Pūjā (Devanagari: पूजा) (alternative transliteration Pooja, Sanskrit: reverence, honour, adoration, or worship) religious ritual that Hindus perform on a variety of occasions to pray or show respect to God, Gods, and guru. The purpose of puja is to communicate with God and the Gods or the satguru, to keep a thread to continuity, of relationship, between this physical world and the subtle inner worlds. Puja also serves as a means of offering love, praise, thanks, and supplication to God, Gods, and guru. The offerings are made with an acknowledgement – “I dedicate to you O God, what is truly yours.” The whole Puja is thus an acknowledgement of one’s smallness and humility, i.e. performance of Puja removes Ego, which is truly the only hurdle on the path to success. This type of self-effacement and realisation of one's self and relative smallness is connected to the manner in which Hindus deliberately humble themselves in their own cosmology. For example, the cow, a sacred animal, is venerated in such a way that can help rein in one's ego, through such practices as the consumption of cow urine. However many Hindus would deny that this is Puja. Puja of murtis is recommended in the early medieval text Pañcaratra.
Pujas vary in their scale, which depends on their duration, the number of deities being honoured, and whether it is being performed for public or private benefit. Most practicing Hindus perform puja once or twice a day. Puja should be done after a shower or bath and it is recommended that rites be performed before food intake to ensure sattvic qualities and full concentration (dhyana). Puja is also performed on special occasions in addition to the daily ritual. These include Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja and other religious occasions.
The Pujas performed daily in a temple or dwelling differ from those performed in a special occasion. It takes larger quantities of resources and manpower to perform larger Pujas and more than one priest, including a Tantradharak (Supervisor) are usually employed. But regardless of scale, all Pujas follow the same simple principle – treat the deity like an esteemed (human) guest.
Puja or Pooja is also a very popular Hindu female first name.
Although the presence of a priest is not mandatory, it adds “value” to the Puja. This is because a priest is “twice-born”; once mortally, and another time when he begins his education in the Vedas. Hence he possesses the ‘sacred thread’ which symbolize his mastery over the Vedas, which are really “the sciences of the universe”. On account of this, he is able to bless the offerings used and properly invoke the deity.
Puja consists of meditation (dhyana), austerity (tapa), chanting (mantra), scripture reading (svadhyaya), offering food (bhog) and prostrations (panchanga or ashtanga pranama, dandavat). The individual also applies a tilaka mark on the forehead with sandalwood paste, and then a vermillion (kumkum) dot (chandlo) in its centre. This signifies submission to the Almighty and also His Omnipresence. Puja is usually concluded with aarti to the Lord.
Large pujas request the presence of fellow believers and pray to the god or goddesses in question. This usually involves a full day ritual where people are present for the actual puja ceremony and have puja prasad, followed by bhajans (religious prayer songs) and an all-vegetarian dinner.
Steps of Puja The actual Puja can be divided into the following steps:
Most Pujas however, use a clay pot filled with Ganga water and topped with a germinating or dry coconut placed on mango leaves – called a Kalash or Ghot – as the Symbol. More than one Murti is often used in some Pujas, and the presence of Lord Vishnu in the ammonite form is a must no matter who the deity is. The Dhyaanam forms a part of the invocation.
This ceremony involves welcoming the deity and dedicating to them a series of offerings in a particular order. These include:
Most of these are actually the items that an Indian host would offer to an esteemed guest. The offerings are accompanied by a simple chant: Aete Gandhapushpe ___ Namah. Om ___ Namah. Aetad Adhipataye Shri Vishnave Namah. As mentioned earlier, the presence of an ammonite is mandatory, as Maha Vishnu is the lord of all offerings and is honoured with a Tulsi leaf after each offering. The offering of food is done most elaborately, usually accompanied by aarti. Further, the ceremony of offering food is veiled by a cloth (usually a red sari).
Jainism: Sanatra Puja Jainism: Siddhichakra Puja