Dharma Data: Puja
The name given to the wide variety of devotional and offering ceremonies practiced in all Buddhist traditions. The word itself comes from the root meaning 'a flower' while pujas themselves probably developed from the custom of offering the Buddha flowers on his arrival in a particular place during his travels. The earliest pujas, still practiced in Theravada, consisted of placing flowers, lights and incense in front of a symbol or image of the Buddha.
The value of the practice is that it grows out of and reinforces faith and devotion which are considered positive emotions able to motivate and enhance one's practice of the Dhamma. In Mahayana pujas are often long and elaborate and in some cases believed to have a magical power. The Tantrayana has a wide variety of very elaborate pujas, some meant to be expressions of devotion others to induce wealth, long life, help from the gods and also spiritual qualities.