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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The philosophy of Hindu rituals - HT Inner Voice

Deepam Chatterjee

It is believed Hindus have 330 million gods and goddesses. This is yet another way of describing that gods and goddesses are states of nature, and of the mind.

Idol worship has great religious and philosophical significance among Hindus. All Hindu deities are themselves symbols of the abstract Absoloute, and point to a particular aspect of the Brahman. The ultimate reality is beyond the senses, beyond the known field of illusion.

The Sanskrit word Pooja (Puj), means to worship, to honour, and to welcome. It also means the act that is born out of fullness (Pu = fullness + uja = the act of being born.) Hindu worship encompasses a broad range of activities, including even dance and drama. It involves moortis (images), mantras (prayers) and yantras (diagrams of the universe). Central to the Hindu worship is the image, or icon, which can be worshipped either at home or in a temple.

Hindu religious rites are classified into three categories: Nitya, Naimittika and Kaamya.
Nitya rituals are performed daily and consist of offerings made at the home shrine.

Naimittika rituals are important but occur only at certain times during the year, such as celebrations of festi vals, thanksgiving and so on.

Kaamya are rituals which are `optional' but highly - desirable. Pilgrimage is one - such.
l Pilgrimage is an important s aspect of Hinduism. It is an - undertaking to `see and be - seen' by the deity. Popular pil- grimage places are rivers, - temples, mountains and other sacred sites, where the gods may have appeared or become manifest.

Worship of gods consists of a range of ritual offerings and t prayers typically performed either daily or on special days before the image of the deity, - which may be in the form of a , likeness or a symbol of the - sacred presence.
- In more developed forms, `pooja' consists of a series of - ritual stages, beginning with personal purification and invo , cation of the deity, followed by - offerings.
e (Edited extracts from the : book `The Timeless Faith, A . Dialogue with Hinduism', by Deepam Chatterjee)

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