A pooja room, also known as a puja or altar room in Hindu tradition, is the center of the home. It may be as simple as a dedicated shelf in a corner or as elaborate as a mini-temple set up in a room of the house, but its purpose is to provide a focal point for daily worship of the deities sacred to that household. Pujas are best located in the northeast corner of the house, an auspicious direction. Prayers should be offered to the east or west, so the altar location is important in the space.

View of lamps and pooja material
credit: Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images
An ornate puja altar contains offerings of fresh foods, incense and flowers to the Hindu deities.

Step 1

Locate the pooja away from the bathroom and on the ground floor, not in the basement. Paint the walls a light, calming shade such as antique white, soft maize or blue, or blush pink. The floor may be left bare or carpeted with seagrass and hand-loomed Indian rugs, or low-pile wall-to-wall carpet.

Step 2

Set up an altar for statues or murtis of the gods and goddesses in the east or west areas of the space, ideally on a wood platform. As each Hindu in the family may be devoted to a different deity, there may be more than one altar in the room. Statues of the gods should not face each other directly and you should not place more than one murti of the same god in a pooja room.

Step 3

Place only undamaged statues in the pooja. Dispose of any damaged or broken murtis by immersing them in a body of flowing water, such as a river.

Step 4

Cover the altar or the space beneath each statue with an embroidered silk cloth or another fine textile. Leave room on the altar or set up a platform in front of it for small bowls, plates, incense burners and silver containers. Burn candles, oil lamps and incense to honor the gods and send the smoke of prayers up to heaven.

Step 5

Select handmade, precious metal or otherwise fine bowls, baskets and plates to keep on the altar for water, sweets, fresh fruit and flowers. Change the offerings every day, being certain to remove anything that is starting to fade. Vigil lights and candles in the pooja room should be protected from any breeze, contained in a secure glass chimney or lamp, set in sand or water and entirely off-limits to small children and pets.

Step 6

Set meditation pillows and prayer mats along a back wall or around the room for worship. Place a shoe rack by the door, if the pooja room can be entered from outside the home. It is a sign of enormous disrespect to wear shoes in a temple or pooja room.

Step 7

Make room for pitchers and other water basins, as well as soft linen drying cloths. Honor the religious icons, symbols and images of the living gods, by bathing them in rosewater daily and adorning them in silk robes, jeweled necklaces, garlands of flowers and malas -- Hindu prayer beads. Avoid covering the faces of the statues. Scatter flower petals, coins, shells and other beautiful things around the bases of the statues.