CREDOS : My altar — I

Our family has moved many times over the years. Every time we packed our bags and moved to a new home, we’d scope out the new digs. My sister and I would call dibs on the rooms we liked. My mother would check out the kitchen, to see if it was big enough for our needs. And while we were worrying about size and comfort, my father would scope the house for a particular spot or room to assign as the home altar.

In the larger houses, my father would check out the rooms that faced north or east, while in the smaller apartments, he calculated which corner of the master bedroom faced northeast. That’s because, according to Vaastu Shashtra, the ancient Indian system of architecture, the northeast direction is considered auspicious. It’s said to be the direction of Isaana, the lord of all quarters, associated with religion, luck, and faith.

Once he’d chosen the spot, my father would then arrange that room or corner with all the objects that made up our puja, our home altar. (Although puja refers to the act of worshipping, our family truncates pujasthana — place of worship — to puja.) In the Hindu tradition, a home altar is considered an important part of a household. There are no specific how-to’s for creating it — you pick a spot and then outfit it with as much or as little as you want, depending on your interpretation of the faith. The altar exemplifies the idea that Hinduism is more a way of life than a codified religion. —