Prayers to Ishta Devatha & Adhikara Pooja

Rituals of Prayers and Pooja at Home
 Lesson 5.: 
Pooja Methods
Sri Raja Rathna Bhattar
Priest Emeritus, Sri Meenakshi Temple, Pearland, Texas, USA

All religions teach that prayers rituals are very important to get devotion to God. The religions or lands may vary but this belief of importance of prayers is stressed in all faiths. Our ancestors have given us the gift of the rules of community worship in a Temple for the welfare of the people of the community as a whole and the prosperity of the world. They have given us the rules of prayers at home as essential for the welfare of the individuals and their family. The basic and essential principle behind the prayer is the total surrender to God who fills the universe by His glory and is present everywhere and that without His command even an atom will not move.

The rules of prayer services in a Hindu Temple is given in the three Agamas and Upa-agamas. There are 28 Siva Agamas and several upa-agamas. Vaishnava Agamas are 5, including Pancharathram and Vaikanasam and have 108 Paththadhis. We do not need to study these Agamas to perform prayer [Pooja] at home. It is enough to accept the fact in a pure heart and mind, as given to us by our ancestors that God is present everywhere in every form and He will accept every kind of our prayers. Our Puranas explain in many stories that God accepts and blesses everyone who prays, not only humans but also animals and birds.


As an example, there is a story in Mahabharatha. Arjuna was performing regularly pooja for Athma lingam, but his brother were not doing the same. He felt very proud of his devotional worship to God. As Sri Krishna wanted to control his ego, took him to Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiva. The Arjuna saw large number of baskets of flowers being carried by the Boothaganas. When Arjuna asked Sri Krishna about it, He asked Arjuna to check himself with those carrying the flowers. He stopped one of them asked about it. He got the reply that one of the Pancha Pandavas named Bheema who has been offering these flowers in a pure heart to the lord which they are carrying. Arjuna asked Sri Krishna that if the pure heart flowers of Bheema who does not ever sit down to worship is this much, how much will it be for his own Athmalinga pooja which is performed every day. Sri Krishna asked the Bhoothagana to show Arjuna his portion of the flowers offered. They showed a small mound of flowers lying in one corner. Arjuna asked Sri Krishna to explain this disparity. Sri Krishna explained that, Bheema is thinking of God at all times and whenever he sees a flower garden, he mentally offers all the flowers to Siva as his offering and so it reaches Siva the very next moment. Thus, Sri Krishna explains the Inner self pooja called antharyagam.


It is not necessary to learn all the rules and sasthras of an eloborate pooja before performing one. As an example, an illiterate hunter, Sri Kannappa Nayanar saw the Divine after three days of prayer. A young boy Nambiyandar Nambi, while his priest father had gone out of town performed pooja in his place at the Temple and had the Darsan of God on the same day. By understanding these puranas, we should always allot few minutes of time to perform pooja without any fear that God may punish us if we do the pooja improperly. However, it is always good to learn proper methods to perform the pooja, even a simple and short one, just like any science or art.

Puranas say that in Kali Yuga, Prabaththi path is the important way. In Samskrit, prabaththi is explained as Pooja. We have puranas which explain how an elephant prayer "Aathimoolam" -- with a flower was saved and the hunter who was saved from a tiger on Sivarathri day by reaching a Bilva tree. These tell us that pooja and prayer to God is essential.

Performing pooja everyday at least for a few minutes leads one to develop inner purity and peace. One can perform this pooja in a short way or in an elaborate way. This is called "Anmaartha Pooja" in the Vedas. One method is to get religious order [Samayadheeksha] from a learned Guru to perform pooja for Sivalinga or Salagrama elaborately according to Sasthras. Another simpler method is to perform pooja for a Moorthy as a picture or to a Deepa as lamp. Both the above method are of equal value.

Lesson 6.: 
Now, let us see the explanations of proper pooja
The following three are the style of Pooja performed in a Temple.
Shodasha Upachara Pooja -- [has 16 upacharas];
Dasopachara Pooja -- [ has 10 upachara];
Panchopachara Pooja -- [has 5 upachara].

This is a pooja performed after receiving the religious deeksha and special deeksha from a Guru. Persons who receives this deeksha should perform the pooja every day without fail. It does not mean that God will punish the one who fails to perform properly. The Guru who offered the deeksha tells the disciple that the pooja should be performed without fail and from that day, the disciple also can teach and offer this any one asking for it. Since the disciple accepts this as promise it should be performed to pass on this tradition.


Next is the pooja offered to a Moorthy in the form of a figurine or a picture.

To perform this, one does not need the special deeksha. This can be performed in a simple short way. First, one should understand the proper rules and methods to perform the pooja. Let us first see which way we should keep the figurine or the picture and which way the person should sit to perform the pooja.


If the picture of figurine is kept facing East, the person should sit on the right side facing North. If it faces North, they should sit facing East. They should not sit in front of the image facing it directly. If these two directions are not possible, then we can set the image facing West and sit in front of the Image facing East and perform pooja. One should not sit on the right side facing South to perform pooja. One should not sit on the left side of the Image. The Image should not be set facing South. The person should not sit facing South.It is not proper according to sasthra to eat food prior to performing the pooja. When it is possible, one should always learn from a Guru about the proper sasthras and rules and receive deeksha before performing pooja at home.


The steps of performing pooja at home:

1. Athmasuddhi: Persons performing the pooja should cleanse themselves for manthra.
2. Manthrasuddhi: They should cleanse their mind to recite the manthra.
3. Dhiraviyasuddhi: They should clean all articles used in the pooja.
4. Lingasuddhi: They should clean the Image or picture used in the pooja.
5. Andharyaagam: [concentration and Meditation];To pray through our thoughts for the Divine inside us (As our Self);
--------------------------------------- For the Divine who is in our heart and within our thoughts all the time,
6. Pahiryagam: To perform the prayer service with rituals for the vigraha (outside us).

To pray and invite the Divine in our heart to come out to reside in the Image being worshipped.

Then, light a lamp, offer argyam, paathyam, achamaneeyam and do an abhishekam. Then decorate the image with cloth and flowers. Then pray with offering of flowers. then we can light a lamp, agarbhatti or burning incense or camphor to perform the pooja.

  1. Japa Samarpanam: Through the Manthras of the Deity, recite the prayers manthras 108 or 54 or 27 times in the mind and offer flowers.
  2. Prarthana: Recite Devotional prayer songs in any languge of choice, like Thevaram, Thiruvachagam or any other devotional songs.
  3. Yathasthanam, Padhyam, Achamaniyam, and Argyam are offered to the Image and praying with thanks to the Divine force whch came from our heart to get in back there.
  4. Dhvanichandar Pooja: Performing a pooja to Dvanichandar - the Upa-Devatha of the main Deity like Sri Chandikeswarar for Siva - offering the flowers and Prasadam that was offered to the Divine and praying to bless us with the effects of the service to us.
  5. At the conclusion of pooja, the prasadam are taken by everyone.

The above are the rules of Athmartha pooja rules according to Agamas and Sasthras.

 Next let us see the steps for a simple and short Pooja 
Details of one of the Simple and short method to perform Pooja.
One will perform: Dhyanam, Avahanam, Archana, Doopam, Deepam and Prarthana.
To Perform the simple Pooja for Sri Ganesha [Sri Vinayaka] we need:
Picture of the Deity Sri Ganesha.
Flowers or Akshada [dry rice with turmeric]
Prasadams like fruits, Sweets or Milk, Camphor, Agarbathi,
Panchapathram [cup], Uttharani [spoon], Argyapathram [a small vessel or plate
  1. - Dhyanam: [Meditation] -- to pray that the deity who resides in our heart is invited to come into the picture that we are going to do the Pooja.
  2. - Avaahanam: -- to pray that the Divine powers should remain in that site until we complete our Pooja.
  3. - Archana: - to recite the great names of the Deity several times and offer flowers or akshada as we perform the Pooja.
  4. - Doopam: - To pray through the perfumed incense smoke and light.
  5. - Deepam: - To use a Ghee lamp light and pray to God in the form of the Flame.
  6. - Nivedhanam: [Prasadam] - to offer food items like fruits,or sweet or milk.
  7. - Uttharaneerañjanam: - Deepa offerings with lighted Camphor.
  8. - Prarthana: - to sing or say the praise of thr Lord anf pray.
  9. - Then we pray thanking the Lord and receive Him back into our heart.
This is a short form to perform the daily Pooja at home.
Principles and Practice of Hindu Religion
Home Pooja - Lessons - 01; - 03; - 05.
Home Pooja methods & Slokas

Devotional Paths, Prayers & Rituals