From a glimpse at the literature related to Hinduism, one may see that a person, who declares himself a Hindu, has an enormous responsibility to shoulder. This responsibility comes both at an individual and at a social level. The social responsibility is in upholding the laws of Varna Dharma for the benefit of society at large. At an individual level, his responsibility is classified under three categories, termed as –
1. Nitya (Daily obligations)
2. Naimittika (Periodical obligations)
3. Kaamya (Preferential)
These are the ‘Karma’ or activities which an individual would have to engage in, only if he has certain wishes to be fulfilled. For example, in the days of yore, certain Yajnyas (fire sacrifices) such as Putrakaameshti were performed if one desired to have a son. But in today’s form of practicing Hinduism, one would very much visit a shrine wherein the presiding deity, fulfills the specific wishes of the devotee. ‘Sikkil’ a shrine dedicated to Lord Subrahmanya in Tamil Nadu helps remove obstacles in a marriage proposal, Lord Jayantinaatha, the presiding deity of Tiruchendur Temple again in Tamil Nadu frees the devotee from many ailments.
There are innumerable shrines that are thronged by hordes of devotees to have their wishes granted or obstacles removed. They are called as “Parihaara Sthalas”. Apart from this, special worships, charities (Daana), etc. which are not mandatory, but certainly help in attaining the specific benefits that come under this category of Kaamya Karma.
These are the ‘actions’ (karma) that are mandatory, but they are performed on specific days throughout the year. The non-performance of these is believed to result in incurring the sin resulting from the fault of undermining one’s responsibility.
They can be classified as the acts to propitiate the deities (Devataaraadhana) and the acts to propitiate the manes (Pitru-Pooja). The daily obligations of a Hindu have been summed up as Pancha Mahaa Yajnya i.e.
Deva Yajna :
This included the daily oblations in the dawn, mid-day, and dusk to Savit, the Sun-God along with the performance of Gayatri Japa along with fire-ritual either Agnihotra or Aupaasana. The Nitya (daily) Panchaayatana worship is also a part of Deva Yajna.
Brahma Yajna :
Brahma means Vedas. The daily practice of the study of Vedas with its ancillary sciences is called Brahma Yajna. It also involves water-offering (tarpana) to the Rishis who were responsible for giving us this tradition of Vedic learning. Apart from this, Paaraayana (systematic regular chanting) or recital of Raamaayana and of other holy texts may consider being a part of Brahma Yajna. Some of the texts used for regular Paaraayana (recital) are Sundara Kaanda of Vaalmeeki Raamaayana, Bhagavad Geeta, Durgaa Saptashati, Naaraayaneeya, Raamcharitmaanas etc.
Pitru Yajna :
As a part of daily Brahma Yajnya, tarpana to one’s manes is a part of Maadhyaahnnika (mid-noon) rite.
Bhoota Yajna :
Those who practice the daily fire-ritual, take up Vaishvadeva Yajnya, in which after offering the oblations to fire, offerings to other life-forms to are made. But in every Hindu household, there is a custom of offering rice or food to crow before partaking it. This is called ‘Griha Bali.
Atithi Yajna :
Honoring a guest as God has been a dictate of the Vedas – “Atithi Devo Bhava”. Following this cardinal principle, every Hindu household welcomes its guests with honors and extends all the formalities of hospitality. It was deemed as a duty of a householder to look forward to hosting a guest.
Hindus in India have extended this warm hospitality to many nations and followers of various faiths, and at times have been at the receiving end due to their magnanimity, but India still continues to cherish this idea. Apart from these five duties, a Hindu begins his day with the memory of sage-saint philosophers, holy rivers, pilgrim centers, and legendary people. A bird’s eye the view is attempted, to just bring out an infinitesimal part of their glories.