The Indian house-warming ritual is regarded as second in importance only to the wedding ceremony. In Vasthu (the Indian version of Feng shui) it is believed that all dwelling spaces are alive with unseen entities and prayers are necessary to purify the space from negative energy and to allow the flow of positive energy into the property.
The sacred rites are performed by a priest to bestow good health, wealth, peace and prosperity to the house owner. The ceremony varies from state to state but there are many similarities.
Usually, the function begins with a pooja (a rite of worship) for Lord Ganesha, the main deity, and the breaking of a coconut to clear all obstacles in the way of the auspicious event.
The elaborate ceremony will include the property owner and his wife dressed in new clothes, sitting before a makeshift fireplace as mantras are chanted.
Nine saffron coated coconuts, signifying deities from the nine planets, are placed on top of small containers filled with water. The priest will then perform a purification ceremony by circling incense smoke and camphor fire over the deities to cleanse the premises. Sandalwood and mango tree branches, and herbs and spices are reduced to ashes in the fire so that pungent smoke will fill the air.
A special prayer to the Goddess Lakshmi (the deity of wealth) is performed to ensure that prosperity, purity and serenity always accompany the people in the house.
Milk, which signifies purity and long life, is boiled on a new stove and caused to overflow from the pot. This signifies an overflow of wealth coming into the house.
Another part of the ritual is to bring a cow into the house for the house owner to garland. In Hindu mythology, the cow symbolises Lord Shiva and its dung is regarded as a blessing.
Following the house-warming, the property should be occupied right away, as it is inauspicious to leave the property empty again after these rituals have been conducted.
Here is a link to some great photos of a house warming ceremony conducted at an American friend’s rented house in Tamil Nadu. If you hover over each photo there is an explanation. It’s really cute and well worth a look! http://jalbum.net/a/1233554