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 pātram-s are used during the upacāra ( ritualistic service ) to the deities. Let us start from the extreme right of the deity.

(1) Pādyam

The first cup represents pādya. This is the water used to wash the feet of the Lord. This pādya pātram( cup ) is filled with water mixed with sandal paste and uśīra ( veṭṭiver ), as instructed in the Kāmika āgama.

Kāmika āgama, arcana 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।

Word to word meaning:

  • प्रक्षाल्य (prakṣālya): having washed/cleansed

  • पाद्यपात्रं (pādyapātraṃ): the foot-washing vessel

  • तु (tu): indeed/then (used as a particle to indicate emphasis)

  • गन्धतोयेन (gandhatoyena): with scented water

  • पूरयेत् (pūrayet): should fill

  • उशीरं (uśīraṃ): veṭṭiver  (a grass known for its aromatic roots)

  • चन्दनं (candanaṃ): Sandalwood

  • च (ca): and

  • एव (eva): indeed/only

  • पाद्ये (pādye): in the foot-washing [water]

  • तु (tu): then/indeed

  • परिकल्पयेत् (parikalpayet): should prepare/arrange

  • (2) ācamanam

  • This is the water to drink. This pātra is filled with water mixed with camphor in the measure of 3 pala-s, broken leaves and kusḥṭhaka. The hṛdaya mantra is recited along this.

Kāmika āgama, arcana vidhi, verse 208:

तद्वदाचमनीयार्थं तत्पात्रं परिकल्पयेत्॥ पलत्रयं च कर्पूरं तृटीपत्रं च कुष्ठकम्।

tadvadācamanīyārthaṃ tatpātraṃ parikalpayet॥ palatrayaṃ ca karpūraṃ tṛṭīpatraṃ ca kuṣṭhakam।

  • tadvat (तद्वत्) - in that way, similarly

  • ācamanīyārthaṃ (आचमनीयार्थं) - for the purpose of sipping water (ācamanīya)

  • tatpātraṃ (तत्पात्रं) - that vessel

  • parikalpayet (परिकल्पयेत्) - should prepare/arrange

  • palatrayaṃ (पलत्रयं) - three Palas (a vedic measure of weight )

  • ca (च) - and

  • karpūraṃ (कर्पूरं) - camphor

  • tṛṭīpatraṃ (तृटीपत्रं) - broken leaves

  • ca (च) - and

  • kuṣṭhakam (कुष्ठकम्) - Kuṣṭha ( Indian Costus, Saussurea lappa )

(3) Arghyam

This is the offering of sacred water for washing purpose. There are 8 special dravya-s which are added into this arghya pātram. 

विशेषार्घ्यं ततः कुर्यात् यवसिद्धार्थकाक्षतैः।

अद्भिस्तिल कुशाग्रैश्च क्षीरपुष्पैः समन्वितं॥

viśeṣārghyaṃ tataḥ kuryāt yavasiddhārthakākṣataiḥ।

adbhistila kuśāgraiśca kṣīrapuṣpaiḥ samanvitaṃ॥

These 8 dravya-s are:

a) Yava - millets ( barley ), any millet
b) siddhārtha - white mustard
c) Akṣata - turmeric mixed rice
d) adbhiḥ (अद्भिः) - with water 
e) Tila -  sesame (white)
f) Kuśāgra - the tips of the darbha grass
g) kṣīra - milk
h) puṣpa - flowers

The recital of required mantras into this concoction renders this as the viśeṣa 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 pātram-s in front of the deity is for the purpose of upacāra as mentioned.

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