What do Hindus Say When They Pray?

What do Hindus Say When They Pray?
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Hinduism is a religion that pervades many aspects of Hindu life, and religious observance is not limited to one location, time of day, or use of a particular text. It assumes many forms: in the home, at the temple, on a pilgrimage, through yogic practices, dance or music, at the roadside, by the river, through the observation of one’s social duties, and so on.

One of the essential Hindu practices is puja, which is the most common form of worship that takes place in the home at the family shrine and at the local temple. But what do Hindus say when they pray? In this article, we will explore the significance of religious imagery, worship, and ritual in Hinduism and the meaning of life according to Hinduism. We will also discuss the five different debts that Hindus believe they are born in debt to.

What do Hindus Say When They Pray?

Hinduism is a religion that places great importance on prayer. Prayers are used in both ritual and spiritual practices, and they are central to the practice of Hinduism. In devotional worship, Hindus use prayers to express their love and devotion.

The tradition approves both silent and loud recitations of prayers. Prayers are used in ritual worship (yajnas) as well as in domestic worship (puja). The chanting of mantras is the most popular form of worship in Hinduism.

Yoga and meditation are also considered as a form of devotional service. In Hinduism, there are three spiritual paths associated with karma yoga, jnana yoga, and bhakti yoga. The Hindu devotional Bhakti movements emphasize repetitive prayer, called japa. The content of the prayer as well as the sounds involved in the utterance of prayers are equally important.

A great emphasis is laid on the manner and method in which the prayers are recited. If a prayer is not correctly chanted, if the syllables are not properly pronounced, it is believed that the prayer will not be effective. The following are some of the basic concepts of prayers and their ritual and spiritual importance in Hinduism:

  1. In Hinduism, prayers are used to invoke gods or various supernatural powers for the welfare of particular individuals or the entire community.
  2. The Vedic hymns are some of the most powerful prayers ever known to mankind.
  3. Prayer repetition (through mantras) using malas (Hindu prayer beads) is a strong part of Hinduism.
  4. The devotionalist Bhakti movement originates in South India and emphasizes repetitive prayer, called japa.
  5. Stemming from the Ultimate Reality, Brahman, prayer is focused on the personal forms of gods and goddesses, such as Vishnu, or Vishnu’s avatars, most prominently Rama and Krishna, Shiva, or Shiva’s sons such as Kartikeya and Ganesha, as well as Mahadevi, the supreme goddess, as well as her forms, such as Lakshmi or Kali.

In Hindu temples, mantras are repeated to gods, sometimes specific gods, as a way to ask for a specific outcome. When praying for wishes to be fulfilled, Hindus pray to different gods for different things. For example, the Goddess Lakshmi gives wealth and prosperity. Hindu men and women typically pray together, but it should be evident upon entering the temple if there is a separation by gender.

Prayer is an essential part of Hindu worship, and it takes many forms. Prayers are used in both ritual and spiritual practices, and they are central to the practice of Hinduism. The content of the prayer as well as the sounds involved in the utterance of prayers are equally important.

The chanting of mantras is the most popular form of worship in Hinduism. Yoga and meditation are also considered as a form of devotional service. The Hindu devotional Bhakti movements emphasize repetitive prayer, called japa.

The Significance of Prayer in Hinduism

Prayer is central to Hindu worship and devotion. Hindus engage in prayer as a way to communicate with the divine and elevate the mind and spirit. Through prayer, Hindus seek blessings, guidance, forgiveness, and self-realization.

How Hindus Express Devotion Through Prayer

Hindus express devotion through various forms of prayer and ritual worship. Key practices include:

  • Puja – rituals and prayers offered before murtis (sacred images) or natural objects like rivers, trees, the sun.
  • Kirtan/bhajan – call-and-response devotional singing and chanting the names of gods.
  • Japa – repetitive chanting of mantras using mala prayer beads.
  • Arati – lamps or candles waved before deities or gurus while prayers are chanted.
  • Stotras/shlokas – reciting or singing hymns and verses in praise of gods.
  • Yajna/havan – making offerings into a sacred fire while reciting mantras.

These practices allow Hindus to foster bhakti (loving devotion) and feel the presence of the divine.

Common Forms of Prayer in Hinduism

  • Mantra chanting – repetitive chanting of sacred syllables, words or verses believed to connect the chanter to divine vibrations. Om and the Gayatri Mantra are most common.
  • Stotras – formal hymns and poems of praise, often recited before deities in temples.
  • Prarthana – informal, personal prayers and conversations with God.
  • Kirtan/bhajan – call-and-response, communal singing of bhajans (devotional songs).
  • Puja/archana – prayers offered during ritual worship, accompanied by offerings like flowers, sweets.
  • Arati – prayers offered while circling lighted lamps around deities.
  • Japa – repeating mantras, often with the aid of mala prayer beads.
  • Yajna/havan/homa – Vedic fire rituals with offerings and mantras chanted.

Gods and Goddesses Hindus Pray To

Some common Hindu gods and goddesses prayed to include:

  • Brahman – the supreme, formless, absolute Reality.
  • Trimurti – Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver), Shiva (transformer).
  • Mahadevi – Supreme Goddess worshipped as Kali, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati.
  • Ganesha – remover of obstacles, invoked before any major undertaking.
  • Krishna – major avatar of Vishnu, central deity of bhakti traditions.
  • Rama – righteous avatar of Vishnu and hero of the Ramayana.
  • Hanuman – beloved devotee of Rama, gives strength and devotion.
  • Shakti – the divine feminine force, venerated as Mother Goddess.
  • Surya – the sun god, source of health and life.

Hindus believe the divine has both male and female aspects and can be worshipped in myriad forms. The chosen deity reflects the bhakta (devotee’s) personal affiliation.

Mantras in Hindu Prayer

Mantras are sacred words or syllables imbued with spiritual potency and divinity when chanted correctly. Some key aspects:

  • Believed to embody divine vibrations, allowing chanter to access higher states of consciousness.
  • Repeated chanting evokes the presence of the deity.
  • Examples include Om, gayatri mantra, maha mrityunjaya mantra, hare krishna maha mantra.
  • Used for spiritual growth, guidance, healing.
  • Sanskrit mantras taught by gurus, repeated with focus, faith, and intention.
  • Can be chanted aloud individually or in groups.
  • Mala beads often used to count repetitions.
  • Mantra meditation and chanting integral to many Hindu traditions.

Prayers for Different Purposes

Hindus pray for many life purposes, such as:

  • Achieving dharma – righteousness, ethics, duty.
  • Artha – prosperity, success, wealth.
  • Kama – pleasure, relationships, enjoyment.
  • Moksha – liberation from samsara.
  • Bhakti – pure loving devotion to the divine.
  • Forgiveness – pardoning one’s sins and errors.
  • Guidance – direction in life’s journey, wisdom.
  • Healing – health, relief from sickness or distress.
  • Peace – freedom from inner/outer turmoil.
  • Knowledge – spiritual insight and understanding.
  • Protection – safety from harm and evil influences.
  • Strength – courage, discipline and resilience.
  • Community – wellbeing of family, society.

Role of Prayer in Daily Life

Prayer and worship are woven into the daily lives of devout Hindus:

  • Personal prayer – Prarthana – conversations with chosen deity.
  • Morning hymns/mantras – upon waking.
  • Before meals – short prayer of gratitude and blessing the food.
  • Puja – ritual worship of home shrine or temple visits.
  • Kirtan/bhajans – communal singing of devotional hymns.
  • Arati – usually performed at home in evenings.
  • Pilgrimages – prayer and ritual worship at sacred sites.
  • Rites of passage – prayers mark births, weddings, funerals.
  • Mantra chanting using japa mala.
  • Yoga asanas coupled with mantras.

Regular prayer nourishes the relationship between deity and devotee.

Meditation in Hindu Prayer

Meditation complements prayer in Hinduism by:

  • Stillening the mind from distraction and restlessness.
  • Turning attention inwards – away from sensory inputs.
  • Achieving single-pointed concentration.
  • Withdrawing egoic consciousness to merge into divine unity.
  • Mantra meditation – using repeated mantras to achieve stillness.
  • Opening inner channels for receiving divine grace.
  • Purifying mental, emotional and karmic residues.
  • Reaching higher states of consciousness, realization.
  • Strengthening focus and devotion in prayer.
  • Allowing prayer to become contemplative communion rather than petition.

Key figures like Ramana Maharshi and Paramahansa Yogananda emphasized deep meditation to realize the divine within.

Rituals and Practices in Hindu Prayer

Common Hindu rituals and practices associated with prayer include:

  • Puja – invocation and prayers offered to murtis or images of deities along with offerings like flowers, sweets.
  • Havan/Yajna – Vedic fire ceremony with mantra chanting.
  • Kirtan/Bhajan – communal singing of spiritual songs, deity names.
  • Arati – prayers with lighted lamps circled around deities.
  • Darshan – beholding and being seen by the deity’s image.
  • Abhisheka – ritual bathing of murti with substances like milk, honey, water.
  • Japa – mantra repetition using mala prayer beads.
  • Tirtha Yatra – pilgrimages to sacred sites, rivers, temples for ritual worship.
  • Rites of passage – prayers mark birth, marriage, death.
  • Fasts – abstaining from food, prayer rituals performed.

These time-honored rituals connect devotees to the divine through sacred action.

The Concept of Puja in Hindu Worship

Puja is a common Hindu ritual of worship performed before murtis, sacred images or natural objects like rivers, trees, the sun. Key aspects:

  • Involves invoking the divine with prayers, mantras, songs.
  • Deity is welcomed as an honored guest.
  • Offerings like flowers, sweets, food are presented with devotion.
  • Arati is performed – circulating lighted lamps.
  • Prashad or blessed food is distributed after.
  • Can be simple or elaborate ceremony.
  • Performed daily in homes or temples.
  • Seen as a way to communicate with and receive blessings of deity.
  • Directs focus and devotion to the divine.

Puja allows Hindus to foster intimacy with their chosen form of God.

How Hindus Pray in Temples

Hindu temple worship involves:

  • Removing shoes and entering sanctum with purity of body and mind.
  • Taking darshan by viewing and being seen by the main deity.
  • Offering prayers, flowers or sweets with humility.
  • Circling around the inner sanctum in a clockwise direction.
  • Chanting mantras, singing hymns of praise.
  • Sounding bells, gongs, cymbals to announce arrival to deity.
  • Prostrating before the deity in submission.
  • Meditating silently on the inner meaning of the divine murti.
  • Participating in aarti with lighted lamps.
  • Sitting peacefully absorbing the temple’s sanctity.
  • Receiving prasad or blessed sacrament.

Temple worship allows communion with the divine as well as community with fellow devotees.

Rules and Guidelines for Temple Prayer

Some key rules and guidelines when praying in Hindu temples:

  • Remove shoes and hats before entering inner shrine.
  • Enter with clean body and mind – many bathe before entering.
  • Hands should be open or clasped together, not in pockets.
  • Bow head or prostrate fully to show humility before deity.
  • Pray silently or in hushed tones to not disturb others’ prayers.
  • Keep cell phones on silent, avoid idle talk.
  • Move in clockwise direction around the inner sanctum when possible.
  • Sit cross legged or kneel on floor – chairs may be forbidden in inner shrine.
  • Follow dress codes – cover shoulders and legs, avoid revealing attire.
  • Participate respectfully in rituals like arati when they occur.
  • Consume prasad sweets only after leaving the inner sanctum area.

Following proper temple etiquette ensures a peaceful atmosphere for worship.

Gender Roles in Hindu Prayer

  • Historically, Hindu rituals were male-dominated with women in support roles.
  • Temple priests were traditionally male brahmins. Some temples today allow women priests.
  • Scriptures affirm God can be female and male. Goddesses are widely revered.
  • Many Hindu women have been revered saints, gurus, teachers on the spiritual path.
  • While some ultra-orthodox temples limit women’s roles, most Hindu prayer spaces are open to both genders equally.
  • Both men and women perform puja, pilgrimages, mantra meditation, kirtan and other forms of worship.
  • Families often pray together at home altars.
  • Deities like Krishna-Radha are worshipped as combined male/female energies.

Common Prayers and Chants

Some well-known Hindu prayers and chants:

  • Gayatri Mantra – Hymn to the solar deity, aid to meditation.
  • Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra – For health, healing and overcoming death.
  • Asato Maa Mantra – Prayer for moving from untruth to truth.
  • Om Namah Shivaya – Salutations to Lord Shiva for transformation.
  • Hare Krishna Maha Mantra – Invocation of Krishna’s presence and energy.
  • Om Jai Jagdish Hare – Hymn to Vishnu for removing sorrows.
  • Shanti Mantras – Prayers for peace invoking various gods.
  • Hanuman Chalisa – Devotional hymn to Hanuman, embodiment of bhakti.
  • Shlokas – Verses from the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and other texts.
  • Stotrams – Prayers praising the attributes of various deities.

How Prayer Brings Positive Outcomes

Hindus believe prayer leads to positive outcomes by:

  • Cultivating humility and devotion – curbing ego.
  • Bringing clarity, guidance and strength.
  • Purifying the mind and awakening virtues.
  • Creating divine connection allowing God’s grace to uplift.
  • Opening inner channels for receiving divine blessings.
  • Aligning individual will with God’s will or dharma.
  • Strengthening focus and determination to follow righteous paths.
  • Softening karmic obstacles faced on life’s journey.
  • Bringing practitioner back to remembrance of the sacred.

Regular heartfelt prayer and worship keep one connected to the divine source from which all blessings flow according to Hindus.

When Hindus Pray

Hindus pray at both routine and special times:

  • Daily morning and evening home puja.
  • Before and after meals – to sanctify food.
  • Special weekly, monthly puja rituals.
  • Temple visits for regular darshan on auspicious days.
  • Pilgrimages to sacred sites during festivals.
  • Birth of a child – prayers for health and blessings.
  • Initiation sacraments like Upanayanam.
  • Weddings – Vedic marriage rituals with prayer.
  • Funerals – cremation/burial with mantra chanting.
  • Periods of fasting and intense prayer like Navaratri.
  • During illness or challenging times for strength.
  • Major new ventures – opening a business etc.

Prayer provides grounding during life’s key moments.

The Role of Prayer Beads

In Hinduism, prayer beads or ‘malas’ play an important role:

  • Most often 108 beads representing cosmos.
  • Assist in mantra chanting and keeping count.
  • Used for japa – repeating the divine name.
  • Help focus mind during prayer.
  • Different materials have significance – tulsi, rudraksha, sandalwood, lotus seeds.
  • Not to be worn as necklace or ornament.
  • Given by guru to disciple for sacred mantra practice.
  • Malas empowered by years of use and mantra repetition.
  • Corresponding fingers used to hold and move beads during chanting.
  • Some wear mala bags around wrists to protect beads when not in use.

Prayer beads are an aid on the spiritual path, not a show of religion.

Bhakti Yoga and Prayer

Bhakti yoga is the Hindu spiritual path of cultivating love and devotion to God through prayer and ritual. Key aspects:

  • Seeing divine presence in all beings and things.
  • Chanting names and mantras of chosen deity or deities.
  • Singing devotional hymns and songs like kirtans/bhajans.
  • Prayer rituals like puja offered with humility and love.
  • Pilgrimages to sites connected to deities.
  • Meditating on sacred texts like the Bhagavad Gita.
  • Surrendering self-will to divine will.
  • Grace and blessings received from God through prayer.
  • The guru’s guidance leads to enlightenment.
  • Goal is God-realization through pure devotion.

Bhakti yoga uses prayer to dissolve ego and see the divine in all.

How Prayer Aids Spiritual Progress

Hindus believe prayer aids spiritual cultivation by:

  • Fostering constant God awareness.
  • Instilling virtues like devotion, humility, righteousness.
  • Purifying the mind and awakening divine qualities.
  • Creating inner receptivity to grace and guidance.
  • Providing strength in resisting ego, temptation.
  • Opening inner channels for the flow of divine energy.
  • Aligning individual will with God’s will.
  • Deepening wisdom and discernment.
  • Softening karma and Sanskaras (mental impressions).
  • Moving from selfishness to selflessness.
  • Achieving direct experience and union with God.

Through prayer, Hindus grow from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.

Rituals and Practices in Hindu Prayer

Hindus employ many rituals and practices in prayer:

  • Puja – invocations, prayers, offerings before murtis or images of deities.
  • Havan – fire ceremony with mantra chanting.
  • Kirtan/Bhajan – communal singing of spiritual hymns.
  • Arati – ritual with lighted lamps.
  • Darshan – seeing and being seen by the deity.
  • Abhisheka – bathing murti with substances like milk, honey, water.
  • Tirtha yatra – pilgrimages to sacred sites for ritual worship.
  • Rites of passage – prayers mark birth, marriage, death.
  • Mantra chanting using japa mala beads.
  • Fasts – abstaining from certain foods while praying.

These sacred actions connect Hindus to the divine.

How Prayer Manifests Blessings

Hindus believe sincere prayer manifests blessings by:

  • Cultivating humility and devotion, dissolving ego.
  • Aligning with dharma, divine order.
  • Purifying mind and awakening divine qualities.
  • Creating receptivity to grace, guidance, and wisdom.
  • Opening inner channels for divine energy to uplift.
  • Softening karmic obstacles faced in life.
  • Strengthening focus and determination.
  • Bringing practitioner back to remembrance of the sacred.
  • Creating reliance on and connection to the Divine Source from which all fruits emerge according to Hindus.

Prayer helps Hindus recognize God dwells within, and all blessings flow from that Infinite Source.

Occasions for Hindu Prayer

Beyond daily home worship, Hindus pray on special occasions including:

  • Temple visits on auspicious days – full moons, festivals.
  • Annual temple festivals and celebrations.
  • Pilgrimages – esp. every 12 years to sites like Varanasi

The Role of Prayer Beads

In Hinduism, prayer beads or ‘malas’ play an important role:

  • Most often 108 beads representing the cosmos.
  • Assist in mantra chanting and keeping count.
  • Used for japa – repeating the divine name.
  • Help focus mind during prayer.
  • Different materials have significance – tulsi, rudraksha, sandalwood, lotus seeds.
  • Given by guru to disciple for sacred mantra practice.
  • Empowered by years of use and mantra repetition.
  • Corresponding fingers used to move beads during chanting.
  • Some wear mala bags around wrists to protect beads when not in use.

Prayer beads are an invaluable aid on the spiritual path for Hindus.

Bhakti Yoga and Prayer

Bhakti yoga is the Hindu spiritual path cultivating love and devotion to God through prayer:

  • Seeing the divine in all beings and things.
  • Chanting names and mantras of chosen deity/deities.
  • Singing devotional hymns like kirtans/bhajans.
  • Puja rituals offered with humility and love.
  • Pilgrimages to sites connected to deities.
  • Meditating on texts like the Bhagavad Gita.
  • Surrendering self-will to divine will.
  • Receiving grace and blessings from God.
  • Following the guru’s guidance to enlightenment.
  • Goal of God-realization through pure devotion.

Bhakti yoga uses prayer to dissolve ego and see unity in diversity.

How Prayer Aids Spiritual Progress

Hindus believe prayer aids spiritual growth by:

  • Fostering constant God awareness.
  • Instilling virtues like devotion, humility, righteousness.
  • Purifying mind and awakening divine qualities.
  • Creating inner receptivity to grace and guidance.
  • Providing strength to resist ego and temptation.
  • Opening inner channels for divine energy flow.
  • Aligning individual will with God’s will or dharma.
  • Deepening wisdom and discernment.
  • Softening karma and samskaras (mental impressions).
  • Moving from selfishness to selflessness.
  • Achieving direct experience and union with God.

Prayer moves Hindus from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.

Occasions for Hindu Prayer

Beyond daily worship, Hindus pray on special occasions:

  • Auspicious temple visiting days – new moons, festivals.
  • Annual temple celebrations and calendar events.
  • Important pilgrimages, especially the Kumbh Melas every 12 years.
  • Child’s birth, name-giving, annaprasan, first haircut.
  • Sacred thread ceremony – upanayanam.
  • Weddings and marriage rituals around the sacred fire.
  • Funerals – cremation and burial accompanied by mantras.
  • Periods of fasting like Navaratri or Maha Shivaratri.
  • Major new ventures – opening a business etc.
  • During illness or challenging times.

Ritual prayer marks sacred milestones and transitions in Hindu family life.

The Concept of Puja

Puja is ritual Hindu worship before murtis or images of deities:

  • Invoking divine presence with prayers, songs, mantras.
  • Welcoming the deity as an honored guest.
  • Making humble offerings of flowers, sweets, food items.
  • Performing arati ceremony with lighted lamps.
  • Distributing blessed food or prasad.
  • Can be simple home puja or elaborate temple ritual.
  • Performed daily in homes or temples.
  • Seen as a way to communicate with and receive blessings from the deity.
  • Focuses devotion on chosen form of God.

Puja allows Hindus to foster intimacy with the divine.

How Hindus Pray in Temples

Hindu temple worship rituals include:

  • Entering sanctum with purity of body and mind.
  • Taking darshan by beholding the main deity.
  • Offering humble prayers and offerings.
  • Circling the inner sanctum clockwise.
  • Chanting mantras, singing hymns of praise.
  • Sounding bells, clappers, drums to announce arrival.
  • Prostrating before the deity in submission.
  • Meditating on the inner meaning of the murti.
  • Participating in ceremonial arati.
  • Absorbing the sanctity and grace of the temple.
  • Receiving blessed sacramental food.

Temple worship allows communion with the divine and community with fellow devotees for Hindus.

Rules for Temple Prayer

Key rules when praying in Hindu temples:

  • Remove shoes and hats before entering shrines.
  • Enter with clean body and mind; many bathe first.
  • Keep hands open or clasped, not in pockets.
  • Bow head and even fully prostrate to show humility.
  • Pray in hushed tones to not disturb others.
  • Keep cell phones silent, avoid idle talk.
  • Move clockwise around sanctums when possible.
  • Sit cross-legged or kneel on floor – chairs may be restricted.
  • Follow dress codes; cover shoulders and legs.
  • Participate respectfully in rituals when they occur.
  • Only consume prasad after leaving inner sanctum areas.

Proper temple etiquette maintains a peaceful atmosphere for worship according to Hindu tradition.

Conclusion:


Hinduism is a complex religion that encompasses many beliefs and practices. The act of prayer is an essential part of Hindu worship, and it takes many forms. Puja is the most common form of worship that takes place in the home at the family shrine and at the local temple. Hindus believe that they are born in debt to the Gods and other human beings, and dharma calls for Hindus to repay this debt.

What do Hindus Say When They Pray?

The five different debts are debt to the Gods for their blessings, debt to parents and teachers, debt to guests, debt to other human beings, and debt to all other living beings.

Understanding the significance of religious imagery, worship, and ritual in Hinduism and the meaning of life according to Hinduism can help us appreciate the rich and diverse culture of this ancient religion. Consider reading other articles we wrote about culture like >>>> Who is the One God in Hinduism? to learn more.

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