Athithi Dhevo Bhava – Part 2


In our last blog we described the transformation of any guest into God (Athithi Dhevo Bhava)

Have you ever wondered what is really said or prescribed through the various Puja (prayer) services with the chanting of verses in Sanskrit language? Every Puja for every God is a literal translation in practice of the concept of Athithi Dhevo Bhava. Some times each Puja may have smaller sub-events within it, such as Ganesh Puja (to invoke Ganesha the God considered as the remover of obstacles), Navagraha Puja (worship of the planets as the protectors or Gods), Sathyanarayana Puja (worship of Lord Sathyanaraya), etc. each in succession leading  up to main Puja, for the deity of primary focus for the specific event. In every such Puja and in its parts, we observe nearly the same process leading up to the transformation of the guest into God (Athithi Dhevo Bhava).

Before a guest arrives we clean up our home and get the space to be assigned ready. We also get ready and be clean, neat and well dressed! We also make a promise or commitment to do our best in the care and attention to the details of the needs of the guest. The preliminaries of the Puja are exactly for this purpose.

Then as the guest arrives we offer him/her a place to stay. We offer resources to shower, dress up and get ready. We offer gifts and share a nice meal with them. These are exactly the steps that are prescribed in the Puja, for the God(s), our special guest(s) at the Puja.

On occasions like the state visit of a dignitary, we observe speeches in praise of the visiting dignitary. This is also what follows in most Pujas, such as through the chanting of 108 or 1008 names of the Lord, which describe His/Her valor and accomplishments.

This is the moment where the guest transforms into God (Athithi Dhevo Bhava). God is an entity in which we seek protection and comfort. God is also an entity that symbolizes the best of the ideals one seeks to be. God is also the representation of anything conceivable (and beyond conception) of which each of us is a minuscular part. The Puja transcends through these three levels of understanding of the God, first by seeking the blessings, then seeking guidance for the best one can be and ultimately into a state of surrender recognizing the unification of the self with the larger order. Thath Thwam Asi (You and the universe are integral in each other).

Every Puja ends with the following verse: May everything we know (the energy, matter and their interaction) remain as the integral part of the Universe (Aum Thath Sath Brahmarpanam Astu).

You may look up our earlier blogs for background or reference:

Symbolism of Aum

On reflection

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