16 Step Puja Worship in Hinduism

puja worship

A Hindu brahmin priest performing puja on a bronze Nataraja in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, India

There are numerous forms of worship among Hindus, of which Puja is one of the more popular. The most widely accepted and followed system of Puja is the Shodasa – Upachara Puja, or 16 – Service worship.

The main purpose of this type of Puja is two-fold. Primarily it is to uplift the five senses of the worshiper, and by doing so elevate him to a higher level of consciousness that will promote good thoughts and actions. Secondarily it draws upon the Indian traditions of honoring a guest, wherein each upachara is a service to the deity who takes presence in the sculpture for the duration of the Puja.

  1. DhyaanaMeditating on the deity that is being invoked.
  2. AavaahanaInviting the deity into the altar.
  3. AasanaGiving the deity a seat.
  4. Paadya Washing the deity’s feet with clean water.
  5. ArghyaOffering the deity water to rinse hands and mouth.
  6. AachamanaOffering the deity water to drink.
  7. SnaanaBathing the deity with various auspicious items.
  8. VasthraDressing the deity with clean clothes.
  9. YagnopaveethaOffering the deity a clean sacred thread.
  10. GandhaSpreading fresh sandalwood paste on the deity.
  11. Pushpa Offering fresh flowers while chanting the deity’s names.
  12. DhoopaSpreading incense smoke throughout the altar.
  13. DeepaWaving a lamp to illuminate the freshly decorated deity.
  14. NaivedyaOffering the deity food.
  15. Taambula ­– Offering the deity a refreshing mix of betel nut and leaves.
  16. Pradakshina & NamaskaraCircumambulating the altar and bidding farewell to the deity.

Among these sixteen services, five hold more importance than the rest. Together these five services are referred to as the pancha – upacharas, and include gandha, pushpa, dhoopa, deepa, and naivedya. Collectively, these five services engage the five senses.

  • Gandha – Touch
  • Sandalwood paste cools the skin and is a natural insect repellant.
  • Pushpa – Hearing
  • The recitation of the deity’s names that accompanies each flower engages the ears.
  • Dhoopa – Smell
  • Incense envelops the entire temple with a refreshing fragrance for the nose.
  • Deepa – Sight
  • The lamp illuminates the deity and brings out the beauty of the icon to the eyes.
  • Naivedya – Taste
  • Food that has been offered to the deity is eaten and entices the taste buds.
ganesh, puja ceremony

Bronze Ganesh in opening eye ceremony at the Cleveland Museum of Art

15 Mantras for Appeasing Goddess Saraswati

The Hindu Goddess Saraswati is known as the mother of Vedas and the synonym of knowledge, music, craft, wisdom, arts and auspiciousness. It is believed that appeasing Goddess Saraswati will remove all the obstacles that one will encounter during his or her career or education. Saraswati is known by different names, such as Vak Devi, the goddess of speech and Sakala Kaladhistatri, goddess bestowing all the arts.

Here, are lists of mantras that are widely used by students to score high in exams. It is believed that students, who after working hard failed to succeed in exams and these mantras, have helped them to attain their goal.

1. Bija Mantra of Saraswati

Aum

Aing Saraswathye Namah

Aum

Meaning: Salutations to Goddess Saraswati

2. Vidya Mantra for students: This sloka is found to improve memory, power and concentration in studies.

Saraswati Namasthubhyam

Varade Kamarupini

Vidhyarambam Karishyami

Siddhir Bavathume Sadha

3. Saraswati Vandana

Yaa Kundendu tushaara haaradhavalaa,

Yaa shubhravastraavritha|

Yaa veenavara dandamanditakara,

aa shwetha padmaasana||

Yaa brahmaachyutha shankara

prabhritibhir Devaisadaa Vanditha|

Saa Maam Paatu Saraswatee

Bhagavatee Nihshesha jaadyaapahaa|

Meaning: May the Goddess Saraswati protect me. She is fair like the jasmine-colored moon, and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops. She is adorned in radiant white attire, on whose beautiful arm rests the veena, and whose throne is a white lotus. She is surrounded and respected by the Gods. Please remove my weariness, sluggishness and ignorance.

4. Mahasaraswati Mantra

Om

Aing Mahasaraswatyai Namah

Meaning: Salutations to Goddess Maha Saraswati

5. Saraswati Mantra

Shuklaam Brahmvichaar

Saar Paramaadyaam Jagadvyaapineem Veennaa Pushtak

Dhaarinneebhamay Daam

Jaad Yaapandhkaaraapahaam

Haste Sfatik Maalikaam Vidhateem

Paramaasane Sansthitaam Vande Taam

Parameshwareem Bhagwateem Buddhi Pradaam Shaaradaam.

Meaning: I plead to Goddess Saraswati who is fair in color, the first and foremost divine energy, who is present in the world in the form of knowledge, who wields a Veena, Vedas, Sfatik rosary in her hands and one of whose hands is raised in blessing. She is the one who is capable of eliminating ignorance and bestow intelligence.

6. Maha Saraswati Mantra: This simple mantra is mainly used by students to make learning easy.

Om Aim  Hrim

Kleem Maha Saraswati Devaya

Namaha

7. Saraswati Mantra to recite before study

Saraswathi Namasthubhyam,

Varadey Kaamarupinee

Vidhyarambham Karishyami,

Sidhir bhavathu mey sada

Meaning: O, Goddess Saraswati, my humble prostrations unto Thee. She is capable of fulfilling all my wishes. I request you to bestow thy blessings on me, before I start my studies.

8. Saraswati Mantra for Success in Education and Career

Om

Vageeshwaryae Vidmahe Vagwadeenyae

Dhimahe Tannah Saraswati Prachodayat

This mantra is also known as Gayathri of Saraswati

9. Saraswati Mantra

Saraswati Mahabhage

Vidye Kamalalochane

Vishwaroope Vishaalaakshi

Vidyam dehi namosthuthe

Meaning: Oh great Goddess Saraswati, the lotus-eyed personified knowledge. Oh, I request you to shower me with all the powers and glories of all knowledge that exist. She has large-eyes, taking the form of the whole universe.

10. Saraswati Mantra for Acquiring Knowledge

Vad Vad Vaagwaadinee Swaha

11. Saraswati Mantra for Enhancing Intelligence

Om

Aing Hreeng Shreeng

Vaagdevyai Saraswatyai Namah

12. Saraswati Mantra for Wealth and Knowledge

Om

Arham Mukha Kamal Vaasinee

Paapaatma Kshayam Kaari

Vad Vad Vaagwaadinee Saraswati

Aing Hreeng Namah Swaaha

 

13. Saraswati Ashtakshara Mantra: This mantra comprises of the 12 names of Goddess Saraswati and it is advised that all knowledge seekers should practice it, to gain high and pure knowledge.

Pratham Bharti naam l

Dwitaya tu Saraswati l

Trutiya Sharda Devi l

Chaturth Hansavahini l

Pancham Jagatikhayata l

Shasth Maheshwari tatha l

Saptham tu Kaumari l

Astham Bhramacharini l

Navam Vidhyadhatrini l Dasham Vardayini l

Ekadasham Rudraghanta l

Dwadasham Bhuneshwari l

Atani Dwadsho Naamami l

Y Patcchrnuyaadpi l

Nach Vidhna Bhav Taysa Mantra Siddhiker Tatha l

14. Mantra for Knowledge: Reciting this mantra will increase the mental capability and will considerably increase the knowledge gain.

Om

Namo Bhagwati Saraswati Parmeshwari

Vaagvaadini Mam Vidhya Dehi Bhagwati

Bhans Vaahini Hans Samarudha Buddhi

Dehi Dehi Pragya Dehi Dehi

Vidhya Parmeshwari Saraswati Swaha

15. Mantra for illumination: This mantra is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati to illuminate the minds of knowledge seekers.

Maho

Arnah Saraswati Pracheyati Ketuna,

Dhiyo Vishwa Virajati

Day 1 of Diwali Festival of Lights: Dhanteras

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Today, November 13th 2012, marks the beginning of the 5 days of Diwali.  The first day of the Diwali is known as Dhanteras or Dhantrayodashi, which falls on the 13th day of the month Ashvin according to the Hindu calendar.  The name comes from the root word Dhan or Wealth.  Dhanteras is known as an opportune day for Hindus as they celebrate by buying precious metals such as gold or silver for good luck in the coming year.  It is not surprising then that today is the day Hindus worship the revered Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth. For many Hindu businesses today marks the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Many worship this day through Lakshmi Puja, which is a Hindu tradition of placing lighted clay pots outside their homes in hopes that she may pay their home a visit and bless them with prosperity in the coming year.  These lamps are left burning on doorsteps throughout the night in order to light her path.  It is believed that Lakshmi only visits homes that are clean and to those who are hard-working and deserving of acquiring and preserving wealth.  She does not visit the lazy or those that keep their homes uncleanly.

Worship with Hindus across the globe in worshipping Lakshmi by placing a small lamp upon your doorstep with offerings of saffron paste, flowers, sweets, fruits, and/or rice.  Today is a day for peaceful worship and offering upon the beautiful Goddess Lakshmi.

It is also believed that today, an incarnation of Vishnu known as Dhanvantari, was born.  Vishnu as Dhanvantari is known as the physician of the Gods.  So in addition to Lakshmi, pay special devotion to Vishnu as Dhanvantari by paying homage to his birth.

Legends of Hindu Goddess Kali: the Dark One

fierce form of Devi hindu goddess Kali

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According to Hindu teachings, Kali is Goddess of time or change, but is most notably known by non-Hindus for her darkness and violence.  Much like Shiva in the form of Bhairava, her earliest incarnation was that of an annihilator of evil within the world.  She is often depicted in grotesque fashion as her terrifying eyes and shrieking expression horrify. Kali is referred to as ‘the black one’ as she is thought to have been the first creation before light itself and her very presence is said to convey death and destruction.

Within her most famous Hindu legend she comes to the aid of Hindu Goddess Durga and her assistants as they attempt to slay the demon Raktabija.  They attempt to wound him with various weapons but come to find that with every drop of blood they inflict he only multiplies in form.  His duplicates overwhelm them and they call upon Kali for aid.  Instead of Kali being summoned, however, Durga herself manifests into Kali’s form.

‘Out of the surface of her (Durga’s) forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly Kali of terrible countenance, armed with a sword and noose. Bearing the strange khatvanga (skull-topped staff), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in a tiger’s skin, very appalling owing to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out, having deep reddish eyes, filling the regions of the sky with her roars, falling upon impetuously and slaughtering the great asuras in that army, she devoured those hordes of the foes of the devas’

Kali slays the Raktabija by sucking every last ounce of blood from his body and devouring his duplicates.  She rejoices in victory and dances upon the fallen in triumph.  Her ferocious celebration is said to have consumed her fully, unable to stop herself from stomping on the slain.   In order to snap his consort Kali out of her violent elation, God Shiva laid down amongst the dead beneath her feet.  The instant her foot touched her beloved Shiva she was able to calm herself.  This is why Kali is often depicted standing atop Shiva.

Although Kali is often seen as a terrifying and vicious slayer of demons, in union with Shiva she is said to help create and destroy worlds.

Hindu Goddess Saraswati: Goddess of Knowledge

“May Goddess Saraswati, who is fair like the jasmine-colored moon, and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops, who is adorned in radiant white attire, on whose beautiful arm rests the veena, and whose throne is a white lotus, who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect me. May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance.”

Within Hinduism, Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge, art, music, and science. Companion to Brahma, it is said that Saraswati was key to his creation of the Universe.  As his source of vital spirit and energy, she along with Goddess Kali and Lakshmi played pivotal roles in helping the gods shape and maintain the universe.  Saraswati also plays an important role in Buddhism as sacred devotee of Gautama Buddha making sure his teachings live on in practice.   She is daughter to Durga and sister to Ganesh.

Click here to view all our Saraswati Statues

Saraswati is thought to contain the divine flow of all things serving as a beautiful body of knowledge and catalyst of learning throughout the world.  Her sultry appearance is striking and the epitome of feminine and divine beauty.  Her beauty is strategic in order to make knowledge and learning alluring to onlookers.  She is often depicted in flowing white to symbolize her purity and unmatched mind while seated upon a lotus flower which represents the light in knowledge.  By worshiping Saraswati one is able to realize the possibility of infinite knowledge and an endless quest of enrichment.  She embodies not only knowledge itself, but the highest of spiritual knowledge, much like Buddhist teaching of the Gautama Buddha reaching enlightenment.  Her potential is fully realized and as one follows her example they too can become enlightened.

Many devotees believe strongly in offering honey to goddess Saraswati during worship as a symbol of the purest of knowledge.

Click to learn more about Hindu goddess Saraswati.