Hindu Dharma provides various pathways to worship the Divine. Ritualistic worship (Karmakānḍa), a subset of Path of Devotion (Bhaktimārg) , is one such path. In the Path of Ritualistic Worship (Karmakand), as the name suggests, every aspect of the ritual has spiritual significance and science behind it. In this article, we will look at the aspect of arranging the puja thali for ritualistic worship.
Before commencing the actual ritualistic worship (pūjā), it is important to arrange the tools and other components used in the ritualistic worship in a spiritually beneficial manner. From the viewpoint of the science of spirituality it is appropriate to arrange them based on the level of the five cosmic elements. The cosmic elements are Absolute Earth (Pruthvi), Absolute Water (Āpa), Absolute Fire (Tēj), Absolute Wind (Vāyu) and Absolute Ether (Ākāsh). The reason for an arrangement based on the cosmic elements is that such an arrangement balances and coordinates the five cosmic elements that are active in the universe. This helps the embodied soul (worshipper) to derive maximum benefit from the manifest (saguṇ) and unmanifest (nirguṇ) frequencies emitted by the Deity being ritualistically worshipped.
The arrangement of the components of the ritualistic puja thali is as seen in the above image. It is explained in the two-dimensional context of the relative position of the Deity being ritualistically worshipped and the worshipper. Thus, ‘at the forefront’ refers to the part of the platter positioned close to the image or idol of the Deity being worshipped, and ‘lower end of the platter’ refers to the part of the platter positioned close to the worshipper.
Powders: In the ritualistic puja thali, turmeric (haldī) and vermilion (kumkum) are to be placed to the right of the embodied soul (worshipper). The black coloured powder (bukkā), magenta coloured powder (gulal) and saffron coloured powder (shēndūr) are to be placed to the left of the worshipper.
Fragrances: The perfume bottle, fragrant paste (usually sandalwood paste), flowers, a special type of tender grass (dūrvā) and leaves (patri) are to be placed at the forefront of the platter, i.e. close to the image of the Deity being ritualistically worshipped. This is because the subtle, spiritual frequencies of the Deity are activated by the fragrance particles in the perfume, fragrant paste and flowers and by the colour particles in the special grass and leaves.
Betel and monetary offering: The leaves and nuts of the betel plant and money are offered in the ‘ritual of offering money’ namely dakshiṇā. These components are to be placed at the lower end of the platter, i.e. close to the worshipper. This is because these components are an effective medium for transmitting the Deity’s subtle, spiritual frequencies towards the worshipper.
Unbroken rice grains: In the center, the all encompassing unbroken rice grains are to be placed. The unbroken rice grains become the central portion of the platter because the frequencies of the five superior Deities, namely Deity Shiva, Shrī Durgā, Shrīrām, Shrīkrushṇa and Deity Gaṇapati are attracted to them. These Divine frequencies are then transmitted as needed to the other components like vermilion, turmeric, etc., placed around the rice grains in a circular manner.