A Hindu place of worship is called a mandir or
temple. A temple is dedicated to a particular god or goddess (deity). The
temple is the god's home on earth.
The most holy part of the temple is an
inner shrine called a garbhargriha with a statue to the god or goddess. This
inner shrine is under a towering roof called a sikhara. The four corners of
the temple then have smaller shrines. The temple is entered through the
ardhamandapa or entrance porch. Hindu temples are often decorated with the
figures of gods and goddesses. Outside Hindu temples you can often buy gifts
or prasad to give the diety honored in the temple.
There is no set schedule for visits to a temple. Worshippers go when they
want. When entering a temple, visitors must take off their shoes and women
cover their heads to show respect. The ceremony that follows is called puja.
It includes prayer and a viewing of the statue of the god or goddess honored. Offerings of fruit, flowers and incense are made to a priest who presents
them to the deity. After the deity blesses the gifts they are returned to the
worshipper and their heads are marked with a red dot or blessing called a tilaka. Worshippers then circle the inner shrine with their right hand raised
in respect to the deity.
It is also very common for Hindus to worship at a home shrine, often as a
whole family. There might be a statue or just a picture of the god or
goddess. The shrine also contains things which represent the five senses.
idea is to draw the whole person into worship through the image or statue and
the senses. The goal is to get beyond self to Brahmin. A bell is also often
rung to help focus the mind.
The Ganges River is a very sacred place to Hindus. It is a place to go on
pilgrimage to bathe in sacred waters. Hindus also like to have their ashes
scattered in the Ganges after cremation.