I have always been curious about attending service in a Hindu temple. From outside, the temple looks magnificent, and I have always wondered how it is inside and how service takes place. I have a friend who told me that you cannot go to the temple without being invited and so when I got the invite I went for it. When I walked through the entrance, the first thing I noticed was that people were removing their shoes and placing them in a shoe rack at the entrance. This for me was intimidating as in church we do not do that and so I got tensed but at the same time looked forward to seeing what would follow.
This temple was like a hall, and there was a stage in front. All around the temple on the inside were colorful and expensive images made of gold and other precious minerals. I was just following what I could see though I had been briefed on some things. Upon entering, the other congregants faced an image on the left and bowed their heads, and some lay prostrates before it on the floor. I came to learn that this was a god and this practice was a form of greeting.
In the temple, people sat on the floor even though there were seats provided and after consultation, I was told that it was disrespectful to the deities for one to sit with the soles of their feet facing their direction or showing them your back. This was very interesting, and so I joined one group on the ground. It is then that the priest came with various things. The first was a tray with lamps on it where I saw people holding out their hands towards the light and then brushing them towards their eyes. The second was a long spoon that contained a hot liquid. We held out our hands placing the right on top of the left and then sipped the liquid. The remainder was brushed over the heads. I did not get the courage to do this. The priest then marked our heads with ash. These rituals are known us pujas were unique to me as in Christianity this is worship of graven images which is against Gods commandments.
The chants that were done were in the Indian language, and it was hard for me to understand. I also noticed that the people were very kind and greeted each other warmly. During the puja, there were baskets where people put in their offerings including fruits and money. I had not carried any fruits, but I put a dollar in the basket. I noticed that these rituals are taken very seriously as the worshipers feel that they are closer to god. In this case, their gods are more in touch with them and can be seen unlike in Christianity where God is omnipresent. On interacting with them, I was told that they do not see Hinduism as a religion but as a way of life that calls for good behavior, showing mercy to the less fortunate, being charitable and living peacefully with each other. These are the same doctrines that we are taught in Christianity. Id say that my experience was overwhelming since I have never been to a place of worship where so many rituals are performed and where people believe that the image in front of them can bring them good fortune or bad luck.
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