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Hindu Rites and Rituals (Sentiments, Sacraments and Symbols)

Hindu Rites and Rituals (Sentiments, Sacraments and Symbols)


Item Code: IDC121

by Sadhu Mukundcharandas

Hardcover (Edition: 2007)

Swaminarayan Aksharpith
ISBN 8175263563

Size: 10.0" X 7.5"
Pages: 552 (Illustrated Throughout In Full Color)
Weight of the Book: 1.410 Kg
Price: $42.50
Discounted: $31.88   Shipping Free
Viewed times since 19th Mar, 2014


From the Jacket

The Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is a global socio-spiritual organization committed to the moral and spiritual uplift of mankind. It was established in 1907 CE by Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj in consonance with the Vedic teachings propagated by Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781-1830 CE).

The Sansth’s global network of 9,090 Satsang centres are perennial sources of moral, social cultural and spiritual activities. He energies of the BAPS volunteer corps of 55,000 youths and over 700 sadhus are channelised towards a variety of philanthropic activities. The BAPS is an NGO in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Its world renowned cultural and spiritual complexes like Akshardham in Gandhinagar and New Delhi and the Swaminarayan Mandirs in London, Nairobi, Houston, Chicago, Toronto and Atlanta, are some of its epoch-making contributions to society. Under the inspiration and guidance of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, BAPS has earned an endearing and unique place in the hearts of millions throughout the world.

Acclaimed as a unique and rare holy soul of India, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was born on 7 December 1921, in the village of Chansad, Gujarat. He is the fifth successor in the illustrious spiritual tradition of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the embodiment of the universal Hindu ideals.

In his presence doubts dissolve, confusions clear, hurts heal and the mind finds peace. His selfless love and morality equally soothes and moralises children, youths and the aged; regardless of caste, creed or status.

Out of his compassion for humanity, he has visited over 15,500 villages, towns and cities, sanctified over 267,000 homes, and read and replied to over 700,000 letters. He has ushered a cultural, moral and spiritual renaissance in India and abroad by establishing over 700 mandirs. His divine humanism has provided succour to countless souls in time of natural catastrophe and need.

His striking humility, simplicity and spiritualism have impressed many religious and national leaders. Above all, his profound experience and realisation of God is the essence of his success and divine lustre.

Back of the Book

(Sentiments, Sacraments & symbols)

Is the author’s fourth full-colour book in the cadre of “eventually growing category of a ‘Hindu Dharma Encyclopaedia” cited by Dr. Hasu Yajnik in his Foreword to Hindu Festivals (origin, sentiments & rituals), the author’s previous previous book (2005). The first was Vachanamrut Handbook and the second, Rishis, Mystics & Heroes of India (Vol. I). This book break’s the record with an astonishing number of 781 superb colour photographs, 90 paintings and 27 maps. These enable the reader to experience the depth and understanding of how Hindus live and have adjusted to migration, changing cultural trends and cope with daily stress by their rites, daily rituals and festivals.

The effort and care to include the minutest details and references from the ancient Sanskrit shastras is commendable. There’s something here for every reader; all young Hindus who have been pestering parents about the ‘why’, their parents who sorely wished they had the right answers, as well as for teachers, admirers and academics.

A book worthy as a birthday gift and for young Hindus about to get married. The brief explanation of the vivah rites with photographs will make the ceremony all the more meaningful and increase its sanctity in the hearts of the Hindu couple. A must read prior to marriage.


Sanatan Dharma is known all over the world as a tradition of culture, art, mysticism and spirituality. It also has the oldest living practices in the form of rites and rituals. Until recent times, Hindus practiced these on faith, like their forefathers. Unfortunately, today’s Hindus, influenced by materialism and the ever-present ‘science versus religion debate’, tend to distance themselves from these rituals. They ask, “Why do we perform them? What is the need?”

The answers to these and other doubts do exist, in Sanskrit texts. However few people today know Sanskrit. Even less have time to search through translations. Lack of answers lead them to lose faith in practicing rituals and religion generally. The power of science, T.V. and electronic media also add fuel to the fire and often ridicule Hindu practices.

This book aims to provide answers and cogent arguments for all Hindus seeking answers to questions that may have irked them. It can be a vital tool for Hindu parents to inform their children about Hindu rituals. Yet this book also reaches out to young Hindus themselves, who can learn the reasons underlying rituals. They will then be able to explain to their friends, without shying, that Hinduism is more than just yoga and mysticism, and can be practiced in today’s hi-tech life.

Similar to a previous book, Hindu Festivals - Origin, Sentiments & Rituals, (2005), this book has attempted to capture the authenticity, essence, colourful charm and rich variety of Hindu rituals. Moreover, the inclusion of fifteen new chapters with a photographical account, hopes to provide a new, festive dimension to rituals, which should be an enthralling and enlightening experience. The answers and scientific elaboration about the significance of rituals hopes to remove any stigma and doubt usually associate with Hindu rituals; of them being old fashioned, rote and impractical in modern life.

It may surprise young Hindus to know that several rituals discussed in this book such as mansi puja, meditation and pranayama, can improve their overall physical health, immunity, power of concentration, memory, creativity and performance in sports, in addition to the spiritual gains. This is because they activate right-brain function, which deals with the above factors. The same rituals induce zest for living, since they directly focus on Bhagwan, who is the fountainhead of divinity, as well as the inspirer of the atma residing within. Practicing Hindu rituals will also help them identify and connect with a cultural tradition which is over 10,000 years old. It will boost their self-esteem and pride in being Hindus.

Besides the rituals of the Swaminarayan sampraday, which are based on Vaishnavism, this book incorporates similar religious rituals practiced in the important Vaishnav and Shaiva traditions and mandirs of India.

Today with finger-tip access to the internet, young Hindus often come across a wealth of information about Hindu rites and customs that are a common feature of Sanatan Dharma. However they are then stumped about its accuracy and context. Often the accounts are interpretations of a particular website, whose answers are based on its own philosophical tradition, which may conflict with the surfer’s own tradition and beliefs. On such occasions, surfers need an easily readable book, which quotes the sources of the rituals from the original shastras and explains the variations of its practice in other beliefs and regions.

This is such a book. For easy reference, the rites and rituals have been divided into five parts, with references of the shastras wherever possible. The five parts comprise:

Mandir rituals
bhakti rituals
home rituals
personal rituals and
important sacred symbols related to rituals.

In these five sections, readers can glimpse into the vast and mystical phenomenon of rituals, practised by a billion Hindus worldwide. They can appreciate the underlying scientific approach of the rishis who gifted these rituals to mankind. Young Hindus especially, can glean the answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding Sanatan Dharma’s varied religious beliefs and practices.

The following questions are a sample, from the traditional to the philosophical and spiritual:

Why should one practice rites and rituals? Why should one perform morning puja? How does a Hindu pray? Are prayers answered? How is a murti different from a statue? Why do people ring a bell on entering a mandir? Why do Hindus join their palms in pranams instead of shaking hands? Why should one offer pranams to parents every morning? Why should one have a spiritual guru? How does a tirth arise? What is the significance of serving others (seva)? Why should one have a home shrine? What is the significance of performing puja(n) of a newly purchased house, business or object such as a fridge, car, etc.? What is bhakti (devotion)? Can stress be relieved by chanting mantras? What is the purpose of clapping when singing bhajans? Is it yog or Yoga? What is the importance of celebrating festivals? Why is fasting, rather than feasting, observed during certain sacred days and jayantis (anniversaries) of avatars? Of all rituals of sadhana, which pleases Bhagwan the most? Why is marriage regarded as a sacred sacrament? What is so significant about avoiding pre-marital relationships? Why is vegetarianism an important Hindu diet norm? Why are certain plants, trees, animals and objects considered sacred or auspicious?

Answers to these and other questions appear in this book. It would be favourable to begin the book from chapter 1. However in eagerness to seek an answer, the reader may choose to dive in at any other part, without feeling a break in sequence, since each part is conclusive and not textually continuous with the next part. To find an answer speedily, refer to a key word in the Index.


Introduction xxx
Part I
Mandir Rituals
Introduction 1
1Mandir (worship shrine) 3
Mandir 3
What purpose does a mandir serve? 3
What is the need for building large mandirs? 4
Pramukh Swami Maharaj on purpose of mandirs 5
Mandir - A Living Form of the Divine 6
Mandir - Metaphysics & Subtle Concepts 8
Unique features of a Swaminarayan Mandir 8
Why should we wash our hands after removing shoes outside a mandir, home shrine or touching our feet? 10
Why do people ring a bell on entering a mandir? 10
How to offer reverence to deities 11
Why do devotees take care not to turn their backs to deities on exiting a mandir? 11
Why do some people hold their ears in front of the deity? 12
What is the significance of singing prabhatiya? 12
Why do people clap while singing bhajans and dhun? 12
Why do some devotees touch a mandir’s steps while climbing and then touch their heads? 13
2Prana Pratishtha (Image consecration) 15
Murti purification 15
Prana pratishtha rites 18
Shaligram and Shivlings 19
Mysterious energy infused in objects 19
3Murti Puja (Image worship) 21
Murti Puja 21
Evidence of the Divine’s manifestation in murtis 23
Bhagwan’s murti puja 25
4Puja (Worship ritual) 27
Puja 27
Bhagwan’s puja 27
Why is there a need for a murti? 28
Guru’s murti puja 28
Need for a guru 28
Puja ritual 29
Shodshopchar Puja 30
Why are incense sticks burnt during puja rituals? 31
Puja dravyas 32
Types of offerings (naivedya) 34
Puja on other occasions 34
5Mahapuja (Grand worship ritual) 37
History of Mahapuja 37
Glory of Mahapuja 39
Legacy 40
Mahapuja rituals 40
6Arti (Waving lighted wicks) 43
Arti - ritual & sentiments 43
Bell, drum and conch shell sounded during arti 44
Water from a conch-shell sprinkled around the arti 45
Money in the arti when ‘taking’ aska 45
The prescribed manner for performing arti 46
Arti in the Swaminarayan sampraday 46
7Prasadam (Sanctified offerings) 49
Factors influencing the types of prasadam 50
Types of prasadam in Hindu tirths 50
Shaiva shrines 50
Vaishnav shrines 51
Prasadam in the Swaminarayan sampraday 53
Traditional prasadam during utsavs in BAPS Swaminarayan mandirs54
Prasadam in the major shrines of India (in pictures) 54
8Abhishek (Bathing murtis) 61
Neelkanth Varni Abhishek 63
Abhishek during murti prana pratishtha 65
Anantakalashasnapanam in Bochasan 65
9Patotsav (Murti consecration anniversary utsav) 69
10Satsang sabha (Congregational spiritual gathering) 71
Glory of satsang 71
Importance of the satsang sabha 72
Contribution of the satsang sabha to society 74
Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the Gunatit successors on satsang 74
11Parayan (Extended spiritual discourse) 77
Origin 77
Parayan traditions 77
Parayans in northern India 78
Parayan in the Swaminarayan sampraday 79
Part 2
Bhakti Rituals
Introduction 83
12 Navdha Bhakti (Nine forms of devotion)85
(1) Shravanam 86
(2) Kirtanam 87
(3) Smaranam 88
(4) Padsevanam 89
Seva performed in mandirs (in pictures) 90
(5) Archanam 91
(6) Vandanam92
(7) Dasyam93
(8) Sakhyam 93
(9) Atmanivedanam 94
Four other important forms of bhakti 95
Navdha bhakti and instant spiritual strength 95
13Utsavs (Festivals) 97
Celebrating utsavs 97
Utsavs in the Swaminarayan sampraday 103
The Hindu Calendar and Seasons 105
Major Calendrical Utsay Rituals (in pictures) 106
14Maha Kumbh Mela (Grand pitcher gathering) 117
Origin 117
Glory 118
Ardh Kumbh mela 119
15Yagna (Ritual of the sacred fire) 121
Yagna - meaning & sentiments 121
Yagna ritual 121
Types of yagnas and their meanings 124
Foremost sentiment of yagna 126
Bhagwan Swaminarayan and yagnas 127
Yagnas in the BAPS Swaminarayan sampraday 127
16Dan (Donation) 129
Glory in the shastras 129
Purpose of dan 130
Types of dan 131
Donor’s sentiments 133
To whom should one donate? 134
Spiritual injunctions 136
Foremost sentiment 137
17Maanta (Personal pledges) 139
Maanta 139
Forms of maanta 139
Types of problems 141
Maanta in BAPS Swaminarayan sanstha 141
18Tirth Yatra (Pilgrimage) 145
Purpose of tirth yatra 145
Origin of tirths 146
Types of tirths 148
Preparations for yatra 148
Tirths of Sanatan Dharma 149
Rituals at the tirth 151
Ultimate tirth yatra 154
Padyatra to Ambaji 156
Yatra to Sabarimala 158
Swaminarayan sampraday’s tirths in Gujarat (map) 159
Passion for yatra on a scooter 159
19Grahan (Eclipse) 161
Origin 161
Dan (donation) 163
Shraddh (homage ritual for ancestors) 163
Punya (merit) 164
Solar eclipse celebrated in Kurukshetra 164
Lunar eclipse celebrated in Kashi 165
Effects 166
20Janmangal Namavali Paath (chanting 108 divine names of Bhagwan Swaminarayan) 169
Part 3
Home Rituals
Introduction 179
21Shilanyas (foundation-stone laying ritual) 181
Marjanam 182
Khata Devata pujan 182
Shilanyas ritual sequence (in pictures) 183
22Vastu Puja (Home inauguration) 185
Origin of Vastu 185
Vastu puja ritual 186
Sankalp 186
Dhruva puja 186
Gruha pravesh (entering the house) 187
23Ghar Mandir (Home shrine) 189
Ghar mandir 189
Functions of a ghar mandir 189
Choosing a location for the ghar mandir 190
Maintaining purity of the ghar mandir 190
Murtis in the ghar mandir 191
Murtis in BAPS ghar mandir 192
Pramukh Swami Maharaj on the ghar mandir 192
Why is the ash of burnt incense (agarbatti) in ghar mandirs, usually sprinkled in a river or water body, rather than disposing it with garbage? 193
In which direction should a ghar mandir be located in a new house? 193
What should a family do if it is unable to afford a ghar mandir? 193
24Ghar Satsang Sabha (Family spiritual discourse) 195
Ghar satsang sabha 195
Holding a ghar sabha 195
Benefits of ghar sabha 196
Case Stories 197
Pramukh Swami Maharaj on ghar sabha 197
25Padharamani (Home visits by sadhus) 199
Bhakti ritual during padharamani (in pictures)201
26Bal Samskaras (Child nurture) 203
Example better than advice 203
Importance of vernacular 204
Pramukh Swami Maharaj on bal samskaras 206
Part 4
Personal Rituals
27Ashtang Yog 213
(1) Yam (self-restraint) 214
(2) Niyam (external and internal purity) 217
(3) Asana (postures) 219
(4) Pranayama (control of prana with breath) 220
(5) Pratyahar (withdrawal of senses from their objects) 221
(6) Dharana (concentration) 222
(7) Dhyana (meditation) 222
(8) Samadhi (transcendental realisation) 222
28Nitya Puja (Daily worship) 225
Nitya puja 225
Nitya puja performed in the morning 226
Personal Nitya puja 227
Murtis in nitya puja 227
Sequence of nitya puja 227
What should one do during meditation? 230
Arrangement of murtis 230
Nitya puja in light of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s teachings 232
Personal nitya puja and of the ghar mandir233
Nitya puja in illness and old age 234
Maintaining purity of the puja 234
Daily deed after nitya puja 234
The benefits of nitya puja 234
Nitya puja - varied facets and sentiments
Why should one face north or east during puja? 236
Tilak-chandlo 236
Origin of tilak-chandlo in the Swaminarayan sampraday 237
Benefits of tilak-chandlo 237
Mantra 241
Mala 244
Why do some people wear the mala around the neck? 246
Pradakshina (circumambulation) 247
Pranam 249
Prarthna 251
Pramukh Swami Maharaj on nitya puja 253
Reading Shikshapatri 254
If feelings are more important than the actual rituals themselves, then what is the need for performing such rituals? 255
Why is a morning bath preferable rather than one in the evening? 257
What should one chant while bathing? 259
Why is it important to wear a dhoti during puja? Candles during puja rituals? 260
What is the first prayer after awakening? 260
How should one place or face flowers and leaves in front of the deities? 261
Rituals, flowers and leaves offerable to deities 262
Why is the lotus sacred? 264
What is the importance of a shankh (conch shell)? 266
What are shaligrams and why are they sacred? 268
Unlike the usual murtis of Bhagwan, why are Shivlings and Shaligrams without arms or legs? 270
Why is sindur and oil offered to Hanumanji? 270
29Kanthi (Beads worn around neck) 273
Kanthi 273
Types of wood for kanthi 273
Kanthi of two strings in the Swaminarayan sampraday274
Vartman (diksha) ritual 274
Receiving vartman 275
Wearing a kanthi in the absence of the Param Ekantik Satpurush 276
Kanthi in other sampradays 276
30Sixteen Samskaras [Rites of passage (sacraments)] 279
Meaning of samskaras 280
Purpose of samskaras 280
Bhagwan Swaminarayan and samskaras 281
Pre-natal samskaras 281
(1) Garbhadhan (conception) 281
(2) Pumsavan (engendering a male issue) 282
(3) Simantonnayan (ritual during first pregnancy) 282
Childhood samskaras 284
(4) Jatakarma (birth rituals) 284
(5) Namkaran (name-giving) 285
(6) Nishkraman (first outing) 286
(7) Annaprashan (first feeding) 286
(8) Chudakarma (chaul) (first shaving of head) 287
(9) Karnavedh (piercing earlobes) 288
Educational samskaras 288
(10) Vidyarambh (learning the alphabet) 288
(11) Upanayan (yagnopavit) (sacred thread initiation) 288
(12) Vedarambh (beginning Vedic study) 290
(13) Keshant (godan) (shaving the beard) 290
(14) Samavartan (end of studentship) 290
Vivah samskaras 291
(15) Vivah (marriage) 291
Concept of atma in marital discord 296
A married woman’s 16 shangar (ornamentation) 297
Vivah rituals
Vag Dan (betrothal) 299
Lagna patrika (marriage invitation) 300
Kankotri (kumkum patrika) invitation 300
Mandap muhurt 300
Ganesh matli 303
Gotraj pujan 303
Mindhal bandhan 303
Grah shanti 303
Pithi vano (haridralepan) 304
Sanji/Prabhatiya 305
Ukardi (besadvi/uthadavi) 305
Jan prasthan 306
Jan swagat 306
Samaiyun 306
Ponkhanu 306
Mahyaru 307
Madhu parka 308
Nyas 308
Antarpat 308
Pani graham (hastamelap) 308
Agni parikrama (circumambulating the sacred fire) 309
Saptapadi (seven steps) 310
Kansar 311
Saubhagyavati 311
Dhruva puja 311
Mah matlu, Kanya viday 312
Ponkhanu 312
Kumkum pagla 312
Untying the chheda-chhedi knot 312
Mrityu samskaras 314
(16) Antyeshti samskaras (death rites) 314
Agni samskara 315
BAPS sadhus performing antyeshti rites of a devotee (in pictures) 316
Antyeshti rites in sacred places (in pictures) 317
In calamities 318
Asthi sanchayan 319
Sutak 319
Sajja (shayya) 321
Antyeshti samskaras of ascetics 323
Conclusion 323
31Shraddh (Offerings to ancestors) 325
Shraddh 325
Types of shraddh 326
Offerings and rituals327
Sacred places for shraddh 328
Why should shraddh be performed? 329
32 Vrat - Upavas (Vows and Fasts)331
Ideals of diet purity in the Upanishads 343
Ahimsa (non-injury) 345
Pap karma (sin) 345
Tamasic foods 345
Rajasic foods 347
Sattvic foods 347
Four types of doshas (impurities) 347
Diet purity in the kitchen 349
Diet purity in the home shrine 351
Personal diet purity 352
Diet purity relative to time and seasons 356
Conclusion 360
How should a Hindu observe vegetarianism? 360
Why do some people join their palms in pranams or press their palms on their chest before and after having a meal? 361
Why should we not eat or drink anything which has been eaten or drunk by somebody else? 361
Part 5
Ritual Symbols
Introduction 363
34OM 365
Origin of OM 366
35Swastik 369
Swastik’s cosmic origin 369
Swastik in rituals 370
Swastik in other cultures 371
36Charanarvind (Lotus-feet of Paramatma) 375
16 auspicious symbols on Bhagwan’s lotus-feet 375
16 auspicious symbols on Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s lotus-feet376
Why are Bhagwan’s charanarvind venerated so highly?
37Purna Kumbha (Pitcher) 379
38Kalash (Sacred pot) 381
39Deep (Lighted wick) 383
40Tilak (Sacred mark) 385
Tilaks in various sampradays 385
Tilak in the Swaminarayan sampraday 386
Importance of tilak 386
Scientific reason for tilak on forehead 386
Materials for tilak 387
Cultural traditions 387
Effects of tilak 388
Types of tilaks (74 of 255) 388
41Miscellaneous Symbols 389
Chakra 289
Gada 389
Yantra 390
Shri Yantra 391
Shri 391
Shri Sava 392
Shubh - Labh 392
Trishul 392
Five dots 392
Afterword 393
Introduction 399
1 Miscellaneous FAQs400
What are the fundamental principles of Sanatan Dharma? 400
How should one do darshan of deities in a mandir? 400
Ten practical tips for better darshan 400
Why is Ganesh offered pujan first in any Hindu ritual and venture? 403
Why is durva offered to Ganeshji? 403
Why are tulsi, bili (bael) and akado offered to Vishnu, Shivji and Hanumanji, respectively? 403
Why is the tulsi sacred? 405
Why is the peepal tree sacred? 406
What is the importance of rudraksh? 407
Why do Hindus offer coconuts in rituals 408
Why is the spopari used in rituals? 410
What is the significance of sadhus and samnyasis begging alms for bhiksha? 411
Why do sadhus wear saffron robes? 411
Why do we touch the feet of sadhus? 412
How should a student respect his teachers? 412
What is the purpose of a shikha (choti)? 414
Why do we do namaskar instead of shaking hands when we meet somebody? 415
Why should we not let our feet touch books? 416
Why don’t we blow out candles and cut cakes during birthdays? 416
What is bhog/thal? 417
Instead of cutting a red ribbon, how should
Hindus inaugurate a dwelling? 417
2Table of sacred plants and trees and their use in rituals 418
3Daily rituals of BAPS Swaminarayan followers 419
4The sadhu tradition in the Swaminarayan sampraday 420
5Vegetarian delights for students 422
Minimum utensils Spices 422
Ten golden culinary tips 422
Simplified five-step vaghar 424
Swaminarayan Khichdi 425
Vegetable pulao Vegetable shak (sabji) 425
Spiced pongal Vegetable paunwa 425
Veg. delights for students (table) 426
Mixed veg. soup Rab Potato bhajiya 428
Kadhi (buttermilk curry) 429
Veda of potato and paunwa 429
6Farari foods (in pictures) 431
7Nine reasons why Gujarati food is awesome, by Sanjeev Kapoor 432
Glossary 434
Bibliography 442
Index 452
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