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Aradhana In Hindu Religion

In Hindu religion, worship or propitiation of deities is known as aradhana. In Pre-Vedic times, the gods who were formally worshipped were Surya, Agni, Prajapati, Dhanvantari, Indra, and Vishvedevas. Adi Shankaracharya is said to have popularized sanmata, the worship of the six deities – Ganapati, Surya, Subrahmanya, Shakti, Vishnu and Shiva. The main Hindu deities who are worshiped under the panchayatanapuja are Vishnu (in several forms), Shiva, Durga, Ganesha and Surya.

There can be five, ten, sixteen, eighteen, or sixty-four upacharas (ways) of worship. The most common is the one involving sixteen ways known as sodasha-upachara. First, the deity is invoked (avahana) and invited to be seated (asana). The deity’s feet are washed (padya) and an offering (arghya) consisting of eight ingredients – curds, whole grains of rice, ends of kusha grass, milk, durva grass, honey, barley grains and white mustard seeds mixed in water – is made. After water is sipped from the palm of one’s hand (achamana), the deity is give a holy bath (snana). This is done with panchamrita, a mixture of five substances – milk, curds, ghee (clarified butter), honey and jaggery. The deity is then dressed (vastra) and invested with the sacred thread (yajnopavita). It is anointed with fragrant substances (anulepana). Flowers (pushpa) – those with overpowering fragrance – those that have no scent at all cannot be used – and incense (dhoopa) and specially cooked food (naivedya) are offered to the deity. Lamps (deepa), and usually lighted camphor, are waved in front of the deity. Finally, the worshipper prostrates in front of the deity (namaskara), and circumambulates (pradakshina) the sanctum sanctorum. Then the deity is taken leave of (visarjana). The devotee pleads for the indulgence of the deity of errors, if any, committed during worship. The flowers offered are removed the subsequent day (nirmalya).

Archakas (designated priests), watched by the devotees, conduct this worship in South Indian temples. In the northern parts of the country, devotees are allowed to offer individual worship in temples. There are, however, no rigid rules in the practice of this form of worship. These days, a much-simplified worship is practiced depending on the intensity of one’s devotion and the availability of time.

The sixteen-part worship is performed not only in temples but also in homes. Sometimes it is accompanied by the chanting of Vedic hymns and the rendering of devotional songs. During the aradhana, the Rig Vedic hymn of Purushasukta is chanted. Those not conversant with the hymn, chant the panchakshara mantra, Namah Shivaya or the ashtakshara mantra, Om Namo Narayanaya.

In the temples, this worship is performed three times a day and is known as Trikala puja, in the morning, at noon and during twilight. In some temples, however, it is done only in the morning and evening. The most important part of this worship is the patterned waving of lighted camphor before the deity known as deepa aradhana.