Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thiruvaadhirai: Significance Of Arudraa Dharshanam – Celebration Of The Cosmic Dance Of Lord Shiva

Thiruvaadhirai is one of the famous vradhas celebrated. This is the Thiruvaadhirai Nakshaththram in the month of Marghazhi (Maargasira). Thiruvaadhirai is considered as the Nakshaththram of Lord Nataraaja. Though the Lord never takes birth and hence no Nakshaththram to celebrate, on Thiruvaadhirai He appeared to the holy saints Pathanychali and Yyaagra Paadha.

Once when Mahaa Vishnu was lying down on the great serpent Adhi Seesha, Adhi Seesha felt Mahaa Vishnu was quite heavy that time. He asked Mahaa Vishnu what was the reason. Mahaa Vishnu said that he was remembering and enjoying the Dance of Lord Shiva. The answer developed the desire in Adhi Seesha to see the Great Dance of Lord Shiva. He asked Mahaa Vishnu how his desire could be fulfilled. Mahaa Vishnu asked him to go to Chithamparam and do "tapas". Adhi Seesha came to Chithamparam and prayed the Lord for a long time.

There was another muni and devotee of Lord Shiva in that place, called Viyaagra Paadha. He prayed to God to get the legs of tiger, so that he can pluck flowers early in the morning to offer to the God, before any bee touches the flower. He was also praying God to see His Great Dance for a long time. Pleased with their prayer the God appeared on the Thiruvaadhirai day and danced in Chithamparam.

The Nataraaja image of the Lord is prayed with great devotion this day. In Chithamparam and other temples it is celebrated as Arudraa Dharshanam. In this festival Abhisheeka (holy anointing) of Lord Nataraaja takes place early in the morning and then He comes around the town. A sweet called ‘kaLi’ and multi vegetable ‘thALakam’ are offered and eaten to celebrate this great joy of seeing the dance of the Lord.

There is an anecdote about how ‘kaLi’ came to be the prasad on this day. A devotee called Sendanar had the habit of eating only whatever was left of the food offered to the Lord and then distributed among other devotees. On Thiruvadirai day in a Marghazhi, he could offer to the Almighty only some ‘pittu’ and ‘kaLi’. With much regret that he could get nothing better, he offered these to the Lord. As he stood a little later in Nataraaja’s sanctorum, the Lord effected a shower of ‘pittu’ and ‘kaLi’ on Sendanar, in recognition of his deep devotion. Since the day of that miracle, ‘kaLi’ is the special offering to Lord Nataraaja on Marghazhi Thiruvadirai.

In Sirghazhi in Tamil Nadu, this day is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Saint Thiru Gnana Sambandar and the day when that saint, while a baby, was breastfed by Parvati. In Thirupperundurai, the day is observed as the birthday of Saint Manickavachakar. Karanagama says we should worship the Divine Dancer on Thiruvadirai in exquisite Marghazhi.

Arudraa Dharshanam is observed in the Tamil month of Marghazhi (December – January). It is essentially a Shaivite festival and celebrates the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva, which is represented by the Lord Nataraaja form. Arudraa signifies the golden red flame and Shiva performs in the form this red-flamed light.

The cosmic dance of Lord Shiva represents five activities – Creation, Protection, Destruction, Embodiment and Release. In essence, it represents the continuous cycle of creation and destruction. This cosmic dance takes place in every particle and is the source of all energy. Arudraa Dharshanam celebrates this ecstatic dance of Lord Shiva.

It takes place on the full moon night in the month of Marghazhi and this is also the longest night in a year. The festival is mainly observed in the Tamil speaking world. The cosmic dance of Lord Shiva is enacted on the day. Most of the temples around the world with Lord Nataraja as deity perform the Arudraa Dharshanam.

Bhattar - Shaivam.Org - HinduBlog

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The 7 Blessings Of The Hindu Wedding

The Hindu ceremony, a rite known as 'samskara', has many components and it is quite beautiful, specific and filled with chanting, Sanskrit blessings and ritual that is thousands of years old. In India, it can last weeks or days. In the West, it typically is at least two hours long.

It is the role of the Hindu priest or 'pandit' to lead a couple and their families through the sacrament of marriage. However, as an interfaith minister, I’ve had the good fortune of being called upon by Hindu brides and grooms and couples who love Hindu rituals, to incorporated some of the rites into non-denominational, interfaith or multi-faith ceremonies.

An important aspect of the Hindu ceremony is to light a sacred fire, created from 'ghee' (clarified butter) and woolen wicks, to evoke the God, Agni (Fire God), to bear witness to the ceremony.

The highlight is 'Saptapadi', also called the 'Seven Steps'. Here, traditionally the bride’s sari is tied to the groom’s kurta, or a sari shawl might be draped from his shoulder to her sari. He leads, her pinky linked with his pinky, in seven steps around the fire, as the priest chants the seven blessings or vows for a strong union. By walking around the fire they are agreeing to these. With each step, they throw small bits of puffed rice into the fire, representing prosperity in their new life together. This is considered the most important part of the ceremony, it seals the bond forever.

A nice way to adapt this into a creative, contemporary ceremony is to light a traditional fire, or use a candle, placed on a small table in front of the wedding altar. Bride and groom can be in tux and white dress as they take seven steps while seven blessings are spoken in English. Here are Seven Blessings adapted from a Hindu ceremony.

1. May this couple be blessed with an abundance of resources and comforts, and be helpful to one another in all ways.

2. May this couple be strong and complement one another.

3. May this couple be blessed with prosperity and riches on all levels.

4. May this couple be eternally happy.

5. May this couple be blessed with a happy family life.

6. May this couple live in perfect harmony… true to their personal values and their joint promises.

7. May this couple always be the best of friends.

One thing I appreciate about the Hindu ceremony is that bride and groom come to the altar as God and Goddess, in human form. In many parts of India the bride is considered Lakshmi, Goddess of Fortune, and groom is her consort Vishnu, the Great Preserver.

I believe every bride and groom should walk down the aisle feeling divine!

About the Author: Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway is one of New York's leading interfaith and non-denominational wedding officiants. She serves couples of all backgrounds, cultures and religions, and helps them celebrate their love with a highly personalized ceremony. She is known for her warm, loving, and creative approach to blessing couples in love. Rev. Laurie Sue is also a widely recognized bridal stress expert. She is author of "Wedding Goddess: A Divine Guide to Transforming Wedding Stress into Wedding Bliss" (Perigee Books, May 2005).

About.com Hinduism - Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

10 Reasons To Celebrate Diwali

Why do we celebrate Diwali? It’s not just the festive mood in the air that makes you happy, or just that it's a good time to enjoy before the advent of winter. There are 10 mythical and historical reasons why Diwali is a great time to celebrate. And there are good reasons not just for Hindus but also for all others to celebrate this great Festival of Lights.

1.Goddess Lakshmi’s Birthday: The Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi incarnated on the new moon day (amaavasyaa) of the Kartik month during the churning of the ocean (samudra-manthan), hence the association of Diwali with Lakshmi.

2. Vishnu Rescued Lakshmi: On this very day (Diwali day), Lord Vishnu in his fifth incarnation as Vaman-avtaara rescued Lakshmi from the prison of King Bali and this is another reason of worshipping Ma Larkshmi on Diwali.

3. Krishna Killed Narakaasur: On the day preceding Diwali, Lord Krishna killed the demon king Narakaasur and rescued 16,000 women from his captivity. The celebration of this freedom went on for two days including the Diwali day as a victory festival.

4. The Return of the Pandavas: According to the great epic ‘Mahabharata’, it was ‘Kartik Amavashya’ when the Pandavas appeared from their 12 years of banishment as a result of their defeat in the hands of the Kauravas at the game of dice (gambling). The subjects who loved the Pandavas celebrated the day by lighting the earthen lamps.

5. The Victory of Rama: According to the epic ‘Ramayana’, it was the new moon day of Kartik when Lord Ram, Ma Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana and conquering Lanka. The citizens of Ayodhya decorated the entire city with the earthen lamps and illuminated it like never before.

6. Coronation of Vikramaditya: One of the greatest Hindu King Vikramaditya was coroneted on the Diwali day, hence Diwali became a historical event as well.

7. Special Day for the Arya Samaj: It was the new moon day of Kartik (Diwali day) when Maharshi Dayananda, one of the greatest reformers of Hinduism and the founder of Arya Samaj attained his nirvana.

8. Special Day for the Jains: Mahavir Tirthankar, considered to be the founder of modern Jainism also attained his nirvana on Diwali day.

9. Special Day for the Sikhs: The third Sikh Guru Amar Das institutionalized Diwali as a Red-Letter Day when all Sikhs would gather to receive the Gurus blessings. In 1577, the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar was laid on Diwali. In 1619, the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind, who was held by the Mughal Emperor Jahengir, was released from the Gwalior fort along with 52 kings.

10. The Pope’s Diwali Speech: In 1999, Pope John Paul II performed a special Eucharist in an Indian church where the altar was decorated with Diwali lamps, the Pope had a ‘tilak’ marked on his forehead and his speech was bristled with references to the festival of light.

The Festival of Lights is for All - Shri Gyan Rajhans & Subhamoy Das

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pitri-Paksha: Annual Ancestor-Worship

The annual ancestor-worship or 'Pitri-Paksha' is a period that is observed during the dark half of the Hindu month of 'Ashwin.' This period of 15 days is set aside by the Hindus for the remembrance of their ancestors. During this fortnight, Hindus donate food to the hungry in the hope that their ancestors will also be thus fed. It is this time that Hindus throughout the world reflect on the contributions their forefathers made to their present life, and the cultural norms, traditions and values they set for us in order to make our lives better.

Three Debts an Individual is Born with

According to the Vedic scriptures an individual is born with three debts. The debt to God is called ‘Dev-rin.’ The debt to the sages and saints is called ‘Rishi-rin.’ The third debt to one's parents and ancestors is called ‘Pitri-rin.’ These three debts are like three mortgages on one's life, but not liabilities. It is an attempt by Hindu scriptures to create an awareness of one's duties and responsibilities.

"Pitri-rin" - Debt to One's Parents & Ancestors

The third debt an individual is expected to pay during one's life is to one's parents and ancestors. One's entire existence, including the family name and the great dharma one belongs to, are the gifts of one's parents and the forefathers. Just as your parents, who brought you into this world, protected you when you were weak and frail, fed you, clothed you, taught you, and brought to you up, your grandparents performed similar duties for your parents.

How to Repay the Debt to Ancentors

So how is this debt repaid? Everything that one does in this world should enhance the fame and glory of one's family, and of one's forefathers. Your ancestors are anxious to help you in all your endeavors and the departed souls are capable of doing so. However, they have one expectation from all of us and that is to perform acts of charity in their names during their annual visits to your homes in their subtle, invisible bodies.

A Pure Act of Faith

You do not have to believe in this unique Hindu ritual because it is purely based on faith called 'shraddha' in Hindi. Hence, another name for annual ancestor worship is 'Shraadh,' derived from the word 'shraddha' or faith. However, you will agree that it is the responsibility of everyone to keep up the pride of the family lineage by performing actions that promote the good of all. The fortnight of ancestor worship is nothing but a reminder of your lineage and duties towards it.

Ritual to Remember Forefathers & Repay their Debt - Gyan Rajhans

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

15 Years Of The Ganesha Milk Miracle

September 21, 1995. The bewildering news that Lord Ganesha is drinking milk spread across the world like wild fire - faster than ever! I was a college student living in a hostel in a sleepy university town in northeastern India, and soon found myself among friends and classmates marching to the nearest temple to feed milk to the idol of Ganesha, even before my rational mind could question the fact or dismiss it as a rumor.

It Happened in Homes & Temples Alike
What was so special about the unprecedented incident was that even curious non-believers rubbed shoulders with believers and even fanatics standing in long queues outside the temples. Most of them returned with a sense of awe and reverence - a firm belief that, after all, there may be something called God up there!

People returning home from work would switch on their television sets to learn about the miracle and try it out at home. What was happening in temples was true even at home. Soon every temple and Hindu household around the world was trying to feed milk to Ganesha - spoon by spoon. And Ganesha scooped them up - drop after drop.

How It All Began

To give you a background, Hinduism Today magazine published from the United States reported: "It all began on September 21st when an otherwise ordinary man in New Delhi dreamt that Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God of Wisdom, craved a little milk. Upon awakening, he rushed in the dark before dawn to the nearest temple, where a skeptical priest allowed him to proffer a spoonful of milk to the small stone image. Both watched in astonishment as it disappeared, magically consumed by the God. What followed is unprecedented in modern Hindu history."

Scientists Had No Convincing Explanation

Scientists were quick to attribute the vanishing of millions of spoonfuls of milk from under Ganesha's inanimate trunk to such natural scientific phenomenon as surface tension or physical laws as capillary action, adhesion or cohesion. But they could not explain why such a thing never happened ever before and why it stopped abruptly within 24 hours. They soon realized that this was in fact something beyond the realm of science as they knew it. It was indeed the paranormal phenomenon of the past millennium, the "best documented paranormal phenomenon of modern times," and "unprecedented in modern Hindu history," as people now call it.

A Mammoth Revival of Faith

Various such small incidents were reported from different corners of the world at different times (November 2003, Botswana; August 2006, Bareilly, and so on), but it was never such a wide-spread phenomenon that presented itself on that auspicious day of 1995. Hinduism Today Magazine wrote: "This "milk miracle" may go down in history as the most important event shared by Hindus this century, if not in the last millennium. It has brought about an instantaneous religious revival among nearly one billion people. No other religion has ever done that before! It is as if every Hindu who had, say "ten pounds of devotion," suddenly has twenty." Scientist and broadcaster Gyan Rajhans recounts the 'Milk Miracle' incident on his blog as "the most important event regarding idol-worship in the 20th century ... "

The Media Confirmed the 'Miracle'

India's secular press and the state-run broadcast media were bamboozled if such a thing should merit a place in their news release. But soon they themselves were convinced that it was in fact true and so, newsworthy from every angle. "Never before in history has a simultaneous miracle occurred on such a global scale. Television stations (among them the CNN and BBC), radio and newspapers (among them The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian and Daily Express) eagerly covered this unique phenomenon, and even skeptical journalists held their milk-filled spoons to the statues of gods - and watched as the milk disappeared," wrote Philip Mikas on his website milkmiracle.com specially dedicated to the unworldly incident.

The Manchester Guardian noted, "The media coverage was extensive, and although scientists and "experts" created theories of "capillary absorption" and "mass hysteria" the overwhelming evidence and conclusion was that an unexplainable miracle had occurred… While the media and scientists still struggle to find an explanation for these events, many believe they are a sign that a great teacher has been born."

How the News Spread

I can't imagine anyone of that generation who had not heard about or was not amazed by the milk miracle incident. I don't remember if a short supply of milk was reported, but as a student of communications, I found that the ease and speed with which the news spread in a not-so-connected world, was nothing short of a miracle in itself. It was long before people in small-town India ever heard of the Internet or e-mail, years before mobile phones and FM radios became popular, and a decade before social media was invented. It was 'viral-marketing' at its best that didn't rely on Google, Facebook or Twitter. After all Ganesha - the lord of success and remover of obstacles was behind it!

Paranormal Phenomenon of the Last Millennium - Subhamoy Das

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Mahalakshmi-Varalakshmi Vrata Puja

Varalakshmi Vratam or Varalakshmi Vrata is a special ritual performed by married women in South India, particularly in the regions of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Varalakshmi Vrata Festival is celebrated to worship and seek the blessings of Goddess Varalakshmi, one of the Ashta Lakshmi or Ashtalakshmi (eight Lakshmis). Goddess Varalaksmi, the Goddess who bestows Beautiful Boons, and is considered as the Goddess of wealth, power and prosperity. Vara Lakshmi Vratam is observed on Friday before the full moon day during the month of Sravan or Aadi (July - August).

How to perform the Varalakshmi Vrata Pooja?

The preparation for the Varalakshmi Vrat puja starts in the evening before the day of worship. The place where puja is performed should be cleaned thoroughly. Usually, the women decorate the place with rangolis and flowers. A kalasam (bronze pot) is filled with water or rice and coins, betel leaves, betel nut and mango leaves and decorated with turmeric, sandal paste, vermillion, with a new cloth tied around its neck. A coconut is rubbed with turmeric paste around it and kept on the top of the kalasam. The mango leaves are made to fall on the sides of the kalasam. An image of Goddess Lakshmi (made of any kind of materials) is fixed on the pot. Then arathi is taken to the kalasam.

Next morning, the kalasam is placed on raw rice and then the Varalakshmi pooja starts, with a prayer to Lord Ganesh. Varalakshmi slokas, Ashtalakshmi Stotram, and Lakshmi Sahasranamam are recited throughout the pooja. Sweets, fruits and flowers are offered to Goddess. At the end of the Varalakshmi puja, women tie yellow colored threads to their wrists. Thamboolam (betel leaves, betel nuts fruits, turmeric and dakshna (money) are offered to other sumangalis (married women) who are invited for the pooja. Fasting is observed by the women who perform the pooja. The water in the pot is sprinkled in the house on the next day.

History of Varalakshmi Vrata

Legends say that Vara Lakshmi Vrata pooja was stated by Lord Parameswara to be performed by his consort Parvathi, to get prosperity for the family. Hence, it is followed by married women to seek boons (varam) for the health, wealth and knowledge for their family.

Importance of Varalakshmi Vrat

It is believed that observing Varalaksmi Vratham would bless a woman with eight forces or energies, namely, Sri (Wealth), Bhu (Earth), Saraswati (learning), Priti (love), Kirti (Fame), Santhi (Peace), Tushti (Pleasure) and Pushti (Strength).

Hindu Devotional Blog - Tamil Festivals

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Shri Bhairava Deva

Bhairava (The Wrathful) is one of the more terrifying aspects of Shiva. He is often depicted with frowning, angry eyes and sharp, tiger's teeth and flaming hair; stark naked except for garlands of skulls and a coiled snake about his neck. In his four hands he carries a noose, trident, drum, and skull. He is often shown accompanied by a dog.

Bhairava is Shiva at his most terrifying, at his most fearful. He may be understood as a particular manifestation, or emanation of Shiva, or as Shiva displaying himself at a very high level. In some myths, Shiva created Bhairava as an extension of himself, in order to chastise Brahma. Bhairava is the embodiment of fear, and it is said that those who meet him must confront the source of their own fears. His name describes the effect he has upon those who behold him, as it derives from the word bhiru, which means to become fearful - of feeling great fear.

In some sources, Bhairava himself is said to have eight manifestations, including Kala (black), Asitanga (with black limbs), Sanhara (destruction), Ruru (hound), Krodha (anger), Kapala (Skull), Rudra (storm) and Unmatta (raging). Dogs (particularly black dogs) were often considered the most appropriate form of sacrifice to Bhairava, and he is sometimes shown as holding a severed human head, with a dog waiting at one side, in order to catch the blood from the head.

The origin of Bhairava can be traced to the conversation between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu recounted in "Shiv Maha-Purana" where Lord Vishnu asks Lord Brahma who is the supreme creator of the Universe. Arrogantly, Brahma tells Vishnu to worship him because he (Brahma) is the supreme creator. This angered Shiva who in reality is the creator of all. Shiva then incarnated in the form of Bhairava to punish Brahma. Bhairava beheaded one of Brahma's five heads and since then Brahma has only four heads. When depicted as Kala Bhairava, Bhairava is shown carrying the amputated head of Brahma. Cutting off Brahma's fifth head made him guilty of having slain brahma, and as a result, he was forced to carry around the head for years until he had been absolved of the sin.

Another story of the origin of Bhairava is the tale of Sati, wife of Shiva. Sati, the daughter of the king of gods, Daksha, had chosen to marry Shiva. Her father disapproved the alliance because he perceived Shiva as an ascetic associated with a frugal lifestyle, forest animals and ghosts. Eventually, Daksha held a yagna (a ritualistic sacrifice) and invited all the gods, but not Sati and Shiva. Sati came to the yagna alone, where Daksha publicly spoke in a belittling manner about Shiva. Sati could not bear to hear her husband insulted and offered herself to the sacrificial pyre.

When Shiva learned of this, he destroyed the yagna and killed Daksha by beheading him. Shiva carried Sati's corpse on his shoulders and ran uncontrollably all around the world for days. Since this would eventually destroy all creation, Vishnu used his Sudarshan Chakra (divine discus) to cut Sati's body into pieces, which then fell all around. These spots where Sati's body parts fell are now known as Shakti Peethas. In the form of the frightful Bhairava, Shiva is said to be guarding each of these Shaktipeeths. Each Shaktipeeth temple is accompanied by a temple dedicated to Bhairava.

The Lord of the March of Time - Blazing Avatar Kala Bhairav

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Saptvaar Vrat : 7 Days Fasts To Appease God

There are seven days in the week. A different God governs each day. Depending upon the purpose of the fast, one fasts accordingly. A common reason for fasting is to get over the malefic effect of a particular planet or God, or to achieve something through a blessing of the god. For each day there is a different procedure, different ways to pray to God, and also a different katha to read or arti to sing. However one resolves to fast, one must understand the details of different fasts.

A fast on Sunday is devoted to Surya - the sun

Eye problems or those pertaining to heat and skin may affect one. Blessings from Surya enable one to receive honour and fame and achieve success over enemies. Food is eaten once in the day before sunset. Food must not be eaten after sunset. It must be free of salt and oil. It must not be tamsik. One must offer prayers to Surya and read or listen to the prescribed katha. Only then one must eat. To appease Surya one should wear ruby. When inclined to give charity one must give wheat, red pulses, jaggery, or metals like gold and copper or ruby amongst gems. The best time to give charity is at sunset.

A fast on Monday is devoted to Chandrama - the moon

Prayers are offered to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Since they had a long, happy married life, fasting on Mondays helps one find a suitable marital partner. There are three kinds of fasts observed on Mondays. The routine fast observed on a Monday is the saumya pradosh - the fast to seek pardon for a fault, and a fast for 16 Mondays. The procedure to be followed is similar, but in each case the katha to be read or heard is different. Food is eaten once in the day. Cereals are permitted. After prayers to Shiva and Parvati one must read or hear the appropriate katha. To appease Chandrama one must wear pearls and silver. When inclined to give charity, one must give white things like rice, white clothes, conch shells, silver or pearls.

A fast on Tuesday is devoted to Mangal - the planet Mars

It is believed that fasting for 12 Tuesdays helps overcome the malefic effects of this planet. All kinds of obstacles are overcome. It also brings fame and honour. Prayers must be offered to Hanuman. Use of red clothes and red flowers is auspicious. Food prepared of wheat and jaggery must be eaten once in the day. After prayers to Hanuman one must read the katha.

A fast on Wednesday is devoted to Budh - the planet Mercury

One must preferably eat green things once in the day. One must pray to Lord Shiva and follow it by reading or hearing the katha. To appease Budh one must wear emerald in gold. When inclined to give charity one must give moong (green gram - Phaseolus mungo), kasturi (musk), blue clothes, gold, copper and five gems.

A fast on Thursday is devoted to Brihaspati - the planet Jupiter

It promotes greater learning and prosperity. Prayers must be offered to Brihespeshwar Mahadev, followed by reading or hearing the katha. One must preferably wear yellow clothes and use yellow sandalwood. Food must be eaten once. One must include yellow pulses in the meal. To appease Brihaspati one should wear topaz in gold. When inclined to give charity one should give yellow things like turmeric, salt, yellow clothes, rice, yellow pulses, gold and topaz.

A fast on Friday is devoted to Shukra - the planet Venus

The procedure for this fast is similar to that of Monday. It is preferable that food is eaten once a day. It must include white preparations like kheer (rice porridge) or rabri (milk preparation). To appease Shukra one must wear mani (a gem) in silver. Those inclined to charity must give rice, white clothes, a cow, ghee, diamonds and gold.

A fast on Friday is also devoted to Santoshi Maa

She is the daughter of Sri Ganesh and blesses one with happiness and contentment. Prayers are offered to her followed by katha and arti. Food must be eaten once. This is a strict fast and nothing sour or acidic must be eaten or offered to anyone else. It is customary to fast for 16 Fridays. On the final day, young boys are fed.

A fast on Saturday is devoted to Shani - the planet Saturn

The effect of Shani is harsh and lasts for a long time. Therefore this fast is observed. Shani is fond of all kinds of black things like black clothes, black peas, black sesame, iron and oil. Prayers are offered to Shani followed by the katha and arti. To appease Shani one must use sapphire and iron. When inclined to give charity one should give black things like an iron vessel with oil, an umbrella, a black shoe, black clothes, black sesame and black peas.

RiiTi - Dharma, Artha, Entertainment & Technology

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Hindu Vrats - Fasting Or Upvaas

Vrats are votive fasting rites which are practiced throughout India. The observance of Vrats spans religious boundaries, social classes and even caste and sectarian affiliations.

Naturally then, there is a great variety in the kinds of vrats performed and numerous variations in the actual practice of any particular vrat.

The word fasting means to move near (to the Supreme) and by implication to overcome helplessness. A calamity has always been an occasion for prayer, we normally pray for a positive reason like asking for a boon, other reasons include appeasement of an anger deity.

It is believed that no prayer can be complete unless it is accompanied by an offering.

Commonly performed Vrats:-

· Monday Vrat for Shiva

· Tuesday Vrat for Ganapati

· Wednesday Vrat for Krishna

· Thursday Vrat for Dattaguru

· Friday Vrat for Lakshmi

· Saturday Vrat for Hanuman

· Sunday Vrat for Surya

Pundit Ravi - Hindu Vrats

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Seven Spiritual Laws Of Success

You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny." – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

This is the core message of the book ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success - A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams’ by Dr Deepak Chopra, the celebrated author of ‘Ageless Body, Timeless Mind’. Alternately, he calls it ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Life’. In seven simple life-altering practical steps, he tells us how to attain success.

What Does It Take to Succeed?

In this book Dr Chopra proves that success is not the result of hard work, exacting plans, or driving ambition but comprehending our basic nature as a human being and abiding by natural laws. When we understand these laws and apply them in our lives, anything we want can be created, because the same laws that nature uses to create a forest, or a star, or a human body can also bring about the fulfillment of our deepest desires.”

What is Success?

For most, it is material wealth. But Dr Chopra goes much beyond: “Success is a journey, and it includes much more than material wealth which is only one component that makes this journey enjoyable”. Success, in actuality, is – good health, energy, enthusiasm for life, fulfilling relationships, creative freedom, emotional and psychological stability, a sense of well-being, and peace of mind. Also, and importantly, it is the unfolding of the divinity within us to live in harmony with the natural laws of life.

The Seven Keys to Success

In brief, here are the seven laws that can lead you to success:

1. The Law of Pure Potentiality or The Law of Unity

The source of all creation is pure consciousness or pure potentiality seeking expression from the unmanifest to the manifest. Our essential nature is one of pure potentiality – infinite spiritual essence, pure joy, creativity, endless possibilities, pure knowledge, infinite silence, perfect balance, invincibility, simplicity and bliss. And by daily practice of silence, meditation, and non-judgment, when we realize that our true Self is one of pure potentiality, we align with the power that manifests everything in the universe and get what we desire.

2. The Law of Giving

The universe operates through dynamic exchange giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe. And in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives. The driving force behind giving and receiving should be happiness – if you want love, love others; if you want joy, give joy to others; if you want all the good things, want the same for others.

3. The Law of Karma or Cause and Effect

What we sow is what we reap, and when our actions of conscious choice-making bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of our karma (both action and the consequence of that action) is joy and success.

4. The Law of Least Effort

Nature’s intelligence functions with effortless ease – flowers don’t try to bloom, they bloom; birds don’t try to fly, they fly. “Least effort is expended when our actions are motivated by love, harmony, and joy”. If we try to seek power, money, or chase happiness for the sake of ego, we waste energy. But contrarily, if these actions are dovetailed with love, our energy multiplies and we can use the surplus energy for anything we want.

5. The Law of Intention and Desire

“Inherent in every intention and desire is the mechanics for its fulfillment. And when we introduce an intention in our pure potentiality, we put this infinite organizing power to work for us”. At quantum mechanical levels, the universe is our extended body and when we intend, it triggers transformation of energy and information and organizes its own fulfillment.

6. The Law of Detachment

Relinquish attachment to the result of your action. Attachment is based on fear and insecurity. Detachment is based on the unquestioning belief in the power of your true Self. “Cars, houses, money, clothes etc. are transitory symbols of your Self…chasing symbols is like settling for the map instead of the territory. It creates anxiety; it ends up making you feel hollow and empty.”

7. The Law of Dharma or Purpose in Life

“Everyone has a purpose in life…a unique gift to give to others, and when we blend this talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.” First, we have to discover our true Self. Second, express our special talents. Third, use the gift to serve humanity. Constantly ask the question, how can I help?

These laws constitute the seven chapters of the book, and each segment ends with ‘Applying the Law’ – some easy methods to practice daily and right away embark on the road to Success. Truly, as the Chairman and CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Peter Guber puts it – “‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success’ is a Virtual Reality toolkit for the 21st century spiritual traveler.”

‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success' - Dr Deepak Chopra

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Greatness Of Lord Ganesha - Lord Of Wisdom And Success

Our concept of ‘ishtadeiva’ encourages us to worship God through our favourite deity or avathara, but every Hindu will worship the elephant headed Vinayagar, who is often lovingly referred to as ‘Pillayar’. Hence, He is the most powerful unifying force in Hinduism and is even claimed to be ‘in charge of Hinduism’.

In fact, He is worshipped in some form or other in many parts of the world and is the most popular object of worship in Maharashtra state in India. First worship is always to Vinayagar, who is propitiated first and foremost even in the celestial world. He exists in physical form with elephant head and trunk in the astral and celestial worlds.

Among all God forms, Vinayagar best manifest AUM the pranava in both form and sound. An elephant roar resembles AUM, which is the primary sound of creation which originated from sound (not light). Vinayagar’s trunk is naadam (sound) and its curled tip is bindu (energy).

Vinayagar is revered as the Lord of wisdom, success and memory for many reasons – large brain and ears (hearing everything), small eyes (discrimination) etc. He is a total ‘brahmachari’ but His divine intellect (buddhi) and success (siddhi) are sometimes portrayed as His two ‘wives’. (This is a misnomer).

Vinayagar sits at the moolathara chakra (spiritual centre) at the lower most part of our spine and gradually propels our kundalini energy upwards towards the manipura chakra higher up. He is the 1st step in kundalini yoga.

He knows best our past karmas and hence guides us accordingly. He is also the guardian and custodian of the gravitational force and so most concerned with our worldly life, creating obstacles when we are wrong, and removing obstacles when we are on the right path. Even Lord Muruga was unable to win Valli over till He had propitiated His elder brother Vinayagar, who then appeared (as the pranava) to Valli in the elephant form.

Vinayagar’s wisdom is seen in several episodes. In the contest for the fruit of wisdom (jnanapalam). While Muruga raced away on His peacock round the universe, Vinayagar calmly circumambulated His parents (Siva and Parvathi) claiming the entire universe to be in them and thus won the fruit of wisdom.

He teaches that no physical sacrifice is too great for destroying evil as well as for propagating spiritual knowledge and dharma. For the former He used His right tusk as a weapon to subdue Mausika the mouse-headed demon. For the latter He broke His right tusk to complete writing the Mahabharatha (the greatest epic of all time) while it was dictated by Sage Veda Vyasa (in 8800 verses) who had found Vinayagar to be the most qualified ONE to write the epic.

Vinayagar’s five (5) shaktis are love and compassion for family, for relatives and friends, for culture and discipline, for dharma, and for charity.

Lord of Wisdom and Success - Dr. K. Dharmaratnam, Klang

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Mehendi or Henna Dye: Green, Cool & Beautiful

Although Mehendi is generally used in many Hindu festivals and celebrations, there's no doubt that the Hindu wedding ceremony has become synonymous with this beautiful reddish dye.

What is Mehendi?

Mehendi (Lawsonia inermis) is a small tropical shrub, whose leaves when dried and ground into a paste, give out a rusty-red pigment, suitable for making intricate designs on the palms and feet. The dye has a cooling property, and no side effects on the skin. Mehendi is extremely suitable for creating intricate patterns on various parts of the body, and a painless alternative to permanent tattoos.

Mehendi History

The Mughals brought Mehendi to India as lately as the 12th century AD. As the use of Mehendi spread, its application methods and designs became more sophisticated. The tradition of Henna or Mehendi originated in North Africa and the Middle East. It is believed to have been in use as a cosmetic for the last 5000 years. According to professional henna artist and researcher Catherine C Jones, the beautiful patterning prevalent in India today has emerged only in the 20th century. In 17th century India, the barber's wife was usually employed for applying henna on women. Most women from that time in India are depicted with their hands and feet hennaed, regardless of social class or marital status.

It's Cool & Fun!

The varied use of Mehendi by the rich and royal from very early times has made it popular with the masses, and its cultural importance has grown ever since. Mehendi's popularity lies in its fun value. It's cool and appealing! It's painless and temporary! No lifetime commitment like real tattoos, no artistic skills required!

Mehendi in the West

The introduction of Mehendi into Euro-American culture is a recent phenomenon. Today Mehendi, as trendy alternative to tattoos, is an in-thing in the West. Hollywood actors and celebrities have made this painless art of body painting famous. Actress Demi Moore, and 'No Doubt' crooner Gwen Stefani were among the first to sport Mehendi. Since then stars like Madonna, Drew Barrymore, Naomi Campbell, Liv Tyler, Nell McAndrew, Mira Sorvino, Daryl Hannah, Angela Bassett, Laura Dern, Laurence Fishburne, and Kathleen Robertson have all tried Henna tattoos, the great Indian way. Glossies, like Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, Wedding Bells, People and Cosmopolitan have spread the Mehendi trend even further.

Mehendi in Hinduism

Mehendi is very popular with both men and women also as a conditioner and dye for the hair. Mehendi is also applied during the various vratas or fasts, such as Karwa Chauth, observed by married women. Even gods and goddesses are seen to adorn Mehendi designs. A large dot in the centre of the hand, with four smaller dots at the sides is an oft seen Mehendi pattern on the palms of Ganesha and Lakshmi. However, its most important use comes in a Hindu Wedding.

The Hindu marriage season is a special time for Henna tattoos or 'Mehendi'. Hindus often use the term 'Mehendi' interchangeably with marriage, and Mehendi is considered among the most auspicious 'ornaments' of a married woman.

No Mehendi, No Marriage!

Mehendi is not just a way of artistic expression, sometimes it's a must! A Hindu wedding includes a number of religious rites before and during the nuptials, and Mehendi play a vital role in it, so much so that no Indian marriage is considered complete without it! The reddish brown color of Mehendi - which stands for the prosperity that a bride is expected to bring to her new family - is considered most auspicious for all wedding-related ceremonies.

The Mehendi Ritual

A day before her wedding, the girl and her female folks gather for the Mehendi ritual - a ceremony traditionally marked by joie de vivre - during which the bride-to-be embellish their hands, wrists, palms and feet with the lovely red hue of the Mehendi. Even the groom's hand, especially in Rajasthani weddings, is decorated with Mehendi patterns.

There's nothing strictly sacred or spiritual about it, but applying Mehendi is considered beneficial and lucky, and always regarded as beautiful and blessed. That is perhaps why Indian women are so fond of it. But there're some popular beliefs about Mehendi, especially prevalent among women.

Wear It Dark & Deep

A deeply colored design is generally considered a good sign for the new couple. It's a common belief among Hindu women that during the nuptial rituals the darker the imprint left on the bride's palms, the more her mother-in-law will love her. This belief may have been contrived to make the bride sit patiently for the paste to dry and yield a good imprint. A bride is not expected to perform any household work until her wedding Mehendi has faded. So wear it dark and deep!

Name Game

A bride's wedding designs usually includes a hidden inscription of the groom's name on her palm. It's believed, if the groom fails to find his name within the intricate patterns, the bride will be more dominant in conjugal life. Sometimes the wedding night is not allowed to commence until the groom has found the names. This is also seen as a subterfuge to let the groom touch the bride's hands in order to find his name, thus initiating a physical relationship. Another superstition regarding Mehendi is that if an unmarried girl receives scrapings of Mehendi leaves from a bride, she will soon find a suitable match.

How to Apply

The Mehendi paste is prepared by powdering dried leaves and mixing it with water. The paste is then squeezed through the tip of a cone to draw patterns on the skin. The 'designs' are then allowed to dry for 3-4 hours until it becomes hard and crusted, during which the bride must sit still. This also lets the bride take some rest, while listening to pre-nuptial advice from friends and elders. The paste is also said to cool the bride's nerves. After it dries, the gruff remains of the paste are washed off. The skin is left with a dark rusty red imprint, which stays for weeks.

Essential Part of Hindu Wedding - Subhamoy Das

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Six Blind Men & The Elephant

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk
Cried, "Ho! what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up he spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope.
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen.

A Hindu Parable - John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Nature of God in Hinduism, Essential Properties of Brahman

Who is God? How do you describe God? Here are 16 points, 16 Divine Attributes to explain the nature of God, gleaned from Swami Sivananda's book God Exists.

1.God is Satchidananda: Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute and Bliss Absolute.

2.God is Antaryamin: He is the Inner Ruler of this body and mind. He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.

3.God is Chiranjeevi: He is permanent, eternal, perpetual, indestructible, immutable and imperishable. God is past, present and future. He is unchanging amidst the changing phenomena.

4.God is Paramatma: He is the Supreme Being. The Bhagavad Gita styles Him as 'Purushottama' or Supreme Purusha or Maheswara.

5.God is Sarva-vid: He is ever-knowledgeable. He knows everything in detail. He is 'Swasamvedya', that is, he knows by Himself.

6.God is Chirashakti: He is ever-powerful. Earth, water, fire, air and ether are His five powers. 'Maya' is His illusive Shakti (power).

7.God is Swayambhu: He is self-existent. He does not depend upon others for His existence. He is 'Swayam Prakasha' or self-luminous. He reveals Himself by His own light.

8.God is Swatah Siddha: He is self-proven. He does not want any proof, because He is the basis for the act or process of proving. God is 'Paripoorna' or self-contained.

9.God is Swatantra: He is Independent. He has good desires ('satkama') and pure will ('satsankalpa').

10.God is Eternal Happiness: Supreme Peace can be had only in God. God-realisation can bestow supreme happiness on humankind.

11.God is Love: He is an embodiment of eternal bliss, supreme peace and wisdom. He is all-merciful, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.

12.God is Life: He is the 'Prana' (life) in the body and intelligence in 'Antahkarana' (fourfold mind: mind, intellect, ego and the subconscious mind).

13.God has 3 Aspects: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are the three aspects of God. Brahma is the creative aspect; Vishnu is the preservative aspect; and Shiva is the destructive aspect.

14.God has 5 Activities: 'Srishti' (creation), 'Sthiti' (preservation), 'Samhara' (destruction), 'Tirodhana' or 'Tirobhava' (veiling), and 'Anugraha' (grace) are the five kinds of activities of God.

15.God has 6 Attributes of Divine Wisdom or 'Gyana': 'Vairagya' (dispassion), 'Aishwarya' (powers), 'Bala' (strength), 'Sri' (wealth) and 'Kirti' (fame).

16.God Lives in You: He dwells in the chamber of your own heart. He is the silent witness of your mind. This body is His moving temple. The 'sanctum sanctorum' is the chamber of your own heart. If you cannot find Him there, you cannot find Him anywhere else.

God Exists - Sri Swami Sivananda

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