Customs and Rituals

What kinds of ritual objects figure in Hindu worship and prayer?

Since puja involves offerings and other uses of numerous symbolic physical substances, devotees employ quite a few ritual objects. Most are made of metals such as brass, bronze, silver, or silverplate. Objects owned by older temples may be ancient and precious works of art, but their purpose is to serve the larger ritual rather than to attract attention to themselves. Bells, sometimes with an image of the deity on the handle, summon devotees to attentiveness and announce their arrival to visit the deity. With a long-handled spoon they offer water or ghee, and in a smaller cup with no handle they offer a drink of water. In a small cuplike lamp with a handle they burn camphor and wave it before the deity, and a multiwicked oil lampstand provides sacred illumination. A ritual plate holds offerings of food. For some rituals a brass or bronze image of a closed lotus flower can be opened like a lotus at dawn, an image of divine disclosure. In some puja ceremonies the priest briefly places a small silver crown, like that worn by the deity, on the heads of devotees, symbolizing divine blessing.


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