Yoga, Spirituality in South India Series – Part III

Pooja, Chanting, Mantras, Prostrations……. 

Most homes would have a separate area or room in their home for placing the idols and pictures of the dieties. The prayers will also be offered in that area. In Hindu mythology, there are quite a few varieties and forms of Gods that you can pray to. There will be an oil lamp that will be decorated with red dots and flowers. The lighting of the lamp is symbolic of igniting the spiritual lamp inside you. Any Hindu home that does pooja in the morning would have the intense smell of incense sticks, flowers and sandalwood.

The person doing the pooja will chant and offer flowers to all the gods as they chant. The mantras that they will chant will be mostly in the Sanskrit language and will be in the praise of the Lord. When chanted clearly and loudly, each letter of the mantra will create a specific vibration in the environment which is bound to create positive energy. That is why the mantras are created and chanted.

Most Hindus will make a trip to the nearby temple in the morning. The men will visit the temple on their way to work or earlier in the morning. Children will visit the temple on their way to school and they will pray really hard when getting closer to the exams. The temple will have a sanctum sanctorum of the main diety of the temple where only the preists of the temple can enter. It is also symbolic of allowing only the purest forms to come into contact with your soul. One would make three rounds of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and offer their respects by prostrating before the God. The priest will offer sandalwood paste and flowers to all the devotees. The sandalwood paste will be worn on the forehead and the flowers are promptly put in the hair by the women folk. A visit to the temple makes your soul at peace inspite of anything going on in your life at that time.

I want to talk a little bit about Prostration. You will bend your knee and sit down on your knees and bring your forehead to touch the floor to do this. This is how you would offer your respects to God or any elders in the family. In my house, this is something which will not be compromised. We have to offer our respects to our uncles and aunts when they arrive for a stay and also when they leave. It is believed that everything that happens to you in your life is for good and all the goodness in your life is because of the blessings of your ancestors and elders of the family. In the olden days, the whole big family lived under one roof. These days, it is very rare and people live isolated lives. But when the elders visit, you are supposed to offer your respects and thank them for their blessings. When they leave, you seek their continued well wishes until you meet next time. We would offer our respects to elders also on special occasions like birthdays, when you achieve something personally and professionally  and even when you wear your new clothes for the first time.

I would say the prostrations could be considered Yoga. Everyday, you would do this at least twice, in the morning and evening in front of the dieties at your house. A mother is considered to be the God you can see and hear. So, in many households, people offer their respects to their mother everyday. If you ever did the prostrations before a diety or anyone you would know that it is hard – not physically. It is just hard mentally – you would feel smaller than the other person. In essence, your Ego takes a hit. According to Sri Sri Ravishankar, EGO is Edging God Out – if you nurture your EGO, you are moving away from God. Prostrations make you surrender fully to the other person and leaves you hollow which is the essence of spirituality.

Check this out:

 Criss Cross Apple Sauce…………… Part IV


1 Comment

  1. Jaiprakash said,

    February 3, 2008 at 6:11 am

    Good article. Looking forward to more on Hindu rituals Shodasa samskaras and also the significance of various pooja rituals. Please refer to ATMA POOJO UPANISHAD.

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