Forms of Worship
Hindu ritual is divided into three types: (1) daily rituals called nitya; (2) specific rituals, called naimittika; and (3) personal rituals, called kamya.
These three religious activities, nitya, naimittika, and kamya, are accomplished through three types of ritual. These rituals are yajna, (involving a sacrificial fire); puja (devotional offerings, usually flowers); and dhyana (meditation). Yajnas are performed on major occasions, such as marriage and housewarming, when sacred substances are offered into the sacrificial fire. Puja may be performed publicly or privately. Public puja, usually performed in a temple, consists of anointing a statue of a deity and offering flowers, incense, and carefully prepared food to the deity (This is usually done by a priest). Chanting and devotional singing follow, accompanied by the waving of a small, camphor-burning lamp that illuminates the image of the deity (Arati/aarti). Most ceremonies have opportunities for meditation.
Daily worship can take place in one of three different places: in the home, in a temple, or at an open-air shrine.
Many Hindus worship daily the their personal deity. This personal deity is called the ishta-devata. Household puja usually consists of:
Avahana – invoking the presence of God in the image or symbol
Asana – offering a seat to God
Padya and Arghya – giving water for washing feet and hands to God
Snana or Abhisheka – ceremonial bath (of God)
Vastra – offering Clothes (to God)
Candana – smearing sandal paste and other unguents
Pushpa – offering of flowers and garlands
Dhupa – burning incense
Dipa – waving of lamp
Naivedya – food offering (to God)
Visarjana – bidding goodbye
In the temples, the Abhisheka (bathing) of the image and its decoration are done more elaborately.
A nearby temple to a god or goddess is usually the focus of regular puja (i.e., worship). Basic rituals performed daily at most Hindu temples include prayers to rouse the deity from sleep at dawn, bathing and dressing the deity, making the deity available for worship and offerings by visitors at midday, and singing prayers to the deity to lull the deity to sleep at dusk. These rituals show the love of and devotion of Hindus to God. Once the god has taken his part of the offerings, the devotee may share in some of the now-blessed food (called Prasad). While some of this may seem odd to Western sensibilities, these actions help the worshippers view the divine being as immediately present.. The statue/object contains, due to its installation rituals, a portion of Gods energy. The worshipper may also say mantras, or listen to the priests chant, sing, or read from the sacred texts. The most important aspect of visiting a temple is to be seen by God and to see God, this connection is called Darshan. ( I like to equate the representation of God to a means of communication (maybe a videophone) whereby a devotee can see god and be seen by him) The rituals worshippers go through are very varied as you may see. During the God or Goddess’ festival, the statue may be paraded through the streets.
Rituals performed at temples, like household rituals, can be divided into those that take place daily, nitya; those performed on specific occasions, naimittika; and those performed voluntarily, kamya. Hindu temples are dedicated to a deity or several deities who are believed to preside over the temple. Hindus visit temples to worship the temple deity or to worship another deity of their choosing by means of these three types of rituals. Kamya puja is typically performed at temples to gain a specific end. A visitor to a temple might request the performance of puja, or daily prayers, at the temple and make a donation for that purpose.
Shrines to Hindu gods and goddesses, both major and minor, stand on roadsides in the country and on the streets in cities in India. During the day, as people pass by, they may stop, say a short prayer or mantra, and perhaps leave a small offering.
Types of Poojas and Yagnyas(Homa/Hovan)
The simplest form of yajna is the domestic ritual performed by the householder who would offer simple oblation into the sacred fire lit in his house. A more complicated version involves setting up of three to five fires and pouring of offerings into them such as food grains, ghee or butter, and other vegetable substances by chosen and qualified priests, chanting mantras simultaneously, invoking various gods especially Agni, Indra, Varuna etc.
Some yagnas are performed on large scale for the general welfare of the entire community, to increase fertility of soil, to invite rains, to welcome peace and wealth etc. Depending upon the degree of complexity, these yagnas may last from a few hours to several days. The number of priests participating and conducting the ceremony would depend upon the nature and objective for which it is performed.
Yajna is a vedic sacrifice which has an outer aspect and an inner aspect. To the vedic priests, yajna was the means to invoke gods and seek their blessings and favors. They used to perform these yagnas for various purposes and at various times during the year, at the time of sowing, at the time of harvest, at the time of initiating some important social event or before going to wars. One very popular yajna of those days was the Asvamedha Yajna, or the Horse Sacrifice which used to be performed by powerful kings to show their Valor and the extent of their influence. This yajna is now almost extinct in practice.
The outer aspect of yajna consists of building an altar, generally with bricks, kindling fire using specific types of grass and wood and then pouring into it oblations such as ghee or clarified butter, food grains, sesame seeds, and water to the accompaniment of chanting of sacred verses from the Vedas.
The inner or hidden aspect of Yajna is known to those who are familiar with the Vedic rituals. The yajna is the means of worshipping the highest God or ones own inner self.
It is a fact that the incidence of performing the yagnas and other forms of sacrifices is slowly coming down in modern Hindu Society, primarily because of the influence of western education, the complexity involved in performing them and the decreasing number of priests who are well versed in the art of performing yajna according to the Vedic injunctions.
Types of Homa / Havan
- Sri Maha Mritunjaya Homa: This Homa can be performed to overcome illnesses.
- Sri Suktam Homa: This Homa is performed to overcome any financial hardships or improve job prospects.
- Nava Graha Homa: This Homa is performed to appease any planets that are giving you malefic influences.
- Rurda Homa: This Homa is performed to appease Lord Siva.
- Ayushaman Homa: This Homa is performed to overcome illnesses and improvements in health from surgery, accidents. It helps in improving the longevity as well as the quality of health in general.
- Chandi Homa: This Homa is performed to appease Divine Mother Durga by chanting the 800 Slokas of Sri Chandi Saptasati.
- Ganapati Homa: This Homa is performed to remove any obstacles in your life, and it helps students in their studies for better grades.
Homa rituals have been performed by Vedic priests for several millennia. The following is an illustrative list of a few such homa rituals:
|Aayushya homa||for longevity; often held to celebrate an anniversary|
|Dhanavantri homa||for good health|
|Durga homa||to cancel negative energies; for self-confidence|
|Gayatri homa||to facilitate good karma|
|Kritya Pariharana||to counter the effects of black magic|
|Ganapathi homa||to overcome obstacles|
|LakshmiKubera homa||for wealth and material prosperity|
|Mangala Samskarana homa||to celebrate auspicious events; to attain Moksha|
|Mahadevi homa||for the stimulation of a marriage and for marital felicity among those already married|
|Navagraha homa||to negate limitations in one’s horoscope|
|Punyahavachana homa||for the naming of a child|
|Sudarshana homa||for success in an undertaking|
|Vastu homa||a house-warming; to encourage good Vastu (energy in buildings)|
|Vidya homa||to benefit students; to facilitate learning|
|Vishwa Shanthi homa||for universal peace and harmony, as also harmony between the self and the universe|
|Viraja Homa||purification rites performed as part of the formal ceremonies by which a person takes the vows of renunciation (Sannyas), thereby becoming a Sanyasin (monk)|
Sata Chandi Yagnya- 41 days
This Yagnya is offered for Mother divine for bringing prosperity and removing negative energy in house, workplace and physical health terms.
Manya Pashupatam- This pooja is conducted specifically for removal of enemies, legal problem solutions, professional jealousy and other real world problems that we face in today’s competitive world.
Pooja performed before any pooja to remove obstacles by praying Lord Ganesh.
Pooja performed to get all the benefits and the pleasures of this world and Moksha by praying to Lord SatyaNarayana.
Devi Durga Pooja
Durga Pooja is performed in the month of Ashwin (September / October). Nine
nights are spent in worship and the tenth day is devoted to goddess Durga.
Vastu Pooja (Matsya Yantra Yagya)
The purpose of this pooja is to correct, once and for all, all defects in Vastu that may exist in a building.
Shri Vidya Pooja
Improvement in all areas of life, especially finances and clarity of mind.
Nava Graha Shanti
All nine planets are propitiated for one year by chanting of 120,000 planetary mantras on your
Lord Ganesh and Lakshmi are invoked for financial improvement.
This is done to ward off enemies.
This powerful fire sacrifice is done to a fierce form of Mother Divine. This helps in removing big problems by burning up bad karma.
The purpose is to attract the spouse.
We offer milk and water to Lord Ganesh 444 times for each tarpanam. This pooja brings excellent prosperity.
Maha Mritunjaya Japa
125,000 repetitions of the Mritunjaya mantra(to ward off death and improve the health). This takes 45 days.
This is a fire sacrifice to Lord Ganesh to bring financial success and removal of all obstacles.
This fire sacrifice is done to relieve sickness and increase vitality.
This Homam is performed to increase the life span.
Include 10,000 japas of your moon’s nakshatra’s mantra, pooja and fire sacrifice. Purpose is general improvement for when your birth nakshatra is under difficulties.
Kubera – Lord of Wealth
Naga – The king of the serpents – aids Rahu and Ketu
Also other Abhishekams (ritual washing of the deity with milk, water, yogurt, honey etc) are available in special cases.
Abhishekam performed to please Lord Shiva.
Gran Kubera Abhishekam
Attracts wealth, gems etc.
Gran Lakshmi Homam
If you want a lot of financial success, this is the yagya you want. It is a big production and takes all day. Ingredients of the Yagya are 1,008 roses, ghee, new silk sari etc.
Different remedies for different problems. It is a Mother Divine Yagya.
For improving business sales.
Vishnu Sahasra Nama Homam
This is a Jupiter planet problems, education and mental peace.
Stop the bad effects for bad evils, legal problems and desire fulfilment.
This is Yagya for Saturn planet problems, decrease the power of Saturn.
Homam yagya for wealth and collect pending money.
Yagya for kalasarpa yoga, it removes ketu and rahu problems.
For mangalik problem removal.
Bhagalamukhi and Kameswari Japa
For special difficulties in business and public relations.
Removing bad karmas and for moksha.
Yagya for removing bad effects on Birth Nakshatra (moon).
Manyu Sookta Parayana
Relief from the enemies and legal problems.
Lalita Sahasra Nama Parayana (41 days)
Make joyful life, happy married life and wishes come true.
Festivals / Holidays
Hindu festivals are based on the lunar calendar. In modern India, there are sixteen officially recognized holidays (when businesses close), although there are many more holidays than that. Most festivals are annual, but some happen on a longer cycle. The festival of Kumbha Mela, when millions of Hindus gather at the confluence of the Ganges and Jumna rivers takes place once every three years at one of four different sites.
Of the annual festivals, the two-day rites of Holi mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. This celebration is linked to Krishna whose exploits with the gopis are reenacted. It is a time of gaity, joy, and hope for nature’s rebirth. For a fuller discussion of Holi within Hinduism, go here.
In late summer, Krishna’s birthday is celebrated during Janmashtami.
Shortly afterwards, Ganesha is honored with the festival of Ganesh Charurti. To learn more about this festival, go here.