Ritual is a religious or solemn ceremony involving a series of actions performed according to a set order. Pooja and Yajna are the two such rituals which play a significant role in the life of a Hindu. Pooja which means worshipping a deity can be performed either at home or in temples or at both the places. The Hindus offer several articles like flowers, sandalwood paste, incense, food, Tulsi leaves, etc. while performing pooja.
The person who conducts the Pooja in a temple is known as a Poojari. Arti-waving of lights before the image of the deity, is an important part of the Pooja ceremony. After Arti the pooja ceremony of that particular day comes to an end.
During pregnancy ceremonies are held to ensure the welfare of the mother as well as the growing child. When the child is born, a number of rituals are performed. These rituals include the first visit outside to a temple, the first feeding with solid food, an ear-piercing ceremony, the first haircut, etc. Generally, shaving the child’s head for the first time is done at some religious places and the first hair is offered to a deity. Mantras are chanted on all these occasions.
Then comes upanayana sanskar which is popular among the orthodox, upper-caste Hindus it generally takes place for young males between the ages of six and twelve. At the ceremony, the priest invests the boy with a sacred thread to be worn always over the left shoulder and the parents instruct f^m to pronounce the Gayatri Mantra.
The Upanayan sinker is held to mark the transition tQ awareness and adult religious responsibilities. In South, a different ritual occurs at the first menses of the young Hindu women.
Marriage is another important ritual. It is a sacrament and not a civil contract. It is a sanskar or purificatory ceremony obligatory for every Hindu. Marriage ceremony is properly ritualised. The important ritual in marriage is Kanyadaan, that is, gift of his daughter to a bridegroom by the father.
After Kanyadaan, the new couple takes seven steps northward from a sacred household fire, turn and makes offerings into the flames. Recitation of mantras by the priests is an important part of these rituals.
At the death of a family member, a number of rituals are performed. The relatives become involved in ceremonies for preparation of the dead body and a procession for preparation of the dead body and a procession to the cremation ground. At the funeral site, in the presence of the male mourners, the closest relative of the dead, usually the eldest son takes charge of the final rites and lights the funeral pyre. After the cremation is done, ashes and fragments of bones are collected and eventually immersed in a holy river.
This is an important ritual associated with the dead person. Shradha karma and pind daan are other rituals which are held to pacify the soul of the dead.
Thus, the practice of Hinduism consists of several rites and ceremonies, which are performed within the framework of the caste system and centering on the main socio-religious occasions of birth, marriage and death.