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This book treats two representative Hindu rituals of contemporary India, Puja (offering service) and Samskara (initiation rituals at important occasions of life). Samskara rites are performed at significant junctures of an individual's life, from birth to death, by the individual's family. Puja rites, rather than being performed in relation to the life cycle of an individual in a family, are more deeply related to the annual rituals of the cult to which an individual or the person's family belongs. Persons may go to a temple and request priests to perform Puja rites, or they may perform them themselves at home.
This book presents a large number of photographs so that readers are able to gain an accurate grasp of them.
This book treats tow representative Hindu rituals of contemporary India Puja (offering service) and Samskara (initiation Rituals at important occasion of life) Samskara rites are performed at significant junctures of an individual’s life from birth to death by the individual’s family. Puja rites rather than being performed in relation to the life cycle of an individual in a family are more deeply related to the annual rituals of the cult to which an individual or the person’s family belongs. Persons may go to a temple and request priests to perform Puja rites or they may perform them themselves at home.
For people living in India Puja and Samskara are not at all uncommon. Puja rites are performed everywhere at temples in private homes on street corners and Samskara rites have declined in number almost all Hindu Families still perform the major Samskara. It is difficult however for those living outside India to know how these rites are performed. Hence this book presents a large number of photographs that enable readers to gain an accurate grasp of them.
I define religion as a form of purposive action performed with consciousness of the distinction between the sacred and the profane. Religious activity may be broadly divided according to the goal aimed at into two kinds (I) that which as its goal the spiritual well being of the individual and (2) that which has the purpose of enabling the group or the society to operate smoothly.
The Samskara rites treated in this book belong to the category of group religious activities Puja rites also originally belonged to this category but in later times came to possess the aspect of individual religious cultivation for the purpose of the person’s spiritual well being.
Individual religious activity is frequently performed by individuals but it is not limited to activities performed alone. Group religious activity is supported by the group but it is common for individual religious activity to be included. An example is the case in which the acts performed by saints for their own spiritual salvation become the kernel for a festival held as the group religious activity of those gathered around such saints.
Individual and group religious activities are relatively clearly split in Buddhism and Hinduism. Religious activity centered on individual activity for departing from transmigration in the world of ignorance and aiming at the attainment of spiritual beatitude (emancipation, nirvana) is accomplished by those who have renounced house-holding life. Originally, Buddhism was for such a group, and acts for extinguishing afflicting passions and attaining nirvana were only possible for monks who had abandoned family and the social life of the locality. Hinduism provided different laws (dharma) for those who had families and maintained positions within the society and nation, as opposed to those who renounced house-holding life. Marriage, criminal and commercial laws were not necessary for those who renounced worldly life and endeavored in individual religious activity. Especially in India, distinction was made between those who sought emancipation from the world of transmigration and those who sought such this-worldly benefits as honor, power, and wealth. It is possible to label these two kinds of action world-negating and world-affirming. In India, they were called quiescence (nivrtti) and advance (pravrtti). Yoga practitioners and monks chose the former way of life, warriors and merchants the latter.
With regard to individual religious action, the sacred indicates that which is lofty and pure: Buddha, god, enlightenment, salvation and so on. With regard to group religious activity, it indicates the dead, angry spirits, holy days, sacred sites, and so on. On the other hand, the profane, in terms of individual religious activity, is that which is to be negated through religious cultivation: unenlightened human existence, ignorance, afflicting passions, and so on. In terms of group religious activity, it is the everyday: the living, ordinary days, ordinary houses, and so on. Thus, the meaning of the sacred and the profane differs depending on the category of religious activity.
The difference between individual religious activity and group religious activity may be illustrated as follows..
In illustration (I), there are three configurations of rectangles. The rectangle placed above represents the realm of the sacred, the two below, the realm of the profane. When the profane begins to move toward the sacred, the sacred has yet to manifest itself to the profane in a way apprehensible to it, and there is only a medium possessing the direction from the profane to the sacred (I a). At the moment there is a manifestation of the sacred, there appears a medium possessing the direction from the sacred to the profane (I b). After there has been a manifestation of the sacred, then just before, there exists a medium possessing the direction from the profane to the sacred, and at the same time, there is also a medium from the sacred to the profane. Hence, as seen in (I c), from the moment after reaching stage b, two vectors possessing different directions are present.
In [1 a] and [I c], the upward arrow is slanted; this indicates that the medium includes temporal succession. In (I b) and (I c) the downward arrow is vertical; this expresses the temporal immediacy of the medium. However, in Buddhism, particularly Mahãyana Buddhism, it is more accurate for the rectangles indicating the sacred and the profane to overlap, as in illustration [II], to express the sacred imminent in the profane.
On the other hand, in religions in which group rites are the medium (group religions), the profane, which is a state without tension or impurity, needs no rites for purification. These are ordinary conditions when there are no occasions of tension such as death, birth, and marriage (illustration [III a]). However, once event such as a relative’s death occurs, the ordinary condition of the profane changes and a condition of the sacred harboring tension arises. This condition of the sacred has become impure through death. In this case, in the sacred it self there is the impure. It is the sacred because it has the power to give rise to awe (illustration [III b]). Concerning funeral rites, each relative’s individual, subjective religious practice is performed separately, and when a of days have passed after death, the impure condition arising because of death is purified through the power of the rites [III b]. Here, the direction in the vector from the impure to the pure becomes unnecessary and disappears. The vector that has ceased to possess direction becomes a directionless quantity; in terms of religious cultivation, it is powerless and must vanish. Hence, the medium that has lost the direction from the impure to the pure cannot sustain itself further. In this Way, in place of a sacred that had harbored a tension between the impure and the pure the ordinary profane is born a second time [III a’]. This condition continues until another event of some kind occurs or until a specified day. In this form of religious activity, even though persons may actively participate in a rite, they participate according to the customs of the group to which they belong, and their own daily life (the individual’s realm of the profane) is nor reflected on or negated. Here the movement from the profane to the sacred does not occur through the negation of the subjective self but arises through an outside even in which sacred time place and even are specified. In such a case the vector is directed only within the sacred (for example from the impure to another direction of the sacred that is the pure) and nor from the profane to the sacred.
These two forms of religious activity individual and group are the original forms of the structure of religion and almost all religious posses them together as two aspects. How these two forms coexist differs according to the specific religion. An example of religion in which the two are held in balance in Tantrism including both Buddhist and Hindu versions. In Tantrism the first form individual subjective cultivation takes the form of group religious activity and becomes ritualized and at the same time form this second from of religion ancient initiation ceremonies sexual rites blood and bone rites Shamnism etc. individual elements are absorbed into the organized doctrinal system and regarded as internalized rites.
One of the most popular Hindu rituals to felicitate the sacred is called Sodasa upacara puja (worship Service in Sixteen Steps). This paper illustrated the sodasa-upacara-puja performed in Catuhsrngi temple Poona, Maharashtra, India on the morning of the twenty seventh of August 1981.
Every religion is characterized by the distinction between the sacred and the profane. These two poles are not isolated points at the edges of the universe since a dynamic relationship exists between them. The profane violates the territory of the sacred whiel the latter wants to distinguish itself from the former. As long as the power or function of the profane remains the sacred has difficulty in a appearing in the world. that is in order for the sacred to manifest itself the profane has to be destroyed. The two religious poles are thus found in such an unsympathetic relationship that each denies the existence of the other. We know however that the profane makes desperate efforts to approach the sacred. It is through the power of rituals or practices that the dynamic relationship between the two poles becomes possible. Rituals is a form of human action in which the profane is trying to obtain the power of the sacred.
One of the commonest forms of such human action found in India is puja (worship, offering). The term Puja derives from the root puj to make offering. That which is offered is one of the indispensable elements of puja. The materials to be offered in puja are various. A great number of animals such as buffalos and goats are offered even today and it was reported that human flesh was offered in some parts of India as happened elsewhere. Nowadays however in most Indian temples water, fruits, flowers, and the like are offered. What is offered in pujas is not necessarily corporeal or tangible for devotees often offer their minds to the gods.
Offering is made not only in puja but also in other types of religious actions. For example in homa sacrifice which should be distinguished from Puja Material such as ghee and rice cakes are offered to fire. Offering which comprises the world of the profane is the most basic means adopted by humans to enter into relationship with the sacred. Let us note here that offerings are determined to be destroyed or “killed.” In Kathmandu, a huge number of buffalos and goats are slain on the days of the Durga püja. The ghee (clarified butter) and rice-cakes offered in homa sacrifice are consumed by fire. When water, fruits, flowers, and the like have been offered in puja, they no longer belong to the world of the profane. When those things such as flowers and fruits are offered to the sacred or to its image, their religious value is changed. That offerings are destined to be destroyed implies that the profane must “die” to obtain “rebirth.”
Offerings such as animals are substitutions for humans who act as the sacrifice’s. By killing animals on the altar, humans experience a symbolic death, since the animals “die” in place of humans. By giving part of their property to others, those who perform rituals show to the sacred that they are lessening their power, even if they are not actually sacrificing their lives.
Another basic aspect of puja is that it must possess that to which offering is made.’ Offering is always made to someone or to something. The blood of scapegoats is offered to the terrifying Goddess Durgã. In the $o4oia-upacàra-pfijd (Worship Service in Sixteen Steps), materials such as water, flower, and garments are generally offered to deities. Usually it is to a divinity that offering is made. We need not discuss here whether the offering is made to the image of a divinity or to that which is symbolized by the image. In our system, however, it would be safe to designate ‘that to which the offering is made’ as the sacred. That to which the offering is made does not necessarily have a concrete image. A püjä can be performed even to a particular kind of atmosphere, if the atmosphere is believed to have sacred power.
Having bought offering materials such as flowers and fruits at the gate of a temple, people come to the main hail, and ask the priests to perform puja. In temples, pujas are usually performed by priests. Those who perform püjas, however, need not be priests, for the head of each Hindu family is supposed to worship gods daily. A patron and his wife participated in performing the worship in sixteen steps in Nagesvar Temple (see Appendix I).
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