views updated May 29 2018

Pūjā (Skt., Pāli, ‘respect, homage, worship’, perhaps early Dravidian ‘flower’ + ‘offer’). Immensely varied acts, in Eastern religions, of offering, devotion, propitiation, etc., but often including the offering of flowers. In early (Vedic) Hinduism, pūjā began to replace yajña (sacrifice) as ‘invocation, reception and entertainment of God as a royal guest’ (Gonda). According to S. K. Chatterji, pūjā developed in the non-Aryan culture: homa was exclusively Aryan, requiring animal sacrifice (paśu-karma), but pūjā was open to all and required flowers (puspa-karma). Certainly in later Buddhism the offering of flowers (puppha-pūjā) has become the main pūjā ritual.

For Hindus, pūjā relates humans to the domain and action of the deities in all their many ways of sustaining or threatening the cosmos and life within it, and thus it takes a vast number of different ritual forms, of which the simplest is darśan, looking on the image of the deity (or in the case of Jains, on the image of a tīrthaṅkara; among the Jains, an ascetic can only look at an image, never act toward it; such interior devotion is known as caityavandana, and is one of the six obligations). Pūjā is mentioned in the early Gṛhya Sūtras, with focus on home rituals (which remain central). In the Sūtras, the reception of, and hospitality for, brahmans in the home to preside over rites for ancestors is called pūjā, and it may be that devapūjā (worship of deities) developed from this: devapūjā is described in the Purāṇas only in sections added later; but it then becomes fundamental in bhakti.

Among Jains, that understanding of prasad is impossible (the tīrthaṅkaras cannot consume anything). Instead, the offering of food is understood as a gesture of renunciation. Equally, pūjā addressed to the tīrthaṅkaras with expectation of response is inappropriate, because they have given all that they can, ‘instruction in faith, knowledge and behaviour’ (Vattakera); but expressions of gratitude and love are natural, and increase merit. In general, the Digambaras do not touch images themselves, but employ a priest (upadhye) to do so, whereas the Śvetāmbaras perform the rituals and employ temple servants (pujārī) to clear up after them.

In Buddhism, pūjā may be offered to the deities (as Buddhism understands them), but it is also translated in a non-theistic direction (as in the case of dāna). It then becomes a basic form of religious observance, through recitation of the threefold ‘Refuge Formula’ (triśarana), etc., but even more through offerings of thanksgiving, food, and flowers to the Buddha.


views updated May 17 2018


This entry consists of the following articles:

hindu pŪjĀ
buddhist pŪjĀ