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Hidden Symbolism of Puja Hinduism

Sacrificer           unknown
Sacrifice code       wfor0256
Sacrifice date       25 march 2009

Hidden Symbolism of Puja

In Hinduism, puja is essentially a ritual suggestive of symbolic
offering of our lives and activities to God and enjoying whatever
that comes out of it as a gift from Him. In Hinduism puja is the
most popular form of divine worship.

The way a puja is conducted in Hindu households is akin to the way a
guest is invited into the house and treated with utmost respect. The
Hindu tradition equates a guest with God with this simple
expression, "Athidi devobhava", which means a guest is verily God

The outer aspect of puja we have discussed else where in the pages
of Hinduwebsite. Here we will discuss the symbolic significance of
puja and of the various objects used during the ceremony.

The meaning of puja: The word "puja" consists of two letters, "pa"
and "ja". "Pa" means "parayana" or continuous repetition of the
names of God and "ja" means "japa" or continuous mental recitation
of the names of God. So according to this interpretation "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

Lastly "pu' means "purusha" and "ja" means "janma" , to arise or
wake up. During the puja ceremony life breath is installed in the
deity and He is brought to life or into His dynamic aspect. It also
means that the purusha in the worshipper also wakes up after the
ceremony as he receives a new life and new consciousness (with the
partaking of prasad) from the deity.

Vigraham. Vigraham means the statue or the image of the deity.
Vigraha (vi+graha) also means that which removes the ill effects of
the grahas or planets.

Purna kumbha or Purna kalasa (the sacred vessel): It is generally
placed as the chief deity or by the side of the chief deity before
starting the puja. Symbolically it stands for mother goddess in
general, or goddess Lakshmi in particular. It consists of an earthen
or a metal pot with either water or rice in it , with leaves (of
generally five specific species) in its mouth and a bowl of rice,
flowers and coconut at its top. The pot represents mother earth, the
flowers represent the ornamentation, the rice in the bowl represents
either the material wealth or the powers of the goddess or both and
the coconut represents the divine consciousness.

Naivedyam: It is our ignorance (avidya) which we offer to the deity.
The food symbolically stands for the earth element and in human
beings for the gross body. So it can also means the body and the
mind (which stand for the ignorant consciousness in us) which we
place in front of the deity for transformation. When it is blessed
by the deity it becomes the bestower of knowledge.

Pushpam: It stands for the good in us. We offer the deity the good
that has blossomed in us. On the side of the elements it stands for
the element of water because the flowers (especially the lotus) grow
out of water.

Phalam: It is the fruit of our action which we are supposed to offer
to God as a symbol of our detachment, self-sacrifice and surrender.

Gandham: It stands collectively for the desires (vasanas) and the
desires we have for various things in life, which we are supposed to
offer to the deity in order to become free from the cycle of births
and deaths.

Dhupam: It is the smoke or the clouded consciousness (the very mind
with all its thoughts and ignorance) that exists in us which is also
an obstacle on our path to self realization. As long as this cloud
is there, we cannot see the light or illumination in our
consciousness. Dhupam also stands for the illusion which keeps us
chained to this world. When we offer dhupam to God, we offer
symbolically our illusions and our fickle mindedness. On the
elemental side, it stands for the element of air or the breath body
in us. It stands for prana which we offer to the deity with a sense
of sacrifice.

Deepam: It is the light in us, the very soul that exists in us which
we offer to the deity as acknowledgement of our surrender and
devotion. On the elemental side it stands for the element of ether
that exists in us as Atman.

Kumkum and turmeric powder : The red powder stands for our emotions
or for our inner wisdom. The turmeric powder stands for our inner
purity and on the negative side, for our inner pride and egoism.

Prasad: When we offer our ignorance to God He suffuses it with
knowledge and light. The word "prasad" is a combination of two
words, "pra" + "sad". That which is near life and truth. The food
that is offered to God is symbolic representation of the gross body
into which at the end of worship God breathes new life new light
making it divine. When we share the prasad with others, we share
with them symbolically the knowledge we so gained during the worship.


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