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 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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