Puja is a sanskrit term in Hinduism which means to worship. Although not mandatory, puja is a daily morning ritual (sometimes other times of the day) that is seen as essential for most following Hinduism. This beautiful ceremony is a time for making offerings and prayers to deities in order to receive blessings and good fortune. It is the very basic form of worship in India and are said to help one devoting their life on their path of worship.
Puja is the honoring or worship towards a god or goddess, deity or other divine being. There is no set of rules that are followed in every community or family however the same standard principles apply to most ceremonies throughout the country and religion.
This ritual is commonly celebrated in the home however can also be done in a group or community and in small or large places such as temples and public spaces and even can be lead by a priest. The ritual is conducted in front of a shrine, big or small, dedicated to a chosen deity. A picture or symbol representing this deity is usually in place and acts as an energetic connection to the god or goddess. It is important that the representation is in good condition or it is said the deity will leave.
Puja is all about placing and making offerings to the chosen deity in return to hopefully be blessed with purity of the mind and blessings from the chosen deity such as fertility, abundance, fortune, love and happiness.
To conduct a puja ritual there is no guidelines to follow accept the basic steps. Of course there are more elaborate ceremonies performed for certain occasions and festivities and by priests for larger crowds, the home ceremonies do not have to be so elaborate.
First there must be an image of one or more deities so the devotee can connect to the divine and remain focused. Next offerings are made, these can be in the forms of mantras, food, water, song, cloth, flowers and incense.
The deity is usually bathed at the beginning, this can be an offering of water or washing the image or statue. Next cloth or flowers are offered for their beauty and decoration. Different deities will be honored by certain decoration. Food is also offered. Next is light and incense. Incense is usually lit at the feet of the deity and light or candles are towards the head, There is a sacred act called arati where the light is waved in arcs in front of the deity's face. The devotees bow and say there mantras, sing songs and honor their god through prayer. Finally anyone taking part in the puja will taste the offerings, drink the water and eat the food which is now blessed by the deity.
This is a multi sensory experience that is performed by most devotees of Hinduism on a daily basis. It is said during the ritual the essence of the deity will be contained in the image or statue used on the shrine. Temples will conduct a puja ceremony many sacred times a day. Bells are rung, incense is smelt and offerings consumed. A beautiful way to connect with the chosen divine.