These books are compiled with the goal of explaining the hidden history, significance, and meaning of the mantras used in common Hindu puja rituals performed by the Bengalis to the Bengali immigrants. A book like this is desperately needed as both the language used in the rituals, Sanskrit, and the script in which the rituals are transcribed, Bengali, are foreign to their children and the parents.
Unlike the children growing up in India, children in the West are constantly challenged by their neighbors, peers, friends, and teachers to explain the basis of Hindu faith and belief. Growing up in India in the 1920s, I never faced this problem. Hindu rituals had always been a part of life, no questions asked. Thus, I strongly feel I should share my thoughts with my beloved grandchildren, growing up outside India.
Priesthood was our family trade. I learned all the rituals from my father, and started to perform puja rituals soon after receiving my sacred thread (Upanayan) at the age of twelve. Now I am 86 years old. But, like all other professional priests, I had no knowledge of Sanskrit, the language of Hindu puja rituals. We were trained to hear and remember (sruti and smriti) and stay away from explaining. In addition, my childhood days were spent under British rule when Sanskrit scholars remained obscure and learning Sanskrit was unfavorable. So I studied science and technology for a better future. Yet, the spirit of my ancestors never left me, and I had to perform pujas upon request from time to time. The community was satisfied with the ignorant professional priest as they devotedly watched Hindu rituals while praying in their own ways. God listened.
However, the Hindus of the twenty-first century were not satisfied with this. They demanded explanations of the rituals they inherited. My grandchildren were among them, and they regularly asked my late wife, Bibha Mukherjee, and me about the details of Vedic traditions. Instead of mimicking ritualistic actions, they wanted to understand the underlying meaning. I was overwhelmed by their enthusiasm. This book is the outcome of that call.
Spirituality has many facets that accept the natural diversity of the human mind. I am not worried whether my grandchildren are believers, nonbelievers, agnostics, or atheists. But I feel immensely satisfied to tell them my own story of how I came to depend on my Invisible Caretaker who was always beside me when I needed Him.
A series of ten books will be published under the title of “New Age Purohit Darpan” that will cover
ten important puja rituals of the Bengalis. I am thankful to the world community of open-minded spiritual seekers, Hindus and non-Hindus, who promoted this humble endeavor of mutual understanding. I have no words to express my gratitude for my coauthors and reviewers whose constant support made it possible to turn my dream into reality.
Kanai L. Mukherjee
New Age Purohit