The heart of the Hindu home is the family temple or shrine. Virtually every Hindu home sets aside some space for daily worship. Worship and the study of scripture are part of the daily routine of the devout Hindu. This sacred space can be as small as a corner or niche in the wall, but, if space allows, many Hindu families prefer a room set aside for worship. By establishing the ritual of daily worship, or puja, the Hindu faith cultivates daily spiritual growth.
Choose a room in the house. The placement of the room is very important. The room cannot be located near a bathroom, or the shrine would be defiled. The space itself should be meticulously clean and as free from distractions as possible.
Establish the altar. In most Hindu homes, the altar is nothing more than a small wooden riser. Since most worship takes place while seated, these low altars keep the Icons in plain view. In homes with small children, the altar can be raised. This allows little ones to be part of the puja while keeping both the child and the altar safe.
Place the icon, or murti on the altar. Icons can be small statues, pictures, or even photographs of family gurus. There are more then ten thousand different Hindu denominations, each with its own deity. The murti is placed in or over a deep metal tray or basin that catches the water from the daily bathing of the murti, a central part of the daily puja. A small metal cup or vessel is kept on the altar, ready to pour water over the murti.
Colourful cloths are also kept on the altar. These are available to dress the murti after bathing. In a similar way, Trays of food, including whole, unbroken rice, fruit, and fresh flowers are placed as an offering on the altar.
Place a permanent oil lamp on the altar. This gives the murti light and symbolises the place of worship as the light of the home. Handheld lamps and incense, used during the puja, are lit from this sacred light.
Place other sacraments on the altar. The nature of these sacraments depend largely on the deity worshipped. Some examples of sacraments are sacred swords, sandlewood and holy ash.
Place a hand-held brass bell on the altar for use during the puja.
Decorate the entire space with garlands. The sacred space celebrates the communion between god and man. Music for the puja can be sung or played on a small stereo in the shrine.
Check with your guru for placement of your shrine. Different deities have different requirements. Altars for Kali Ma are most auspicious if facing the south. The Brahmans prefer a courtyard open to the sky above. Provide a small space outside of the temple for worshippers to remove their shoes and outer garments before entering the sacred space.
Always use care when lighting or using candles and incense.