19.1) Pātra sādanaṁ पात्र सादनं – Requirements.
Pātra means vessels and sādana means arranging. Though there are several vessels used for navāvaraṇa pūjā, three vessels viz. vardhanī kalaśa, sāmanya arghya and viśeṣa arghya are considered as important. Out of the three, viśeṣārghya pātra is extremely important.
For performing navāvaraṇa pūjā the following materials are required.
1. Wooden plank or mat for seating. This is called āsana.
2. Ācamana pātra with uttaraṇi (spoon like). This vessel should be filled with water from 5 below.Ācamana procedure is explained in part 1 of this series under 2, tatvācamanam.
2. A few containers/bowls for keeping flowers. It would be ideal to procure different kinds of flowers, at least nine types. Similarly, containers for keeping different kinds of fruits, required for naivedya to be offered at the end of each āvaraṇa. If possible, it would be ideal to use nine kinds of fragrant flowers and nine types of fruits meant for each āvaraṇa. Whenever possible, different cooked items can also be prepared for naivedya.
3. Navāvaraṇa pūjā cannot be done individually, as it requires lot of preparations before and during the pūjā. Once the performer is seated, he or she should not get up from the āsana. Someone has to help the performer by arranging naivedya at the end of each āvaraṇa. If naivedya can be prepared in the form of cooked items, more persons are required to prepare these dishes. These dishes are to be prepared with pure mind and body. Unnecessary talks must be avoided and instead, Lalitā Sahasranāma, Saundaryalaharī, Śrīdevī Māhātmya and other hymns and verses should be recited in Her praise. These recitations will bring immense positive energy in the place. All preparations for naivedya should be done with pure and devoted mind.
4. At the end of each āvaraṇa, dhūpa, dīpa, naivedya and nīrājana should be offered. Necessary materials for performing dhūpa, dīpa and nīrājana are to be kept ready. Naivedya has been discussed in 3 above. Dīpa and nīrājana can be done with wicks dipped in ghee. There should be two dhūpa-s; one should be continuously burning and another one should be used for offering dhūpa at end of each āvaraṇa. Similarly, lamps on two sides of the maṇḍala should be burning continuously and both ghee and sesame oil should be filled in the lamp frequently, so that the lamps burn continuously.
5. A bigger vessel containing pure potable water is to be kept. Only from this, water for vardhanī kalaśa, sāmanya arghya and viśeṣa arghya is to be taken. Iron and plastic containers are to be totally avoided. It would be ideal to purify this water by reciting Gātatrī mantra twenty four times.
6. A medium sized vessel to prepare viśeṣa arghya. This vessel is known as kāraṇa kalaśa.
7. Vessels for vardhanī kalaśa, sāmanya arghya and viśeṣa arghya. For vardhanī kalaśa, a uttaraṇi (this is like a small spoon, but with more depth to hold water and is always placed inside pañcapātra). For sāmanya arghya, a conch with a base (ideally in the form of a tortoise) is required. For viśeṣa arghya another pañcapātra, preferably in silver or copper is required. A tweezer is also required and this tweezer should be either made of silver or copper. This is meant to perform tarpaṇa. Instead of a tweezer, a thin silver rod is used with spikes on one side and a very small uttaraṇi like structure which can hold one or two drops of viśeṣa arghya can also be used.
8. Three or more very small silver or copper cups for Guru pātra, ātma pātra, and few extra cups to distribute to other upāsaka-s. It is also advised that a separate pātra can be kept for the spouse of the worshipper and this generally known as patni pātra, provided, spouse is also initiated into either Pañcadaśī or Ṣoḍaśī. (Spouse means either husband or wife – pati or patnī)
10. Powdered condiments like cardamom, cloves, saffron, edible camphor, etc. Though they can be mixed with water straight away, it is better to get them powdered so that they can mix well with water.
11. A few pieces of peeled ginger.
12. Ingredients to prepare viśeṣa arghya. There are different opinions on preparation of viśeṣa arghya and almost every lineage has their own methods of preparing viśeṣa arghya. We go with the simplest method, for which following ingredients are required. Milk (not boiled), small quantity of tender coconut water, honey, saffron, edible camphor, very small quantity of powdered sugar, finely powdered cardamom, clove, maze and jātīpattrī (arillus of the nut or maca). All the condiments are to be nicely powdered and mixed with milk, tender coconut water and honey. Consistency of this mixture should be thicker than milk.
13. A copper plate to for bali. This is also known bali pātra.
14. An ārati plate with water by adding kumkum till the water turns red.
It is also advisable to keep pure water in a separate container to wash hands as and when needed. Dry towels may be required to dry hands. If mantras are not memorised, provision should be made to keep the printed copies in a comfortable position.
Entry into pūjā maṇḍapa is explained in part I under serial number 2. Inside this pūjā maṇḍapa, the following arrangements are made.
Everything is to be arranged as indicted in the diagram below.
1. Lalitāmbikā’s idol.
2. Śri Cakra/ Meru
3. Two lamps on either side. Lamps to the left of sādhaka should be lit with ghee (clarified butter) and lamps to the right of sādhaka should be lit with sesame oil. Totally there will be four lamps. All the four lamps should be placed on bases as shown in part I of this series. One small additional lamp can be kept separately to light dhūpa, dīpa and nīrājana. There is no need of a base for this lamp.
4. This is the āsana. Sitting posture is very important. One should take the most comfortable sitting posture. As far as possible, sādhaka should not change his sitting posture too frequently. Ardhapadmāsana is the best sitting posture for performing navāvaraṇa pūjā.
5. Viśeṣa arghya pātra should be consecrated here on the prescribed base.
6. Sāmanya arghya (conch) should be established here on the prescribed base.
7. Vardhanī kalaśa should be established here.
8. Ācamana pātra can be kept here (this vessel can be moved from this place).
9. Flower bowl can be kept here.
10. Other pūjā accessories such as bell, dhūpa, dīpa, nīrājana etc can be kept here.
11. Naivedya when needed can be kept here.
If idols of Ganeśa, Sun, Viṣṇu and Śiva are available, they can be kept in the places marked A, B, C and D in the diagram. This will be useful while performing caturāyatana pūjā later.
All other materials can be kept in places that are most convenient to sādhaka. Someone who is conversant with mantras can read out the mantras and sādhaka can perform the pūjā. Śri Cakra should be placed in front of the idol. Navāvaraṇa pūjā can be done even without an idol. But Śri Cakra or Meru is must. Viśeṣa arghya pātra and Sāmanya arghya should not be moved after consecrating them. This is one of the very important aspects of navāvaraṇa pūjā.
19.3) Meaning and purpose (broader perspective):
Consecration of pātra-s, viśeṣa arghya pātra, sāmanya arghya, vardhanī kalaśa, Guru pātra and ātma pātra is importnat. Patnī pātra need not be consecrated and should not be mixed with ātma pātra, if wife/husband is not initiated into Pañcadaśī or Ṣoḍaśī. Mantras and procedures will be discussed in the next part of this series.
Water is given so much importance not only in navāvaraṇa pūjā, but in every ritual including great yajña-s. It is said that when bad thoughts percolate into mind, one should continue to touch water and recite mūlamantra. In general water is compared to knowledge in various Scriptures. This can be observed from the relevant mantras discussed later. Vardhanīya means to be made prosperous or happy. Mantras for consecrating kalaśa refer to Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Rudra. When trimūrti-s are referred while consecrating water in kalaśa, it underlines the importance of water. Thus, water not only signifies purity, but also purifies other objects kept for navāvaraṇa yajña. This water is said to contain seven continents, four Vedas, sacred rivers, etc.
The three arghya vessels convey deeper insight into Consciousness beginning from ordinary knowledge to supreme knowledge. Vardhanī kalaśa refers to inferior knowledge known as aparajñāna, where mind goes with shapes, forms and names associated with empirical world. Sāmanya arghya is higher state of knowledge than empirical knowledge, where dualities are dissolved, but the thought of “I am Śiva” (ahaṁ + śivaṁ = śivoham or I am Śiva) has not yet emerged. In this state, sādhaka associated with Vimarśa or dynamic aspect of Śiva. Viśeṣa arghya refers to Supreme knowledge, the stage of realising the Self, the state of saccidānanda (sat-cit-ānanda). In this stage the veil of māyā that was present in sāmanya arghya is removed and Prakāśa form of Śiva is realized. Literally speaking sāmanya means ordinary and viśeṣa means special. Both ordinary and special refer to the type of knowledge the sādhaka acquires while performing navāvaraṇa pūjā. Navāvaraṇa pūjā is not just a ritual, but it is the foundation for spiritual path. Viśeṣa arghya is the material depiction of union of Śiva and Śakti (Parameśvara, where Śakti is inherent). If this discussion can be taken forward, it also means that the central bindu of Śri Cakra means Śiva and the innermost triangle of Śri Cakra refers to Śakti. Union between of Śiva and Śakti takes place only in the innermost triangle of Śri Cakra, which leads to creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and re-creation, the five principal acts of Brahman. Hence, navāvaraṇa pūjā is not only considered as secret, but also sacred.
Each of these pātra-s are placed on a base, also known as maṇḍala (a circular base) or ādhāra(substratum). Every pātra will have three components – the base, the vessel and the water in the vessel and they represent agni (fire), sun and moon on the grosser side and suṣumna, piṅgala and iḍa on the subtler side respectively. Pañcadaśī mantra, kāmakalā (Lalitā Sahasranāma 322) and Śri Cakra are also compared to moon, sun and fire. Bhāvanopaniṣad elaborately discusses on these subtleties and these subtleties are dealt with in the series “Śri Cakra and human body). In Śākta worship, every aspect of creation can be divided into three, known as triads. When a sādhaka pursues spiritual path, he pursues puruṣārtha, which means human pursuit. She is the giver of puruṣārtha-s says Lalitā Sahasranāma 291, Puruṣārtha-pradā. Puruṣārtha is the fourfold values of human life. They are dharma (righteousness or virtues), artha (wish or purpose), kāma (desires and pleasures) and mokṣa (the liberation). It is clear that the ancient scriptures do not prohibit these great human values. What they say is not to get attached to them. On many occasions this concept is misquoted. The first entry into pūjā maṇḍapa (part 1.2) is known as path to liberation and one is liberated at the end of navāvaraṇa pūjā, provided sādhaka performs this pūjā with absolute devotion. When he enters into the path of liberation, he undergoes various modifications and these changes are symbolically explained and expressed through these sāmanya arghya and viśeṣa arghya.
The same concept can be explained subtly through psychic chakras. Sādhaka’s physical body represents the bases of arghya pātra-s and is to be contemplated at mūlādhāra chakra, which also represents first of the four puruṣārtha-s viz. dharma. Because of his accumulated dharma account over his past births, he has attained human form. He continues to exist in this form because of the fire of kuṇḍalinī burning at his mūlādhāra chakra. While mūlādhāra chakra is the base of the human body, his mind is the vessels and the water or amṛta within in the pātra-s is his worldly experience. Thus it indicates that one needs to have pure body, pure mind and pure thought processes while performing navāvaraṇa pūjā. When a sādhaka purifies his mind, the other components of antaḥkaraṇa (intellect, consciousness and ego) are also purified by the moon and this purifications process begins at viśuddhi chakra and is completed at ājñā chakra. When antaḥkaraṇa is purified, his devotion for Her turns into love and during this stage his consciousness begins to enter into cosmic consciousness by piercing sahasrāra and during this stage, nectar (amṛta) is secreted from sahasrāra and drips into the throat chakra. This is explained in Lalitā Sahasranāma 106 Sudhāsārabhi-varṣiṇī. This is considered as the most secretive part of viśeṣa arghya in navāvaraṇa pūjā.
The five vessels or pātra-s - sāmanya arghya, viśeṣa arghya, guru pātra, ātma pātra and bali pātra represent five M-s or pañcamakāra-s and these five are madya (intoxicating drink), māṁsa (meat), matsya (fish), mudrā (finger gestures) and maithuna (copulation). Each of these tattva-s is represented by pañcabhūta-s or five principal elements viz. fire, water, earth, air and ākāśa.
This is the broader perspective of pātra-s and specifics will be discussed at the time discussing relevant mantras.