Pushpanjali – A Floral Tribute!


Pushpanjali –
The Offering Of Floral Garlands to
Deities in Ritualistic Worship – Part 1

Hindus offer Flowers to  to Gods/esses in the temple  as part of a Ritualistic Worship.  This is called  ‘Pu-ja’ – Pu stands for ‘Pushpam’ or Flowers and Ja stands for Japa or chanting the  Holy names of Gods/esseses. Ja also stands for ‘Jalam’ or Water as water is sipped during the Worship while chanting the Holy Names of Gods/esses. ( This is called Aachamanam)

What do Flowers represent  in Hindu Worship?  Flowers represent ‘Nature’ or Prakriti. The word Prakriti is made of three syllables – Pra , Kri, and Ti. In Devi Bhagavatam, Sri Narada describes Prakriti thus. “The prefix “Pra” in the word Prakiti means Exalted, Superior, Excellent; and the suffix  “Kriti” denotes creation.  So, the Goddess,  Devi,  Who is the most excellent in the work of creation is known as the Devî Prakriti.

“Pra” signifies the Sattva Guna, the most exalted quality, “Kri” denotes the Rajo Guna and “Ti” denotes the Tamo Guna. The Sattva Guna is considered as the Highest as it is perfectly clear and free from any impurities whatsoever;  the Rajo Guna is considered intermediate as it has this defect – it spreads a veil over the reality of things, so as not to allow men to understand the True Reality, while the Tamo Guna is considered worst as it completely hides the Real Knowledge.  Thus when we offer Flowers to the Deities , we are actually praying to Gods/esses to to eradicate our Tamo and Rajo gunas and bless us with Sattwa guna which is conducive to the “Flowering of Consciousness.”

Offering Flowers to Deities is an important part of Hindu Worship. Different Gods/esses love different Flowers.  Traditionally, it is said that we should only offer those Flowers that have a pleasant Fragrance  and are cultivated on good soil . Wild Flowers that spring up everywhere and those with thorns should be avoided.  When we offer Flowers to Gods/esses, we are transmitting our Devotional ‘Bhava‘ or Emotion and are literally requesting God/esses to grant us Health, Wealth and Happines(both Material and Spiritual benefits.)  Hence the expression  ‘Yad Bhava , Tad Bhavet. ‘  It is the bhava of ‘Surrender’ and Faith. ( Sharanagati and Shradda)

One of the names of Lord Shiva is ‘Ashutosh’ – One who is easy to please . Bholenath ( A Simpleton ) loves Milk ‘Abisekham’ and therefore devotees bathe the Shivalinga with Panchamrit.- – Panch means Five and the ingredients are Milk, Honey, Ghee , Yoghurt , and Sugar.
Here is a Picture of a priest bathing the Shivalinga with the Pancamrit liquid !


While doing the Abisekham , the Devotees will chant continuously the Lingashtakam –

Brahma Murari Sura architha Lingam,
Nirmala bashitha Shobitha Lingam,
Janmaja dukha vinasaka lingam.
That pranamami sada shiva lingam.

I bow before that Lingam, which is the eternal Shiva,
Which is worshipped by Brahma, Vishnu and other Devas,
Which is pure and resplendent,
And which destroys sorrows of birth.

To listen to the entire Lingashtakam , go to

Shankar Baba is equally pleased if Bilva Leaves are offered to Him.  It is believed that Sri Lakshmi resides in Bilva Leaves and by offering Bilva Leaves we are asking the Lord to bless us with Wealth and Prosperity.  Bilva Leaves also have a cooling effect on the hot tempered Deity Shiva also known as ‘Rudra’ (the Wrathful One)

Bilva Puja to Lord Shiva

While offering Bilva leaves to The Shiva linga ,
it is customary to chant the ‘Bilvashtakam’ comprising of eight stanzas.
Here is the First verse .

tridaLaM triguNAkAraM trinetraM cha triyAyushhamh .
trijanmapApasaMhAraM ekabilvaM shivArpaNamh .

I offer one leaf of Bilwa to Lord Shiva,
Which has three leaves,
Which causes three qualities,
Which are like the three eyes of Shiva,
Which is like the triad of weapons,
And which destroys sins of three births.

To listen to Bilvashtakam, go to

Lord Shiva is pleased with all kinds of worship – both internal and external worship. Internal worship is called Manasa puja .  Adi Shankara Bhagvadapada sings thus in his Shiva manasa puja :

AtmA tvaM girijA matiH sahacharAH prANAH sharIraM gR^ihaM
pUjA te viShayopabhogarachanA nidrA samAdhisthitiH |
sa~nchAraH padayoH pradakshiNavidhiH stotrANi sarvA giro
yadyatkarma karomi tattadakhilaM shambho tavArAdhanam.h ||

Sambhu, You are my Self, my intellect is Goddess Parvati, your attendants are my vital airs, my body is Your temple, all enjoyments of sense-objects are Your worship, my sleep is samadhi, all my movements on my feet are circumambulations of You, whatever I speak is praise of You, and thus whatever action I perform is Your worship.  Note: When a devotee totally surrenders to God, then whatever he does is according to God’s will.  He gives up all sense of being a doer and an enjoyer. ( This Translation is by Shri Shastriji, chief moderator of ‘Advaitin’ list.)

To listen to Shiva Manasa puja , go to

Here is a picture of Adi Shankara Bhagvadapada , The Author Of Nirguna Manasa Puja


This is the first of the Series on how to worship different  Hindu Gods/esses .   Lady Joyce ( aka Radhe ) is the true source of inspiration behind this humble attempt. Bhakti Yoga is the firm foundation on which both Karma and Jnana yoga rests .  Without Devotion or Love,  Jnana is incomplete and without Atma ma Jnanam, Bhakti is not ripe.  Karma yoga is the thread that runs through both Bhakti and Jnana yoga .

Shri Krshna himself says in srimad Bhagvad Gita

yoginam api sarvesam
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah ( 6:47)

And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me,
thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me—
he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion.

OM Namaha Shivaya



Garlands of Devotion-Part 1


patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
asnami prayatatmanah

If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf
a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it. BG 9.26


Making the garland…    


 When you are making larger malas, it is best to make two sides separately,
as the longer the thread, the easier it is to get tangles.
I am holding one side, and will make the other side in the video. 


Comparing the mala to the deity to make sure that it is long enough to cover the area you want to adorn.


 As you go along, you need to check your work to make sure you are matching the other side of the mala.
These flowers have been stitched from a sidewise angle going through
the side of the petals rather than from the bottom of the flower up. 


 Here, to change the look the flower creates in the mala, a rose, is pierced from the bottom up.


The other side of the mala is slowly taking shape,
with a pattern matching the one for the other side which has already been stitched. 


Before you finish the mala, you need to check each side against the other to see
that you have matched the look for a beautiful mala on each side.


When I make a mala with two sides, I always tie the bottom pieces together first. 
Otherwise, there is a great risk that the weight of the flowers will cause some of them to drop down the thread and right off the mala!!!







To view the videos:

Garlands of Devotion-Part 1    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mq4LqKo9MI

 Garlands of Devotion-Part 2    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAZmBVDTpGM


Garlands of Devotion-Introduction


patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
asnami prayatatmanah

If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf
a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it. BG 9.26

Within a few months of starting to attend puja, I found myself drawn to the music and the malas! It was not long before I began to pick up the needle to begin stitching and the notes to begin singing. There are many ways to express devotion to the limitless Self and I tend to be simple in my approach to it. I would much rather make a mala than analyze the nature of reality!!! And I would much rather sing the mantra than write a manuscript interpreting it. To me, everything is Brahman and I have little interest in deciding what level of Brahman it is…I embrace it all as such and leave it to the Grace of the Lord to direct my footsteps.

The videos on making malas or garlands in the links posted at the end of this article are a deviation from my usual music videos.  Still, they are grounded in devotion and my effort to share what I have learned over the last six years making malas for Rudrabishekam and other holidays.  I have also taken to making them at home and that is what led me to share.  I have been asked by others at Temple how to make garlands, and there never is enough time during puja to share this.  Plus, one does not talk while Panditji is chanting the puja.  So, I decided that I could make a home video of making malas at home.

When you make a mala, you need to take the time to assess the flowers you have to work with. And you need to asses the amount of time you have to make the mala. Sometimes I have help…sometimes there are not enough flowers to allow too many for the malas, as you need to reserve some of the flowers for the puja.  Summer is good, when gardens are flowing, including the ones on the Temple grounds which are slowly becoming more and more lush with perennials.  But the real challenge is when there are limited flowers to work with. 

One afternoon on Mahashivarati, when there were plenty of flowers, I spent well over an hour making two malas, using both intact flowers and petals to provide interest, contrast, and to connect the flowers and hide the green buds that day.    You can see it on Lord Shiva below and on the linga beneath Him. 


 Copy of 246069009503_0_ALB 

 Most of the time, I have to make three in less than an hour. So, I have to quickly assess the flowers coming in and include them as I can.  Sometimes, I make a mala with multicolored flowers, staggered throughout the malas in a cascade of colors.  Sometimes, I will choose only a few colors (sometimes I only have a few colors) and use them as my pattern. 

Variation in size of the flowers also provides for interest and beauty, as in the mala below.  It has spring flowers from my garden in it…violets, vinca, bluebells, a daffodil, and the really small purple sections which almost look like beads came from grape hyacinths.  I do not even know what all of the flowers are as the orange ones come from some bush which was already on the property and the yellow ones, I just don’t remember what they are called. 

Spring 002

 Then the azaleas came into bloom, and the one below shows what you can do with that.
These flowers are stitched from the side, except for the pendant, which are stitched from
the bottom through the top of the flowers to form a tassel.     mala 011

 The photographs of Lord Shiva were taken by Bharatji, our unofficial temple photographer.  You can see that I included the azaleas as well as roses someone brought in that evening.  the azaleas are stitched sideways and the roses are stitched upright.  This provides a beauty in variation of the direction of the flowers. I only made the mala shown on Lord Shiva’s chest.  Someone else helped with malas that night and made the one crowning His head. mala 024

 To view the videos on how to make the garland (mala)  and the pendant…

Garlands of Devotion-Part 1                                                                        



Garlands of Devotion-Part 2


To view photographs with brief commentary excerpted from the videos,
on making the mala and pendant…