Hindu Rites and Rituals (Sentiments, Sacraments and Symbols)

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For Hindus, especially the younger generation, understanding rituals makes them more meaningful, helps clarify misconceptions, increases respect for Sanatan Dharma and inspires them to imbibe these rituals in their own lives. It also increases their pride in belonging to the most ancient tradition in the world. It even helps them to tolerate insults. Hindus who are not given samskaras (nurture) by parents from early childhood, tend to develop an inferiority complex and cultural identity crisis when confronted with issues raised at school by peers and even teachers. Ignorant of their lofty cultural roots, such young Hindus reject their Indian identity and mimic peers (Warner 1998:62). For instance, they will readily practice rituals in other forms such as the gesture of bowing, similar to prandms, to their martial arts instructor, yet disdain and feel uncomfortable in offering pranams to parents, other family elders, sadhus and even deities!

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Item Code: IDC121
Publisher: Swaminarayan Aksharpith
Author: Sadhu Mukundcharandas
Language: English
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 8175263563
Pages: 552 (Illustrated Throughout In Full Color)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.0" X 7.5"
Weight 1.41 kg
Fully insured
Fully insured
Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
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More than 1M+ customers worldwide
100% Made in India
100% Made in India
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23 years in business
Book Description

From the Jacket

The Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is a global socio-spiritual organization committed to the moral and spiritual uplift of mankind. It was established in 1907 CE by Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj in consonance with the Vedic teachings propagated by Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781-1830 CE).

The Sansth’s global network of 9,090 Satsang centres are perennial sources of moral, social cultural and spiritual activities. He energies of the BAPS volunteer corps of 55,000 youths and over 700 sadhus are channelised towards a variety of philanthropic activities. The BAPS is an NGO in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Its world renowned cultural and spiritual complexes like Akshardham in Gandhinagar and New Delhi and the Swaminarayan Mandirs in London, Nairobi, Houston, Chicago, Toronto and Atlanta, are some of its epoch-making contributions to society. Under the inspiration and guidance of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, BAPS has earned an endearing and unique place in the hearts of millions throughout the world.

Acclaimed as a unique and rare holy soul of India, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was born on 7 December 1921, in the village of Chansad, Gujarat. He is the fifth successor in the illustrious spiritual tradition of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the embodiment of the universal Hindu ideals.

In his presence doubts dissolve, confusions clear, hurts heal and the mind finds peace. His selfless love and morality equally soothes and moralises children, youths and the aged; regardless of caste, creed or status.

Out of his compassion for humanity, he has visited over 15,500 villages, towns and cities, sanctified over 267,000 homes, and read and replied to over 700,000 letters. He has ushered a cultural, moral and spiritual renaissance in India and abroad by establishing over 700 mandirs. His divine humanism has provided succour to countless souls in time of natural catastrophe and need.

His striking humility, simplicity and spiritualism have impressed many religious and national leaders. Above all, his profound experience and realisation of God is the essence of his success and divine lustre.


Back of the Book



(Sentiments, Sacraments & symbols)

Is the author’s fourth full-colour book in the cadre of “eventually growing category of a ‘Hindu Dharma Encyclopaedia” cited by Dr. Hasu Yajnik in his Foreword to Hindu Festivals (origin, sentiments & rituals), the author’s previous previous book (2005). The first was Vachanamrut Handbook and the second, Rishis, Mystics & Heroes of India (Vol. I). This book break’s the record with an astonishing number of 781 superb colour photographs, 90 paintings and 27 maps. These enable the reader to experience the depth and understanding of how Hindus live and have adjusted to migration, changing cultural trends and cope with daily stress by their rites, daily rituals and festivals.

The effort and care to include the minutest details and references from the ancient Sanskrit shastras is commendable. There’s something here for every reader; all young Hindus who have been pestering parents about the ‘why’, their parents who sorely wished they had the right answers, as well as for teachers, admirers and academics.

A book worthy as a birthday gift and for young Hindus about to get married. The brief explanation of the vivah rites with photographs will make the ceremony all the more meaningful and increase its sanctity in the hearts of the Hindu couple. A must read prior to marriage.


Sanatan Dharma is known all over the world as a tradition of culture, art, mysticism and spirituality. It also has the oldest living practices in the form of rites and rituals. Until recent times, Hindus practiced these on faith, like their forefathers. Unfortunately, today’s Hindus, influenced by materialism and the ever-present ‘science versus religion debate’, tend to distance themselves from these rituals. They ask, “Why do we perform them? What is the need?”

The answers to these and other doubts do exist, in Sanskrit texts. However few people today know Sanskrit. Even less have time to search through translations. Lack of answers lead them to lose faith in practicing rituals and religion generally. The power of science, T.V. and electronic media also add fuel to the fire and often ridicule Hindu practices.

This book aims to provide answers and cogent arguments for all Hindus seeking answers to questions that may have irked them. It can be a vital tool for Hindu parents to inform their children about Hindu rituals. Yet this book also reaches out to young Hindus themselves, who can learn the reasons underlying rituals. They will then be able to explain to their friends, without shying, that Hinduism is more than just yoga and mysticism, and can be practiced in today’s hi-tech life.

Similar to a previous book, Hindu Festivals - Origin, Sentiments & Rituals, (2005), this book has attempted to capture the authenticity, essence, colourful charm and rich variety of Hindu rituals. Moreover, the inclusion of fifteen new chapters with a photographical account, hopes to provide a new, festive dimension to rituals, which should be an enthralling and enlightening experience. The answers and scientific elaboration about the significance of rituals hopes to remove any stigma and doubt usually associate with Hindu rituals; of them being old fashioned, rote and impractical in modern life.

It may surprise young Hindus to know that several rituals discussed in this book such as mansi puja, meditation and pranayama, can improve their overall physical health, immunity, power of concentration, memory, creativity and performance in sports, in addition to the spiritual gains. This is because they activate right-brain function, which deals with the above factors. The same rituals induce zest for living, since they directly focus on Bhagwan, who is the fountainhead of divinity, as well as the inspirer of the atma residing within. Practicing Hindu rituals will also help them identify and connect with a cultural tradition which is over 10,000 years old. It will boost their self-esteem and pride in being Hindus.

Besides the rituals of the Swaminarayan sampraday, which are based on Vaishnavism, this book incorporates similar religious rituals practiced in the important Vaishnav and Shaiva traditions and mandirs of India.

Today with finger-tip access to the internet, young Hindus often come across a wealth of information about Hindu rites and customs that are a common feature of Sanatan Dharma. However they are then stumped about its accuracy and context. Often the accounts are interpretations of a particular website, whose answers are based on its own philosophical tradition, which may conflict with the surfer’s own tradition and beliefs. On such occasions, surfers need an easily readable book, which quotes the sources of the rituals from the original shastras and explains the variations of its practice in other beliefs and regions.

This is such a book. For easy reference, the rites and rituals have been divided into five parts, with references of the shastras wherever possible. The five parts comprise:

Mandir rituals
bhakti rituals
home rituals
personal rituals and
important sacred symbols related to rituals.

In these five sections, readers can glimpse into the vast and mystical phenomenon of rituals, practised by a billion Hindus worldwide. They can appreciate the underlying scientific approach of the rishis who gifted these rituals to mankind. Young Hindus especially, can glean the answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding Sanatan Dharma’s varied religious beliefs and practices.

The following questions are a sample, from the traditional to the philosophical and spiritual:

Why should one practice rites and rituals? Why should one perform morning puja? How does a Hindu pray? Are prayers answered? How is a murti different from a statue? Why do people ring a bell on entering a mandir? Why do Hindus join their palms in pranams instead of shaking hands? Why should one offer pranams to parents every morning? Why should one have a spiritual guru? How does a tirth arise? What is the significance of serving others (seva)? Why should one have a home shrine? What is the significance of performing puja(n) of a newly purchased house, business or object such as a fridge, car, etc.? What is bhakti (devotion)? Can stress be relieved by chanting mantras? What is the purpose of clapping when singing bhajans? Is it yog or Yoga? What is the importance of celebrating festivals? Why is fasting, rather than feasting, observed during certain sacred days and jayantis (anniversaries) of avatars? Of all rituals of sadhana, which pleases Bhagwan the most? Why is marriage regarded as a sacred sacrament? What is so significant about avoiding pre-marital relationships? Why is vegetarianism an important Hindu diet norm? Why are certain plants, trees, animals and objects considered sacred or auspicious?

Answers to these and other questions appear in this book. It would be favourable to begin the book from chapter 1. However in eagerness to seek an answer, the reader may choose to dive in at any other part, without feeling a break in sequence, since each part is conclusive and not textually continuous with the next part. To find an answer speedily, refer to a key word in the Index.



Every culture in the world has its own customs, rites and rituals relating to marriage, diet, prayer, meditation, atonement, pilgrimage and so forth.

Sanatan Dharma's rishis, seers and shastras formulated rituals and rites which helped mankind to live in harmony with nature and with others. Ultimately these rituals aimed to elevate man spiritually, to realise the Supreme Reality.

The rituals and rites dealt with in this book incorporate references from the Vedas, Purans, Panchratra shastras - classed as shastras of bhakti, jnan, kriya, charya and yog - the Dharma shastras (treatises of law), which deal with codes of conduct, such as the smrutis of Manu, Yagnavalkya and other rishis, Ramayan, Mahabharat, the Gita and shastras of the Swaminarayan sarnpradaya.

Significance of rituals

Understanding the rituals and rites of a culture, and their underlying sentiments and mode of practice in daily living, deepens respect and tolerance and helps man co-exist in harmony and brotherhood

Hindu rites and rituals instil, invigorate and perpetuate cultural and spiritual traditions; factors which are beginning to lose their importance in today's hi-tech, materialistic and fast-paced lifestyles. Practiced from childhood, Hindu rituals empower the young and their parents with spiritual fortitude, since ritual acts as a medium to connect with the Divine and to earn His grace and blessings. With such spiritual fortitude, an individual is better able to cope with daily life's toughest stressors. Even more potent and the root of all discord, are the internal stressors, the swabhavas - base instincts - such as ego, anger, lust, avarice, greed, hate and others. With the help of rituals such as satsang* and katha - listening to the shastras' discourses and Bhagwan's glory - the turmoil within, caused by swabhdvas can be calmed and eradicated.

Historical perspective

From a historical perspective, the practice of rituals of vidhi and nishedh - the do's and don'ts respectively - had been negated and falsified by later followers of Shankaracharya (778-810 CE), known as pseudo- Vedantis. In 1820, Bhagwan Swaminarayan commented upon this in Vachanamrut Gadhada 1-42. He explained that such Vedantis regarded the moral do's and dont's as false, as well as heaven and hell, which are attained by observing vidhi-nishedh, They claimed that, the disciples and the guru, who attain heaven or hell are also false. Only Brahman is satya (truth) - brahmasatyam jaganmithya. He elaborated that Shankar, who was the acharya of all Vedantis, enjoined his disciples to recite the Gita and Vishnusahastranam; to bow to those older than oneself, to beg alms and so propounded vidhi-nishedh (Charpatpanjarikastotra-13, Yatidharmanirnay- p.241, Samnyasdharmapaddhati- p.33,34). He further composed the Bhaj Govindam stotras of the Charpatpanjari praising Vishnu, and bhajans glorifying Shiva, Ganapati, Surya and other deities, precisely because he feared that an atheistic tendency would creep into people's hearts. Therefore Bhagwan Swaminarayan declared that no matter how knowledgeable a person is, or the state of his spiritual realisation, he is still obligated to observe the rituals of vidhi and nishedh advocated by the shastras.

Modem science and rituals.

The first generation Indian migrants to all parts of the world, practiced rituals out of faith in the wisdom of the ancient seers who enjoined these rituals. However subsequent generations were less inclined to practice by faith.

They needed coaxing and convincing with scientific reasoning. In the past two decades, medical researchers have discovered the benefits of Hindu rituals and certain disciplines, at least on the body and mind.

Though the rishis may not always have divulged reasons for the rites and rituals, scientific evidence is beginning to support them. In the early I950s, a French researcher, Alfred Tomatis M.D., declared that the foetus was capable of hearing. This supports the Hindu belief that nurture (samskaras) occurs during life in the womb. The story of Prahlad, who heard Bhagwan Vishnu's glory while in his mother's womb, listening to sage arad talking to his mother is well-known. Arjuna's son, Abhimanyu, while in Subhadra's womb, learnt the secret of penetrating six of the seven battle formations (kothas)' of the Kaurav camp, by listening to Shri Krishna talking to Subhadra.

The benefits of Patanjali rishi's Yog postures is well known to a billion people practicing worldwide. Similarly, researchers have also investigated the effects of meditation and chanting mantras. They report that these induce a blissful calming in the body, which they have measured scientifically. One meditation technique, Transcendental Meditation (TM), is the most widely practiced and researched, with over three million people having learnt it. Dr. Vernon Barnes of the University of Georgia has reported that long term practitioners of TM have significantly lower blood pressure.

A team of researchers in India researched the effect of chanting mantras. At the Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundation in Bangalore, scientists reported that chanting OM mentally, achieved a significant reduction in heart rate, which led to a deep form of relaxation, with increased alertness (Telles 1995: 418-420). In 1998, the same team also reported that chanting a meaningful syllable such as OM, caused a decrease in heart and breath rate, compared to a neutral syllable such as ONE, which did not produce a similar effect (Telles 1998: 57-63).

Researchers also contend that rituals, whether in humans or animals, serve an important purpose of reducing acts of aggression between group members. Moreover, they create a strong social bond between individuals of the group. Anthropologists also note that rhythm and repetition are common in almost all human rituals, from chanting hymns to tribal fertility dances. The elements of rhythm and repetition of rituals help an individual to belong to a larger group or cause. In their book, Why God Won't Go Away, the medical researchers, Drs. Newberg and D' Aquili, posit that secular rites promote social cohesion by encouraging individuals to set aside personal interests to commit themselves for the common good. They further contend that the aim of ritual is to transcend the self and blend it into some larger reality, for example, to unite worshippers spiritually with a higher sense of reality (2001:80-81).

Other researchers report that drum rhythms, repetitive muscle tensing and relaxing, and contributing factors such as fasting, hyperventilation (increased breathing rate) and inhalation of incense fragrances, all affect the brain, to produce emotional responses and intensely pleasurable, ineffable experiences.

Along with these rituals, if a meaningful word is used such as a mantra, then this induces an even greater effect (Telles, et.al. 1998:57-63). Combining rhythm and meaning makes a ritual more powerful. A Hindu ritual that incorporates all the above factors, is arti. It includes drums, bells, conch, incense, visually attractive stimuli such as the exquisitely adorned murtis of deities, and singing the appropriate lyrics. This ritual of waving lighted wicks - known as diva (Hindi - diya) - in front of the deities, is the most endearing to Hindus. Singing the accompanying and meaningful lyrics of invocation and supplication, has an intensely transcendent effect in followers. Researchers describe this as 'religious awe' (Newberg 2001:89). Many non-Hindu visitors to new Vedic shikharbaddh mandirs in London, Houston and Chicago experience this. Schoolchildren in England visiting the London mandir have written back to thank the mandir 's volunteers and divulged that the arti tRajbhog drti at 11: 15 am.) was the most delightful and memorable moment of their visit.




  Acknowledgements xxi
  Foreword xxvii
  Introduction xxx
  Part I  
  Mandir Rituals  
  Introduction 1
1 Mandir (worship shrine) 3
  Mandir 3
  What purpose does a mandir serve? 3
  What is the need for building large mandirs? 4
  Pramukh Swami Maharaj on purpose of mandirs 5
  Mandir - A Living Form of the Divine 6
  Mandir - Metaphysics & Subtle Concepts 8
  Unique features of a Swaminarayan Mandir 8
  Why should we wash our hands after removing shoes outside a mandir, home shrine or touching our feet? 10
  Why do people ring a bell on entering a mandir? 10
  How to offer reverence to deities 11
  Why do devotees take care not to turn their backs to deities on exiting a mandir? 11
  Why do some people hold their ears in front of the deity? 12
  What is the significance of singing prabhatiya? 12
  Why do people clap while singing bhajans and dhun? 12
  Why do some devotees touch a mandir’s steps while climbing and then touch their heads? 13
2 Prana Pratishtha (Image consecration) 15
  Murti purification 15
  Prana pratishtha rites 18
  Shaligram and Shivlings 19
  Mysterious energy infused in objects 19
3 Murti Puja (Image worship) 21
  Murti Puja 21
  Evidence of the Divine’s manifestation in murtis 23
  Bhagwan’s murti puja 25
4 Puja (Worship ritual) 27
  Puja 27
  Bhagwan’s puja 27
  Why is there a need for a murti? 28
  Guru’s murti puja 28
  Need for a guru 28
  Puja ritual 29
  Shodshopchar Puja 30
  Why are incense sticks burnt during puja rituals? 31
  Puja dravyas 32
  Types of offerings (naivedya) 34
  Puja on other occasions 34
5 Mahapuja (Grand worship ritual) 37
  History of Mahapuja 37
  Glory of Mahapuja 39
  Legacy 40
  Mahapuja rituals 40
6 Arti (Waving lighted wicks) 43
  Arti - ritual & sentiments 43
  Bell, drum and conch shell sounded during arti 44
  Water from a conch-shell sprinkled around the arti 45
  Money in the arti when ‘taking’ aska 45
  The prescribed manner for performing arti 46
  Arti in the Swaminarayan sampraday 46
7 Prasadam (Sanctified offerings) 49
  Factors influencing the types of prasadam 50
  Types of prasadam in Hindu tirths 50
  Shaiva shrines 50
  Vaishnav shrines 51
  Prasadam in the Swaminarayan sampraday 53
  Traditional prasadam during utsavs in BAPS Swaminarayan mandirs 54
  Prasadam in the major shrines of India (in pictures) 54
8 Abhishek (Bathing murtis) 61
  Neelkanth Varni Abhishek 63
  Abhishek during murti prana pratishtha 65
  Anantakalashasnapanam in Bochasan 65
9 Patotsav (Murti consecration anniversary utsav) 69
10 Satsang sabha (Congregational spiritual gathering) 71
  Glory of satsang 71
  Importance of the satsang sabha 72
  Contribution of the satsang sabha to society 74
  Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the Gunatit successors on satsang 74
11 Parayan (Extended spiritual discourse) 77
  Origin 77
  Parayan traditions 77
  Parayans in northern India 78
  Parayan in the Swaminarayan sampraday 79
  Part 2  
  Bhakti Rituals  
  Introduction 83
12 Navdha Bhakti (Nine forms of devotion) 85
  (1) Shravanam 86
  (2) Kirtanam 87
  (3) Smaranam 88
  (4) Padsevanam 89
  Seva performed in mandirs (in pictures) 90
  (5) Archanam 91
  (6) Vandanam 92
  (7) Dasyam 93
  (8) Sakhyam 93
  (9) Atmanivedanam 94
  Four other important forms of bhakti 95
  Navdha bhakti and instant spiritual strength 95
13 Utsavs (Festivals) 97
  Celebrating utsavs 97
  Utsavs in the Swaminarayan sampraday 103
  The Hindu Calendar and Seasons 105
  Major Calendrical Utsay Rituals (in pictures) 106
14 Maha Kumbh Mela (Grand pitcher gathering) 117
  Origin 117
  Glory 118
  Ardh Kumbh mela 119
15 Yagna (Ritual of the sacred fire) 121
  Yagna - meaning & sentiments 121
  Yagna ritual 121
  Types of yagnas and their meanings 124
  Foremost sentiment of yagna 126
  Bhagwan Swaminarayan and yagnas 127
  Yagnas in the BAPS Swaminarayan sampraday 127
16 Dan (Donation) 129
  Glory in the shastras 129
  Purpose of dan 130
  Types of dan 131
  Donor’s sentiments 133
  To whom should one donate? 134
  Spiritual injunctions 136
  Foremost sentiment 137
17 Maanta (Personal pledges) 139
  Maanta 139
  Forms of maanta 139
  Types of problems 141
  Maanta in BAPS Swaminarayan sanstha 141
18 Tirth Yatra (Pilgrimage) 145
  Purpose of tirth yatra 145
  Origin of tirths 146
  Types of tirths 148
  Preparations for yatra 148
  Tirths of Sanatan Dharma 149
  Rituals at the tirth 151
  Ultimate tirth yatra 154
  Padyatra to Ambaji 156
  Yatra to Sabarimala 158
  Swaminarayan sampraday’s tirths in Gujarat (map) 159
  Passion for yatra on a scooter 159
19 Grahan (Eclipse) 161
  Origin 161
  Dan (donation) 163
  Shraddh (homage ritual for ancestors) 163
  Punya (merit) 164
  Solar eclipse celebrated in Kurukshetra 164
  Lunar eclipse celebrated in Kashi 165
  Effects 166
20 Janmangal Namavali Paath (chanting 108 divine names of Bhagwan Swaminarayan) 169
  Part 3
Home Rituals
  Introduction 179
21 Shilanyas (foundation-stone laying ritual) 181
  Marjanam 182
  Khata Devata pujan 182
  Shilanyas ritual sequence (in pictures) 183
22 Vastu Puja (Home inauguration) 185
  Origin of Vastu 185
  Vastu puja ritual 186
  Sankalp 186
  Dhruva puja 186
  Gruha pravesh (entering the house) 187
23 Ghar Mandir (Home shrine) 189
  Ghar mandir 189
  Functions of a ghar mandir 189
  Choosing a location for the ghar mandir 190
  Maintaining purity of the ghar mandir 190
  Murtis in the ghar mandir 191
  Murtis in BAPS ghar mandir 192
  Pramukh Swami Maharaj on the ghar mandir 192
  Why is the ash of burnt incense (agarbatti) in ghar mandirs, usually sprinkled in a river or water body, rather than disposing it with garbage? 193
  In which direction should a ghar mandir be located in a new house? 193
  What should a family do if it is unable to afford a ghar mandir? 193
24 Ghar Satsang Sabha (Family spiritual discourse) 195
  Ghar satsang sabha 195
  Holding a ghar sabha 195
  Benefits of ghar sabha 196
  Case Stories 197
  Pramukh Swami Maharaj on ghar sabha 197
25 Padharamani (Home visits by sadhus) 199
  Bhakti ritual during padharamani (in pictures) 201
26 Bal Samskaras (Child nurture) 203
  Example better than advice 203
  Importance of vernacular 204
  Pramukh Swami Maharaj on bal samskaras 206
  Part 4
Personal Rituals
  Introduction 211
27 Ashtang Yog 213
  (1) Yam (self-restraint) 214
  (2) Niyam (external and internal purity) 217
  (3) Asana (postures) 219
  (4) Pranayama (control of prana with breath) 220
  (5) Pratyahar (withdrawal of senses from their objects) 221
  (6) Dharana (concentration) 222
  (7) Dhyana (meditation) 222
  (8) Samadhi (transcendental realisation) 222
28 Nitya Puja (Daily worship) 225
  Nitya puja 225
  Nitya puja performed in the morning 226
  Personal Nitya puja 227
  Murtis in nitya puja 227
  Sequence of nitya puja 227
  What should one do during meditation? 230
  Arrangement of murtis 230
  Nitya puja in light of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s teachings 232
  Personal nitya puja and of the ghar mandir 233
  Nitya puja in illness and old age 234
  Maintaining purity of the puja 234
  Daily deed after nitya puja 234
  The benefits of nitya puja 234
  Nitya puja - varied facets and sentiments  
  Why should one face north or east during puja? 236
  Tilak-chandlo 236
  Origin of tilak-chandlo in the Swaminarayan sampraday 237
  Benefits of tilak-chandlo 237
  Mantra 241
  Mala 244
  Why do some people wear the mala around the neck? 246
  Pradakshina (circumambulation) 247
  Pranam 249
  Prarthna 251
  Pramukh Swami Maharaj on nitya puja 253
  Reading Shikshapatri 254
  If feelings are more important than the actual rituals themselves, then what is the need for performing such rituals? 255
  Why is a morning bath preferable rather than one in the evening? 257
  What should one chant while bathing? 259
  Why is it important to wear a dhoti during puja? Candles during puja rituals? 260
  What is the first prayer after awakening? 260
  How should one place or face flowers and leaves in front of the deities? 261
  Rituals, flowers and leaves offerable to deities 262
  Why is the lotus sacred? 264
  What is the importance of a shankh (conch shell)? 266
  What are shaligrams and why are they sacred? 268
  Unlike the usual murtis of Bhagwan, why are Shivlings and Shaligrams without arms or legs? 270
  Why is sindur and oil offered to Hanumanji? 270
29 Kanthi (Beads worn around neck) 273
  Kanthi 273
  Types of wood for kanthi 273
  Kanthi of two strings in the Swaminarayan sampraday 274
  Vartman (diksha) ritual 274
  Receiving vartman 275
  Wearing a kanthi in the absence of the Param Ekantik Satpurush 276
  Kanthi in other sampradays 276
30 Sixteen Samskaras [Rites of passage (sacraments)] 279
  Meaning of samskaras 280
  Purpose of samskaras 280
  Bhagwan Swaminarayan and samskaras 281
  Pre-natal samskaras 281
  (1) Garbhadhan (conception) 281
  (2) Pumsavan (engendering a male issue) 282
  (3) Simantonnayan (ritual during first pregnancy) 282
  Childhood samskaras 284
  (4) Jatakarma (birth rituals) 284
  (5) Namkaran (name-giving) 285
  (6) Nishkraman (first outing) 286
  (7) Annaprashan (first feeding) 286
  (8) Chudakarma (chaul) (first shaving of head) 287
  (9) Karnavedh (piercing earlobes) 288
  Educational samskaras 288
  (10) Vidyarambh (learning the alphabet) 288
  (11) Upanayan (yagnopavit) (sacred thread initiation) 288
  (12) Vedarambh (beginning Vedic study) 290
  (13) Keshant (godan) (shaving the beard) 290
  (14) Samavartan (end of studentship) 290
  Vivah samskaras 291
  (15) Vivah (marriage) 291
  Concept of atma in marital discord 296
  A married woman’s 16 shangar (ornamentation) 297
  Vivah rituals  
  Vag Dan (betrothal) 299
  Lagna patrika (marriage invitation) 300
  Kankotri (kumkum patrika) invitation 300
  Mandap muhurt 300
  Ganesh matli 303
  Gotraj pujan 303
  Mindhal bandhan 303
  Grah shanti 303
  Pithi vano (haridralepan) 304
  Sanji/Prabhatiya 305
  Ukardi (besadvi/uthadavi) 305
  Jan prasthan 306
  Jan swagat 306
  Samaiyun 306
  Ponkhanu 306
  Mahyaru 307
  Madhu parka 308
  Nyas 308
  Antarpat 308
  Pani graham (hastamelap) 308
  Agni parikrama (circumambulating the sacred fire) 309
  Saptapadi (seven steps) 310
  Kansar 311
  Saubhagyavati 311
  Dhruva puja 311
  Mah matlu, Kanya viday 312
  Ponkhanu 312
  Kumkum pagla 312
  Untying the chheda-chhedi knot 312
  Mrityu samskaras 314
  (16) Antyeshti samskaras (death rites) 314
  Agni samskara 315
  BAPS sadhus performing antyeshti rites of a devotee (in pictures) 316
  Antyeshti rites in sacred places (in pictures) 317
  In calamities 318
  Asthi sanchayan 319
  Sutak 319
  Sajja (shayya) 321
  Antyeshti samskaras of ascetics 323
  Conclusion 323
31 Shraddh (Offerings to ancestors) 325
  Shraddh 325
  Types of shraddh 326
  Offerings and rituals 327
  Sacred places for shraddh 328
  Why should shraddh be performed? 329
32 Vrat - Upavas (Vows and Fasts) 331
  Ideals of diet purity in the Upanishads 343
  Ahimsa (non-injury) 345
  Pap karma (sin) 345
  Tamasic foods 345
  Rajasic foods 347
  Sattvic foods 347
  Four types of doshas (impurities) 347
  Diet purity in the kitchen 349
  Diet purity in the home shrine 351
  Personal diet purity 352
  Diet purity relative to time and seasons 356
  Conclusion 360
  How should a Hindu observe vegetarianism? 360
  Why do some people join their palms in pranams or press their palms on their chest before and after having a meal? 361
  Why should we not eat or drink anything which has been eaten or drunk by somebody else? 361
  Part 5
Ritual Symbols
  Introduction 363
34 OM 365
  Origin of OM 366
35 Swastik 369
  Swastik’s cosmic origin 369
  Swastik in rituals 370
  Swastik in other cultures 371
36 Charanarvind (Lotus-feet of Paramatma) 375
  16 auspicious symbols on Bhagwan’s lotus-feet 375
  16 auspicious symbols on Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s lotus-feet 376
  Why are Bhagwan’s charanarvind venerated so highly?  
37 Purna Kumbha (Pitcher) 379
38 Kalash (Sacred pot) 381
39 Deep (Lighted wick) 383
40 Tilak (Sacred mark) 385
  Tilaks in various sampradays 385
  Tilak in the Swaminarayan sampraday 386
  Importance of tilak 386
  Scientific reason for tilak on forehead 386
  Materials for tilak 387
  Cultural traditions 387
  Effects of tilak 388
  Types of tilaks (74 of 255) 388
41 Miscellaneous Symbols 389
  Chakra 289
  Gada 389
  Yantra 390
  Shri Yantra 391
  Shri 391
  Shri Sava 392
  Shubh - Labh 392
  Trishul 392
  Five dots 392
  Afterword 393
  Introduction 399
1 Miscellaneous FAQs 400
  What are the fundamental principles of Sanatan Dharma? 400
  How should one do darshan of deities in a mandir? 400
  Ten practical tips for better darshan 400
  Why is Ganesh offered pujan first in any Hindu ritual and venture? 403
  Why is durva offered to Ganeshji? 403
  Why are tulsi, bili (bael) and akado offered to Vishnu, Shivji and Hanumanji, respectively? 403
  Why is the tulsi sacred? 405
  Why is the peepal tree sacred? 406
  What is the importance of rudraksh? 407
  Why do Hindus offer coconuts in rituals 408
  Why is the spopari used in rituals? 410
  What is the significance of sadhus and samnyasis begging alms for bhiksha? 411
  Why do sadhus wear saffron robes? 411
  Why do we touch the feet of sadhus? 412
  How should a student respect his teachers? 412
  What is the purpose of a shikha (choti)? 414
  Why do we do namaskar instead of shaking hands when we meet somebody? 415
  Why should we not let our feet touch books? 416
  Why don’t we blow out candles and cut cakes during birthdays? 416
  What is bhog/thal? 417
  Instead of cutting a red ribbon, how should  
  Hindus inaugurate a dwelling? 417
2 Table of sacred plants and trees and their use in rituals 418
3 Daily rituals of BAPS Swaminarayan followers 419
4 The sadhu tradition in the Swaminarayan sampraday 420
5 Vegetarian delights for students 422
  Minimum utensils Spices 422
  Ten golden culinary tips 422
  Simplified five-step vaghar 424
  Swaminarayan Khichdi 425
  Vegetable pulao Vegetable shak (sabji) 425
  Spiced pongal Vegetable paunwa 425
  Veg. delights for students (table) 426
  Mixed veg. soup Rab Potato bhajiya 428
  Kadhi (buttermilk curry) 429
  Veda of potato and paunwa 429
6 Farari foods (in pictures) 431
7 Nine reasons why Gujarati food is awesome, by Sanjeev Kapoor 432
  Glossary 434
  Bibliography 442
  Index 452


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