Water undoubtedly has the paramount spot in the practices of virtually all religions, for three prime reasons. Firstly, because water is the essence of life. It’s the basic element of everything and it’s possible to imagine life without water. Secondly, because water cleanses.
Water washes away impurities and purifies whatever comes to its contact not only externally but spiritually as well. The magnitude of water reveals itself differently in various religions and cultures but it is these prime qualities of water that makes it the basis of every culture and religion.
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Water is the very essence of Hinduism, not only for its life preserving characteristics but also because of its extensive use in rituals and practices. River Ganga (the Ganges) is considered sacred and often personified as a goddess in Hinduism.
There are seven principle holy rivers in India namely the Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu, and Kaveri. Most rivers are feminine and are personified as goddesses. Despite the fact that Hinduism surrounds many different beliefs and customs, but still share the significance of achieving purity and cleanliness. This relates to both physical as well as spiritual prosperity.
Pilgrimage holds another importance spot in Hinduism. Holy places are normally on the banks of rivers or seashores. Sacred rivers are thought to be a great equalizer,in which a swim can make all sins fall away. Kumbhamela is the main pilgrimage of Hindu devotees and is held every three years. Funeral spots are always located near a river. After the cremation, the ashes are cast into the holy rivers.Certain spots on the seashore are also holy. Puri is considered sanctified to Vaishnavas, and Cape Comorin (Kanyakumari) is sacred to followers of Shiva and devotees of Rama.
Certain lakes and ponds are also seen as sacred. Particularly in the Southern part of India,where tanks (man-made ponds) are built so that worshipers can clean themselves before entering the temple.
Water plays a crucial role in all rituals in Hinduism.From cleaning the vessels before poojas (rituals) to bathing the Deities. Water is offered to the Deity and the water collected from bathing the Deities are often considered sacred. This water is offered as “Theertha” meaning a blessed oblation.
Poorna Kumba literally means a full pitcher, is a pitcher full of holy water with fresh leaves preferably from mango trees and a banana placed on the top.This symbolizes God and is often used during Hindu religious rites. The water in the jar is said to be sacred and a divine essence.
- Many rituals in Hinduism begin with keeping a kalasa, which is a brass, silver or gold pot filled with water decorated with mango leaves and a banana.
- Kalasa symbolizes the totality or the universe and becomes a crucial part of the Hindu rituals and poojas. The pot is believed to be the first vessel into which the Deities descend.
- One of the religious rituals is Tarpana, which means to please the god in Hinduism. Tarpana is the practice of pouring water through fingers with the use of sacred grass as a symbolic gesture of showing, gratitude, and pleasing Gods.
- During every purification rite, water is sprinkled on the object which is to be cleansed.
- Before eating the meal,it is a tradition in Hindus to sprinkle water around the plate in which the food is served to thank and please the god.
- In ancient period, Kings were sprinkled with water in order to purify them during their coronation to ensure an auspicious beginning to their reign.
Water is one of the sacred element in Hinduism, especially rivers. Hindus believe that bathing in the river helps in the forgiveness of sins. They immerse the ashes of the dead in the sacred waters of Ganges as a means to send the soul to heaven. In many cultures, water is also the fountainhead of inspiration and has been for many ages. People have adopted spiritual and traditional values that bind and support them in living a peaceful and a prosperous life. And of course ,this play a crucial role in water management as well.
– by Yajush Gupta. Twitter: yajush_gupta