Home Altar Standards
1. Decide the minimum standard for your home altar maintenance and deity worship
2. Write it down. Even better, post it. That way it becomes a sort of unbreakable declaration. In other words, don't post anything you can't handle regularly.
3. Beyond that can be extras according to availablity, desire, etc. For example, offering fresh flowers and incense when they become available.
Here's a sample of a basic standard for a home altar with pictures of the Lord and His associates:
Carefully wipe each picture dust free.
Wipe the altar before and after removing each bhoga offering;
Offer bhoga at least once a day
Polish deity cups
HOME ALTAR CHALLENGES One can gradually add things to the initial standard, but only what is sure to be maintained. Here are a few examples for how standards may be raised:
- Learning to consecrate water (samana arghya) and sip acamana properly. Learning full set of acamana mantras.
- Awakening the Lord and putting Him to rest each morning and evening.
- Offering another cup of fresh water before putting the deity to rest.
- Memorizing the mula mantras for each deity being served.
- Keeping a curtain to close on the altar when the Lord eats or rests.
- Offering arati at least once a day. Full artik includes offerings of incense, ghee wicks, water, cloth, flowers, chamara whisk and peacock fan (during the warm seasons). Dhupa or a shortened artik consists of incense, glowers and the chamara whisk,
- Wearing fresh clothing for every offering cooked or arati performed, etc. This means clothing that has not been eaten in, slept in or worn while using the restroom.
- Not sitting on any bedding or any impure place or without a seat when clothing is clean.
- Learning to drink brahmana style when dressed in suchi clothes and drinking a beverage.
- Cooking and serving everything freshly cooked with the freshest ingredients possible. Nothing canned or frozen or pre-prepared in a factory with preservatives and additives. Preparing everything from scratch to ensure high standard of purity for Krishna's pleasure.
- Avoid using anything prepared by meat eaters, since their cooking pots have been contaminated
- Kitchen cleanliness before, during and immediately after eating.
- Using two sinks, two dish racks and two separate sponges, suchi and muchi.
- Keeping deity items out of the muchi sink.
- Washing kitchen towels separately from personal laundry.
- Not eating in the kitchen.
- Transferring cooked offerings from the Lord’s pots into separate serving containers, pitchers, etc. instead of serving from the cooking pots.
- Washing hands before anyone can take seconds OR a server serving everyone assembled for prasadam first, then honoring prasadam after everyone is fully satisfied (the highest standard).
- Wiping the eating place immediately after eating.
- Keeping no leftovers in the refrigerator and distributing them.
- Keeping the kitchen very clean on a daily basis and neatly organized. Thoroughly deep cleaning the entire kitchen at least once a week.
- Supplying the Lord fresh water at every meal.
- Supplying fresh tulasi leaves daily for puja and offerings.
- Growing and keeping Tulasi Maharani plant at home.
- Polishing the deity cups daily or on Ekadasis
- Not blowing on anything clean such as a candle. Snuff it out instead.
- Learning prayers for forgiveness at the conclusion of worship.
- Having a entire room set aside as the puja room in the house for where the altar is set up and for daily worship, and with a bell at the entrance.
HOME ALTAR WISH LIST: More items to add to worship, if and whenever possible:
- bowls, spoons and tray for deity bathing
- towels for after deity bathing
- sandlewood pulp and grinding stone
- (preferably edible instead of synthetic) camphor
- ghee wicks
- choice scented flowers,
- flower garlands and learning various garland making techniques
- plate covers for covering food offerings from the eyes of others before offering,
- seating for the deities while eating (asanas)
- roasted fennel seeds for Lord to chew after eating, small side offering of salt and slices of lemon with noon bhoga offering, a daily sweet...
- deity shoes
- materials for clothing construction and embellishments
- crowns and or turbans
- deity shoes
- a mirror for morning darshan
- deity beds and bedding and night outfits
- Altar decor including flower arrangements, decorative back drops; images of cows, peacocks, elephants; rangoli, and lamps for Kartik (diyas) and other festival and seasonal decor.
Deity worship material is available for more information. Also its a good idea to take note of and ask experienced devotees about their home altars during visits to their homes