Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Madurai: 'Athens of the East'

The ancient southern Indian city of Madurai that has earned the sobriquet, 'Athens of the East', is a place of great historical importance. Said to be the oldest city in South India, Madurai stands on the banks of the sacred river Vaigai, eternalized in Lord Shiva's exploits in the 'Halasya Purana'.

Madurai's fame rests almost entirely on the famous temples dedicated to goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswar.

History of the Meenakshi Temples:

The shrine of Meenakshi at Madurai, popularly known as the Meenakshi Temple, was built during the reign of Chadayavarman Sundara Pandyan in the 12th century. The imposing 9-storey tower was built between the 13th and 16th century. During the 200-year reign of Nayakka rulers, many Mandapams (covered structure with pillars) were constructed in the temple premises, like the Hall of Thousand Pillars, Puthu Mandapam, Ashta Sakthi Mnadapam, Vandiyoor Theppakulam, and Nayakkar Mahal. The temple, as it stands today, was built between 12th and 18th century.

The Majestic Entrance:

Many majestic towers (gopurams), small and big, beckon one and all to this historic temple. As it is a common practice to worship Devi Meenakshi first and then Lord Sundareswarar, devotees enter the temple through the Ashta Sakthi Mandapam on the eastern street, named after the figures of eight sakthis represented on the pillars on two sides. At this Mandapam, one can see the vivid scriptural representation of Devi Meenakshi's wedding with Ganesha and Subramanya on either side.

The Temple Complex:

Crossing over, one comes to the extensive Meenakshi Naickar Mandapam, named after the builder. This Mandapam has five aisles separated by six rows of stone pillars on which are carved holy sculptures. At the western end of the Mandapam is the massive Thiruvatchi containing 1008 brass oil lamps. Adjacent to the Mandapam is the holy golden lotus tank. Legend has it that Indra bathed in this tank to rinse out his sins and worshiped with the golden lotus from this tank.

Expansive corridors surround this holy tank and on the pillars of the northern corridor the figures of 24 poets of the third 'Tamil Sangam' are etched. On the walls of the northern and eastern corridors exquisite painting depicting scenes from 'Puranas' (ancient scriptures) can be seen. The verses of are inscribed on marbles slabs on the southern corridor.

The Meenakshi Shrine:

A three-storied 'gopuram' stands at the entrance of the shrine and on the outer sanctum, the golden flagstaff, Thirumalai Nayakar Mandapam, brass images of Dwarapalakas, and shrines of Vinayaka can be seen. The Maha Mandapam or the inner sanctum can be reached through the doors in Arukal Peedam where the shrines of Ayravatha Vinayakar, Muthukumarar, and the celestial bedroom is extant. In the shrine, Devi Meenakshi is depicted as the fish-eyed goddess who stands with a parrot and bouquet, emanating love and grace.

The Sundareswar Shrine:

Dwarapalakas, which are twelve feet in height, stand guard at the entrance to the swamy shrine. On entering one can see the 'arukal peedam' (pedestal with six pillars) and two brass covered Dwarapalakas. There are shrines dedicated to Sarawathi 63 Nayanmars, Utsavamoorthi, Kasi Viswanathar, Bikshadanar, Siddhar and Durgai. On the northern corridor is the holy Kadamba tree and the Yagna shala (large fire altar).

The Shiva Shrine:

In the next sanctum is the shrine of Lord Nataraja where the Lord is worshiped in the dancing pose with his right foot raised. Adjacent to it is the sanctum of Sundareswarar, which is supported by 64 boothaganas (ghostly hosts), 8 elephants and 32 lions. The Sivalinga, which bears the names of deities such as Chokkanathar and Karpurachockar, inspires deep devotion.

The Hall of Thousand Pillars:

This hall is a testimony to the excellence of Dravidian architecture. The hall has 985 pillars and is so arranged that from every angle they appear to be in a straight line. At the entrance is the equestrian statue of Ariyanatha Mudaliar who built this consortium of art and architecture. The 'chakram' (wheel of time) engraved on the ceiling denoting the 60 Tamil years is truly spellbinding. The images of Manmatha, Rathi, Arjuna, Mohini, and the Lady with a flute are nonetheless awe-inspiring. There is a unique exhibition of rare artifacts and idols in this hall.

The Famous Musical Pillars & Mandapams:

The Musical Pillars are near the northern tower, and there are five musical pillars each consisting of 22 smaller pillars - carved out of a single stone - that produce musical notes when tapped.

There are numerous other Mandapams, small and big, in this temple, like the Kambathadi, Unjal and Kilikoottu Mandapams - all of which can marvelous specimens of Dravidian art and architecture.

Manoj Sadasivan - Madurai and the Meenakshi Temples

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Theemithi, The Fire-Walking Celebration

Like Kavadee and Sword-Climbing, Theemithi (Fire-Walking) is observed by Tamil Hindus and is characterised by rigorous fasting and penance. It is observed by the very young as well as by the very old, by men as well as by women.

The festival is generally held in December and January. The month and the date are fixed according to the Tamil calendar in consultation with the officiating priest of the temple. Sometimes a few ‘temple-regions’ may hold it in March or some other month. This is for the sake of keeping continuity with a regional practice that has become well-established.

Ten days preceding the festival, a flag-hoisting ceremony (‘kodi-etram’) is held in the temple. For this purpose a flag depicting a lion (‘singam’) is raised on the flag-post (‘kodi maram’) amidst chanting, recitation of prayers and shouts of ‘arogara’ (Hail to God or to Amman). The flag is then worshipped with offerings of sandalwood, coconut, fruit and burning of camphor, with devotees all the while reading appropriate verses from sacred books. The presiding deity of the temple can be one of the forms of ‘Amman’ (the Mother) — Kaali Amman, Maari Amman, Draupadee Amman, or Durga Amman — after whom the temple has been named. The ‘Amman~ is ceremoniously bathed and lavishly adorned. Devotional songs are intoned praising the various attributes of the Mother. Devotees throng to recite the ‘maari amman thaalaatu’ or the ‘lullaby song of the Mother’. Discourses are held to explain the meaning, significance and attributes of the Mother. ‘Prasadam’ (consecrated offerings).

The ‘kodi-étram’ signifies the start of a ten-day fast and prayers for all who take part in the ‘theemithi’ ceremony. Every evening devotees and members of their family gather at the temple to pray and to chant the glory of the ‘Amman’. During this period the penitent submits himself to a rigorous regime abstaining from fish, fowl meat, alcohol, cigarettes and other sensual gratifications. He sleeps on a mat spread on the floor at home. In this manner the penitent is purged of impurities. The removal of passion and desire helps him attain ‘one-pointedness’. Either theofficiating priest or someone competent is called upon to read from the ‘Mahabaratham’, the sacred Hindu epic. The appropriate chapter,‘Arjuna’s Penance’ (Arjuna’s thavam) is recited. Nowadays this is being replaced by devotional group singing by younger devotees.

On the day of the festival, devotees gather on the bank of a river close to the locality. After the ritual bath they put on the turmeric-coloured dresses in the traditional manner and smear the religious symbol of ‘pattai’ or three-fingered horizontal white marks on the forehead, shoulders, arms and torso. The females apply the ‘pattai’ to the forehead only. A small lemon is tied to the loins of each devotee. They now form themselves into a procession and leave the river bank and make for the temple by a pre-determined route. The ‘urvalam’ (procession) is headed by the officiating priest, who carries on his head a decorated brass pot (‘karagam’) and dances with joy at his meeting with the Mother. He is preceded by a group of youths with short sticks in their hands which they strike together rhythmically while another group provide the singing and music. This is called ‘kolaattam’. There is often a second group doing the ‘kummi’ by clapping their hands rhythmically. The young girls are clad beautifully in the traditional ‘paavaadai’. In the procession, individuals read out from ‘maariamman thaalaatu’ amidst shouts of ‘arogara’ (glory to God).

Slowly the procession reaches the temple yard where a pit generally 13 to 15 feet long and 5 feet broad, filled with glowing embers 6 inches deep has been prepared. The priest performs a ritual ceremony first to ward off any evil spirit that may disturb the ‘theemithi’ and then he tosses the garland from his neck into the pit to seek permission from the Mother to walk on her ‘saree’. satisfied, he first steps into the pit (‘kuzi’) amii chanting and shouts of ‘arogara’. He then sign to the other devotees. One by one each devot walks barefoot on the ‘thee’ (fire) in single fi Very often a woman devotee will walk the smoi dering path with her child in her arms. It reported that Mother Draupadee spreads out h ‘saree’ (vestment) over the glowing embers ai the devotee walks across the pit as on a woolli carpet. The ‘pit’ represents the ‘saree’ of tI ‘Amman’. In the case of Draupadee, the ‘Mah barata’ relates how Duchadhana tried to undraj her at the bidding of Druyodhana and how Loi Krishna came to her rescue.

Hindus - Think Quest

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Between The Miles

Because existence can become severe
In one day,
Just sense me and I'll be there.
In the minds eye,
I'm not so far away.
If you hold out your hand,
In the whispers,
I'll become the zephyr.
And besiege you.
If your eye's upon the stars,
In the crystalline darkness,
I'll become the moon.
And the light shall guide you.
If you rest upon the ground,
In the warmth,
I'll become the grass.
And embrace you.
If you turn outside,
In the wetness,
I'll become the rain.
An upon your forehead, kiss you.
If you free the air,In the light of day,
I'll become the sun.
And smile for you.

Between the miles-
If you need me.
If you need a friend.
Let me be the friend,
I want to be.

Heather Stoop - Friendship Poem

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Teachers' Day In Malaysia

The date 16th of May has been chosen as Teachers’ Day because it was during this date in 1956 that the Federal Legislative Council gave its approval for the proposals in the Education Committee Report to be endorsed as the national education policy of this country. The document is also known as the Razak Report and has since been the National Education Policy.

Teacher’s Day Objectives
  • Emphasize on teachers’ role in nation building (including integration and unity), national development and community service.

  • Draw the attention of parents, students and the public to the pertinent role of teachers in our Malaysian community.

  • Foster the feelings of professional unity and goodwill amongst teachers.

  • Enhance the teaching profession and stature in the community.

  • Provide opportunities for teachers to further develop their competence through seminars, conferences and other similar meetings organized for Teachers’ Day.

  • Assess objectively the role of teachers based on Malaysian landscape and undertake measures that ensure the role will be effective.

When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake,

We place our feet where they have never been.

We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.

Who is down there but our old teachers?

Water that once could take no human weight-

We were students then- holds up our feet,

And goes on ahead of us for a mile.

Beneath us the teachers, and around us the stillness.

Teacher's Day - MOE

қαvї - கவி

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pride, Ego & Arrogance

"Hypocrisy, pride, self-conceit, wrath, arrogance and ignorance belong, O Partha, to him who is born to the heritage of the demons.” ~ The Gita, XVI. 4

While pride harms only the proud, arrogance due to overbearing pride brings contempt for others. An arrogant man is often rude and very fond of offending his friends, relatives, colleagues and everyone else who comes in contact with him.


Pride rears its head even in the most unsuspected corners. One man may be proud that he is proud, and another, proud that he is not proud. While one may be proud that he is a non-believer in God, another may be proud of his devotion to God. Learning may render one man proud, and yet ignorance can also be the source of pride for another man.


Ego is nothing but pride in its inflated form. For example, an arrogant man is unduly or excessively proud of his wealth, status, learning, etc. He shows ego in spirit of conduct. He is unwarrantably overbearing and haughty. His head is swollen like the swelling caused by dropsy. He thinks very highly of himself and poorly of others. He claims much for himself and concedes little to others.


Arrogance is an absorbing sense of one’s own greatness. It is a feeling of one’s superiority over others. In the presence of superiors, overweening pride manifests itself as arrogance. Pride is too self-satisfied to care for seeing the good in others and in praising them.


Another by-product of pride is vanity, which intensely craves admiration and applause. It is undue assumption of self-importance. It often results in open and rude expression of contempt and hostility. It quickly takes for granted superiority and privilege, which others are slow to concede.

Why is it Difficult to Ward Off the Ego?

However, if you think pride or ego is easy to get rid of, think again! The play of the ego pervades our whole life. The ego does not go away by merely substituting some set phrase for “I”. As long as the body is alive and the mind functions in and through the body, what is known as the ego or the personality will arise and exist. This ego or pride is not a permanent and unquestionable reality. It is a temporary phenomenon; it is ignorance that invests it with permanency. It is a concept; it is ignorance that elevates it to status of reality. Only enlightenment can bring you this wisdom.

The Underlying Paradox

How does enlightenment arise? How does the realization “God is the real doer and we are just His means” get instilled in our hearts? I am sure you will agree that until this realization arises in our minds and inner intelligence, we cannot get rid of the ego. One may very easily say, “Practice Karma-Yoga and the ego will disappear.” Is practicing Karma-Yoga as simple as these words sound? If, for instance, you proudly say or claim that you have been a Karma-Yogi, i.e., doing your duties and not looking for rewards, for years and years and years, then you become so vain and arrogant that the ego waxes gloriously inside you, instead of being eliminated. The argument is that if you are established in the practice of Karma-Yoga, your heart is purified, and then in that pure heart divine grace dispels the darkness of the ego. Possibly! But before you get to that stage, the ego becomes so great that the earlier philosophy is completely forgotten.

May God Bless You!

So, what should we do to exorcise the devil of pride (ego) and arrogance? In my opinion, only by the grace of God one can be watchful of the presence of pride in all our actions. How does one earn God’s grace? You cannot earn it because that will again involve your ego.

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna says: “On account of pure compassion I bestow knowledge on My devotee. I give it out of compassion, not because he deserves it.” Mark the Lord’s words, “My devotee.” Who is His devotee? He, whose heart all the time cries, "My God, what am I going to do? I can’t get rid of my ego. I cannot deal with my pride” — in the hope that one day by the miraculous grace of God someone, probably a Guru will come in your life, who will switch on the enlightenment and put off the pride. Until then all you can do is to keep praying.

Gyan Rajhans - How to Kill Pride, Ego & Arrogance

қαvї - கவி

World Hypertension Day

World Hypertension Day has been established to highlight the preventable stroke, heart and kidney diseases caused by high blood pressure and to communicate to the public information on prevention, detection and treatment. Each year, May 17th is designated World Hypertension Day.

High Blood Pressure Is A Global Epidemic

Over 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from high blood pressure (or hypertension). Hypertension is the biggest risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

High blood pressure is the biggest single risk factor for death worldwide, causing strokes, heart attacks and kidney disease.

Salt Is A Major Factor In Raising Blood Pressure

High salt (sodium) consumption is the cause of hypertension in about 3 in 10 adults. Hypertension is the major risk factor in cardiovascular diseases, accounting for 64% of strokes and 49% of coronary heart disease. Reducing sodium reduces blood pressure.

Globally, 7 million die every year because of high blood pressure. Many of these deaths could be prevented by eating less sodium. Sodium is a part of table salt but up to 80% of the sodium we consume comes from processed or packaged food and food eaten at restaurants.

World Hypertension League Organisation

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sadhus: Hindu Holy Men

The sadhus are something like India's answer to the social security system. They are renunciates who have left behind all material and sexual attachments and live in caves, forests and temples all over India. The word comes from the Sanskrit ‘to practice’ and the practice of meditation is supposed to be what they’re about, more or less.

There are around 4 or 5 million sadhus in India today and they are still widely respected, revered and even feared. No one wants the curse of a sadhu upon them. It is also thought that the austere practices of the sadhus helps to burn off their karma and that of the community at large. Thus society donates money and food to feed them.

There are so many kinds of sadhus it’s hard to get a grip on the whole subject. Some live in the mountains alone for years at a time, eating only a few bananas. Others walk around with one hand in the air for decades until the fingers withdraw into a stump. And some just smoke plenty of charas and look for god in the smoke.

There are naked Naga sadhus with thick dreadlocks who carry swords and there are Agora babas who may eat dog shit or flesh from human corpse and keep company with ghosts in their holy path. Everything has a place in India and there are thought to be infinite paths to God.

Becoming a sadhu is not for everyone. It is supposed to be the fourth phase of a Hindu’s life, after studies, being a father and a pilgrim but for most it’s not a practical option. There are some who fake holy status to gain respect but they are soon found out by any real baba.

Becoming a sadhu is no easy option either. You have to die onto yourself and may be required to attend your own funeral before following a guru for many years. You carry his stuff, you make the fire, you bring the water and so on until you have enough experience under your belt to strike out on your own.

It’s been suggested that the obligatory 4am early bath is enough deterrent for many would-be renunciates – especially in the mountains where the water is freezing. Then sadhus will gather around the dhuni, the holy fireplace and begin with their prayers and meditation for the day.

Some sadhus may go in for black magic or herbalism and will dispense cures to the local community, remove evil eyes or bless a marriage. They’re a walking reminder to the average Hindu of Divinity. They’re generally allowed free passage on the trains and are a closely-knit organisation. Some were even military in the old days and even now the Naga babas carry their swords with them. 40 years ago the Naga babas found their path to the River Ganges blocked by other devotees so they chopped off around a dozen heads and hundreds more died in the panicked stampedes.

The big gathering of the sadhus is the kumba mela and it takes place every four years at various points along the holy River Ganges. Here every kind of sadhu in India comes out of the woodwork to meet up with old friends and put on a few shows. There are yogis who bury themselves underground, men who have held their hands in a fist for so long their nails now grow out the other side. One friend told me how proud he was to see his guru pull a bus along with a rope attached to his penis.

Religion & Soul - RoadJunky

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Chitra Pournami

Chitra Pournami, or Chitirai Purnima, is a unique Tamil festival observed on the full moon day (Poornima) in the month of Chitirai (April – May). The day is dedicated to Chitragupta, the official keeper of deeds in the abode of Yama. It is believed that bathing in holy rivers and temple ponds on the day will wash away the sins committed.In 2009, the date of Chitirai Pournami is May 9. (It must be note that in 2009 that Pournami Tithi begins on May 8 in some regions and ends on May 9). Pournami is marked on May 9 in such calendars.

In Hinduism, Chitragupta, the first assistant of Lord Yama, is the one who keeps record of the good and bad deeds of human beings on earth. After death, when one reaches the abode of yama, it is he who tallies the good and bad deeds and declares it to Yama. Therefore, the day is dedicated to Chitragupta and devotees pray to him to forgive their sins.

Another important legend associated with Chitra Poornima, involves Lord Indra, the king of Gods, and his Guru Brihaspati. Once Indra and Brihaspati had an altercation, and the Guru stopped advising his pupil. Without the sound counsel of his Guru, Indra committed numerous sins. Finally, when Brihaspati relented and took up his duty. He then advised Indra to undertake a pilgrimage to the earth to alleviate the burden of sins committed by him in his absence.

One day during his pilgrimage, Indra had a sudden realization that he has been redeemed from his sins. He looked around and noticed a Shivling under a Kadamba tree. He was sure that it was Lord Shiva who had helped him in alleviating his sins. He decided to worship the Lingam and to his surprise he found golden lotus in a nearby pond. He prayed to Shiva by offering the golden lotus. This happened on a Chitra Pournami day and the place was Madurai in Tamil Nadu. In remembrance of this event, in the Madurai Meenakshi temple, a Devendra Puja is observed on Chitra Poornima.

Elaborate pujas are done on Chitirai Pournami in temples and a special rice offering is made to Chitragupta.

Chitra Poornima - Hindu Blog

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Narasimha Jayanthi

Narasimha, the fourth incarnation of God Vishnu, is half-human half-lion and provides a very fascinating study of the Lord's incarnation in order to alleviate the sufferings of his devotees. Sage Kashyap had four wives, Diti, Aditi, Vinita and Kudroo. Diti gave birth to demons and from Aditi were born gods, while from Vinita was born Garud, the carrier of Vishnu and the last one Kudroo created the hydras. Dithi gave birth to Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. Vishnu killed Hiranyaksha as he oppressed the devas. At the death of Hiranyaksha, Hiranyakashipu was overpowered with grief. His mother Dithi was heart-broken. Hiranyakashipu also was filled with sorrow and it burnt his own heart like fire. He hated Vishnu and Vishnu's very name was like poison to him. His blood was boiling with the hatred of Vishnu.

Hiranyakashipu, King of the Rakshasas, retired to the mountain Mandara and began tapas - the severe order of penance. Brahma was pleased with his devotion. He appeared to Hiranyakashipu and said, 'Hiranyakashipu, arise. I am pleased with your devotion. I have never seen such a severe meditation before. Ask for whatever you desire.' Hiranyakashipu replied, "Great Lord, if you will grant my prayer, this is what I seek: Let not death come to me from any creature created by you; let me not meet with death either in the house or outside it; let not my death occur either during the day or at night; no weapon should cause my death; I should not die either on land or in the sky."

After this blessing the demon crossed all bounds in oppression and dethroned Indra, the king of heavens. The very gods were filled with fear. Indra, along with the other gods, appeared before Brahma and prayed for deliverance. Brahma was very much worried and replied that the demon had become powerful due to the blessings bestowed by him and he could not destroy him. He also advised Indra to go to Vishnu, which they did. The gods went to Vishnu and retold their story of sufferings and said that due to boons given by Brahma the demon had been indulging in all sorts of oppression. Vishnu promised to destroy him in due course of time.

Hiranyakashipu had a son named Prahalad. Right from his very childhood Prahalad was attracted towards Vishnu and the other gods. Prahalad had not obeyed the orders of his father not to worship Vishnu. His father tried to destroy his son in a fit of anger; tying a stone to Prahalad's body, he was thrown into the river but Vishnu himself stopped him from drowning. Hiranyakashipu later tried to get Prahalad trampled under the feet of an elephant but the elephant lifted Prahalad lovingly by the help of his trunk and put him on its back. He then built a house and put Prahalad into it and set the same to fire; even this could not harm Prahalad. The father even tried to poison the son, but to no avail.

At last the king thundered at the boy, "You, curse of the family! Have you not yet given up your evil thoughts? The three worlds tremble at my glance. But you, my son, how do you dare to disobey me? You are very young; some one must have misled you and encouraged you. Otherwise you would not have had such evil ideas and such courage. Tell me who has shown you such an evil path." The earth shook as the king roared at the boy. But Prahalad calmly replied, "Dear father, it was Hari who gave me this courage. He is stronger than anyone else. You and I, the universe, even Brahma are nothing before his strength. He is the real Lord of the Universe."

All the gods were under the thumb of the mighty Hiranyakashipu; and here was a mere boy of five giving him advice. The king of the Rakshasas was mad with anger. He shouted in rage: "Unlucky fool, your death is near. I am the Lord of all the worlds, the only master. Is there another? Where is he? Show him to me." "He is everywhere," young Prahlad's answer came without a moment's delay. The king could no longer control himself through anger. He hit a pillar with his mace. "Wicked fellow, is he everywhere? You mad boy, why should he not appear to me in this pillar? I am going to kill you this very moment. You have been praising Hari as the Lord of the Universe. Let him come to your help if he can." So saying he drew out his sword and pounced upon the little boy. There was a terrible deafening noise as if the universe itself split into two. Even the very brave Hiranyakashipu stared from his place at the terrible noise. The courtiers shook with fear and stood like statues of stone. As the stunned men watched, the pillar split into two.

There was Sri Hari, in the form of Narasimha. He had the head of a lion and the body of a man. (Nara = Man : Simham = Lion). The eyes of this terrible figure were dazzling and they looked like molten gold. The hair on the head and the moustache and the beard stood straight and erect. The sharp and pointed jaws chattered harshly; the tongue quivered like a sword and was sharp as a dagger. His eyebrows were close knit. The ears were raised and stood erect. The mouth gaped like a mountain cave. The two nostrils looked like wells turned upside down. The body was huge and mountain-like. It seemed to touch the skies and to stop the very clouds. It had countless arms. The body was covered with a white substance like silver. The very sight of the sharp claws made one tremble.

This terrible form split the pillar and came out. Hiranyakashipu's courtiers had crowded the hall; but not one dared to look at him, not to speak of ever approaching him. Narasimha caught Hiranyakashipu with a loud roar and carried him to the threshold of the hall. He sat on the threshold with the Rakshasa in his lap. Then he dug his nails deep into his body and tore it open. He took out the entrails and wore them round his neck. Thus the wicked asura was finally killed at the hands of the man-lion, Vishnu. All the asura bodyguards who fell on Narasimha in fierce rage were crushed into a lump of flesh in the winking of an eye. After the enemies were destroyed, Narahari (Vishnu) sat on the throne of the Rakshasa King, glaring at those around him. The gods showered flowers from heaven. The Gandharva sang divine music and the Apsaras, the dancers of heaven, danced in joy. The entire earth rejoiced.

The gods praised Vishnu's ways. "Hiranyakashipu got boons from Lord Brahma; and Narasimha has respected all the promises. For it is now twilight, which is neither day nor night; the place is neither outside the house nor inside it, it is the threshold. Again he was killed neither on land nor in the sky, but on the lap of the god; he was killed neither by weapons nor by missiles but torn by nails; no one created by Brahma has killed him nor was he born in the wombs by ordinary course; it is Vishnu, in the form of Narasimha, who slew him. The little boy Prahalad touched the feet of Narasimha with his head in deep devotion. At the tender touch of Prahalad the Lord was pleased. He grew calm and anger gave way to kindness. Vishnu gave his blessings to Prahalad - the true devotee.

Please eat once on the previous day (Trayodashi) and on the Narasimha Jayanthi day keep fast from morning till chaturdashi tithi ends. After sunset, perform Pooja to Lord Narasimha. Please keep night vigil. Perform visarjan pooja next day morning. If chaturdasi prevails more than 3 prahara break fast before noon next day. If possible do 'teel patra dana' to brahmin.

After taking a bath do Lord Narasimha pooja with abhishekam, and perform homam to Lord Narasimha. Perform Punchasukta homam, Narasimha moola mantra homam, Sri Lakshmi-Narasimha mantra homam. Additionaly one can add Sri Sudarshan homam as well. Please visit the hindu temple in your area where these ceremonies are performed and take blessings of Lord Narasimha. Most temples perform Lakshi-Narasimha Sudarshan homam on this day. Certain temples celebrate these festivals for nine days starting from shasthi till chaturdashi.

om vajranakhāya vidmahe

tīkṣṇadaggṣṭrāya dhīmahi

tanno nārasiṁhaḥ pracodayāt

Pandit Mahesh Shastri & Dr. Ramachandra Joisa - Nrisimha Jayanthi

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mother's Day

Origin of Mother's Day goes back to the era of ancient Greek and Romans. But the roots of Mother's Day history can also be traced in UK where a Mothering Sunday was celebrated much before the festival saw the light of the day in US. However, the celebration of the festival as it is seen today is a recent phenomenon and not even a hundred years old. Thanks to the hard work of the pioneering women of their times, Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis that the day came into existence. Today the festival of Mothers day is celebrated across 46 countries (though on different dates) and is a hugely popular affair. Millions of people across the globe take the day as an opportunity to honor their mothers, thank them for their efforts in giving them life, raising them and being their constant support and well wisher.

Earliest History of Mothers Day

The earliest history of Mothers Day dates back to the ancient annual spring festival the Greeks dedicated to maternal goddesses. The Greeks used the occasion to honor Rhea, wife of Cronus and the mother of many deities of Greek mythology.

Ancient Romans, too, celebrated a spring festival, called Hilaria dedicated to Cybele, a mother goddess. It may be noted that ceremonies in honour of Cybele began some 250 years before Christ was born. The celebration made on the Ides of March by making offerings in the temple of Cybele lasted for three days and included parades, games and masquerades. The celebrations were notorious enough that followers of Cybele were banished from Rome.

Early Christians celebrated a Mother's Day of sorts during the festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent in honor of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ. In England the holiday was expanded to include all mothers. It was then called Mothering Sunday.

History of Mother's Day: Mothering Sunday

The more recent history of Mothers Day dates back to 1600s in England. Here a Mothering Sunday was celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of Lent (the 40 day period leading up to Easter) to honor mothers. After a prayer service in church to honor Virgin Mary, children brought gifts and flowers to pay tribute to their own mothers.

On the occasion, servants, apprentices and other employees staying away from their homes were encouraged by their employers to visit their mothers and honor them. Traditionally children brought with them gifts and a special fruit cake or fruit-filled pastry called a simnel. Yugoslavs and people in other nations have observed similar days.

Custom of celebrating Mothering Sunday died out almost completely by the 19th century. However, the day came to be celebrated again after World War II, when American servicemen brought the custom and commercial enterprises used it as an occasion for sales.

History of Mother's Day: Julia Ward Howe

The idea of official celebration of Mothers day in US was first suggested by Julia Ward Howe in 1872. An activist, writer and poet Julia shot to fame with her famous Civil War song, "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Julia Ward Howe suggested that June 2 be annually celebrated as Mothers Day and should be dedicated to peace. She wrote a passionate appeal to women and urged them to rise against war in her famous Mother Day Proclamation, written in Boston in 1870. She also initiated a Mothers' Peace Day observance on the second Sunday in June in Boston and held the meeting for a number of years. Julia tirelessly championed the cause of official celebration of Mothers Day and declaration of official holiday on the day. Her idea spread but was later replaced by the Mothers' Day holiday now celebrated in May.

History of Mother's Day: Anna Jarvis

Anna Jarvis is recognised as the Founder of Mothers Day in US. Though Anna Jarvis never married and never had kids, she is also known as the Mother of Mothers Day, an apt title for the lady who worked hard to bestow honor on all mothers.

Anna Jarvis got the inspiration of celebrating Mothers Day from her own mother Mrs Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis in her childhood. An activist and social worker, Mrs Jarvis used to express her desire that someday someone must honor all mothers, living and dead, and pay tribute to the contributions made by them.

A loving daughter, Anna never forgot her mothers word and when her mother died in 1905, she resolved to fulfill her mothers desire of having a mothers day. Growing negligent attitude of adult Americans towards their mothers and a desire to honor her mothers soared her ambitions.

To begin with Anna, send Carnations in the church service in Grafton, West Virginia to honor her mother. Carnations were her mothers favorite flower and Anna felt that they symbolised a mothers pure love. Later Anna along with her supporters wrote letters to people in positions of power lobbying for the official declaration of Mothers Day holiday. The hard work paid off. By 1911, Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state in the Union and on May 8, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.

History of Mother's Day: Present Day Celebrations

Today Mothers Day is celebrated in several countries including US, UK, India, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and Belgium. People take the day as an opportunity to pay tribute to their mothers and thank them for all their love and support. The day has become hugely popular and in several countries phone lines witness maximum traffic. There is also a tradition of gifting flowers, cards and others gift to mothers on the Mothers Day. The festival has become commercialised to a great extent. Florists, card manufacturers and gift sellers see huge business potential in the day and make good money through a rigorous advertising campaign.

It is unfortunate to note that Ms Anna Jarvis, who devoted her life for the declaration of Mothers Day holiday was deeply hurt to note the huge commercialisation of the day.

SCFI - Mother's Day

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Significance of Vesak - Buddha Day

Traditionally, Buddha's Birthday is known as Vesak or Visakah Puja (Buddha's Birthday Celebrations). Vesak is the major Buddhist festival of the year as it celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha on the one day, the first full moon day in May, except in a leap year when the festival is held in June. This celebration is called Vesak being the name of the month in the Indian calendar. The significance of Vesak lies with the Buddha and his universal peace message to mankind.

As we recall the Buddha and his Enlightenment, we are immediately reminded of the unique and most profound knowledge and insight which arose in him on the night of his Enlightenment. This coincided with three important events which took place, corresponding to the three watches or periods of the night.

During the first watch of the night, when his mind was calm, clear and purified, light arose in him, knowledge and insight arose. He saw his previous lives, at first one, then two, three up to five, then multiples of them .. . ten, twenty, thirty to fifty. Then 100, 1000 and so on.

As he went on with his practice, during the second watch of the night, he saw how beings die and are reborn, depending on their Karma, how they disappear and reappear from one form to another, from one plane of existence to another. Then during the final watch of the night, he saw the arising and cessation of all phenomena, mental and physical. He saw how things arose dependent on causes and conditions. This led him to perceive the arising and cessation of suffering and all forms of unsatisfactoriness paving the way for the eradication of all taints of cravings. With the complete cessation of craving, his mind was completely liberated. He attained to Full Enlightenment. The realisation dawned in him together with all psychic powers.

This wisdom and light that flashed and radiated under the historic Bodhi Tree at Buddha Gaya in the district of Bihar in Northern India, more than 2500 years ago, is of great significance to human destiny. It illuminated the way by which mankind could cross, from a world of superstition, or hatred and fear, to a new world of light, of true love and happiness.

The heart of the Teachings of the Buddha is contained in the teachings of the Four Noble Truths, namely,

The Noble Truth of Dukkha or suffering

The Origin or Cause of suffering

The End or Cessation of suffering

The Path which leads to the cessation of all sufferings

The First Noble Truth is the Truth of Dukkha which has been generally translated as 'suffering'. But the term Dukkha, which represents the Buddha's view of life and the world, has a deeper philosophical meaning. Birth, old age, sickness and death are universal. All beings are subject to this unsatisfactoriness. Separation from beloved ones and pleasant conditions, association with unpleasant persons and conditions, and not getting what one desires - these are also sources of suffering and unsatisfactoriness. The Buddha summarises Dukkha in what is known as the Five Grasping Aggregates.

Herein, lies the deeper philosophical meaning of Dukkha for it encompasses the whole state of being or existence.

Our life or the whole process of living is seen as a flux of energy comprising of the Five aggregates, namely the Aggregate of Form or the Physical process, Feeling, Perception, Mental Formation, and Consciousness. These are usually classified as mental and physical processes, which are constantly in a state of flux or change.

When we train our minds to observe the functioning of mental and physical processes we will realise the true nature of our lives. We will see how it is subject to change and unsatisfactoriness. And as such, there is no real substance or entity or Self which we can cling to as 'I', 'my' or 'mine'.

When we become aware of the unsatisfactory nature of life, we would naturally want to get out from such a state. It is at this point that we begin to seriously question ourselves about the meaning and purpose of life. This will lead us to seek the Truth with regards to the true nature of existence and the knowledge to overcome unsatisfactoriness.

From the Buddhist point of view, therefore, the purpose of life is to put an end to suffering and all other forms of unsatisfactoriness - to realise peace and real happiness. Such is the significance of the understanding and the realisation of the First Noble Truth.

The Second Noble Truth explains the Origin or Cause of suffering. Tanha or craving is the universal cause of suffering. It includes not only desire for sensual pleasures, wealth and power, but also attachment to ideas', views, opinions, concepts, and beliefs. It is the lust for flesh, the lust for continued existence (or eternalism) in the sensual realms of existence, as well as the realms of form and the formless realms. And there is also the lust and craving for non-existence (or nihilism). These are all different Forms of selfishness, desiring things for oneself, even at the expense of others.

Not realizing the true nature of one's Self, one clings to things which are impermanent, changeable and perishable. The failure to satisfy one's desires through these things; causes disappointment and suffering.

Craving is a powerful mental force present in all of us. It is the root cause of our sufferings. It is this craving which binds us in Samsara - the repeated cycle of birth and` death.

The Third Noble Truth points to the cessation of suffering. Where there is no craving, there is no becoming, no rebirth. Where there is no rebirth, there is no decay. no, old age, no death, hence no suffering. That is how suffering is ended, once and for all.

The Fourth Noble Truth explains the Path or the Way which leads to the cessation of suffering. It is called the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold path avoids the extremes of self-indulgence on one hand and self-torture on the other. It consists of Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

These path factors may be summarised into 3 stages of training, involving morality, mental culture and wisdom.

Morality or good conduct is the avoidance of evil or unwholesome actions -- actions which are tainted by greed, hatred and delusion; and the performance of the good or wholesome actions, - actions which are free from greed, hatred and delusion, but motivated by liberality, loving-kindness and wisdom.

The function of good conduct or moral restraint is to free one's mind from remorse (or guilty conscience). The mind that is free from remorse (or guilt) is naturally calm and tranquil, and ready for concentration with awareness.

The concentrated and cultured mind is a contemplative and analytical mind. It is capable of seeing cause and effect, and the true nature of existence, thus paving the way for wisdom and insight.

Wisdom in the Buddhist context, is the realisation of the fundamental truths of life, basically the Four Noble Truths. The understanding of the Four Noble Truths provide us with a proper sense of purpose and direction in life. They form the basis of problem-solving.

The message of the Buddha stands today as unaffected by time and the expansion of knowledge as when they were first enunciated.

No matter to what lengths increased scientific knowledge can extend man's mental horizon, there is room for the acceptance and assimilation for further discovery within -the framework of the teachings of the Buddha.

The teaching of the Buddha is open to all to see and judge for themselves. The universality of the teachings of the Buddha has led one of the world's greatest scientists, Albert Einstein to declare that 'if there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism'.

The teaching of the Buddha became a great civilising force wherever it went. It appeals to reason and freedom of thought, recognising the dignity and potentiality of the human mind. It calls for equality, fraternity and understanding, exhorting its followers to avoid evil, to do good and to purify their minds.

Realising the transient nature of life and all worldly phenomena, the Buddha has advised us to work out our deliverance with heedfulness, as 'heedfulness is the path to the deathless'.

His clear and profound teachings on the cultivation of heedfulness otherwise known as Satipatthana or the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, is the path for the purification of beings - for the overcoming of sorrows and lamentation, for the destruction of all mental and physical sufferings, for the attainment of insight and knowledge and for the realisation of Nibbana. This has been verified by his disciples. It is therefore a path, a technique which may be verified by all irrespective of caste, colour or creed.

Venerable Mahinda - Buddha Dharma Education Association

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Is Hindu Marriage is Sacrosanct? Why?

In Hinduism, man and woman represent the two halves of the divine body. There is no question of superiority or inferiority between them. However, it is a scientific fact that the emotional side is more developed in women. Hindu history is witness to the super-women, like Gargi, Maitreyi and Sulabha, whose faculty of reasoning was far superior to that of ordinary mortals. But owing to organic differences in their physical and emotional constitutions, women are temperamentally more emotional than men. Having recognized this fact, Hindu scriptures or 'Shastras' have allotted certain specific duties to Hindu women. These duties include maintaining domestic peace, adjustment of social relations and attainment of spiritual perfection.

The idea behind the institution of marriage in Hinduism is to foster, not self-interest, but love for the entire family. Practice of self-restraint is the ideal of marriage in Hinduism. It is the love and duty cultivated for the entire family that prevents break-ups and any thought of polygamy.
Duties of a Hindu Woman

Having recognized this fact, Hindu scriptures or the shastras have allotted certain specific duties to Hindu women. These duties include maintaining domestic peace, adjustment of social relations and attainment of spiritual perfection.

The Idea of Marriage

The idea behind the institution of marriage in Hinduism is to foster, not self-interest, but love for the entire family. Practice of self-restraint is the ideal of marriage in Hinduism. It is the love and duty cultivated for the entire family that prevents the break-ups.

Men by nature are less capable of self-restraint than women. That is why, after marriage the Hindu women lead the men by keeping the lustful propensities under control. While married, thought of any other man does not enter the mind of a Hindu lady until she loses her faith in her husband due to his consistent misbehavior and 'don't care' attitude.

The Sanctity of Marriage

The present-day Hindu husbands fail to recognize the sacrifices and lofty ideals of Hindu wives, and thus compel them to follow the worst of the West. During the nuptial ceremony in a Vedic marriage, both the bride and the bridegroom take oath for the practice of self-restraint, to work together for the welfare of the family and to help each other to attain spiritual peace. This lofty ideal of sanctity is a great gift of Hinduism to the world at large.

Protecting the Institution

It should be a matter of great concern that we have begun to ignore the ancient and lofty ideals of Hindu marriage and are anxious to follow in the footsteps of cultures that do not value these ideals. Although Indians are among the most married societies in the world and there are laws governing marriage among Hindus, the number of divorce suits filed by Hindu couples is on the rise. Instead of strengthening the traditional ideals, which for thousands of years have helped us prevent marriage and family break-ups, we are misdirecting our energies towards promoting the ideal of sense-enjoyment and self-interest. In my opinion it is still not too late to be proactive to protect the sanctity of Hindu marriage.

Subhamoy Das & Gyan Rajhans - Ideals of Hindu Marriage

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Moment Which Last Forever

The girl in the picture is Katie Kirkpatrick, she is 21 . Next to her, her fiancé, Nick, 23. The picture was taken shortly before their wedding ceremony, held on January 11, 2005 in the US. Katie has terminal cancer and spend hours a day receiving medication. In the picture, Nick is waiting for her on one of the many sessions of quimo to end.

In spite of all the pain, organ failures, and morphine shots, Katie is going along with her wedding and took care of every detail. The dress had to be adjusted a few times due to her constant weight loss.

An unusual accessory at the party was the oxygen tube that ketie used throughout the ceremony and reception as well. The other couple in the picture are Nick's parents. Excited to see her son marrying his high school sweetheart.

Katie, in her wheelchair with the oxygen tube, listening a song from her husband and friends.

At the reception, Katie had to take a few rests. The pain do not let her to be standing up for long periods.

Katie died five days after her wedding day. Watching a women so ill and weak getting married and with a smile on her face makes us think. Happiness is reachable, no matter how long it last. We should stop making our lives complicated.

Life is short
Break the rules
Forgive quickly
Kiss passionately
Love truly laugh constantly
And never stop smiling
No matter how strange life is
Life is not always the party we expected to be
But as long as we are here
We should smile and be grateful

Beautiful Story - Anonymous

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Its Labour Day!

Every 1st of May of the year, we observe Labour Day or Hari Buruh. The day is also gazetted as the national or federal Public Holiday, and that includes this year, 2009.
But how many of us here know what exactly is this Labour Day, why we’re observing it, how it first happened, and where it happened? Nothing can delight us more than having a day off, isn’t it, regardless of the reason behind it.
Perhaps, after reading this, we would be able to appreciate that some of the HR regulations today were the results of some of older generation fighting for a cause more than 100 years ago.
Actually there are 2 different versions of Labour Day. First is the Labour Day which we and most other countries observe on 1st of May. The second one, termed as the Labor Day, is a federal holiday for United States, and takes place on the first Monday of September. Here we are more interested in the former.
The Labour Day celebration originated from Australia, when a movement called Stonemasons, which advocated 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours of rest for workers, rose to prominence during the 1850s. During this time, workers were required to work for 10 to 12 hours per day, six days per work. The movement wanted an 8 hour work per day instead, without any drop in salary.
Even though the 8 hour movement was earlier seen as a success in New Zealand, the first public celebration was held in Melbourne, when groups of workers abandoned their work and marched in a parade towards the Australian Parliament House.
The 8 hour celebration was eventually translated into what we know as Labour Day - a day of commemoration and appreciation of labors, workers and the unions. Most countries celebrate Labour Day on 1st of May, with a number of exceptions.
In Australia itself, the dates for Labour Day observance vary considerably and is decided by state and constituency. Canada celebrated on the same day with the US - first Monday of every September, while in New Zealand, it falls on fourth Monday on every October.
Today, the Malaysia Employment Act 1955 stated that workers should never be allowed to work more than 8 hours without a break in between. Guess now we know where this 8 hours come from?
All Things Malaysia - Skor Career
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