Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
Satyanarayana Pooja was performed at Hindu Temple of Antelope Valley. This is a fair new temple built in 2012, they don’t have official website, but they are on Facebook, can get information on Google website on location of the temple. In my opinion there are about fifty to seventy-five Hindu family that live in Palmdale and Lancaster area. Physical structure of the building is in the center of five acre land, inside the temple has large hallway for devotes can sit to meditate, chant mantras, or even perform Pooja’s. In the center tall statue of Vishnu is placed around him surrounds by different gods. Their dress attire was traditional silk saris wore by women, young girls wore churidar. Most of the men traditional Sherwai, priest wore green wrap around called lungi (it’s warped around his waist and drapes all the way down to his ankle, almost wrapped like a sari)and a shawls.
Satyanarayana Pooja is performed on Purnima (full moon day) which is considered to be more auspicious, the Pooja is performed for variety of reasons, including blessing of a new home, birthdays, and anniversaries or other special personal occasions. This can be performed by any individual without the help of a priest. There was a picture of Lord Satyanarayana on a small table, it was cover with red cloth, and picture was decorated beautiful garland made from white roses with green leaves. In front of the picture there were Kumkum ( is a powder used for social and religious marking),Turmeric powder, incense sticks, camphor, betel leaves, betel nuts, coconuts, five different kinds of fruits, and Prasad (sweet dish). Satya means truth, Narayan means the one that abides in everything and everyone. Priest is sited to the right and devotes who is performing sits opposite to the priest.
The priest starts his first prayer to Lord Ganesh (elephant god) to remove obstacles, than asks the devotes to repeat certain words of the mantra after him. For about twenty minutes he chants the same mantra over and over again looking at his book, it was written in Sanskrit. During the chanting he stops and explain why he was performing the Pooja and telling the devotees to offer flowers petals to the god, Kumkum was offered, and along with rice mixed with turmeric. Priest continues to explain the purpose Satyanarayana Pooja is to bring friends and families together, encourage unity and harmony. Only faith, sincerity and devotion count while performing this ritual.
After the Pooja was completed, the last was to read the stories of Lord Satyanarayana. In this tale, Narada (traveling musician and a storyteller) is shown traveling the entire universe before coming to Bhuloka (the earth). On earth, he found that many people have been suffering as they were living through their karma from the past life. This filled Narada with compassion for the ones suffering and he went to Lord Vishnu an asked if something could be done to help these people. In turn Vishnu then explains solution that there’s a Pooja that can be performed by everyone to eliminate suffering from their life; it is called the Satyanarayana Pooja, and as a part of the Pooja there are five stories that should be read. Once the stories ended, the Aarti (wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities) was taken of the Lord.
Finally, everyone stood in line to take blessing of the god and prasda (offering of sweets) and delicious Indian food is also serviced at the temple. There were about fifty people who had attended the Pooja. While everyone deserted the temple to go eat food, I took the opportunity to chant with the priest who performed the Pooja, his name is Shivamurti, he studied Master’s in Sankruth and Astrology, he had planned to get his degree has an educator in India. When he was offered a job to be a priest in America, he discontinued his education and accepted the job. His family has been practicing priests for over Four hundred and eighty generations. When asked, if he would want his sons to continue family tradition, he said he would let them choice their own path.
I asked him the benefits of Satyanarayana Pooja. He explained, that Lord Satyanarayana is form of Lord Vishnu that has been worshipped as the embodiment of faith and truth, popular amongst all Vishnu believers and devotees. There are several benefits, which have affected the lives of worshippers in many ways. People who have strong faith in the Lord often perform this ritual several times a year. The puja begins with a prayer to Lord Ganesh, the remover of all hindrances and obstacles that come our way in due course of life. This is performed by chanting the names of Lord Ganesh and offering some rituals with Prasad like modak (believed to be Lord Ganesh’s favorite sweet), and showering the idol with flower petals.
On my opinion this service of Satyanarayana Pooja is a beautiful ritual. The ornate decoration of the altar with flowers and colored pictures appeals to the external senses. The beautiful handmade flower garlands and colorful pots of food reflect the love and devotion of participants. The telling of the stories appeals to the mind, and the warmth of gathering in prayer to remember God and his mercy appeals to the spirit. Perhaps I would attend more of the most beautiful and unique aspect of Satyanarayana Pooja is not that it is a gift from God to fulfill one’s desires, but that it is a constant reminder in the telling of its folktales that all are equal in the eyes of God, and that we should interact with each other with that belief in our hearts. I learned that there are far too few rituals that teach this wonderful lesson.