When conducting religious ceremonies a kalash (water pot) takes the pride of place amongst other paraphernalia. It is mostly made of copper. Other metals used are brass or stainless steel. The kalash is filled with water and the top is closed by placing a coconut tied in a red cloth along with mango leaves. At the end of the ceremony the water is used as charanamrit and also sprinkled around the home. It is believed to bring good fortune.A kalash is considered auspicious because the Hindu triad – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh – reside in it along with their consorts – Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga. During the churning of the ocean amrit (celestial nectar) was found in a kalash. It is believed that Sita emerged from a kalash in mother earth. In older temples a common scene is that of Lakshmi seated on a lotus and two elephants on either side offering water for a bath from a kalash held in the tusk.
In the Rig-Veda, 3/32/15, it is said:
A kalash filled with pure water is offered to Lord Indra.
In the Ramayana, it is said:
When Ram returned to Ayodhya after victory in Lanka, at his coronation lines of kalash filled with water were placed.
In the Atharva-Veda it is said that with the blessings of Surya mankind is prospering and enjoying good life since times immemorial, as though with an urn full of celestial nectar.
One also prays to Varun, so that the kalash may be symbolic of the grandeur of the ocean.
Human life has been compared to an earthen pot filled with water, which is symbolic of life. Just as the body is useless or inauspicious without life, an empty kalash is considered inauspicious. Therefore, in any ceremony it is always filled with water, milk or grains to make it auspicious. On death an earthen pot filled with water is taken around the dead body, the water allowed to drain away and the earthen pot then destroyed.
In the Devipuran, it is explained that at the beginning of a prayer to Ma Bhagwati one must first fill a kalash with water and appropriately establish it. During Navratri, prayers are conducted in many Hindu homes and a kalash is an important part of the set-up.