Sunday, March 27, 2011

What are Puja and Arati: Rituals at the Sivananda Ashram

What are Puja and Arati - Rituals in India

If you've ever visited any ashrams or temples in India you most likely have witnessed different forms of rituals. These rituals are usually called "puja." Puja is basically an act of worship. The waving of lights before a deity, which is part of a puja, is called "arati." But there is a lot more to it.

At the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai and in Neyyar Dam, where I did my yoga teacher training courses, we performed twice a day the arati. We did this at the end of each satsang (meeting with spiritually-minded people which might include meditation, chanting, and teachings).

But although we did it every day I actually had no idea what it really meant. I'm sure I was not the only one.

So to get out of the ignorance I decided to write a short explanation based on what I found in the Sivananda Chanting book, and in one of the Swami Sivananda's books.

But first, you might like to watch the video below of a beautiful Devi Puja, closing with the Arati, that we did at the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai.

It is not always like this at the Sivananda Ashram. This was a special day where the ashram director decided to do a puja to bring some positive energy into the ashram.

The performance of pujas, aratis, and kirtan (chanting) are all part of Bhakti Yoga, one of the four main paths of yoga.

Bhakti yoga is the devotional path that leads the spiritual aspirant to Self realization through the use and control of his/her emotions, directing them towards the Divine.

It is especially suitable for those who are of a devotional or emotional temperament. That's why these rituals form part of a normal ashram life where an integral approach to yoga is taught, like at the Sivananda Ashram.

What is Puja?
(Summary from "Bhakti and Sankirtan" by Swami Sivananda)

"Puja is worship of the Lord and is the common term used for ritual worship. This act of worship helps the devotee to "sit" near the Lord or to commune with Him.

It purifies the heart and steadies the mind. It fills the mind with Suddha, Bhava and Prem or pure love for the Lord. It gradually transmutes men into a Divine being.

The object of worship is the Ishta Devata or guiding Deity, or the particular form of the Deity whom the devotee worships, such as Vishnu or in His forms as Rama, Krishna, Shiva or Devi. For a Christian it could be Jesus or Mary."

What is Arati?
(Extract from the Sivananda Ashram Chant Book)

"Lights are waved while mantras are chanted. This denotes that the Lord is Jyoti Swarupa (whose real form is light). The devotee says: O Lord! Thou art the Light in the sun, moon and fire. Remove the darkness in me by bestowing your divine light. May my intellect be illumined

Lighting of camphor denotes that the individual ego should melt like the camphor and the Jivatman (individual soul) should become one with the Supreme Lights of Lights

Prasad is the sacred offering of the Lord. The devotee offers sweet, rice, fruits and other such articles. After offering them to the Lord they are shared among the devotees. The mental Bhava (attitude) is very important."

The dedication song

This is my favorite part of this puja. It is chanted at the end of the video.

Tvameva Mata Ca Pita Tvameva
Tvameva Bandhusca Sakha Tvameva
Tvameva Vidya Dravinam Tvameva
Tvameva Sarvam Mama Devadeva

Oh God of Gods, Thou alone are my mother, father, relative, friend, learning, wealth and everything

Kayena Vaca Manasendriyairva
Buddhyatmana va Prakritessvabhavat
Karomi Yadyat Sakalam Parasmai
Narayanayeti Samarpayami

Whatever actions I perform with my body, speech, mind senses, intellect, my nature or my emotions, all these I dedicate to the Supreme Lord.

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1 comment:

  1. You explain very well about puja and aarti. thank You for such a kind information.