Nowadays everyone does a Puja with an overwhelming use of akshatas.Akshatas are the substitute for everything starting from the dhyana/avahana mantras to tamboolam(betel leaves) in case you don't have them.

Akshatas:Whole rice grain mixed with a pinch of turmeric(some use kumkumam in place of turmeric) and a little bit of ghee/oil/water(optional).

A typical shodasaupachara Puja of Lord Ganesha is like this:

Here,when we say Mahaganpatim dhyami avahyami, it is understood that we need to sprinkle few akshatas on the idol of Ganesha to install life in the idol which is to remain there till the completion of the Puja.So aksathas replace the use of dhyana/avahana mantras .

Also,when we say asanam samarpayami we also sprinkle akshatas instead of offering an actual asanam(a seat for the Lord).Any of the the 16 upacharas that we don't have in real,we are to offer akshatas in place of each of them.

My question-Who propounded this method of Puja?Was it Adi Shankaracharya?

  • I've never heard of using Akshatas to substitute for steps in a ritual. What part of India are you from? I'm from Tamil Nadu, and I don't think I've seen anyone do that. – Keshav Srinivasan Feb 21 '16 at 7:23
  • @KeshavSrinivasan I have personally asked Sri S P tata from astrojyoti.com and he has confirmed whatever upacharas you don't have in puja you can offer akshatas instead.That includes the dhyan avahana steps too.And he is a telugu brahmin .So this method is more popular in southern parts of india i guess.In my place(west bengal) i have never seen anyone who does puja employing such methods.Possibly i'm the only one doing so :).And that's primarily because i learned puja mostly on my own from the web.Also in this video Sri Sitarama Sastry is doing puja using akshatas like i have explained. – Rickross Feb 21 '16 at 7:33
  • youtube.com/watch?v=Ta8ylRCSbVQ And sri sastry is a tamil priest if i'm not mistaken.I had also asked Mr Benjamin,the uploader of the video,and he confirmed that sri sastry is offering whole rice mixed with turmeric as is said in the question. – Rickross Feb 21 '16 at 7:33
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    @Rickross Akshata is generally use for the worship of Lord Shiva Refer:Skandapurana so i don't think that Adi-shankaracharya propounded this method. – Eshan Singh Feb 21 '16 at 7:46
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    @Rickross yeah you are right in my state i've ever seen the use of Akshata in Every Puja.. – Eshan Singh Feb 21 '16 at 7:56

The larger question is whether such substitution is allowed by the sruti. In fact the texts allow it. Wherever the person is unable to provide the actual requirement of the ritual, he may substitute it with another. Such a substitute is called "pratinidhi". For instance, while offering an asana, were a coil of darbha grass is not available, unbroken rice may be offered in its stead. Even while a pratinidhi substance is used, the mantra is unchanged, referring to the substitute as if it was the original substance only. For instance, after the soma plant becoming unavailable, priests would offer the putika plant as soma, but the mantras continue to refer to it as soma.

One should remember that rituals are internally consisten and formal, the form is very important, the content can be substituted.

Srimatham.org lists the following upacharas for which akshat is to be offered - aasanam, vastram, upavitam, aabharanam

As for as who propounded it? Adi Sankara couldnt have because Upachara ritual is Agamic and Vedic ritual was current when Sankara was around. But all I am saying is the idea of pratinidhi was already present in the practice of vedic ritual.

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    It is not necessary that should be allowed by Sruti. Puja rituals are mostly based on Agamas. Also, I now know that even water (udakam) can be offered in place of an Upachara that is missing. At the time when I posted the Q I had very little knowledge about the references. The mantras have to be modified accordingly though like - ... arthe udakam/arthe akshatan samarpayami. – Rickross Jul 30 '18 at 5:51
  • they need not be. Infact this may be so with agamic mantras. Whereas the mantras of the sruti texts are immutable. So even though a pratnidhi substance is used, the mantra will continue to refer to it as the original substance. This is my understanding. – Nishkam Razdan Jul 31 '18 at 17:12

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