Puja refers to a variety of Hindu rituals in which offerings are made to a deity or to honored people. Individual Hindus often perform a daily puja at small personal shrines they have constructed to familial and personal gods in their own homes. Offerings used in home pujas are usually simple, such as incense, fruit, and water. More elaborate pujas ceremonies occur in temples, where the resident priests perform the ceremony on behalf of other worshipers in devotion to the deity of that particular temple. Pujas are somewhat intimate in nature, as devotees typically begin by inviting God to the puja by indwelling the particular image that is part of the service, for example, the image of Lord Vishnu or Shiva or the goddess Kali. Next, the deity is offered a seat, well wishes, and gifts as part of the puja service. These steps are followed by making ritual offerings to the deity.
Puja demonstrates the personal connection that Hindus have with the deities to whom they devote worship. Pujas give a distinct sense of human-divine interaction, with the believer providing material offerings and “speaking” ritually and symbolically with the divine. Pujas also reflect the diversity within the Hindu tradition, with different sects performing different ceremonies along with further variations between ethnic groups and geographical regions. For example, the Durga Puja is a major cultural event among Bengali Hindus in eastern India, while Maha Shivaratri is a puja celebrated largely in southern India. Pujas can also be a source of interreligious harmony, as seen in Raksha Bandhan, a puja honoring brothers and sisters celebrated jointly by Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs in northern India.
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