How to conduct a traditional 16-step Hindu puja
Living Dharma

How to conduct a traditional 16-step Hindu puja

By November 11, 2020 No Comments

The karmakānda of the Vedas includes instructions of rituals. Such rituals are meant to be acts of worship and devotion to the one Reality in its various manifestations.  Some rituals are to be undertaken for specific results. Hindu rituals, from the elaborate to the very simple, are conducted both at home and at temples.

Rituals include homa or havan, yajna, and pujā, all of which draw together all the five senses thereby centering the attention of the devotee performing the ritual and calming the devotee’s heart and mind through adoring focus of the chosen deity (deities) being invoked and worshiped in the ritual.

In these ritual forms of worship, a murti (deity; literally, manifestation which is three-dimensional) or two-dimensional image (ie. a photo or bimba or flat engraving) serves as an embodiment of the Divine, invoking the idea of that form and its attributes in the mind of the devotee. They are focal points designed to be aides in meditation and prayer. Hindus do not consider God to be limited to the murti, but it is a sacred symbol that offers a medium for worship. The murti or image thus serves as a powerful tool for contemplating the nature of the Divine.

Murti are also considered to house the power or energy of the Divine, which is infused as life-breath into the murti during a ceremony called prana prathishtā, and withdrawn at the end of ceremonious worship, when the murti is immersed in water during what is called a visarjan. Visarjan is also done without water when the Deity is released from the form that it was invoked in, so is a generic term used to conclude a puja for deities that do not have a permanent pratishta. It is this Divine cosmic principle which is worshipped in rituals like puja in one’s favorite form/s (Ishta Deva/ Ishta Devata) of the devotee.

In Hindu practice, puja is considered to be a technique or discipline for fostering the spiritual growth of a devotee by facilitating action (karma), devotion (bhakti), knowledge (jnāna), and focus and introspection (rāja or dhyāna), all of which is offered with humble and loving surrender to the Divine.

Puja literally translates to adoration or worship. It is considered to be an especially powerful form of worshipping the Divine because it combines physical, verbal, mental, and vibrational aspects of worship.

In any puja, the devotee treats their Ishta Deva as a revered guest in their home and heart, welcoming them with hospitality, serving them with love, and finally sending them off courteously back to their abode, seeking their blessings throughout the process.

The traditional 16-step puja is called the Shodashopachara Puja in Sanskrit — shodasha meaning 16, and upachāra meaning offering given with devotion. It can be performed for an Ishta Deva in a fairly short time period on a daily basis as a spiritual practice (sādhana) fostering discipline and devotion. This allows the devotee to set aside a given amount of time each day to remember and cultivate a personal connection to their favorite form of the Divine. Objects and actions offered in puja to the Divine act as vessels of the devotee’s faith and spiritual energy, which allow direct communication and interaction with the Divine. Over a lifetime, setting aside this time for worship every day helps the devotee to work toward remembering the Divine at all times and eventually to see the Divine in all things and beings around them.

The 16 step puja can also be performed over a longer period, sometimes hours together, for special occasions, festivals, and major events in life, such as rites of passage. In this case, the same 16 steps are expanded or added to, and each step is more elaborately attended to by the devotee, often through the guidance of a priest. Each step is given more time so that more material offerings and forms of worship, like chanting of hymns or other acts of devotion, can be offered at the feet of the Divine. 

Specific instructions for these pujas are given in the karmakānda of the Vedas, as well as in various Smrti texts. Each of the 18  Puranas, for example, detail the specific preferences of the deity which they praise, and how that deity should ideally be worshipped. The Devi Bhāgavatam lists the specific colors, flowers, and food which Devi or the Mother Goddess loves, and these can be offered to Her in Devi puja. And Shiva Manasa Pujā, a hymn composed by a 9th-century realized master, enumerates some favorite items of Lord Shiva, which are illustriously imagined and offered at his feet in devotion.

The 16 steps common to most puja, along with the preparatory steps are outlined below. There is, of course, diversity in practice and the way in which different steps might be sequenced or grouped depending on sampradaya and deity tradition, as well as regional, community, and family tradition. Devotees may also perform puja with far fewer than 16 steps, with a daily practice as as simple as lighting a lamp and offering quiet shloka and mantra (prayers), or chanting one of God’s names using a japa mala or prayer beads (usually made with 108 beads).

The Bhagavad Gita Chapter 9.26 offers a beautiful description of a simple puja in which Lord Krishna says that even a leaf, flower, fruit or water if offered with unconditional love and devotion is  sufficient and pleasing to God.

Preparation for Puja

The correct pronunciation and intonation for the mantras listed below can easily be found on YouTube.

Altar set-up

The altar of worship which houses the murti or image of the Ishta Deva are kept neat and clean. Decorations can be added according to the taste of the individual devotee and/or deity. Rangoli/kolam designs made with rice flour, grains, legumes, or flowers can also be made.

Āchamaniyam (Purification)

The devotee, having already bathed, takes three sips of water by placing a spoonful of water with their left hand in the base of the palm of their right hand and chants the following mantra to invoke their own purity of body, mind, and spirit.

Oṃ Acyutāya Namaḥ
Oṃ Anantāya Namaḥ
Oṃ Govindāya Namaḥ

Salutation to the Lord who is imperishable
Salutations to the Lord who is without limits
Salutations to Lord Govinda

Deepa jyoti

Clay or metal lamps with clarified butter (ghee) or oil and wick are symbolic of the victory of knowledge over ignorance. The devotee lights the wick, places palms together at the heart center, and chants:

shubham karoti kalyānām ārogyam dhana sampadah |
shatru buddhi vināshāya deepa jyoti namostute ||

My respect to the light that brings auspiciousness, good health, prosperity and abundance |
that which destroys the darkness of ignorance with the light of knowledge. I bow to you ||

Vighneshwara Dhyānam (Contemplation on Lord of Obstacles)

The devotee undertakes specific hand gestures chants mantra dedicated to Lord Ganesha asking that any obstacles be removed during the pujā. Two such mantra are:

ganānantva ganapati gum havā mahe
priyānantva priyapati gum havā mahe
nidhinantva nidhipati gum havā mahe
vāso mamha āham jā nigarvādhamvā tvamajā sigarvādhamvā

We honor and invoke You with offerings, Lord Ganapati, Keeper of the Paths
We invoke You with love and affection, Lord Ganapati, Creator of Life
We invoke You with offerings of treasures, Lord Ganapati, Protector of Wealth
Resonate within me, and bring forth within me the realm of the Divine

shukla ambara dharam vishnum shashi varanam chatur bhujam |
prasana vadanam dhyāyet sarva vighnopashāntaye ||

We meditate on the One in white attire, who is all pervading, bright as the moon, and four-armed |
Salutations Compassionate One with a kind face, we pray to the Lord Who Removes all Obstacles ||

Prānāyama (Breath Control)

The devotee undertakes specific actions to align the vital airs.

While closing the right nostril with the right thumb, inhale through the left nostril and the devotee mentally chants:

om bhuh om bhuvah om suvah om mahah om janah om tapah om satyam

Invocations to the physical plane, the plane of life-breath, the plane of the Divine mind, the plane of all-pervading Consciousness, the plane of all-creating Consciousness, the plane of Divine light, the plane of Truth-Consciousness

Holding the breath inside by closing the right nostril with the right thumb and left nostril with right ring finger, the devotee mentally chants:

om tatsaviturvarenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayāt

May the light of consciousness come to shine forth its radiance through our intellects

Closing the left nostril with the right ring finger and exhale through the right nostril  and the devotee chants mentally:

om āpo jyotiraso mrtam brahma bhurbhuvasuvarom

Salutations to the Divine Consciousness Who is all-pervading, ever bright, of divine essence, immortal, bliss-filled nectar, Truth-Consciousness-Bliss

Sankalpa (Intention; literally, good thought)

The devotee establishes intention or purpose of pujā. The specific blessings requested of the Divine are stated here. The devotee turns the left palm upward and places it on the right thigh.  They then turn the right palm downward, and place it on top of the left palm and chant:

mamo patta samasta durita kshaya dvara |
sri parameshvara prityartham devapujam karishye ||

To remove all negative thoughts, words, and actions that I have accrued over lifetimes |
To be worthy of the Divine’s grace, I begin this worship ||

Āsana Pujā (Worship of the seating on which puja is performed)

The devotee invokes Mother Earth, as she is ultimately the Being on which people live and sit).

om prthvi tvayā dhrtā lokā devi tvam vishnunā dhrtā |
tvam ca dhāraya mām devi pavitram kuru ca-āsanam ||

O Mother Earth, Upholder of the Worlds. Vishnu holds you |
May you hold me, O Mother Earth, and purify my seat ||

Ghanta Pujā (Worship of the Bell)

The devotee uses a bell to invite the Divine and dispel negative forces during the pujā is invoked.

āgama-artham tu devānām gamana artham tu rakshasām |
ghanttā-ravam karomya āadau devatā āhvāna lānchanam ||

For the arrival of the good forces and departure of destructive forces |
I ring the bell, marking the invocation of auspiciousness that comes with the Divine manifestations ||

Kalasha Pujā (Worship of the pot/vessel)

The Goddesses of the sacred rivers are invoked and invited by the devotee into the water in the panchapātra (vessel made with five materials) which will be offered during pujā.

gange cha yamune chaiva godāvari sarasvati |
narmade sindhu  kāveri jalesmin sannidhim kuru ||

The sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu, Kaveri
May your holiness be present in this water

Ātmā Pujā (Worship of the Divinity in the self)

The Divine self present in the devotee is invoked by the devotee.

deho devalayah proktah jivo devassanātanah |
tyajedajannanirmalayam so’ham bhāvena pujavet ||

The body is the temple.  The jiva is the eternal deity of this temple.
May I remove the wilted flowers that symbolize ignorance and
Worship the Divine knowing the Divine is not separate from me.

Guru Dhyānam (Contemplation on Guru)

The Guru, by whose grace the puja can take
place, is invoked by the devotee.

gurubrahma gururvishnuh gururdevo mahesvarah
gurusāksat param brahma tasmai srigurave namah

The Guru is Brahma, the Guru is Vishnu, the Guru is Mahesvara |
The Guru is Ultimate Reality,  My obeisances to the Guru ||

Shodashopachara Puja

There are five steps within the 16 which are central to the shodashopāchara pujā.  They are referred to as the pancha upachara and correlate to the five senses: touch, hearing, smell, sight, and taste. The pancha upachara are gandham, pushpam, dhoopam, deepam, and naivedyam. Gandham involves touch in applying various pastes and powders to the murti. Pushpam involves sound as the deity’s name is chanted with each offering of flowers. Dhoopam involves sound as incense is offered. Deepam involves sight in the offering of light. And naivedyam involves taste from the food offerings made to and blessed by the Divine.

Dhyānam & Āvāhanam

The Divine is invited into the devotee’s home and heart with a meditation.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] āvāhanam samarpayāmi


A seat is offered by the devotee to the Divine form.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] āsanam samarpayāmi

Pādyam, Ārghyam & Āchamanyam

Water is offered by the devotee who washes the feet and hands of the Divine form. Water is also offered to the Divine to wash their face and mouth, just as one might traditionally offer a guest who has come into the home after journey.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] pādyam ārghyam āchamaniyam samarpayāmi


Honey, sugar, ghee (clarified butter), curd (yogurt), or water is offered by the devotee to the Divine form for refreshment.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] madhuparkam samarpayāmi


Water is offered by the devotee to bathe the Divine form. In longer pujas, the five items included in panchāmrit (honey, sugar, milk, curd, and ghee) are used in bathing the Divine form as well. Sacred hymns are chanted during this process.
Chant: om sri [Deity name] snānam samarpayāmi


Clothing is offered by the devotee to the Divine form after bath.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] vastram samarpayāmi


Sacred thread is offered by the devotee to the Divine form after bath.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] yagnopaveetam samarpayāmi


Divine form is bedecked with ornaments by the devotee. Songs are sung in praise of the Divine form during this process.

Chant: om sri [Deity name]  ābhāranam samarpayāmi 


Sandalwood paste, kumkum or vermillion, and haldi (turmeric) or vibhooti (sacred ash), are offered by the devotee.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] chandanam samarpayāmi, om sri [Deity name] sindoor tilakam samarpayāmi, om sri [Deity name] haldiyam samarpayāmi, om sri [Deity name] vibhooti samarpayāmi 


Flowers are offered by the devotee to decorate the Divine form. In longer pujas, 108 or 1008 flowers are offered, one for each name of the Divine form, chanted in ashtottara nāmāvalis or sahasranāmas. In shorter pujas, just a few well-known or favorite names of the Divine form are chanted with each flower being offered.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] pushpam samarpayāmi


Incense is offered by the devotee to please the Divine form.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] dhoopam samarpayāmi 


Another lamp is lit and offered by the devotee to the Divine form.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] deepam samarpayāmi


Fresh food is offered by the devotee to the Divine form. Water is also offered again to cleanse the mouth of the Divine after naivedya has been consumed.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] naivedyam samarpayāmi


Betel nut and leaves, which have symbolic meaning, are offered as mouth fresheners after the meal. Coins or larger monetary amounts are also given as offering.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] tambulam samarpayāmi

Karpoora Niranjanam

ārati for the Divine form is shown and offered by the devotee.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] karpoora samarpayāmi

Pradakshina & Namaskāram

The Divine form is circumambulated, or the devotee stands in place and turns around three times clockwise, symbolizing that the devotee worships the Divine as the center of their life, around which their life revolves.  The devotee bows down to the Divine, and asks for forgiveness of any mistakes committed during the puja process and sends off the Divine form with gratitude.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] pradakshina samarpayāmi; om sri [Deity name] namaskāram samarpayāmi

Pradakshina & Namaskāram

The Divine form is circumambulated, or the devotee stands in place and turns around three times clockwise, symbolizing that the devotee worships the Divine as the center of their life, around which their life revolves.  The devotee bows down to the Divine, and asks for forgiveness of any mistakes committed during the puja process and sends off the Divine form with gratitude.

Chant: om sri [Deity name] pradakshina samarpayāmi; om sri [Deity name] namaskāram samarpayāmi


The devotee chants the following closing mantra.

kāyena vācā manase indriyairvā buddhy ātmanā vā prakrteh svabhāvāt |
karomi yad yat sakalam parasmai nārāyanāyeti samarpayāmi ||

Whatever I do with my Body, Speech, Mind, or Senses, Whatever I do using my Intellect, Feelings or unconsciously through my natural tendencies |
Whatever I do, I do selflessly for others and surrender them all at the Lotus Feet of the Divine ||

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10/30/22Sanatana Dharma in the Movies

Hinduism is often referred to as Sanatana Dharma (the ‘eternal way’), indicating the religion’s emphasis on eternal truths that are applicable to all of humanity. Thus, it makes sense that a medley of mainstream movies could convey Hindu ideals that resonate strongly with audiences, while not actually talking directly about anything understood by the public as Hindu.

In Groundhog Day, for example, when cynical TV weatherman Phil Collins discovers he is trapped in a time loop, living the same day over and over, only to be released after transforming his character from an egocentric narcissist to a thoughtful and kindhearted philanthropist, it’s hard not to be reminded of the Hindu notion of samsara, a cycle of reincarnation from which a soul attains liberation by realizing its divine nature after lifetimes of spiritual practice. 

Or in The Matrix when Neo chooses the red pill of knowledge over the blue pill of ignorance, and is subsequently unplugged from an illusory world and cast into the truth of reality, the film seems to be conveying a foundational Vedic teaching: that we must transcend our own ignorance — a product of maya, literally meaning “illusion” in Sanskrit — to uncover our true nature. Hindu concepts appear to be further exhibited in Neo’s relationship with Morpheus, which starkly reflects that of a disciple and guru, as the latter reveals to the former the knowledge he needs in order to understand this “true nature.” As Neo’s faith in Morpheus’ words develops, so does his capacity to see past the illusion of the matrix, garnering him the ability to manipulate the laws of this false reality, similar to the Jedi and yogis described earlier.

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10/29/22Hinduism and American Thought

Hindu Americans and the Vedanta philosophy have significantly influenced notable intellectuals such as Henry  David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, J.D. Salinger, Christopher Isherwood, Aldous Huxley, Huston Smith, and Joseph Campbell just to name a few. Some feel that it started back In 1812, when Thomas Jefferson recommended to John Adams the writings of Joseph Priestley, a Unitarian minister who had published works that compared Christianity to other religions — Hinduism in particular — Adam’s interest was piqued.

Going through Priestley’s writings, Adams became riveted by Hindu thought, as he launched into a five-year exploration of Eastern philosophy. As his knowledge of Hinduism and ancient Indian civilization grew, so did his respect for it. This legacy took shape in the 1830s as Transcendentalism, a philosophical, social, and literary movement that emphasized the spiritual goodness inherent in all people despite the corruption imposed on an individual by society and its institutions. Espousing that divinity pervades all of nature and humanity, Transcendentalists believed divine experience existed in the everyday, and held progressive views on women’s rights, abolition, and education. At the heart of this movement were three of America’s most influential authors: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau.

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10/27/22The Hindu Diaspora in Afghanistan

Before becoming an Islamic state, Afghanistan was once home to a medley of religious practices, the oldest being Hinduism. A long time ago, much of Afghanistan was part of an ancient kingdom known as Gandhara, which also covered parts of northern Pakistan.Today, many of Afghanistan’s province names, though slightly altered, are clearly Sanskrit in origin, hinting at the region’s ancient past. To cite a few examples, Balkh comes from the Sanskrit Bhalika, Nangarhar from Nagarahara, and Kabul from Kubha. Though Gandhara’s earliest mention can be found in the Vedas, it is better known for its connections to the Hindu epics the Mahabharata and Ramayana. There is also the historic Asamai temple in Kabul located on a hill named after the Hindu Goddess of hope, Asha. The temple has survived numerous conflicts and attacks but it still stands. The temple is a remnant from Hindu Shahi Kings, who ruled from the Kabul Valley as far back as 850 CE. However, Hindus are indigenous but endangered minorities in Afghanistan, numbering approximately 700 out of a community that recently included over 8,000 members. Many have left for new homes, include in New York which is home to a large Afghani Hindu population.

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10/26/22Dogs and Diwali

According to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, 70% of U.S. households (90.5 million homes) owned a pet as of 2022, with 69 million U.S. households having a pet dog. Recognized for their loyalty, service, companionship, and the special relationship they have with humans, Hinduism’s reverence for dogs is expansive, as they are worshiped in festivals and appreciated in connection to a number of Hindu gods and stories. Observed in Nepal, Bhutan, and the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal, Kukar Tihar (the 2nd day of Tihar) honors dogs as messengers that help guide spirits of the deceased across the River of Death. In the Mahabharata, Yudhisthira, his brothers, and the queen Draupadi renounced their kingdom to ascend to the heavens. However, Yudhisthira was the only one that survived along with a dog that had joined them. Yudhisthira refused to go to heaven without the dog, who turned out to be Yamaraj, the God of Death. Sarama, the “female dog of the gods,” was famously asked by Indra to retrieve a herd of cows that were stolen. When the thieves were caught, they tried to bribe Sarama but she refused and now represents those who do not wish to possess but instead find what has been lost. The symbolic import of dogs is further driven in connection with Dattatreya, as he is commonly depicted with four of them to represent the Vedas, the Yugas, the stages of sound, and the inner forces of a human being (will, faculty, hope, and desire).

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10/25/22Black Panther

In 2018, the long-running Marvel comic series Black Panther, was brought to the big screen. A more prominent scene is when M’baku, a character vying for the throne of the fictional country of Wakanda, challenges T’Challa/Black Panther, and yells, “Glory to Hanuman.” However, despite dharma as an unsaid aspect of the characters’ interactions, Black Panther relies slightly more on Hindu symbolism than philosophy. But the significance of Hanuman as a transcendent deity cannot be overlooked, especially at a time when dialogues about global migration, the right to worship, and access to natural resources are becoming more overtly racialized. The film provides more than just an entertainment escape: it reimagines a world in which the current racial and theological paradigms are challenged forcefully. With the film expected to have at least several sequels, there will be more opportunities to reference Hinduism and Hindu iconography.

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One of the most celebrated Hindu festivals, Diwali (dee-VAH-lee) or Deepavali (dee-PAH-va-lee) commemorates the victory of good over evil during the course of five days. The word refers to rows of diyas — or clay lamps — which are put all around homes and places of worship. The light from these lamps symbolizes the illumination within all of us, which can overcome ignorance, represented by darkness. Devotees gather in local temples, homes, or community centers, to spend time with loved ones, make positive goals, and appreciate life.

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On this day, because Diwali is a time for dana (charitable giving) and seva (selfless service), Hindus traditionally perform a deep cleaning of their homes and surroundings, as cleanliness is believed to invoke the presence and blessings of Goddess Lakshmi who, as mentioned earlier, is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Many will also make rangoli or kolum (colored patterns of flowers, powder, rice, or sand made on the floor), which are also said to invite auspiciousness. Observers thus begin Diwali by cultivating a spirit of generosity, doing things like giving money to charities, feeding the hungry, and endeavoring to help those in need.

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10/22/22The Hindu Diaspora in Bali

The spread of Hinduism to Southeast Asia established powerful Hindu kingdoms in the region, most notably the Khmer Empire that encompassed modern Cambodia and Thailand, and influential kingdoms in the Indonesia archipelago. Though Buddhism and Hinduism co-existed in the region for several centuries, Buddhism (and Islam in Indonesia) eventually replaced Hinduism as a primary religion. Today, there are approximately five million Hindus in Indonesia, primarily in Bali. As Bali is roughly 90 percent Hindu, this makes it a religious enclave in a country that contains the world’s largest Muslim population. There are also roughly 60,000 Cham Hindus in Vietnam, and smaller numbers in Thailand. Hinduism in Fiji, Malaysia, and Singapore is a much more recent phenomenon, with Hindus arriving in the 19th and early 20th centuries as indentured laborers. Today, Hindus are prominent in politics and business in all three countries, though they continue to experience discrimination as religious minorities.

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10/21/22Smithsonian/American History Exhibit - American Indian experience

In 2014, the first Smithsonian exhibition chronicling the experiences of Indian Americans, many of whom are Hindus,  in the US was unveiled at their National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. This exhibit was one of the largest ever produced by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, occupying 5,000 square feet and reaching millions of visitors. The message behind “Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation,” aimed to dispel stereotypes and myths that have followed Indian immigrants since they first arrived in the U.S. in 1790. The exhibit explored the heritage, daily experiences, and the many diverse contributions that immigrants and Indian Americans have made to the United States. The exhibition at the Museum of Natural History includes historical and contemporary images and artifacts, including those that document histories of discrimination and resistance, convey daily experiences, and symbolize achievements across the professions. Music and visual artworks provide commentary on the Indian American experience and form an important component of the exhibition. In 2017, this exhibit went on the road, traveling from city to city so that all could see the impact of Indians on American culture.

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10/20/22Swami Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda was a Hindu monk and yogi who came to the United States in 1920 and lived here for the last 32 years of his life. He is considered to be the first major Hindu Guru to settle in the United States. When Swami Yogananda arrived in the US, he made his first speech, made to the International Congress of Religious Liberals, on “The Science of Religion,” and was enthusiastically received. It was soon after that he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship (also known as Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India) and introduced millions of Americans to the ancient science and philosophy of meditation and Kriya yoga (path of attainment). In 1927, he was invited to the White House by President Calvin Coolidge, making Swami Yogananda the first prominent Indian and Hindu to be hosted in the White House.

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For those of us who are Hindu, we have noticed that some of the biggest Hollywood films produced in the last several decades have mirrored many of Hinduism's most fundamental philosophical ideas. One example is Avatar, a film named for the Sanskrit word avatāra (‘descent’), in which the protagonist, Jake Sully, enters and explores an alien world called Pandora by inhabiting the body of an indigenous 10-foot, blue-skinned being, an idea taken from Hinduism’s depictions of the various avatars of the blue god Vishnu, who are said to descend into our world for upholding dharma. Instead of aligning with the interests of the humans, who merely want to mine Pandora for the valuable mineral unobtanium, Sully fights alongside the alien humanoids native to the world, called Na’vi, who live in harmony with nature, believe all life is sacred, and that all life is connected by a divine force — teachings synonymous with Hinduism. Thus, similar to the avatars of Vishnu, Sully defends and preserves a spiritual culture by defeating those who would destroy it for materialistic pursuit. While this film doesn’t indicate in any direct way that they have anything to do with Hinduism, it’s clear they are communicating Hindu ideas that everyone relates to and understands on a profound level.

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10/18/22Swami Prabhupada

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna movement, was founded in 1966 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a highly respected Vaishnava  (devotion to the god Vishnu and his incarnations avatars) scholar and monk. At the age of 70, Swami Prabhupada traveled from India to New York City to bring the Bhakti tradition, or Krishna Consciousness, to the west. In the 11 years before his passing in 1977, Srila Prabhupada translated, with elaborate commentaries, 60 volumes of Vaishnava literature; established more than 100 temples on six continents; and initiated 5,000 disciples. Today, his writings are studied in universities around the globe and are translated into nearly 100 languages. To date, ISKCON has over 400 temples,  dozens of rural communities and eco-sustainable projects, and nearly 100 vegetarian restaurants world-wide with 56 of them in the US. 

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10/17/22The Hindu Diaspora in Africa

Hinduism came in waves to Africa, with Southern Africa getting Hindu workers during the early years of British colonization, while East and West Africa experienced Hindu migration during the 20th century. Hinduism’s roughly 0.2% presence in Africa is seen as so inconsequential, most data organizations don’t even bother explicitly mentioning it in their census reports. But Hinduism is Ghana's fastest growing religion and one in which there are steady populations in both Northern and Southern African states. Durban is now home to most of South Africa’s 1.3 million Indians, making it, according to some sources, the largest Indian city outside of India, and thus a most powerful hub of Hindu practice. In the US, there are both communities of African Hindus who have migrated, as well as Black Hindus, who according to the 2019 Pew Survey, make up 2% of the Hindu population in the US.

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Hinduism Around the World

10/16/22Star Wars

George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, drew much of the inspiration for this major cultural phenomenon from the teachings of his mentor who was a lifelong student of Vedanta. In these films, many aspects of Hinduism are interwoven with the story. Some include Hanuman (Chewbaca and Ewoks), Shakti (force,energy), Yodha (Yoda), Brahman (infinite being). Besides the many philosophical parallels that can be highlighted between Star Wars and Hinduism, Star Wars also exhibits similarities in story structure and character roles to one of India’s famous epics, the Ramayana. Never seen the movie? Now might be the time to see how universally relatable Hindu thought can truly be.

What do the Matrix, Avatar, Groundhog Day, and Star Wars have to do with Hinduism?


The term Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge), translation to the knowledge of life. Ayurveda is considered to be the oldest healing science, originating in 1000 BCE. Based on the five elements that comprise the universe (space, air, fire, water, and earth), they combine and permutate to create three health principles  that govern the functioning and interplay of a person’s body, mind, and consciousness. These energies are referred to as doshas in Sanskrit. Ayurveda can be used in conjunction with Western medicine and Ayurvedic schools have gained approval as educational institutions in several states.

5 Things to Know About Ayurveda

In Hinduism, What is the Relationship Between Spirituality and Health?


While it’s synonymous to meditation, and seen simply as a doorway to tranquility for yogic practitioners, the true meaning of Om is deeply embedded in Hindu philosophy.

The word Om is defined by Hindu scripture as being the original vibration of the universe, which all other vibrations are able to manifest. Within Hinduism, the meaning and connotations of Om is perceived in a variety of ways. Though heard and often written as “om,” due to the way it sounds when it is repeatedly chanted, the sacred syllable is originally and more accurately spelled as “aum.” Broken down, the three letters of A – U – M represent a number of sacred trinities such as different conditions of consciousness (waking state, dreaming state, and deep sleep state), the deities in charge of the creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe ( Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva), aspects of time (past, present, and future), among many others. 

5 Things to Know About Om

Religious Symbols

10/28/22Dr. Anandibai Joshi

Dr. Anandi Gopal Joshi is credited with being the first woman from India to study medicine in the United States. Born in Bombay in 1865, she was married at the age of ten to an older man who had been her teacher. Dr. Joshi had a child at the age of 13, but the child died when only 10 days old. She believed that with better medical care, the child would have lived, and she frequently cited this as motivation for her desire to attend medical school. Her husband encouraged her in her academic pursuits and in 1883, Joshee joined the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, now known as the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. She graduated in 1886 with her degree in medicine; her M.D. thesis focused on Hindu obstetrics. Unfortunately,  Dr. Joshi was only able to practice medicine for a few months before passing away from tuberculosis.

Science in Hinduism

10/13/22The Hindu Diaspora in Guyana

Hinduism is the religion of almost 25% of Guyana’s population, making it the country with the highest percentage of Hindus in the Western Hemisphere. But from British professional recruiting agents targeting rural and uneducated Indians, to the aggressiveness of Christian proselytization of Hindus with a promise of a better life, Hinduism has been in a steady decline for many decades with many escaping to the United States for better opportunities and to practice their religion freely. Today, over 80% of Guyanese Americans live in the Northeastern United States with heavy concentrations in New Jersey and in New York, where a “Little Guyana”  helps these immigrants stay connected to their Guyanese roots.

Hinduism beyond India: Guyana

Hinduism Around the World

10/12/22Karwa Chauth

Karwa Chauth or Karva Chauth (kuhr-vah-CHOATH) is a North Indian holiday in which wives fast for the longevity and health of their husbands, however, many unmarried women celebrate in hopes of meeting their ideal life partner. Typically, wives spend the day preparing gifts to exchange, and fasting until the moon is visible. It is believed that its light symbolizes love and blessings of a happy life. While there are varying legends behind this holiday’s traditions and meaning, the message of honoring the relationships women form with their family and community prevails.

Karwa Chauth

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar

10/11/22Hinduism and Music

As sound vibration can affect the most subtle element of creation, it is interpreted in Hindu scriptures that spiritual sound vibrations can affect the atman (soul) in a particularly potent way. Such spiritual sound vibrations are said to have the ability to awaken our original spiritual consciousness and help us remember that we are beyond the ambivalence of life, and actually originate from the Divine. As such, the main goal of many types of Hindu musical expression is to help stir us out of our spiritual slumber by evoking feelings of love and connection that help us to better perceive the presence of the Divine within all. Some of the more popular examples of musical expressions within Hinduism include shlokas (verse, or poem), mantras (sacred syllables repeated in prayer), kirtans (congregational singing of mantras), and bhajans (devotional songs). You can find musical spiritual expressions through the US in temples,  Mandirs, and community centers.

The Power of Music According to Hinduism

What is Kirtan?


Yoga is considered Hinduism’s gift to humanity. At its broadest, yoga, from the root word “yuj” in Sanskrit, means to unite. Most Hindu texts discuss yoga as a practice to control the senses and ultimately, the mind. The most famous is the Bhagavad Gita (dating back to 6th-3rd Century BCE), in which Krishna speaks of four types of yoga – bhakti, or devotion; jnana, or knowledge; karma, or action; and dhyana, or concentration (often referred to as raja yoga, though not all sources agree on the term) – as paths to achieve moksha (enlightenment), the ultimate goal according to Hindu understanding. According to a 2016 study,  in the United States there are an estimated 36.7 million people currently practicing yoga in the United States.


The Hindu Roots of Yoga

10/9/22Swami Vivekananda

According to Vedic cosmology, 108 is the basis of creation, representing the universe and all our existence. As the soul is encased in two types of bodies: the physical body (made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether) and the subtle body (composed of intelligence, mind and ego), Swami Viveknanda is often attributed with bringing Hindu teachings and practices — such as yoga and transcendental meditation — to Western audiences. In 1893, he was officially introduced to the United States at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, where in his speech he called for religious tolerance and described Hinduism as “a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.” The day that Swami Vivekananda delivered his speech at the Parliament of Religions is now known as ‘World Brotherhood Day.’ And his birthday, known as Swami Vivekananda Jayanti, is honored on January 12th each year. On this day he is commemorated and recognized for his contributions as a modern Hindu monk and respected guru of the Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism. In 1900, Swami Viveknanda founded the Vedanta Society in California and to date there are 36 Vedanta Society Centers in the United States.

Swami Vivekananda Influenced Countless Americans

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar


According to Vedic cosmology, 108 is the basis of creation, representing the universe and all our existence. As the soul is encased in two types of bodies: the physical body (made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether) and the subtle body (composed of intelligence, mind and ego), 108 plays a significant role in keeping these two bodies healthily connected. Hindus believe the body holds seven chakras, or pools of energy, which begin at the bottom of the spine and go all the way down to the top of the head and it is believed there are 108 energy lines that converge to form the heart chakra. Ayurveda says there are 108 hidden spots in the body called marma points, where various tissues like muscles, veins, and ligaments meet. These are vital points of life force, and when they are out of balance, energy cannot properly flow throughout the body. Sun salutations, yogic asanas that honor the sun god Surya, are generally completed in nine rounds of 12 postures, totaling 108. Mantra meditation is usually chanted on a set of 108 beads.   In Hinduism there are 108 Upanishads, the sacred texts of wisdom from ancient sages. Additionally, in the Sanskrit alphabet, there are 54 letters. Each letter has a feminine, or Shakti, and masculine, or Shiva, quality. 54 multiplied by 2 equals 108. Ultimately, breathwork, chanting, studying scripture, and asana’s help harmonize one’s energy with the energy of the supreme spiritual source. These processes become especially effective when they are performed in connection with the number 108. Hindu scriptures strive to remind people of this divine commonality by continuously highlighting the innumerable threads connecting everything in existence. One of these threads is the number 108.

5 Things to know about 108

Here's How the Number 108 Binds Us to the Universe

10/7/22The Hindu Diaspora in Trinidad/Tobago

A decade after slavery was abolished in 1834, the British government began importing indentured labor from India to work on their estates in other countries such as Trinidad and Tobago.  From 1845 to 1917, the ships would continue to arrive, carrying over 140,000 Indians to the island, facilitating Trinidad's population growth from Indian laborers. Today, there are roughly 240,000 declared Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago, comprising about 18% of the island’s population. There are a total of about 300 temples on the island, welcoming all who wish to enter and where many beloved Hindu festivals take place. But for some, the migration journey doesn’t end as New York and Florida have seen the development of large Indo-Caribbean communities.

Hinduism beyond India: Trinidad and Tobago


From ancient tribes to present-day devotees, tattoos have held a special place in Hinduism for centuries. In the Indian states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, the Ramnaami community invoked Rama’s protection with tattoos of the name “Rama” in Sanskrit on every inch of their skin, including the tongue and inside the lips.The Mahabharata tells the story of the Pandavas that were exiled to the Kutch district of Gujarat. Today, their descendants - members of the Ribari tribe - live as their ancestors did, with women covered in tattoos that symbolize their people’s strong spirit for survival. Some Hindus consider tattoos as protective emblems,such as tattoos of Hanuman are often used to relieve physical or mental pain. People will often get tattoos of other deities to invoke their blessings. Mehndi, a plant-based temporary tattoo, is commonly done at weddings and religious ceremonies as a form of celebration of love and spirituality. While tattoos have been in Hindu communities for centuries, tattoos as symbols of honor, devotion, and even fashion are incredibly popular today. Hindus and non Hindus alike adorn themselves with Hindu emblems and tattoos that reflect Hindu teachings.

Guidelines for Commercial Use of Hindu Images


Navaratri (nuhv-uh-RA-three) is a nine night celebration of the feminine divine that occurs four times a year — the spring and fall celebrations being amongst the more widely celebrated. Some traditions honor the nine manifestations of Goddess Durga, while others celebrate the three goddesses (Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati) with three days dedicated to each. This is a time to recognize the role in which the loving, compassionate, and gentle — yet sometimes powerful and fierce — feminine energy plays in our lives.

Nine Things to Know About Navaratri

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar


Dussehra (duh-sheh-RAH) or Vijayadashmi (vi-juhyuh-dushuh-mee) celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over the ten-headed demon King Ravana. This also marks the end of Ramalila — a brief retelling of the Ramayana and the story of Rama, Sita, and Lakshman in the form of dramatic reading or dance. It also signifies the end of negativity and evil within us (vices, biases, prejudices) for a fresh new beginning. Dussehra often coincides with the end of Navratri and Duga Puja, and celebrations can last ten days, with huge figures of Ravana set ablaze as a reminder that good always prevails over evil.

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar

Hinduism 101 & Women

10/3/22Ahimsa + Cow sanctuaries

Many Hindus hold reverence for the cow as a representation of mother earth, fertility, and Hindu values of selfless service, strength, dignity, and non-harming. Though not all Hindus are vegetarian, for this reason many traditionally abstain from eating beef. This is often linked with the concept of ahimsa (non-violence), which can be applied to diet choices and our interactions with the environment, and potentially determine our next birth, according to the doctrine of karma. This is part of the reason that some Hindus may choose a vegetarian lifestyle as an expression of ahimsa as well as explains the growing number of cow protection projects that are led by individuals who have felt compelled to put their Hindu values into practice. The US is home to several cow protection projects and sanctuaries

Dairy Is Traditionally Sattvic Food, but the Way We Treat Cows Today Can Be Tamasic

Cultured Meat and Animal-Free Dairy Upends the Plant-Based Food Discussion

10/1/2022First Hindu temple in US

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 facilitated the journey of many Indian immigrants to the United States. In this new land, many created home shrines and community temples to practice and hold pujas (services). As Hindu American populations grew in metropolitan and rural areas, so did the need to find a permanent temple site for worship. In 1906, the Vedanta Society built the Old Temple in San Francisco, California but as this was not considered a formal temple, many don’t credit this with being the first. Others believe it is the Shiva Murugan Temple built in 1957 in Concord, California, whereas others believe it is the Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devanstanam in New York that should be considered the first. Today, there are nearly 1,000 temples in the United States . Regardless of where you live, you have the right to practice your faith.

A Guide To Temple Safety and Security

5 Things to Know About Visiting a Hindu Temple