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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
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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

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Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

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Hinduism
he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

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Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

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Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

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Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.

Twitter:@SGewali.