Hinduism which finds its roots in India is one of the most ancient religions and constitutes many ancient religious practices and beliefs. Unlike most other religious practices, Hinduism acknowledges various deities resembling various divine forces. A religion which has many folds to it – Hinduism naturally addresses different worship procedures, numerous religious practices and a horde of different beliefs which changes with the diversity of followers. There are many approaches to Hinduism and although each substantially different from the other, they all intersect at some point.
There are essentially three different categories that cover all the religious rites in Hinduism.
• Nitya – The daily worship or meditation where devotees pray or make offerings to a shrine or at home with mantras usually three times a day.
• Naimittika– These are practiced at certain times of the year on special occasions. These religious rites are performed by devotees offering their prayers in a shrine and also by celebrating some notable festivals. Famous Indian religious festivals stemming from Hinduism basically fall under this category.
• Kamya– This religious rite, although less practiced still holds utmost importance amongst followers and devotees. Kamya is the pilgrimage to holy sites of Hinduism like the sacred Ganges River.
Puja or Worship
Puja or worshipping a deity is one of the most prevalent forms of worship in Hinduism which basically means praying or paying tribute to deities in one of the many ways. The intricate process and practice differs owing to the different sects of Hinduism, but the overall premise is generally similar. The basic concept of Puja is to enhance the five senses of the worshipper and encourage meditation in form of devotion to an idol. In general, the worship comprises of 16 essential services to the deity also known as Shodasa-Upachara (16-Services):
1. Dhyana – The process of meditation to address the deity and focusing on the same.
2. Aavahana – After establishing focus, devotees invite a deity onto an altar.
3. Aasana – The deity is then established or seated on the altar.
4. Paadya – Clean water is used by the worshippers, to wash their deity’s feet properly.
5. Arghya – Clean water is then offered to the deity to wash hands and rinse their mouth.
6. Achamana – After the rinsing is done, drinking water is offered to the deity by the devotee.
7. Snaana – Devotees then bathe their deity in a number of auspicious things. These most commonly include holy water and milk.
8. Vastra – Clean clothes are offered and the deity is dressed up in them.
9. Yagnopavitha – A sacred thread commonly used in Hindu practices is then offered by the worshippers.
10. Gandha – A sandalwood paste is applied by the devotees primarily on the forehead of the deity.
11. Pushpa – The mantras or recitation of deity’s name along with each flower offering.
12. Dhoopa – The fragrance of incense that envelopes the area and helps focus on the meditation.
13. Deepa – The lamp is illuminated to bring worshippers focus to the idol.
14. Naivedya – Then Prasad or food is offered to the deity, which is later consumed by the devotees.
15. Taambula – Offering of betel leaves and betel nuts by the devotees.
16. Pradakshina and Namaskara – Circling around deity and bidding farewell before leaving.
Hinduism is a diverse religion and there are many other forms of worship which include certain other practices, dance forms, or singing hymns. Some believe in counseling with a sacred yogi or saint and some also believe in a philosophical approach towards divine knowledge.
Some call it as spiritual while others religious. What do you think?