Basic Study of Hindu Religion.
Hindu Heritage Study Program
Vedic Rituals and Prayers
for Home and Temples
A simple and complicated rotinue of rituals to condition the thoughts
Etham Vibhoothim Yogam Cha; Mama Yo Ve'tthi Thatthvathah: |
So'vikalpena Yogena Yujyate' Naathra Samsayah ||
-- Bhagavat Gita - Chapter X - 7.
He who knows about this manifestation of My divine majesties and My power unites
With Me in steady and unfaltering communion. About this there is no doubt.

Prayers and Pooja at Homes and at the Temples

Prayer services and "Poojas" at home and at the Temples follow the traditions and rules established in the Agamas and in Bhakthi form of the religion. The Temples are established as the Palace of the God as manifested in the earth for a form of the Incarnation that is represented at the Temple. Most Temples will have Sanctum for several forms of God, though it may have one form as the Main Deity. The temple worship has evolved over the years as a service to God as the King or the leader of the land. Here, an image of a likeness of a manifestation of God is consecrated after several days of Holy Rituals. Without these rituals for consecration, the Image does not get the Divine powers more than the respect for a statue in a museum. Once so sanctified, all rituals are performed as done to a live King or leader of the land. The Deity is woken up every morning with a morning service with ceremonial bath with water, milk and other perfumed substances, dressing up with cloths and Jewelry. The services are repeated four to six times or more every day, with offering of food as "prasadam" and singing prayers and songs in praise of the Deity and reading of the Scriptures. After this "Aarthi" of lighted camphor is performed for every one to see the Deity -"Dharshan." The service concludes with the offering of Prasadams of fruits, flowers and food to the devotees attending the congregation and services. Often the services are individual and for the families rather than to a mass of congregation.
The spirit of sacrifice and offering of ones belonging is stressed in these services. The devotees take what is given back to them as "Prasadams", let it be holy water, ashes, kumkum, a flower, a fruit or a full meal. The prayer services at home are also very similar in practice. Often there is a prayer room. Sometimes, a special area is arranged to perform the home prayer services. Here, prayer services are offered to a Picture, small Vigraha or a lamp which is sanctified by rituals for the occasion. The Divine powers of the form of God offered prayer on that occasion is represented in this. The rituals are simple, first invites God as a guest to the house. Then, a ritualistic bathing and offering of cloths. Then, there will be prayers and singing of songs and offering of food which is then offered to members of the family and friends.
Ishta Devatha and Adhikara for Pooja
Principles and Meaning of the Practice of Prayers.

Major part of Hindu Religious practice among the common people consists of ritualistic form of worship for God in the various forms of Deities of Saguna Brahmam, called Avathara. It follows prayers offered to God in the devotional path as a worship to a Pratika [picture], Prathima or Vigraha [statue], Yanthra [a geometric drawing] or a Linga, following the rules and traditions established in the Agamas and Sasthras. Sri Adhi Sankara, in addition to the Advaitha Philosophy explaining that the Self as part of the Divine Nirguna Brahmam, established a school for prayers to the Saguna Brahmam is His six Forms called the Shanmatha Sthapanam. He established the rules for the six types of prayers to God at home as 1. Ganesha, 2. Kumara [Karthikeya], 3. Surya [Sun], 4. Siva, 5. Vishnu, 6. Sakthi. The main tenets of the practice is by prayers to "Ishta Devatha." The methods of learning and doing the various types of prayers to the Ishta Devatha is governed by the rules of "Doctorine of Adhikara." By this doctorine, the religious teachings and methods of worship that is taught or imparted varies from person to person, according to the various schools they follow.

Special prayer rituals are usually taught and given specially to persons follwing certain tradition as a form of initiation to that form of worship practice. This is very much like specialty training and certification in modern day professions. One is not authorized to perform rituals of their choice unless trained and initiated in the same by a properly qualified teacher [Guru]. Accordingly, there are special rules and restrictions for pooja for Sri Siva, Sri Sakthi and Sri Vishnu in their various forms. Only a person who has received the religious teaching from a Sivacharya Guru shall perform pooja for Sivalinga. Similarly, only a guru who has understood the manthra of "Sri Viddhai" can teach the pooja methods of Sri Chakram to his Devotees. In the past, mostly men have been learning and performing these types of poojas. Very few women took these types of ritualistic worship. Most people performed prayers at home just by lighting a lamp for a collection of pictures and images of various Avatharas of God in their prayer room and recited some songs for prayer.

Principles and Meaning of Deepa Pooja
A special form of prayer for the uninitiated Devotees

One of the important form of worship is prayer to a lamp, to the flame or Jyothi, instead of a Vigraha or a picture, worshipping it as a form of the Deity of their choice [Ishta Devatha]. As we believe, God as Nirguna Brahmam, comes to take the forms of various Avatharas as Saguna Brahmam and also manifests Himself in the phenomenal Universe as its five elements -"Pancha Bootham." Vedas say that God exists in the five elements. Aagama Sasthra and Bhootha Suddhi Manthra say that God manifests in Sky [Space] as Sound, in Air as Sound and Sense of Touch, in Fire as Sound, Sense and Shape of things, in Water as Sound, Sense, Shape and Taste of objects, in Earth as Sound, Sense, Shape, Taste and Smell. "Thvam, Bhoomi, Aapo, Anilo, Analo Napaha" a verse from Ganapathy Adharva Sheerisha Upanishad, which means that God is in Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Sky. Hence, people worship the Lord as the various elements and receive the Divine blessings. As light or fire, the Deepa Jyothi represent one of the five elements as a manifestation of God.


Many people perform prayer rituals to the lamp, "Deepa Jyothi" as an alternative to the traditional Vigraha worship of the devotional path. There is a practice of offering prayers to Sri Ganesha, Durga, Devi, Lakshmi, Saraswathi, Ayyappan and many other forms of Deities in the form of Jyothi in a Deepa pooja. Most often Deepa Pooja is performed by Devotees not initiated in proper Vigraha Pooja, either alone or in groups at home or in a temple. Traditionally, women do not take up or get initiated into the pooja for Siva Linga or Sakthi Yanthra and Deepa Pooja is the most important alternative for them. Most men also have not had proper training in prayer methods or received the proper initiation of offering the necessary prayers to their Ishta Devatha according to the rules of Agama. Many of them are very religious and want to get the benefits for prayers. It is widely believed that God accepts the prayers through this Deepa Pooja very easily and very soon. There are no major restrictions or rules of the doctorine of Adhikara for this deepa pooja. The Deepa Pooja can be performed every evening. Those women who are unable to perform pooja with lamps every evening, may try to do it once a week, preferably on Friday evenings.


Rituals of Nithya Karma and Prayer Services
The Sanskaras, Sandhya and Family Rituals

Karma, in addition to referring to our duty and activity for living, also refer to Vedic Karma or our spiritual duties. Thus study of the scriptures and performances of the vedic ritual are as important as the performance of one's Dharma or duty to the community according to one's birth and profession and stage of life. Every one has to perform all their daily duties according to their Varna-Ashrama Dharma and their education and vocational training. They need to do the Sandhya rituals and Sanskaras and the Yagnas to people, animals, ancestors, celestial bodies and to God. All these have an important effect on our family, our future births and ultimate liberation from the Samsara or cycle of rebirth. The daily Vedic rituals performed are called Nithya Karma like the Sandhya rituals, various Yagnas and Sanskaras. Rituals of Sandhya and Sanskara are prayers offered to the gods through water, fire and Sun. Contrary to popular belief, a Karma Yogi also has duties of offering his prayers to the Divine through Nithya Karma. He also performs his work as a service to God, as he sees God in every one.


Sandhya are the most important rituals that a Hindu is expected to perform in the house every day, three times a day. These are rituals performed at dawn, noon and at dusk to God, to the Sun and to ancestors. Yajna rituals are offered to Vedic Gods such as Prajapathi, Indra, Varuna, Purusha, Rudra and the Deities of the nine planets. The Vedic gods are the custodians of our social well being and only from our sacrificial oblations in Yagnas, they draw their sustenance. The Pancha-Maha Yajnas which are important include Brahma Yajna or sacrifices to Brahmam, to Vedas and to sages, Deva Yajna to celestials, Pitri Yajna for ancestors, Bhutha Yajna to all creatures and Manushya Yajna to fellow men. There are fifty-two Sanskaras which are listed as rituals performed at home, of which ten are important. These Sanskara rituals like Simanthonnayana, Namakarana, Annaprasana, Chudakarana, Upanayana, Samvarthana and Vivaha, are for family events. There are also funerary rituals which are performed after death of a person and srardha ceremonies which are rituals to ancestors performed by family members.

Principles and Practice of Hindu Religion
Home Pooja - Lessons - 01; - 03; - 05.
Home Pooja methods & Slokas

Devotional Paths, Prayers & Rituals