I found the following post by Sava Tang Alcantara, eHow Contributor to be very interesting and wanted to share it.
Puja is an Hindu form of ceremonial worship or ritual that honors one or several of the gods and goddesses in the Indian pantheon, as well as those who believe in a singular god. Puja is done as a form of bhakti yoga which means “devotion.” Puja can be done at home daily and also as a much more elaborate ceremony to ask for blessings or to ask for support to help a certain group of people. There are as many as twenty-seven separate steps for formal puja ceremonies that include offering water to symbolically bath the honored deity, offerings of sweets and fruits, and a light ritual called aarati wherein water is poured from one small vessel to another and a small bell might be rung. A very simplified and informal version can be done with sincerity that will convey your devotion and respect for this ritual and invite the blessings and guidance for which it is designed.
1 Begin by understanding that puja is a tradition that dates back thousands of years. If you are of Indian descent, puja is very likely a part of your cultural fabric and a familiar ritual you may have witnessed your father or other family member perform. Taking such specific rituals from one country and transplanting them to another country is entirely acceptable. However, the idea is to honor its gravity and spiritual importance. Do not disrespect this time-honored ritual. It is powerful and profound
2 Understand the basic elements of a puja. There is meditation on the divine (dhyana), practicing tapas (austerity in terms of an attitude of gravity), reading a religious or spiritual passage to encourage svadhyaya (self study) and several offerings of flowers, fruits and foods (thaal). Traditionally, people bow or kneel or even kiss the image of the Divine during a puja. At the end of the puja, people might affix a vermilion dot on their forehead between the eyebrows, the site of the anja chakra or the third-eye center.
3 Gather the basic components to perform a puja. Start with a small table or mantel upon which you can spread a white cloth. Place an image or representation of the deities or gods or God to whom you are offering this puja on your altar. It can be a small figurine or a small painting or other image.Traditionally, two lamps made of cotton wicks are set in oil or ghee (butter with the milk fats removed). These are not lit until the actual start of the puja. These symbolize the light shining within yourself and that inside the deity you are honoring.
4 Set up a small plate made of some kind of metal, stainless steel or silver and place on it several small thimbles of water for your aarati, turmeric, sandalwood paste, vermilion (called kum kum) and a dozen sticks of incense (these represent our worldly desires—that can be burned).
5 Prepare a second plate by filling it with fruits and several flowers and decorative leaves. The fruits represent self-sacrifice and detachment (which is offered in this ritual). Set up a small container of raw, unbroken rice in which turmeric has been mixed and not cooked. Called akshata, it is an offering.Prepare several small quantities of sweets and other foods that are covered. A white cloth to symbolize the male is set on this “altar” and a more colorful cloth to symbolize the female.
6 Select a deity, or god that is the focus of this puja. To whom are you offering these fruits and asking for blessings? Select a mantra or prayer or religious or spiritual passage that is appropriate for the intention of your puja. Your puja may be one of seeking protection, seeking guidance, or expressing gratitude.
7 Clear the immediate area of any distractions such as loud music or ringing phones. Set your intention mentally by visualizing in your mind’s eye the form of the deity or gods that you are offering this puja to.
8 Light the candles and say the mantra or prayer or in your own words state the purpose of your puja: blessings, expressing thanks or seeking guidance. Offer the fruits and flowers and set them near the image or picture on your altar. Light the incense sticks to represent you are burning your worldly desires and detaching from them.
9 Repeat the religious or spiritual passage you selected, adding what your intentions are: to bless a certain group of people or to seek specific guidance.Close your eyes for several moments of silence and affix the vermilion mark on your forehead (tilaka) using a small “wand” that is dipped into sandalwood paste and then a red-colored powder. If this is not your custom, you do not have to do this.
Read more: How to Do Puja | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_4525140_do-puja.html#ixzz1xVRCJCeD