Ganesh/Janus, and the Lost Hindu/Vedic Secrets of Christmas and New Year’s Eve (Part-II)

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Continued from part-I

On a more subtle level of understanding, why would Janus/Ganesh be worshipped as the old year leaves and the new one begins? What is a year? It is time. Then who is old man time? Time is Saturn, whom the Greeks called Chronos, hence the word chronology. It is well known in India that Saturn, who in Sanskrit is called Shani, is the Lord of time and also the placer of obstructions or impediments. In time, things that once served us become rigid or fossilized and then become obstructions on our path. We then need to throw them out and make some new resolutions. We need to remember to be child-like again, like a baby, worship the baby with an elephant’s head, Ganesh/Janus, to remove the obstacles and give us a fresh start so we can make more progress.

In the extreme, the poor man’s method of forgetting the past has been alcohol, so we see it is used and often abused in ringing in the New Year. The wearing of masks to celebrate New Years is related to our removing the layers of not self that may have accumulated over the year. It is related to the masks or faces that Janus/Ganesh presents to us, asking the question: “Who are you really? Then why do we celebrate Janus/Ganesh in the aftermath of the Winter Solstice? What is the meaning of the longest night of the year and it’s opposite the Summer Solstice, the longest day? The ancient thinkers called those two days the gates of the year. If you include the Autumnal and Vernal Equinox in March and September, you can see Janus/Ganesh Quadrafons, the four headed Ganesh. But the two gates in June and December are the most famous.

In India it is believed that the two solstices divide the year into two parts, the time from December to June when the days are increasing and the days from June to December when the nights are increasing. From this perspective, the two solstices are “gateways” to the realms of dark and light. The two times of year are called in Sanskrit the Uttarayana and the Dakshinayana, or the Northern way and Southern way. It appears that the “yana” of Sanskrit is the same as the “Jana” of Latin. The other name for these two times of year is Devayana and Pitriyana.

The Devayana or realm of light, is the place where the Angels or Devas, the Divine helpers reside. In the material world you could call this place Heaven. It is closer to God or Brahman the Divine light. The apex of Devayana is Brahmaloka, the golden planet of the Creator. This path leads back to the eternal, spiritual and transcendental realm. The gate to the realms of Light opens the day of the Winter Solstice and remains open until the night of the Summer Solstice. At that moment the Dakshinayana or dark gate opens. The path into darkness is called Pitriyana or the path of the ancestors. The implication is that one’s ancestors are often still bound in darkness resulting from previous actions that have produced negative consequences. As a result, they still reside in Pitriloka or in material places within the darkness of matter.

In the Vedas it is said that a yogi who leaves their body during the time from the Summer Solstice to the Winter Solstice cannot achieve liberation and must take birth again. Conversely, those who leave their body during the time from the Winter Solstice to the Summer Solstice can achieve liberation by going out through the Deva gate. In the Mahabharata there is a well known story that the great warrior Grandfather Bhisma lay for days on a bed of arrows waiting for the Winter Solstice gate to open before he would leave his body. He had been given the power to leave his body at will and so waited for the Northern gate to open and then ascended to the Deva realm.

These then, are the two gates that Janus/Ganesh is looking at and guarding with his two heads. The two heads in their original form of Janus Geminius also conceal a further mystery. That form was a male and female face wearing a single crown. This form of Ganesh is often depicted in the spiritual art of India. The male and female are Shiva and Parvati, who are Father and Mother God as well as Father and Mother Nature. Shiva is also called Mahadeva or the Greatest of the Divines and Yogesvara or the Supreme Yogi. He is the ruler of the Devayana path. Parvati or Durga is the Mother matter and place of birth of all beings. She is Mother Nature and the keeper of the dark material energy, the Womb of Life. Thus she is the ruler of the Pitriyana path, of birth and our ancestral relations. It is those relationships that we celebrate during the festivities of the Winter Solstice/Christmas.

According to the Vedic knowledge, the two Persons of the Divine are an inseparable couple who love each other endlessly and are perpetually embraced. Like the yin/yang symbol of the Taoist philosophy, Shiva and Parvati, the light and dark of this world are elaborately intertwined. In India, their conjoined form is depicted in many ways. In one of these, they share one half of each other’s body. That form, called Ardineshvara shows the upper quarter of Shiva on the left with the upper quarter of Parvati on the right. On the lower quarter, Parvati’s leg is on the left, beneath Shiva’s torso and his leg is the quarter on the right beneath Parvati’s upper body. They are shown as dancing together, becoming each other and yet retaining their distinctive identity and individuality. They have two heads with one crown.

Often this cosmic form is depicted with Ganesh’s face on the front, between the faces of Shiva and Parvati. In that way he represents the transitions or gateways between the various states within matter, light and dark, past and future, birth and death. In other words, he is worshipped first at the beginning of every new thing or phase of being. He is Janus/Ganesh, the Lord of transitions or progress as we move through time which presents itself as a series of portals or new opportunities which requires us to move on and forward from what we were in the past. In our New Year current celebration, we say good-bye to the old man (the same Saturn Janus gave shelter to) of the previous year and usher in the baby of progressive possibility through Ganesh/Janus. That Janus gave shelter to Saturn is due to his being the remover of obstacles and whereas Shani (Saturn) is the placer of them. In fact, both Shani and Ganesh are angels (Devas) according to the philosophy of Hinduism but they have different functions.

At another level, Ganesh is depicted in the Yoga Philosophy as the deity in charge of the first chakra of the seven chakras that are depicted within our body’s energy system. That chakra is called Muladhara and is related to the earth element. The earth element passes in through our mouth while carrying the light or life force (in our Northern gate) and then, after giving us life, passes out through the Southern gate (our anus). This is Ani again or the annual circle of living. The year cycle is replicated in our body as the two gates of our cycle of life. In the cosmic body it is the same. In India it is said that the cosmos is actually a great person or form of God, called the Jagat Purusha or Cosmic Person. We are the microcosm and He/She the Jagat Purusha are the macrocosm. On January 1st, Ganesh/Janus guards the gate or transition from the first chakra where we begin as a baby on the earth, toward our ascent through the six chakras until we ascend to Heaven at Midsummer Night’s Eve, the Summer Solstice. The seventh chakra is the 7th Heaven, where Mahadeva and Mother Parvati live surrounded by all the Devas and holding their favorite child Janus/Ganesha.

There are of course, many more such mysteries and whole volumes in the Vedas, related to Ganesh, Shiva, Parvati and their relation to our lives, the cosmos and beyond. This article has just been one small exploration into the origins of the Hindu/Vedic origins of world culture that have become shrouded in the mists of time. Many of our now unconscious rituals and actions and most of our speech and ideas have their origin in the great cultures that preceded us. Rome was one of those cultures and India which preceded Rome and Greece is a rich storehouse of ancient wisdom that is still relevant today.

Fortunately for us, the culture of India is still intact, so a study of the world in the light of its teachings and history can reveal the roots and depth of meaning behind many of our now forgotten beliefs and customs. May Janus/Ganesh make the way straight before you, remove the obstacles to your progressive unfoldment and open the gate to your Divine aspirations. May you pass safely through the solstice gate and find no obstacles as you cross the threshold of the New Year.

Om Gam Ganapataye Om Namaha.

May Lord Ganesh bless you with success.

– Mr.Jeffrey Armstrong (Kavindra Rishi), Founder of VASA, Canada, USA

Ganesh/Janus, and the Lost Hindu/Vedic Secrets of Christmas and New Year’s Eve (Part-I)

– Mr.Jeffrey Armstrong (Kavindra Rishi), Founder of VASA – Vedic Academy of Sciences & Arts, Canada, USA

jeggrey 1Mr. Jeffrey is a relationship expert, philosopher, practitioner and teacher of the Vedas for over 40 years. He is an International Speaker, Award-winning poet and best-selling author of numerous books. He is a sought after guest expert on TV and radio talk. For 15 years, he was a corporate executive in Silicon Valley. He is Media and Communications Director for both the Vedic Friends Association (VFA) and the Hindu Collective Initiative for North America (HCI-NA).

During the months of December and January, much of the world observes the transition from one year to another. It is no accident that Christmas and the New Year Holiday celebration takes place in the last days of December and on the first day of January. In our modern times, many of the original reasons for these seasonal observations have become lost or obscured by the historical changes in our world. This article aims to excavate some of the older and deeper meanings of Christmas and the January 1st celebration. Our digging into the history of these days will take us back to ancient Rome and finally back to even more ancient India.

Our story begins with the imagery we are most familiar with, a Winter Solstice on December 21st or 22nd followed by Christmas, a historically more recent celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th. It is now widely accepted by scholars of the Bible that Jesus was not born on December 25th and was probably born four or five years earlier than is currently observed and more likely in springtime rather than winter. But his birth was and is celebrated within a few days of the much older Winter Solstice celebration, the longest night of the year. Following that night, each day is a little longer until six months later we reach mid-summer night’s eve, the Summer Solstice and longest day of the year. Since the Winter Solstice is the return of the Sun, it appears that the birth of the “Son” was scheduled to coincide with the much more ancient celebration of that important solar day.

Returning to New Years Eve, the word January is derived from the Latin word Janus, who was known in Rome as the God of beginnings. Janus was also known as the God of gates and doors. He was also referred to as the God of change, transition and progress. He often represented the transition from rural to urban civilization. He was known to have introduced money, laws and agriculture. He was thought of as the guardian or custodian of the universe and specifically the protector of Rome. He was worshipped at the beginning of all things, planting time, harvest, marriages, births, the first hour of each day and the morning’s first prayer were dedicated to him. His name comes from the word “janua” meaning gate or portal.

The temple of Janus in Rome had two gates, one facing East and one facing West. Janus was depicted as having two heads, one looking toward the future and one toward the past. In the later Roman Empire, the face of Janus often appeared on coins depicted as a two-headed man facing in opposite directions. Because Janus was considered the protector of Rome, he was worshipped for success in war. It is said that when Rome was fighting a war the gates to the temple of Janus were left open and only during peace were they closed. The gates were said to be closed only once in the history of Rome.

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But the two heads of Janus were not originally those of a man. His previous form consisted of a man and a woman facing in opposite directions. They were known as Janus Geminus (twin Janus) or Janus Bifrons. Prior to that he was depicted with four heads and was called Janus Quadrifons or the four-faced form of Janus. The two-faced Janus depicted a male and female head, who shared a single crown. The man held a scepter in his hand, the woman a key. There is also a legend regarding Janus, that he once gave shelter to Saturn who was being pursued by Jupiter.

Janus is also supposedly related to the earlier Etruscan deity named Ani, from which our English word annual is derived, as well as the word anus. Like our own body, the year has a beginning and an end, the mouth and the anus are the two gates pointing in different directions, just as January and December are the beginning and end of a year cycle which itself is a kind of circle or gate in time through which we are passing. Obviously Janus has a relation to Ani and annual.

The next step in understanding Janus requires a little linguistic understanding. It is a well-known historical fact that much of the wealth of the Roman Empire was spent in buying luxurious items from India, which at that time was the wealthiest culture in the world. What many modern people don’t know is that both Latin and Greek as well of course as most European languages including English, are based upon the most ancient classical language of India known as Sanskrit. The final form of the Sanskrit grammar was published in India during the year 800 BCE. Many of the key root words in the European languages, Latin and Greek can be traced back to their roots in Sanskrit. Modern scholars have obscured this fact by referring to a nonexistent and theoretical language they refer to as Indo-Aryan. This only distracts us from understanding how much was borrowed from India and Sanskrit in the forming of Greek and Roman culture.

By this point in the article, anyone with knowledge of Indian culture has probably guessed the obvious connection between Janus and Ganesha, the elephant headed deity who is known as the “isha” or lord of “ganas” or guardians. Ganesh is the historical source of Janus, which the Romans learned of in their many visits to India. This also is why there is no mention of Janus in the Greek culture, which preceded and was the source of much of Roman culture and religion.

The many similarities between Janus and Ganesh are worth mentioning. First, Ganesh was created by his mother Parvati or Mother Nature from Her own body, in order to guard the gate or door to her bath house. One of the benedictions that was eventually given to Ganesh was that he would always be worshipped first before any of the other gods. As the Lord of the Guardians, he is considered the head of all the protectors or guardian angels. Many Asian cultures believe that every house has a Gana or guardian spirit which is often depicted as a face on the front door. Ganesha is viewed as the master of all those guardian angels.

As for the notion of change, transition and progress, this usually proceeds through the removal of some impediment or obstruction, or through solving of some problem. Ganesh is, of course, also known as the remover of obstacles. In this way he is popular with everyone, for who does not wish for their obstacles to be removed. He also leads us from unsophisticated thinking to subtler thoughts by challenging our imagination. He also represents the present as compared to the past or future. Just as Janus was said to have invented money, the word “gan” is the root of “ganita”, the Sanskrit for mathematics or the art of counting. For this, Ganesh is known as the Lord of “hosts” or the mass of people and the Lord of success, related to counting and money.

By trying to understand his having the body of a human and the head of an elephant, our imagination is challenged to develop from gross to subtle, from the known to the unknown. In the words of the scientist Albert Einstein, “Imagination is better than knowledge.” And so as we make the transition from rural and rough to urban and civilized, we progress in our sophistication. As for Ganesh (Janus) introducing money, he is also worshipped in India as the God of mercantile success or financial betterment and is often depicted in the company of Lady Luck or Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and wife of the maintainer Lord Vishnu.

to be continued…..

DIWALI – The Festival of Light

                       index  – Prof. Shashi Tiwari, General Secretary, WAVES-India

Festivals and festivities have played very important role in the formation, organization and development of cultural traditions of India. If one studies the inner meaning and background of any Indian festival, one will notice that there are tremendous values hidden behind the related stories and celebrations. They are merry-making occasions depicting Indian cultural thoughts envisaged by sages and great men of our land. Side by side climate, occupations and attitudes of Indian people have also helped in shaping the current form of these festivals.

Diwali, originally known as Dipawali, is the most popular festival celebrated throughout India with great enthusiasm, joy and gaiety. It expresses the aspiration of Indian consciousness for achieving purity, prosperity and progress. The term ‘Dipawali’ is a compound word made from ‘dipa’ and ‘avali’ denoting the meaning ‘chain of lights’. Light is the absence of darkness. Darkness prevents the ability to discern hence light symbolizes knowledge in its spiritual sense and cheerfulness in its worldly sense. Tamso ma jyotir gamay – ‘lead us from darkness to light’ is a famous Vedic prayer. Indian philosophy of life aims knowledge as ultimate means to obtain supreme Bliss, while cheerfulness is essential for obtaining all sorts of worldly objects.  Diwali as a festival points out importance of ‘light’ in human life.

Diwali is not a celebration of one day only like other festivals, but it brings a series of festivals with itself – Dhanteras, Narak Chaturdasi, Badi Diwali, Govardhan Puja and Bhai Duja. All these festivals have one or the other epic based or mythological story about their origin or popularity. The celebration of the five-day festival commences on Kartika Krishna Triyodashi and ends on Kartika Shukla Dvitiya.  Main festival of Diwali is celebrated after about twenty days of Dashahara at the dark night of the Amavasya of Kartika month. It has two festivals before its celebration and two festivals after its celebration, so it seems itself fully illuminated in all aspects.

Diwali comes in India every year after rainy season and in the beginning of autumn season. This is a happy period full of activities especially for potters, farmers and gardeners. These festivals are related with Indian agriculture and other rural economic growth as new harvest is almost ready in the fields and potter is busy in pottery work due to clear weather. Thus making and colouring of earthen pots, lamps (Diya), statues of gods and goddesses are easily possible for potter families. In simple sense, these festivities are associated with our social structure and its general requirement.

Two festivals which come before Diwali day are related with cleanliness, hygiene and health. As season is changing one has to take care of one’s health and houses too need maintenance. Legend of Dhanteras tells that on this day Lord Dhanvantari, the Physician of Devas appeared from ocean with Amrita kalsha (a pot full with nectar) for the welfare of mankind. Amrita is known as a symbol of happiness and health. Symbolically people buy pots this day.  Narak Chaturdasi which is also called Choti Diwali is connected mainly with the story of Narkasura, a demon king of Pragjyotish who was killed by Shri Krishna. After killing him Shri Krishna took a special bath for the purity of body. Thus, Narak refers to untidiness, dirtiness and diseases. The legend hints that these should be removed initially, if one wishes to welcome Diwali i.e. light, prosperity, and delight in one’s life, family and society. So on this day people clean and wash their houses and buy new things to decorate them.

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The day of Diwali is full of activities. People greet each other, exchange gifts and sweets and wear new clothes. Main celebration is done in the late evening and night when people light small oil lamps called diyas and place them around their homes, in courtyards, gardens, verandahs, on the walls and also on the roof tops. In cities, candles and fashionable lights are substituted among the riches. The celebration of the festival is customarily accompanied by the lighting of crackers. On the night of Diwali, all the shops and offices are decorated with electric bulbs of various colours. It is believed that on Diwali, Devi Lakshmi, goddess of wealth visits Earth and goes to lightened and clean houses of her devotees. People, therefore, perform Lakshmi Pujan for Her welcome with great honour and faith, and pray for the prosperity and peace of family members. On Diwali, Deva Ganesh is also worshiped along with Devi Lakshmi. As Ganesh is god of intelligence, the tradition indicates that prosperity should be combined with intelligence for the fulfillment of life. Wealth and knowledge desired jointly make life more meaningful and contented.      

The most famous legend behind the celebration of Diwali is about Sri Rama’s homecoming to Ayodhya with wife Sita and brother Lakshman after fourteen years of exile. The people of Ayodhya decorated their homes as well as the city of Ayodhya by lighting tiny diyas all over in order to welcome their beloved prince Shri Ram  and Devi Sita, turned the black night luminous and delightful, and  celebrated the victory of Shri Ram  over the King of Lanka, Ravan.  Shri Ram is symbol of good while Ravan represents the evils. Therefore, Diwali is considered the festival, which establishes the victory of good over the evil spirits.  There are other stories also about the importance of Diwali. Some say that Diwali marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya who started Vikram Samvat . According to the story of Narkasura , next day was celebrated as Diwali to  felicitate victory of Shri Krishna over  the demon.   

In Gujarat, the festival is celebrated to honour goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. In Bengal, Durga Puja is performed on nine days of Navratas but on Diwali Dipanvita Lakshmi is worshiped with great honour.  Decorations are done with Rangoli and Alpana. In Maharashtra, return of King Bali is praised in the songs and prayers chanted on Diwali day. In short, throughout India this festival is enjoyed with faith and delight but with some different rituals based on the regional traditions. Diwali is also popular among Indians living in Britain, U.S.A., Guyana, Fiji, Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, Singapore, Srilanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, and so on. Whatever may be the legend behind the festival but Indian people celebrate it with great enthusiasm everywhere. Furthermore, the festival of Diwali is quite popular among the Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists living in India, because light symbolizes discriminatory power and understanding in their faiths too, and is related to legends of these rich traditions as well.

Next Day of Diwali is commencement of new year for business class. It is also celebrated as Govardhan Puja to remember the lifting   up of the Govardhan Mountain by Shri Krishna. This day is also observed as Annakuta when different types of food are offered to Lord Krishna and prayers are performed. On this occasion   people of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar build a shape of mountain with the help of cow dung and decorate them with flowers and then worship it.

Diwali festival is concluded with Bhai Duja festival which is observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers. It is believed that on this day Yamraja, the god of death visited his sister Yami and she put the auspicious tilak on his forehead. Brother and sister enjoyed together and exchanged special gifts as a token of their love for each other.  Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister on this day will be blessed. The spirit found in the latter two festivals may be analyzed as goals of agricultural prosperity, and happiness in family which are sure to come after worship of Lakshmi and Ganesha.

Finally, it may be mentioned that five festivals on Diwali represent lots of cultural traditions laid down in ancient scriptures. Celebrations make occasion happy and convey ideals of life indirectly but Diwali festival is to be known as a symbol of accumulated Indian Values. It symbolizes unity in diversity and shows the victory of light over darkness and victory of goodness over evil.