Hindu practices generally involve seeking awareness of God and sometimes also seeking blessings from Devas. Therefore, Hinduism has developed numerous practices meant to help one think of divinity in the midst of everyday life. Hindus can engage in pūjā (worship or veneration),either at home or at a temple. At home, Hindus often create a shrine with icons dedicated to their chosen form(s) of God. Temples are usually dedicated to a primary deity along with associated subordinate deities though some commemorate multiple deities. Visiting temples is not obligatory, and many visit temples only during religious festivals. Hindus perform their worship through icons (murtis). The icon serves as a tangible link between the worshiper and God. The image is often considered a manifestation of God, since God is immanent. The Padma Puranastates that the mūrti is not to be thought of as mere stone or wood but as a manifest form of the Divinity. A few Hindu sects, such as the Ārya Samāj, do not believe in worshiping God through icons.
Hinduism has a developed system of symbolism and iconography to represent the sacred in art, architecture, literature and worship. These symbols gain their meaning from the scriptures, mythology, or cultural traditions. The syllable Om(which represents the Parabrahman) and the Swastika sign (which symbolizes auspiciousness) have grown to represent Hinduism itself, while other markings such as tilaka identify a follower of the faith. Hinduism associates many symbols, which include the lotus, chakra and veena, with particular deities.
Mantras are invocations, praise and prayers that through their meaning, sound, and chanting style help a devotee focus the mind on holy thoughts or express devotion to God/the deities. Many devotees perform morning ablutions at the bank of a sacred river while chanting the Gayatri Mantra or Mahamrityunjaya mantras. The epic Mahabharata extols Japa(ritualistic chanting) as the greatest duty in the Kali Yuga (what Hindus believe to be the current age). Many adoptJapa as their primary spiritual practice.
The vast majority of Hindus engage in religious rituals on a daily basis. Most Hindus observe religious rituals at home. but observation of rituals greatly vary among regions, villages, and individuals. Devout Hindus perform daily chores such as worshiping at dawn after bathing (usually at a family shrine, and typically includes lighting a lamp and offering foodstuffs before the images of deities), recitation from religious scripts, singing devotional hymns, meditation, chanting mantras, reciting scriptures etc. A notable feature in religious ritual is the division between purity and pollution. Religious acts presuppose some degree of impurity or defilement for the practitioner, which must be overcome or neutralised before or during ritual procedures. Purification, usually with water, is thus a typical feature of most religious action. Other characteristics include a belief in the efficacy of sacrifice and concept of merit, gained through the performance of charity or good works, that will accumulate over time and reduce sufferings in the next world.Vedic rites of fire-oblation (yajna) are now only occasional practices, although they are highly revered in theory. In Hindu wedding and burial ceremonies, however, the yajña and chanting of Vedic mantras are still the norm. The rituals, upacharas, change with time. For instance, in the past few hundred years some rituals, such as sacred dance and music offerings in the standard Sodasa Upacharas set prescribed by the Agama Shastra, were replaced by the offerings of rice and sweets.
Occasions like birth, marriage, and death involve what are often elaborate sets of religious customs. In Hinduism, life-cycle rituals include Annaprashan (a baby's first intake of solid food),Upanayanam ("sacred thread ceremony" undergone by upper-caste children at their initiation into formal education) and Śrāddha(ritual of treating people to a meal in return for prayers to 'God' to give peace to the soul of the deceased). For most people in India, the betrothal of the young couple and the exact date and time of the wedding are matters decided by the parents in consultation with astrologers. On death, cremation is considered obligatory for all except sanyasis, hijra, and children under five. Cremation is typically performed by wrapping the corpse in cloth and burning it on a pyre.
Following pilgrimage sites are most famous amongst Hindu devotees:
Char Dham (Famous Four Pilgrimage sites): The four holy sites Puri,Rameswaram,Dwarka, and Badrinath (or alternatively the Himalayan towns ofBadrinath, Kedarnath,Gangotri, and Yamunotri) compose the Char Dham (four abodes) pilgrimage circuit.
Kumbh Mela: The Kumbh Mela (the "pitcher festival") is one of the holiest of Hindu pilgrimages that is held every four years; the location is rotated amongAllahabad,Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain.
Old Holy cities as per Puranic Texts: Varanasi formerly known as Kashi,Allahabadformerly known as Prayag, Haridwar-Rishikesh, Mathura-Vrindavan, and Ayodhya.
Major Temple cities: Puri, which hosts a major Vaishnava Jagannath temple and Rath Yatra celebration; Katra, home to the Vaishno Devi temple; Three comparatively recent temples of fame and huge pilgrimage are Shirdi, home to [Sai_Baba_of_Shirdi]],Tirumala - Tirupati, home to theTirumala Venkateswara Temple; and Sabarimala,whereSwami Ayyappan is worshipped.
Shakti Peethas: Another important set of pilgrimages are the Shakti Peethas, where the Mother Goddess is worshipped, the two principal ones being Kalighat and Kamakhya.
While there are different yet similar pilgrimage routes in different parts of India, all are respected equally well, according to the universality of Hinduism.