda or Mangalsutra. Putting on the sacred thread.
- Anulepana or gandha. Perfumes and ointments are applied to the image. Sandalwood paste or kumkum is applied.
- Pushpa. Flowers are offered before the image, or garlands draped around its neck.
- Dhupa. Incense is burned before the image.
- Dipa or Aarti. A burning lamp is waved in front of the image.
- Naivedya. Foods such as cooked rice, fruit, clarified butter, sugar, and betel leaf are offered.
- Namaskara or pranama. The worshipper and family bow or prostrate themselves before the image to offer homage.
- Parikrama or Pradakshina. Circumambulation around the deity.
- Taking leave.
Sometimes additional steps are included:
- Dhyana (“Meditation”). The deity is invoked in the heart of the devotee.
- Acamanıya. Water is offered for sipping.
- Aabaran. The deity is decorated with ornaments.
- Chatram. Offering of umbrella.
- Chamaram Offering of fan or fly-whisk (Chamara).
- Visarjana or Udvasana. The deity is moved from the place.
There are variations in this puja method such as:
- Pancha upachara pooja (puja with 5 steps).
- Chatushasti upachara puja (puja with 64 steps).
Puja in Balinese Hinduism
In Hinduism of Bali Indonesia, puja is locally called Sembahyang. The word originates from two words in old Javanese: sembah and hyang. Sembah means to respect and bow down; Hyang means divine, God/Shang Hyang Widhi, holy man, and ancestors. So to pray means to respect, bow down, surrender to the divine and ancestors.
Sembahyang (Puja) is an obligation for Balinese Hindus, the prayers and hymns are derived from the Vedas. A family typically offers prayers everyday, with Kewangen and other offerings. Kewangen means aromatic, and it is made from leaves and flowers in form of auspicious Vedic symbols. Balinese use kewangen to worship the divine, both in form of Purusha (soul) and Pradana (body). As with India, Balinese make offerings, including symbolic inclusion of fire, incense and mantras.
In the case of great spiritual masters, there is also a custom to perform puja for a living person. Gurus are sometimes chosen as objects of puja and honored as living gods or seen the embodiment of specific deities. Gurus are sometimes adorned with symbolic clothes, garlands and other ornaments, and celebrated with incense, washing and anointing their feet, giving them fruits, food and drinks and meditating at their feet, asking for their blessing.
In the Hindu tradition the Guru it is looked upon as the embodiment of God himself.
Significance of Puja
The state of mind with which the puja is performed, the various materials used and the chanting (mantras) which is done during the puja, all have a profound effect on the environment.
The vibrations purify the place, the atmosphere and the people present. Puja is a meditation, it is a yoga (a means to reach the state of total oneness). The feeling of oneness of the worshipper and the worshipped, is the realization of the true nature of the Self.
You perform some rituals on festivals. Children are introduced to religion and spirituality through the rituals.
Performing rituals also purify and electrify the atmosphere at home. E.g. when all family members come together and do Pooja on Diwali, the atmosphere of our home changes.
Critique of pūjā in the Pūrva Mīmāṃsaka school
Although pūjā is accepted as a valid religious activity by Hindus at large, it has long been criticised by Mīmāṃsā thinkers. The foundational work of this school is the Karmamīmāṃsāsūtra or "Aphorisms for Enquiry into the Act," composed by Jaimini. The earliest surviving commentary is by Śabara who lived around the end of the fourth century. Śabara's commentary, known as Śabarabhāṣya holds pride of place in Mīmāṃsā in that Sabara's understanding is taken as definitive by all later writers. In his chapter entitled Devatādikaraṇa (9 : 1: 5: 6-9), Śabara examines the popular understanding of the gods and attempts to refute the belief that they have material bodies, are able to eat the offerings made to them, and are capable of being pleased and so able to reward worshippers. Basing himself on the Vedas (he refused to accept the Mahābhārata, Purāṇa texts or even the Smṛti literatures as valid sources of authority), Śabara concludes that the gods are neither corporeal nor sentient and thus unable to enjoy offerings or own property. For this he appeals to empirical observation, noting that offerings do not decrease in size when given to the gods; any decrease is simply due to exposure to the air. Likewise he argues that substances are offered to gods not according to the wishes of the gods, but that "what is vouched for by direct perception is that the things are used according to the wishes of the temple servants (pratyakṣāt pramāṇāt devatāparicārakāṇām abhiprāyaḥ). In the course of his discussion, Śabara's asserts that "there is no relation between the case of guests and the sacrificial act." This incidental remark provides sound historical proof that pūjā was built on analogy with atithi, the ancient Vedic tradition of welcoming guests. What Śabara is maintaining is that this analogy is not valid. While the Mīmāṃsakas continued to maintain this interpretation for centuries, their defeat in debate at the hands of Śaṅkarācārya led to theirs being a minority view. It is a remarkable testament to the plurality and tolerance of Indian civilization that Mīmāṃsakas flourished even into the 17th century, as evidenced by the commentaries of Nīlakaṇṭha.
Short list of puja festivals
- Diwali/Deepavali/Lakshmi Puja
- Durga Puja
- Ganesh Chaturthi
- Kali Puja
- Maha Shivaratri
- Rath Yatra/Jagannath Puja
- Raksha Bandhan
- Saraswati Puja
- Coconut: use for worship
- Jainism: geographical spread and influence, historical roots of puja
- Panchalinga Darshana
- Puja (Buddhism)
- Satyanarayan Puja
- James Lochtefeld, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Volume 2, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, pages 529-530
- Paul Courtright, in Gods of Flesh/Gods of Stone (Editors: Joanne Punzo Waghorne, Norman Cutler, and Vasudha Narayanan), ISBN 978-0231107778, Columbia University Press, see Chapter 2
- पूजा Sanskrit Dictionary, Germany (2009)
- Lindsay Jones, ed. (2005). Gale Encyclopedia of Religion 11. Thompson Gale. pp. 7493–7495. ISBN 0-02-865980-5.
- Flood, Gavin D. (2002). The Blackwell companion to Hinduism. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-21535-6.
- Puja, Encyclopedia Britannica
- Hiro G. Badlani (2008), Hinduism: A path of ancient wisdom, ISBN 978-0595436361, page 315-318
- How Balinese Worship their God The Bali Times (January 4 2008)
- Pedoman Sembahyang Bali Indonesia (2009)
- Yves Bonnefoy (editor) Asian Mythologies, ISBN 978-0226064567, University of Chicago Press, pages 161-162
- Lakshmana Shastri Joshi, Development of Indian culture, Vedas to Gandhi (2001), page 32-33
- Varadara Raman, Glimpses of Indian Heritage (1993)
- Paul Thieme, "Indische Wörter und Sitten," in Kleine Schriften (Wiesbaden, 1984) 2: 343–70.
- G. Bühnemann, Pūjā: A Study of Smarta Ritual (Vienna, 1988): p. 33; Shingo Einoo, "The Formation of the Pūjā Ceremony," Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik (Festschrift für Paul Thieme) 20 (1996): 74. A different view is found in Smith, Vedic Sacrifice in Transition, pp. 2–5 who attributes the decline of old śrauta practices to a number of factors one of which was the emergence of ‘iconic ritual’.
- Willis, Michael D. (2008). "The Formation of Temple Ritual in the Gupta Period: pūjā and pañcamahāyajña". Prajñādhara: Gouriswar Bhattacharya Felicitation Volume (Delhi: Gerd Mevissen).
- Willis, Michael D. (2009). "2: 6". The Archaeology of Hindu Ritual. Cambridge.
- Fuller, C. J. (2004), The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, p. 67, ISBN 978-0-691-12048-5
- "upacharas". salagram.net. 2004. Retrieved 25 December 2012. "Sixty four Upacharas"
- How Balinese Worship their God The Bali Times (January 4 2008)
- Pedoman Sembahyang Bali Indonesia (2009)
- Bali - Land of Offerings Rajiv Malik, Hinduism Today (2011)
- "Pooja - That which is born out of fullness". Revival of True India. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
- Othmar Gächter, Hermeneutics and Language in Pūrva Mīmāṃsā (Delhi, 1983): pp. 9-10 where a summary of much scholarship is given.
- The case is summarised in M. Willis, The Archaeology of Hindu Ritual (Cambridge, 2009): pp. 208-10.
- M. Willis, The Archaeology of Hindu Ritual (Cambridge, 2009): p. 323, note 208.
- The passage given in M. Willis, The Archaeology of Hindu Ritual (Cambridge, 2009): p. 210.
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