Pūjā or alternative transliteration Pooja, (Devanagari: पूजा) (Urdu: پوجا) (Sanskrit: reverence, honour, adoration, or worship) is a religious ritual performed by Hindus as an offering to various deities, distinguished persons, or special guests. This is also been followed by Buddhists and Sikhs to honour various beliefs. In Hinduism, it is done on a variety of occasions and settings, from daily puja done in the home, to temple ceremonies and large festivals, or to begin a new venture. The two main areas where puja is performed is in the home and at public temples. There are many variations in scale, offering, and ceremony. Puja is also performed on special occasions such as Durga Puja and Lakshmi Puja. The puja is performed by Hindus worldwide. Various poojas are performed at various times of the day and on various times.
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.
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 that they have material bodies, are able to eat the offerings made to them, are capable being pleased and so able to reward worshippers. Basing himself on the Veda (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 empircal 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 sacrifical act." This incidental remark provides sound historial proof that pūjā was built on analogy with atithi, the ancient Vedic tradition of welcoming guests (see Origins, above). 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 remarkble testament to the plurality and tolerance of Indian civilization that Mīmāṃsakas flourished even into the 17th century, as evidenced by the commentaries of Nīlakaṇṭha.
Temple pūjā 
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 that can vary according to tradition, setting, or time: food, drink or everyday objects may be offered. 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).
Guru puja 
In the case of the greatest spiritual masters as Shivananda let’s say, there is the custom to realize puja with a living object of adoration, meaning we choose them as objects of puja, honor them as living gods or we see and adore specific gods in their body, putting on them symbolic clothes and ornaments, garlands around their neck, incense around them, washing their feet, 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.
Secret of offerings during Puja 
God has given you flowers, so you also offer flowers back to Him with a prayer that may our hearts also blossom just as abundantly towards Him.
God gave us water, so we offer water to Him during Pooja, with the feeling that we too should become humble like water and bring coolness to everyone. Like water, we too should have a foundation in life (just as water is the vital element and basis of life). So we pray that our life too becomes like this.
Akshat (whole unbroken rice grain) 
We also offer Akshat (whole unbroken rice grain) to the Divine because; it is a symbol of never ending abundance. Akshat in Sanskrit means 'that which cannot be destroyed'. Just as these rice grains, the spirit in me is indestructible, remembering this we offer the akshatas.
The rice grain does not break ever. Scientists have said that matter and energy can never be created nor be destroyed. Similarly also for the rice grain because it never gets destroyed or damaged. When we eat rice, it provides energy and nourishment to us and is absorbed by our body. And upon death, when our body is cremated and returns to the Earth element, the same rice grain after sometime grows from the Earth and becomes ready as food for consumption. When the body turns into ash, the ash becomes food for many fishes which in turn become the food for many other human beings again. So this happens again and again in Nature. When you bury the body under the Earth, the body dissolves away into the five elements.
Chandan (sandal Paste) 
Similarly we offer Chandan (sandal paste) also, with the feeling that its fragrance spreads everywhere.
All our five senses which bring sensory experiences and pleasure to us – the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue and the skin have certain sense functions and substances associated with them. So all the substances and objects that bring joy or pleasure to these five senses are also given as sacred offering in the Pooja.
Ringing of Holy Bell 
We ring the holy bell during the Pooja because due to the sound that is produced, the mind is freed of all thoughts from here and there, and settles in the present moment. Then the mind comes in harmony with the Naad – the single sound in the environment during the Pooja. Therefore, to focus and channel the mind, many drums, trumpets and cymbals are also played during the Pooja. Such a loud sound causes the mind to come into the present moment. The Holy Bell is rung mostly during Aarti, or holy fire rotated around God.
Burning of camphor during Aarti 
Camphor is burnt to perform Aarti (circular movement or display of the lamp in reverence before the deity or the idol) before the deity. Just as God rotates the sun and the moon around you, you imitate the same and thus offer and move the small camphor lamp before God to bring joy to you.
This is also to express the prayer that the light of our life should never go astray from God and should always be centered and revolve around God. It is with this deep feeling that you perform aarti. In the whole of India, people everywhere perform the aarti but do not know the deeper meaning behind it. The Aarti also is very healthy for a person, some say. The breathing of Aarti wakes up the Chakras some say.
Aarti means the highest and the greatest possible bliss. It represents the fact that the Divine is the greatest source of joy. When our hearts overflow with such intense love and devotion that every particle of our body is soaked in it, then that is what aarti really is.
Aarti is that which gives you total contentment. It is made up of two parts: ‘Aa-’ and ‘rati’. ‘Rati’ means joy, bliss and ecstasy. So when we are full of such kind of devotion and bliss - that is called Aarti. So we perform aarti with the prayer that our lives should also be filled with the ecstasy of devotion, such that we see God everywhere we look. This is called Pooja. Pooja is never done to flatter or please God.
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
See also 
- Coconut: use for worship
- Jainism: geographical spread and influence, historical roots of puja
- Panchalinga Darshana
- Puja (Buddhism)
- Satyanarayan Puja
- 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. pp. 6–7. ISBN 978-0-631-21535-6.
- 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’.
- See Michael D. Willis, "The Formation of Temple Ritual in the Gupta Period: pūjā and pañcamahāyajña," in Prajñādhara: Gouriswar Bhattacharya Felicitation Volume, edited by Gerd Mevissen (Delhi, 2008), available online, see http://www.academia.edu/2069840/The_Formation_of_Temple_Ritual_in_the_Gupta_Period_puja_and_pancamahayajna. Also Michael D. Willis, The Archaeology of Hindu Ritual (Cambridge, 2009): chapter 2: 6. Parts available online: http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item2427416/?site_locale=en_GB
- Varadara Raman, Glimpses of Indian Heritage (1993)
- Elisabeth Anne Benard, Chinnamasta: The Aweful Buddhist and Hindu Tantric (2000)
- Lakshmanashastri Joshi, Development of Indian culture, Vedas to Gandhi (2001)
- 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.
- 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"
- "Pooja - That which is born out of fullness". Revival of True India. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
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