Friday, 3 March 2023

The Purpose of Placing cups in front of Deities

Ever pondered why several cups are always placed in front of a deity, as illustrated in images above?These patrams are used during the upachara ( ritualistic service ) to the deities. Let us start from the extreme right of the deity.

(1) Padyam

The first cup represents paadyam. This is the water used to wash the feet of the Lord. This Paadya Paatra ( cup ) is filled with water mixed with sandal paste and ushiira ( tamizh: veTTiver ), as instructed in the Kamika Agama.

Kamika Agama, Archana Vidhi, verse 207:

प्रक्षाल्य पाद्यपात्रं तु गन्धतोयेन पूरयेत्॥ उशीरं चन्दनं चैव पाद्ये तु परिकल्पयेत्।

prakṣālya pādyapātraṃ tu gandhatoyena pūrayet॥ uśīraṃ candanaṃ caiva pādye tu parikalpayet।

(2) Achamanam

This is the water to drink. This paatra is filled with water mixed with camphor in the measure of 3 palas, broken leaves and kusHThaka. The hrdaya mantra is recited along this.

Kamika Agama, Archana Vidhi, verse 208:

तद्वदाचमनीयार्थं तत्पात्रं परिकल्पयेत्॥ पलत्रयं च कर्पूरं तृटीपत्रं च कुष्ठकम्।

tadvadācamanīyārthaṃ tatpātraṃ parikalpayet॥ palatrayaṃ ca karpūraṃ tṛṭīpatraṃ ca kuṣṭhakam।

(3) Arghyam

This is the offering of sacred water for washing purpose. There are 8 special dravyas which are added into this arghya patra. 

विशेषार्घ्यं ततः कुर्यात् यवसिद्धार्थकाक्षतैः।

अद्भिस्तिल कुशाग्रैश्च क्षीरपुष्पैः समन्वितं॥

viśeṣārghyaṃ tataḥ kuryāt yavasiddhārthakākṣataiḥ।

adbhistila kuśāgraiśca kṣīrapuṣpaiḥ samanvitaṃ॥

These 8 dravyas are:

a) Yava - paddy husk
b) Siddhartha - white mustard
c) Akshata - turmeric mixed rice
d) AdbhyaH - water
e) Tila -  sesame (white)
f) Kushaagra - the tips of the darbha grass
g) Ksheera - milk
h) Pushpa - flowers

The recital of required mantras into this concoction renders this as the vishesHa arghyam.

At times, we use more than 3 cups to include other offerings, like the madhuparkam ( nectarine drink ).

The entire puja is very elaborate if we follow Tantra meticulously. The original concept ( though not popularly followed today ) of placing the three paatrams in front of the deity is for the purpose of upachara as mentioned.

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