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Friday, 18 November 2016
Sunday, 13 November 2016
Karthika Masam Significance
Karthika Masam or Month is one of the most auspicious months in a lunar calendar. The lunar calendar is divided into two parts Dakshinayana and Uttararyana and Dakshinayana is set aside for Sadhana (penance). Sadhana means a process by which one would get moksha or salvation. Out of all the months in Dakshinayana, Karthika Masam is best suited for Sadhana. Any austerity, be it a pooja, charity, penance etc. performed during the Karthika Masam is more meritorious than one performed on ordinary days.
Puranas state that on Karthika pournami Lord Shiva kílled Tripurasuras and protected the world. Puranas also state that Lord Vishnu goes to sleep on Ashadha suddha ekadashi and wakes-up on Karthika suddha ekadashi. In this month Ganga, enters in to all rivers, canals, ponds and wells and flows as antarvaahini, making them as pious as the Ganga. In this month, Ayyappa deeksha is also taken and continued up to Makara Sankranthi.
Karthika Masam is considered highly auspicious and a sacred month for worshipping Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu as well as Lord Subrahmanya (Karthikeya) with great austerities. Devotees of Lord Shiva perform the Ekadasa Rudra Abhishekam for the whole month of Karthika Masam to please Lord Shiva. Devotees of Lord Vishnu perform Satyanarayana Vrata on Karthika Pournami. Devotees of Subrahmanya perform Skanda Shasthi during this month. Any austerity performed during the month of Karthika would help the sadhakas to free themselves from all sins and leads them towards moksha.
Lighting of Diya or Lighting a Lamp During Karthika Masam, it is considered auspicious to light a diya. Diyas are lit and placed in front of Tulasi plant and near the main entrance of the house before Sun rise, and just before Sun set. Temples light the Diya and bring the diya to the top of the Dhwaja Sthambam in the temple and tie it there on Karthika Pournami. This diya is called as Akaasa Deepam. On Karthika Pournami, the whole house is decorated with diyas.
Bathing in River or Nadi Snanam Another important significance is bathing in rivers during Karthika Masam. The rivers have received fresh water during the rain season comprising of Shravan and Bhadrapada Months and have completely setteled by the time Karthika Masam starts. Also, Sharad Rithu (season) known for its special Moon light comprises of Ashwayuja and Karthika Months. All along the Aswayuja Masam, the rivers would absorb the energy from Moon and by bathing in the river during Karthika Masam one can absorb this energy from the river.
Vanabhojana during Karthika Masam Another significant aspect of Karthika month is Vana Bhojana, where it is very auspicious to take food under the Amla tree in a forest or park. By doing so, we are rid of all Paraanna bhojana doshas which we accumulate by eating outside food and without proper prayer and discipline.
Karthika Somavara Vratam The most important aspect of Karthika masam is hearing Karthika puranam while observing the Karthika somavaara vratham. The normal process of the Vratham would be to get up at Brahma muhurtham (around 4am), take bath in the river, perform the Rudra Abhishekam by chanting the Rudra Namakam Chamakam, listen to Karthika Puranam and then break fast in the night.
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Tuesday, 1 November 2016
Makara Shankranti Hindu Festival
SALUTATIONS and adorations to the Supreme Lord, the primordial power that divided the year into the four seasons. Salutations to Surya, the Sun-God, who on this great day embarks on his northward journey.
The Sanskrit term “Shankramana” means “to begin to move”. The day on which the sun begins to move northwards is called Makara Shankranti. It usually falls in the middle of January
Among the Tamilians in South India this festival is called the Pongal.
To many people, especially the Tamilians, Makara Shankranti ushers in the New Year. The corn that is newly-harvested is cooked for the first time on that day. Joyous festivities mark the celebration in every home. Servants, farmers and the poor are fed and clothed and given presents of money. On the next day, the cow, which is regarded as the symbol of the Holy Mother, is worshipped. Then there is the feeding of birds and animals.
In this manner the devotee’s heart expands slowly during the course of the celebrations, first embracing with its long arms of love the entire household and neighbours, then the servants and the poor, then the cow, and then all other living creatures. Without even being aware of it, one develops the heart and expands it to such proportions that the whole universe finds a place in it.
As Shankranti is also the beginning of the month, Brahmins offer oblations to departed ancestors. Thus, all the great sacrifices enjoined upon man find their due place in this grand celebration. The worship of the Cosmic Form of the Lord is so well introduced into this, that every man and woman in India is delightfully led to partake of it without even being aware of it.
To the spiritual aspirants this day has a special significance. The six-month period during which the sun travels northwards is highly favourable to them in their march towards the goal of life. It is as though they are flowing easily with the current towards the Lord. Paramahamsa Sannyasins roam about freely during this period, dispelling gloom from the hearts of all. The Devas and Rishis rejoice at the advent of the new season, and readily come to the aid of the aspirant.
The great Bhishma, the grandfather of the Pandavas, was fatally wounded during the war of the Mahabharata, waited on his deathbed of nails for the onset of this season before finally departing from the earth-plane. Let us on this great day pay our homage to him and strive to become men of firm resolve ourselves!
As already mentioned, this is the Pongal festival in South India. It is closely connected with agriculture. To the agriculturalist, it is a day of triumph. He would have by then brought home the fruits of his patient toil. Symbolically, the first harvest is offered to the Almighty—and that is Pongal. To toil was his task, his duty, but the fruit is now offered to Him—that is the spirit of Karma Yoga.
The master is not allowed to grab all the harvest for himself either. Pongal is the festival during which the landlord distributes food, clothes and money among the labourers who work for him. What a noble act!—It is an ideal you should constantly keep before you, not only ceremoniously on the Pongal day, but at all times.
Be charitable. Be generous. Treat your servants as your bosom-friends and brother workers. This is the keynote of the Pongal festival. You will then earn their loyalty and enduring love
The day prior to the Makara Shankranti is called the Bhogi festival. On this day, old, worn-out and dirty things are discarded and burnt. Homes are cleaned and white-washed. Even the roads are swept clean and lovely designs are drawn with rice-flour. These practices have their own significance from the point of view of health. But, here I remind you that it will not do to attend to these external things alone. Cleaning the mind of its old dirty habits of thought and feeling is more urgently needed. Burn them up, with a wise and firm resolve to tread the path of truth, love and purity from this holy day onwards. This is the significance of Pongal in the life of the spiritual aspirant.
If you do this, then the Makara Shankranti has a special significance for you. The sun, symbolising wisdom, divine knowledge and spiritual light, which receded from you when you revelled in the darkness of ignorance, delusion and sensuality, now joyously turns on its northward course and moves towards you to shed its light and warmth in greater abundance, and to infuse into you more life and energy.
In fact, the sun itself symbolises all that the Pongal festival stands for. The message of the sun is the message of light, the message of unity, of impartiality, of true selflessness, of the perfection of the elements of Karma Yoga. The sun shines on all equally. It is the true benefactor of all beings. Without the sun, life would perish on earth. It is extremely regular and punctual in its duties, and never claims a reward or craves for recognition. If you imbibe these virtues of the sun, what doubt is there that you will shine with equal divine lustre!
He who dwells in the sun, whom the sun does not know, whose body the sun is, and by whose power the sun shines—He is the Supreme Self, the Indweller, the immortal Essence. Tat Twam Asi—“That thou art”. Realise this and be free here and now on this holy Pongal or Makara Shankranti day. This is my humble Pongal prayer to you all.
On the Shankranti day, sweets, puddings and sweet rice are prepared in every home, especially in South India. The pot in which the rice is cooked is beautifully adorned with tumeric leaves and roots, the symbols of auspiciousness. The cooking is done by the women of the household with great faith and devotion, feeling from the bottom of their hearts that it is an offering unto the Lord. When the milk in which the rice is being cooked boils over, the ladies and the children assemble round the pot and shout “Pongalo Pongal!” with great joy and devotion. Special prayers are offered in temples and houses. Then the people of the household gather together and partake of the offerings in an atmosphere of love and festivity.
There is family re-union in all homes. Brothers renew their contacts with their married sisters by giving them presents.
The farmer is lovingly greeted by the landlord and is given presents of grain, clothes and money.
On the next day, the herds of cows are adorned beautifully, fed and worshipped. In some villages the youth demonstrate their valour by taking “the bull by the horn” (and often win their brides thereby!). It is a great day for the cattle.
On the same day, young girls prepare various special dishes—sweet rice, sour rice, rice with coconut—and take them to the bank of a river or tank. They lay some leaves on the ground and place on them balls of the various preparations for the fish, birds, and other creatures. It is an extremely colourful ceremony. The crows come down in large numbers and partake of the food. All the time a valuable lesson is driven into our minds—“Share what you have with all”. The crow will call others before beginning to eat.
Both these days, which are family re-union days, are regarded as being inauspicious for travel. This is to prevent us from going away from home on those days.
When you celebrate the Shankranti or Pongal in this manner, your sense of value changes. You begin to understand that your real wealth is the goodwill and friendship of your relatives, friends, neighbours and servants; that your wealth is the land on which your food grows, the cattle which help you in agriculture, and the cow which gives you milk. You begin to have greater love and respect for them and for all living beings—the crows, the fish and all other creatures.
In Maharashtra and in North India, spiritual aspirants attach much importance to Makara Shankranti. It is the season chosen by the Guru for bestowing his Grace on the disciple. In the South, too, it should be noted that it was about this time that Mahadeva favoured several of the Rishis by blessing them with His beatific vision.
HOLI Hindu Festival
IN DAYS of yore, there were communities of cannibals in India. They caused much havoc. They threatened the lives of many innocent people. One of them was Holika or Putana. She took immense delight in devouring children. Sri Krishna destroyed her and thus saved the little children. Even today, the effigy or figure of Holika is burnt in the fire. In South India, the clay figure of Cupid is burnt. This is the origin of the great festival of Holi.
It begins about ten days before the full moon of the month Phalgun (February-March), but is usually only observed for the last three or four days, terminating with the full moon. This is the spring festival of the Hindus. In the spring season all the trees are filled with sweet-smelling flowers. They all proclaim the glory and everlasting beauty of God. They inspire you with hope, joy and a new life, and stir you on to find out the creator and the Indweller, who is hiding Himself in these forms.
Holi is known by the name of Kamadahana in South India, the day on which Cupid was burnt by Lord Siva.
Another legend has it that once upon a time an old woman’s grandchild was to be sacrificed to a female demon named Holika. A Sadhu advised that abuse and foul language would subdue Holika. The old woman collected many children and made them abuse Holika in foul language. The demon fell dead on the ground. The children then made a bonfire of her remains.
Connected to this legend of the demon Holika is Bhakta Prahlad’s devotion to Lord Narayana, and his subsequent escape from death at the hands of Holika. Prahlad’s father, Hiranyakashipu, punished him in a variety of ways to change his devotional mind and make him worldly-minded. He failed in his attempts. At last he ordered his sister, Holika, who had a boon to remain unburnt even in fire, to take Prahlad on her lap and enter into the blazing flames. Holika did so. She vanished, but Prahlad remained untouched and laughing. He was not affected by the fire on account of the Grace of Lord Narayana.
This same scene is enacted every year to remind people that those who love God shall be saved, and they that torture the devotee of God shall be reduced to ashes. When Holika was burnt, people abused her and sang the glories of the Lord and of His great devotee, Prahlad. In imitation of that, people even today use abusive language, but unfortunately forget to sing the praises of the Lord and His devotee!
In North India, people play joyfully with coloured water. The uncle sprinkles coloured water on his nephew. The niece applies coloured powder on her aunt’s face. Brothers and sisters and cousins play with one another.
Huge bundles of wood are gathered and burnt at night, and everywhere one hears shouts of “Holi-ho! Holi-ho!” People stand in the streets and sprinkle coloured water on any man who passes by, be he a rich man or an officer. There is no restriction on this day. It is like the April Fool’s Day of the Europeans. People compose and sing special Holi songs.
On the festival day, people clean their homes, remove all dirty articles from around the house and burn them. Disease-breeding bacteria are thereby destroyed. The sanitary condition of the locality is improved. During the festival, boys dance about in the streets. People play practical jokes with passers-by. A bonfire is lit towards the conclusion of the festival. Games representing the frolics of the young Krishna take place joyously around a fire.
On the last day of Holi, people take a little fire from this bonfire to their homes. They believe that their homes will be rendered pure, and their bodies free from disease.
Nowadays, people are found indulging in all sorts of vices in the name of the Holi festival. Some drink intoxicating liquor like toddy and fall unconscious on the roads. They indulge in obscene speech as a result of drinking. They lose respect for their elders and masters. They waste their money in drink and dice-play. These evils should be totally eradicated.
Festivals like Holi have their own spiritual value. Apart from the various amusements, they create faith in God if properly observed. Hindu festivals always have a spiritual significance. They wean man away from sensual pleasures and take him gradually to the spiritual path and divine communion. People perform havan and offer the new grains that are harvested to the gods before using them.
There should be worship of God, religious gatherings and Kirtan of the Lord’s Names on such occasions, not merely the sprinkling of coloured water and lighting of bonfires. These functions are to be considered most sacred and spent in devotional prayers, visiting holy places, bathing in sacred waters, and Satsang with great souls. Abundant charity should be done to the poor. Then only can Holi be said to have been properly celebrated. The devotees of the Lord should remember the delightful pastimes of the Lord on such happy occasions.
All great Hindu festivals have religious, social and hygienic elements in them. Holi is no exception. Every season has a festival of its own. Holi is the great spring festival of India. Being an agricultural country, India’s two big festivals come during the harvest time when the barns and granaries of our farmers are full and they have reason to enjoy the fruits of their hard labour. The harvest season is a festive season all over the world.
Man wants relaxation and change after hard work. He needs to be cheered when he is depressed on account of work and anxieties. Festivals like Holi supply him with the real food and tonic to restore his cheer and peace of mind.
The religious element in the Holi festival consists of worship of Krishna. In some places it is also called the Dol Yatra. The word dol literally means “a swing”. An image of Sri Krishna as a babe is placed in a little swing-cradle and decorated with flowers and painted with coloured powders. The pure, innocent frolics of little Krishna with the merry milkmaids (Gopis) of Brindavan are commemorated. Devotees chant the Name of Krishna and sing Holi-songs relating to the frolics of little Krishna with the Gopis.
The social element during Holi is the uniting or “embracing” of the great and the small, of the rich and the poor. It is also the uniting of equals. The festival teaches us to “let the dead bury the dead”. We should forget the outgoing year’s ill-feelings and begin the new year with feelings of love, sympathy, co-operation and equality with all. We should try to feel this oneness or unity with the Self also.
Holi also means “sacrifice”. Burn all the impurities of the mind, such as egoism, vanity and lust, through the fire of devotion and knowledge. Ignite cosmic love, mercy, generosity, selflessness, truthfulness and purity through the fire of Yogic practice. This is the real spirit of Holi. Rise from the mire of stupidity and absurdity and dive deep into the ocean of divinity.
The call of Holi is to always keep ablaze the light of God-love shining in your heart. Inner illumination is the real Holi. The spring season is the manifestation of the Lord, according to the Bhagavad Gita. Holi is said there to be His heart.
ON THE full moon day of the month of Kartigai (November-December) which falls on the ascension of the Kritigaistar, the Hindus celebrate the Kartigai Deepam. It is on this day that the huge beacon is lit on the holy hill Arunachala, in South India.
Once Lord Shiva assumed the form of a hill at Tiruvannamalai in South India. Here He quelled the pride of Brahma and Vishnu who were quarelling as to their relative greatness. One day, when Lord Shiva was in meditation, Parvati left Him and went to the hill of Arunachala. There She performed penance. She was the guest of the sage Gautama. It was during Her penance here that Mahishasura was killed by Durga hidden by Parvati. Parvati saw Shiva as Arunachalesvara. She was taken back by the Lord to His side, and made His Ardhangini once more, that is, She occupied half of the body of the Lord.
Arunachalesvara is Tejo Lingam. Arunachala or the Tiruvannamalai Hill is the place that represents the fire element. (The five elements are represented by five holy places in India.)
When the light on the top of the Tiruvannamalai Hill is unveiled on the Kartigai Deepam day, people see the big light and worship it. They recite again and again in a loud voice “Harohara”. The esoteric meaning is that he who sees the light of lights that is burning eternally in the chambers of his heart through constant meditation attains immortality. The light on the Arunachala brings the message to you that the Self or Lord Shiva is self-effulgent, He is the light of lights.
On the Kartigai Deepam day in South India, people make bonfires in front of temples in the evening. It is said that Lord Shiva burnt the chariots of several demons who were torturing sages and celestials. This bonfire symbolises this legend.
People place rows of earthen lamps in front of their houses on the evening of Kartigai Deepam and worship the Lord. They also light a variety of fireworks.
Annihilate the three impurities, namely, egoism, selfish action and delusion. Burn the mind, senses and the desires in the fire of knowledge of the Self or Shiva-Jnanam. Attain full illumination and behold the light of lights, which illumines the mind, intellect, sun, moon, stars, lightning and the fire. This is real Kartigai Deepam
May the light of lights illumine you all! May Lord Shiva bless you with more light! May you merge in this supreme light and attain the eternal abode of bliss and immortality!
Meditation On Sri Rama
Dhyaayedaajaanubaaham dhritasharadhanusham baddhapadmaasanastham,
Peetam vaaso vasaanam navakamala dala spardhinetram prasannam;
Vaamaankaaroodhaseetaa mukhakamala milal lochanam neeradaabham,
Naanaalankaara deeptam dadhatamuru jataa mandalam raamachandram.
MEANING: One should meditate on Sri Ramachandra, with hands reaching the knees, holding the bow and arrows, seated in the locked-up lotus posture, wearing a yellow garb, with eyes vying with the newly-blossomed lotus petals, with a pleasant gait, who has Sita seated on His left thigh, who is blue like the clouds, who is adorned with all kinds of ornaments and having a big circle of Jata on the head.
Meditation On Sri Krishna
Vamshee vibhooshita karaan navaneeradaabhaat
Peetaambaraadaruna bimbaphalaa dharoshthaat;
Poornendusundara mukhaad aravinda netraat
Krishnaat param kimapi tattwam aham na jaane.
MEANING: I know not any other Reality than the lotus-eyed Krishna with hands adorned with flute, looking like a heavy-laden cloud in lustre, wearing a yellow silk garment, with His lower lip like a ruddy bimba fruit, and with face shining like the full moon.