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The Hindus have a unique way of worshipping their gods. Unlike in other religious where they have every element done unanimously, the Hindus participate in the worship session at a personal level. They are involved in various activities and conclude with sharing food with their gods. All these constitute bhakti, which they interpret as what gives them their history regarding spirituality doctrines. It offers them the real connection with God and therefore, require unconditional devotion (Frazier, p.102). The paper would describe the practices that constitute bhakti and their significance in the believers. Then, there would be a personal reflection on the visitation experience and offers a concluding paragraph.
The Hindu Devotional Practices
The Hindu architects design and build the temple, also called Mandirs in line with the ancient scriptures that must conform to the Indian traditional styles. The architects must be highly skilled regarding the Indian cultures. Normally, the temple has features such as the central sanctum, which enshrines the main Deity (Pati, p.194). The Murtis that houses the secondary sanctums contain the Deities in the pantheon. Almost all temples do not have a basement. There are separate facilities where the devotees conduct cultural and social rituals that cannot be conducted at the central area meant for worshiping. The ordained priest after undergoing a thorough training officiate the puja’s daily regimen. The minor differences noted in the way of designing the temple explains the various denominations of Hinduism, distinct teaching lineage, and liturgy.
The Hindus believe that the temple itself is an object of worship. The believers circle exterior of the temple in a prescribed manner while worshiping the various gods strategically positioned on the walls. It constitutes part of the main prayers. The images serve to guide a believer towards the way spiritual release (Molloy 16). It is why the worship is individual-based (manasa puja) rather than congregational. These images constitute the objects of worship.
The puja takes the center of worshiping and is officiated by the priest. It has a particular pattern that it must follow. For instance, the priest purifies the objects of worship as well as engaging in chants. The devotees offer donations such foods and fruits to their deities, which they share as a sign of equality. The concluding part of the service involves communal eating. The devotees share meals with their gods as a sign of equality. Bhakti ideals require that believers express their personal love to God. Despite eating leftovers viewed dogmatic, the Hindus show their in-depth love by sharing the meals.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Relevance of Devotional Practices to the Ideals of Bhakti
According to Jayasinghe and Teerooven (p. 1006) the central religious ritual in the Hinduism faith is the puja, which follows a prescribed pattern. Firstly, the pujari takes a moment of purification, which constitutes the sacred place and implements of worship. The pujari makes several chants in the Sanskrit the place, time and nature regarding a particular puja. Then, the pujari, through gestures (mudras and mantras), he calls upon the Deity’s presence in the image. Then, there comes a time of ringing the bell and beseeching the mantras and hymns for intoning from the ancient Agamas and Vedas. Then, the pujari gives precious offerings to the Deity. These include uncooked rice, water, holy ash, kumkum, and sandalwood paste. Another rite is a ritual bath (abhishekam), whereby the devotees pour over the Deity water, panchamritam (a blend of five fruits) rosewater, and coconut water among others. It is important in that it portrays the love the Hindus have to their God.
After abhishekam, the believers dress the Deity in new and beautifully decorated clothes. At this point, the believers are allowed to sing the songs of devotion as part of worshipping that help them express their emotions of love to God or self-surrender. According to Nye (p. 207), bhajans (devotional songs) helps in training believers’ mind and cooling their heart due to their encouragement words. The devotees can also obtain virtues and qualities from the songs they sing.
After Deity decoration, the pujari offers incense, food and oil lamps. The pujari offers flowers while he chants the hundred and eight names of the God. Then, the pujari, at the climax of the puja, he waves a large lamp in front of the Deity. He rings the bell loudly calling God to send His holy power through His image as Babb (p. 396) narrates. Upon lowering the fire, all the devotees prostrates to the Divine. He then carries out the lamp to bless the congregation, who at this time can offer their donations on the tray. Then, the pujari (priest) passes out the sacraments such as blessed water and sandalwood paste among others to bless the present congregation (Prasad). It involves calling the deities into human realms where they feed them with the food (given out as offerings). The remaining food (leftovers), the congregation, eats it. The Hindus call this ‘communal eating’ and understand it as a gift from God. The partaking is highly significant in the Hindu faith. By eating the same food with gods symbolizes equality. It constitutes a path of love.
As far as the Hindu pantheon is concerned, there exist millions of Gods. Nevertheless, they believe in the existence a supreme being (God), who pervades the world. They view these Gods as divine creations that revere that one Being. They consider these Gods (Mahadevas) as being real creations that are affected by thoughts and emotions. It accounts the reason of preparing a conducive environment to appease them as a way of calling for blessings from God through them. Vishnu Siva Shakti Ganesha and Subramaniam are the most common Deities in Hinduism. As Eck (p.44) notes, all devotees have an obligation of worshiping all the deities installed in the temple for blessings. It is a devotional requirement.
The importance of these practices to the Hindu believers is to attract the presence of the Mahadevas and devas in the inner worlds. According to Klostermaier (p. 7), they consider it as a form of communion that facilitates the communication between them and God through the Deity. These rituals magnetize their thoughts and feelings that play a central role in their devotions. As a whole, this radiates out, affecting the surrounding environment in preparation for devotions.
My Experience after Visiting the Hindu Temple
I attended my first Hindu Temple service at St. Anne’s Road on Sunday, October 2, 2016. My aspirations to attend the service stemmed from the fact that Hindu was one of the religions that I have never had an opportunity to visit. That means I knew nothing regarding the composition of the service. It gave a chance to learn more concerning the religion regarding what entails the worshipping service and the rituals accompanying it. Of course, the first thing amazed me was the architectural designs of the Temple. It seemed to be a result of the steadfast dedication to both skills and resources for it have that look. Since I was a layperson, I just watched the devotees do their stuff maybe as a way of learning. One thing I saw them do and nagged me was bathing. It is one thing I wished to know as I wondered why one would wash at home and do it while in the temple. After the service, one believer explained to me that that was a Vedic ritual, which the veterans called the Abhishek. As Malloy asserts, it serves to honor the murthi (their God) (p.78). I felt challenged to fully immerse in the religion to understand every other but skepticism could not allow me.
I respected the fact that the Hindu devotees can give that much attention, passion, and energy throughout the worship session, considering that it takes long. I learned that Hinduism has many denominations for the first time. All the entire time I had known Hinduism to constitute one big denomination unlike the other experience I had concerning other religions with so many of them. One thing I did not understand is why they would decide to offer fruit offerings to their gods. Additionally, it did not take me time to realize the much respect they owed their sanctuary. Wearing shoes into the Temple was offensive. It was not strange to me since I belong to the sikh religion and this is part of what we do. In the Christian sanctuaries, believers have no problem enjoying our drinks, some foods among other things (Dougherty et al. 490). Moreover, throughout the worshipping session, the liturgy, symbols and the manner the leaders conducted the service struck out to me.
All in all, by visiting the Hindu Temple service, I would say it was an excellent experience for me. I enjoyed the opportunity to attend the service as I knew many things that had wished to witness in my entire life. Notably, I learned that Religion coins a lot from devotion. I now understand that it requires an in-depth commitment to remaining in religion as it involves a personal dedication. Indeed, from the first time I walked into the Temple I experienced how determined the Hindus were in preserving their faith. It was evident right from the service rituals to the end.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Babb, Lawrence A. “Glancing: visual interaction in Hinduism.” Journal of anthropological research (1981): 387-401.
Dougherty, Kevin D., Byron R. Johnson, and Edward C. Polson. “Recovering the lost: Remeasuring US religious affiliation.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 46.4 (2007): 483-499.
Eck, Diana L. “Darshan of the Image.” India International Centre Quarterly 13.1 (1986): 43-53.
Frazier, Jessica. “Bhakti in Hindu Cultures.” The Journal of Hindu Studies 6.2 (2013): 101-113.
Jayasinghe, Kelum, and Teerooven Soobaroyen. “Religious “spirit” and peoples’ perceptions of accountability in Hindu and Buddhist religious organizations.” Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal 22.7 (2009): 997-1028.
Klostermaier, Klaus K. Hinduism: A Beginner’s Guide. Oneworld Publications, 2007.
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Nye, Malory. “Temple congregations and communities: Hindu constructions in Edinburgh.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 19.2 (1993): 201-215.