Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. Unlike other religions, Hindu dharma has many specialities. This is not known as a religion, it is known as the dharma; Sanaathana Dharma. Sanaathana means, according to Bhagavath Geetha, which cannot be destroyed by fire, weapons, water, air, and which is present in all living and non-living being. Dharma means the way of life which is the ‘total of all aachaaraas or customs and rituals’.
Remember that in each and every aachaaraa there will be a component of spirituality in it. Without spirituality, nothing exists in Sanaathana dharma.
Here are some specialities you may find interesting:
WHY DO WE LIGHT A LAMP?
All auspicious functions commence with the lighting of the lamp, which is often maintained right through the occasion. Light symbolises knowledge, and darkness – ignorance. Hence, light is worshipped as the Lord himself. Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness. Also, knowledge is a lasting inner wealth by which all outer achievement can be accomplished. Hence, we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth.
WHY DO WE HAVE A PRAYER ROOM?
The Lord is the entire creation. He is therefore, the true owner of the house we live in too. The prayer room is the Master room of the house. We are the earthly occupants of His property. This notion rids us of false pride and possessiveness.
It is believed that the sacred thoughts and sound vibrations pervade the place and influence the minds of those who spend time there. Spiritual thoughts and vibrations accumulated through regular meditation, worship and chanting done there pervade the prayer room. Even when we are tired or agitated, by just sitting in the prayer room for a while, we feel calm, rejuvenated and spiritually uplifted.
WHY DO WE PROSTRATE BEFORE PARENTS AND ELDERS?
The good wishes (Sankalpa) and blessings (aashirvaada) of elders are highly valued in India. We prostrate to seek them. The elders, in turn, blesses us by placing his or her hand on or over our heads. When we prostrate with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and blessings of elders, which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us.
This is why the posture assumed whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive the energy thus received. Epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata have many stories highlighting this aspect.
WHY DO WE NOT TOUCH PAPERS, BOOKS AND PEOPLE WITH THE FEET?
The custom of not stepping on educational tools is a frequent reminder of the high position accorded to knowledge in Indian culture. From an early age, this wisdom fosters in us a deep reverence for books and education. This is also the reason why we worship books, vehicles and instruments once a year onSaraswathi Pooja, dedicated to the Goddess of Learning.
WHY DO WE APPLY THE HOLY ASH?
Bhasma (the holy ash) is the ash from the homa (sacrificial fire) where special wood along with ghee and other herbs is offered as worship of the Lord. Bhasma is generally applied on the forehead. Some apply it on certain parts of the body like the upper arms, chest etc. Some ascetics rub it all over the body. Many consume a pinch of it each time they receive it. As it protects the wearer from ill health and evil, by purifying him or her.
WHY DO OFFER FOOD TO THE LORD BEFORE EATING IT?
Indians make an offering of food to the Lord and later partake of it as prasaada – a holy gift from the Lord. In our daily ritualistic worship (pooja) too we offer naivedyam (food) to the Lord.
We acknowledge this through the act of offering food to Him. This is exemplified by the Hindi words “tera tujko arpan“– I offer what is yours to you. Thereafter it is akin to His gift to us, graced by His divine touch.
WHY IS PRADAKSHINA DONE ONLY IN A CLOCKWISE MANNER?
The reason is not, as a person said, to avoid a traffic jam! As we do pradakshina, the Lord is always on our right. In India the right side symbolises auspiciousness. So as we circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum we remind ourselves to lead an auspicious life of righteousness, with the Lord who is the indispensable source of help and strength, as our guide – the “right hand”.