“Sampoorna Laksmi Puja” offers explanations of rituals you may have taken for granted.

When arts like classical music can be learnt via the internet, what’s to stop us communing with our other ancient traditions with the help of computer technology? With Diwali round the corner, Strumm Entertainment has come out with a DVD, “Sampoorna Lakshmi Puja” that aims to be “a guide to perform the complete Lakshmi puja at your home.”

What is notable about this DVD is the explanation offered at the beginning. A number of rituals are clarified in a lucid manner and even those who consider themselves confirmed devotees are reminded that the prayer does not reside in the performance of repetitive actions. “In the Gita when Lord Krishna says, ‘I accept the leaves, flowers, fruits and water offered with devotion to me,’ we should not think that the puja consists of offering flowers, fruits, leaves and water,” says the venerable speaker. “We should know the deeper meaning behind the words. What it means is that we should offer our heart as leaves, (apne man rupi patra), the flowers of our good qualities (sadgun rupi phool), the fruits of our good deeds (satkarm rupi phal), and oblations of the tears of true devotion (aur shraddha se nikle aansu).”

It would be difficult to follow this prescription and be a hypocrite.

The illustrations and decorations are of the calendar art variety, using just about every colour, plenty of tinsel and multimedia techniques — computer animation helping along the flames of the brass lamps and adding a ‘supernatural’ light to the rather nice line drawing of Ganesha and the usual Amar Chitra Katha version of Lakshmi — but there is a cheerfulness about it. With the sensible commentary one can take these things in stride.

The DVD goes on to show a ‘dramatised’ puja in which a family has invited a set of priests — Ved Murti Shri Mandar Khaladkar leading a team of five pandits — to guide the householder and his wife through the Lakshmi puja, while other members of the family sit around.

In an era of communal polarisation when the sensible and peace loving shy away from overtly following religious rituals, the advice offered here places the ancient tradition of puja ritual and prayer in perspective by emphasising that it is “our deeds (karm) that take us towards attainment of the Almighty,” and that when someone breaks a coconut before starting up a new computer or a doctor prays before beginning an operation, this is not an example of blind faith but “worship of the work or duty itself.”

Another interesting part of the commentary is the section on symbolism of a puja. Pujas are performed out of devotion and also for the fulfilment of desires, says the speaker. “But beyond all these, puja is an opportunity to look within oneself. It is the expression of inner feelings.” This is why, he says, it is important to understand the symbolism.

Besides, the fact that a tradition is thousands of years old is not the automatic criterion to declare it worthy of emulation. “Old is not gold every time, but gold is always gold.” The need is to test it, he notes.

While Lakshmi can be worshipped any day, why is Diwali special? Diwali falls on a moonless night, after which the moon will start to gain fresh brightness, and Lakshmi is the Goddess who brings samriddhi (prosperity), so just like the moon’s renewed phases, the health and prosperity of the family, it is believed, will increase. The kalash or brass vessel full of water — a common sight at all puja setups — stands for the body (kalash) and its chetana shakti (the water inside).

Other objects and actions that are part of the puja are cursorily explained. At least from the point of view of arousing interest, this DVD is a good beginning.

Editing and direction are by Nitin Washikar; songs by the Brahma Naad group led by Rattan Mohan Sharma; script by Pravin Joshi. “Sampoorna Lakshmi Puja” is produced by Strumm Entertainment. Rs.299.