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Hindu practices generally involve seeking awareness of God and sometimes also seeking blessings from Devas. Therefore, Hinduism has developed numerous practices meant to help one think of divinity in the midst of everyday life. According to Swami Vivekananda: "The ideal of man is to see God in everything. But if you cannot see Him in everything, see Him in one thing, in that thing you like best, and then see Him in another. So on you go . . . Take your time and you will achieve your end."

Puja : worship

Hindus may engage in some type of formal worship (Sanskrit: pūjā, worship or veneration) either at home or at a temple. At home, Hindus often create a shrine with icons dedicated to the individual's chosen form(s) of God. Veneration may involve offering food, water, or flowers and may be expressed through the burning of incense, lighting of candles or oil-lamps, ringing a bell, waving a fan, or sounding a conch-shell. Other practices of Puja include meditation, the chanting of mantras, and the recitation of scriptures.

Devotional singing is an important part of bhakti. Devotional singing occurs in temples, in ashrams, on the banks of holy rivers, at home and elsewhere. Hymns are in Sanskrit or in modern Indian languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Bengali or Tamil. Musical instruments accompanying devotional singing include the manjeera, tanpura, harmonium, and tabla. Another form of community worship is Satsang (fellowship), the practice of gathering for study or discussion of scriptures and religious topics as well as chanting mantras.

Vedic rites of icon-less fire-oblation (yajna), with traditional Vedic chanting, are now only occasional practices although they are highly revered in theory. In a Hindu wedding ceremony, however, the presence of sacred fire as the divine witness, the yajña and chanting of Vedic mantras is still the norm.

Worship of God through icons

A murti of the dancing posture of Shiva, known as Nataraja.Hindus may worship God through icons (murti), such as statues or paintings symbolic of God's power and glory. The icon serves as a tangible link between the worshipper and God. Another view is that the image is a manifestation of God, since God is immanent. The Padma Purana states that the mūrti is not to be thought of as mere stone or wood but as a manifest form of the Divinity. A few Hindu sects, such as the Arya Samaj, do not believe in worshiping God through icons.


Hindu temples are a place of worship for Hindus. They are usually dedicated to a primary deity along with associated subordinate deities. However, some temples are dedicated to multiple deities. Most major temples are constructed as per the āgama shāstras and many are sites of pilgrimage. An important element of temple architecture and many Hindu households in general is Vaastu Shastra, the science of aesthetic and auspicious design.

Visiting temples is not obligatory for Hindus. Many Hindus go to temples only during religious festivals, though others do so more regularly. Temples are not used for weddings, funerals, or as social hubs. Many Hindus view the four Shankaracharyas (the abbots of the monasteries of Joshimath, Puri, Shringeri and Dwarka — four of the holiest pilgrimage centers — sometimes to which a fifth at Kanchi is also added) as the Patriarchs of Hinduism.

Hindu iconography

Hinduism has a developed system of symbolism and iconography to represent the sacred in art, architecture, literature and worship. These symbols gain their meaning from the scriptures, mythology, or cultural traditions. The symbols Om (which represents the Parabrahman), Swastika (which symbolizes auspiciousness) have grown to represent Hinduism itself, while other markings like tilaka identify a follower of the faith. Hinduism associates many symbols, which include the lotus, chakra and veena, with particular devas. These associations distinguish the physical representations of the deities in sculptural or printed form and are based upon allegorical references in Hindu mythology. While most representations of deities are largely anthropomorphic there are exceptions. For instance the deity Shiva is worshipped in the form of a pillar-like stone called a lingam.

Japa and mantra

Mantras are prayers or chants that through their meaning, sound, and chanting style help a person focus their mind on holy thoughts or to express devotion to God. Mantras are meant to give courage in exigent times and invoke one's inner spiritual strength.

After the pranava or "fundamental" mantra of "Aum", one of the most revered mantras in Hinduism is the Gayatri Mantra. Hindus are initiated into this most sacred mantra at the time of their Upanayanam (thread ceremony). Many Hindus perform morning ablutions at the bank of a sacred river while chanting the Gayatri or Mahamrityunjaya mantras.

Japa (ritualistic chanting) is extolled as the greatest duty for the Kali Yuga (what Hindus believe to be the current age), in the epic Mahabharata. Following this direction, many Hindu traditions adopt Japa as their primary spiritual practice. The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition chanting the Hare Krishna mantra is one such example.


Pilgrimage is not mandatory in Hinduism. Nevertheless, many Hindus undertake one or more pilgrimages during their lifetimes. There are many Hindu holy places in India. One of the most famous is the ancient city of Varanasi. Other holy places in India include Kedarnath and Badrinath in the Himalayas, the Jagannath temple at Puri, Rishikesh and Haridwar in the foothills of the Himalayas, Prayag (today Allahabad), Rameshwaram in the South and Gaya in the east. The largest single gathering of pilgrims is during the annual Kumbh Mela fair held in one of four different cities on a rotating basis.Another important "set" of pilgrimages are the 51 "Shakti Peethas," where the Mother Goddess is worshipped, two principal ones being Kalighat and Kamakhya, which are incidentally major points of confluence for practitioners of Tantra and those who seek their guidance. Vaishno Devi, the Shakti temple near Katra, Jammu and Kashmir is the second most visited religious shrine in India, after Tirupati Balaji Mandir.

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