Hindu Of Universe

“God’s light is within you, It never leaves you.”

Holy Powders & Pastes

Hinduism is a religion of ceremonies and rituals.

The elaborate ceremonies consist of many religious products.

Holy powders and pastes form an integral part of any Hindu pooja.

The most commonly used powders and pastes are :


The traditional Kumkum or Kungumam(in Tamil Nadu) is made from dried turmeric.

The turmeric is dried and powdered with a lime/lemon giving the rich red colored Kumkum or Roli.

Kumkum is used as a “Tilak” for Hindu Gods and also by Hindu males.

Kumkum, which is made from the turmeric powder is an auspicious symbol.

Kumkum is applied to the forehead of a visiting girl or married woman as a sign of blessing and respect.

However, it is not offered to widows.

Men wear the mystic central kumkum dot as a mark of spiritual intelligence and also during religious ceremonies.

Historical aspect of Kumkum
In the ancient Puranas like “Lalitha Sahasranamam” and “Soundarya Lahari“, the practice of using kumkum on the forehead has been mentioned.

Legends talk about Radha turning her kumkum into a flame like design.

Practices Associated with Kumkum
According to ancient beliefs, the sixth chakra called “Agna” is present in the area between the eyebrows.

This chakra is said to be the seat of concealed wisdom, command and concentration. During meditation, the latent energy (“Kundalini“) rises from the base of the spine towards the head.

This “Agna Chakra” is the probable outlet for this strong energy.

The red kumkum between the eyebrows is said to retain energy in the human body and control the various levels of concentration.

Kumkum represents intellect and is a symbol of auspiciousness and happiness in the family.

It also denotes “Soubhagya” (good fortune) when used by Indian women denoting that their husbands are alive.

A widow never wears kumkum. Kumkum is also not worn during mourning.

Pooja Bells (Ghanta/Ghanti)

The Bell, known in Sanskrit as the Ghanta/Ghanti is used in all poojas for invoking the Gods.

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.

Another significance of ringing the bell is that they help drown any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardor (dedication), concentration and inner peace.

In mandirs (Hindu temples) aarti is performed daily by pujaris (priests).

There is usually a ‘mangala-arati’ first thing in the morning, another later in the morning, one at lunchtime, and the final aarti of the day at sundown.

Devotees sing various types of kirtana and bhajans during the aarti ceremony.

The pujari performing aarti first purifies his hands with sacred water from the acamana cup.

He then sprinkles three spoonfuls of water over a conch, and blows it three times.

He then lights an odd number of incense sticks (usually three) from a ghee lamp standing beside the altar.

While ringing a small bell, he waves it seven times around the deities, and then he waves it once to the assembled devotees.

The fine combination of pure brass and bronze produces a harmonious and rich tonal sound when rung by hand while singing the Aarti or even chanting traditional Mantras for worship.

Prayers or Pooja of any kind on any occasion are incomplete without the joyous sounds and chanting of Bell.

We chant this mantra when we ring the bells :
Agamaarthamtu 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.

Betel Leaf

Botanical Name: Piper betel Linn.
Family: Peperaceae, The Betel Leaf Family
Indian Name: Paan

The betel leaf enjoys the pride of place among all the accessories of a traditional Hindu pooja thali.

The betel leaf denotes freshness and prosperity.

Betel leaves or the tambool, which comprises betel leaf, betel nut and lime, marks the beginnings of all auspicious events.

Betel leaf is an evergreen perennial, with glossy heart-shaped leaves and white catkin inflorescence, and grows to a height of about 1 metre.

The Betel plant originated in Malaysia and now grows in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

The best Betel leaf is the “Magahi” variety (from the Magadha region) grown near Patna in Bihar, India.

Since antiquity, Betel leaf is much more popular in India than in any other country of the world.

This would be evident from the numerous citations laid down in the ancient Indian scriptures.

In these citations, significance of the leaves has been explained in relation to every sphere of human life including social, cultural, religious and even day-to-day life, which is very much relevant even today.

For example, a well-prepared betel quid is still regarded as an excellent mouth freshener and mild vitalizer, routinely served on the social, cultural and religious occasions like marriage, religious festivals, etc.

Medicinal benefits
Betel leaves are stimulant, digestive, carminative, anti flatulent, anti inflammatory, invigorating, anti phlegmatic, pain reliever.

In Ayurvedic medicine, they are used as an aphrodisiac. In Malaysia, they are used to treat headaches, arthritis and joint pain.

In Thailand and China, they are used to relieve toothache. In Indonesia, they are drunk as an infusion and used as an antibiotic.

They are also used in an infusion to cure indigestion, as a topical cure for constipation, as a decongestant and as an aid to lactation. In India, they use betel to cast out (cure) worms.

Betel Nut

Botanical Name: Areca Catechu Linn.
Family: Arecaceae/Palmaceae, The Palm Family
Indian Name: Supari

The betel nut is an integral part of the daily or ritualistic Pooja.

It is also popularly used in the age old-custom of Indian eating.

The supari is symbolic of the nut of the ego that must be offered on the altar of God.

It represents the hard, coarse qualities that must be surrendered to God, leaving only the soft, pure qualities.

Mostly symbolic the Supari is many a times traditionally represented as the Nine planets (in the Navgrah Pooja) and takes the form of Deities like Brahma, Surya and others during different Poojas.

The betel nut can also represent a human being.

In Maharashtra, the wife’s presence is must at important religious rituals.

But if she is away or dead, a betel nut wrapped in a cloth can represent her.

In Bengal, betel nut is believed to carry magical properties.

it is placed under the pillow at night so that the sleeping person can see his future in dreams.

Betel nuts are believed to increase prosperity and they are tied to the pandal, the grinder, the pounding stone, large utensils and the bridegroom’s clothes.

In North-West India, milk and cooked rice is offered to the village deity when betel nut trees are planted.

This is called Deonar pooja.

In Vikrampur, Goddess Bhagawati is worshipped as a mark of respect for the betel nut.

Medicinal benefits
Betel nut, also known as Pinang or Areca nut, is the seed of the Betel Palm (Areca catechu).

Betel nuts are often chewed for their helpful effects, which are caused by the relatively high levels of alkaloids in the seed.

Chewing betel nuts is an important and popular cultural activity in many Asian countries including India.

Powder of betel nut is used as a constituent in some tooth powders.

Other medicinal uses include the removal of tapeworms and other intestinal parasites by swallowing a few teaspoons of powdered betel nut, or by taking tablets containing the extracted alkaloids.


Botanical Name: Cocos nucifera Linn.
Family: Arecaceae/Palmaceae, The Palm Family

In India one of the most common offerings in a pooja thali is a coconut.

It is also offered on occasions like weddings, festivals, before using a new vehicle, bridge, house etc.

The breaking of coconut before God coaxes us to break the hard nut of our ego before God.

‘Nariyal’ or ‘Kopra’ is a symbol of good luck and prosperity.

Every auspicious work begins with the breaking of the coconut and the giving of ‘Nariyal’ is a traditional ritual.

Types of Coconuts

  • Eka-akshi Coconut : These are one-eyed coconuts. This type of coconut is offered especially to Devi Lakshmi.
  • Dvi-akshi Coconut : These coconuts have two eyes on their surface.
  • Nir-akshi Coconut : These are coconuts without any eye on it.
  • Green Coconut : Green coconut is placed on an earthen pot (kalasha) full of water, adorned with mango leaves and a coconut on top is worshipped on important occasions and used to receive revered guests.
  • Laghu Coconut : Laghu coconut is a small supari sized, three eyed coconut. Laghu coconut is known to bestow wealth and all comforts of life on the individual who offers it to the deity.

Coconut is offered in the sacrificial fire whilst performing homa.

The coconut is broken and placed before the god.

It is later distributed as prasada.

It is offered to please the god or to fulfill our desires.

There was a time when animal sacrifice (bali) was practiced.

Slowly this practice faded and the coconut was offered instead.

The fiber covering of the dried coconut is removed except for a tuft on the top.

The marks on the coconut make it look like the head of a human being.

The coconut is broken, symbolizing the breaking of the ego.

Tender coconut water is used in abhisheka rituals it is believed to bestow spiritual growth on the seeker.

The coconut also symbolizes selfless service.

Every part of the tree – the trunk, leaves, fruit, coir etc.

is used in innumerable ways like thatches, mats, tasty dishes, oil, soap etc.

It takes in even salty water from the earth and converts it into sweet nutritive water that is especially beneficial to sick people.

It is used in the preparation of many Ayurvedic medicines and in other alternative medicinal systems.

Desi Ghee/Clarified Oil

Desi Ghee holds its position of purity in nearly all the Hindu pooja rituals.

In Hindu mythology, Prajapati/Brahma, created Ghee by rubbing or “churning” his hands together and then poured it into fire to engender his progeny.

So, whenever the Vedic rituals are performed, the pouring of Ghee into fire symbolises a re-enactment of creation.

According to the Vedas, Ghee is the purest substance obtained from the purest Hindu animal – the cow.

Dating as far back as 1500 BC the Rig Veda comprised of hymns that were sung in praise of Ghee.

Desi Ghee is used in Hindu temples to light diyas (Lamps) and to prepare the sacred food, or Prasad.

This exalted status of ghee makes it not only a sacred and pure, but also a very expensive food, enjoyed only by the rich in the past.

The age old study of Ayurveda considers it “the golden oil” of life, some believe that it puts us at a high level of health risk.

Desi Ghee Preparation
Desi ghee is made by slowly melting butter or cream that has been collected over a period of days.

When the butter is heated (110-120°C), there is a lot of frothing, which consists mainly of proteins (casein), impurities and the sediment of non-fat milk solids.

When practically all the water evaporates the milk solids in the butter sink to the bottom, and the clear liquid on top is poured off and used in cooking.

Because the milk solids are removed from the clarified butter, it can be used at higher cooking temperatures than unclarified butter, and it will also keep longer.

Also called drawn butter or anhydrous butter fat, desi ghee does not rancid as readily as butter and can be stored unrefrigerated for several months.

Camphor (Kapur/Kapoor)

Botanical Name: Cinnamonum camphora
Family: Lauraceae, The Laurel Family

Camphor is a white transparent waxy crystalline solid with a strong penetrating pungent aromatic odor.

It is a terpenoid with the chemical formula C10H16O.

It is found in wood of the camphor laurel (Cinnamonum camphora), a large evergreen tree found in Asia (particularly in Borneo); it can also be synthetically produced from oil of turpentine.

It is used for its scent, as an embalming fluid and for medicinal purposes.

It has calming properties.

Puja kapoor has a unique place in the Hindu ritual of traditional Pooja or any other festive or customary occasion.

The camphor that is burnt has a special quality and naturally has a special meaning.

It is pure white in colour, and when it is burnt it takes on the hue of agni (fire), and it burns itself out completely, without residue.

Lighting camphor before God symbolises that if we burn our illusion or ego with the fire of true knowledge, we shall merge with the God, leaving no residue.

Medicinal Benefits
Camphor has excellent medicinal properties.

It protects against many diseases in the hot climate that pervades most of India.

According to Homeopathy, the camphor and other aromatic substances purify the atmosphere and when the devotees place their palms over the Aarti and bring the palms to their eyes and nose, they absorb the medicinal benefits.

The kapoor aarti, lasts for a very short while and thus it signifies the short span of human life and the physical, sensual pleasures, which come of attachments caused by Avidya or Agynana.

Thus, Aarti inspires the devotee to seek God who is permanent. Since the Aarti is short lasting, it compels the devotee to focus his attention on the God.

Havan Samagri

The Havan Samagri is very sacred and each item is significant.

Puja Samagri normally consists of a mixture of sandalwood powder, lobaan and ghee.

Other essential ingredients are :

  • Agarbatti (Incense Sticks)
  • Dhoop (Incense)
  • Roli (Colored powder)
  • Gangajal (Holy Water)
  • Mauli (Sacred Thread)
  • Kapoor (Camphor)
  • Laung (Clove)
  • Elaichi (Cardamom)
  • Mishri (Crystal Sugar)

The process of eradicating inner imperfections prevalent in our being is called havan. This process has all the healing techniques incorporated in it beautifully.

It is a rare combination of accupressure, touch healing, meditation, psychiatry, knowledge and wisdom.

Rituals involved in every Havan
The common rituals for every havan are as follows :

  • Pavitra Dharanam & Prarthana
  • Achamanam & Siromarjanam
  • Sthala Shuddhi
  • Mahaganapati Puja
  • Kalasha Puja
  • Sri Bhagavati Bhagavan Pooja
  • Agni Pratishtapanam, Dhyanam & Agni alankaranam
  • Sankalpam
  • Pradhana homa
  • Jayadi homa
  • Purnahuti homa
  • Pradakshinam, Namaskaram & Prasthanam

Havans are age-old sacred rituals to invoke and propitiate various deities using the sacred fire as a medium for the attainment of various wishes and boons in the materialistic and the spiritual world as well.

The sacred fire acts as a link between man’s consciousness and the cosmic consciousness.

A havan can achieve a number of things including :

  • Cleansing of the atmosphere
  • Cleansing of the physical and psychic bodies
  • Awakening of auspicious energies
  • Enabling mystical experiences
  • Invoking grace of God in our Lives

Havan is a scientific procedure, which is associated with the science of mind and soul. This science was realised by our great rishi-munis or seer scientists in Vedic times, through their mind power.

Honey (Madhu)

Honey is a sweet and viscous fluid produced by honeybees from the nectar of flowers. Honey is an integral part of traditional pooja thali.

Honey symbolizes the sweetness of eternal love, purity and prosperity.

During the pooja ritual, honey along with milk, tulsi and yogurt is poured on the idols.

Honey is used to prepare Madhu-parka – a beverage made of honey, sugar, and milk is offered to the deity.

The Sanskrit word for honey is “madhu.” 

In Hindu mythology, the gods Vishnu, Krishna and Indra were called Madhava (the nectar-born ones) and their symbol is the bee. 

Kama, the Indian god of love, carries a bow strung with bees indicating that love’s sweetness can also cause pain.

Medicinal Benefits
Honey is, in fact, almost pure sugar.

About 40 percent by volume is fructose, a simple sugar, which turns into glucose without any digestive change whatsoever and makes honey the quickest source of energy.

An additional 34 percent is dextrose, 2 percent is glucose and 18 percent is water.

Indian Honey also contains significant amounts of minerals like B-complex vitamins, amino acids and digestive enzymes, but quantities fluctuate according to the composition of the plant from which the bees gathered their nectar.

One of honey’s most remarkable qualities is its hygroscopic nature.

This means that it absorbs moisture from the air or from any moisture-bearing material.

The most obvious result is that breads and cakes made with honey stay moist and chewy longer than confections made with sugar.

Honey is antiseptic because it destroys the water content in bacteria.

For centuries, honey was used to treat wounds and burns, and it is still sometimes employed as a surgical dressing.

Because honey helps the skin retain moisture, it is an excellent lotion and facial mask.

Painting oneself from head to toe with honey is an effective if messy way to combat dry skin.


Lamps are an integral part of Hindu pooja thali.

The earthen lamp or ‘diya’ is the most common, easily available and seen lamp.

Made on the potter’s wheel from clay, thousands of these are turned out every year for use by people.

A good diya has to be soaked in water before use.

The single diya is the most common lamp.

However, the potter often lets his imagination run riot to churn out different types of diyas.

Some are just attractive domes with openings to hold the lamp so that only the slight flickering can be seen while the dome protects it from wind.

Some are a bunch of five diyas – one in the middle, surrounded by four others.

Why do we light a lamp or diya?
Light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness symbolizes 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 achievements can be accomplished.

Thus, we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth.

Types of Lamps or Diyas
There are different types of lamps used for different purposes.

The lamp is considered a woman and is symbolic of Goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) and is referred to as Deepalakshmi.

Porcelain lamps shaped like diyas are also made these days, as are the ones in terracotta and clay.

Designer diyas hold a place of their own.

They come in all sizes.

The diya is held atop an elephant or a bankura (horse); there are hanging lamps in the shape of pigeons or birds wherein the chain is hooked onto the bird’s beak and the body of the bird houses the place for filling oil or wax.

An Aarti diya, used at the time of prayer, is different from the one used to light the sanctum sanctorum.

The Aarti diya usually has a handle attached to it for holding it.

The arrangement of the lamps is also artistic and varies according to place and occasion.

These are either placed in circles or in rows.

Lamps, thus, play an important role in everyday life in India.

Lighting a lamp near a Tulsi plant is a ritual followed by people almost all over the country.

Diwali, essentially a Festival of Lights, is all about lamps lighting up life and chasing away darkness.

Lighting a lamp in a house is believed to bring prosperity, plenty and abundance to the family.

Electricity has not been able to replace the traditional and emotional significance of a humble lamp in the lives of the people of India.


In Sanskrit, Panchagavya means the blend of five products obtained from cow. 

Panchagavya is made from five products of the cow — its dung, urine, milk, ghee and curd.

Since ages Panchagavya is being used by Hindus in traditional rituals.

The uses and healing properties of different components of Panchagavya are :

  • Cow Dung : Cow dung is anti-septic. It has anti-bacterial and fungicidal action. Thus a filtrate of the suspension made by thoroughly mixing cow dung and water forms one of the main ingredients of skin ointments, which are useful in serious skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and gangrene.
  • Cow Urine : The Cow ‘s urine, which is being sold under the label ‘Gift of the Cow’, is well known for its medicinal property. Cow’s urine has been described in Ayurveda as a therapeutic agent.
  • Cow Milk : According to Ayurveda, cow milk provides special and unique nutrition that cannot be derived from any other type of food. Cow milk, when digested properly, nourishes all the tissues, promotes balanced emotions, and helps to balance all the doshas. It is one of the most important foods to promote Ojas (the force that maintains life).
  • Cow Ghee : In Ayurveda, cow’s Ghee is believed to be the best for human consumption. It is full of nutritive qualities and an ideal diet for these heart patients who suffer due to excessive cholesterol in their blood. Its regular consumption enhances physical and mental strength, keeps the body healthy and increases the potency of the body. It is not only nutritive, but also helps in taking out the impurities from the body. It enhances eyesight, keeps muscles and tendons healthy, and bone sturdy yet supple.
  • Curd/Dahi : Curd is a byproduct of cow milk. The Sanskrit name is for curd is dahi. All the leading practitioners of Ayurveda, including Charaka and Sushruta, have written on its qualities and usefulness. It is considered as one of the most wholesome food items throughout the world. Curd has its therapeutic value in many diseases. It has been described as a tonic and is credited with the properties that prevent premature aging. Curd also brings relief to patients of diarrhoea and dysentery and is recommended in chronic specific and non-specific colitis.

Panchagavya is also a traditional method, used to safeguard plants and soil micro-organisms and to increase plant production.

Panchagavya application is found to be more profitable than recommended fertilizer application and chemical spray.

The modified versions of panchakavya (unique liquid organic fertilizer) used for organic farming have been standarised by experimental trials.

Akshat/Rice grains (Chawal)
Akshat means unbroken rice grains, which are offered to gain wealth and prosperity and it is offered to the deities by chanting this mantra :

“Akshtaashcha Surshreshtth Kumkumaaktaah Sushobhitaah.

Mayaa Niveditaa Bhaktyaa Grihaann Parameshwar.”

The unbroken rice grains also symbolize steadfastness and firmness of the brain and are also a symbol of peace.

The rice grain without the husk, called Akshat, is a kind of grain that does not germinate.

One cannot grow rice plants by seeding this type of rice.

Symbolically it means that rice is the last birth.

By offering this in Pooja one should strive to live life in such a way that at the end of this life one will be liberated and not born again.

Hand Spun Flower Garland
These are beautiful hand-spun hand-woven garlands made of natural flower and fibers like cotton, wool, etc. are an integral part of the decoration of the Idols of any God or Goddess that is routinely followed while doing pooja.

Panchpatra & Pali (Charanamrit Set)
Panchpatra and pali set (also called Charanamrit set) is made of solid brass and is an integral part of poojas where the holy charan amrit is placed before the deity at the beginning of the pooja and then distributed upon its completion. The Charanamrit literally means Amrit (Holy Nectar) from the Charan (Feet of the Lord) of the deity being worshipped and is partaken as a sacred offering or a holy gift after the completion of the Pooja.

This is an integral part of any festive ritual or a Pooja. You can perform the daily Aarti or Pooja with this decorative wick-lamp holder in which you can light five wicks placed in oil or ghee. Having multiple wicks instead of a single wick enables the image of God being worshipped to be illuminated completely.

Cotton is used to make cotton wicks while lighting the lamp (Nandadeep, Niranjan or any other) and is thus, the most integral part of the daily or any other festive Pooja. Another usage of this packet of cotton is as a symbolic form of clothing. When the ritualistic “Abhishek” or ‘Snana’ of the deity is performed, a packet of cotton is offered as a symbol of clothing.

Sacred Red
Thread : Mouli or Kalawa is a cotton red thread roll, considered to be very sacred and used in all religious purposes of the Hindus.

The thread is used as an offering of cloth to the deity.

The Mouli thread is an integral part of any puja.

Normally the Mouli is tied around the Sadhana article, that is, Mouli is tied around a copper tumbler filled with water.

On its mouth five mango leaves are placed with a coconut in a red cloth over them.

This represents the shrine you are offering pooja and is known as “Kalash Sthapana“.

Next, before the start of the pooja, the red sacred thread is tied around the wrist of the members of the family.

As a rule, all males and married females wear it on the right hand.

Unmarried females wear it on their left hands.

Only the Brahmin females, both married and unmarried can wear it in their right hands.

The basic significance of wearing this thread is to get blessings from God.

This is also in important part of the Pooja custom and is used for decorative purpose and is applied as a ’tilak’ on the forehead of the Deity.

Haldi (Turmeric)
This is used as a decorative item and is primarily used for applying ’tilak’ on the forehead of the deity. Haldi is a very cleansing substance and represents the purifying of the thoughts to adorn the mind.

It is considered to be the most important part of Hindu culture to wear the sacred and auspicious white thread called Janeu/Janou.

It is mandatory and most important to wear the sacred Janeu/Janou while doing any Pooja or any act of devotion or worship.

A special ceremony called the Upanayan Sanskar is held wherein an unmarried boy is granted the Janeu and from then on can participate in every Vedic ritual.

If for some reason, this ceremony is not done during the childhood, it is mandatory to be held before marriage.

A Hindu male cannot get married unless he has worn the Janeu.

Dry Fruits
Various kind of dry fruits are used as offerings in pooja thali, which include almonds, cashews, walnuts, kismis & pista.


Vermilion/Sindoor is worn in the center parting of the hair by married Hindu women. Sindoor is made of sulfides of mercury or by cinnabar. Sindoor is applied to Hindu goddesses like Parvati, Lakshmi, Durga, etc. Sindoor stands for power and good fortune and is a sign of “Soubhagya” in the case of a married Hindu women.

Historical Aspect of Vermilion/Sindoor
The tradition of wearing sindoor or vermilion by Indian women dates back to 5,000 years. Excavations of female figurines from Mehrgarh, Baluchistan, have proved that vermilion was worn by women even in Harrappan times.

The use of sindoor has also been mentioned in the Puranas, Lalitha Sahasranamam and Soundarya Laharis. In the famous epic Mahabharata, Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, is believed to have wiped her sindoor in disgust and despair at the happenings in Hastinapur.

Practices Associated with Vermilion/Sindoor
During the marriage ceremony, Sindoor is applied for the first time to a Hindu woman by her bridegroom and is called the “Sindoor Dana” ceremony. Even in the ancient Aryan society, a bridegroom made a ’tilak’ mark on the bride’s forehead as a sign of wedlock. The present practice could be an extension of that tradition.

In traditional Hindu society, wearing sindoor is considered must for married Hindu women. It is a visible expression of their desire for their husbands’ longevity. Traditionally therefore, widows did not wear vermilion.

Mythological Explanations
The tradition of wearing vermilion/sindoor by married women has been explained with the help of mythology. According to the scholars, red is the color of power and vermilion represents the female energy of Sati and Parvati. Sati is considered an ideal Hindu wife because she gave her life for her husband’s honor. Hindus believe that Goddess Parvati grants “Akhand Soubhagya” (lifelong good fortune) to all the females who wear sindoor in their hair parting.

Physiological Aspect of Vermilion/Sindoor
Vermilion/sindoor is prepared by mixing turmeric-lime and mercury. Mercury controls blood pressure and activates sexual drive. Sindoor should be applied right up to the pituitary gland where all our feelings are centered. Thus, this also proves why sindoor is prohibited to widows.

Sandalwood (Chandan)

Sandalwood is an Indian plant that has an extraordinary fragrance. Sacred rituals are accompanied by offerings composed of the five elements: Earth is represented with sandalwood paste.

The paste is smeared on the foreheads of devotees of Vishnu and Shiva as a tilak or dot.

The sandalwood dot is meant to cool and protect the “Agna chakra” present between the eyebrows.

The fragrance of sandalwood is also said to be an aphrodisiac.

Sandalwood is commonly used for incense, religious ceremonies, aromatherapy, fragrance industry and fine woodworking.

Sandalwood is a not an ideal building material.

However, a few temples in India have been constructed by sandalwood and have retained the smell of chandan after centuries.

It is also used for making jewelry boxes, fans and ornate carvings.

In India, for centuries, the death pyre is made using sandalwood branches.

In Sri Lanka, since 9th century, the sandalwood paste was used to embalm the corpses of royal family.

Sandalwood, alongwith agarwood, is the most popular and commonly used incense material by the Chinese and Japanese in worship and various ceremonies.

Myths and Legends
Legend say that Lord Ganesha was created by Goddess Parvati – wife of Lord Shiva. Goddess Parvati created Ganesha out of sandalwood paste that she used for her bath and breathed life into the figure.

In Indian mythology, sandalwood tree is depicted as being entwined with serpents. Sandalwood remains aromatic and cool even when the poisonous serpent coils around it.

This portrays that the basic nature of an individual cannot change because of outer effects.

Botanical Description of Sandalwood

Botanical Name : Santalum album Linn.
Family : Santalaceae, The Sandalwood Family

The sandalwood tree is found in southern parts of India, Sri Lanka, Hawaii and a number of South Pacific Islands.

Tree Description
Sandalwood is a partial parasite that uses nutrients derived from hosts to grow.

Nearly 300 species of hosts have been found including grasses, herbs, shrubs and trees. Sandalwood is a small evergreen tree about 20 to 30 feet high with many opposite slender drooping branches and a smooth gray-brown bark.

Leaves are smooth and ovate in shape.

The light yellow colored wood is heavy and hard but splits easily.

The cross section of the wood shows alternating light and dark concentric zones which give a fair idea of the age of the tree.

Sandalwood has a persistent odor and a peculiar taste.

Sandalwood Flowers are small, numerous with short stalks.

The flowers are found at the top of the plant.

Sandalwood flowers twice very year from March to April and then from September to October.

Sandalwood Fruits are spherical, concealed and the size of a pea.

The fruit is crowned by rim-like structure.

It is smooth, fleshy and nearly black with single seed.

Cultivation and Production of Sandalwood/Chandan
Sandalwood is harvested by uprooting the entire tree. This way, the valuable wood from the stump and root can also be sold or processed for oil. The branches are worthless. The trunk is left on the ground for a few months so that white ants could eat away the worthless outer wood – sap wood. The stump is then trimmed and sent to saw mills. There it is trimmed again and graded(according to quality).

Indian sandalwood is an endangered species so its cultivation and production is under government control. Commercially valuable sandalwood has high levels of fragrance oils and is harvested at the age of 40. However, 80 years or an age above this is preferred. Inferior sandalwood produced from trees of 30 years can also fetch a decent price due to high demand for real sandalwood.

Uses of Sandalwood

 Sandalwood is has many uses like :


  • Sandalwood oil- Santalol is used in perfumery, both in India and Europe.
  • It has a characteristic sweet and woody odor and excellent blending properties.
  • In India, sandalwood oil is also used as a fixative for the manufacture of traditional attars such as rose attar because it has a large proportion of high boiling constituents.

Religious Use

  • The wood of Chandan is used for holy havans.
  • Incense from sandalwood has a calming effect and is conducive to clarity of mind. Thus, it is used for meditation.
  • Sandalwood paste is used in the ritual bathing of Hindu Gods.
  • The sandalwood paste is also used as a “Shringar” of Hindu Gods.
  • The sandalwood paste is smeared on the foreheads of devotees of Vishnu and Shiva as a dot or tilak. This paste cools the “Agna Chakra” and centers the concentration powers of an individual.


  • In Ayurvedic medicine, the wood is grounded with water to form a paste that is applied to the foreheads of people suffering from fevers.
  • The sandalwood paste is also mixed with coconut water and taken as a drink to decrease dehydration effects.
  • An infusion of sandalwood powder made with water or rose water is used to treat headaches, scorpion stings, dry skin, dermatitis, psoriasis, prickly heat and other skin conditions.
  • Sandalwood paste has also been used to treat warts and forms of skin cancer. Clinical trials are being carried out to investigate this.
  • The infusion has also been used as a deodorant and as a mouthwash to treat bad breath.
  • Oil from the heartwood is used as a skin lotion to treat itching and inflammatory conditions.
  • Sandalwood is mixed with honey, sugar and rice-water to treat digestive disorders.
  • The oil can be added to candles or burnt as incense in rooms with patients that have mental health problems or are very stressed as the perfume has a calming effect.
  • Sandalwood oil is used to relieve tension and stress and so is used in aromatherapy.
  • Santalol has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties.


  • Sandalwood oil is an expensive oil and is used in skin products. · It has moisturizing, astringent, antiseptic, balancing and stimulating properties.
  • Recommended for dry and aging skin, it can be blended with other plant-derived extracts in hair oils and body lotions.
  • The sandalwood paste is used for its cooling properties in case of skin burns.
  • The paste is used to decrease effects of skin tanning and blotching.
  • Sandalwood paste is also used to attain a clear, smooth and unblemished face.

Sandalwood is used for making carved figurines of Gods, Goddesses, mythological figures. Sandalwood is used for a variety of small carved articles such as boxes, cabinet panels, jewel cases, combs, picture frames, fan handles, pen holders and card cases etc.

Sandalwood is very valuable and so it is weighed in grams when being sold.

It has a fine texture and few knots in the wood.

It is the heartwood which is used most because of its long lasting smell.

The yellow or brown color gets darker with age.

Sandalwood sapwood is white or yellow and not scented, although it can still be made into craft objects.

A large amount of craftwork is exported or sold to tourists.

This provides an income for many people in India, who often form craft and trade co-operatives to support each other.

Different regions in India have distinct styles of carving.

For example, in Surat and Ahmedabad, carved leaves are a bit large and deeply cut, while in Mysore the leaves and branches are more delicate.

However, due to sandalwood being an endangered species, it is under Government control and so the carvings are strictly limited.

Miscellaneous Powders/Pastes

Ashtagandha is a mixture of eight fragrant herbs. Vedic talismans are written on Bhojapatra or Onion skin with a special ink. This ink is made of Ashtagandha herbs, 24 karat gold dust and Ganges water. It is said that the fragrance of Ashtagandha used to continuously emanate from the form of Lord Krishna.

Shrigandha is the fragrant paste of sandalwood. It is used to smear Hindu Gods as part of their bathing ritual.

Turmeric (Haldi Powder)

According to Vedic literature, turmeric usage in India dates back to nearly 4000 years when it was the principal spice and also of religious significance. Turmeric is a very important spice in India. India is also the biggest producer and uses about 80% of that produce. It is employed in some Hindu rituals, where the yellow color symbolizes the Sun or Maitreya.

Turmeric or Haldi is one of the most commonly used spice in South Asian cuisine.

 It has a peculiar fragrant odor, a bitter taste(like ginger) and colors the saliva yellow.

It is used as a holy paste in religious rituals, to add color to curries, as an antiseptic and as an anti-coagulant.

It makes a poor dye since it is not colorfast.

Another variety, known by as “white turmeric“, is consumed by Southeast Asians and is available from late spring to summer.

The rhizomes of white turmeric are lighter in color and have a pungent taste.

This turmeric is cooked, the young roots are also eaten raw or blanched, dipped in spicy sauces.

Ordinary Turmeric cannot be eaten as a vegetable because of its staining properties.

In Ayurveda, turmeric is said to have many medicinal properties.

In some Asian countries, it is taken as a dietary supplement to treat stomach and digestive problems.

In Okinawa, Japan, turmeric is popular as tea.

Botanical Description of Turmeric

Botanical Name : Curcuma longa Linn
Family : Zingiberaceae, The Ginger Family

Turmeric/Haldi is extensively cultivated in South East Asia. In India, the main trading center for Turmeric is Sangli in Maharashtra. Sangli is also the most important turmeric trading center in the entire world.

Turmeric Plant
Turmeric plant is a perennial plant which grows to a height of about 3 to 5 feet and has deep orange roots or tubers. The leaves are long, smooth uniform green and tapering at each end. Rhizomes or root tubers are powdered to obtain turmeric powder.

Turmeric Plant is a perennial plant which grows to a height of about 3 to 5 feet and has deep orange roots or tubers.

The leaves are long, smooth uniform green and tapering at each end.

Rhizomes or root tubers are powdered to obtain turmeric powder.

Propagation of Turmeric plant is done through root cuttings.

The cuttings have parallel rings with a yellow shade on the outside and reddish brown on the inside.

Composition of Turmeric
The turmeric plant contains a yellowish coloring matter called Curcumin, an acrid volatile oil, starch, chlorides of calcium, woody fiber and gum. The acrid oil is called turmerol and has an aromatic odor. Alkaloids of oxalic acid are also present that yield crystals of potassium oxalate.

Medical Research on Turmeric

For centuries, the ancient Indian texts have stated the almost magical qualities of turmeric. However, it is only in recent years, that the Western world has woken up to this ancient knowledge of the medicinal uses of turmeric. Research activity into Curcumin – the active ingredient of turmeric, has increased.

The following researches/studies have been undertaken to study the effects of turmeric and curcumin on the various diseases :

  • The U.S. National Institute of Health has four clinical trials underway to study curcumin treatment for pancreatic cancer, multiple myeloma, Alzheimer’s and colorectal cancer.
  • An experiment involving genetically altered mice suggested that curcumin might restrict the accumulation of destructive Beta amyloids in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and also break up existing plaques.
  • Recent studies have suggested that turmeric can be effective in fighting a number of sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea.
  • Investigations into the low occurrence of colorectal cancer amongst groups of people who eat turmeric in the curries as compared to people whose intake of turmeric is low has suggested that some ingredient of turmeric may have anti-cancer properties.
  • Several Research companies are studying the use of a curcumin cream for psoriasis(a skin disorder) treatment.
  • Recent reports suggest that turmeric slows the spread of breast cancer into lungs and other body parts.

Uses of Turmeric

Since ancient times, turmeric has been used as a traditional medicine and for beauty care.

In Ayurvedic system of Indian medicine, turmeric is an important herbal medicine prescribed for various diseases.

In fact, turmeric is even used in modern times to plug radiator leaks in water-cooled radiators.

The various uses of turmeric are as follows :

Food Additive

  • Turmeric is a mild aromatic stimulant used in in the manufacture of curry powders.
  • Turmeric is used in products that are packaged to protect them from sunlight.
  • The oleoresin component of turmeric is used for oil-containing products.
  • The curcumin solution or curcumin powder dissolved in alcohol is used for water containing products.
  • Sometimes in pickles and mustard, turmeric is used to compensate for fading.
  • Turmeric is also used for coloring cheeses, salad dressings, margarine, yoghurts, cakes, biscuits, popcorn, cereals, sauces, etc.
  • Turmeric also forms a substitute for mustard in the cattle feed.


  • Turmeric is used for treating digestive disorders.
  • Raw Turmeric juice is used to treat hyper acidity and indigestion.
  • The juice of raw turmeric also acts as a blood purifier.
  • Curcumin – an active component of turmeric, has anti-oxidant properties and so turmeric is used in alternative medicine.
  • Turmeric is used for cuts and burns as it is believed to have antiseptic effects and promotes healing.
  • Curcumin also has an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing histamine(hormone) levels.
  • The flouride present in turmeric is essential for teeth.
  • Turmeric also has a protective effect on the liver and also in atherosclerosis.


  • The juice of raw turmeric is applied to the skin as a paste, kept for around thirty minutes and then washed off. It adds glow to the skin.
  • It is an essential ingredient of the traditional bathing ritual of Indian marriages where it is applied along with sandal wood paste before the bath.
  • It is believed that regular bathing in water containing turmeric reduces growth of body hair.
  • Regular turmeric use is said to make the skin fair, soft and smooth.
  • Turmeric is used for spots caused due to pigmentation or blotches and also for diseases like eczema.

As a tester for Acids and Alkalies
Unglazed white paper is saturated with an alcoholic solution of curcumin. When dried, this paper is used for testing of alkalies, acids and boric acid.

  • Alkali and Acid Test : The paper turns red-brown with alkalies. This color becomes violet upon drying and the original yellow color is restored with acids.
  • Boric Acid Test : When the paper is dipped into a solution of boric acid, it turns orange-red. The color remains so even when it is moistened with free mineral acid. Paper that has been turned to orange by boric acid will assume a blue color when it is moistened with diluted alkali.

Miscellaneous Uses

  • Ayurveda states that turmeric is poisonous for crocodiles. So anyone swimming in crocodile infested waters should apply turmeric paste to protect himself.
  • Turmeric is also believed to ward off snakes and the presence of turmeric plants around the house acts as a barrier for them.
  • The turmeric paste is used in Indian medicine for snakebites.
  • The leaves of turmeric are said to act as mosquito repellents.
  • Turmeric is used as a coloring agent for filter paper used in scientific tests.
  • It has been recently discovered that in water cooled type of radiators, a spoonful of turmeric added to the water, plugs any leaks.


Mehndi/Henna is used as a temporary dye to artistically decorate hands and legs usually during a marriage ceremony or during festivals.

In India, Mehndi is said to be auspicious and considered a symbol of “Soubhagya” (good fortune).

Therefore, it is not applied to widows.

Mehndi and Henna are interchangeable names because they are applied to both the plant from which leaves are obtained and also to the body art.

Mehndi is used for coloring hair and for temporary body art.

It does not cause allergies. Mehndi when used coats only the dead cells of the upper layer of skin.

The depth of penetration depends on the duration for which the paste was left on the body.

The satin lasts longer if it is fully absorbed by the skin.

Another variety of Mehndi called Black Henna is also common in Middle East.

It is an artificial product created by the addition of Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) to natural henna to create a black stain.

This henna causes a lot of skin allergies and requires medical treatment.

Some historians and researchers believe that Mehndi originated in India. While others believe that it was brought to India by travelers from Middle East and North Africa. The illustrated Bodhisattivas and deities on the cave walls of Ajanta prove that Henna was part of the Indian culture in the 4th and 5th centuries.

Designs of Mehndi/Henna
Henna has been associated with special celebrations like engagements, weddings, the eighth month of pregnancy, the birth, the 40th day after a woman gives birth, naming ceremonies, festivals, etc.

Various designs are applied and they symbolize good health, fertility, wisdom, protection and spiritual enlightenment.

The Indian Mehndi styles involve fine, thin lines for floral and paisley patterns covering hands, forearms, shins and feet.

The Arabic styles are quite in fashion now and are usually large and floral.

Botanical Description

Botanical Name : Lawsonia inermis, Synonym Lawsonia alba
Family : Lythraceae, The Pomegranate Family

Mehndi is grown in India, Sudan, Egypt, Middle east countries and countries of North Africa. This plant thrives well in hot and humid climate.

Plant Description
Mehndi is medium sized shrub that sometimes takes a tree like shape and growth. It has many angled branches with opposite sharp pointed leaves.

Mehndi Flowers are small, white or pink in color, fragrant and grow in large bunches at the top of the shrub.

Mehndi Fruit is pea sized, small and round. It has many seeds.

Cultivation of Mehndi
The propagation of Mehndi is done through stem cuttings. Cuttings of henna are planted in June when the monsoons are about to arrive. The plant requires good water and fertilizer supply to grow. It can withstand high temperatures. Leaves are plucked thrice a year – May-June, August-September and December-January. The quality of leaves is very high initially and deteriorates with every picking.

Processing of Mehndi
Premium quality mehndi leaves are selected, cleaned and dried in shade. If the leaves are very dry, the powder obtained would be fine and will give a stronger shade of mehndi. Impurities like roots, sand, dust, weeds etc. make the quality of the powder inferior. Quality is also affected if the leaves are powdered before they are completely dry.

Henna Uses

Mehndi/Henna is mainly used for adorning hands and feet during weddings and festivals. It is considered auspicious and so is used on every happy occasion and festival.

Coloring Agent and Fragrance

  • The chief use of the Henna plant is for coloring palms, nails, feet, hair, beard.
  • Henna, mixed with other natural dyes, is largely used as hairdye and even for textiles.
  • The oil obtained from its flowers is used in perfumery.
  • The oil of the mehndi is also used to add color to the henna patterns.


  • The leaves of Mehndi are astringent and are used against skin diseases.
  • A brew of Mehndi leaves is used to gargle sore throat.
  • The paste of leaves is largely used in Indian homes in headache, burning sensation in feet, etc.
  • The leaves are said to have some action against tubercular and other bacteria, and in typhoid and haemorrhages. However, there is no evidence in support of this.


Vibhuti and Sindur, (or holy ash and kumkum) are found in just about every Hindu household around the world.

Men apply what is called a tilak and women apply what is called a bindi.

The use of colored powder and ash is essential to Hindus and the Indian culture as a whole.

They even call the god Shiva as “Digambar”; meaning clad-in-sky or clad in ashes.

It is not uncommon to see many priests and monks walking about India covered head-to-toe in ash.

Vibhuti is a very fine white ash substance made from burning a specific kind of wood during Agamic rituals.

Vibhuti plays an extremely special role for the followers of Shiva, unlike the other sects which use primarily kumkum or sandalwood paste.

Devotees of Shiva will either have three horizontal lines drawn on their foreheads or they will be covered entirely in ash.

The vibhuti is also used during rituals in temples for Shiva.

Sindur, or more commonly called Kumkum, is a red-vermillion shaded powder made from turmeric powder mixed with lime.

The acid in the lime causes the orange turmeric powder to turn a rich red when mixed and dried.

Sindur plays a much more important role in the lives of women in India as almost all of them will adorn a bindi.

Having sindur along the partition of a woman’s hairline indicates that she is married; women who are single simply where a single red dot and the widowed wear no bindi at all.

In temples and many people’s home shrines, vibhuti and sindur are applied to the foreheads and feet of the murtis.

Often devotees will touch the sindur covered feet of a murti and then use that sindur to apply a tilak or bindi.

The ash & powder are also used in other rituals in which they are liberally applied to smaller statues and the devotees’ foreheads’.

Often, guests at one’s home will have a tilak or bindi applied when they walk through the threshold as in Indian culture it is customary to literally treat their guests as though they were a statue in a temple.

Concept of Daily Puja or Worship in Hinduism 

I would like to quote a Sanskrit Shloka from Shrimadbhagwatam to start with –

ऋणैस्त्रिभिद्विजो जातो देवर्षिपितृणां प्रभो ।

यज्ञाध्ययनपुत्रैस्तान्यनिस्तीर्य त्यजन् पतेत् ॥ 10.84.39 ॥

The Shloka says that those who are twice-born or द्विज owe three types of debts they are supposed to repay during their lifetime.

These debts are Deva- rin ( देव-ऋण), Pitr rin (पितृ-ऋण) and Rsi-rin (ऋषि-ऋण).

If a Dvija leaves his body without repaying these debts he will fall down to hell.

Thus we can conclude that in Hinduism repayment of these debts is a must.

Let us understand how these debts are to be repaid —

1.  Deva- rin ( देव-ऋण)  or  Debts to gods – it is repaid by performing Yajnas यज्ञ.

2.  Pitr rin (पितृ-ऋण) or Debts to ancestors – it is repaid by begetting a son and performing Shraddha Karma (श्राद्धकर्म).

3. Rsi-rin (ऋषि-ऋण) or Debt to the sages – it is repaid by Svadhyaya or study of scriptures and Tapas (तप).  

Thus it can be easily established that certain obligatory duties have been coined for a Hindu just to ensure a perfectly stable social configuration.

Again the concept of four Purusharthas (पुरुषार्थचतुष्ट्य) the four pillars of Hinduism set the four goals of the life of a Hindu i.e. Dharma, Artha, Kaam and Moksha (धर्म,अर्थ,काम तथा मोक्ष ) also empower the theory of three debts.

Now let us come to the main topic – The necessity of performing Daily worship and rituals in Hinduism.

This is directly related to the first debt or Dev-rin ( देव-ऋण).

This can be easily understood with the fact that just after birth a child has easy access to everything made available by the Supreme being for fulfilling his needs.

This makes him indebted to the Gods which has been defined as Dev-rin.

We are obliged to repay this debt. This debt is to be repaid by simply performing various rituals and worship.

We are supposed to do daily worship or Puja so that no debt is accumulated. 

Now let us understand what is Puja.

Apte Sanskrit Hindi Dictionary has two words पूज् and पूजा having the same meaning – आराधना करना,सम्मान करना. In my view, the first one आराधना करना perfectly fits here as perfect Puja or आराधना is the act of awakening the indwelling spirit in our body.

This act is performed by offering Jalam or water, Pushpam or flowers, Chandan or sandal paste, Dhoop, Deep or lamp, Naivaidya and Japam (जप) or chanting mantra with a Japa Mala (Rosary) to the प्राणप्रतिष्ठित श्रीविग्रह or the idol which is made alive or charged one wishes to worship.

Daily puja is normally done at home.

On all the auspicious occasions or festivals, special puja is performed collectively in the temples.

For performing daily puja we follow various steps in seriatim.

These are called Upchar उपचार.

The Upchars may be Panchopachar or five, Shodashopachar or Sixteen and Chatushashtyopachar or Sixty-four in number.

Normally Shodashopachar system is used except for specific puja.

We need a set of different articles for offering these Upchars which are described here –

1.   Jal Patra with Achmani – Jal or water is essential for offering Padya, Arghya and Achman, the three Upachars to be offered at the beginning of Deity worship.

2.  Kalash – containing holy water with Ganga Jal is established at first hand almost in all the pujas. Cosmic powers of Varun Devata are invoked on it.

3.  Deepak – We light a Ghee or Mustard Oil Deepak (or lamp) up to the completion of the puja. Deepak symbolizes Agni Devata (Fire god) hence cosmic powers of Agni Devata are invoked in it.

4.  Ghanti or the bell – It activates the Raksha or saviour form of the deity normally used during Aarti.

5.   Shankh or Conch shell – Shankh is regarded sacred and very auspicious as Shri Vishnu holds it in one of His hands. To initiate religious ceremonies Conch shell is blown. During Aarti, Shankh is also blown along with other instruments. The vibrations from Shankh overpower evil forces and remove negativity. Now it has been scientifically proved that atmosphere is cleared of environmental pollution where Shankh is blown.

6.  Gandha – Sandalwood powder or paste and fragrant essence of Flowers. The nice fragrance activates the cosmic fragrance making the atmosphere spiritual.

7.  Dhoop – The Dhoop stick is also lit to emanate fragrance in the puja place and to purify the air.

8.   Kumkum or Roli – Is a red powder made from turmeric that symbolizes happiness and auspiciousness. Offered at the centre of the forehead of the deity and used as tilaka.

9.   Akshat – Mostly used mixed with Kumkum called Kumkumakshat. Unbroken rice grains are used in puja. Offering Kumkumakshat gives wealth and prosperity.

10.  Aarti – Another Deepak is used for offering Aarti to the Deity. Normally Ghee or camphor is used in Aarti. Sometimes Aarti with five wicks is used. This makes the place of puja full of divine consciousness and makes the atmosphere pure and auspicious.

11. Naivaidya Patr – This is a plate used for offering Prasadam to the deity. Later this Prasadam is distributed among the devotees after completion of the puja.

12. Panchpatra – Is a cylindrical Patr primarily used for keeping holy water to be used in Puja and Charanamrit of the deity to be distributed along with Prasadam.

13. Moli – Also known as Kalawa is a red and yellow cotton thread considered very sacred. It is used almost in all the pujas. First offered to the deity and later tied as Raksha around the wrist of the right hand of male members and generally the left wrist of female members.

14. Betel Nut and Betel Leaf – offered after Naivaidya to the deity for much Shuddhi.

15. Coconut – This is very auspicious used for Kalash. It is also offered at the end of puja to the Deity.

16. Dakshina – On completion of the puja Dakshina is offered to the deity as a symbol of respect.

From the above description, it can be easily understood the prevalence of Panch Tattvas the five elements in our daily puja.

As per our scriptures, our body and the whole universe are made up of these five elements viz. Water, Earth, Air, Fire and Akash.

We have used Water and Fire in the Kalash and Deepak.

Earth is worshipped while sitting on the Asana for puja in the beginning.

Air and Akash are present everywhere and worshipped by doing Pranayam at the beginning of Puja.

Thus we also worship these five elements in our daily worship.

The Puja – A Quintessential Part Of Hindu Worship

The Hindu pantheon rests heavily on its many and varied rites and rituals, which differ vastly among individuals, sects, casts, communities, villages and regions.

What makes Hindu rituals so special is that the religion offers many similar features too, which bind Hindus spread across the globe, amazingly linking them into a single unit, even influencing other major religions of the world.

Among the most notable of features is the clear demarcation Hinduism makes between purity and impurity.

This religion presupposes that every follower would have in him or her some degree of pollution or non-refinement, which would be overcome or at least minimized with the constant practice of these rites and rituals.

Avoiding impurity of mind, word and deed and purifying the self with holy water, is hence, one of the basic feature of Hindu rituals.

In Hindu culture, those who manage to sidestep temptations and follow the righteous path are accorded increased respect in society.

One other notable feature of this religion is the faith people have in the power of sacrifice and sacrificial or Vedic rituals.

These sacrifices include preparing a sacred space to conduct the ritual, recitation of Vedic texts and mantras and offering items to the ahuti or the sacred fire.

Yet another concept is that of earning punya or good Karma through acts of charity or good deeds, which, Hindus believe, will reduce their Karma and take them to a better world after their time on earth.

Hindu Worship

Hindus visit temples to conduct their religious worship.

But predominantly, Hindus consider home the best place to perform basic religious rites and rituals, on an everyday basis.

The religion stipulates various kinds of rituals one can conduct at various times of the day, especially during dawn and dusk.

 Of course, orthodox families may even engage in rituals more often.

In most households, especially those from South India, the women of the house wake up at dawn, take a bath and then draw auspicious designs on the floor of the doorstep, either using chalk or rice flour.

These designs are referred to as Kolams. In the North, they use colors to draw out these geometrical designs and term them as Rangolis.

Then comes the personal worship of the Gods installed in the family shrine.

This ritual involves performing a detailed puja, involving lighting the lamp, taking aarti, offering food before the images, reciting prayers and singing bhajans (devotional songs).

Very traditional Hindus recite from the Rig Veda, the Gayatri Mantra and offer prayers to the Sun at both dawn and dusk.

In rural areas, you can often find a huge group of people, mostly women, who get together for satsang (prayer and/or discourse) sessions, chanting hymns and singing in praise of their favourite gods.

Hindu men also offer a little water during their daily bath, in the memory of their ancestors who, they believe, bless and protect them and their families from all negatives.

At mealtimes, there are families who set aside a small portion to be given away to the needy.

Many also feed birds, especially crows, who are considered to be ancestors revisiting the household in this form.

These acts are believed to serve as good Karma which would protect both the followers and their families.

The basic tenet of Hinduism is bhakti or devotion to personal gods.

There is a lot of sectarianism among various Hindu communities, even within a single region.

Such sects may believe only in that one god and no one else.

Nevertheless, Hindus have a wide variety of gods to choose from and many Hindus opt to focus on their own ishta devata (beloved personal God), which may not necessarily conform to their religious sect’s views.

Hence most Hindus turn out to be polytheists, worshipping more than one single deity.

The most important aspect of Hindu worship – the Puja

The most important aspect of Hindu worship is the Puja (alternatively spelt as “Pooja”), which consists of a variety of ritual offerings and prayers to be performed as mentioned in the puja vidhi (protocol of worship as stipulated by the religion itself).

The worship may be in the form of a person or a symbol, representing the presence of the sacred divine.

The special significance of Hinduism is that it includes the worship of all the five Panchamahabhutas or the five elements of fire, water, earth, air and ether.

Taken together, the Panchamahabhutas constitute the physical, “macro” world and also exist within us all, within our own “micro” worlds.

Each of these Mahabhutas also corresponds to the five Indriyas (physical senses).  

While some Hindus conduct these pujas at home on an everyday basis, there are others who perform more elaborate special ceremonies at temples or rented halls, with the help of the resident or family priests, who are competent to carry out the detailed procedures.

The priests are treated as representations of the divine and are given offerings and gifts at the end of the ritual.

Those witnessing the rituals are also offered gifts and Prasad (food, which is treated as divine grace).

Hindus perform Pujas at many occasions, such as after conception for the mother, during her fourth and seventh months of pregnancy, birth of the baby, infancy, childhood, upanayanam (sacred thread ceremony), marriage, death, funeral and finally, on the 13th day after death, which signifies bidding a final farewell to the soul of the deceased.

Many families also conduct an annual Shrardha, a ritual performed to pray for the peace and happiness of the departed soul.

The meaning of the word, “Puja”

There are many explanations as to how the word “Puja” came into being.

One version says that the word “Puja” is derived from the Sanskrit roots, ‘P’, which stands for ‘Paapa’ or sin, and ‘J’, which stands for ‘Janma’ or birth.

Some believe that the word Puja is derived from the Dravidian word, “pu-chey” or offering flowers.

Some other version links this word to “pusu”, which means, to smear with vermilion or sandalwood paste.

Puja serves as a substitute to homa (sacrificial fire ritual), bali (animal sacrificial ritual) and other Vedic rituals which women and the Shudra community (the lowest community in the then-relevant caste system) could not perform.

With the advent of Buddhist and Jain cultures that preached ahimsa (non-violence), animal sacrifices were discontinued and religious iconography, symbolisms, idol worship and puja took their place instead.

Puja was acknowledged as a religious medium for all Hindus, irrespective of caste and gender, and, therefore, became the universal option of prayer for everyone.

In the present, Puja includes all forms of ritual or ceremonial worship, its vast spectrum including daily domestic offerings of flowers, fruit, leaves, food and water to the deities, to performing detailed and complicated rituals at temples, even to offering sacrifices of chicken and goats in certain Kali, Durga and other such temples.

Generally, Hindus see the puja as a simple way for ordinary mortals to relate to the divine, so it can even be performed even on something that symbolizes the divine, like a cow or a tree.

Puja takes several forms,

such as darshan (simply gazing at the deity’s image),

arpan (offering flowers, fruit, incense and so on to the deity),

smaran (contemplating on the ishta devata at all times),

shravan (listening to stories of or hymns in praise of the deity) and bhajan (singing in praise of the deity).

The prayer thus performed could either be silent or be accompanied by prayers.

Pujas can also be performed either individually or in groups.

The entire aim of performing the puja is to create a protective layer of spiritual forces around us, warding off all evils and negative forces, thereby creating a conducive environment to lead a happy and peaceful life.

Materials used in pujas

Each puja involves the use of a variety of materials, as specified in that particular puja vidhi. The simplest of pujas requires offering of pushpam (flowers), phalam (fruit), toyam (water), karpuram (camphor) and naivedyam (food). The more elaborate puja rituals, would, of course, need more materials.

According to Shri Aurobindo, Vedic rituals such as the Yagna and Homa are “attempts to fulfill the purpose of creation and elevate the status of man to that of a godhead or a cosmic man”.

But the simple puja is a symbolic offering of our lives and activities to that higher cosmic power, who we term as God.

Each and every item used in the Puja has a reason and a symbolic significance behind it.

We now delve into the significance of each of these Puja-related objects.

The Vigraha (Idol)

The Vigraha is the idol or image of the chosen deity.

The term “Vigraha” comes from the Sanskrit root, “Vi+Graha“, which means, something that is shorn of the negative effects of the planets or the “grahas“, as they are called. Hinduism believes a lot in planets and the effects they cast on human beings.

The divine is considered to be the controller of these planets and hence, is said to be beyond these effects.

Surrendering to such a divine force, Hindus believe, will also liberate them from their grahadosha (ill-effects of planets).

Offering various items to the Vigraha during the Puja is symbolic of the devotee’s surrender to the deity.

The puja Vigraha could be made of any material, such as mud, clay, brass, copper, silver or even be gold-plated.

There are no bars whatsoever on that aspect. 

The term “Purnakumbha” in Sanskrit means, “full pot” – “Purna” (full)+”Kumbha” (pot). The Kalasha or the Purnakumbha is an earthen or metal (usually copper or silver) pot or pitcher, which is filled with water.

Mango leaves are then placed on this pot, with a coconut atop it.

This purnakumbha is then placed before the deity prior to commencing the puja. 

The pot here signifies Mother Earth; the water is considered the life-giver; the leaves signifiy the life breath and the coconut, the divine consciousness.

The coconut is referred to in Sanskrit as the “Sriphala” (God’s fruit).
Water is known to be a cleanser, and hence, Hindus use it to purify both themselves by performing Prokshanam (sprinkling of holy water) on the head and also on the food, before they consume it.

Hindus usually sprinkle water around their food three times, before they start eating.

This could in a way be associated to the Western culture of giving thanks before consuming meals. 

The Kalasha is used during almost all pujas and is also considered by some as Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.

Rangolis and Kolams

Rangoli, though not compulsory for Pujas, has nevertheless made a significant contribution to India’s culture.

The art of Rangoli or Kolam, which involves drawing on flat surfaces, usually at thresholds of houses, can range from very simple to very elaborate and colored designs.

While they look like mere geometrical figures, they actually represent divinity in many ways.

Since the Rangoli was a work of art, it was considered that only a woman with a spiritual bent of mind could create a perfect one.

This raised her stature in society, even if she was actually illiterate otherwise.

Some rangolis were then used to invite good into the house and ward off the evil.

The most notable thing about rangolis is their highly fragile structure.

Made of many kinds of powders, it needed tremendous control on the part of the artist to create a perfect design.

This meant that she would have to be completely immersed in the activity, without letting any internal thought or external event distract her.

That would itself give her temporary liberation from the material world.

At a more spiritual level, it shows how temporary even a beautiful, painstaking, creation is, in this material world.

Due to its extremely fragile state, even a gust of wind or a few drops of rain can completely destroy a rangoli.

However, modern times have seen an alternative to using powders for Rangoli, to overcome this fragile state.

Sticker Rangolis are now available, with readymade Rangoli patterns on plastic sticker sheets.

These Rangolis are ready to use and simply need to be stuck to the area needed to get the exact look of an original Rangoli.

Patram (Leaves)

There are certain leaves that are considered the symbols of divinity, such as mango leaves, betel leaves, banyan leaves and leaves from the ‘Bilva’ or ‘Bael’ trees. Areca-nuts and betel nuts are also considered holy.

Pushpam (Flowers)

The flowers we offer to the deity during Puja symbolize the good in us. It is a way of offering the ‘sat’ (good) that has blossomed within us as a result of performing these rituals. Flowers also are an embodiment of water, especially the lotus, which rises from water.

The Kamala (Lotus)

Hindus consider the lotus, also the national flower, as the most sacred among flowers. The lotus also embodies the true soul or spirit of the devotee, which represents the pure Self, the Being, which, in spite of rising out from dirty, turbid water, is yet clean and free of it all. Hence, this flower signifies enlightenment and mukti (liberation) from the material world.

According to Hindu mythological, the lotus symbolizes creation, since Brahma, the Creator of the Universe, comes forth from the lotus that bloomed from Lord Vishnu’s navel.

The Padmasana (lotus posture) is used during meditation and yoga as well. 

Flowers and Garlands

Flowers constitute a very important part of any Hindu Puja. It is one of the most important offerings made to the deity. Flowers are used both while performing the Puja at home as well as temples and all other sacred places. There is hardly ever some Puja conducted which does not use flowers. During the course of the Puja, the deity is decorated with various types of flowers and garlands made of different flowers and leaves. Flowers are also placed at the feet of the deity and often times; the deity is also showered with these flowers. The Puja thali (plate) thus always includes a lot of colored, fragrant flowers to be used for that particular Puja.

Puja vidhis many times specify the flowers to be used while performing that particular Puja and the method in which they are to be used during the Puja.

Some flowers are actually associated with a particular deity, so they are used in a Puja which is aimed at pleasing Him/Her.

For example, the red Hibiscus flower is used for Lord Ganesha’s Puja.

He is garlanded with a string of hibiscus, along with the Ariham, better known as Durva, grass.

Lord Krishna is often garlanded with a Vanamala (mixture of sweet-smelling flowers) and the Tulsi Mala (garland of tulsi or leaves of the Holy Sage plant). 

The act of garlanding the deity with flowers, placing flowers at His feet and showering Him with flowers signifies the seeker’s complete faith, devotion and surrender to that deity.

In offering the flowers, the seeker is actually offering his own self to the deity.

Why certain flowers are never used during Puja

Sometimes, some flowers are completely avoided for a particular deity, as it might have been cursed for that particular god and so on.

Flowers with very strong odors are generally never used for the Puja.

Also, flowers without fragrance are also avoided.

Wild flowers and those which haven’t blossomed fully are not used either.

Similarly, flowers mutilated by birds or insects are not used.

Flowers picked from gardens, on the other hand, are considered the best for a Puja.

In some cases, flowers picked from a forest may also be used.

Just as in the case of human beings, the flowers used for a Puja too are categorized into Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.

This is based on the flower’s origin, shape, fragrance and color.

Flowers that fall into the Sattva and Rajas category are commonly used for everyday worship.

Tamas flowers, on the other hand, are completely avoided during major functions and Pujas, though they might be used at some festivals.

Flowers that fall under the Sattva category include Nandyavartham, Arka, Drona, Jasmine, Coral tree flowers, white lotuses and so on.

The red lotus, white thorn apple flowers, trumpet flowers etc fall under the Rajas category, while the China Rose, cotton plant flowers, Ketaki, Kusa grass etc fall under the Tamas flower category.

Phalam (Fruit)

Offering the phalam or fruits symbolizes surrendering the fruit of our action at the feet of the Lord. This signifies detachment, surrender and self-sacrifice.

Gandham (Incense)

Gandham or fragrance-emitting materials, such as incense, can collectively be grouped to symbolize our vasanas (samskaras or subconscious inclinations developed) and desires we accumulate throughout our lives.

These we offer to God, in order to obtain liberation from the birth-death cycle.

Incense sticks are created by extracting the perfume of fragrant wood and flowers. Burning these creates a congenial atmosphere for meditation and spiritual contemplation. 

Dhoopam (Smoke)

Dhoop aims at worship of the divine via the sense of smell.

Dhoopam or the smoke arising from camphor or incense sticks or powder (samrani) symbolizes our clouded consciousness that creates a huge hurdle on the path of self-realization.

It also signifies the shackles we are bound with in this material world.

Offering dhupam signifies surrendering our fickle, illusory minds to Godhead.

On the elemental side, dhupam stands for air, which again signifies the life-breath or the prana within us.

The term “dhoop” is said to originate from the dhoop tree, which is found in eastern parts of India, and whose chips emit a wonderful fragrance.

But in actuality, dhoop is black-colored putty, which is made from a mixture of wood chips, herbs and ghee. This could also make for a mini havan of sorts.

But since dhoop works through the power of fragrance, it is not the mainstay of Vedic rituals.

Both the aspects of gandham and dhoopam create an illusion of physical purification. The seeker derives a psychological benefit out of the same, which helps him to delve deeper into his meditation.

Powders used during Pujas

Apart from all the above materials, there are different kinds of powders used in a Puja too.

These include Kumkum (vermilion), Haldi (turmeric), Chandan (sandalwood) and Vibhuti (holy ash).

Each of these powders is used for a specific purpose, as listed below.

Kumkum, Chandan and Haldi Powders

Kumkum stands for both our emotions as well as our inner wisdom.

The turmeric and sandalwood symbolizes our inner purity, as also our false ego and inner pride.

Sandalwood additionally gives the seeker peace of mind, cools his system and helps him concentrate during his meditation sessions.

Vibhuti or the sacred ash is usually associated with Lord Shiva.

It is termed as “Vibhuti”, as it endows the seeker with all prosperity.

It is also known by various other names, such as “Bhasma” as it burns away all sins from the seeker; “Bhasitam” or “brightened“, since it enhances one’s spiritual aura; “Ksharam” or “destruction“, since it destroys danger; and “Raksha” or the “protector“, since it acts as a protective armor against negative and evil forces.

Vibhuti is also significant, as it is a reminder of the evanescence of the human body, which will eventually be reduced to a potful of ash after death.

Vibhuti is of great spiritual relevance as well, in Hindu culture.

When Shiva razed down Kama (the God of Love) and reduced him to ashes, nothing remained – all desire was burnt to ashes, but pure love reigned supreme.

So eliminating desires gives rise to that Prema (pure love) welling up from the soul. Since ash is the final thing, it cannot change, fade, dry or disappear.

It cannot get dirty, lose color or rot over a period of time.

So applying vibhuti on the forehead is symbolic of reaching the state of nothingness and thereby, attain liberation.

The unchangeable nature of ash is also that of the true nature of the soul or the Atman. The vibhuti can be rubbed all over the body or applied on the forehead area between the brows.

Shaivaites (followers of Shiva) also wear stripes of the holy ash across their foreheads and arms.

Vaishnavites (followers of Vishnu) place a Namam on their forehead as Tirumann or the “sacred earth (dust)”.

The Namam consists of three vertical lines, either shaped in a “U” or “Y“, joining at the base.

The two outer white lines symbolize the worship of Brahma and Vishnu, while the central red line stands for the worship of Goddess Sri Mahalakshmi.

The Namam or the Tirumann goes to show that all wearing the same would eventually be transformed into higher spiritual beings. 

Prasad or Naivedya

Prasad or Naivedya is the food that Hindus offer to God during the course of the Puja. This signifies the “avidya” or the ignorance that the devotee offers to the chief deity of the Puja.

The food embodies the ignorant consciousness, which is placed before the deity, so that He may transform it into spiritual enlightenment.

Consuming this Prasad removes the avidya from the follower and fills him/her with the light of true knowledge, which purifies and creates a new, better individual out of the devotee.

Many major Pujas involve sharing of the Prasad with other devotees who have gathered to witness the Puja.

The act of sharing the Prasad signifies sharing the knowledge the devotee has attained, among his fellow beings, thereby purifying him further.

Naivedya is usually offered in metal vessels, such as brass and silver.

Sometimes vessels made of alloys are also used for the same.

Ringing Bells during the Puja

Bells are often rung during Puja, irrespective of whether it is performed at home, temple or sacred place.

Though this has not been laid down as a compulsory Puja rule in any ancient spiritual text, it is now become part and parcel of any Puja.

The symbolic element of ringing a bell during a Puja is that the chime of the bell, especially that of the deep, sonorous bell, is very similar to the sound of the Primal Sound, the “Aum“.

This sound is believed to do away with all unnecessary negatives from the atmosphere, taking away everything that is time-space oriented, and finally letting the devotee touch the plane of the absolute, the one that simply “IS”.

Of course, this is a mere symbolism, but it still creates a holy effect when a sweet-sounding bell is rung during the Puja!  

The sound of tinkling bells diverts the mind from its thoughts and makes it focus on the bells instead, thereby preventing worldly thoughts for that moment.

It could also be considered a sort of “doorbell“, using which the devotee can “announce” his presence to god and stand at His doorstop.

The louder-sounding bells and cymbals rung during major festivals might have been a more social than a spiritual phenomenon.

This was probably a way for the villagers to realize that it was time for worship.

Maybe this was also done to show the particular person’s power in society then.

Bells are generally made of brass and some metal alloys and they come in various shapes and sizes.

Tibetan bells are very ornate and have a deep resonance.

The bigger the bell, the more Naada or resonance it will generate.

Deepam (Light)

Offering deepam (or light) is an integral part of all pujas, major or minor.

This signifies the light residing within us, the true Self that we offer to the divine in a spirit of pure devotion and surrender.

Element-wise, deepam refers to the fire residing inside the Atman.

Simply put, light is believed to be the source of wisdom, as it dispels darkness.

The Self has also been described, in spirituality, as effulgent light.

Symbolically, the oil used represents the vasanas, the wick represents the ego and the fire, the flame of knowledge that burns out the ego.

The lighting of the lamp is a very auspicious occasion at any puja, festival or occasion for this very reason.

It is believed that god inhabits that house where the woman of the house lights the lamp every morning and evening.

The Diwali, the Festival of Lights is celebrated by first lighting little diyas (earthen lamps) and then bursting colourful crackers.

These diyas are made only of natural materials, like clay.


A part of the Deepam category, the term, “Aarti“, is said to have come from the Rigveda, probably among the earliest Hindu scripture.

The Sanskrit term, “Aarati” comes from the roots, “aa“, which means, ‘towards’ and “rati”, which means, ‘the highest love for God’.

This term has many meanings assigned to it.

Some aver that this goes to mean the time just before darkness sets in after sunset.

Others believe that the word, “Aradhana“, which is synonymous with Aarti goes to mean “the greatest love for God“, which gives true and lasting happiness and joy.

The element of fire or light is related to sight or vision.

According to Hinduism, fire cleans and purifies all.

The aarati is performed to achieve just that.

A small piece of camphor, clay or metal lamp with oil or ghee-soaked cotton wicks is placed on a metal plate, along with incense and flowers.

After the camphor or lamp is lighted, the plate is rotated clockwise in front of the vigraha.

This signifies invoking the divine.

Bells are rung along with the aarati and prayers or hymns are chanted side-by-side.

When the aarati is performed, it is believed that even the plate and light get blessed by the divine.

That is why the plate is shown around to all, so that all present can put their hands over the flame and touch it to their eyes.

The aarati is usually performed in different ways in several parts of India.

Even the traditional concluding aarati song is different across the regions of India.

 But the ultimate aim of the aarati is the smae – to attain that highest love for god.

The aarati performed in South India is known as the Deepa Aradhanai.

The aarati can also be performed in front of a person to ward off all evil spirits and bad omens, to greet people of very high status and to welcome a new member in the family, such as a daughter-in-law or a newborn infant, who are entering the house for the first time.

The aarati is also performed on newly acquired property or land and also during the Bhoomin Pujan (foundation-laying ceremony).

The plate on which the aarati is performed is usually made of bronze, copper or silver. Placed on the plate are flowers, kumkum, haldi, vibhuti and stand to place the incense sticks.

Japamalas (Prayer Beads)

The Japamala or the rosary is one other accessory of the Puja. Though not everyone uses these, there is a certain significance of the Japamala in Hinduism.

Japamalas usually contain 108 beads.

It is believed that a man breathes 21,600 times each day.

Finishing 200 rounds of recitation with the Japamala everyday comes to a total of 21,600 counts, which means, the seeker does one Japa (prayer) for each breath taken. This signifies that he had been thinking of god all day.

Some japamalas also contain divisions of 108, so the prayer rounds are calculated accordingly, again to give a total of 21,600.

There is yet another significance of the number 108.

According to Hindu astrology, there are in each horoscope, 9 planets, which are always in motion.

Then there are 27 Nakshatras (stars), which are again divided into 12 Rashis (houses). There are 2 ½ Nakshatras in each Rashi.

The 12 Rashis multiplied by the number of planets, that is, 9, gives us a total of 108 (12×9=108).

Using the 108-beaded japamala, the seeker attempts to purify his horoscope and mitigate planetary ill-effects with the help of divine grace.
The central bead of the japamala is called the ‘Meru’.

This is a reference point which tells you when the seeker finishes an entire round.

Spiritually speaking, the Meru also denotes an obstacle that has been crossed while on the path toward spirituality.

This also signifies the removal of some more ignorance.

The japamala is referred to as the Tasbi in Islam and the rosary in Christianity.

Hindus chant the Raksha Stotra before sitting in Japa.

This is done in order to ask for protection and to drive away the evil spirits that act as obstacles in the way of concentration and meditation.

Door Torans

Torans are decorative hangings placed at the doorstep of households.

Most Hindu households hang torans on their thresholds.

Torans come in many varieties.

While you can have the ordinary flower torans, there are also cloth, plastic and bead torans, some of which are elaborately strung together.

Some cloth torans also have quaint designs and patchwork done on them, which make them brilliant pieces of art and a joy to behold!

Torans are believed to be auspicious, as they help in warding off evil spirits.

It is believed that negative forces cannot make their way past the doorstep when the presence of the Toran guards the house.

Hanging the toran on festive days is also meant to greet the gods visiting the household on that day.

Concluding the Puja

At the end of the Puja, there is again an aarati with the devotee again waving the aarati plate in front of the Lord, singing the traditional concluding bhajans and finally consuming the Prasad and distributing it to those present. 

It should be noted that the Puja is not merely a ritual to be conducted merely as an aid to achieving something material in life.

Minor lapses in the rituals do not matter at all – after all, these are mere symbolisms.

 Performing rituals without having the bhakti (devotion) within has no meaning either.

What really matters here is true devotion and the seeker attaining true peace, happiness and joy, through the course of his spiritual journey.

As Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita,

“Patram Pushpam Phalam Toyam
Yo Mey Bhaktya Prayacchati
Tad Aham Bhakty-upahritam
Asnaami Prayatatmanah”

The translation of the above is:
“I accept a leaf, flower, fruit or water
Or whatever is offered with devotion”


Vibhuti and Sindur, (or holy ash and kumkum) are found in just about every Hindu household around the world.

Men apply what is called a tilak and women apply what is called a bindi.

The use of colored powder and ash is essential to Hindus and the Indian culture as a whole.

They even call the god Shiva as “Digambar”; meaning clad-in-sky or clad in ashes.

It is not uncommon to see many priests and monks walking about India covered head-to-toe in ash.

Vibhuti is a very fine white ash substance made from burning a specific kind of wood during Agamic rituals.

Vibhuti plays an extremely special role for the followers of Shiva, unlike the other sects which use primarily kumkum or sandalwood paste.

Devotees of Shiva will either have three horizontal lines drawn on their foreheads or they will be covered entirely in ash.

The vibhuti is also used during rituals in temples for Shiva.

Sindur, or more commonly called Kumkum, is a red-vermillion shaded powder made from turmeric powder mixed with lime.

The acid in the lime causes the orange turmeric powder to turn a rich red when mixed and dried.

Sindur plays a much more important role in the lives of women in India as almost all of them will adorn a bindi.

Having sindur along the partition of a woman’s hairline indicates that she is married; women who are single simply where a single red dot and the widowed wear no bindi at all.

In temples and many people’s home shrines, vibhuti and sindur are applied to the foreheads and feet of the murtis.

Often devotees will touch the sindur covered feet of a murti and then use that sindur to apply a tilak or bindi.

The ash & powder are also used in other rituals in which they are liberally applied to smaller statues and the devotees’ foreheads’.

Often, guests at one’s home will have a tilak or bindi applied when they walk through the threshold as in Indian culture it is customary to literally treat their guests as though they were a statue in a temple.

What Is Vibhuti or Bhasma?

Vibhuti (in Sanskrit: विभूति; vibhūti), additionally termed as Bhasma (ash), Thiruneeruand Vibhooti, is a term that has different definitions in Hinduism.

Usually, it’s applied to signify the divine ash which’s created of burnt withered timber in Āgamic rites.

Om Namah Shivaya, Om Namah Shivaya” is few words hymned by the Sages, Pundits & your gurus.

These’re mantras that’re hummed to request Lord Shiva for blessings.

When one speaks the name Lord Shiva, it intuitively recalls him/her of the Tripundra; a representation formed of three horizontal lines that Shiva embellished on his forehead. While the globe extends to admire God with all his pupils, an enigma is compelled to remain in the memory of inquisitive followers, “ Why these three ash lines applied on the forehead?” It is a query that can also arise from the regular visits to the temple, where one can quite quickly find many sages displaying the ‘Tripundra’.

There’re several tales back the concept of applying ash on the body but there is one entirely conformed to the philosophy behind it.

It is assumed that the sacred ash also termed ‘vibhuti’ or ‘bhasma’ defends people against all satanic energies.

Ash is a thing that’s taken solely when things are entirely fired off.

This symbolizes that the ash ignites the believer’s vitality and pardons him.

As per the Indian inscriptions, bhasma implies ‘‘that by which our errors are slaughtered & the Lord is revived’’, this, in a shift, implies its formation in the devotion of Lord Shiva.

Appending to that a shiva lingam that’s applied with the sacred ash is a popular view at temples.

Therefore, to confer one’s honor to Lord Shiva, he or she who discards worldly customs & the personality who totally denies materialistic fulfillment convert to a follower & can apply ash on his forehead.

There’re five pious titles assigned to the ash of ‘homa’, the divine flame.

The titles ‘vibhuti’ & ‘bhasma’ that’s widely quoted in this part also have a belief behind them.

As the holy ash is assumed to blaze the sins to ashes & provide knowledge to all its termed ‘bhasma’ or the‘bhasmam’.

Furthermore, its title increases the religious energy of a person & so the title ‘vibhuti’.

Science has its purpose to assume that vibhuti has therapeutic benefits attributed to its title too.

It’s practiced in numerous Ayurvedic medications and stops headaches & cold.

Not over now, Bhasma is also coalesced with other medications to extend its performance.

Finally, a ‘Tripundra’ is able to present if one consciously recollects to observe the significance behind its living and attempts to live by it.

By unawareness of the fact that relies on it, these representations are blank but social identifications.

Significance Of Bhasm or Vibhuti

  • It boosts positive energy. The essence, the act of employing it, the hymn before it, everything raises the actual energy.
  • Utilizing eternal ash blocks headaches. It inhibits allergies on skin particularly if it’s prepared with various herbs.
  • Using sacred ash is assumed to control all seven chakras in body which’s the foundation for sound health.
  • Thiruneer also stops cold & is pretty good for blocking all cold-related headaches.
  • It constantly stresses on the impermanence of our lives.
  • Employing it on forehead is assumed to block cold.
  • Inciting the space among the eyebrows can truly have added influence too. It can unblock the sinuses. It may also limit nose-block too. When you employ vibhuti frequently on the forehead, the space gets animated.

Why does Lord Shiva apply Vibhuti over his body?

Amongst the different sagas/tales connected with Vibhuti or Bhasma, belongs to Shiva Purana which describes the legend of Lord Shiva’s consort, an incarnation of Adishakti, who sacrificed herself in flame.

Shiva upon listening this was puzzled by emotions.

With dead body of Sati, in anger, the Lord Shiva traveled all the three Lokas, Heaven, Earth & the underworld.

Lord Vishnu witnessing Lord Shiva in this phase of Tandava & torment attained Sati’s body which promptly converted into ash.

Shiva, on losing his consort’s body, in a phase of pain, loss, in rage, desiring to get Sati a portion of himself applied the ash on his body & considering that time Lord Shiva is assumed to cover the ash on his body.

How to Apply Vibhuti?

There’re several methods that are obeyed to use Vibhuti (Bhasma). The most popular is the Tripundra which’re three horizontal stripes or lines on forehead, which stretch till the edge of the eyebrows. Tripundra is a Shaivite tilaka that origins from the South India. The initial strip denotes for elimination of ahankaar (ego) the subsequent implies for elimination of ignorance & the third one stands for elimination of bad karma (deeds).

Chandan In Hinduism – Importance Of Sandalwood In Hindu Religion

Chandan, the fragrant wood (chandanam), is sacred in Hinduism. Chandan word is derived from the Sanskrit root Cadi, meaning ‘to delight’ or ‘that which delights.’ Importance of sandalwood in Hindu religion can be gauged from the fact that it is also known as Bhadra Shri – auspicious and delightfully great.

The chandan tree is believed to have its origin in the historically and mythologically famous southern Indian mountain called Malaya.

It is on this account that chandana is called malayaja (born in the Malaya).

The breeze blowing from the Malaya mountains (Malayamarutham) is believed to be cool and fragrant.

As per Puranas, Chandana used by the gods in heaven is called Harichandana and that used by humans in the service of gods is called Srichandana.

Devout Hindus worship murtis of gods and goddesses with five offerings daily which consists of anointing the murti with gandha (fragrant) substances, waving dhoopa (incense), offering pushpa (flowers) or flower garlands, lighting of deepa (lamp), and offering naivedya (food).

The offering of gandha is made with chandan in several ways.

Chandan wood is also used to carved murtis of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. 

When sandalwood paste is smeared on images of deities (vigraha) in temples, it is called Chandana kappu.

In Kerala, sandal paste is used to anoint the deities in most temples.

Dasavatharam is made on the same murti using sandalwood paste in many Sri Krishna temples.

In some temples, the deity worshipped appears in three forms in the morning, noon and evening.

The three forms are created on the same murti using sandalwood paste.

Sandalwood has its uses in all Hindu rites, from the birth of a child to the lighting of funeral pyres.

The practice of using sandalwood in the funeral pyres of Hindus was known from ancient times and it continues even today.

Kalidasa, in his Sanskrit poem, Raghuvamsa, mentions sandalwood being used in the funeral pyre of the Ikshvaku queen, Indumati.

Owing to its quality of auspiciousness, sandalwood paste is offered to guests at ceremonial functions such as weddings, along with the auspicious kumkum (vermilion powder) and flowers.

Kautilya in his Sanskrit work, Arthashastra (Chapter 2.11 pp 43-72) has referred to many varieties of Sandal from different places, identifying them as being of various colours such as red, blackish-red, whitish-red, black, green and saffron, and also of differing fragrances.

Sandalwood paste was earlier used extensively in households as a refreshing unguent against humidity and heat, especially during the hot summer months.

The ancient Tami world, Narrinai (V.S. 168, 250, 314) mentions that sweet-smelling sandalwood paste was smeared on the chests of women.

The Ramayana of Valmiki (Ayodhya Kanda 15th Sarga, verse 35), describing Rama in his palace, says that his body was smeared with Sandalwood paste.

Bhagavata Purana (10th Skanda, chapter 42, verse 5) mentions that the upper part of Lord Krishna’s body was anointed with sandalwood paste.

The red sandalwood paste, especially rakta chandana (the red variety) is known for its curative properties.

The perfume extracted from sandalwood was popular in ancient India and continues to be even today.

This extract is widely used in the preparation of incense sticks, toilet soaps and powders.

Sandal wood carvings of gods and goddesses form part of the artistic skills of south Indian craftsmen and these are now important items of export.

The Religious Significance of Turmeric

Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is used as a spice, a dye, and in the traditional medicines of its native India.

With its yellow and orange coloring and healing qualities, it also has religious and cultural significance in Buddhism, Hinduism and throughout Southeast Asian society.

The Plant

Turmeric, called Haridra in Sanskrit and Haldi in Hindi, goes by the botanical name Curcuma longa. The herb grows to a little more than 3 feet in height. It produces both a rhizome and a flower, with the rhizome being the most used part of the plant and the source of both the yellow dye and the spice. Cultivated in India since ancient times, turmeric is now cultivated throughout the tropics. In addition to its uses in Hinduism and Buddhism, Hawaiian shamans also use turmeric extensively in their religious and medicinal practices.


In both Hinduism and Buddhism, turmeric is linked to fertility, luck and the sun. Because of this, turmeric is traditionally used in wedding ceremonies and the roots of its plants are often a gift to pregnant women. In nuptial customs, turmeric may be applied to the bride’s skin as part of purification ritual before the ceremony. Turmeric’s use is forbidden in a house in mourning. In southern India, the dried rhizome is often worn in an amulet as protection against evil and to bring about healing or good luck.


In Hindu worship ceremonies, turmeric powder is used to symbolize both inner purity and inner pride. Worshipers use turmeric paste to anoint statues and images of Hindu deities in religious ceremonies. Along with symbolizing fertility and prosperity in the Hindu religion, turmeric also represents purity. The yellow and orange coloring of turmeric add to its significance in Hindu practice with yellow representing the space between chastity and sensuality, as well as the sacral chakra. Orange represents the sun, sacrifice and courage, as well as the solar plexus chakra.


In Buddhism, yellow represents the Bodhisattva Ratnasambhava, an archetypal Buddha connected to generosity. In Buddhism, turmeric continues to be symbolic of purity and prosperity and it is used in ceremonies to anoint sacred images. Perhaps its most important use in Buddhism, however, goes back to its qualities as a dye. Turmeric is the dye most often used to create the traditional saffron-colored robes worn by Buddhist monks.