When you look at a puja thali, it has many colours. There’s haldi, kumkum (sindoor), abeer which is black, but ‘abeer’ also means red. There’s a white powder and gulal (pink).
Colours are important. It’s almost as if we are playing Holi with the gods. The colours in a puja thali are to excite various sense organs (indriyaan). Fragrant things for smell (like, chandan), different colours for the eyes, a bell for sound, prasad for taste, a lamp and its glowing light (deep) for touch.
If you ever wondered the significance of all the things that go into a puja thali, here are the reasons – from India’s bestselling mythologist, Devdutt Pattanaik.
In earlier times, women used to bathe with turmeric to give their skin a golden glow. In Puri temple, Krishna’s sister Subhadra has a yellow face and is called Haldi-mukhi (haldi-faced).
Red kumkum is associated with female gods and you’ll find it mostly in temples of the Devi.
After you apply Chandan paste, you have to patiently wait for a while before its colour starts showing. Its fragrance is released immediately. This is a symbol of karma. Once you work, you will get the fruit of your labour.
Anything you burn is reduced to bhasm (ashes). You don’t have to work for it. Finally, you’ll be turned to ash. Shiva, who is a bairagi (an ascetic), smears it all over his body.
Haldi-kumkum-rice together probably conveys that to grow anything you need two things.
What are the other important things that go in your puja thali? What is their significance? We’d love to know!