Hindu devotees perform puja -- acts of devotion that include invocations, prayers and songs. Pujas can be performed in temples and in the home. Kali, the Dark Mother or Black Goddess, is believed to be a deity of all-pervading power. Kali Worshipers perform puja during difficult life circumstances and during times of ease. Kali puja in homes involves meditation and chanting in prepared sacred spaces.
Preparing a Sacred Space
Before performing Kail puja in the home, devotees prepare a sacred space with an image of the goddess to conduct their ritual. Hindus believe images of the deity are filled with divine energy and are the central way to worship and contact the god. They place small bowls of rice, spring water, uncooked rice, salt and red flowers without stems on a platter or in a basket placed in front of Kali's image. The objects on the altar help to make contact with the goddess. Worshipers also offer gifts such as red wine, beer, tobacco, melon and honey. Devotees place a votive candle on the altar as well as objects that represent personal devotion to Kali, and they also write prayers to the goddess on colored paper.
Mental and Spiritual Preparation
Kali puja requires preparation of a devotee's mind and spirit. Meditating on love and joy helps to create a positive worship environment. Devotees focus on the altar and the items on it as the goddess' temporary home. They especially meditate on Kali's image to inspire their devotional practice. Kali puja begins with meditation on the goddess or on any of her forms, and on acceptance of the goddess' blessings to gain strength on the spiritual path.
Performing Kali Puja
After a period of meditation, Kali worshipers chant "Om Maa!" As they chant, devotees use salt water to purify the sacred space. As they intone chants to invoke the goddess, worshipers also use uncooked rice to draw a triangle with a point facing Kali's image. Kali puja then involves invoking the 10 directions and the Eight Mothers -- manifestations of Kali -- as guides. As devotees name each Mother, they place a red flower in the triangle, going in a clockwise direction. After invoking the four elements, worshipers perform breathing exercises and chant mantras that call Kali forth. Once connected to the goddess, devotees chant mantras honoring Kali. Then they perform the purification and flower offerings in which all who attend receive a flower, a piece of paper and a pen or pencil.
Concluding Stages of Kali Puja
The next stages of Kali puja include chanting the Kali Gayatri Mantra, a gratitude meditation, writing prayers and a consecration of the tobacco, wine, beer and honey. Attendees then chant prayers to the Dark Mother and perform prostrations before the altar. After the sacrifices, devotees write on the melon something they will sacrifice in honor of Kali. They cut the melon in half, placing one half upside down and setting a votive candle and the rest of the flowers in the other half. Kali puja ends with a prayer and sharing of blessed food known as prasad.
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