It was a typical autumn morning in Sheffield, the chilly gusts of wind greeting those who were outdoors with the sun hiding away behind the clouds. However, for some of us, it was a very special Saturday morning – one that would be worth crawling out of bed for. In conjunction with Hindu Awareness Week 2015, we had the wonderful opportunity to hold a Shiva Puja, in our very own Students’ Union! We were very pleased that members of NHSF (UK) from Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds and Reading were able to participate in the joy of this auspicious occasion with us.
The altar was beautifully set: the majestic Murtis (deities) were accompanied by illuminating ghee lamps, fresh pale pink roses and lilies resting in a nourishing jug of water, colourful fruits and the fragrance of the burning incense sticks wafting through the air.
The prayers were led by the senior priest Jatin Bhatt, Abhiram Vyas (Learning Co-ordinator of NHSF Liverpool), and Madhav Dave (National Learning Team Co-ordinator). Each person who attended was given the opportunity to partake in the Puja and they were provided with a Puja plate and all other necessary items.
The Puja began with the preliminary prayers: salutations and prayers to invoke the blessings of the Lord of Obstacles – Vigneshwara/Ganesha, the Five Elements – Panchabhutam, the Nine Planetary Gods – Navagraha, family deities – Kula Devata, personal deities – Ishta Devata and of course one’s Guru.
The holy sounds of Vedic chanting resonated throughout the room. We had the opportunity not just to perform Puja but to learn the reasoning behind why one should perform a Puja; what is the perfect mindset to have when sitting in a Puja, and what is the purpose of doing Abhishekam. The priests also explained that in Sanatana Dharma there are five main deities worshipped: Ganesha, Surya (the Sun God), Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti.
After the preliminary prayers, we had a discussion on who Lord Shiva is and what comes to mind when we see or think about Him. We then proceeded to perform Puja and Abhishekam for Him. We also learnt a few of the 1008 names of Lord Shiva and their meanings.
“Shakthi Illaiye Shivam Illai”, as the Tamil saying goes, meaning: “Without Shakti, there cannot be Shiva”. Hence, after performing the rituals for Lord Shiva, we also chanted some mantras for Durga Ma and ended with a Shiva Aarti. Everyone had the opportunity to perform Aarti.
Although it was a rejuvenating and enlightening morning, our tummies were rumbling with hunger, so we had a scrumptious home-cooked Indian meal prepared by our President’s Mum!
We could not have ended Hindu Awareness Week in a better way and we were all very blessed that we could make it happen. However, we must remember that we do not need to perform elaborate rituals every day to pray. No matter how small the offering may be, even if it is simple repetitive chanting of “Sri Rama, Jaya Ram” while walking to university, if offered and chanted with pure love and sincere devotion, the Lord will accept it. Lord Krishna within the Gita emphasises this point as well:
|Patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktyaa prayacchati;|
||Tadaham bhaktyupahritamashnaami prayataatmanah.||
“Whoever offers onto Me, a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water with devotion and a pure mind and heart—I will accept this offering.”
Srimad Bhagavad Gita, 9.26
Dania Lakshmi Rajasegaran, Learning Co-ordinator, NHSF Sheffield.
“It’s not often we get the chance to ask questions and fully understand the Puja we participate in that have been organised by our family members. With the use of modern analogies, everything was explained from the very meaning of “Puja” to the reasons why each step in the ritual is conducted. I felt comfortable to ask any questions, regardless of how silly they were and I deeply value the knowledge gained from this experience. An incredible event.”
Tejal Mistry, Sewa Co-ordinator
The Puja was held on 28th Nov 2015 at Sheffield University’s Students’ Union.