Qualifications of a Pujari
1. He must have studied Thanthra under a qualified Acharya
2. He must have experienced vibrations (spandana) of Kundalini
3. He must have received mulamanthram (incantation for that particular deity) from the Thanthri (puja supervisor) of the temple.
1. A wooden board in the shape of a Tortoise (Avana palaka)
2. The board should be large enough so that the poojari can sit over it without any part of his body touching the ground.
3. Poojari has to sit cross legged or in Padmasana.
1. Vandanam (prayer) of guru and ganesa. The first manthra is based on poojari's particular Veda to which he belongs. Then he has to salute his Guru adding his name to it. He has to imagine his Guru on the left and Ganesa on the right. Prayer to guru will be through idanadi and Ganesa through pingala Nadi. (Idanadi and pingala nadi are considered to run parallel to the spinal cord, or sushumna nadi)
2. Cleaning of hand: The asthamanthra (special incantation) of the Deva is to be used for cleaning the hands and massaging those parts of the hands. (Elbow to Wrist) to make them devathamayam (full of godliness).
3. Thala thrayam (Clap three times) : With Asthamanthra and by clapping the hands three times Agnighandam (fire), Somakhandam (moon’s rays), and Sourakhandam (ether) are to be joined, as described in the Gayatri Mantra.
4. Dik Bandhanam (close the sides): Using Asthamanthram all 10 sides around the Poojari are to be closed (eight around him, North, North-east, East,… etc, one above him and one below). Now the Poojari gets complete isolation.
5. Pranayamam (Control of breath): [Using Pranavam (Om) and Mulamanthram (special prayer of that particular deity)]. The Kriyas (actions) of pranayamam are Poorakam (to fill), Kumbhakam (to sustain) and Rechakam (to let out). Ida, Sushumna and Pingala nadis are affected by this. These nadis are to be given Manthra Vibrations. When the controlled Mind and Prana interact with Muladhara (the lowermost chakra) the Kundalini sakthi awakens.(This process requires plenty of training under a great teacher).
6. Deha Sudhi. (Purification of the body. This is not done for a small pooja)
a. Kundalini shakthi has to reach Sahsraram (Topmost point of head)
b. All the five elements (Water, earth, air, ether and fire), ego and mind are to be merged into the almighty (Paramathma).
c. The physical body (Karmasareeram) is to be reduced in size by using air (Vayu); and fire (Agni) is used to burn off (Bhasmikaranam) and using water purify (Amruthaplavanam) and recreate the body. Then the Kundalini Shakti is again brought down to Mooladharam. The above is a fine imagination of Punarjanma (re-birth).
7. Nyasam:- (bringing divinity to)
a. Lipinyasam (The alphabet)
b. Shadanga nyasam (The six parts of Manthra chaithanya)
e. Nyasa (establishment) of Devathas on head, lips and heart.
8. To concentrate on the shape of Manthra Devatha (Dhyana swaroopam) in the mind.
9. Manasapooja (worship without an idol): Recite Mulamanthram several times in the mind till the Poojari's body attains Manthra Chaithanya.
10. Shankha (conch) Pooranam (To purify the puja instruments and puja material).
a. Two Kindis (vessels shaped like kamandalus, with outlet pipes upwords). The left one is to have pure water. The right to contain thirtha (sanctified water) kept over an imaginary Pidham (seat), ie a circle over a square.
b. Shankhu (conch). Thirtha is to be made inside the conch. The Pidha (seat) below this is shaped like a triangle. Now Pidha puja is to be done. Imagine God inside the Shankhu and do Panchopachara pooja to it (water, aroma, flower, incense, and lamp) representing (water, earth, air, ether and fire).
c.After this pooja hold the shankhu in the hand and recite Moolamanthra.
d. Using the water from the conch sprinkle it on the Puja materials and puja instruments. The remaining water is to be poured into the Kindi on the right side. This converts the water in it to Pure Thirtha.and as and when required water from this can be used as thirtha to purify any material.
11. Athmaradhana (worship the god within oneself): The pujari puts sandal paste and flowers on his body and with hand gestures does pooja on himself. At this time the Sankhu is to be directed towards him. (The pujari becomes equal to God).
12. Pidha pooja: This is to make God's seat pure. Six pidhas one over the other are to be worshipped separately using Panchopachara manthras. Then imagine God installed on the Pidha and worship Him using flowers (Moorthi Kalpana).
13. Avahanam: (Bringing Godliness into the puja materials)
a. Bring up Kundalini to Sahasrara Padmam (the top chakra)
b. Imagine the Deity at Sahasrara Padmam and pray
c. Then bring down the Kundalini to Muladhara, shift it slightly to the right and bring it up through the Pingala nadi up to the right nostril. The air in the nostril is passed on into the Jala (water), Gandha Pushpa (aromatic flowers), Akshatha (other puja materials) held in the hand of the Pujari. ie the divinity gets into these puja materials.
d. These materials are used to worship the Deity and then the pujari has to do the Avahanadi Mudras and do Nyasas to the Deity.
14. Shodasopacharangal [16 Upacharas (obeisances) as given in Sankaracharya’s Prapancha Sarathanthram]: In the beginning give Shankha jalam to Padhya (feet), Arghya (head) and Achamaneeya (obeisance to the spirit within). Then give Upachararpanam to the Deity by giving Padyam at the feet, Arghyam at the head and Achamaneeyam (Madhuparkam) at the Sukshma Deha (the spirit within).
The Upacharam with the Madhuparkam (a mix of honey, milk and curd) is similar to welcoming a guest. Here it is like offering Soma, Surya, Agni portions to God. While offering these the Panchopachara manthras (Jala, Gandha, Pushpa, Deepa, Dhupa Nivedya) are to be recited which is like merging all these with God. It is said that the Pujari gets Amrutha Varshana (Bliss) at the end of Shodasopachara Kriya (16 actions). Then the Pujari takes a bath. At the time of the bath (Snana) he has to recite three Riks (mantras) and sprinkle water on his head.
15. Vasthralamkaram or Murthi puja (adorning the deity): Normally God is invisible. Only when God puts on clothes and ornaments the ordinary person is able to see Him. After this the pujari imagines different parts of God including the ornaments and dresses and does puja to each.
According to Kerala custom, after this, the Pujari stops the main pooja and using different Manthras does the following pujas:
* Panchopachara puja to Pranavam (water, aroma, flower, incense, and lamp) representing (water, earth, air, ether and fire).
* Shakthi upacharamanthram invoking the strength of God
* Mulamanthram (special prayer of that particular deity)
* Mulaksharangal, (the vowels in the alphabet)
* Angam, (parts of the body)
* Ayudham, (weapons)
* Bhushanangal, (ornaments)
* Parivarangal (relatives), and their instruments, and
* Nirmalyadhari. (the minor deity who receives the uchchishtam, or the remainder after the main deity partakes of the offerings)
The manthra simply states Sarvangebhyo nama etc but the Panchopachara puja is to be given to each of these separately. Dhupa (incense) is to be waved at Nabhisthal (in front of the deity) and Deepa (lamps) are to be waved at eye-level. While doing this, manthras are to be recited and the hand bell is to be continuously rung.
16. Nivedyam: Food offered at the temple is purified by Bhootha Sudhi (ceremony to prevent the touch of evil and unclean spirits. Then ghee is poured into it, while reciting Gayathri manthra. The moolamantra is chanted, and the various items are touched in turn. The food is considered to merge with the Deity. Then the Naivedya is covered by Manthras.
The Devatha for the remainder (uchishtam) is Nirmalyadhari. For Vishnu the Nirmalyadhari is Vishwaksenan and for Siva it is Chandeswaran. Then the door of the sanctum sanctorum is closed and the Naivedya is offered to Nirmalyadhari with a puja called Pancha pranahuthi. The devotees receive the remaining naivedyam from the Nirmalyadhari. Along with this, a little naivedyam is also offered to the deities of the Balikal (minor deities around the sanctum sanctorium).
After this, the Pujari has to climb the Mandapa and recite Mulamanthra. Then he does sashtanga pranam (prostration) there. Then he has to wash his feet and enter the sanctum sanctorum. .Then he does the pranahuthi puja to the Nirmalyadhari. In big temples during nivedya devotees are not allowed inside.
17. Prasanna pooja: This is like a Durbar of a king. In the olden days the deity was probably considered the king of the village. This pooja is done with Nritha (dance), Vadya (instruments) and Sangeetha (music). For this pooja, only flowers are offered with Sahasranama to the deity as well as Pidhadevathas (minor deities).
18. Pooja samarpanam: Here the Pujari offers apologies for any errors committed in the rituals and showers the remaining flowers on the deity, a process called Poorna Pushpanjali. Then he gives away all the Punyas (good karma) acquired by him to the deity. Then the performs the puja that converts the water offered to the deity to thirtha (sanctified water). Then he takes the purified water in the conch and keeps it near the feet of God. Then he prays in his mind to his Guru and showers the offered flowers on all (imagined) Devas and Asuras. Then he showers them on the devotees standing in front of the sanctum sanctorum.
Then he gives Arghya (offering at the feet) to God and again does Thala thraya (three claps) and Dik bandhanam (closing the sides). Then he does Pranam at God's feet and takes one flower from there, which brings Chaithanyam (sanctification) to the flower. He receives only 1/16 part of the Chaithanyam. The balance is left to accumulate there. This increases the Chaithanya of the temple.