Armour (kavacha), Flower-Food-Fragrance,Gayatri, Guru, Inner and Outer Ritual
Each of the tantrik deities has her or his own kavacha or armour, which protects devotees from the many dangers which may afflict a human being. These could either be recited in a ritual context, or written down on birch bark or other substances and worn on the body to give protection.

The example of a kavacha translated below is from the influential Tantrarajatantra, and calls on Lalita and her 15 attendant Nityas or Eternities to protect the devotee. These are the days of the waxing of the Moon.

The yantra on the left is one of the many related to prayogas (magical practices) in the Saundaryalahari. This was to be engraved on a gold plate, worshipped for 21 days, reciting shloka six of the book 500 times a day, offering 21 pieces of sugarcane and is proclaimed to be a cure for impotency.

The Nitya Kavacha - from Tantraraajatantra, 28: 52-71, is reproduced below in iTrans format. Transcribed by MM. Please send corrections to the usual email address. The kavacha is supposed to protect a sadhaka from all types of misfortunes.

samastaapadvimuktyartha.m sarvasampadavaaptaye .
bhuutapretapishaachaadipiiDaashaantyai sukhaaptaye .. 52..
samastaroganaashaaya samare vijayaaya cha .
chorasi.mhadviipigajanavayaadibhayaanake .. 53..
araNye shailagahane maarge durbhixake tathaa .
salilaadimanaH piiDaasvabdhau potaadisa~NkaTe .. 54..
prajapya nityaakavacha.m sakR^it.h sarvvantaratyasau .
sukhii jiivati nirdvandvo niHsapatno jitendriyaH .. 55..
shR^iNu tat.h kavacha.m devi vaxye tava tadaatmakam.h .
yenaahamapi duddheShu devaasurajayii sadaa .. 56..
sarvataH sarvadaatmaana.m lalitaa paatu sarvagaa .
kaameshii purataH paatu bhagamaalaa tvanantaram.h .. 57..
disha.m paatu tathaa daxapaarshva.m me paatu sarvadaa .
nityaklinnaa cha bheruNDaa disha.m paatu sadaa mama .. 58..
tathaiva pashchima.m bhaaga.m raxet.h saa vahnivaasinii .
mahaavajreshvarii raxedanantaradisha.m sadaa .. 59..
vaamapaarshva.m sadaa paatu duutii me tvaritaa tataH .
paalayettu disha.m chaanyaa.m raxenmaa.m kulasundarii .. 60..
nityaa maamuurddhataH paatu saadho me paatu sarvvadaa .
nityaa niilapataakaakhyaa vijayaa sarvvatashcha maam.h .. 61..
karotu me ma~Ngalaani sarvvadaa sarvvama~Ngalaa .
dehendriyamanaHpraaNaan.h jvaalaamaalinivigrahaa .. 62..
paalayedanisha.m chitraa chitta.m me paatu sarvvadaa .
kaamaat.h krodhaattathaa lobhaanmohaanmaanaanmadaadapi .. 63..
paapaanmat.hsarataH shokaat.h sa.mshayaat.h sarvvataH sadaa .
staimityaachcha samudyogaadashubheShu tu karmmasu .. 64..
asatyakruurachintaato hi.msaatashchauryyatastathaa .
raxantu maa.m sarvvadaa taaH kurvantvichChaa.m shubheShu cha .. 65..
nityaaH ShoDasha maa.m paantu gajaaruuDhaaH svashaktibhiH .
tatha hayasamaaruuDhaaH paantu maa.m sarvataH sadaa .. 66..
si.mhaaruuDhaaH stathaa paantu maantaraxagataa api .
rathaaruuDhaashcha maa.m paantu sarvataH sarvadaa raNe .. 67..
taarxyaaruuDhaashcha maa.m paantu tathaa vyomagataa stathaa .
bhuugataaH sarvadaa paantu maa~ncha sarvatra sarvadaa .. 68..
bhuupretapishaachaapasmaarakR^ityaadikaan.h gadaan.h .
draavayantu svashaktiinaa.m bhiiShaNairaayudhairmmam.h .. 69..
gajaashvadvipipa~nchaasyataarxyaruuDhaakhilaayudhaaH .
asa.mkhyaaH shaktayo devyaaH paantu maa.m sarvataH sadaa .. 70..
saaya.m praatarjapannityaa kavacha.m sarvaraxakam.h .
kadaachinnaashubha.m pashenna shR^Noti cha mat.hsamaH .. 71..

The Nitya Armour
Lalita, protect all of my being always and everywhere. Kameshvari protect me in the East, Bhagamalini in the S.East, and Nityaklinna, always protect me in the Southern direction. Bherunda always protect me in the S.West, and Vahnivasini shield me in the West. Mahavajreshvari protect me always in the N.West, and in the North, Duti protect me. Tvarita, (in the N.East), shield me.
Kulasundari protect me above, and Nitya protect me everywhere below. Nilapataka, Vijaya and Sarvamangala -- protect and cause good fortune everywhere. Jvalamalini guard me in my body, senses, mind and breath. Chitra, always protect my Chitta.

May they protect me from lust, cruelty, greed, delusion, arrogance, presumption, evil, selfishness, grief and doubt -- everywhere and always. (May they shield me) from numbness, evil actions, lies, anger, worry, harmfulness, and thieving. They should always protect me and promote auspicious acts.

May the 16 Nityas protect me by their own Shaktis seated on elephants, and by their Shaktis seated on horses always shield me everywhere.

The Shaktis seated on lions protect me within, and the Sbaktls in chariots always protect me everywhere in war. The Shaktis seated on Garudas protect me in the aether and upon the earth. The Shaktis, with their terrifying weapons, put to flight elementals, ghosts, flesh-eaters, seizers of the self, and all ailments.

The innumerable Shaktis and Devis on their elephants, horses, tigers, lions and Garudas protect me always and everywhere without gaps. (This all-protecting Nitya Amour should be recited in the morning and the evening. )
Food, Flowers and Perfume
Through mantra, mudra, nyasa, yantra, and all the other numerous elements of Tantric ritual, the initiates carve a sacred niche for themselves out of ordinary reality - Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy, Georg Feuerstein
The intricate forms of worship (puja) described on some of these pages often require the use of ritual accessories (upacharas), such as specific types of food, flowers and fragrances. For the way in which these are used in a daily rite, refer to the translation of Subhagodaya found on this site.
Some tantrik texts prescribe a whole range of different substances for occasional or optional rites which may include different scents, flowers, edible food and liquids to perform the pujas.
There are plenty of traps for the unwary. While these accessories can relate to external worship (bahiryaga), they may also be used as symbols for internal worship (antaryaga), and so can take a range of forms from the very simple to the very complex. For example, in the Kaulajnananirnaya, the flowers to be offered represent qualities to be cultivated.
"The first flower is non-harmfulness, the second [is] sense restraint, the third generosity, the fourth [is] right disposition, the fifth compassion and the sixth freedom from cruelty. The seventh flower is meditation and the eighth flower is knowledge. Knowing these rules relating to flowers, one should worship this mental lingam." (op.cit III, 25-26).
These flowers are related in this text to different chakras (wheels) or padmas (lotuses) in the human body.
The simplest accessories relate to the five elements of tantrika, and so, by extension, to the five senses. See, for example, the Shani puja, where scent is linked with the bija Lam and earth, flowers to aether with the bija Ham, incense with air and the bija mantra Yam, flame with fire and the bija mantra Ram, and water to liquid and the bija letter Vam.This inner practice demonstrates two very important yogic elements of puja. The first is that the deva or devi, through meditation (dhyana), whether gross, subtle or supreme, is considered to be one with the worshipper. The second is that by offering the sense impressions to that devata, it encourages the perception that the person performing the rite is not wholly identified with her or his impressions.
This underlies what some tantriks have described as the ulta sadhana, a reversal of the ordinary condition of the human being, who tends to wholly identify with one, two or several of the lesser shaktis, and so forgets her or his true nature.
The practice of daily puja and the use of these ritual accessories is, then, recommended in the initial stages of sadhana as a way of reminding an individual of the unity of knower, knowledge and known - or worshipper, worship and worshipped.
Food and Liquids
Bearing these important considerations above in mind, we can turn to the elements used in puja. In the English introduction to the Gandharva Tantraon this site, chapters 16 and 17 allude to the ritual accessories (upacharas) which may be employed when worshipping Shri Shri Tripurasundari (Lalita).
Food offered to a devata becomes holy (prasad) but that doesn't mean it's put to waste and it can be eaten afterwards by a sadhaka.
It doesn't have to be vegetarian food. While most Hindus in modern-day India are vegetarians, some scholars consider this to be a consequence of the rise of the Vaishnavi movements. Bali (animal sacrifice) is viewed as an essential in many of the tantrik texts themselves, although even this has an inner meaning. The bipeds and quadrupeds to be sacrificed must be male.
"O dark one, wondrous and excelling in every way, becomes the accomplishment of those worshippers who living in this world freely make offering to Thee in worship of the greatly satisfying flesh, together with hair and bones, of cats, camels, sheep, buffaloes, goats and men." Karpuradistotra v.19, Woodroffe's translation
According to the Kaula commentary on this verse, the animals represent six enemies to sadhana, the goat standing for lust, the buffalo anger, the cat greed, the sheep delusion, the camel envy, and man pride and arrogance. This is all very well, but animal sacrifice is still practised today in nominally Shakta areas.
As recently as 1980, a goat was sacrificed to Kali at her temple at Amber fort in Rajasthan, a practice banned by the government, which does not, however, seem to have taken similar steps against Pizza Hut or MacDonalds in India. (Sacrifices of quadrupeds to the multinationals seems to be OK, just as long as no religious element is involved.)
In practice, it seems that many tantriks are happy to use substitutes for real animals, such as cucumbers, brinjals and the like.
The Gandharva Tantra classifies food into four types, including liquids, and because it is to be offered to the goddess Tripurasundari, must be of the best quality and also served suitably, depending on the abilities of the practitioner. Fruit, sweetmeats, rice and other dishes are offered to the Devi while reciting a mantra.
The liquids used for worship range from pure water right up to wine, with the Gandharva even including recipes for the alcoholic substance. While wine is an integral part of the panchatattvas, in the chapters on the secret sadhana found in the Devirahasya, mantras and rituals must be performed in order to remove curses on the liquid uttered by Brahma and Shukra. Wine, in this latter tantra, has its own divinity, Suradevi, and she has her own dhyanas and mantras.
Wine, being the Devi herself in liquid form, can be understood as a symbol for the bliss arising from the realisation from work on oneself. A number of tantras caution against taking the text to advocate wholesale drunkenness (Kularnavatantra). When a pot of wine is seen, one should bow to it, as if to the Goddess herself (Kulachudamani, Brihadnilatantra). The Kularnavapours scorn on those who take tantrik texts literally, pointing out that if merely drinking wine, copulating and eating flesh and fish produced liberation, then many humans would already have achieved the state. This last passage refers to the rite known as panchatattva, the five things - often referred to as the panchamakara. These are the five elements starting with the letter "m" are madya (wine), mamsha (meat), matsya (fish), mudra (grain) and maithuna (sexual intercourse). There is a great deal of discussion in various tantrik schools about the significance of these elements in Virasadhana, but most agree that it is a special method prescribed only for heroes and heroines (vira), and unsuitable for the common herd (pashu).
Aside from being a swipe at Brahmin orthodoxy, which views some of these elements with deep abhorrence, some important tantras, including the Kularnava, give them a metaphysical meaning. Some tantras vary the substances depending on the varna (Brahmin, Kshatriya etc). The Yoginitantra and other important texts also give the makaras a symbolic meaning.
There is no agreed view on these matters. It is hard to take some verses of the Yonitantra or the Brihadnilatantra metaphorically, while the commentary on the Karpuradistotra, referred to above, specifically advocates the consumption of semen after ritual sexual intercourse. The Chandamaharoshana Tantra ,a text of the Vajrayana which is, however, spoken of as a source in the Kaulavalinirnaya, is as explicit as you can get about these matters. Woodroffe says in his introduction: "The text goes on to say that there are people who regard semen and menstrual fluid with disgust (Vicharayet), but they forget that the body by .which they hope to attain Liberation is composed of these two forms of matter, that the narrow, bone and. tendons have come from the father and the skin, flesh and blood from the mother. It further says that there is no reason for man's disgust for excreta or urine, for these are nothing but food or drink which has undergone some change and contains living creatures and the Brahman substance is not absent therefrom. The purity that man ought to cultivate is that of the mind. All things are pure. It is one's mentality (Vasana) which is evil."
There is a variety of other, somewhat less contentious, liquids often referred to in tantrik texts which require some explanation. The panchagavya are the five products of the cow, including dung and urine. These are often consumed, although some texts also ascribe an inner meaning to these substances, related to Shakti.
The Gandharva describes padya (water for washing the feet), achamana (water for sipping), madhuparka (a sweet mixture of water, ghee, honey and other substances), and arghya (an offering to the Sun, poured over the head).
Flowers, Scents, Perfumes and Incenses
There is a huge variety described in the literature, which almost merits a book of its own.
Incense (dhupa) is frequently employed in the daily puja, and this may and often is accompanied with various unguents (anjana), sweet smelling powders, oils (such as sandal oil) and other substances.
Most of the tantrik texts available give pride of place to five fragrances, which, according to lists in Rai's Encyclopedia of Yoga, are for Shakti or Devi agaru (aquilaria agallocha), karpura (camphor), kumkuma (crocus sativus), rochana (convolvulus turpentium) and jatamamshi (asparagus racemosa).
Sandalwood (chandana) and other pleasant fragrances often find themselves on the lists.
Flowers for the worship of Shakti, should normally be red, although this may vary depending on the type of rite, with other colours, including white and orange, often being employed.
As by now we've come to expect, the vamachara tantras interpret flowers and scents in a way all of their own. Flowers (pushpa) has a similar meaning in Sanskrit to English, and are taken by some texts - for example the Matrikabheda Tantra, the Mahakalasamhita and other texts, to refer to menstrual blood. These are classified in different ways, depending on age and the qualifications of a Shakti.
The Tantrik Gayatri
The soul is perfect; what can you improve? You have everything; what is there to gratify? Aum will seek out the man of contemplation; Reveal to him the wonder of great secrets - The Book of Ashes, Dadaji
The vedika form of the famous Gayatri mantra is: Om bhur-bhuvah-svah tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayat. This can be translated: Om. Let us contemplate the spirit of the divine of the earth, the atmosphere and heaven. May that direct our minds. Savitri is the Sun and this mantra is pronounced at the three junctions or twilights of the day. Only the twice-born Brahmins are supposed to utter it.
The tantrik compilation Prapanchasaratantra, outlines pujas and meditations on Gayatri in chapter 20. Here is described how the mantra Om hums in the base or Muladhara chakra, and moves through seven stages to the chakra above the head. (Sahasrara).
According to Sir John Woodroffe, in his introduction to the Sanskrit edition, Mahavishnu describes Om as consisting of the following. Bhuh is existence, Bhuva is the elements, Svah is the atma of everything, Maha is greatness and light, Tat is Brahman (the absolute), Tapah is all knowledge, Satyam is supremacy and internal wisdom. This tantra connects the three letters of Om (A+U+M) to the seven worlds. (See also Jnanasankalini Tantra).
Tat, says Woodroffe, refers to the first cause of all substance, as fire in the circle of the sun and is supreme Brahman. Savituh is the source of all living beings. Varenyam is the excellent one who receives adoration. Bharga destroys sin, Devasya means it is full of light, while Dhimahi refers to knowledge being golden and always within the sun. Dhiyo means Buddhi, Yo stands for energy (tejas). The mantra is divided into three sections of eight letters and four sections of six letters. A dhyana (meditation) in the same chapter describes Gayatri as having four faces, which are white, yellow, red and black.
Yet the tantrik tradition has different views of the Gayatri. For example, in the Matrikabhedatantra, there is a couplet which says a person who knows the Brahman (the absolute), is a brahmin.
In the tantrik tradition, each aspect of devata has her or his own form of the Gayatri and it is often pronounced at the four junctions of the day, including midnight.
For example, Tripurasundari Gayatri runs: Tripurasundari vidmahe, kameshvari dhimahi, tanno klinne pracodayat. This means: Let us contemplate Tripurasundari, let us think of Kameshvari, may that wetness direct.
The Gandharva Tantra uses the 24 different syllables of this mantra in Sanskrit as a visualisation, starting from the base of the spine and moving to the top of the head.
The other tantrik Gayatri is a mantra known as Ajapa. This is recited by every living being unconsciously 21,600 times a day as she or he breathes. Half are sun breaths and half are moon breaths. It consists of the letters Ha and Sa.
The Guru
The guru is Brahma, the guru is Vishnu, the guru is deva Maheshvara. Clearly the guru is the supreme Brahman, to that Shri Guru hail -traditional tantrik couplet
Because the guru gives mantra to a disciple and because she or he embodies the spirit and life of that mantra in an unbroken lineage to the Rishi who first perceived it, she or he is held in the utmost regard in the tantrik tradition.
According to the 13th chapter of the influential Kularnava Tantra, there is no difference between devata, mantra and guru. "Devata in truth is the same as mantra; mantra in truth is the same as the guru. The fruit of the worship of the devata, mantra and guru is the same." (Ram Kumar Rai translation).
Liberation cannot be obtained by reading the Vedas or studying the shastras (sacred texts), the same Kaula tantra says. Only knowledge (jnana) gives liberation and that depends on the grace of the guru, who is one with shiva and Shakti. "If the guru first mentally awakens the pupil and then reveals to him this high knowledge of Kula, then both enjoy direct companionship of Yogini and Vira and even cross this worldly ocean effortlessly." (Kularnava Tantra, II. 39-40).
But a Kaula guru may behave in a different way from a disciple or the ordinary world expects, because she or he is liberated. "One may be like a child, a madman, a king, or like one in a swoon, independent minded, like a lord hero, like a Gandharva, or like a naked person, a tridandin or like one who sells Veda for cash. Effulgent One, the way to be is to act howsoever one wills, knowing both Akula and Devi's Kula." (Kaula Jnana Nirnaya, XII. 3-6.)
This tradition of the "crazy" guru is embedded deep in the lore of the tantriks and the Nathas and has its value in shaking the conditioning of someone who aspires to be a Kaula, the tradition avers. For similar reasons, some elements of the tantrik tradition in India, such as worship in cremation grounds, the consumption of pig flesh and some sexual practices, were intended to rattle orthodox tendencies in tantrik pupils. (For a full exploration of this topic, see Holy Madness by Georg Feuerstein, Arkana 1992).
While orthodoxy appeared to regard women as inferior to men, the Kaulas took a different approach. Initiation from a female guru is held in the highest esteem, as she is Shakti on earth. The female guru is Ananda Bhairavi and the male guru Ananda Bhairava, together in sexual union, drinking the intoxicating wine of consciousness which is bliss (ananda) itself. Below, we find a meditation (dhyana) and an armour (kavacha) devoted to the Stri or female guru, ascribed to the Brahmayamala. The armour in the first translation is made up from the vidya (mantra) of the female guru. After this is a short hymn (stotra) to the male guru from the Matrikabhedatantra, in which his identification with Shiva is plain. The bija or root mantra of the guru, illustrated left, is Hskphrem.
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This is the meditation image (dhyana) of the young female guru. Om. With eyes like fully blossoming lotus petals, firm swelling breasts, a sweetly smiling face, and a slender waist, one should meditate on the auspicious female guru, shining like the red lotus, wearing beautiful red clothes, wearing a red ring on her hand, and beautiful jewelled anklets, resembling the effulgence of a hibiscus, her feet like like a lotus, her face like the brightness of the autumn Moon, her body resplendent, with her own Natha sitting on her left, her hands [showing the mudras] granting boons and dispelling fear. Having meditated in this way, one should do puja.

Striguru Kavacha. Of this Striguru Kavacha, the Female Guru is the devata and attaining the four aims of mankind is the application Obeisance to Sadashiva on the head. Obeisance to the Female Guru in the heart. Ishvara said: Sadashiva is the rishi of this Female Guru kavacha. It is said that this devata is the fruit-giver of the four aims. [1]

Om Klim bija protect my head, the same protect my forehead. Klim bija protect my eyes and Sadashiva all my limbs. [2]

Aim bija protect my face and Hrim encompass my tongue. Shrim bija protect the region of the shoulders and Hskphrem my two arms. [3]

The letter Ha protect the area of my throat and the letter Sa the sixteen petals. Ksha must protect me below and the letter Ka my heart. [4]

The letter Va (protect my) back and the letter Ra my right side. The syllable Hum my left side and the letter Sa my spine. [5]

The letter Ha my right hand and the letter Ksha my left. The letter Ma must protect my fingers and the letter Ma must protect my nails. [6]

The letter Va protect my rear and the letter Ra my belly. The syllable Yim my feet and Hsauh protect all of my limbs. [7]

Hsauh shield the penis and the hair of the body and the head. Aim bija protect me in the East and Hrim bija shield me in the South. [8]

Shrim bija protect me in the West and Bhutasambhava in the North. Aim must protect me in the South East and Om (vedadya) in the South West. [9]

Devyamba must protect me in the North West and Shri Paduka in the North East. Pujayami must protect me above and Namah below. [10]

Om thus to you, Charming One, is declared the supremely marvellous armour. After reciting the guru mantra if one should then read the armour, one becomes a siddha, with ganas (hosts) like Shiva, clearly, there is no doubt. [11]

At puja time one should recite the armour, the very body of the mantra. It gives the fruit of puja, Sureshvari, this is true, true. Whoever recites it at the three twilights become successful, there is no doubt about this. [12]

If one should write it on bhurja (birch bark), wrapped up in a golden ball, and by showing it, for him the disputatious becomes humiliated (lit. deprived of radiance - nishprabha), [13]

in knowledge he is victorious and in war he is like Nirriti, the goddess of death, in assemblies he gains victory and is my equal, no doubt. [14]

Whosoever should recite it at the three twilights in the 1,000 petalled lotus, becomes like Siddhalokesha and attains to Nirvana. [15]

The kavacha (armour) is called the accumulation of good fortune and is supremely marvellous. To whom should it never be given nor revealed? [16]

One should give it to a peaceful pupil, otherwise it is without fruit. Never show it, Deveshi, to the undevoted or to (their?) sons. [17]

Whoever recites this kavacha without knowing the vidya, gains no fruit and afterwards goes to the Naraka (underworld). [18]

So in the Brahmayamala, in the conversation with Parvati, the Shrimad Stri Guru Kavacha is completed.
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Shrimad Guru Paduka Stotra
I worship the 12 lettered lotus adorned with the Kundali nadi in the womb of the marvellous and eternally white and pure 1,000 petal lotus. [1]
I worship that auspicious white seat in the cavity of the flowering pericarp, where exist the lines of A- Ka-Tha and so forth, forming a circle marked with angles. [2]
I meditate in my heart on that beautiful jewel throne of bindu and nada, the circle of consciousness, in that cavity where a bright lightning-like colour competes with the effulgence of a pale red gem. [3]
I envelop myself in those two primordial swans above me, flaming consumers of fire, devouring the cosmos, abounding in great manifestation, those flowering feet. [4]
I remember those wonderful feet, the pair which are the root of cooling moon rays, the two feet of Natha, sun and moon, like saffron wine, a river of flower-juice. [5]
The nails of which are radiant like the moon, those gold-bejewelled, glittering, purifying, red padukas, which restrain the clamour of evil. I worship the two feet of the guru, sun and moon, supreme essence of nectar, pure quintessence, brilliant, the very core of power, placed on my head. [6]
This five-fold paduka hymn has come from the five faces of Shiva. [7]
So ends the Shrimad Guru Paduka Stotra, uttered by Shiva in the Shri Matrikabheda Tantra

Inner and Outer Ritual
Outer Worship (bahiryaga)
Puja (worship) can take many forms and is but one aspect of the tradition. It can be either performed externally or internally. A tantrik may perform daily puja to her or his particular devata and this can be a beautiful rite involving all the senses.
The daily puja, whatever the favoured deity, includes worship of the Sun, Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu and Ganesha. For details see Shri PUJA and Subhagodaya on this site. The main concept in puja is that the god or goddess are considered to be actually present in the yantra or image used and are given worship and treated as honoured guests. All recitation, mudras and ritual elements are given to her/him. Yet she/he is one with the worshipper, not separate.
Various ritual accessories (upachara) are used in the daily ceremony, with the 16 principal items being asana (seat), svagata (welcome), padya (water for washing feet), arghya (rice, flowers, sandal paste &c), achamana (sipping water), madhuparka (honey, ghee, milk, curd), snana (bathing), vasana (clothes), abharana (gems), gandha (perfume and sandal), pushpa (flowers), dhupa (incense stick), dipa (flame), naivedya (food) and namaskar (prayer). These may be multiplied up, depending on the devata. However, despite differences, all daily pujas follow a very similar pattern.
Other of the many elements in daily puja include meditation and recitation of the particular mantra of the devata, as well as worship of the Guru, considered to be one with Shiva.
Other types of worship include optional pujas (kamya), usually performed for some particular object. According to the tradition, these may only be performed if daily puja is also done.
In the Kaulachara division of tantrika, the puja may take the form of worshipping a living human being as incarnating the god/goddess. See Virasadhana for more information.
Some tantriks also perform their own form of the Vedik homa sacrifice, with particular shaped fire-pits for the sacrifice.
There are other important components in the daily puja, such as the Gayatri. There are tantrik as well as vedik gayatris.
The mala or rosary is used in reciting the mantra of the deity. In nyasa or placing, the rites transform the body of the worshipper into mantra and devata. View Yantra. There are many examples of yantras on this site. But turn here for information on materials as well as an example of 'installing life' into a yantra.
When a sadhaka (m) or sadhvini (f) realises his or her oneness with the devata, there is no need for external puja, which can be considered a method of realising that oneness.
Inner Worship (antaryaga)
As with so many other aspects of the tantrik tradition, there is a gross, a subtle and a supreme aspect to worship. External puja, using either an image or another object such as a yantra or a lingam, is a dualistic form intended, however, to lead the sadhaka to the recognition that there is no difference between worshipper and the worshipped.
After a certain stage, outer worship may no longer be necessary, or may be further complemented with inner worship. Here, for example, offerings to the favoured god or goddess (the isthadevata), may be in the form of offering the senses and the other elements and functions of the human body, all taken here to represent shaktis.
This is also combined with meditation and contemplation of the essential oneness of worshipper and worshipped, and may include other elements of the outer worship including recitation of the mantra (japa).
In fact, the external puja points to the internal worship. The different nyasas, mudras (hand gestures) and other paraphernalia is intended to produce that feeling of oneness in the sadhaka or sadhika. The tantras proclaim the unity of macrocosm with microcosm.
According to the Tantrarajatantra, supreme worship is when the mind, which both accepts and rejects, dissolves into the still, deep source.