What Are the Duties of a Hindu Priest?
Hindu priests pass on the sacred traditions of the Hindu culture and spend up to five years preparing to take on these responsibilities. In a movement to standardise curriculum not only in India, but in Malaysia, Australia, and Canada, schools train recruits using syllabi created by the Hindu Priest Association.
Dedicated and deeply devoted, Hindu priests spend their lives in service and in prayer. Although traditionally male-oriented, today the practice also includes many Hindu women.
In the Temple
Inside the temple, the priest is called the pujan and conducts various pujas and the 10 regular temple services, including bathing the statues of the gods/goddesses, called Murtis; performing puja (offering items to the gods); performing Arati, waving a special oil lamp called the ghee before the Murtis. He must organise and teach Bal Vihar (the history and practices of Hinduism) to children, and classes for teens, adults, and seniors; prepare and give weekly lectures called pravacans; clean and maintain the sacred temple altar; greet and teach outside groups that come into the temple; and oversee assistant priests and volunteers. At times he may sing or conduct kirtan (a call and response chant) or other sacred songs.
Outside the Temple
When the priest officiates over rites such as marriages or administers home purification outside the temple, he is called a purohit. Many rituals involving procreating, naming, and the raising of children require a priest. The priest also organises and arranges regular festivals such as the Durga Puja (festival of the goddess Durga) and Janmasthami, (the festival celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna), and visits other organisations such as local government agencies and social clubs. He may participate in special projects such as promotions, construction, or development of institutions such as libraries. He also develops and oversees special programs such as cultural activities and summer camps. Specially trained priests conduct the burial services.
Hindu priests give Guru Ashir Vachan (Guru Guidance) to the sick, bereaved, to couples getting married, and others who need counselling. When visiting the sick, they may perform Rog Niwaaran (an invocation to the deity Lord Dhanwantari asking that the medication heal the recipient), or Indriya Aaropanaa (a rite to sanctify and bless organ or tissue transplants). Before the patient comes into the room, the priests must perform Nidra Discha, or arrange the room and bed to the proper coordinates and configuration to Hindu practices and beliefs. To insure proper healing or to be cured of a disease, the purohit may perform a Navagraha Pooja, which asks for the healing properties of the nine Grahas. Priests must also be available for any emergencies.
Priests must create and oversee the distribution of temple publications such as brochures, newsletters, advertisements, and flyers to inform the community of upcoming guests and events. As a representative of the Hindu faith, he must maintain positive relations with the press, television, and other media.