Customs and Rituals

What rites do Hindus practice in the temple?

Puja, meaning adoration or worship, is the generic name for a range of rituals in which devotees engage in the temple. Many temples are open early in the day until early afternoon, and again in early evening. Worshippers arrive at any time during a temple’s regular hours, individually or in small groups. They always remove their shoes before entering. Temple priests serve each party in turn, helping them to make their offerings to the deity or deities of their choice. Devotees’ choice of deities is based on various factors, including personal need, individual devotion, or sacred times associated with particular deities. While the priests conduct separate rituals, other parties wait their turn, sitting in the open areas of the temple and talking or praying quietly among themselves.

Ritual actions emphasize the spiritual symbolism of simple ordinary elements of life such as food, water, warmth, light, and beauty, all in the context of opening oneself inwardly to a closer relationship with the source of life. Puja takes the form of visiting a royal person and offering affectionate and awe-filled gestures. Worshippers “take care” of the deity by symbolically bathing its feet and offering food and drink. Circum-ambulation, always to the right, around the various womb-chamber shrines in a temple are a regular part of worship. At set times during the day, the temple staff engage in other worshipful acts apart from the ongoing puja of individuals and groups. They wake, bathe, and feed the deity, and take the sacred royalty out for a walk, so to speak.


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