topic posted Wed, September 13, 2006 - 4:33 AM by  Anna
I am a beginner on a path of Hinduism. I feel this is what I have been looking for for all my life,
but now it takes some formalities, so to say,
to understand what I am dealing with.

I would like to have an altar but.... I dont know where to start.
What do I need to build one?

And... I feel very stupid asking this question, but I have to know: what happens with offerings?
I mean, if I offer a flower, it will die one day. In Christianism you have to burn everything what has been
blessed etc.

Thanks for any clues
posted by:
  • Re: Offerings

    Wed, September 13, 2006 - 8:44 AM
    yes u dont throw anything away that u offer on the altar. it can be put in the ocean a river or yes burned. it is considered prasada (mercy).

    usually altars u can have a picture of ur guru if u have one (or ur particular lineage) then one of ur chosen deity (ishta devata) in my case this is radha krsna and gaura nitai (last incarnation of krsna) but u can have lets say a ganesh picture or painting, or whoever u pray to. or maybe a deity (murti) of that personality. it can be decorated with nice fabrics (maybe sari fabric- try and use only natural materials as they are pavitra or pure) u can have an arati tray (used for worship) an attractive incense holder a bell is a must for ringing while u do offerings. omg im going on and on.... there is soo much more as well.

    puja is my specialty if u have any other questions please ask :)
    • Re: Offerings

      Thu, September 14, 2006 - 7:28 AM
      Hmmm... where would I find an ocean? OK. Kidding. I got it. Fire, water - anything else?

      I have to start from the very beginning. LIke VERY beginning, if you know what I mean.
      A place in my room- is there any particular place you tend to place an altar?
      Can there be something else on the same wall? I have a very small room.

      Then- do you put the fabrics on a shelf? On a table? On 'where' basically is the question (told you
      I am an absolute beginner).

      Can I have more than one altar? Or, can I have more than one deity on one altar? (what does exactly 'ishta' mean?)

      Arati tray will be the next step, though I've never even seen one (except for films and tv).

      Can I use any bell or do I have to have a special one (probably not available in Poland)- don't tell
      me to buy it through the Internet. I don't even know how to do it. When EXACTLY should I use it?

      Thanks for answering. And sorry for so many questions, but you asked for it :)

      Yesterday I read about debts we are born to the world with. The more I read, the more I am
      convinced this is a faith for me. My intuitive choice was right.
      • Re: Offerings

        Thu, September 14, 2006 - 7:36 AM
        its all good anna.

        u can have 1 altar or many, whatever u like. it can be a shelf, a table, a piece of furniture. just make sure that when u make this altar, u use it solely for the purpose of worship. like dont set down an old can of 7-up on it lol, u know what i mean. keep it sacred. the fabric can be on the wall, on the shelf, whatever.

        u can have more than one deity. yes u can use any bell. if poland has an indian store u can find things there. there is a very famous polish woodstock every year no? well the krishna camp there is VERY big and they would sell items u can use for ur altar. all kinds of things.

        ishta means chosen / preferred.
        • Re: Offerings

          Fri, September 15, 2006 - 1:47 AM
          Ok, thanks a lot!

          We do have Indian shops, but they sell things produced in Vietnam or Taiwan, if you know what I mean.
          Like bracelets- they all wear out after a week, give me a rush etc. And scents stink :)

          Hmmm... Krishna camp on woodstock... yeah, I remember them. But the festival went by, unfortunately.
          BUT! I know there is some kind of a commune outside Warsaw. Perhaps I could just contact them...

          Thanks a lot for your help.

          I will ask you many more questions after I prepare the altar.
          • Re: Offerings

            Fri, September 15, 2006 - 8:13 AM
            cool. and yeah, there is a commune outside of warsaw. u should be able to get what u need there. or maybe order it.
      • Re: Offerings

        Sun, April 5, 2009 - 9:29 AM
        hi! am also new to hinduism and been doing lots of studying. at my ashram they always give the offerings from the alter back to nature where noone is going to step on it. say you offer flowers, you can put it under a bush or plant so that mother nature takes it back into herself, or if you offer food, you can eat it after the puja. you can offer it to all who attend if there are many people there. the food is called prasad and is blessed.
        Om Namah Shivya!
  • Re: Offerings

    Wed, September 13, 2006 - 9:54 AM
    milk and candy to start with. Ganesha jsut looves sweets.
    • Re: Offerings

      Thu, September 14, 2006 - 7:12 AM
      I know! That's... so sweet? :)

      I also made a private sacrifice, as I started to suspect myself of
      a serious problem with eating too much - whenever I want to
      eat something sweet just because of being greedy,
      I think of NOT doing this as a special way of an offering.

      I also asked for a help in this matter from Ganesha.

      And guess what?
      I bet you know what, already =)
  • Re: Offerings

    Sat, September 16, 2006 - 10:01 PM
    Hi Anna,

    My name is Danella or some know me as Crowraven. Altars are a very personal thing and I find it is best to use your intuition to lead you. What I do is usually take a special cloth then allow myself to take things that mean something special to me. For instance I took a meditative walk at the ocean on New Years Day and asked the Gods and Goddesses to send me something new to open my heart more and to let go of any programs I no longer needed and in the next moment a wave brought to me a perfect sand dollar then the next wave brought more I have never in my life seen a sand dollar wash to shore let alone many many of them, I chose four to honor our four directions and today I still have one special one on my altar. So you see it can be what you need there and it can change too.

    I also have many dieties some on the altar and some throughout the entire living space. I see my home as an altar in itself. Hope that is some help.

    • Re: Offerings

      Sun, September 17, 2006 - 8:36 AM
      with all due respect danella / ravencrow, although altars are presonal. anna asked in regards to a hindu altar. now it is fine to have beautiful objects found in nature. i also use them to decorate and adorn the altar. she also mentionned that she doesnt have the entire house to use, but, rather a small space which is her bedroom. which is y a shelf in her case would be appropriate.

      a "hindu" altar (i prefer vedic as hindu is a misnomer) has certain standards and guidelines (such as framed pictures, deities, incense, flowers a bell etc) so although personal flair is wonderful and creative, a hindu / vedic altar is not something that u just use ur intuition for. from a vedic perspective, that is speculation / concoction. had she asked for a pagan altar, i would say let urself do whatever.... however, in this case, i would advise against letting ones intuition guide them as it would no longer be a hindu altar, it would be something else, which is fine, just not a hindu altar, which after reading her posts is what she wants :)
      • Unsu...

        Re: Offerings

        Sun, October 1, 2006 - 7:46 PM
        I have a question about offerings as well. What do you do with them? Like food, do you burn it at the end of the day and offer more the next day? And if you burn it, where do you put the ashes? I don't have a car and a trip to the beach every day would be hard for me.

        • Re: Offerings

          Mon, October 2, 2006 - 7:09 AM
          hiya happy nun!

          the answer is noooooo, u dont burn them. food for example (in our tradition a very important aspect of spirituality) after the food is offered it is returned back to the pot from whence it came, and everything that has been offered is now considered prasadam (literally means mercy) this food is considered non different from the deity and is now spiritual. the food that was directly on the deities plate is called maha-prasadam (the highest mercy) and all of this is distributed to those present. but just one important thing to remember; when cooking for the pleasure of the deity, u must not taste / eat the foodstuffs (called bhoga or enjoyment) until after they are offered.
          try and keep the deity plates separate from what u eat off of. they should be suci (clean) having never been used for human consumption.
          • Unsu...

            Re: Offerings

            Thu, October 5, 2006 - 3:35 PM
            What do you mean by return it to the pot? Are we supposed to eat it after you offer it?
            • Re: Offerings

              Thu, October 5, 2006 - 7:14 PM
              sorry. i should explain. well if it is a food offering (bhoga arpana) then u mix it back into the pot it was cooked in, or pan or whatever. if it is sweets same thing. i wsa referring to food offerings about returning it to the pot. if it is offered incense / ghee lamp / flower this wouldnt apply. although u still honour them as prasada (mercy). anything that is offered to the deity and then removed is considered prasada. well i shouldnt say anything.... hehe. i should say offerable things :)
              • Re: Offerings

                Fri, October 6, 2006 - 5:54 AM
                If you buy a chocolate figure of Ganesha can you offer it??
                • Re: Offerings

                  Fri, October 6, 2006 - 8:51 AM
                  yes. thats ok. normally / traditionally chocolate isnt offered cuz it has caffeine in it, but sweets are ok, and ganesh likes sweets :)
              • Unsu...

                Re: Offerings

                Tue, October 10, 2006 - 12:54 PM
                I understand, but it doesn't disappear, what do you do with it? If you mix it, do you leave it until it evaporates, like if it is liquid?

                I'm sorry for asking so many questiosn, I just want to do this right.
                • Re: Offerings

                  Wed, October 11, 2006 - 7:10 PM
                  if it is food, after offering it you EAT it :)

                  i mean that u offer a small portion of what u cook on an offering plate (thali) then mix it back in the pot after the offering is done. nothing evaporates. u only leave the offering 5-10 minutes.
                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.

                    Re: Offerings

                    Thu, October 12, 2006 - 4:11 PM
                    Oooooh, okay! Thank you for being patient with me. lol

                    I left a piece of cake on my altar for three days because I didn't know what to do with it.
                    • Re: Offerings

                      Fri, October 13, 2006 - 8:48 AM
                      hahahaha. thats very nice. im sure ganesa enjoyed it THOROUGHLY lol.

                      now u kno :)
                      • Unsu...

                        Re: Offerings

                        Fri, October 13, 2006 - 9:37 AM
                        Manu, and what kind of bell do you suggest to use for offerings?
                        And what kind of store should I buy it in?
                        I am in the San Francisco area.
                        • Re: Offerings

                          Fri, October 13, 2006 - 9:43 AM
                          really u can use any type of bell. but if u want an indian one u can buy them usually in indian grocery store or market. if u kno of a puja store then they will definately have them there. im pretty sure there are some in berkeley.

                          and if u want to order a full offering tray they have a nice selection online at krishna culture.
                          • Unsu...

                            Re: Offerings

                            Fri, October 13, 2006 - 9:51 AM
                            Thanks Manu!
                            Have a great weekend.
                            • Unsu...

                              Re: Offerings

                              Fri, October 13, 2006 - 10:01 AM
                              I also have an interesting question-
                              If you are making mental offerings of thankfullness and gratitude
                              without any object, should one ring a bell as well?

                      • Unsu...

                        Re: Offerings

                        Sat, October 14, 2006 - 10:03 AM
                        I sure hope he did!

                        Thanks again.
                        • Unsu...

                          Re: Offerings

                          Sat, October 14, 2006 - 10:12 AM
                          Hope he did what?
                          • Re: Offerings

                            Sun, October 15, 2006 - 10:39 AM
                            that Ganesh enjoyed the cake, I think.

                            I have found that this mexican leche cake, while unorthodox, makes a good offering.
                            • Re: Offerings

                              Sat, May 17, 2008 - 10:15 AM
                              Being orthodox is just another limitation for some. People are orthodox because they think it's the right thing to do, not because they actually know the meaning of the traditions and the effects thereof.
  • Unsu...

    Re: Offerings

    Fri, November 2, 2007 - 1:51 PM
    I offer the five nectars, water, milk, honey, ghee and curd (the five forms the seed of Sri Mahadeva felt to earth in) to the Lingam Shrine in my yard each morning. I choose to keep it outdoors because my roommate is not a vegetarian. I don't think its proper to have a shrine in a home where meat is cooked. I almost had a heart attack when I got home and found him cooking hamburger helper in my pot, I make my curried mangoes in that : (

    I always offer all uneatable offerings into the sacred fire along with my self offering. In the Shiva Purana we are told that when Lord Shiva was reunited with his love Sati in the reincarnated form of Parvati they engaged in sexual sport for one thousand years of the gods and would have continued the engagement for another thousand if the gods had not interrupted. They wanted Shiva to produce a son who would destroy the Asura Taraka, but Parvati could not get pregnant because Shiva was retaining his seed to prolong the divine sport. The Gods led by Hari interrupted them, to Parvati's great dismay. Shiva being a loving deity of great compassion released his seed and commanded the Gods to carry it to the earth (where it would be nurtured by the Pleiades and grow to become Karttikeya (god of battle and destroyer of Taraka). Agni (the God of the sacred Flame) turned into a bird and caught the seed in his beak. Parvati was enraged and commanded Agni that as he was so eager to catch the offered seed of Sri Mahadeva so he would crave and devour all offerings.
    The Sacred fire is the vehicle by which our offerings of material objects or of ourselves are carried to the Divine. As far as eating food offerings... Mahaganapati Babaji loves Ladu... and so do I : )
    • Re: Offerings

      Wed, April 23, 2008 - 10:20 AM
      When it comes to meat being cooked in the house etc... There are some exceptions for offering and eating meat. Goddesses Kali Maa, Durga Maa, Tara Maa, Chinnamasta Maa, Dhumavathi Maa, and Bhairavi Maa all accept offerings of Meat, wine, liquor, and blood. They also accept offerings of animal sacrifice, and in ancient times, human sacrifices to fierce Goddesses were have supposed to have taken place. I think Mathangi might take meat as well. Mathangi also likes left overs and menstrual blood as an offering, and her devotees to be in a state of pollution. So it depends on if you are going by Orthodox Vedic tradition, or Tantra which breaks all the orthodox rules.

      The same goes with the shrine area. There are rules and guidelines, especially if you are following an orthodox tradition. But un-orthodox traditions, especially Vama Marga and other practices of Tantrika all encourage spontaneity and rule breaking to a certain extent that encourages it's followers to be free from all restraints, orthodoxes, taboos, etc.

      Anyway, I just thought I would add this to this thread just for a little FYI, even though it's not specific to uja of Shri Ganehsa.

      Ganesha is not the one to approach however, with meat or in a state of pollution.
  • Re: Offerings

    Thu, April 24, 2008 - 6:34 AM
    Offerings are ok but puja with offerings in mind without offerings physically is also considered equally good and efective. Manasi puja i.e. mental offerings and worship I mean.
    • Re: Offerings

      Fri, April 25, 2008 - 2:11 PM
      Actually mental offerings are much better than physical offerings. If one can actually sit there for the length of time, and clearly visualize the deity, and each offering that is to be made, then it's excellent. Much more powerful than physical offerings, however physical offerings are needed to help the physical awareness and the body to associate with the divine as well as the mind. The most potent offerings are made in truth and in spirit. Many people go through the motions of offerings and rituals and forget that it's all symbols of an inner process. One can offer all they like to a murthi with physical pujas, but to obtain real spiritual progress, one should elevate to the level of meditation and inner worship, because really the energies we are worshipping are mostly within us, and can be built up within us. Each diety represents an energy and a necessary power, and level, and face of god.

      That is why it's best to worship Ganesha in the beginning of a spiritual path because he is should always be invoked for new beginnings, especially the spiritual path. When you absorb the energy of Ganesha and allow Ganesha to grow inside of you, him and his Vahana will clear the obstacles that are most important... The obstacles that are preventing you from obtaining higher levels and that blocks Mother Shakti from safely rising. Him and his Vahana, the mouse crawls through all the Nadis and destroy all the things blocking the free flow of energy. When they say he is the lord of hosts, the meaning of this applied to the inner being, is that he is the lord of the physical senses. The hosts of Ganas represent obstacles to be overcame in the spiritual path, and obstacles that can be placed in your path when you are not yet ready to ascend to a certain level. Ganesh is capable of removing and creating obstacles, and he will do each one according to what is best for you. But only through devotion can we bring life to the diety that lives within us, and allow that diety to start working on the inside of us. Each time you pray, chant the mantra of a diety, make offerings, and do Sadhana you are building the power of that diety within yourself.

      Ganesha is also very important because the worship of Ganesh establishes a strong muladhara, which is essential to stay grounded. It is sometimes said, to worship Mother Divine you should become Ganesha, and to worship Shiva, you must become Maa, to worship Vishnu, one most become Shiva. But it's in my opinion it's best to start with Ganesha. It's also good to focus on one form at a time, and not worship many dieties. It will become confusing. Chant the mantra, obtain the diety and then move to the next.

      Oh goodness, I am babbling again.

      -Rasa Devi

    • Re: Offerings

      Sat, May 17, 2008 - 10:14 AM
      Well actually the scripture says that Manasi puja is much more effective and much more beneficial than physical puja. Internal work is so much more powerful than external work because then you are also involving the mind, where as with physical offerings you are just involving the body. Physical offerings is a beginning step before you have the power and capacity to perform mentally for you deities.
  • Unsu...

    Re: Offerings

    Fri, May 16, 2008 - 7:08 PM
    When it comes to having an alter in your home, the most important thing is remembering that there is now an alter of God in your home. It should be arranged in a clean place and it should be cleaned daily. The home should then be regarded as a Holy Center and those within should act accordingly. If you place a holy center in your home traditionally it should be consecrated by either your Guruji or a Pundit. After the shrine has been officiated you should spend time there every day at least for a few moments. Offerings need not be given daily but remember every material thing you offer at a holy center is simply a formality. The true purpose of the holy center is to be a place where the ego is burned away in the fire of self sacrifice. When you give offerings off the earth it is good to say, "these offerings are of the earth as is this body. As I offer these gifts so do I offer this ego that has stifled the indwelling spirit." The path of Vedanta is the breaking of the shackles of the ego and freeing of the true indwelling self. Every action should be a prayer and a sacrifice as though before a holy center. I always recommend that if you are unfamiliar with performing Puja you contact a Pundit to officiate the service. The Vedic rituals are precise formulas and should be performed as prescribed in the ancient texts. (The Puranas are great sources of rituals) In fact at the end of Puja forgiveness is asked for any mistakes made in the service.
    • Re: Offerings

      Sat, May 17, 2008 - 10:12 AM
      All of this can be important and effective, but a lot of Pundits simply follow ritual without the real meaning. Ritual without power is just meaningless words, bells rung, and material things being thrown about.
      • Unsu...

        Re: Offerings

        Sat, May 17, 2008 - 12:29 PM
        I agree. Its important to have a sincere Pundit to preform the Puja, unfortunately at this time that is a rarity. However I do believe that it is the devotee for whom the Puja is performed that makes the ritual fulfilling or meaningless. The Pundits job is to know the Puja process as it is written in the Vedas and guide the devotee through the worship. So long as Punditji performs the mechanics properly the heartfelt sincerity of the devotee is properly channeled to the Divine. I believe meaningless words, hollow bells, and simple material things are empowered by the heart of the devotee.
        • Re: Offerings

          Mon, May 19, 2008 - 9:23 AM
          Well then if it was all in the hands of the devotee and the devotee had the capability to make any ritual powerful through their devotion then they wouldn't have to pay a priest to hand deliver god for them, now would they?

          I can understand the necessity to have a Pundit to show you the way of the vedic scriptures, if you are so inclined to be orthodox. However according to the scriptures I follow (the Tantras), many of the ancient vedic practices are no longer effective because of the confusion and thick veil of ignorance present in the Kali Yuga.

          I am also someone who practices very unorthodox traditions, and some that might even creep orthodox people out because of their conditioning. I also practice things that break conditioning and orthodox views because ultimately they are just limitations. I am not really the biggest advocate of any male hierarchy of priests being paid to hand deliver God, because they can't. It's all within. everything external is just a symbol of what really should be happening. My body-mind is the temple, and all the deities and powers reside within, just waiting to be woken up and worshipped.

          Unless someone has full meaning and full intention of worshipping the divine and total surrender, then the words will of course be meaningless, powerless and they will just be going through the motions because they feel that they must do those things, not in total surrender and devotion.

          To the person who become realized and has surrendered there's no need for external mechanics, because the realized person knows it's all within. Everything on the outside is just a reflection made up of preconceived notions, limitations, and conditioning that people agree to allow because it's what they are told is right and real. But the person of a heroic or divine nature who is not a herd following beast transcends this and realizes everything, everyone, every action is all divine and all worship.

          I am just from another school of thought, however and what is my reality is not the reality of others. But I will never go into some man made pompous temple and allow some priest to give me god in exchange for money. To me that is selling God as a prostitute. God has no price, and neither does devotion. Nothing is required but total surrender and devotion. To me a Pundit is just Pandering God, and to me is a blasphemy. It's few and far between to find a priest who will help you without some sort of price, and is actually realized enough that they can give you anymore than formulas and scriptures that anyone can find out themselves.

          I find many modern temples to be nothing more but dens of thieves and people pimping God.

          And unless you can hold a mirror up to the Murthy and the mirror shatters, it's not properly installed anyway. Most people just give it a mirror as part of the offering when installing a deity in the material, but it's actually a way to see if the power is actually there. If the Mirror doesn't shatter, than it's just a symbol of that deity and housing no real power.

          This may be offensive to some, but I am not here to please people's preconceived notions of what they think is right and wrong. To some my words may be blasphemous, but to me it's a blasphemy to sell God. There's no real benefit to any ritual unless you are the one performing it, and most people aren't even allowed to conduct their own worship in a temple or even get close to the Murthy because of foolish notions of external purity.

          But then again, my practice is much different in approach than orthodox practices, and if someone feels that is their path and it's right for them I am no one to say anything at all. I realize that I am a child and that all that I know and all that I am, and all I am capable of is because of the grace of Mother Divine. Without her i'd be lost. And clearly since she is EVERYTHING that awakens and deludes at the same time, then there's a reason why orthodox traditions and priests exist, if there wasn't a reason they simply wouldn't be. So whether she's using it to delude the masses or bring people to enlightenment, I cannot say, it's all her play and I am no one to question what she does for entertainment.
  • Re: Offerings

    Mon, January 12, 2009 - 2:41 AM
    * offers you all and Ganesha some particularly strong/potent yerba mate *
    • Re: Offerings

      Tue, January 13, 2009 - 9:44 PM
      this time around, i am keeping it pretty simple
      (my ego loves elaborate ritual and all the vestments and rituals...Vegas, baby!)
      all that I am doing each morning is bell...mantra...fruit, water, ghee lamp, incense, camphor, mantra...ending with bell after japa and concluding song.

      I love yerba mate, but would not give it to a child
      (i am worshiping Bal-Ganapati)

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