Worshipping the supreme lord is one of the ways of expressing our gratitude towards him. It is believed that He has been maintaining the entire creation from time immemorial and has been supplying the living entities with all sorts of items desired by them in the longer run. And for his selfless service and loving affection towards us, we must reciprocate the same in the form of rendering devotional service unto him.
One of the items of devotional service is offering worship to the lord. There are two methods of offering worship to him:
The Vaidik vidhi: Mentioned in the Vedas in the form of performing huge fire sacrifices or Yagya.
The Panchratriki vidhi: Mentioned in the pancharatras which are meant for the people of Kaliyuga.
Since the latter is easier to follow and practice, the devotees of the supreme lord follow the injunctions mentioned in the pancharatra shastras like Narad Pancharatra and worships him.
As per the pancharatra vidhi, there are 16 items which can be offered to the supreme lord. They are collectively termed as Shodashopchar Puja.
1. Asanam (Sitting place)
2. Swagatam (Pleasing welcoming words)
3. Arghyam (Water to relax, being sprinkled on head)
4. Padyam (Water to wash feet)
5. Achaman (Water to wash hand)
6. Madhuparka (A pleasant drink)
7. Punarachaman (Water to wash hands after taking the drink)
8. Snanam (Bathing)
9. Vastram (Clothes after bathing)
10. Alankaram (Ornaments)
11. Gandha (Perfume as sandalwood paste)
12. Pushpa (Flower garlands)
13. Dhoop (Incense sticks)
14. Deepa (Lamp offering)
15. Pranam (Paying respects)
16. Vandanam (Glorification)
Out of them, the lamp forms one of the important items of worship since the lamp represents illumination and enables the devotee to see the divine form of the lord easily.
The description of lamp has been made in the scriptures like Kalki Purana, Bhavishya Purana, etc. The lamp can be made up of earth, clay or any suitable metal. The Mahabharata states that the lamp which burns ghee is best and secondary to it is the oil burning lamp. When ghee is not available, one must use scented oil to light the lamp. And one must never offer a lamp, which burns any inferior material like animal body fat.
When the lamp is offered to the supreme lord, it enables the devotee to see the form of the lord, which is inside the sanctum sanctorum (inner house of deity). There was no availability of artificial lighting in the earlier days and hence, it would become difficult to see the deity of the lord after sunset. Therefore, the lamps would illuminate the entire temple to ease the sight.
The burning lamp represents the element of fire. Fire is one of the five principal elements of this material creation (earth, water, fire, sky and air). The human body is alive due to the fire burning inside, which digests the food and controls the entire functioning of the body. It is the fire inside the eye that enables one to see things.
Fire represents purity. Whatever comes in contact with fire is immediately purified, the way impure gold is converted into pure gold.
Fire signifies impartiality. It doesn’t distinguish between anything good or bad. It will burn similarly, be it rubbish or an important document, be it an animal or be it a great philanthropic person.
Fire represents luminance and brilliance. It acts as a dispeller of darkness. As soon as the fire is lit, darkness flees away. Similarly, the lamp being offered to the lord dispels the darkness inside the heart of the devotee.
When a ghee lamp is lit and kept nearby, it creates an aura of illumination. This radiance of the lamp sets forth electromagnetic waves that open up the mind and activate the sensory areas of the brain. When activated, they enhance the performance of the individual and hence, the person is able to worship the lord with all concentration and attention.
A burning lamp keeps on emitting soot or unburnt activated carbon particles. They work like charcoal, which is a purification agent. They absorb all the impurities and pathogens of the atmosphere on their surface and render them harmless.
The temperature created by the burning of lamps helps in detoxification of the body of the person sitting nearby.
According to Ayurveda, cow ghee is considered to have all the goodness (Sattva guna). The items which are sattvic in nature are considered to have a calming effect on the brain. They rejuvenate both gross as well as the subtle mind and hence, produce positive vibrations and emotions in the mind. The positive emotions help the person fix his mind on the lotus feet of the supreme lord during the course of the deity worship.