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Pooja (or Pūja) is essentially a ritual or ceremonial worship, in which offerings are made to God with devotion to earn his love and blessings. Although outwardly it may appear as a mechanical ritual, it has a hidden significance. The act of puja is a symbolic offering of one’s whole mind and body, thoughts, desires, actions and possessions to God as a mark of devotion and surrender, enjoying whatever that comes in return as a gift from him. It originated from the “Tantric” methods of worship. However, it has aspects of both Vedic sacrifices and Tantric rituals, which are responsible for its simplicity and universal appeal.
It is performed either by individuals or by groups and either directly by a worshipper or indirectly by a priest on behalf of the worshipper. It is also universally practiced in all Hindu temples. In today’s world, Puja has practically replaced Vedic sacrifices as the central feature of Hindu worship since it is easier to practice even by lay people, and the mediation of a priest is not mandatory. Technically, it is a domestic sacrifice, practiced by dutiful householders and devotees of God as part of their daily devotional service.
Some Pooja are conducted for a few minutes while some may last for several hours. The way a Pooja is traditionally conducted in Hindu households is in the same way a guest is invited into a house by the householder and treated with utmost respect. Hindu tradition equates a guest (athidhi) with God with this simple expression, "Athididevobhava," which means a guest is verily God Himself.