Preparation for Puja through Pancha Anga and Sat Suddhi

A. Panca Anga Puja:

Deity worship has been divided into five categories of activities in the pancaratra scriptures.

1. abhigamana  (approaching the temple):

This includes the preparatory activities such as cleaning oneself physically by bath, wearing fresh cloth, ornamenting oneself with tilaka and tulasi beads,  cleaning the temple, removing used articles and cleaning them, and decorating the temple.

2. upadana (gathering articles):

This includes gathering flowers, tulasi, suitable fruits, preparing cooked foods, and selecting  the proper utensils for the worship.

3. yoga (attaining spiritual identity):

This includes cleansing the body of material conception and assuming a spiritual body fit for service to the Lord, by means of mantra, bhuta suddhi, dhyana and manasa puja.

4. ijya (worship):

This refers to the external worship, or offering of upacaras such as asana, padyam, snana etc.

5. svadhyaya (recitation of scripture):

This includes all of the  processes of cultivation, such as reading scripture, hearing and chanting the names and glories of the Lord etc.

From this analysis one can understand that arcana does not consist of simply offering external articles to the murti of the Lord, but involves preparatory and supplementary activities, all of which are also necessary for attainment of  successful worship.  If one offers articles to the murti without being spiritually qualified, then the worship is useless and offensive, and will not favor the development of devotion, the goal. These activities of the five angas are the cause of spiritual qualification for one on the level of sadhana, and must therefore be practiced on a  daily basis along with the external worship of the deity (ijya).

B. Sat Suddhi (six types of purity):

The preparatory activities for external worship are means of creating purity or suddhi in all aspects relating to the deity:  place, articles, self, mind, mantra,and murti.  These are known as sat suddhi (six purities).  All the preparatory elements of puja may fall under one of these headings. The purification takes place in two stages, physical and spiritual.

1. Sthana suddhi (purity of place):

Place is a necessity for worship.  If that place is impure, then the worship will be ineffective.  Thus, before the puja proper, care is taken that  the place is cleansed physically, then decorated with auspicious elements and ritually purified with mantra.  Place refers not only to the earth, but to the atmosphere around one and the heavens above.  These must also be purified.

2. Dravya suddhi (purity of articles):

All of the articles to be offered must be physically pure according to scriptural standards. When physical purity is attained, the articles are then spiritualized with mantra and mudra.

3. Atma suddhi (purity of body):

One cannot approach the Lord with the material body. The physical body of the worshipper is purified first through bathing, wearing fresh cloth and tilaka etc, and then attains finer purification through the mental process of bhuta suddhi.  It is further spiritualized by nyasa and mantra water.

4. Citta Suddhi (purity of mind):

The mind is the most important element in regards to the worshipper.  If this is impure, then all other  forms of purification  become insignificant.  All the other types of purification are actually assistants to purification of mind.  This purification is enhanced by pranayama, and final spiritualization occurs by dhyana and manasa puja.

5. Mantra suddhi (purity of mantra):

The mantra given by guru with which one worships the deity is important in pancaratric puja, for sound is the most powerful method of associating with the Lord.   Mantra must be given by a bona fide guru if one wishes to discover its full potency. If the mantra is covered by impurity, or if one commits offense, then its effect will be less.  One should be careful therefore not to commit offense, and pronounce the mantras properly.

6. Murti Suddhi (purity of the murti):

The form of the Lord one must be physically cleansed by water and cloth, and by mantra before worshipping.

When these six suddhis are perfected, one can offer the external articles of worship and attain success.  The worship may be divided as follows:

1.  basic physical purification of place , articles and body, before the puja proper;

2. subtle purification of these elements and spiritualization of body and mind as the first step in worship, called purvanga karmani;

3.  preliminary worship, such as guru puja;

4. worship of the murti in the mind;
5. worship using the external articles;

6. concluding activities to enforce the idea of full surrender to the deity;

7. activities of the day which are favorable for the development of devotion to the Lord, ie all types of devotional service.
This manual treats the central three topics in detail and touches on the first.  For more details on the first and last topics, one should consult the manual on daily activities (nitya kriya).


The purvanga karmas are treated in some detail, but one should understand that the same result- purification and attainment of spiritual form- is already achieved if one has pure bhakti. Ultimately, Krsna accepts the devotion.

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

Therefore the preparatory activities are less important for the person qualified with sincerity and devotion.  And if one performs all of the purvanga karmas and rules of offering upacaras according to scripture but does so with no interest to attain pure bhakti, then  all of ones activites are simply dry rituals.  The practising devotee should accept those rules which  assist development of pure bhakti in serving his deity.


1. Preliminary Sthana Suddhi (Cleaning place):

Directly after the mangala aratrika, the deity room should be thoroughly cleansed with water. Stone floors are cleansed with water, but if contamination is serious they may be washed with cow dung.  Cleaning the temple is a devotional activity which engages the whole body and is glorified in the scriptures.  Cleaning the temple is equivalent to cleaning the heart.

     sammarjanan tu yah kuryat purusah kesavalaye
     rajas tamobhyam nirmuktah sa bhaven natra samsayah

One who cleans the temple of visnu becomes free from raja and  tama guna without doubt.
                             Visnu Dharmottaram

     padapitham ca krsnasya vilva patrena gharsayet
     usnambuna ca praksalya sarva papaih pramucyate

One should clean the Lord's simahasana using warm water and  scrubbing with vilva leaves .  By doing this one becomes free from all sins.
                               Narasimha Purana

According to the scriptures, the nirmalya (garlands and flowers worn or used by the Lord on the previous day) must be removed from the Lord's room before the sunrise, otherwise one incurs sin.

     trsitah pasavo baddhah kanyaka ca rajasvala
     devata ca sa nirmalya hanti punyam purakrtam
A bound animal who is thristy, an unmarried daughter who has come of age, and a deity with nirmalya left after the dawn are causes for loss of all previous pious activities.
                            Atri Samhita

After the room is cleansed, it may be decorated with mandalas made from rice flour, gober and colors.  Garlands, flags and banana trunks may be installed for auspiciousness.

2. Preliminary Dravya Suddhi:

All articles that have previously been used in worship of the Lord must be thoroughly washed before using for worship again.  As well, any item which has contacted anything impure must be properly washed.  Different articles attain purity in different ways.

Copper, brass, bell-metal, iron, tin and lead items may be cleansed by ash, tamarind and water.  If touched by a low class person, these items should be  scrubbed three times with these cleansing agents.

Metal should be heated in fire to the point that it does not melt to purify it of contact with meat, wine, blood, stool, a dead body, or a woman in her period.

If metal articles are not spotted or dirty and have not contacted impure objects, they may be cleansed by simply washing with pure water.

Stone articles are purified by washing with water.  If contamination is serious, then the stone article should be buried for a week, then heated in fire.

Wood items are cleansed by scrubbing with earth, gober and water.

Clay items are purified by fire.  They cannot be purified if touched by wine, urine, stool, spit, pus etc.  They should in that case be discarded.

Cotton articles are cleansed by washing with soap and water, then drying in the sun and  wind.

Wool, silk, and hemp (jute) items are cleansed by sprinkling with water, and then hanging in the sun. If contamination is more serious they may be scrubbed wtih mustard seeds and dried in the sun.
Cloth articles difficult to wash because of jewels or other items sewn into them may be cleansed by sprinkling them with water and exposing them to sun and wind.

Milk, ghee and yoghurt may be cleansed by removing the impurities if possible.  Ghee is also purified by heating. If contamination is serious, the article may be discarded.

Grains are cleansed by sprinkling with water and removing the bad parts.

If food has been touched by hair, bone, stool, urine, dead bodies, salive from drooling or sneezing, or it the food is eaten by mice or other animals or by insects or worms, it cannot be offered to the Lord.

Articles which have been offered to the Lord become the prasad of the Lord and cannot be re-offered to the Lord, as in the case of foods.  Those containers or instruments used repeatedly for offering must be washed thoroughly before being used again for offerings, as in the case of ghee lamps.  Articles such as flowers and incense may be left near the deity after offering to him so that he may enjoy them further.  However if these articles are offered to the devotees for their enjoyment , they cannot be again placed near the Lord for his enjoyment.

Since contamination spreads by touch, one should be careful not to mix used articles with unused articles, or to touch offered items to unoffered items.  One should be careful to see that while offering an article during aratrika, offered water, flowers, ghee etc. do not fall upon the unoffered upacaras.  Thus a thorough knowledge of what is pure and impure and how to attain and maintain physical purity of items is prerequisite to perorming deity worship.

3. Preliminary Atma Suddhi:

Physical purity of the body is given much importance in vedic society.  The body and its holes are cleansed after waking in the morning by water and earth (or soap), by brushing the teeth, and by submerging oneself in water.

As contamination spreads by touch, the worshipper must be careful to avoid touching impure items such as the holes of the body, hair, the lower part of the body, the cloth covering the lower body, feet, floor, or any impure item (stool, urine, blood, fat, marrow, bone, tears, ear wax, phelgm etc).  Offered articles are considered impure for one who is going to offer fresh articles. Therefore the worshiper must be careful to avoid touching offered items.  Before touching an unoffered item he should wash his hands.  The water used to wash hands should not be thrown in such a way to contaminate other objects.  The left hand , considered impure, should not touch the deity.

A person must be dressed in clean cloth.  Proper dress consists of two pieces of cloth, upper and lower.  Sometimes the upper cloth is tied around the waist for convenience. Cloth which is stained, torn,eaten by insects, burned, too short or too long, without a tail tucked in the back, washed by a laundry man, wet or dirty is improper.  Cotton cloth becomes impure after wearing once, and must be washed and dried to regain purity.  Silk or wool maintains purity even wearing many times, but silk must be washed after eating, sleeping or passing nature in it.  Kaupina must also be clean.

Decorating the body with marking of the vaisnava is a step to spiritualize the body with the names of the Lord, and assuming all the recommended ornaments of a vaisnava creates ones identity as a servant of the Lord.

4. Preliminary Citta Suddhi:

The  person should have been purified  through the samskara of Vaisnava initiation, by which he has received Vaisnava mantras for worshiping the Lord, and by his daily vaisnava sadhana or acara.

With these prerequisites, the puja proper can begin.