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Setting up your altar at home
The Lord in His personal form (Deity or picture) gives us the unique opportunity of serving Him personally. Having a home altar where Krishna can be served sanctifies one’s home and helps create a spiritual atmosphere where Krishna is at the centre. It also helps the worshiper to fix his mind during japa if he chants in front of the altar.
Home worship, unlike that in the temple, is usually kept simple so that the devotee has more time for japa, kirtan and practical temple service.
To invite Krishna into our home, we need to have a special place for Him: an altar in a separate prayer room or a place separated from the living space by a curtain. You will need:
Place the picture of Radha Krishna in the middle at a slightly higher level than the other pictures. Place Srila Prabhupada on the left and the Panca-Tattva on the right.
You may also have:
• A picture of the recent sampradaya acaryas: Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Goswami, Srila Gaura Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaj
• A picture of the 6 Goswamis
• A picture of your spiritual master. It is best if this picture should be smaller than that of Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada should be worshiped as the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON and plays a central part in every devotee’s life
• Water cups (preferably in silver and one for each picture)
• A special plate, bowls, cup and spoon for offering food (preferably in silver or stainless steel)
• A small bell
• An incense holder
• A table on which to place the Lord’s plate
• Vases in which one can place fresh flowers
• If one wishes to offer full arati to the Lord, an arati plate is required
• Clean the altar each morning and rinse the water cups, replenishing them with fresh water
• Offer incense and flowers daily to the Lord and decorate the altar with fresh flowers
• Offer whatever food you prepare to Krishna on the altar
• As far as possible try and offer natural incense sticks
• Plastic flowers are not used in worship of the Lord
• Regularly polish the cups and arati paraphernalia and keep your altar sparkling
Anyone can maintain a simple but sublime standard of worship at home with pictures of the Panca-Tattva and the spiritual masters. Although one cannot physically dress and decorate the forms of the Lord in a picture, one can offer bhoga, perform arati and kirtan, and offer obeisances just as one does for the Lord in His three-dimensional murti.
Just as the blessings of the spiritual master are necessary before a devotee can perform Deity worship in the temple, those blessings are also needed before one can worship the Deity at home. Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-acharya of ISKCON, gives all the devotees the temple Deities to worship. If the spiritual master gives a disciple permission to worship a personal Deity, that disciple should understand that the personal Deity is an expansion of the temple Deity to whom he is connected by his location and service. The Lord is so kind that He agrees to appear in the devotee's own home, and He accepts the family's worship, making the home into a temple. However, the householder should be careful not to abuse the spiritual master's and the Lord's mercy by being neglectful in his service to the public temple and its presiding Deities, on the plea that he is serving the same Lord at home.
Srila Prabhupada recommended the worship of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai for householders because Their worship is simple. Generally, a devotee should not worship Radha-Krishna Deities at home unless he can maintain a high standard of service throughout the day. Although one may also worship Jagannatha Deities at home in a simple way, one should try to regularly offer Jagannatha oppulent bhoga, since He is daily worshiped with many offerings of bhoga in Jagannatha Puri. Srila Prabhupada frequently stressed how important it is for householder devotees to worship the Lord as opulently and as sincerely as possible. A householder should not be miserly in his worship.
It is also a nice practice to train children to speak to the pictures/Deities on your home altar. They may share their joys and difficulties with Krishna in this way – and feel His reciprocation.
You may click on this link for further information on how to worship Deities at home.