What is Puja ?

Puja is a means to think of God.

It is a set of procedures one could use
to worship ones favourite devata (ishta devata).

Who is your ishta devata ?
Do you have a preferred image or picture
of your favourite devata ?

The puja procedures (Upachara) is what one
might do for a visitor to our house.

In this case, ones ishta devata is the visitor
and ones mind or ones chosen physical image
is the house and the doer of the puja is the host.

There are variations to these procedures.
One should give preference to ones family
tradition in adopting the procedures to do Puja.

A form of puja is the Shodasha Upachara Puja.

What is Shodasha Upachara puja ?

(Shodasha = 16; Upachara = service)
It is a 16 stage means to worship.

The 16 services are: [*]
  1. Inviting the devata (Aavaahanam)
  2. Offering of seat (Aasanam)
  3. Offering water to wash feet (Paadyam)
  4. Offering water to wash hands (Arghyam)
  5. Water for inner purification (Aacamanam)
  6. Bathing (Snaanam)
  7. Offer of clothes (Vaasam)
  8. Offer of sacred thread (Upaviitam)
  9. Offer of sandal paste (Gandham)
  10. Flower offering (Pushpam)
  11. Incense offering (Dhuupam)
  12. Show of lamp (Diipam)
  13. Food offering (Naivedyam)
  14. Saluting by falling flat on the ground (Namaskaaram)
  15. Going around clockwise (Pradakshinam)
  16. Saying Goodbye (Varjanam)
There are variations to the above sixteen.

Once, Ramana Maharshi was asked,
"What would you say if Lord Shiva
appeared before you ?"

He answered,
"Oy! Don't keep coming and going !
Always be in my mind." [+]

That should be our ideal. Always thinking of Him.
Till then, we need rites like puja
(its invitations and goodbyes and
the resulting coming & going)
to keep us progressing towards that ideal.

[*] According to Smriti Chandrika as quoted in
     Aanhika Kaandam of Smriti Mukta Phalam of Vaidyanatha Dikshita pg 183
[+] As said by Nochur Venkatraman in one of his discourses

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