With the beginning of 2009 we moved into a newly constructed rented house. Before we could move in, the owner and builder, Jay, needed to hold a pooja to bless the new house. The first day of the new year was an auspicious time to do this. So on the day we were to move into the house, I joined Jay’s family and friends for the pooja. It started at 4:30 am with the preparations (this seems to be a usual time for such events). I arrived about 5 am.
Jay and his wife received malas to wear for the ceremony as their two children look on.
The pooja altar is set up. In the back are the two presiding “gods,” one a coconut, the other a melon. I love how common objects are made into religious symbols for these poojas.
Blessing of the Cow
The first step, obviously important (for reasons I know not) is the cow blessing. A cow and a calf are brought into the house.
Before they come into the house, camphor is lit and the cows are blessed with the flame.
Once the cow gets her hooves onto the slippery tile, she does not want to go any further. One man pulls the rope, the other has a plate of cow delicacies trying to lure her inside.
Inside at last!
Mother follows with the flame.
Now the cow is back out. She seems glad that this is over.
The calf is carried out.
Starting the Pooja in the house
Now Jay spreads a cloth for him and his wife to sit on for the pooja in the house.
The children sit as well. They are involved throughout the pooja. This is for the family, not just the man and wife.
A sip of water is given by the priest to each person in the family to drink. Each person attending gets this water as well.
The priest makes a ball out of turmeric.
Each person hits the side of their head. I have seen this before and do not really know the significance of this gesture.
Now flower petals are dropped onto the altar.
The priest gets ready for the next step.
Here is the altar with the flowers spread upon it.
Blessing the Door into the House
Next is the blessing of the doorway into the house.
First the wife drops some fluid (water?) onto the doorway.
Then the husband marks the doorway with kum kum.
Now flower petals are spread onto the doorway.
A camphor flame is offered at the doorway.
Coconut water is offered to the family to drink. Also to the guests.
They can now carry the flame into the house. This flame is used to light the fire in the main altar, which in turn is used as the source for all the fire used today.
Fire is offered to Arunachala.
The Sacrificial Fire
The next phase of the pooja is involved with an offering of fire.
Camphor is placed onto the altar and lit with the flame.
The priest starts adding other materials to make a sacrificial fire.
I think the rituals here date back to vedic times, more than 3500 years ago. These are truly ancient.
The priest makes a spoon from a leaf and sticks and string. With it he offers ghee to the fire.
The spoon and ghee are passed to the husband. Now it is his job to keep adding oil to the fire.
Many different items are passed from the priest to the family, who in turn toss each item into the fire.
As more and more fuel is added, the fire starts getting bigger.
So much is added that the fire turns to smoke for a bit.
Now the priest takes more materials, and ties them into a blue cloth.
He makes the bundle into a ball.
He hands the ball the the family …
Who together place it into the fire.
Blessing of the Melon-God
After this, camphor is placed on top of the melon-god. The family is blessed by the melon-god.
Other areas of the house are then blessed in the same way.
Then each attendee is blessed by the priest, adding a tilak to the forehead of each person.
The Ritual First Cooking
Fire is now taken from the main altar.
This fire is taken to a clay stove, temporarily set up in the kitchen.
A fire is made in the stove.
A pot is then placed on the stove, and, starting with the husband, each person attending pours some sweetened milk into the pot to cook.
The husband’s father is an important guest at this pooja. Here he is adding milk to the pot.
Now, almost like in a marriage, the husband and wife exchange malas. After this is done, they are pelted with rice.
A mixture of kum kum and water is made, and a red mark placed on each family member’s forehead.
How big the fire has gotten. I need to open windows, the house is so hot! Keep in mind, this is in the living room of the house we’re about to move into!
The First Food in the House, a Ritual Meal
Now we all move to the bedroom, and after a short pooja in this room, banana leaves are spread and we all enjoy a meal of a sweet rice dish and the sweet milk that was just cooked.
Below, Arunachala from the house in the early morning light.
This is a special view of Arunachala from this location, with the male Arunachala mountain framed by the female Parvati Hill in the foreground.
A Final Blessing – Flame on a Coconut
The final step of the pooja seems to be a blessing from a coconut-god.
Camphor is placed on an unopened coconut.
This is given to a man who takes it and runs around the house.
The Pooja’s Over
Now the ceremony is done.
The melon has been broken, and its parts placed in ritual locations. Here one piece is in the center of a kolam made at the entrance of the house. Two pieces line the ramp into the house also.
The priest leaves.
Jay stands proudly at the gate of the new house as people leave the pooja.
The Cow and Arunachala
The cow seems much happier now that it is out of the house. Arunachala is in the background.
Now all we have to do is to move from the old house, into the new. We will sleep in the new house tonight, on the first night of 2009.