Hindu worship ( puja ) involves images of god/goddesses ( murtis ), prayers and chanting of mantras and use of diagrams of the universe known as yantras .
Worship of the image or icon of God/Goddess (murtis) is the most important part of Hindu worship. This can be done either at home or in the temple.
Hindu worship is primarily an individual act; it involves making personal offerings to the deity.
Worship involves repeating the names of favorite gods and goddesses (istadevatas), and repeating mantras. Water, fruit, flowers and incense are offered as sacrifices/gifts to god.
Hindus have a shrine or personal worship room in their homes called a puja room where offerings are made and prayers are said. This room can be anything from a room, a small altar or simply pictures or statues of the deity.
Visiting and worshipping temples is an integral part of Hindu worship. Alone or with the aid of temple priests who receive offerings and present these offerings to the gods. The gifts given to the gods become sacred through contact with their images or with their shrines, and may be received and used by worshipers as the grace (prasada) of the divine.
Hindu religious rites can be generally classified into three categories:
1. Nitya: These are rituals that are performed daily often at dawn and dusk, beginning often by purification. These consist in offerings made at the home shrine or performing puja to the family deities. For orthodox Hindus, dawn and dusk are greeted with recitation from the Rig Veda of the Gayatri Mantra for the sun. For many people, the only Sanskrit prayer they know is Gayatri. Each Hindu has 3 daily duties:
Revere the deities, respect ancestors and respect all beings.
2. Naimittika: These are rituals that occur only at certain times during the year.
- FEBRUARY: Maha Shivaratri
- MARS/AVRIL: birth of Hanuman, period which is called Hanuman Jayanti
- AUGUST: Nag Panchmi , month during which one venerate Shiva’s cobra
- SEPTEMBER: Birth of Ganesh, Ganesh Tchaturti
- OCTOBER: Dashahara , victory of Rowed on Rawan
- NOVEMBER: Diwali
- DECEMBER: Datatry Jayanti , union of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
3. Kamya: (i.e. pilgrimage: allowing a devotee to see and be seen by the deity) optional and highly desirable.
- Kumbh Mela happening once every 12 years. Up to 10 million devotees share in ritual bathing at Allahabad.
A note on Cow veneration:
Mahatma Gandhi has referred to the cow protection as one of the most wonderful phenomena in human evolution, he has also said Protection of the cow means protection of the whole dumb creation of God.