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What is Puja?

Puja means Honour, worship, reverence.

Puja is believed to be derived from the Dravidian (see Dasas) word 'pu-chey', (flower action) or worship with the offering of flowers. Some trace it to the Dravidian word 'pusu', to anoint or smear with sandalwood paste or vermilion.

The term puja is now used to include all forms of ceremonial worship, ranging from the simple daily offerings of flowers, fruit, leaves, rice, sweetmeats and water to the deities in homes or temples, to the sacrifices of goats and chickens in temples dedicated to Kali, Durga and other female deities. This rite is performed, in its bloodless form, by all pious Hindus at least once a day.

There are three kinds of pujas: great, intermediate and small.

A great puja is usually a community affair or performed during important occasions like religious festivals. This puja comprises of these steps:

Avahana - the invocation of the deity.

Asana - a seat is offered to the deity.

Svagata - the deity is welcomed, asked about his journey and whether he faced any problem coming to the place of puja.

Padya - the feet of the deity are washed with water.

Arghya - a respectful offering of water is made to the god. This water is laced with sandalwood paste, vermilion and rice.

Achamania - water is then offered for washing the face and mouth of the deity.

Madhu-parka - a beverage made of honey, sugar, and milk is offered to the deity.

Snanajala - the deity is offered water for bathing.

Bhushana abharanasya - clothes, jewels and ornaments are offered next.

Gandha - sandalwood paste or any other fragrant object is offered.

Akshata - grains of rice mixed with vermilion are offered.

Pushpanjali - flowers are offered.

Dhupa - incense is lit.

Dipa - the lamp is lit.

Naivedya - rice, fruit, butter and sugar are offered next.

Visarjana - the deity is finally bidden farewell.

At the end, arati is performed.


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