Saturday, April 13, 2013

Traditional Religious Practices of Hindu Culture - General Awareness

I would like to remove some of those misunderstandings and misconceptions among our younger generations regarding the practices of our age-old traditional rites and rituals which are being performed in our day-to-day lives.

The Hindu culture and scriptures have prescribed different types of rites and rituals to be performed on different occasions during our lifespan, from our birth to death. All these have their own significances and impacts on our life.

Important Religious Functions in a Person's Life

  • At birth, we perform the birthday pooja and Graha Shanthi, etc. for the well being of the child and his future. 
  • On the 21st day of the baby or afterward, the naming ceremony known as Naam Karan (Barasala) is performed.
  • On attaining the age of six months or so, we perform the Annaprasan ( giving the first meal to the baby) ceremony. 
  • At the age of three, Aksharabhyasam ceremony (the practice of writing the Alphabets) is celebrated.
  • Thereafter, after attaining a certain age say 12 or afterward, we perform the Upanayana (sacred thread ceremony) for boys and the Rajaswala function (Girl Maturity) for girls.
  • Many other ceremonies are also performed according to your customs and circumstances.
  • The final ceremony of any person performed is the death ceremony.

Most of these ceremonies are to be performed by us to show reverence to our elders and the age-old traditions, even though we may not be believing in these things.

Many people may try to dismiss all these to be superstitious and senseless and as a waste of time and money. But, look at the pleasure and joy it provides to your elders and family circles. Besides, it creates an atmosphere of family reunion and happiness for some period. You are meeting all your people due to these occasions. Further, it provides a nice satisfaction to yourself and remains as a sweet memory in your life.

Guidelines for the Performance of These Rituals

While performing these rituals, you may have to take a bath, wear the Dhoti (the traditional attire for performing ceremonies), and may have to bathe and change clothes again and again for some of those ceremonies, in order to perform the next step of that ritual. This may be awkward to you but it is to be performed for the sake of your family members and relatives.

In case of performing the last journey of the deceased and their death-rites, it might be too much unbearable and undesirable for some people to follow the procedures. Your ego will be coming in between to perform such acts as washing the feet of pundits with your hands (fully wetting their feet with water) and then sprinkling the water on your heads. You may have to dry their feet with your towel and offer them a clean seat to sit. You may also require spreading your towel or Dhoti on the ground for them to walk over it and then, wear it again while performing the remaining part of the pooja.

All these practices may seem very silly and irritating to some people. It lies in your perception of things.If you see things as they appear to you it will be wrong for you. You must not perceive these things and interpret them as they appear to your physical senses. You must go in depth and think of the spiritual and moral values of such practices. If you understand the essence of these practices, then you will not feel hurt or humbled down.

You must think of the Pundits as representatives of your God.While washing the feet of the pundit, you must know that you are washing the feet of God who is receiving your offers.

You cannot contact or come in touch with God directly. So you are keeping a medium in between you and God. That is why you are washing the feet of God represented in the form of your pundit and taking the blessings of God by sprinkling the water so washed over your heads. Whatever service you do to your pundit, think of it that you are doing all this to your God.

You may argue that we do not know whether there is God or not. But, at the same time, you experience some supernatural power controlling everything we do and at all times and all places whichever you cannot explain with all your science and technology. So you agree that there is some power above you. Name this power as God. Even if you do not want to personify Him, it is a fact that there is some Super Power.

  • Think that that Super Power is represented by your Pundit. 
  • Your pundit may be an ordinary simple man. 
  • But to perform your pooja and offer your prayers and offerings, you are treating him as your God or that Superior Power and offering everything to him. 
  • You need not go on his qualities or on his age. Simply offer everything to him in the name of God and think as if God is receiving whatever you are offering to him.
  • When you think in this manner, you will never feel hurt or subdued and will be able to perform all these traditional rites and rituals with a purified mind and will be able to experience a mental satisfaction and peace of mind. 
  • You will feel happy and satisfied that you have done some good job.