Objects Used In Indian Rituals And Their Significance
Indians are known for their ability to add a divine touch to every religious occasion as well as social gathering. Of course they follow a large number of rituals during festivals and weddings, but they also indulge in a number of customs for a simple house warming party or even after the purchase of a valuable item, like a car. Every ritual is graced with the presence of certain auspicious objects such as the kalash, kumkum and lamp. For the uninitiated, here are five things that are used in every religious occasion, which you need to know about.
Kalash: The Kalash is a pot usually made of clay or metals such as brass or copper and is filled with water. Mango leaves are placed on the mouth and held in place with a coconut. A red or white thread is tied all around it in a criss-cross pattern. The water in the pot indicates the primordial ocean from which all things were created. The coconut and leaves stand for this creation, while the thread symbolises love which pervades every creation. A kalash is seen in every important occasion, be it a marriage, house warming, consecration of a temple and even aarti (prayer). The kalash is also used as a traditional sign of welcome when receiving a holy person.
Coconut: A coconut makes an appearance at every auspicious occasion, including festivals, marriages, house inauguration, purchase of a new vehicle or construction of a bridge and is offered to the gods in temples and during homa (sacrificial fire). When the fibre covering of the coconut is peeled away, the marks on the coconut make it look like a human being’s head. When the coconut is cracked open and offered to God, it is symbolic of destroying one’s ego and surrendering to god. The offering of coconut water signifies the offering of our inner tendencies, while the kernel represents our mind which is offered to the Lord for cleansing and purification. The coconut marks are also linked to the three-eyed Lord Shiva who fulfills all our wants and desires.
Sacred thread: The yagnopavita or sacred thread worn across the chest by male Hindus has a special significance in Hinduism. The thread is first worn between the age of seven and fourteen, in a religious thread ceremony known as Upanayanam Samskara. At that young age, the thread has three lines which by a six after marriage, to signify the additional duties the man has to now perform.
Lamp: The lighting of a diya or lamp before the holy altar, holds great significance in Indian culture. No auspicious event can be begun in India without the lighting of the lamp. As in most cultures, light symbolises knowledge and God is believed to be the source of all knowledge and wisdom. It is believed that keeping a lamp lit through the day ensures that the intellect of the family members is constantly illuminated. Also the oil in the lamp represents our negative thoughts, while the wick symbolises our ego. As the light of knowledge shines over devotees, their ego as well as negative thoughts burn away and one becomes pure and humble.
Bhasma: Bhasma or the holy ash is applied generally on the forehead and sometimes on the upper arms and chest too. Some devotees even consume a pinch of it every time they receive it. The ash is no ordinary ash, as it is derived from the homa or sacrificial fire, during which sandalwood is burnt along with ghee (clarified butter) and herbs. The word bhasma is derived from two words ‘bha’ or bhartsanam (destroy) and ‘sma’ or smaranam (remember). So bhasma represents the destruction of evil and the remembrance of the Lord. Bhasma is especially associated with Lord Shiva who is believed to apply it all over his body. Its application also has a scientific reason behind it; bhasma is said to absorb excess moisture from one’s body and prevent headaches and colds.