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10 Big Questions About Hinduism, Answered

5

Do Hindus Attend Weekly Services?

devotees, guru
Devotees light oil lamps for the ninth death anniversary of Hindu guru Sathya Sai Baba at their home in Amritsar, India, on April 24, 2020. NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images

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Unlike most Western religions, Hinduism doesn't establish a set time or place for worship. It's largely up to the individual. While many elements of Hindu worship are practiced at home, there is also community-based worship available at Hindu temples.

At home, most Hindu families will have a small altar adorned with a murti and maybe some photos of ancestors that have passed on. In addition to the puja ceremony we just described, there are other home-based rituals that involve purifying the murti by bathing the image and sprinkling it with crimson vermillion powder. Fruits and sweets are laid out on the altar to be blessed by the deity, and candles and incense are lit, often daily. According to different Hindu traditions, family members might chant hymns and mantras, or use prayer beads as part of home worship.

Hindu temples are called mandirs and are open to both Hindu and non-Hindu worshippers. Some Hindu temples are large, ornate buildings that look like their ancient counterparts in India, while others resemble community centers.

Temple worship is similar to home worship in that there are usually one or more murti that serve as the focal point for various ceremonies and rituals. The difference in the temple is that the rituals are mostly conducted by a Hindu priest and attended by members of the community. Like a church service, some rituals are scheduled to take place on specific days and times.

If you visit a temple, it's helpful to know what's expected. Visitors take off their shoes before entering in order to keep the temple clean. Leather products are discouraged out of respect for cows. Modesty is shown by avoiding shorts and sleeveless tops. Many people also bring gifts of fruit or flowers to the temple as offerings to the deities.

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