India’s rich culture was shaped by the traditions and beliefs of Hinduism, which encompasses many ancient rituals and festivals that still exist today. Puja is one of these rituals, and it is performed on a variety of occasions including the festivals of Holi and Diwali.
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Puja is the ritual of ceremonial worship of one or more deities and is seen by Hindus as a means of drawing closer to the Divine (Center, Amma and Devi 3). Puja is performed through prayer, ancient rituals, and sacred chants. The word puja is of Sanskrit origin and means adoration or worship (“Sanskrit Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit” par. 1). Both men and women can be pujari, and this ritual is performed on different occasions both at home and in temples: regular pujas are performed at home or in temples every day, and special pujas take place on the days of festivals (Khedam par. 1).
Individual puja is performed in the household shrine in several steps and includes the seeing of the deity, puja or worship, and offering and tasting the blessed food. The key spiritual practices of puja are darshan, kirtan, and prasan. Darshan is an integral part of puja and means the experience of establishing a connection to the deity through sight (“What Is Darshan in Hindu Worship?” par. 1). The deity is represented via a statue which is considered a murti, or the living embodiment of the deity.
Kirtan is the practice of chanting of hymns or mantras, often with accompanied by instruments and dance (“The Beginners’ Guide to Kirtan and Mantra” par. 3). The texts of kirtana mantras typically cover religious themes or Indian mythology. The food and water which are offered to the deity during puja are called prasad (“Prasada” par. 1). It is believed that the deity tastes the food and returns the offering, which is then tasted by the pujari.
The ritual of puja is connected with the many Indian festivals including the festivals of Holi and Diwali. Holi is a two-day festival which starts on the full-moon day or purnima in early spring. The exact date of the festival is determined by Hindu calendar. Holi Festival is known worldwide as the festival of colors. During the celebrations, the participants color each other with powder or water out on the streets, in the parks, and outside temples. Others go from one place to another with musical instruments and sing. Holi festival is a symbol of the arrival of spring or more generally, the victory of good over evil.
Holi puja is performed during the festival to celebrate the victory of good over bad. Diwali is celebrated in autumn and is known as the festival of lights. The exact date of the festival varies per Hindu calendar. Diwali also symbolizes the victory of good over evil or light over darkness and the main element of the celebrations which take place on the darkest new moon night include decorating houses and temples with millions of lights. During the festival, several pujas are performed including Lakshmi-Ganesha, Kuber, and Bahi-Khata Puja. During these pujas, prayers are held so that Hindu New Year is peaceful and prosperous.
Puja is an essential part of Hindu worship and is practiced by Hindu individually every day and communally on special occasions such as the festivals of Holi and Diwali.
Campbell, Heidi. Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds, Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2012. Print.
Center, M.A., Amma, and Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. Puja: The Process Of Ritualistic Worship, Castro Valley, CA: M.A. Center, 2014. Print.
What Is Darshan in Hindu Worship? n.d.