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Temple Etiquette

Puja Practice and Temple Etiquette: A Brief Information Page for Newcomers to Puja

Welcome to SHARANYA’s Puja Page! Below is a general outline of the structure of our puja (worship service) and basic temple etiquette that we ask participants to try to observe during the ceremony. This page has been devised to offer guidelines for newcomers who wish to be informed about the basic structure and symbolism of what we do. This is not an exhaustive representation of our puja, so please, if you have questions, email us.

It is not necessary to have memorized all of this information prior to attending a ceremony with us. Each part of the puja is explained as it unfolds, and one might simply follow the example of members of the community and enjoy the experience as it happens. SHARANYA’s pujas are welcoming, friendly and inclusive. All are welcome!

Puja Opening
Prior to entering the sanctuary, each person is smudged with smoke. The sacred smoke purifies and helps to remove extraneous thoughts and energies that are accumulated in daily activity. It is a kind of spiritual bath that prepares one to enter the temple, in both the literal sense, and in the symbolic sense of opening the heart.

After entering the sacred space, touch the ground with your right hand, and touch your forehead. This is a symbolic gesture of taking the dust of the feet of Ma, our Divine Mother, to your brow, a sign of humility and openness. Be seated on a cushion (or chair if you prefer), and take time to look at the altars, calm your mind and meditate with a focus on your breath whilst the rest of the group enters. (Monthly attendance at pujas is approximately 30 people, so you will have about 10 minutes from when the smudging process begins until the formal puja starts.)

SHARANYA’s Rashani, Chandra, will be the last person to enter. She will facilitate the ceremony throughout aided by initiates and those working in the Daughters of Kali program.

As you move in the space, always try to walk around the circle in a clockwise direction and pass objects similarly around the circle in a clockwise direction. This practice stems from earth-based traditions where when one is invoking (calling in a power, deity or intention) it is important to move in a clockwise direction during ritual to draw on the power of natural cycles. To walk clockwise is called deosil, meaning, in the manner of the sun, or sun-wise.

In Circle
The circle is cast hand to hand in a clockwise direction. The person on your right will offer their left hand to you, facing up. Connect hands with this person, then offer your left hand, face up to the person on your left. Each person states, “I cast this circle hand to hand.” To cast a circle is to encircle the ceremony with protection and containment, to keep the energy that is raised focused, safely held in community, and strong.

Incense (in powdered form) is passed around, which will be offered whilst the group chants a mantra to remove curses from Devi. Take a small pinch of incense from the jar with your right hand with thumb and ring finger. Cast it onto the charcoal at the word svaha! The right hand is used when making offerings in puja. The ring finger is associated with the heart. Svaha means ‘I offer myself.’ It is used when offering to the sacred fire and for other offerings in order to bring one’s intention to the attention of the deity.

Sacred Substances
Camphor is passed around and each participant rubs it gently over each eyelid, first left then right. This is to open the ajna chakra, helping to induce clairvoyance. Karpura, or camphor, is also a purifying agent.

When tarot cards are passed, take one and observe from it your personal message. When paper and pen is passed take one each, write your prayer/intention on it. Return the pen and the Tarot card, keep the prayer. After taking personal time with Maa at altar, break off a red carnation at the stem and take home with you. The prayer should be buried to the earth or burnt three days after the puja.

The central point of power during puja is aarati, where the divine energies of Maa are invoked and honored with bells and fire, offerings and incense. All present will be chanting Jai Maa (Victory, or Praises, to the Holy Mother). Maa can be felt through her sacred image on the altar, and you are invited to take darshan with her. Darshan comes from the Sanskrit verb meaning “to see” and one can think of it as both seeing and being seen by the Divine. It also refers to sitting in the presence of the Divine and connecting by staring into the eyes of Kali Ma in the central image. This practice will encourage peacefulness, insight, blessings and perhaps visions to come to you. After aarati is complete, the chanting of Jai Maa! will subside. All participants will drop to the floor and bow to Maa in respectful reverence.

Basic Temple Etiquette

  • Do not turn your back to the altar after you have paid homage to Maa during aarati or any other time you approach Her; please back away for a few paces and then turn. Also, try not to block the altar from other people and allow others to join you as you prostrate before Her. As you do so, you may wish to put your hands behind your back and your head to the floor, or make a triangle with your fingers, opening your hands above your head and placing your forehead on the floor inside your fingers.

  • Please do not face the bottoms of your feet toward the altar as this is disrespectful. Do cover your feet with a shawl if you are able to do so in order to sit more comfortably.

  • Be mindful when things are being passed around the room or during individual prayer time not to take too long, allowing the ceremony to flow.

  • You are invited to wear red. Please abstain from wearing black during puja.

  • To attend our regular services,
    or to find out more about
    personal ritual and services, please email:


    Please see our calendar for current and future events as well as location information. We look forward to seeing you in circle soon!

    If you are interested in more in-depth study, including initiation into the Sha'can tradition, please see our tradition pages.

    For more information on services, please see our page of community services.

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