Saturday, March 19, 2011

My new Hindu altar

For the past month or so, I've been committing myself to following the Sanātana Dharma, that is, Hinduism. I was involved with it may years ago, and for some reason, I've found myself within it again. However, at that time, I did not have an altar. But my brief exposure to Neopaganism last year made me accustomed to having an altar, so it only seemed natural to create a Hindu one now.

As you can see, it's a small, humble one. But right now, it has what it needs. Picture, statues, candles, incense, and a bowl for offering.

At first, I had wanted to get a Krishna statue. So I looked online. Of course, most were a little more than I wanted to spend. Then I had been able to stop in one of the local Indian grocers where they have some religious items. No Krishna statues, but they did have some pictures like the one you see on the altar. Except they only one I liked was of Hanuman. I've always been fond of Hanuman, so I took him home instead. And, since Hanuman is the perfect devotee, I figured it was a good idea to focus on Hanuman first in order to be brought closer to Rama, that is, Krishna, that is, Vishnu, that is, God.

There is also a small color print of Krishna and Arjuna that I had mounted onto foamboard at work. It's one of my favorite paintings of Krishna I've seen and have a closer cropped version of it on my phone. You can see the entire picture below:

Next, I stopped in another Hindu grocer, looking for either a Hanuman or Krishna statue. They had a few great Hanumans, but not as cheaped as I would like. Especially now that I am unemployed. But they did have a nice, small, brass Ganesh. I was ready to get it when I noticed a really cool puja set that not only had both a Ganesh and Lakshmi statue, but a TON of other worship items, mostly stuff to be offered the two deities as part of the pujas to them. The kit also had a guide and CD that taught you how to perform the puja. I've yet to try a puja, but you can see the two brass deities and three of the many candles from the kit.

I also stopped in a local thrift store, looking for small brass bowls or trays. I found a few, including a tray I'll probably use for offering flowers, which is at the bottom of the altar. I also found (not in the picture) a container that's the perfect size for holding either a votive candle or burning incense.

Next, I will continue to look for statues or pictures of Hanuman, Krishna, Ganesh, Rama and Sri Krishnarama, as well as brass containers in other thrift stores. I will also probably add fresh flowers to either side of the altar.

Currently, I use the altar mostly for silent meditation, japa recitation, but mostly just sitting in front of while one of Krishna Das' many kirtans play. I keep the larger candles lit any time I'm in the room. I burn incense, either when I'm sitting at the altar doing one of the actions above, or when I just want to smell incense. But I only light the three candles at the top when I'm sitting at the altar.

I also hope to slowly work into doing some kind of simple puja in the morning. I am going to keep it simple at first, offering something like Mini M&Ms to Ganesh, rice to Lakshmi, and grapes to Hanuman.

If any of you have would like to share some advice on how to perform simple pujas, as well as Hindu devotional practices in general, please leave a comment.

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