Car Puja

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What is a car puja? A car puja is a Hindu ceremony blessing a car so as to keep it from bad influnences and to bless it in God's name.

Why is this done? Basically, Hindus bless all implements or items to be used which are used for daily life. This is true of things like Homes, Cars, Motorized vehicles of all types, and home implements like appliances (mixers, grinders, stoves, tvs, stereos, etc.).

When is this done? It is done at the inception of the implement- like when one buys a new car, home, etc. People try to do the puja before using the implement, but this is not always done now a days. So long it is done soon as possible after it's purchase is ok. Concluding the first puja, yearly there is a festival called "Vijaya Dasami". On this day, every October/ November (before Diwali), Goddess Saraswathi is worshipped. Goddess Saraswathi, pictured to the left, is the goddess of learning. On this day, not only are implements, vehicles and appliances worshiped, but also books as for the Goddess of Learning. Children await this day, since they get a break from studies!

I have placed several photos in this document, and will try to explain this puja as best I can. Puja details may vary from pujari (Hindu priest) to pujari. Please click on the photo to see larger sizes.

These two photos are of me washing my car before the puja. In the top most, I am hosing the car. I am standing so far from the car since the water coming from the hose has much power, so if I stand closer, I would have gotten very wet! In the bottom photo, I am washing the car with a special 'car brush' which is hooked to the hose. This works very well to get off the dirt, since for some reason when I used a rag to wipe the dirt off, when the car dried off, you could see the wipe marks. The car was not scratched by the rag, but the rag was hard to get clean with each wipe, so the rag was actually wiping the car while it was dirty.

I was washing my car in front of my sister's house.

Step 1: The person who owns the car is the one participating in the puja with the pujari, the others are on lookers. In this photo I am with the pujari (to my right) and my mom (to my left). The first thing I had to do was accept 'holy water' into my right hand and wash my hands for the puja. This was repeated three times. In temples it is a rule to accept things into the right hand, I do this by placing my left hand under my right hand.

Here I am waiting for the next instructions. In these pujas, usually the person who the puja is being done for doesn't know what is going on next, unless that person has studied it before hand. This is normally true, even and especially in Hindu weddings! Hence, one reason they are so chaotic.

Step 2: For three repetitions, I am accepting rice from the pujari to sprinkle onto the front of the car. Others in the photo: to my left, my mom, left front, my niece, Skye, and behind me, my friend, Radha.

Step 3: Pujari draws with the third finger of right hand (An auspicious finger, once someone told me a girl should apply kum kum to her forehead with this finger) a swatsika. This is drawn on the car with turmeric powder mixed with water. It does not stain the car. It can also be drawn with sandalwood paste.
Contrary to popular western belief, the Swatsika is an AUSPICIOUS (good luck) symbol. The Swatsika is over 5,000 years old, born in India. Swatsika means "to be well". To learn more about the Swatsika, follow these links:
The Real Swastika by Prash Trivedi

Step 4: After the swatsika is drawn, I am again given rice, for three repetitions, to bless the swatsika by sprinking rice on it. For each sprinkle, I am given mantras to recite. Following this step, in
Step 5, I will meditate on Lord Ganesha and recite holy mantras. One set of mantras include reciting 11 (I think - it was odd numbered) of the 1008 names of Lord Ganesha.

Step 6: Here, I have lit the insence sticks. The pujari took these and circled them around the swatsika three times in a clockwise direction, then took them inside the car around the steering wheel three times in a clockwise direction, reciting mantras. The remaining steps had not been photographed since the roll expired here, so I will describe the steps below.

Step 7: The pujari installed a small Ganesha idol near the steering wheel. This is actually not a normal step, as the person who wants the puja done needs to provide this. Temples in this country usually do not provide this. I will add a photo of this at a later time. (Not of the installation, but the interior of the car.) To install this Ganesha, there was a small puja which lasted five minutes. It is a small Ganesha which is enclosed in a small plastic case which can be opened. The flat Ganesha inside is made of silver and is attached to the plastic case. The pujari opened it, and had me put holy water inside it, then put rice in it three times each. Then he took out the rice and left three grains in it, closed the plastic case and attached it to the dash board behind the steering wheel - it should be located where the driver can see it- with the adhesive which was on the case.

Step 8: Coconut breaking. I purchased a coconut at the store ahead of time. In this step, the person who owns the car will break the coconut near the right front tire and sprinkle the coconut water on the tire. The coconut is kept as prasadam (holy food offering given to God during pujas. and eaten later.

Step 9: Breaking Lemons and driving three times. I purchased four lemons, the pujari put one under each tire. Then, I got into the car and drove it to the right side. There was a roundabout driveway in front of the temple, which I circled once. This, I guess, symbolizes to rid of bad influences (lemons breaking) from the vehicle. Some people drive around three times, and in some locations, like the Lakshmi Temple in Boston, the driver will drive around the temple itself. This was not possible at this location as the driveway did not encircle the temple.

Q and A about this puja:

Q:What do you need for this puja?
A:This varies slightly for the temple- but in general the things which are needed are four lemons, one coconut, and money to pay the pujari. Optional is the God idol to install. The rice and other things are provided by the temple.

Q: How do I set it up?
A: Call your local Hindu Temple and ask to set up an appointment. This is not always necesary, but it is a good thing to do so you don't show up on a holy day and not be able to get the pujari's time to do the puja, which took about 15-20 minutes. In addition to setting up the time, ask about the fee. In the Syracuse Hindu Mandir it costs $31 dollars. Usually the fee will end in 1- so it is an odd number. Even amounts are not considered auspicious (lucky). Also, inquire to the above needs you must provide (fruits, etc.).

Q: How can I perform car (vahana) puja on my own?
A: A simple way of doing a car puja on your own, without aid of a pujari has been answered by Pujariji of Hindu Temple of Rochester. Pujariji notes, "Keep it simple. Some kumkum, Some Haldi, Some Flowers. Put it on the Car's Hood. (If you are of artistic kind, draw an Om sign). Then take 4 fresh lemons and put one each under the wheels of the car. And the Drive over the lemons while praying to God (any God).

All photos taken on May 25, 2002 by Jennifer Polan.
This page has been visited times since June 30, 2002. Updated February 2004.