SIGNIFICANCE OF THE KALASH OR SACRED POT
The symbol of the kalash or sacred pot is physically represented by a metal or earthen pitcher or urn. It is generally filled with water during rituals (preferably the water of the holy Ganga, any sacred river or clean, running water). Its top open end holds betel or mango leaves, and a red-yellow sanctified thread (kalawa or mauli) is tied around its neck. This kalash is placed on the pujavedi (worship dais or table) near the deities or pictures of the deity. It is placed facing the North, in the center. This positioning signifies balance; balance that one needs to achieve success in every walk of life. Often it is topped by a coconut or a deepak and kept on the sacred Vedic Swastika symbol or a Vedic Swastika is drawn on it by using wet vermillion, sandal-wood powder and turmeric. The kalash has many symbolic meanings and teachings associated with it as described below.
During worship or rituals, leaves from some select trees are used as essential accessories, but among them all, the betel leaf (pana) enjoys a place of pride in India. In Hindu weddings, a betel leaf is tucked into the headgears of the bride and the groom. The betel leaf is symbolic of freshness and prosperity. The Skanda Purana says that the betel leaf was obtained by the devas during the grand ocean-churning. The use of betel leaf in India is mentioned in the great epics, such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as well as in Buddhist and Jain literature.
The kalash, tied with the kalawa, and having betel or mango leaves atop, symbolizes the cosmos. The water inside the kalash represents the primordial waters, elixir of life or the soul filled with love and compassion, abundance, and hospitality. Varuna, the Lord of the oceans and the divine source of water element, is invoked while filling a kalash with water. In some cultures, the kalash is said to represent the body, the leaves the five senses, and water the life-force. Some Vedic scriptures refer it as a symbol of the mother earth and divine consciousness.
The word meaning of the scriptural hymns of the kalash's worship describe the mouth, throat, and base of the kalash as seats of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, and Lord Brahma respectively, whereas the belly represents all goddesses and Divine-mother's power streams. Thus, in this small urn the presence of all the demigods and goddesses is symbolized. This exemplifies that all the gods are essentially one and are emanations of the same Supreme Power.