Prayer is a way to connect to the Divine through the outpouring of Love from the heart. On our bhakti path, devotional prayers are offered through ritual ceremonies. As we celebrate the love of the Divine in both Eastern and Western spiritual traditions, both Christian and Hindu ceremonies are conducted. Prayer in general is a very open and free way to worship the Divine. Singing and chanting the Divine Names or simply by thinking of God is common in most traditions. Ceremonial forms of worship take the form of puja, abhishekam and yagna. All lead one to the same goal, realising that which "is" - the Divine.
The word 'puja' consists of 'pa', which means parayana (or continuous repetition of the names of God) and 'a' meaning japa (continuous mental recitation of the Names of God). Puja is essentially a kind of worship in which both parayanam and japam are practised by the devotees.
According to another interpretation, Pu means pushpam or flower and ja means jal. In the puja ceremony both flowers and water are offered to the deity during the worship. The letter ja can also mean simultaneously japam. So if we take these twin meanings of ja into consideration, puja becomes that ceremony during which water and flowers are offered to God along with recitation of His names.
Regardless of the form of Hindu prayer that is conducted – all involve the invocation and the worshipping of the Deity that the pujari is praying to. We carry out a number of different pujas. The pujas that we carry out are Simple Puja, Abhishekam, Yagna and Kalash Puja.
Abhishekam is a ceremony that is conducted to a deity in the form of a statue (murti). This ceremony takes its current form from ancient India. Guests in that time were welcomed with high regard and would immediately be given a place to sit and the feet washed after walking to their destination. The guest was given food and drink and offered chandan to cool the body. Nowadays the abhishekam ritual based on this welcoming of the Divine has changed although the same intention of the prayer remains. Guests were considered to be equal to the Divine entering one’s house. The deity in this instance would be akin to the guest in ancient times.
The deity is invocated by meditating upon and chanting Sanskrit mantras. Once present in the murti, the deity is then given a foot bath and its hands washed before being worshiped. Various substances are then poured over the deity. Five of these substances – milk, yoghurt, ghee, honey and sugar represent the five elements respectively – water, earth, fire, air and ether.
A mixture containing all of these five (called panchamrit) is also poured over the deity after the initial five have been offered. Whilst each of these substances are being offered, various Sanskrit mantras are chanted asking the deity to accept these items. By offering to the deity these five substances, we are also asking for the purification of the five elements – not just in the space where the ceremony is taking place but also within ourselves. The elements also correspond to the five senses: water – vision, earth – taste, fire – hearing, ether – smell and air – touch. In this way, when we offer these five elements, we also are asking for the purification of the five senses.
After the pouring of the substances we offer a bath of Ganges water. Ganges water comes from the holy river Ganges and is thought to wash and purify one's being of karma. We therefore are asking the deity that it is accepted as an offering. We then dress the deity and offer chandan, kumkum, flowers, perfume, incense, fruits (cooked Prasad) and water to drink.
Once all the items have been offered with Love and devotion to the deity, we then offer arati (a ghee or camphor lamp). Whilst the arati is offered we sing the praises of the deity and ring bells and blow the conch to show our Love and gratitude for the deity coming into our presence and accepting our prayers.
The term “Yagna” has several meanings:
- Literally translated means to selflessly sacrifice for noble purposes.
- Secondly, yagna also means to worship the Divine - either as an external or an internal ritual – done within one’s own being.
- Thirdly, yagna is the name given to a fire ceremony that is conducted where one offers sacrifices into a holy fire – where the fire becomes an aspect of God.
Many yagna fire ceremonies are carried out in the company of a group of people. The aim of the yagnas are varied but in essence they are performed to bestow benefit to some or all people present, the surrounding environment and the world.
The deity to whom the yagna is being performed is invoked into the yagna through meditation and chanting of Sanskrit mantras. We begin to worship the deity by offering ghee and a rice mixture containing Havan Samagri. The rice mixture symbolically represents the 9 astrological planets, so by offering the rice mixture into the yagna, we are also offering all our negative astrological influences to the deity for purification.
Similar to abhishekam, we also offer into the sacred fire the elements milk, yoghurt, ghee, honey, sugar and panchamrit – asking the deity to purify the five elements within us, the surrounding environment and the five senses. Chanting and contemplating the Name of the deity helps us to connect and feel and/or see Her/His presence. The most important offering in the sacred fire is the Love that comes from within our hearts. This enables us to establish this connection of Love which is paramount in surrendering aspects of ego to the beloved deity. Yagna is a very powerful tool for transmuting the accumulated karmas that one builds up from one's lives.
At the end of the yagna, we offer arati to the deity and ask all the deities who have attended the yagna and offered their help and assistance to return to their dwelling place.
Kalash puja is the ceremony that is undertaken to purna-kumbha or Kalash as it is known. The kalash consists of a brass/copper pot filled with water and other auspicious articles on which mango leaves are placed in the open neck of the pot. Onto the mango leaves is placed a coconut. The kalash itself is the vessel into which the deity is invoked and worshipped.
Initially, purification of the pujari (the person(s) doing the puja) and the surrounding environment and puja items is undertaken. Following the purification, Guru puja is done so that the pujari may receive the Guru’s blessing and guidance.
The space in which the ceremony is conducted is sealed energetically so that there is no interference with the ceremony from external sources. We then invoke Varun (God of water) into the water of the kalash to purify the water prior to invoking the main deity. The main deity is then invoked into the kalash as well as into ourselves through a series of invocations known as the praana pratishta. We then offer puja to the main deity now residing within the kalash.
At the end of the puja we light a camphor and offer the arati to the kalash. After arati, we light the yagna with the arati camphor and invoke the presence of Agni – God of fire. We then conduct the yagna to the main deity that was invoked into the kalash and end the yagna by offering a coconut into the fire. The coconut represents the heart of man – the outer shell being hard like the ego, whereas the inner part of the coconut is pure and clean, much like the inner sanctum of the heart of man.
If we have a murti of the deity, we then carry out abhishekam to the deity and finish the abhishekam by pouring over the deity the energised water from the kalash. Before the water is poured over the deity, we recite a mantra to thank the deity for the help and kindly ask the deity to leave the kalash and return to where it normally resides.
The ritual is powerful and very uplifting for the devotee; the ceremony helps to purify oneself and to connect with one’s beloved deity. Many times after performing a kalash puja, we are blessed with rain. The rain is a very auspicious sign from Mother Earth and the deity that the ceremony was very beneficial for the environment, and that much purification took place for all people present and for the whole area.
An “online puja” is an order for a puja which is conducted at Shree Peetha Nilaya by one of the pujaris or Swamis.
The puja conducted is a kalash puja dedicated to Sri Lakshmi Narayana, which are the main deities of the centre and of our lineage. Sri Lakshmi Narayana are the ultimate principle of male and female, just like Shiva-Shakti. Both of these principles are within ourselves, and through their help and blessings they give balance and, along with that, harmony and peace. During such a kalash puja, which includes a yagna and an abhishek, flowers, rice, incense, prasad and more are offered to Sri Lakshmi Narayana in the name given in order to receive their blessing.
To request an online puja, send an email to email@example.com with:
- Full name of the person or people that should be prayed for.
- Situation that is being prayed for (for example: spiritual growth, health, protection, new job, sale of house).
- Postal address so that we can send you the blessed puja items.
After the Puja, you will receive some pictures via email as well as some of the petals, rice, a holy thread for protection and a vial containing blessed Kalash water to sprinkle around your property for purification and protection.
Price: 100 €. The payment can be made either in person to Swami Vishwakeshavananda at Shree Peetha Nilaya, or via the Bhakti Marga online shop.