HINDU WORSHIP, RITUALS AND PRACTICES

HINDU WORSHIP

20120502-Aarti fire _of_the_Ganges_ghats_of_Varanasi.jpg
Aarti fire ritual on the Ganges
at the ghats of Varanasi
It can be argued that what defines a Hindu is not the god that he or she worships but the rituals and lifestyle that he or she follows. There is often a great deal of overlapping and little distinction between religious and secular life, with prayers, initiations, ceremonies, festivals and rituals taking up a large chunk of a Hindu’s daily routine and life.

Children are brought up to follow the customs and ethics of their parents but are encouraged to decide for themselves which gods and goddesses are right for them. Individuals often practice group rituals for their family and private rituals for themselves. Hindu religious customs, beliefs and the gods people worship can often vary greatly from place to place and even from caste to caste in one locality. Even so Hindus generally observe broadly similar rules regarding food, marriages and burial.

The ritual world of Hinduism, manifestations of which differ greatly among regions, villages, and individuals, offers a number of common features that link all Hindus into a greater Indian religious system and influence other religions as well. The most notable feature in religious ritual is the division between purity and pollution. Religious acts presuppose some degree of impurity or defilement for the practitioner, which must be overcome or neutralized before or during ritual procedures. Purification, usually with water, is thus a typical feature of most religious action. Avoidance of the impure--taking animal life, eating flesh, associating with dead things, or body fluids--is another feature of Hindu ritual and is important for repressing pollution. In a social context, those individuals or groups who manage to avoid the impure are accorded increased respect. Still another feature is a belief in the efficacy of sacrifice, including survivals of Vedic sacrifice. Thus, sacrifices may include the performance of offerings in a regulated manner, with the preparation of sacred space, recitation of texts, and manipulation of objects. A third feature is the concept of merit, gained through the performance of charity or good works, that will accumulate over time and reduce sufferings in the next world. [Source: Library of Congress]

Hindus are theoretically obliged to perform the "Five Great Sacrifices" three times a day but few of them other than devout, old-fashion Brahmins actually do. They consist of 1) the worship of Brahma by reciting the Vedic verses; 2) the worship of gods with burnt offering; 3) the worship of living spirits by offering food to animals and insects, and scattering grain in four direction, the center, in the air and on household utensil; 4) the offering of hospitality to members of one castes; and 5) the giving of offering to one’s ancestors. Good Hindus are also expected to give their ancestors a rice ball on the first new moon day of every month and periodically give offerings to the household spirit that lives in the northeast corner of the house. ["World Religions" edited by Geoffrey Parrinder, Facts on File Publications, New York]

Similar obligations are required in a Hindu’s lifetime. There are some forty sacramental rites ( samskaras ) which an orthodox high-class Hindu is expected to perform or have performed on his behalf at various stages of his life. Many of these rarely take place. Most of them are very ancient in origin and feature sacraments and rites thought be similar to those performed in ancient Greece and Rome.

Websites and Resources on Hinduism: heart of Hinduism hinduism.iskcon.com/index ; India Divine indiadivine.org ; Hinduism Today hinduismtoday.com ; ; Religious Tolerance Hindu Page religioustolerance.org/hinduism ; Hinduism Index uni-giessen.de/~gk1415/hinduism ; Hindu Universe hindunet.org ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Oxford center of Hindu Studies ochs.org.uk ; Hinduism Home Page uwacadweb.uwyo.edu/religionet/er/hinduism ; Hindu Website hinduwebsite.com/hinduindex ; Hindu Gallery hindugallery.com ; Hindusim Today Image Gallery himalayanacademy.com/resources/books/wih/image-library ; India Divine Pictures of Hinduism indiadivine.org/pictures

Worship of Personal Gods

For the vast majority of Hindus, the most important religious path is bhakti (devotion) to personal gods. There are a wide variety of gods to choose from, and although sectarian adherence to particular deities is often strong, there is a widespread acceptance of choice in the desired god (ishta devata ) as the most appropriate focus for any particular person. Most devotees are therefore polytheists, worshiping all or part of the vast pantheon of deities, some of whom have come down from Vedic times. In practice, a worshiper tends to concentrate prayers on one deity or on a small group of deities with whom there is a close personal relationship. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Puja (worship) of the gods consists of a range of ritual offerings and prayers typically performed either daily or on special days before an image of the deity, which may be in the form of a person or a symbol of the sacred presence. In its more developed forms, puja consists of a series of ritual stages beginning with personal purification and invocation of the god, followed by offerings of flowers, food, or other objects such as clothing, accompanied by fervent prayers. Some dedicated worshipers perform these ceremonies daily at their home shrines; others travel to one or more temples to perform puja , 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. Sacred ash or saffron powder, for example, is often distributed after puja and smeared on the foreheads of devotees. In the absence of any of these ritual objects, however, puja may take the form of a simple prayer sent toward the image of the divine, and it is common to see people stop for a moment before roadside shrines to fold their hands and offer short invocations to the gods. *

Since at least the seventh century A.D., the devotional path has spread from the south throughout India through the literary and musical activities of saints who have been some of the most important representatives of regional languages and traditions. The hymns of these saints and their successors, mostly in vernacular forms, are memorized and performed at all levels of society. Every state in India has its own bhakti tradition and poets who are studied and revered. In Tamil Nadu, groups called Nayanmars (devotees of Shiva) and Alvars (devotees of Vishnu) were composing beautiful poetry in the Tamil language as early as the sixth century. In Bengal one of the greatest poets was Chaitanya (1485-1536), who spent much of his life in a state of mystical ecstasy. One of the greatest North Indian saints was Kabir (ca. 1440-1518), a common leatherworker who stressed faith in God without devotion to images, rituals, or scriptures. Among female poets, Princess Mirabai (ca. 1498-1546) from Rajasthan stands out as one whose love for Krishna was so intense that she suffered persecution for her public singing and dancing for the lord. *

A recurring motif that emerges from the poetry and the hagiographies of these saints is the equality of all men and women before God and the ability of people from all castes and occupations to find their way to union with God if they have enough faith and devotion. In this sense, the bhakti tradition serves as one of the equalizing forces in Indian society and culture. *

Hindu Organization and Worship

20120502-Puja Brahmana_performing_puja_Taptapani_Orissa.JPG
Brahman performing puja
Christianity is an organized religion with a hierarchy that emphasizes community worship and social service. Eastern religion is not organized in the same way. Hindus have special religious communities but the religion itself is not organized and worship has traditionally been done individually rather than in groups. Even when there are gathering of large numbers of people, individuals tend to engage in worship as individuals.

Hindus and Buddhists are not required to visit temples. There is generally no liturgy or community worship for a congregation at a temple. The largest gathering usually take place at festivals, when some public ceremonies are held. Otherwise temples are mostly empty of people unless they are tourist attractions or are very popular. As a rule individuals come and go to temples when they please and worship on a one on one basis with the god they are praying to. Temples are often sought as quiet places for meditation. Worship can often be done in front of altars at home just as well as it can be done at a temple.

Reverence toward sacred images is very important. Sacred images are treated as kings in their temples and honored guest in people’s homes. This reverence is an expression of darshan (See Below). Common prayer times are sunrise and sunset when priests conduct ritual offering to the icon in the sanctuary of the temple.

The religious scholar A.L. Basham, wrote: “The most important religious acts of the Hindu are performed within the home. The life of the individual is hedged with sacraments of all kinds, which accompany him not merely from cradle to grave, but even from conception to long after death; for rites are performed while an unborn child is still in the womb to ensue its safety; and an ancestor is cared for in the after-life by special ceremonies performed by his descendants.”

At certain times of the day family members make offerings and say prayers at the family altar. Sometimes they say their prayers together, with the head of the household leading. Other times they do them at separate times. The lighting of a lamp and incense is a usual part of the ritual. Sweets, coconut, money and fruit are left as offerings. Prayers are usually said every day. Thursday is regarded as a particularly auspicious time to say them.

See Temples.

House Altars and Domestic Worship

Most Hindu homes have family altars with garish pictures of Hindu gods and photographs of living and dead family members. Sometimes they are decorated with tinsel and colored lights. Here family members perform their daily puja (prayers and offerings). Some traditional large Hindu houses have an entire prayer room with a large elaborate altar. Most small houses have an altar on the side or corner of one of the rooms. Wealthy families sometimes have a large shrine outside their home.

Hindus also have roadside shrines and theoretically they can make offerings anywhere that has some connection to the gods . Some times red powder is smeared on sacred rocks or at the bases of trees. Basil, known as tulsi , is a sacred plant. It is often found growing in special planter and periodically receives puja.

The home is the place where most Hindus conduct their worship and religious rituals. The most important times of day for performance of household rituals are dawn and dusk, although especially devout families may engage in devotion more often. For many households, the day begins when the women in the house draw auspicious geometric designs in chalk or rice flour on the floor or the doorstep. 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. After a bath, there is personal worship of the gods at a family shrine, which typically includes lighting a lamp and offering foodstuffs before the images, while prayers in Sanskrit or a regional language are recited. In the evenings, especially in rural areas, mostly female devotees may gather together for long sessions of singing hymns in praise of one or more of the gods. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Minor acts of charity punctuate the day. During daily baths, there are offerings of a little water in memory of the ancestors. At each meal, families may set aside a handful of grain to be donated to beggars or needy persons, and daily gifts of small amounts of grain to birds or other animals serve to accumulate merit for the family through their self-sacrifice. *

Prayer Rooms and Family Altars Under Temples.

Life-Cycle Rituals

A detailed series of life-cycle rituals (samskara , or refinements) mark major transitions in the life of the individual. Especially orthodox Hindu families may invite Brahman priests to their homes to officiate at these rituals, complete with sacred fire and recitations of mantras. Most of these rituals, however, do not occur in the presence of such priests, and among many groups who do not revere the Vedas or respect Brahmans, there may be other officiants or variations in the rites. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Ceremonies may be performed during pregnancy to ensure the health of the mother and growing child. The father may part the hair of the mother three times upward from the front to the back, to assure the ripening of the embryo. Charms may serve to ward off the evil eye and witches or demons. At birth, before the umbilical cord is severed, the father may touch the baby's lips with a gold spoon or ring dipped in honey, curds, and ghee. The word vak (speech) is whispered three times into the right ear, and mantras are chanted to ensure a long life. A number of rituals for the infant include the first visit outside to a temple, the first feeding with solid food (usually cooked rice), an ear-piercing ceremony, and the first haircut (shaving the head) that often occurs at a temple or during a festival when the hair is offered to a deity. *

A crucial event in the life of the orthodox, upper-caste Hindu male is an initiation (upanayana ) ceremony, which takes place for some young males between the ages of six and twelve to mark the transition to awareness and adult religious responsibilities. At the ceremony itself, the family priest invests the boy with a sacred thread to be worn always over the left shoulder, and the parents instruct him in pronouncing the Gayatri Mantra. The initiation ceremony is seen as a new birth; those groups entitled to wear the sacred thread are called the twice-born . In the ancient categorization of society associated with the Vedas, only the three highest groups--Brahman, warrior (Kshatriya), and commoner or merchant (Vaishya)--were allowed to wear the thread, to make them distinct from the fourth group of servants (Shudra). Many individuals and groups who are only hazily associated with the old "twice-born" elites perform the upanayana ceremony and claim the higher status it bestows. For young Hindu women in South India, a different ritual and celebration occurs at the first menses. *

The next important transition in life is marriage. For most people in India, the betrothal of the young couple and the exact date and time of the wedding are matters decided by the parents in consultation with astrologers. At Hindu weddings, the bride and bridegroom represent the god and the goddess, although there is a parallel tradition that sees the groom as a prince coming to wed his princess. The groom, decked in all his finery, often travels to the wedding site on a caparisoned white horse or in an open limousine, accompanied by a procession of relatives, musicians, and bearers of ornate electrified lamps. The actual ceremonies in many cases become extremely elaborate, but orthodox Hindu marriages typically have at their center the recitation of mantras by priests. In a crucial rite, the new couple take seven steps northward from a sacred household fire, turn, and make offerings into the flames. Independent traditions in regional languages and among different caste groups support wide variations in ritual. *

After the death of a family member, the relatives become involved in ceremonies for preparation of the body and a procession to the burning or burial ground. For most Hindus, cremation is the ideal method for dealing with the dead, although many groups practice burial instead; infants are buried rather than cremated. At the funeral site, in the presence of the male mourners, the closest relative of the deceased (usually the eldest son) takes charge of the final rite and, if it is cremation, lights the funeral pyre. After a cremation, ashes and fragments of bone are collected and eventually immersed in a holy river. After a funeral, everyone undergoes a purifying bath. The immediate family remains in a state of intense pollution for a set number of days (sometimes ten, eleven, or thirteen). At the end of that period, close family members meet for a ceremonial meal and often give gifts to the poor or to charities. A particular feature of the Hindu ritual is the preparation of rice balls (pinda ) offered to the spirit of the dead person during memorial services. In part these ceremonies are seen as contributing to the merit of the deceased, but they also pacify the soul so that it will not linger in this world as a ghost but will pass through the realm of Yama, the god of death. *

Darshan and Hindu Veneration of Images

20120502-puja Priest_offers_Flowers_to_the_goddess_Saraswati.JPG
Priest offers Flowers
to the goddess Saraswati
Darshan (also spelled Darsan) is an important aspect of Hindu worship. It refers to viewing an image of a deity. "A Hindu goes to a temple," writes historian Daniel Boorstin, "not to 'worship,' but rather 'for darśan ” ...Darsan is a two-way flow of vision. While the devotee sees his god, so too the god sees the devotee, and the two make contact through their eyes. In the building of a new temple...when the images of the gods are made, their eyes are the last to be completed...The bulbous or saucer eyes that make Indian paintings of gods seem so bizarre to us are clues to the dominance of vision in the Hindu's relation to his gods. Many gods, like Shiva and Ganesh, have a third eye in the center of their foreheads. Brahma, the Thousand Eyes, regularly has four heads, to look in all directions at once, and sometimes he has leopard-spot eyes all over his body."

The importance given darshan can be appreciated by the attention that is sometimes lavished on images that are worshiped. In large temples where there are a large number of attendants, the image is woken up in the morning and washed, fed and prepared with flowers and incense before it is placed on its throne in the shrine room. In some cases the images are fanned and entertained with music throughout the day. In the old days many temples had their own troupe of dancers that entertained the images and could be enjoyed by worshipers for a fee.

Darshan is also associated with people of great holiness. Great leaders like Gandhi are also believed to possess darśan. When Indians glimpsed the Mahatma through the window of trains on his travels across India they were "taking darsan" and Gandhi was giving it. The importance of eye contact between the gods and humans helps explain why Hindu disdain eye contact in public, even between husband and wife.

Boorstin wrote: “The Hindu is dazzled by a vision of the holy, not merely holy people but places like the Himalayan peaks where gods live, or the Ganges which flows from Heaven to Earth, or countless inconspicuous sites where gods or goddesses or unsung heroes showed their divine mettle. The Hindu pilgrims trek hundreds of miles just for another darśan...Each of the cities sacred to each of the thousands of gods offers its own special darśan.”

Puja

20120502-Puja_with_leaves 2.jpg
Puja with leaves
Pujas (meritorious actions) refers to all forms of Hindu worship: prayers, prayer rituals, and offerings. They can be simple acts by worshipers at a temple or elaborate rituals performed with the help of Brahmin priests to mark special life cycle event. They usually involve chanting, bowing and leaving offerings before images.

Pujas are usually directed to a specific deity. They often are made in conjunction with a request for protection and help or an expression of thanks. Their ultimate objective is to become one with the deity to which the prayer is directed.

A puja is supposed to bring five things together: 1) a pot containing water, representing the body; 2) murtis (an image of deity); 3) prasad (a flower or fruit offering, representing nature); 4) yantras (a mandala, or sacred pattern representing the universe); and 5) a mantra , or chant. The first four are optional. The last one is necessary. The mantra is viewed as essential to complete the ritual.

A puja usually involves some kind of offering and worship before an image. It is supposed to begin with a mantra that calls the deity and ends with the worshiper smearing blood-red vermillion paste or red powder ( kumkum ) on the middle of the forehead of the image being worshiped. Lighting incense sticks and ringing brass bells, like matras, are seen as ways to get the attention of the gods.

There is often an element of give and take with puja. Sometimes an offering is made and a small portion is taken back. This portion is regarded as blessed and auspicious. In Hindu temples puja often takes the form of offerings at statues of gods followed by blessings, sometimes a mark on the forehead, by a priest. Most people give the priest a small amount of money after receiving the blessing. A Web site launched in the early 2000s (saranam.com) arranges pujas at a choice of temples in Indian by proxy for a fee of $10 to $75 per prayer, with the cost determined by how elaborate the puja is.

Hindu Mantras and Yantras

20120502-Hindu_priest_blowing_conch_during_punja.jpg
Hindu priest blowing
conch during puja
Mantras are chants usually based on sacred scriptures taken from the Vedas. They are necessary for puja and are seen as a ways of linking heaven and earth and summoning a deity. The most common mantra is "Om," the sacred sound of the Vedas. It is said to be the first sound heard during creation.

Mantras are usually chanted in Sanskrit and sometimes accompanied by pounding drums and clanging brass bells and cymbals. Some mantras consist of simply repeating a deity’s name over and over. Hindus believe that chanting the names of deities will speed up their path to salvation and help them achieve moshka and escape from reincarnation.

Mandalas are diagrams of the universe that is viewed as a concentric set of squares with the Supreme Being at the center. Yantras are diagrams of the universe based on mandalas and related to various deities and uses. Simple ones consist of a circle within a square, within a rectangle, with four gates to represent the four directions of the universe. More complex ones are made of upward and downward pointing triangles centered around the central point of the deity. Yantras are models of force and sound and serve meditation aides.

Hindu Offerings

20120502-puja Guruji_puja.jpg
Guruji_puja
Offerings ( prasad ) placed in front of images or symbols of deities include flowers, flower petals, coconut, sweetmeats, morsels of food, colored powder, uncooked rice, fruit, milk, yogurt, ghee, fire water, and bells. Many people light oil lamps, incense or small pools of camphor oil on stone slabs. Sometimes the offerings are made to the sound of chants or beating drums, ringing bells, and blowing horns.

Some offerings are quite elaborate. Floating offerings made of jasmine flowers and candles are set up to light the way for religious rituals. Offerings to the Ganges consist of tiny boats made from maljhana leaves fastened together with twigs, with marigolds, rose petals and camphor inside. The camphor is lit before the offering is set afloat on the holy river. Worshipers sometimes dip their fingers in lamps lit by bell-clanging priests and press their warm fingers to their forehead.

Offerings generally symbolize one of the five element of existence: earth, water, fire, wind and ether. They are usually made to specific gods, often on a daily basis, and are seen as a kind bloodless sacrifice, or a symbol of sacrifices that were once at the heart of the Hindu relationship.

Many Hindus begin their day at home by making an offering on their family altar. Offerings are often the central acts of devotion performed at temples, ceremonies and festivals They are often performed as much out of self or family interest---for help passing an examination, the birth a boy, success in business or good health for a sick loved one---as an act of devotion to a god.

Offerings imply subordination and may include receiving back part of the items offered---after their spiritual essence has been taken. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says a flower, fruit, a leaf or handful of water offered to God will be accepted as an act of devotion. At temples cows often eat left behind as offerings.

Hindu Priests and Brahmins

20120502-BrahminShrimat_Shivananda_Saraswati_Swami_Maharaj.jpg
People who acts as officials at temples, conducting or assisting on worship, are known as a pujari or priests. Their main duty is to act as intermediaries between the worshipers and god. These priests are supposed to be Brahmins---members of the highest ranking caste group that have traditionally been priests. Brahmin wear the sacred thread. They have traditionally been the final judge of purity and caretakers of temples. Only they could enter the inner sanctuaries of temples and invoke the deities there for a puja.

Technically Hindus are supposed to be assisted by a Brahmin priests when performing rituals or ceremonies, but most simple ceremonies such as making offerings, are done without one. A variety of intermediary priests, holy men and teachers perform and assist with rituals. Brahmin have traditionally have not performed rituals for lower castes anyway. In rural areas local headmen often preside over rituals.

These days Brahmas often serve as priests in temples for higher deities while priests from lower castes serve at temples for lower ranked gods. Many Brahmin either perform their temple duties as a kind of part time job or hobby. Many perform no priestly duties whatsoever. One Brahmin priest at a south Indian temple told the New York Times, "There's no money in it any more. I hope my sons do something else. The income is not enough to live any more.”

See Brahmin, Caste System

Hindu Ceremonies

20120502-Aarti fire Evening_Aarti Dashashwamedh_ghat Varanasi.jpg
Evening Aarti at
Dashashwamedh ghat Varanasi
Hindus have loads of ceremonies. There are family ceremonies, caste ceremonies. and village ceremonies. They can be as simple lighting a flame before a deity or as complex as an initiation ceremony for a young Brahmin with music, chants, recitations and offerings that last for hours. Some of the most elaborate rituals involve sacrifices.

Hindu ceremonies often have strict ritual requirements and participation is restricted to members of certain castes or ones own caste. Sacred water, preferably from the Ganges, is often sprinkle or poured as a purifying agent.

A number of ceremonies are prescribed for newborn babies. Immediately on birth, before the cutting of the umbilical chord, a short birth ceremony is performed. Ten days later a name-giving ceremony is held. The ten days in between the child and mother are regarded as ritually impure. After the name-giving ceremony they no longer are.

Three rites are held before birth to: 1) promote conception, 2) increase the likelihood of a boy, and 3) safeguard the fetus. There are also ceremonies for the first trip outside the house and the first sight of the sun, usually the fourth month after birth; the first feeding with solid food, and the first pierced ear. Boys have their head shaved in a ceremony that leaves them with one slender lock of hair.

See Initiations Below

Hindu Ceremonies, Rituals and Fire

20120502-Aarti_at_Haridwar_Uttarakhand.jpg
Aarti at Haridwar Uttarakhand
Many ceremonies incorporate fire. Hindus believe that fires are sacred. Deities are honored and prayers are often made with the lighting of incense or oil lamps. Special guests are often seated in the seat nearest a fire. The central ritual of a wedding ceremony revolves around a fire. In ancient times wealthy families kept sacred fires burning in their homes at all time. Throwing wadded paper or cigarette butts into fire is consider sacrilegious.

Fire is symbolic of the divine light of the gods and tapas , or heat, which is acquired through penance. In the Rig Veda, it is suggested that world was created from a primeval fire ignited by Agni, the Fire God, and is associated with ancient sacrifice rituals in which people communicated with the gods. In the Upanishads fire is symbolic of internal power.

See the Goddess Agni, Hindu Weddings

Describing a ritual in Madras held to mark the opening of a new business, Rebecca Mead wrote in The New Yorker, “A white-robed Indian priest...began a series of Sanskrit invocations. For two hours, the priest chanted and lit incense and threw offerings of rice and coconut and ghee into a holy flame...The priest burned some camphor to symbolize the evaporation of the ego in the fire of knowledge...The devotees dipped their hands into the flame and then made a motion as if to wipe their fingers over their faces and heads, symbolizing the burning of their egos.”

The new moon ceremony, known as shraddha , is performed to appease ancestors. It begins with a learned Brahmin of unimpeachable character sitting on sacred grass in an open place while burnt offering to the gods are made in a sacred fire. The central act is when the Brahmin takes three rice balls (representing the father, grandfather and great grand father of the deceased) and places them on the sacred grass that itself has been sprinkled with water from the Ganges. The ceremony ends when the rice balls are eaten by the guests. ["World Religions" edited by Geoffrey Parrinder, Facts on File Publications, New York]

Bathing in the Ganges

20120502-Ganges Baths_and_wash_the_river_Ganges_at_Varanas.jpg
Ganges Bath
Hindus bath in, drink and throw the cremated ashes of the dead in the Ganges. Sprinkling holy water from the Ganges over one's head is believed to wash away sins, purify unclean souls and heal the sick. Bathing in the Ganges even once is supposed to ensure salvation. If a person dies in the Ganges or a has a few drops of Ganges placed on his tongue as he breaths his last breath it is believed he will achieve absolute salvation, escape the toil of reincarnation and be transported to Shiva's Himalayan version of heaven.

Every morning Hindus gather on the shores of the Ganges to bathe and pray for liberation from the world. The pouring of marigolds into the Ganges is a traditional peace offering. The river carries the petals to the oceans and the far corners of the world, carrying the promise of peace with them. Many people collect water from the Ganges in bottles. Some devoted Hindu take Ganges water to drink when they travel abroad.

According to the maharajah of Varanasi. "It is only after my ritual bath and while I am eating that I cannot touch anyone other than members of my household who have performed the same purification rituals. To do so would make me ritually impure. But goodness does not come only by touching and eating with people; it comes from much more.” [Source: John Putman, National Geographic October 1971]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 3 South Asia edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); The Creators by Daniel Boorstin; A Guide to Angkor: an Introduction to the Temples by Dawn Rooney (Asia Book) for Information on temples and architecture. National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Page Top

© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.