Worship and Devotion in Daily Life
Written by: Jacob N. Kinnard
Many Hindus perform less formal puja rituals on a daily basis. A family might have a shrine to their special god or gods (or goddesses) in a part of their home. Some families have one such deity, called an ishtadevata (literally "chosen god"), or many. There are pujas that are typically performed in the morning, on special occasions, and before particular journeys or endeavors.
An illustrative example of these more domestic pujas is the puja performed to the god Ganesh. He is the elephant-headed son of Shiva who is known in many contexts as the "remover of obstacles." As such, he is invoked in a variety of contexts: in the marriage rituals (he removes domestic problems); by school children and college students before taking exams (he removes hard questions); and by taxi drivers, bus drivers, and people purchasing new vehicles (he removes obstacles that might lead to accidents).
There are, literally, thousands of what might be called domestic rituals in Hinduism, rituals that are directed to specific gods and intended to positively influence specific activities. Many Hindus, for instance, begin each day with a purifying ritual bath in a sacred river such as the Ganges, or the chanting of a set of sacred hymns, or the recitation of some sacred text. Some of these take place in a public sphere, such as a temple, and involve the participation of priests, while many others are quite private rituals performed at home. All pujas, from the most formal temple ritual to the most informal domestic ritual, are motivated by and permeated with one essential element: bhakti, loving devotion, a sentiment that flows from the worshipper to the deity, and from the deity to the worshipper.
1. How does the ritual of puja help form a personal relationship with a deity?
2. How does prasad unite humans with the gods? How does it create a hierarchy of separation?
3. Who can participate in puja? Who can perform it?