Can one use ghee coated Akshadhai (Akshat raw rice) for daily pooja in place of flowers?
What is the best material to be used in absence of flowers to perform pooja?
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Krishna Says in the Gita 9.26:
patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati tad aham bhakty-upahrtam asnami prayatatmanah
patram—a leaf; puṣpam—a flower; phalam—a fruit; toyam—water; yaḥ—whoever; me—unto Me; bhaktyā—with devotion; prayacchati—offers; tat—that; aham—I; bhakti-upahṛtam—offered in devotion; aśnāmi—accept; prayata-ātmanaḥ—of one in pure consciousness.
TRANSLATION - If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit a water, I will accept it.
Some believe the purport of this verse is to say this is the designation of what the Lord asks for, and therefore we should not offer other things. However, so many Saints have emphasized that it is the devotion that counts, and so I believe this verse is really emphasizing the simplicity of offering even just a leaf with devotion is okay. We should not be so concerned with following all the complexities of puja if they intrude on our devotional bhava. Swami Satyananda Saraswati is someone who has taught me this in particular, that if one is lacking the objects asked for in the puja, then offer it with your heart. I am sorry I cannot provide more specific reference than this, but his website and puja instructions are on shreemaa.org . The purpose of puja is to offer love and devotion to the divine, so if one cultivates this in the heart, then it has been said it can be more powerful than puja with the actual items.
I believe it is up to your own feeling of devotion. I have found in my own experience that it has changed over time. I used to try to replace the items with other things, but now I find myself doing more of manisaka puja (from the mind and heart). Do what suits you best, remember that the devotion is the primary purpose of puja, God sees that above all recipe or protocol for puja. There are many stories in Hindu lore about this.
Simply: The best substitute is love from your heart. How you show that love is up to you.
Yes. You can offer akshahatha (raw rice mixed with saffron powder and kumkum). This has been recommended by all acharyas - shankara, ramanuja and madhwa.
You can also make a mala from raw cotton. Spread the cotton in round shape in regular intervals from a thread. This you can offer it as mala.
The best substitute for flowers/leaves for puja is freshly made akshatha.