Hinduism and the Home Altar

People associate all kinds of things with altars. Some associate them with the “dark arts”; those who are more knowledgable in neo-paganism and the psychic arts know that they are used for focusing energy, raising positive intention and honoring life in its many aspects. But fewer people know that practicing Hindus are the kings and queens of home altars, often decorating their family homes with multiple devotional altars to the various gods and goddesses of Hinduism. The images of gods and goddesses included on these altars are referred to as “murtis.” (From Wikipedia:)

In Hinduism, a murti (Devanagari: मूर्ति), or murthi, typically refers to an image which expresses a Divine Spirit (murta). Meaning literally “embodiment”, a murti is a representation of a divinity, made usually of stone, wood, or metal, which serves as a means through which a divinity may be worshiped. Hindus consider a murti worthy of serving as a focus of divine worship only after the divine is invoked in it for the purpose of offering worship. The depiction of the divinity must reflect the gestures and proportions outlined in religious tradition, the Murti is like a way to communicate with the abstract one god, it is a means of communication with the one god orBrahman in Hinduism. Murti is synonymous with statue or idol.

Houma Today reports:

The altar on C.K. Hiranya Gowda’s kitchen counter is small but elegant.

There’s a small sandalwood sculpture of Sri Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu deity, along with other small sculptures of Hanuman and Devi, two other deities.

A small oil lamp burns near the altar. Fresh flowers and fruit are set out as offerings.

Every day Gowda, a retired ear, nose and throat doctor, starts his day with prayer and meditation in front of the altar. It’s a practice he learned from his parents while growing up in rural India. Every day his prayer is the same.

“I pray that God gives me the strength to do the best I can do,” Gowda said.

The Vishnu exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville is bringing attention to home shrines or altars. Gowda’s altar is one of five Hindu home shrines featured, and it’s on display till the end of May. But Hindus aren’t alone in their practice: Buddhists, Catholics and even a Nashville Lutheran use them for worship.

What do you think—how can murtis and sacred imagery help us in our practice?

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4 thoughts on “Hinduism and the Home Altar

  1. Whispering Goddesses


    Hindu religion is the oldest known religion and from my studies I see that all other forms of worship and religion have signatures of the Hindu religion. It is clear that Hindu practice was well under way thousands of years before there were even people in Europe. The Pagan’s in Europe clearly were influenced by Hinduism as all forms of Pagan, Witchcraft and Wicca have very strong signatures of Hinduism. From what I have seen Hinduism has played a major role in the development of all of today’s religions and worship.

  2. ivyx5198

    Awesome! I have had alters for years. I chant in front of mind. I also burn incense while I chant. There is a belief that the incense carries the prayers to the Divine. I clean mine every Monday. I throw week old food offerings to my animal and bug friends. The weekly cleaning is really important. Thank you for your time:)
    Ivy x5198

  3. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    Loved your little article Krishna Bill……

    As a Wiccan, I’m familiar with preparing a Wiccan alter, ….but I also love learning about other cultures and religions and the various other ways that they celebrate their faith and beliefs.

    Blessed Be )O(
    Gina Rose ext.9500

  4. abigailx9570

    Very nice …..I have several in my home ….amongst all my worldly travel items pretty ecclectic yet everyone loves the energy. It’s all about world love and humanity from all cultures.

    Many Blessings


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