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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