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 worshiper 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 don’t 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 soul.
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 worshiper 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.