Hindu Rituals and Routines Why do we follow them? Hindu Rituals and Routines Why do we follow them?
Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. Unlike other religions, Hindu dharma has many
specialties. This is not known as a religion, it is known as the dharma; Sanaathana Dharma.
Sanaathana means, according to Bhagavath Geetha, which cannot be destroyed by fire,
weapons, water, air, and which is present in all living and non living being. Dharma means,
the way of life which is the ‘total of all aachaaraas or customs and rituals’.
Sanaathana Dharma has its foundation on scientific spirituality. In the entire ancient Hindu
literature we can see that science and spirituality are integrated. It is mentioned in the 40th
chapter of the Yajurveda known as Eesaavaasya Upanishad that use scientific knowledge
for solving problems in our life and use the spiritual knowledge for attaining immortality
through philosophical outlook.
Remember that in each and every aachaaraa there will be a component of spirituality in it.
Without spirituality, nothing exists in Sanaathana dharma. Generally everyone bear a wrong
impression that this spirituality is religion. Spirituality is different in Hindu dharma. Here
the question of religion does not exist at all, because Hindu dharma was not created by an
individual, prophet or an incarnation. Spirituality is a part of every Hindu custom in the
normal life of a Hindu.
Aachaaraas are to be followed based on their merits available from the self experience; you
need not blindly follow a teacher or someone who gives advice without reasoning. All these
aachaaraas are mentioned for the prosperity of the human beings and it should be the prime
focus for practicing the Hindu aachaaraas.
Achaaryaath paadam aadatthe
paadam sishya swamedhayaa
paadam sa brahmachaaribhya
sesham kaala kramena cha
This is an important advice given in smruthies. It means a person can get only one quarter
of knowledge from Achaarya – the teacher, another quarter by analyzing self, one quarter by
discussing with others and the last quarter during the process of living by method addition,
deletion, correction, and modification of already known aachaaraas or new aachaaraas.
Aachaaraath labhathe hi ayu:
aachaaraath labhathe suprajaa:
aachaaro ahanthya lakshanam
Aachaaraas are followed for the psychological and physiological health and long life;
Aachaaraas are followed for prosperity and wealth; Aachaaraas are followed for strong family
and social bondage and following the Aachaaraas give a fine personality, dharmic outlook and
vision, says our dharmasaastra.
In India everyone followed Aachaaraas for the above mentioned psychological, physiological,
family relation, social benefits and national integration based benefits. It is your right and
duty to understand scientifically, rationally and logically the meaning of each and every
Aachaaraas and follow the same in your life systematically.Hindu Rituals and Routines Why do we follow them?
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1. Why do we light a lamp?
In almost every Indian home a lamp is lit daily before the altar of the Lord. In some houses it
is lit at dawn, in some, twice a day – at dawn and dusk – and in a few it is maintained
continuously – Akhanda Deepa. All auspicious functions commence with the lighting of the
lamp, which is often maintained right through the occasion.
Light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness – ignorance. The Lord is the “Knowledge Principle”
(Chaitanya) who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge. Hence
light is worshiped as the Lord himself.
Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness. Also knowledge is a lasting
inner wealth by which all outer achievement can be accomplished. Hence we light the lamp
to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth.
Why not light a bulb or tube light? That too would remove darkness. But the traditional oil
lamp has a further spiritual significance. The oil or ghee in the lamp symbolizes our vaasanas
or negative tendencies and the wick, the ego. When lit by spiritual knowledge, the vaasanas
get slowly exhausted and the ego too finally perishes. The flame of a lamp always burns
upwards. Similarly we should acquire such knowledge as to take us towards higher ideals.
Whilst lighting the lamp we thus pray:
Deepa sarva tamopahaha
Deepena saadhyate saram
Sandhyaa deepo namostute
I prostrate to the dawn/dusk lamp; whose light is the Knowledge Principle (the Supreme
Lord), which removes the darkness of ignorance and by which all can be achieved in life.
2. Why do we have a prayer room?
Most Indian homes have a prayer room or altar. A lamp is lit and the Lord worshipped each
day. Other spiritual practices like japa – repetition of the Lord’s name, meditation,
paaraayana – reading of the scriptures, prayers, and devotional singing etc are also done
here. Special worship is done on auspicious occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, festivals
and the like. Each member of the family – young or old – communes with and worships the
The Lord is the entire creation. He is therefore the true owner of the house we live in too.
The prayer room is the Master room of the house. We are the earthly occupants of His
property. This notion rids us of false pride and possessiveness.
The ideal attitude to take is to regard the Lord as the true owner of our homes and us as
caretakers of His home. But if that is rather difficult, we could at least think of Him as a
very welcome guest. Just as we would house an important guest in the best comfort, so too
we felicitate the Lord’s presence in our homes by having a prayer room or altar, which is, at
all times, kept clean and well-decorated.
Also the Lord is all pervading. To remind us that He resides in our homes with us, we have
prayer rooms. Without the grace of the Lord, no task can be successfully or easily
accomplished. We invoke His grace by communing with Him in the prayer room each day and
on special occasions. Hindu Rituals and Routines Why do we follow them?
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Each room in a house is dedicated to a specific function like the bedroom for resting, the
drawing room to receive guests, the kitchen for cooking etc. The furniture, decor and the
atmosphere of each room are made conducive to the purpose it serves. So too for the
purpose of meditation, worship and prayer, we should have a conducive atmosphere – hence
the need for a prayer room.
Sacred thoughts and sound vibrations pervade the place and influence the minds of those
who spend time there. Spiritual thoughts and vibrations accumulated through regular
meditation, worship and chanting done there pervade the prayer room. Even when we are
tired or agitated, by just sitting in the prayer room for a while, we feel calm, rejuvenated
and spiritually uplifted.
3. Why do we do Namaste?
Indians greet each other with namaste. The two palms are placed together in front of the
chest and the head bows whilst saying the word namaste. This greeting is for all – people
younger than us, of our own age, those older than friends, even strangers and us.
There are five forms of formal traditional greeting enjoined in the shaastras of which
namaskaram is one. This is understood as prostration but it actually refers to paying homage
as we do today when we greet each other with a namaste.
Namaste could be just a casual or formal greeting, a cultural convention or an act of
worship. However there is much more to it than meets the eye. In Sanskrit namah + te =
namaste. It means – I bow to you – my greetings, salutations or prostration to you. Namaha
can also be literally interpreted as “na ma” (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of
negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.
The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. When we greet another, we
do so with namaste, which means, “may our minds meet,” indicated by the folded palms
placed before the chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending
friendship in love and humility
The spiritual meaning is even deeper. The life force, the divinity, the Self or the Lord in me
is the same in all. Recognizing this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we salute with
head bowed the Divinity in the person we meet. That is why sometimes, we close our eyes
as we do namaste to a revered person or the Lord – as if to look within. The gesture is often
accompanied by words like “Ram Ram,” “Jai Shri Krishna”, “Namo Narayana”, “Jai Siya Ram”,
“Om Shanti” etc – indicating the recognition of this divinity.
When we know this significance, our greeting does not remain just a superficial gesture or
word but paves the way for a deeper communion with another in an atmosphere of love and
4. Why do we prostrate before parents and elders?
Indians prostrate before their parents, elders, teachers and noble souls by touching their
feet. The elder in turn blesses us by placing his or her hand on or over our heads.
Prostration is done daily, when we meet elders and particularly on important occasions like
the beginning of a new task, birthdays, festivals etc. In certain traditional circles,
prostration is accompanied by abhivaadana, which serves to introduce one-self, announce
one’s family and social stature.Hindu Rituals and Routines Why do we follow them?
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Man stands on his feet. Touching the feet in prostration is a sign of respect for the age,
maturity, nobility and divinity that our elders personify. It symbolizes our recognition of
their selfless love for us and the sacrifices they have done for our welfare. It is a way of
humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This tradition reflects the strong family
ties, which has been one of India’s enduring strengths.
The good wishes (Sankalpa) and blessings (aashirvaada) of elders are highly valued in India.
We prostrate to seek them. Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good wishes springing
from a heart full of love, divinity and nobility have a tremendous strength. When we
prostrate with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and blessings of elders, which
flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed whether
it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive the energy thus
The different forms of showing respect are :
Pratuthana: Rising to welcome a person.
Namaskaara: Paying homage in the form of namaste
Upasangrahan: Touching the feet of elders or teachers.
Shaashtaanga: Prostrating fully with the feet, knees, stomach, chest, forehead and
arms touching the ground in front of the elder.
Pratyabivaadana: Returning a greeting.
Rules are prescribed in our scriptures as to who should prostrate to whom. Wealth, family
name, age, moral strength and spiritual knowledge in ascending order of importance
qualified men to receive respect. This is why a king though the ruler of the land, would
prostrate before a spiritual master. Epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata have many
stories highlighting this aspect.
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