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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

Westerners Adopt Indian Practices, Deny Giving Due Credits

There is an argument by some Hindu liberals thinking “what the problem in it”? They think our knowledge is globalized by West in the same way we consume inventions of the West. But it’s a very naïve argument.

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Its time Indians in general and Hindus in particular should be vigilant and should have an academic mind set to respond to such misadventures to protect our own heritage and Dharma. Hindu Council Of Australia

By Shashi Holla (WA) and Surinder Jain

Colonial or a white supremacy mind set may be clever enough to adopt Hindu practices but denies giving credit where it is due. Stealing Hindu Intellectual Property, they do not hesitate to rename and repackage so that they can sell it back to India for immense profits. Off course, they will leave no chance to tell Indians to stop their superstitious ways and to adopt the new scientific knowledge which “they” have “invented”.

Following has been already digested or appropriated by West. Some of the Western academics don’t believe that they belong to India.

Yoga Nidra   AS  Lucid Dreaming

Nadi Shodhana AS Alternate Nostrils Breathing

Vipassana  AS Mindfulness.

The latest addition to this list is

Pranamyam AS Cardiac Coherence Breathing

Several researchers have reported that pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress-related disorders.[29] But the latest attempt has taken the appropriation too far. An American magazine “Scientific American” in its article titled “Proper Breathing Brings Better health” termed “Pranayama” as cardiac coherence breathing. (15 January 2019). The article gives us an idea about how West is so sophisticated in stealing knowledge from ancient cultures particularly Hinduism.

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Man doing Yoga. Wikimedia Commons

Prāṇāyāma is mentioned in verse 4.29 of the Bhagavad Gītā.[11] According to Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is, prāṇāyāma is translated to “trance induced by stopping all breathing”, also being made from the two separate Sanskrit words, prāṇa and āyām.[12] Pranayama is the fourth “limb” of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga mentioned in verse 2.29 in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[14][15] Patanjali, a Hindu Rishi, discusses his specific approach to pranayama in verses 2.49 through 2.51, and devotes verses 2.52 and 2.53 to explaining the benefits of the practice.[16] Many yoga teachers advise that pranayama should be part of an overall practice that includes the other limbs of Patanjali’s Raja Yoga teachings, especially Yama, Niyama, and Asana.[18]

“Pranayama” a department of Yogic science practiced and documented 5000 years back ( even 15,000 years back) by Rishis is not even acknowledged by the author of the article. If one read the article they vaguely suggest that breathing exercises also existed in China, Hindu and in Greek culture.  This is how appropriation of ancient techniques takes place by West.  As Sankrat Sanu an entrepreneur, researcher and writer put it in his tweet “after erasing the origin they claim it as their own invention, attack original traditions as Superstition”.

As famous Indian American Author Rajiv Malhotra summarizes: “The article standardizes cardiac coherence breathing as Chinese, Hindu, Greek and various traditions as equal origins, and then modern West turns it into science”. Its time Indians in general and Hindus in particular should be vigilant and should have an academic mind set to respond to such misadventures to  protect our own heritage and Dharma.

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The article standardizes cardiac coherence breathing as Chinese, Hindu, Greek and various traditions as equal origins, and then modern West turns it into science”.  Pixabay

There is an argument by some Hindu liberals thinking “what the problem in it”? They think our knowledge is globalized by West in the same way we consume inventions of the West. But it’s a very naïve argument. West has created an eco system and mechanism in which their knowledge system is Well protected and patented by international norms. Unless West does not give a new name and fits into their framework native wisdom is not recognized in academia and media. Whereas Hindus were generous in sharing their health techniques freely from millennium never thought they will struggle in proving things which belong to them. In fact in a westernized framework of Yoga and other techniques Indian scholars, insiders and practitioners are blatantly ignored. So our own knowledge will be repackaged and exported back to us at an extra price and conditions.

Also Read: Climate Change Will Melt Vast Parts of Himalayas: Study

Many of our practices are being called to be Biofeedback systems. According to WikipediaBiofeedback systems have been known in India and some other countries for millennia. Ancient Hindu practices like yoga and Pranayama (breathing techniques) are essentially biofeedback methods. Many yogis and sadhus have been known to exercise control over their physiological processes. In addition to recent research on Yoga, Paul Brunton, the British writer who travelled extensively in India, has written about many cases he has witnessed. (Hindu Council Of Australia)