How do we pray at Home and Temples?- Hindu Vedic Practices: Significance of each ritual
When we go to a temple there are simple procedures and practices that we follow, some that we see our parents, grandparents and others do and we follow them without questioning them. After all if you were to question, there is no reason that you will get the right or accurate answer. What are the general practices that we follow and let us evaluate the reason and meaning behind those practices.
1. Taking off our footwear and washing our legs and hands before entering the temple premises: The Gods are Supreme Beings and by taking off our footwear, we remove the negativity outside the sacred premises and also accept the vulnerability and the smallness of our being and existence in front of the Lord. We go naked feet all over the temple to show our mark of respect and humbleness. The richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor, all do the same. Washing the feet and hands before entering the premises is recommended to wash away the negativity the we may have accumulated.
2. Ringing the bell and prostrating before the Lord: We announce our presence by ringing the bell. It is also believed that the Lord who is resting is made aware of our presence when the bells are rung. Ringing the metal bell also dispels the negative forces who are made to know that there is a positive, super positive presence in the temple and all is well with the world. The Dark Forces fear each time the bell is rung that gives our positive sound energy. The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om , the universal name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness. Prostrating before the Lord marks our humility and the recognition of his Supremacy.
3. Burning Camphor during Arti-Aarti and Incense sticks: Camphor has a holy feeling to it. The rings of smoke that the camphor produces carries the devotees prayer to the Higher being and is an appeal to the Supreme Lord. Aarti being performed with Camphor has a spiritual significance. Camphor burns itself out completely without leaving a trace. Camphor represents our Vasanas, unmanifested desires. So also if we were to take refuge in the Lord, obtain knowledge, these desires will get burnt out. At the end of the aarti we place the hands over the flame and touch our eyes and top of the head. It means that may the light that illumined the Lord light up my vision, may my thoughts be pure and beautiful.
Incense sticks dispels bad odor and keeps the environment in and around the temple pure and unblemished. A person feels happy entering the premises because of the smell of camphor and incense. On a human plane it means that we should sacrifice ourselves to serve society, in the process spread the perfume of love and happiness to all.
4.Lighting a Diya or Lamp(ghee or nalla yennai): Lighting of lamps with a cotton wick helps to maintain harmony in the family. The wick in the traditional oil lamp symbolizes ego and the oil or ghee used symbolizes our negative tendencies. When we are lit by self knowledge, the negative tendencies (oil) melt away and finally the ego (wick) perishes. When the ego perishes, we realize that we are all part of Brahman and that life is a continuity. The lighting of ‘diya’ or lamp at home is considered highly auspiciousness as it brings prosperity and good health. The daily evening lamp lit at home also gives us an opportunity to ponder over one’s omissions and commissions in a day. It is believed that one should worship Lord Narayana/Vishnu by lighting lamps with Gingelly Oil and lighting of lamps with Castor Oil brings you all kinds of wealth.
5. Watering the Pipal and Banyan Tree: The Pipal tree and the Banyan Tree represent knowledge and sacredness. Many sages and seers have attained enlightenment and Diksha under these trees. Circumbulating (going round) the Banyan tree is considered auspicious for women who want offspring and the long life of their husband. Lakshmi resides at the base of the Pipal tree and Lord Narayana/Vishnu in a banyan tree, lighting a diya(earthen lamp) at the base of the tree pleases the Lord.
6. Offering Prasad and home made offerings: While going to the temple or place of worship, we carry coconut, flowers and sometimes home made prasad- food for the Lord. It is actually our humble way of acknowledging that he is ONE amongst us and like any other person likes food and offerings. We count His presence amongst our family members, distribute the prasad in the temple, distribute a part of our everyday food and include Him as a member of our family. “Vasudeiva Kutumbakam- The Whole World is our Family“
7. Circumbulating-Pradakshina the Sactum Sanctorum: The Lord in all his glory, resides in the temple premises and the actual sanctum where the idol is placed, worshipped and decorated is manifest with positive and magnificent energies. By going round the sanctum as in a pradakshina, the positive energies that surround it, is distributed to the devotee and he is immersed in the positive vibes and goes home a refreshed person.
Pradakshina literally means: to the right (Dakshina means right). So in Pradakshina, one goes to the left hand direction to keep the deity around the Sanctum Sanctorum on one’s right side. Pradakshina is one of the customary aspects of going to a temple. Typically, Pradakshina is done after the completion of traditional worship (pooja) and after paying homage to the deity. Pradakshina is supposed to be done with a meditative mood.
8. Mantra Jaap and chanting of Prayers: Mantras and Prayers are personal invocations to the God asking for help, assistance and thanking Him for his benevolence. The reason why people go the temples to pray is that the cosmic and positive forces are stronger and the vibrations of the bell ringing, camphor burning, the morning and evening arti creates a higher connection to the Supreme Being. Praying and chanting in temples is a faster and more effective method of submitting ourselves to God.
9. Taking the Holy Teerth and Vibhuti and Kumkum: It is believed that the teerth, the vibhuti and the Kumkum that is distributed in temples is blessed with positive energy for the well being and the prosperity for the individual and the society as a while. Partaking them is considered auspicious.
10. Bowing down and doing Namaskarams: Last but not the least, bowing down and touching the ground while paying our respects to God is another way of submitting to His glory and accepting His Supremacy . In North India, people generally only touch their foreheads to the ground, but in the South of India, a man prostates completely by touching his whole body, his head, forehead, his chest, his stomach and stretching out his legs.
This is considered the best way, as you are accepting the good and positive energies that the sublime grounds of the temple, the sanctum sanctorum has gained due to regular and continuous pooja and cleansing and hosting the Lord, into yourself.