Puja: Religion and Deity
Puja which literally means worship is performed before the deities’ images by both priests and laypeople in temples and homes throughout India. Puja in a large temple, especially in the blackness enveloping the innermost shrines, has a powerful sensual impact, often amplified by the press of a large crowd of devotees in a hot, confined space (Fuller, 57). The image in front of which puja is carried out can be natural like a tree, plant, rock or can be manmade such as constructed out of concrete, wood, brass etc.Frequently picture of deity also substitute the image of particular deity (Fuller, 59). Worship is addressed to a deity whose powers are considered to be in an image and also to a deity as an image (Fuller, 61). It is quiet arguable that how these sources describe images or artefacts as the deity and how they play an important role in the worship process? Hindus perform puja in broad range of settings.
In temples, where priests are usually responsible for performing it before the images or artefacts of deities, puja should be carried out regularly (Fuller, 62).Besides temples, puja is performed in many other institutions, such as monasteries, as well as in Hindu homes, normally at the household shrine where images or pictures of deities are kept. Worship at home is done regularly, daily or perhaps weekly. In puja image or artefact of deity is offered a meal, fruit, flowers, and entertained by music, singing and dancing; incense is wafted over it and decorated lamps are waved before it. Naturally, puja can also vary enormously in its elaborateness and correspondingly with the quantities of time and money spent on it (Fuller, 63).According to Shaiva ritual texts known as the Agamas, “only Shiva can worship Shiva. ”Plainly, the formula that the only perfect worship is the one performed by the god for himself, but here on earth it is commonly taken to mean that priest must become, at one level, Shiva himself.
In general terms, the same applies to anyone identified as divine, whether it is someone possessed by a village goddess, or a holy man widely revered as a living god.In all these cases, to identify a person as a form of a deity also implies that person is an “image” of deity (Fuller, 61). Acquiring status same as God by human is highly questionable. God has strength which cannot be attained by a mere human being. When it says priest possesses the power of Shiva does that mean that the priest possesses the ability of destructing the whole world? It is certainly not clear which deity’s power are in that “human” image of deity.As a conclusion, assuming that deity images or artefacts have powers of god is clear superstition. The deity images only serve the purpose of identification for certain deity.
Image worship has been increasingly criticized by reformist Hindu intellectuals as a superstitious deviation from the true, original religion of the Vedas, which only marginally refer to the ritual use of images (Fuller, 62). Participating of puja expresses the relationship between the deity and their devotees.Gods and Goddesses do not actually need offerings and servings (given to their imager or artefacts) because they are never dirty, ugly, hungry or unable to see the world. The purpose of worship should be to honour the deities and show devotion by serving them (Fuller, 70). This way human can achieve true love and respect towards the deities.Work Cited 1. Fuller, C.
J. The Camphor Flame : Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Princeton University Press: 2004. Page 57-70