A space for the divine

A space for the divine

Given the space constraints, having a dedicated prayer room at home is quite a challenge. Deepa Ballal offers some doable ideas for a tranquil area at your abode.

Family that prays together stays together is an oft-quoted line. And in modern times, where family members often communicate via whatsapp and learn of each other’s woes through FB posts, the prayer room is one place where the communication is direct and unadulterated. For many, it is the only place where they can have their daily dialogues with the almighty. Drawing courage, confidence, inspiration, hope and above all, helping one sail through the highs and lows of life, the puja room or the wall-mounted ‘divine unit’ plays a vital role in everyone’s lives. Hence making it a clutter-free, pious and harmonious zone does become a daunting task.

Scurrying and skimming through umpteen manuals and websites on home interiors does one of two things - either enlightens one or leaves one all the more confused than before. The bottleneck, of course, is when given the space and budget constraints one has to squeeze in the prayer room, an essential component in most Indian households, into the blueprint or make space for one in the existing abode where one has recently moved into.With information ranging from not-so-useful to viable ones on the net, one goes looking for that local tulsi flavour amidst the basil, thyme and rosemary. Nevertheless, Indian interior designers are wracking their brains to cater to this upsurge in demand and have tasted their share of success too. 

“Generally, puja rooms have to be vaastu compliant and that’s a challenge in apartments where there is a space constraint. That said, I do try and manage to carve out some space according to the clients requirements,” says Neelu from CozyNest interiors, Bangalore. 

Peaceful interiors

Call it the sacred zone or the tranquil zone, this space is not only the prayer room for some, but also a room for some self-talk. North-east corner of the house is the ideal place to have a puja room, according to many vaastu experts. 

Neelu suggests that it is essential to have a small, dedicated space for the room. “Don’t crowd it with too many pictures and idols. If you have to put up pictures of deities, try to match all the frames of the pictures to get a cohesive look. Also, plan for some amount of storage with the puja area for items like oil, wicks, books,” she adds. 

Jostling for space on one hand and towing the lines of this ancient, mystic science called vaastu on the other, does put designers in a tough spot. It’s no wonder that today many interior designers work in tandem with vaastu experts on many projects. Sameer from Bonito Info, Bangalore, says, “Most of the flats these days don’t have the luxury of a dedicated prayer room and hence settle for a unit or a corner.  The first thing that we freeze in on is the direction in which the gods face. It’s normally preferred that gods face either east or west and accordingly the walls are chosen to design the same; and its also important that the puja room or unit shouldn’t be upon or adjacent to a wall, which shares a bathroom or toilet.”

Many a times, when buying a house becomes a necessity, a vaastu-compliant house is a luxury that not all can afford. “Nevertheless, if not anything, people try to make at least their puja rooms as per vaastu,” says Padmaja Yadav, a vaastu expert based in Dubai. 

“The biggest mistake that people often do is to place the puja unit inside the kitchen,” reiterates Padmaja. The reason she gives is that as fire is the dominant god in the kitchen, having other powerful gods in close proximity is not a good option and secondly, one sees all sorts of food being cooked, there by diminishing the very sanctity of this zone. 

Smart choices

While some vaastu experts opine that north-east corner of the kitchen could be used if space becomes an issue, Padmaja prefers the unit in the children’s bedroom, computer room, or in an elderly couple’s bedroom - best to avoid keeping it in a young couple’s room. “Even a small plate with two idols, wherein people light the diyas, could be transformed into one’s sacred space at home,” she suggests.

For Rupa Upadhyay, who has a keen interest in interior designing, the puja room is the most important part of the house. She is, currently, busy overlooking the construction of her new home in Bangalore. “I have made provisions for hanging diyas and bells inside the room, so as to give it a serene and tranquil look. We even got a tap fixed inside the room so that when one does the puja they have direct access to water,” she says. 

At the end of the day, a home speaks volumes about the people and their like and dislikes. Hence designs of one home can’t be applied to another. For instance, the size of the prayer room many a times depends on the requirement of the family. Some sit and offer their prayers, some stand and in some households the whole family is accommodated inside the room. Knocking walls and erecting new ones may not be a good option all the time. When purses get lighter and resources get scarce, many designers turn to cost-effective, locally available materials to cater to its clientele. 

“Latest designers are moving away from solid wood designs and carvings; as it is becoming harder and harder to procure and get them in desirable quality. Designers are also opting for variety of synthetic materials such as corian and glass-based designs in order to add additional ambience and decor,” says Sameer of Bonito Info.

With time, space and budget being a concern for many, simplicity and functionality have taken precedence over flamboyance. “As times have evolved, the trend of having a dedicated prayer room is transforming into something simpler and easier to maintain; this also reflects how busy and mobile we’ve become. The design tastes have also grown from intricate wooden carvings on the doors and pillars of rooms to simpler and contemporary models,” says Sameer.

Using white or purple for the walls - as they help in better concentration - is ideal for the prayer room walls, according to Padmaja. “Using marble flooring as it is white in its purest form is more airy than dark colours like black granite, that tend to have a heavier look. Also, having a double door for the room is ideal as it attracts more energy,” she adds.

Tips for designing a prayer room:

l The dimensions and location of the room should be as per the requirement and beliefs of the family.

l The use of lighter and subtle colours is preferred in the room.

l The overall look should be calm and clutter-free. Choose functionality over flamboyance. 

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