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Hindu Rites and Rituals: their meaning and significance

Rituals are the formulas by which harmony is restored - Terry Tempest Williams

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Vishnu Yagna Kunda in Yagashala, as part of Mahakumbhabhishekam of Gunjanarasimhaswamy Temple, T. Narasipur. Wikimedia

December 13, 2016: For Hindus, rituals form a very important part of their culture. Rituals are made to instill feelings of religiosity and devotion. They are necessary to strengthen one’s faith in the religion and also God.

Earlier, the life of many religious Hindus practice rituals centered on the importance of performing the duties associated with one’s stage of life. With regard to this, Hindus passed through these four stages of life:

Brahmacharya: It if focused on acquiring education and developing one’s character.

Grihastha: Focuses on worldly pleasures and pursuits including marriage and career.

Vanaprastha: Focuses on spiritual things

Sannyasa: The life of contemplation

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According to Hinduism, performing rituals can help us get rid of all the negative hostile influences and attract the positive beneficial ones.  The main purpose of the rituals is the progress in one’s life, spiritually and materially. The material gain includes the gain of progeny, wealth, intellect, strength and long life. Rituals also lay down some rules of conduct that are necessary for a follower to perform to develop his personality and become a complete man.

Every ritual has a meaning ad a scientific reason behind it. For example, the scientific reason behind ringing the bell before entering the inner sanctum of a temple is that it clears our mind and helps us concentrate. The sound creates a unity in the left and right sides of the brain. The sound activates all the healing centers in our body.

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Rituals develop over the time. There are many rituals of ancient times that we do not perform today. Also, the meaning and practice of some rituals have changed over the course of time. During Vedic times, yajnas were related with Karma and Dharma. Today, these are associated with social activities.

But the rituals are not limited to Hinduism. A ritual is mere a form of language that communicates through formal gestures. Even the salute in the army is a form of ritual that acknowledges seniority. The rituals help transmit an idea over generations.

Sometimes, the ritual is separated from its purpose and understanding. Whether you understand it or not, you are obligated to perform it for the benefit of the upcoming generation.

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For example, the namaaz in Islam binds the entire Muslim community. So, even without our understanding, a ritual binds an individual to a community.

Rituals are a form of art, which appeals to some people more than it does to other.  Some people see the point, because they open themselves to art, while some don’t. A ritual communicates in a visceral manner, through the body and through the soul, not through the thoughts or the spoken words. One can see it and feel it. If you just observe a ritual like some tourist, it will not evoke emotions in you unlike in a person who participates in it and lets the art overtake.

Rituals can sometimes be suffocating if they are performed as an obligation and not with free will. For people who can’t understand the purpose behind the rituals, it can be torturous. To people, who immerse themselves in rituals and understand the concept behind them, rituals play an important part in making them a part of the social group. So there are good as well as bad aspects of rituals. But, as long as we want to connect humans to their communities, we need rituals.

Prepared by Diksha Arya of NewsGram. Twitter: @diksha_arya53

Next Story

Fireworks Might Extinguish the Flame of Laxmi Puja

We can have various kind of festival enjoyments on Festivals but without ever causing problem to others and the environment

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There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. Pixabay

BY SALIL GEWALI

If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong. There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. To disturb others’ tranquility falls under the heading of vices. Preserving the sanctity of the environment, and more importantly, inner purity of mind and heart is the “prime doctrine” of SANATAN DHARMA which is popularly known as Hinduism. This Hindu culture now seemingly run the risk of having been defined by other communities with what is not very pleasant to hear.

Fireworks
It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment without Using Fireworks.

I’ve overheard many toxic comments against this blatant desecration of auspicious “puja celebrations”. During Holi festival, many people fear to move out of their homes, particularly in certain the plane areas in India. You might be blasted with a bucketful of dirty water by pranksters from the 5th floor of the building. Is this sadism the part of the puja and holi celebration? One is afraid, with each passing year, this festival of color of joy, though having strong spiritual significance, has only painted the very face of Hindu culture with vulgarity and depravity.

Fireworks
If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers, Fireworks and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong.

Matter of fact, peace in one’s life and his efforts to help bring peace in others’ lives is essentially the fundamental basis of Hindu culture and festivals. Practically speaking, there is no devotion to God without “peace”.  Therefore, “Shanti” (peace) is one of the most paramount peace mantras in Sanskrit, not “Ashanti” which, of late, is the hallmark of such Hindu puja celebrations. The profound objective behind this peace mantra, as propounded in Upanishads, inspired even one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century – TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land. That poem finally ends with the same peace mantra — Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Fireworks
TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land.

It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment. There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna LilaRam Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”. Ancient sages in their meditation conceived and authored a number of treatises in which we find the elaborate approaches and procedures to evolve oneself spiritually through fun-filled dances and music. There are “ragas and layas” (musical modes and rhythm), which are meant to “recharge” the mind for the meditative concentrationThe objective behind being to climb up the ladders of realization of oneness and universal uniformity.

Fireworks
There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna Lila, Ram Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation and not Fireworks. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”.

However, there is absolutely no scope or prescription for deriving pleasure or fun by causing pain and anxieties to others? How come bursting high decibel fireworks at 2 AM or 3 AM or 4 AM is puja? In fact, it is called “adharma” or irreligion leading to self-degeneration.

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Therefore, it is DIYA, as per Vedas, which symbolizes the LIGHT to dispel the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of vices, and bring forth the light of knowledge to awake the “inherent” divinity. Goddess Laxmi is the “flame” of feminine ENERGY in the infinite cosmic creation. So, indulging in earsplitting fireworks and causing continuous problem to HER creatures, and HER environment, is totally against the fundamental principle of the devotion in Hinduism. Very sadly, with the blasting of the fireworks in the name of Goddess Laxmi we have invariably set off the tank of vices alone.

Salil Gewali is a well-Known Writer and Author of ‘Great Minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali