A cultural experience

So I went to a Puja on Saturday. What’s a puja you may ask. A Puja is a Indian Hindu celebration and ritual which can be for many things…. for this Puja in particular it was for a house warming.

I wrote about it on Facebook and shared a few pictures. I was shocked when someone messaged me and said that I had no right in being part of this or taking part! Some of you may think that however …. I say to you that to be part of any religion, you should see what other religions are like, don’t be afraid, never be stuck in a “category” where you never look outside that box. If you are truly dedicated to your religion then seeing others will only make you a better more rounded person and you can go back to your religion with greater knowledge of the world. I would never walk into something like this without being invited. I was invited with open arms and welcomed. Made to feel part of something special.

For those of you interested I thought I will share my experience as I feel it is something special to write about.

2 days before the Puja I went to my friends house and met some of the family. We talked, tried indian tea and nibbles and tried on saris.

Then a lady came and we all had henna done. This was a new experience for me. To have henna done on me by someone else. I’ve got some henna at home but only ever use it on others and we have messed around with it! This time it was the real thing – this lady knew her stuff and we were having the correct designs for a puja.

The designs were amazing! When it dried it went hard and crispy and was black in colour.

I had been instructed to keep it on until later tonight. To keep it in tact for the way home i was wrapped up in plastic bags, which was totally hilarious! The henna had to be done before as it takes a while to darken to its fullest potential.

So Saturday came and I got to be part of something really special. As a brought up western world Christian I am honoured that I was allowed to share in the housewarming prayer and celebrations of some Indian Hindu friends. A completely different culture and method of ritual/prayer. I was made to feel welcome and included. I was helped into a sari by my friends mother and then asked by my friend if I wanted makeup (I was already wearing makeup but this was nothing for Indian standard apparently!) so I had my makeup done…. eyeliner and even blusher and bronzer! I normally wear very natural makeup so this was different. I then had a bindi bling stuck to my forehead… it is more of a Indian fashion icon and not to be mistaken for the bright red dot on the top of the forehead to show a married woman!

Soon everyone started to arrive. When we went downstairs we had to all make sure that we had our shoes off before entering the room where prayer was taking place. The room was covered in sheets and people started to enter. Everyone was lovely and looked a million dollars in sari’s shalwar and kameeses, Kurta’s.

At the front of the room was the maharajah (a Hindu priest) he was a really nice man. Despite being quite traditional and I’m sure shocked that white people were taking part (another friend of mine, my mum and I) he made it so we could understand the general giest of it. It was amazing and probably a once in a lifetime thing.

The ceremony included many things of many stages. Including pouting water, yogurt and rice over statues, touching our head with a apple, and putting something red and rice on our foreheads!

It was really interesting.

I helped out as I was asked to take photographs (not something I’m use to doing in a religious setting and brought another stark contrast to our different worlds – I mean, I think the vicars I’ve known in the past would most definetly scowl at me if I were to have jumped out my pew and started to take photos of the holy communion! 😂 – the maharajah – knowing I had no clue on what parts of the ceremony were significant kept signaling me to get up from my crossed legged position in a sari (quite a difficult task for me the first few times! However I did eventually get the hang of it and not look too silly) and told me what and who to take photos of. By the end of the 2 and a bit hour “service”/ritual I felt confident to talk to the maharajah and ask questions. He was lovely and explained to me in his broken English what I was asking.

I was then adorned with a piece of string around my wrist twice – this signifies – love, trust, honour, respect, wealth and good wishes. I am to keep it on until till it falls off! This could be a while going by the right knots he tied in it!

We also held Pettle’s and infused them with goodness.

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s we had food which was another new experience. I was ushered to a table where I was greeted by many large bowls and pots of food which I really couldn’t distinguish what any of it was. The plates reminded me of cafeteria plates with the separate compartments for food. I did my bit and went along the row of bowls and plonked a spoon of everything in the sections – surely something must fit my tastebuds out of that lot I thought. Thinking ahead and knowing that Indian food can be hot I grabbed a glass of water and went to sit back down, luckily at this point chairs were now allowed as my legs hurt.

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s confusing – so I sat and watched the maharajah… I watched how he ate rice with his hands and copied – there were plastic spoons but these in themselves were a task to fit into the little tray gaps and the maharajah seemed to make ease of using his hands…. so I grabbed the round flat disk looking food which was kinda like a bread thing but not and broke it in half…. then I wiped it on and picked up curry looking good in it and finally managed to take a bite and didn’t drop it 😂 so it was a success. I continued to try the different food sections. I came across a fried ball of I do not know what – but it was green. I took a bite and wished I hadn’t – although it tasted really good it was far too hot for me and my eyes and nose begun to run and so did I (for another cup of water!) my throat became extremely crokey! I left the rest of that and moved on to the other sections which I managed to complete without too much harm to my senses.

As a westerner this was a huge thing. The whole experience. I was emersed in a culture I have been very interested in for many years. I was made part of the preparation a couple of nights previous, I then got ready with the family and close friends – had the most makeup I have had on in my life! I loved it all.

For those of you interested the reason for this particular puja was a house warming. Pujas can be for many reasons… what is a puma? Well a Satyanarayan Puja is a religious worship of the Hindu god Vishnu. Satya means “truth” and narayana means, “The highest being” so Satyanarayan means “The highest being who is an embodiment of Truth”. A Puja is a religious observance. Pujas happen for all sorts of reasons and divine blessings of health, wealth, prosperity, opulence, education; relief from troubles and sickness. It can also be performed because of success in business or career growth; the reason for this one was a house-warming

I feel honoured, proud and so thankful that I was asked to be part of this event.

#puja #satyanarayanpuja #satyanarayan #indianfood #housewarming #culture #amazingday #sari #friends #love #friendship #maharaja #religion #hindu #experience #satyanarayanpooja #pooja

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