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Puja is a Sanskrit word which can be loosely translated as ‘worship’. Puja is performed in private homes and in public temples wherever there is a Hindu presence.
Minimally puja might involve going to a temple and receiving the deity’s blessing in the form of a mark (tilak) of sandalwood paste (chandana) or red turmeric powder (kunkuma) on the forehead.
In private homes, puja is performed before the icon of the deity installed in the purest room in the house. In the temple a puja might become very elaborate, with sacred verses (mantra) being uttered by the temple priest (pujari) while the icon is bathed and dressed, and a variety of foods are offered, accompanied by the strong smell of incense and the loud ringing of bells and banging of drums. Many people might be present at such pujas to gaze upon the deity – to have its darshan-and to receive back the offered food blessed by the god (prasada).