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Kalash Puja – Various Types – Meaning

Kalash, also known as ghata or kumbha, meaning a pitcher or pot is an important aspect in the worship in Hindu religion. Kalash puja is done as part of worship in itself. A mud, copper, brass, silver or gold vessel is chosen for Kalash Puja.

Kalash or Kalasha is considered a concrete manifestation of the Ultimate, a symbol of cosmic reality. There is a white yarn wound round the kalash to represent nadis (the spiritual nerve centers). Bunches of mango leaves are placed at the mouth of the pitcher and a coconut is placed over them. A knotted bunch of darbha (a kind of grass), yajnopavita (a sacred thread), and gold or silver coins form the other materials of the puja. The green leaves, coconut and coins represent fertility, removal of obstacles and abundance respectively. Generally, the pitcher is filled with water or, in some specific pujas, with raw rice.

During ceremonies like pranapratistha (invoking God in an image by investing it with ‘life force’), Kumbhabhishekam or samproksanama (a consecration ceremony for temples to make them a place of residence of God), and jirnoddharanam, (rejuvenation and revitalization ceremonies of temples once every 12 years), the daily pujas to the main deity are stopped temporarily and the deity is invoked in the water inside the kalasha especially placed in the sacred hall, as the water is said to represent all the gods of the pantheon. After the necessary pujas, three times a day, an havan, the power thus invoked in water is transferred ritually to the main deity, or the temple kalasha atop the vimana is anointed.

At the time of puja, kalash is placed on an altar decorated with tortoise motif (representing Vishnu’s incarnation bearing Mount Mandara), the serpent Adisesha (who is believed to hold the Earth on his hoods) and Diggajas (the eight directional elephants), and the lotus motif is made on rice and other grains. This is known variously as kalash sthapanam, ghatasthapanam, kumbhasthapanam etc.

In domestic rituals like punyahavacanam, udakashanti (cleansing and purificatory rituals), in shantikarmas (rituals praying of abundance, health, etc) and most of the havans (like navagraha homa, vastu homa) a kalash is place without the decorated altars. Even when pujas are performed for days together, as during Navratri (the nine-day worship of Goddess Durga), or when continuous recitations are to take place, a kalash is place and the main deity is invoked. There is a custom of worshipping Goddess Lakshmi in Kalasha. The brides in many families in South India are presented with a new kalash by their mothers to carry to their husband’s houses. Where the iconic representation of a particular deity is not clear or customized there, too, the worship is made in kalash only, e.g., the invocation of Veda Vyasa in upakarma ceremonies. Varuna, too, is generally invoked whenever kalash puja is done with water, as Varuna, is portrayed as the deity in charge of water.

In daily worship at home which is performed by Hindus, before the commencement of puja, a small kalash with water is decorated with sandal, vermilion and flowers. The names of gods and sacred rivers are recited and are called upon to abide in the pitcher. Trimurtis (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva), the divine mothers, the ocean, the Earth, Vedas, etc., are invoked in different parts of kalash. Then the worshipper sprinkles himself and other objects with that water.

At funeral ceremonies, the chief mourner returns home with a kalash decorated in the customary way, symbolizing rejuvenation, new life and fertility after the completion of funeral ceremonies and the prescribed period of impurity.