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In almost every Indian home a lamp is lit daily before the altar of the Lord. In some houses it is lit at dawn, in some, twice a day  at dawn and dusk  and in a few it it is maintained continuously (akhanda deepa). All auspicious functions commence with the lighting of the lamp, which is often maintained right through the occasion.

Light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness, ignorance. The Lord is the „Knowledge Principle“ (chaitanya) who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge. Hence light is worshiped as the Lord himself.
Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness. Also knowledge is a lasting inner wealth by which all outer achievement can be accomplished. Hence we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth
Why not light a bulb or tube light? That too would remove darkness.. But the traditional oil lamp has a further spiritual significance. The oil or ghee in the lamp symbolizes our vaasanas or negative tendencies and the wick, the ego. When lit by spiritual knowledge, the vaasanas get slowly exhausted and the ego too finally perishes. The flame of a lamp always burns upwards. Similarly we should acquire such knowledge as to take us towards higher ideals.

When we light the lamps we chant the following:
    Deepajyothi parabrahma

    Deepa sarva tamopahaha

    Deepena saadhyate saram

    Sandhyaa deepo namostute

Most Indian homes have a prayer room or altar. A lamp is lit and the Lord worshipped each day. Other spiritual practices like japa (repetition of the Lord's name), meditation, paaraayana (reading of the scriptures), prayers, and devotional singing etc is also done here. Special worship is done on auspicious occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, festivals and the like. Each member of the family — young or old — communes ws with and worships the Divine here.

  • The Lord is the entire creation. He is therefore the true owner of the house we live in too. The prayer room is the Master room of the house. We are the earthly occupants of His property. This notion rids us of false pride and possessiveness.
  • The ideal attitude to take is to regard the Lord as the true owner of our homes and us as caretakers of His home. But if that is rather difficult, we could at least think of Him as a very welcome guest. Just as we would house an important guest in the best comfort, so too we felicitate the Lord's presence in our homes by having a prayer room or altar, which is, at all times, kept clean and well-decorated.
  • Also the Lord is all pervading. To remind us that He resides in our homes with us, we have prayer rooms. Without the grace of the Lord, no task can be successfully or easily accomplished. We invoke His grace by communing with Him in the prayer room each day and on special occasions.
  • Each room in a house is dedicated to a specific function like the bedroom for resting, the drawing room to receive guests, the kitchen for cooking etc. The furniture, decor and the atmosphere of each room are made conducive to the purpose it serves. So too for the purpose of meditation, worship and prayer, we should have a conducive atmosphere — hence the need for a prrayer room.
  • Sacred thoughts and sound vibrations pervade the place and influence the minds of those who spend time there. Spiritual thoughts and vibrations accumulated through regular meditation, worship and chanting done there pervade the prayer room. Even when we are tired or agitated, by just sitting in the prayer room for a while, we feel calm, rejuvenated and spiritually uplifted.


Indians greet each other with Namaste .  The two palms are placed together in front of the chest and the head bows whilst saying the word namaste. This greeting is for all –„ people younger than us, of our own age, those older than friends, even strangers and us.

  • There are five forms of formal traditional greeting enjoined in the shaastras of which namaskaram is one. This is understood as prostration but it actually refers to paying homage as we do today when we greet each other with a namaste.
  • Namaste could be just a casual or formal greeting, a cultural convention or an act of worship. However there is much more to it than meets the eye. In Sanskrit namah + te = namaste. It means — I bow to you — my greetings, salutationsons or prostration to you. Namaha can also be literally interpreted as “na ma„ (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one's ego in the presence of another.
  • The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. When we greet another, we do so with namaste , which means, “may our minds meet,„ indicated by the folded palms placed before the chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending friendship in love and humility.
  • The spiritual meaning is even deeper. The life force, the divinity, the Self or the Lord in me is the same in all. Recognizing this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we salute with head bowed the Divinity in the person we meet. That is why sometimes, we close our eyes as we do namaste to a revered person or the Lord — as if to look within. The gesture is often accompanied by words like “Ram Ram„, “Jai Shri Krishna„, “Namo Narayana„, “Jai Siya Ram„, “Om Shanti„ etc “ indicating the recognition of this divinity.
  • When we know this significance, our greeting does not remain just a superficial gesture or word but paves the way for a deeper communion with another in an atmosphere of love and respect.


     Indians prostrate before their parents, elders, teachers and noble souls by touching their feet. The elder in turn blesses us by placing his or her hand on or over our heads. Prostration is done daily, when we meet elders and particularly on important occasions like the beginning of a new task, birthdays, festivals etc. In certain traditional circles, prostration is accompanied by abhivaadana, which serves to introduce one-self, announce one's family and social stature.
     Man stands on his feet. Touching the feet in prostration is a sign of respect for the age, maturity, nobility and divinity that our elders personify. It symbolizes our recognition of their selfless love for us and the sacrifices they have done for our welfare. It is a way of humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This tradition reflects the strong family ties, which has been one of India 's enduring strengths.
     The good wishes (Sankalpa) and blessings (aashirvaada) of elders are highly valued in India .. We prostrate to seek them. Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good wishes springing from a heart full of love, divinity and nobility have a tremendous strength. When we prostrate with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and blessings of elders which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive the energy thus received.
     The different forms of showing respect are :

  •  Pratuthana — rising to welcome a person.
  •  Namaskaara — paying homage in the form of Namaste
  •  Upasangrahan — touching the feet of elders or teachers.
  •  Shaashtaanga — prostrating fully with the feet, knees, stomach, chest, forehead and arms touching the ground in front of the elder.
  •  Pratyabivaadana — returning a greeting.

     Rules are prescribed in our scriptures as to who should prostrate to whom. Wealth, family name, age, moral strength and spiritual knowledge in ascending order of importance qualified men to receive respect. This is why a king though the ruler of the land, would prostrate before a spiritual master. Epics like the Ramayanaand Mahabharata have many stories highlighting this aspect.


     Is it to wake up the Lord? But the Lord never sleeps. Is it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to be told, as He is all knowing. Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct? It is a homecoming and therefore entry needs no permission. The Lord welcomes us at all times. Then why do we ring the bell?  

     The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om , the universal name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness.  

     Even while doing the ritualistic aarati, we ring the bell. It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of the conch and other musical instruments. An added significance of ringing the bell, conch and other instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardour, concentration and inner peace.

     As we start the daily ritualistic worship (pooja) we ring the bell, chanting the Mantra:  

     Aagamaarthamtu devaanaam
     gamanaarthamtu rakshasaam  
     Kurve ghantaaravam tatra
     devataahvaahna lakshanam

     I ring this bell indicating
     the invocation of divinity,
     So that virtuous and noble forces
     enter (my home and heart);
     and the demonic and evil forces
     from within and without, depart.


The ash of any burnt object is not regarded as holy ash. Bhasma (the holy ash) is the ash from the homa (sacrificial fire) where special wood along with ghee and other herbs is offered as worship of the Lord. Or the deity is worshipped by pouring ash as abhisheka and is then distributed as bhasma.

    Bhasma is generally applied on the forehead. Some apply it on certain parts of the body like the upper arms, chest etc. Some ascetics rub it all over the body. Many consume a pinch of it each time they receive it.

    The word bhasma means, „that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered“. Bha implied bhartsanam („to destroy“) and sma impliessmaranam („to remember“). The application of bhasma therefore signifies destruction of the evil and remembrance of the divine. Bhasma is called vibhuti (which means „glory“) as it gives glory to one who applies it and raksha (which means a source of protection) as it protects the wearer from ill health and evil, by purifying him or her.

    Homa (offering of oblations into the fire with sacred chants) signifies the offering or surrender of the ego and egocentric desires into the flame of knowledge or a noble and selfless cause. The consequent ash signifies the purity of the mind, which results from such actions. Also the fire of knowledge burns the oblation and wood signifying ignorance and inertia respectively. The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with the body and become free of the limitations of birth and death. This is not to be misconstrued as a morose reminder of death but as a powerful pointer towards the fact that time and tide wait for none.

    Bhasma is specially associated with Lord Shiva who applies it all over His body. Shiva devotes apply bhasma as a tripundra (the form of  ). When applied with a red spot at the center, the mark symbolizes Shiva-Shakti (the unity of energy and matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe).;
     Bhasma has medicinal value and is used in many ayurvedic medicines.. It absorbs excess moisture from the body and prevents colds and headaches.. The Upanishads say that the famous Mrityunjaya mantra should be chanted whilst applying ash on the forehead.

    Tryambakam yajaamahe
    Sugandhim pushtivardhanam
    Urvaa rukamiva bhandhanaan
    Mrytyor muksheeyamaa amrutaat

     „We worship the three-eyed Lord Shiva who nourishes and spread fragrance in our lives. May He free us from the shackles of sorrow, change and death effortlessly, like the fall of a rip brinjal from its stem.“

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We make an offering of food to the Lord and later partake of it as Prasaada — a blessed food. In our daily ritualistic Pooja (worship) too we offer Naivedyam (offerings) to the Lord.

     The Lord is omnipotent and omniscient. Man is a part, while the Lord is the totality. All that we do is by his strength and knowledge alone. Hence, what we receive in life as a result of our actions is really his alone. We acknowledge this through the act of offering food to him. This is exemplified by the Hindi words „tera tujko arpan“– I offer what is Yours to You. Thereafter, it is akin to his gift to us, graced by his divine touch.

     Knowing this, our entire attitude to food and the act of eating changes. The food offered will naturally be pure and the best. We share what we get with others before consuming it. We do not demand, complain or criticise the quality of the food we get. We eat it with cheerful acceptance (prasaada buddhi).

     Before partaking our daily meals, we first sprinkle water around the plate as an act of purification. Five morsels of food are placed on the side of the plate acknowledging the debt (Runa) owed by us to the Divine forces - (Devta runa) for their benign grace and protection, our ancestors (Pitru runa) for giving us their lineage and a family culture, the sages (Rishi runa) as our religion and culture have been „realised“, aintained and handed down to us by them, our fellow beings (Manushya runa) who constitute society without the support of which we could not live as we do and other living beings (Bhuta runa) for serving us selflessly.

    Thereafter the Lord, the life force, who is also within us as the five life-giving physiological functions, is offered the food. This is done with the chant.

    praanaaya swaahaa,
    apaanaaya swaahaa,
    vyaanaaya swaahaa,
    udaanaaya swaahaa,
    samaanaaya swaahaa,
    brahmane swaahaa

    After offering the food thus, it is eaten as Prasaada — blesssed food.

     Most devout Hindus fast regularly or on special occasions like festivals. On such days either they do not eat at all, or eat once or take a special diet of simple food.

     Fasting in Sanskrit is called Upavaasa. Upa means „near“ + vaasa means „to stay“. Upavaasa therefore means staying near (the Lord), meaning the attainment of close mental proximity with the Lord.

Then what has upavaasa to do with food?

     A lot of our time and energy is spent in procuring food items, preparing, cooking, eating and digesting food. Certain food types make our minds dull and agitated. Hence, on certain days one decides to save time and conserve his energy by eating either simple, light food or totally abstaining from eating so that his mind becomes alert and pure. The mind, otherwise pre-occupied by the thought of food, now entertains noble thoughts and stays with the Lord. Since it is a self-imposed form of discipline it is usually adhered to with joy.

     Also every system needs a break and an overhaul to work at its best. Rest and a change of diet during fasting is very good for the digestive system and the entire body. The more you indulge the senses, the more they make their demands. Fasting helps us to cultivate control over our senses, sublimate our desires and guide our minds to be poised and at peace.

     Fasting should not make us weak, irritable or create an urge to indulge later. This happens when there is no noble goal behind fasting. The Bhagavad-Gita urges us to eat appropriately — neither too less nor too much — Yukta-Aahaara and to eat simple, pure and healthy food (a Saatvik diet) even when not fasting.

     First of all what is a Kalasha?

     Kalasha is a brass, mud or copper pot filled with water. Mango leaves are placed in the mouth of the pot and a coconut is placed over it. A red or white thread is tied around its neck or sometimes all around it in a intricate diamond-shaped pattern. The pot may be decorated with designs. Such a pot is known as a Kalasha.

     When the pot is filled with water or rice, it is known as Purnakumbha representing the inert body, which when filled with the divine life force gains the power to do all the wonderful things that makes life what it is. A Kalasha is placed with due rituals on all-important occasions like the traditional house warming (Grihapravesa), wedding, daily worship etc. It is placed near the entrance as a sign of welcome. It is also used in a traditional manner while receiving holy personages.

     Why do we worship the Kalasha?

     Before the creation came into being, Lord Vishnu was reclining on His snake-bed in the milky ocean. From His navel emerged a lotus from which appeared Lord Brahma, the creator, who thereafter created this world.

     The water in the Kalasha symbolizes the primordial water from which the entire creation emerged. It is the giver of life to all and has the potential of creating innumerable names and forms, the inert objects and the sentient beings and all that is auspicious in the world from the energy behind the universe. The leaves and coconut represent creation.

     The thread represents the love that „binds“ all in creation. The Kalasha is therefore considered auspicious and worshipped. The waters from all the holy rivers, the knowledge of all the Vedas and the blessings of all the deities are invoked in the Kalasha and its water is thereafter used for all the rituals, including the Abhisheka.

     The consecration (Kumbhaabhisheka) of a temple is done in a grand manner with elaboratede rituals including pouring of one or more Kalashas of holy water on the top of the temple. When the Asuras and Devas churned the milky ocean, the Lord appeared bearing the pot of nectar, which blessed one with everlasting life.

     Thus the Kalasha also symbolizes immortality. Men of wisdom are full and complete as they identify with the infinite Truth ( Poornatvam). They brim with joy and love and respect all that is auspicious. We greet them with a Purnakumbha („full pot“) acknowledging their greatness and as a sign of respectful and reverential welcome, with a „full heart“.

     The concept of time is cyclical in Hinduism and not linear as it is in the West, where there is a beginning and an end.

     According to the Vishnu Purana (1.3 & 6.3), the four Yugas or eras are Satyug (1,728,000 years),  Tretãyuga (1,296,000 years), Dwãpara (864,000 years) and Kaliyuga (432,000 years).

     At the end of the final era, namely Kaliyuga, the cycle repeats itself, beginning again with Satyuga. So that's why Hinduism is believed to be eternal or Sanãtana Dharma. Also, since it was revealed by God, who is eternal, Hinduism is also eternal - hence the name Sanãtana Dharma.

Source: Hinduism FAQ, ISBN:978-81-7526-698-8