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Rituals in Hinduism : The Touchstone of Tradition in the Religion

The significance of rituals in Hinduism starts with the ideology that rituals bring in social order to the society

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Yajna, a Hindu ritual, Wikimedia
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– by Christina Elizabeth Emmanuel 

Feb 23, 2017: Rather than residing under the umbrella term of Religion, Hinduism stands out for being a held high amalgamation of social values and philosophies. It’s a tradition and a part of Indian History.

Traces of Hinduism dates back to 5500 BCE, say Indian archaeologists. Clinging hard to the concepts of Doctrine, Practice, Society, Story and Devotion, Hinduism emerges as a platform of customs, rituals, and norms and created a Social Structure.

Rituals being the ‘formalized behaviour’ in which a collection of people engage religiously, in a certain way of expressions and motions. Hinduism gives much importance to these special gestures or behaviours that paved the change of a Philosophy to start known as the Religion existing from prehistoric times.

The significance of rituals in Hinduism starts with the ideology that rituals bring in social order to the society. Performing rituals around what is considered as the ‘sacred’ brings in the consciousness of ‘Profane’ that distinguishes the high posited thoughts on ‘Holy’.

Moreover, rituals bring in a collective identity to them even when it breaks into several clans or groups. The shared experiences thus evolve from the performance of rituals binds the people together towards a moral movement and transcendence.

Complete abiding to the common rituals within the communal premises promise a social mechanism that might bring social solidarity and social mobility in an existing social structure. As Stark suggested rituals leads to the continuation of the voluntary strengthening of collective conscience.

Hinduism is one of the wide spreading Philosophy or religion, comprises of a huge collection of rituals that has to be performed every day right from dawn till dusk. Apart from the endless social significance it holds, there are numerous spiritual significance it presents to its people.

  • ‘Yajnas’, where chanting mantras to performing pujas and offering to deities around the sacred fire ‘Agni Deva’ who purifies entirely without getting impure is the most prevailed ritual that has been known and performed by a large number of people till the date. The ritual never failed in bringing a sense of fulfilment and gratitude in the performer as it is directly associated with the psychological cognitive orientations of faith, hope and care. Every festival starts with yajnas and every beginning starts with this ritual.
  • ‘Japa’, the recitations on God’s which give the performer, the sense of closeness to God, a direct speech with God also is a powerful ritual in Hinduism that provides spiritual enlightenment to its people within a short span of time. Research says that ‘Japa’ increases the concentration level of the performer leaving great relief from the mundane problems.
  • ‘Aum’ or ‘Ohm’, the first vibes or voice that was voiced out in Mother Earth, evokes the sense of divinity around in the performer. It’s not used by everyone as it’s considered as one of the most sacred word in Hinduism.
  • Right from taking ‘Prasada’ after ‘archana’ to knowing deeply about ‘Brahma’ and ‘Atman’ constitutes the rituals in Hinduism, which develops as the touchstone of tradition and culture- the way of life.
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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.

Hindusim
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.

Hindusim
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”.

Hinduism
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.