Jains perform worship before
the Jina idols, bowing to the idols, and lighting a lamp in front of the
idols. This is an ideal way to start the day for many Jains. More elaborate
forms of worship (puja), as described, is a regular daily ritual usually done
in the temple. The worshipper enters the temple with the words 'Namo Jinanam'
'I bow to the Jina', and repeats three times, 'Nisihii' (to relinquish
thoughts about worldly affairs). The simpler surroundings of the household
shrine can also provide a suitable setting. The members of some sects of
Jainism donít believe in worship of the Jina image. They believe in meditation
and silent prayers.
Worship, or puja, can take many
forms. The ritual bathing of the image (Snatra Puja) is symbolic to the
bathing of the newborn Tirthankara by the gods (celestial beings). A simple
symbolic act is to touch one's forehead with the liquid used to bath the idol.
Bathing the idol also takes place during the Panch Kalyanak Puja, a ritual to
commemorate the five great events of the Tirthankara's life, namely
conception, birth, renunciation, omniscience and moksa.
Antaraya Karma Puja comprises a
series of prayers to remove those karmas which obstruct the spiritual
uplifting power of the soul. A lengthy temple ritual which can take three days
to complete is the Arihanta Puja, paying respect to the arihants. There is a
ritual of prayer focused on the siddhachakra, a lotus-shaped disc bearing
representations of the arhat, the liberated soul, religious teacher, religious
leader and the monk (the five praiseworthy beings), as well as the four
qualities namely perception, knowledge, conduct and austerity to uplift the
In Jainism, worship is not
offered to an eternal and eternally pure God, but to those great ones who have
realized their high ideal and attained Godhood for themselves. There is no
offering of food and the like, nor is a prayer made to the deity for boons.
A pious Jain who lives
conveniently near a temple may carry out the worship of the Tirthankara image
in the temple daily before going to work. Otherwise it may be performed before
the shrine at home. Bathed and dressed simply, possibly only in two pieces of
cloth like a monk, he will bow before the image and recite the Navkar Mantra.
He will pass three times around the image (which in a Jain temple is set
forward from the rear wall). He may perform the ritual washing of the image
with water and milk and a mixture of sandalwood and saffron, or it may be done
by a regular official of the temple. Although women take an active part in
Jain rituals their role is somewhat simplified.
Various offerings are now made
before the image. Grains of rice are arranged in the symbolic figure of
Jainism, a swastika (denoting the four possible kinds of rebirth, as heavenly
beings, humans, lower living beings, or creatures of hell) having above it
three dots (the Three Jewels of Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right
Conduct), and at the top a single dot within a crescent for the final resting
place of the liberated souls. The other offerings may be flowers, incense,
fruit and sweets though the practice varies. After other prayers the Navkar
Mantra is repeated. This will be followed by the Chaitya Vandana, the temple
prayers of reverent salutation: these commence with a formula of repentance
for any harm caused to living creatures on the way to the temple; salutations
follow to the twenty-four Tirthankara and to all monks and nuns; then the
virtues and good deeds of all the Tirthankara follow and the devotee expresses
the desire and intention to emulate them. In his or her devotions the
worshipper does not seek worldly favor but sees the Jina as a divine example
to be respected and followed. The worship concludes with the rather beautiful
ceremony of arati, the waving of fivefold lights before the image. The image
is, of course, only a symbolic representation of the Tirthankara and is in no
sense a living god. Nevertheless it is considered necessary that a fully-
consecrated image should receive daily attention and worship.
A special beauty is given to
the rituals by the language in which they are performed. Ardhamagadhi was the
language of the ancient
Magadha region in north-east
India where Mahavira lived. It was
the familiar speech of the people, a 'Prakrit' or popular language as
distinguished from the classical Sanskrit of the orthodox scholars. Although
no longer a spoken language, Ardhamagadhi is used today in Jain prayers and
rituals, not only for the sonorous splendor of its rolling sounds but also
because a Jain, whatever his or her native tongue, can follow the familiar
prayers and chants. Every Jain will have learned from childhood at least a few
recitations and can take part in temple prayers with other Jains with whom he
or she may not share a common modern language.