A Hindu priest

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Temple Priest: A Hindu priest, also known as a pandit or pujari, is responsible for conducting worship services and performing rituals in Hindu temples. These services, called puja, encompass a variety of ceremonies and rituals. Daily deity worship, special deity celebrations, and life sacrament ceremonies are some examples of the rituals performed by a Hindu priest. The services may take place at the temple or off-site, and their duration and complexity can vary. Many Hindus perform puja at least once or twice a day, while temple puja may be conducted multiple times in a day.

Priests undergo traditional training to gain the necessary knowledge and skills for their role, although some may have acquired their expertise through independent study. A qualified priest possesses detailed knowledge of the steps involved in common worship services, can chant prayers in Sanskrit or vernacular Indian languages, and is familiar with the items required for different ceremonies and rituals. While most Hindu priests are male, an increasing number of women are also entering this profession in India and across the Hindu diaspora. In smaller temples, priests may also prepare food offerings or prasadam for worship services, which are then distributed to devotees.

The certification of priests is not regulated by a central authority due to the decentralized nature of the Hindu tradition. Instead, their competence and recognition come from the community in which they receive their training and practice their occupation. However, if a Hindu temple or organization in the US is affiliated with a specific tradition lineage (sampradaya), additional requirements may be imposed on the priests, such as knowledge of the lineage's scripture, worship services, and certification by a recognized authority.

Paricharakaras (Religious food preparers): Paricharakaras specialize in preparing food offerings or prasadam for Hindu worship services, which are then distributed to devotees. Every day in a Hindu temple begins with puja, including an offering of prasadam prepared by the temple priests. On special occasions or during significant ceremonies, the prasadam offering may be more elaborate. The preparation of sanctified food offerings requires adherence to guidelines, such as the exclusion of meat and limitations on the use of certain ingredients like onion and garlic. Only specific grains or combinations can be offered in accordance with religious prescriptions.

During elaborate celebrations like Kalyanams (symbolic enactment of deities' marriage) or Krishnajanmashtami (Lord Krishna's birth), a variety of prescribed foods are cooked in the temple kitchen, offered during the ceremonies, and then distributed to the devotees. Life sacrament ceremonies like Annaprashna, which celebrates a child's first solid food, also involve the offering of uncooked rice during the ceremony. This rice is later cooked in the temple kitchen and shared with the child, guests, and devotees. Yagnas and Homams, fire ceremonies, also require the preparation of specific foods, which are offered as oblations in the fire ceremony and then served to guests and devotees. All food served in a Hindu temple is considered sacred and must adhere to the strict guidelines mentioned earlier.

Paricharakaras receive traditional training in food preparation, although some may have acquired their skills through independent study. Some of them may also be trained in Hindu worship services and serve multiple roles as ritual food preparers in the temple kitchen, as well as liturgical officiants in ceremonies and rituals.

Similar to priests, the certification of paricharakaras is determined by the community and context in which they operate. The requirements and competence are recognized based on the quality of their work. If a Hindu temple or organization in the US is affiliated with a specific tradition lineage, additional knowledge and certification may be required.

Sthapati (Religious Architect): Sthapatis are traditional Hindu architects and builders trained in the design and construction

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