Who is puja
Lexicon of Religions:
"Puja" is the name given to a Hindu worship service. Worship takes place through invocation of the divine and sacrifice of gifts. Many households and every temple have short morning and evening ceremonies daily. Pujas are also celebrated on special occasions, for example on certain holidays, memorial days or as part of “samskaras” (Hindu sacraments). They can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.
Anyone can do pujas
In principle, everyone can perform domestic pujas, women as well as men. Public pujas in temples as well as rituals with Vedic prayers (which go back to the "Vedas", basic texts of Hinduism) are reserved by tradition for the Brahmins, members of the highest caste. Many “bhakti” traditions, on the other hand, in which love of God takes priority over all scriptures, accept every believer as a priest.
Performing a puja
The details of performing a puja depend on the particular tradition. Externally prepared by a bath and clean clothes, internally by asceticism (e.g. fasting), prayers and contemplation, the practitioner sits on the floor in front of the altar. In the center there is usually an image of the divine, for example as Vishnu or one of his "avatars" (descents, incarnations), as Shiva or a form of the goddess.
After the divine has been asked to be present during the ceremony in special prayers, its presence is assumed. Traditional hymns are recited and sacrifices are made. The language of the liturgy is Sanskrit, but personal pujas are also possible in the respective mother tongue.
It is also possible to worship God in living persons, for example in the guru, in a sacred plant such as the tulsi bush (basil plant), in a water jar or in a certain stone. Likewise, an objective symbol (Shiva's trident, book, etc.) or a diagram can represent God's presence.
The daily, widespread short puja in the morning and in the evening is the "arati", the waving of a butter lamp and incense sticks in front of the image while a small bell rings and a hymn is sung. The "Arati" is part of religious life in the home as well as in temples.
Sacrifice during the puja
Sacrifice is part of every puja: while prayers are recited, the image is dabbed with red paint or sandel paste, flowers are offered and incense sticks and a butter lamp are waved. Often they also offer clothing and jewelry. Finally, various foods are placed on the altar as an offering, both cooked and uncooked, and after the puja the believers consume them as a beneficial “prasad” (literally: grace, favor).
Prayers and mantras
In addition to formal church services, prayers, praises and requests in spoken or sung form are also common. There are no general rules regarding the time of day and implementation, but the morning prayer is particularly important for many Hindus.
Mantras, certain sound symbols, are a special form of prayer. Spoken correctly and fervently, they should develop special powers. The best known and shortest mantra is the "OM". Many Hindus, especially those of the Brahmin caste, recite the "Gayatri" mantra several times a day, asking God for enlightenment.
Review article on Hinduism
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