Indian Festivals based on the Concept of Yajña (Part-III)

Continued from Part-II

-Sh. Anand Gaikwad

Festivals during Māgh, Fālgun, Chaitra and Vaiśkha:

Mahāśivrātrī: This festival is celebrated on the 14th day of Kriśna Pakṣa in Māghmās. This is celebrated with great pomp and glory at twelve Jyotirlinga places i.e. Kedarnāth, Baidyanath, Kashi Vishwanath, Somnath, Mallikarjuna,  Mahakaleshwar, Omkareshwar, Nageshwar, Ghrishneshwar, Tryambakeshwar, Bhimashankar, and Rameshwar. When the twelve Jyotirlingas come for discussion, I must mention their importance for Suvrushti Projects. “Suvrushti’ means ideal, adequate and well-distributed rainfall. The inspirational Research Paper which has been the basis of Suvrushti Pojects undertaken by Vedāśram; was the paper submitted by a primary teacher from Bihar in 1950 to our then President Dr. Rajendra Prasad. The summary findings of this research paper was that Twelve Jyotirlingas are the Holy Fire Places (nodal centres of Sacred Fires) which attract and accelerate the Monsoon Cycles in Bhārat Khand i.e. India. If a series of Somayāgas are performed during dry season (Rain Conception Period) at these twelve Jyotirlinga places, Bhārat Varsha will get Suvrushti-timely, adequate and well-distributed rainfall during wet season throughout the country. This theory and RCRD Theory of Varāh Mihir were validated during the Suvrushti Projects undertaken by Vedāśram in 2005-06 and 2015-16. The reports of these Suvrushti Projects have been published in Asian Agri-History Journal published by Asian Agri –History Foundation.

On the day of Mahāśivrātrī in the ceremonial pūjās, Devas are invited, Śiva is invited, Yajñā is performed. Offerings are made with chants and devotional songs. Rudra Swahakars are performed at most of the places. At our Homa farm we also organize” Rudra SwahakarYajñās” periodically but not necessarily on Mahāśivrātrī Day.

“Rudra Swahakar”Yajñā being performed at the Farm

Holī: On the full moon day of Fālgun, Holī is celebrated throughout India. Holī has religious, philosophical, spiritual and seasonal significance. In India, the Agri-eco production system has basically two cropping patterns in a year i.e. Kharip crops and Rabbi crops. Kharip crops mature during Aświn-Kārtik (Oct. /Nov.) and Rabbi crops mature during Fālgun to Vaiśkha (Jan. to April). It is our Vedic tradition that new produce of crops is first offered to Agni Devatā and Sūrya Devatā which are the main sources of cosmic energy and then we start having it as food to nurture the life bio-energy within us.  In Sanskrit the word ‘Holak’ means raw (just reaching maturity stage) cereals and grams roasted in bonfires of dry cow-dung patties, wood and grass stalks (remains from the fields). Holī as a colourful festival has significance in many ways. The first and foremost is the process of Yajñā. Holy Bonfires are lit and offerings of sweets and snacks prepared from new season’s crops are made to Agni Devatā and Sūrya Devatā. Incense sticks and lamps are lit and sacred fires, which represent success of good over evil, are circumambulated thrice with slow pouring of water from the containers. The next day is celebrated as “Dhulīvandana” where, ’Bhūmi’ or ‘Prithvī’ is recognized and appreciated. From Dhulīvandana to Rang Panchami it is celebrated as a colourful festival representing colours of spring flowers and nature’s beauty and bounty. It is a joyful festival of throwing on or smearing others with colours without any discrimination. In the bonfires, old furniture, dead wood, prunnings of trees and waste material of crops are burnt as and by way of “Holikā Dahan” for “Space Clearance” (discarding old and welcoming new).

From Puraṇas, one story which is associated with “Holikā Dahan” is the story of Bhakta Pralhād and ‘Dhundha’ or ‘Holikā’ Hiranyakashyapu’s sister. Holikā had a boon that she will not get burnt in fire i.e. she had protection from fire. Hiranyakashyapu, the Rakṣasa was against the worship of Lord Vishnu by his own son Pralhād. Since Bhakt Pralhād was not ready to give up worship of Lord Vishnu, Hiranyakashyapu ordered that Pralhād be burnt alive. For that purpose he made Holikā to take Pralhād in her lap and lit a big fire. But with the grace of Lord Vishnu Pralhād was saved and Holikā got burnt into the fire, thus representing the success of virtue over vice.

Jyotir bhaskar Jayant Salgaonkar, the founder and author of, “Kālnirṇaya Panchāng” (published in many Indian Languages) describes in his book, “Dharmbodh” a ‘Vrita’ or ’Anuṣṭān’ (practice) called “ Vanhi Vrita” which is related to Agnihotra / Yajñā. Vanhi Vrita is started on the 14th day of Fālgun Kriśna Pakṣa or one day prior to Fālgun Amāvasyā. On this day an idol of Agni made from any metal or five metals is worshipped and offered cow-ghee, til (sesame seeds) and sugar with mantra, “Agnaye Swaha!”. Agni is worshipped because Agni is the connecting link between man and Devatās like Indra, Varun, Ādi Śakti, Lord śiva and Vishnu. During Holī all elements i.e. Prithvī, Āp, Teja, Vāyu are worshipped and readiness is made for celebration of the fifth element,’ Ākāś’ on the following first day of Chaitra i.e.’ Gudi Padava’ by hoisting well decorated/adorned Gudis or flags pointing towards Ākāś’or Space, which is the mother of all other elements, for auguring well the  “ New Year” as per Hindu Calendar.

Rāmnavamī Navrātra: This is celebrated as birth-day of Lord Rāma. In some parts of the country Yajñās like, “Vishnu Yāga” are performed.

Akśaya-Tritīya/Paraśurām Jayantī: Akśaya-Tritīya is supposed to be an auspicious day as per Hindu calendar. On this day also some Yajñās/ Homas are performed. Lord Paraśurām had initiated Param Sadguru Shri Gajanan Mahāraj of Akkalkot Maharashtra, to rejuvenate the Vedic Yajñā system and also the Vedic Way of Life. Followers of Param Sadguru Shri Gajanan Mahāraj perform Havans on this day while celebrating Paraśurām Jayantī.

Vedic Yajñā System and Festivals based on the concept of Yajñā:

Our Vedic Yajñā System broadly consists of Yajñā  performances during “Sandhi Kāl” or “Sankraman Kāl” as Nityakarmas for restoration of atmospheric order, ecological and seasonal balance and ensuring Suvrushti  i.e. good, adequate and well–distributed rains –“ निकामे निकामे न पर्जन्यो वर्षतु-“ “Nikame Nikame Nah ParjanyoVarśatu!”. Apart from these Yajñās there are various Naimittik or Kāmya Yajñās which are prescribed in Vedic system including Homas and Havans which form part of Sixteen Hindu Sanskāras. The Yajñā System for ecological balance, good rains etc. consists mainly of the following :

  1. Agnihotra (Smārta/ Shrouta)— ‘ Nitya’ Daily at the time of sunrise and sunset as per circadian cycle.
  2. Darshya-Poorna Māsya (Smārta/ Shrouta Eshti )— ‘Nitya’ Fortnightly  on Full-Moon/ New Moon Day as per Moon Cycle.
  3. Chaturmāsya Yāga (Shrouta Eshti )—‘Nitya’ during Sandhi Kāl i.e Transition Period of change in Seasons as per Cycle of Seasons. This is also called as Medicinal Homa for healing the Atmosphere.
  4. Somayāgas– ‘Nitya’ during Sharad Ṛtu and during Vasant Ṛtu.” वसंते वसंते ज्योतिस्तोमेन यजत” –“ Vasante Vasante Jyotistomen Yajat!”.
  5. Parjanya Yāga—‘Naimittik’- During Rainy Season when one or two Nakṣatras have gone dry and Bhūmi is “Vrishti Kāmu”, i.e, when the land is desirous of rains for sowing new crops (new life).

( Nitya = Regular ,  Naimittik = Occasional for specific purpose)

From the above it will be clear that Agnihotra can be performed individually by anybody, however for performance of Shrouta Yajñās, particularly so in case of “Sapt Somayāgas”, you require Ritwijas well versed in all Vedas. Our great Rishis had anticipated that if Shrouta Yajñā System gets dwindled or out of practice for whatever reason at least the festivals based on Yajñā Concept will be celebrated by mass-participation; for the purpose of keeping Atmospheric Order and Ecological Balance and also to safeguard cultural traditions. Since Yajñās are related to environmental protection, purification/ restoration of atmospheric order, ecological balance and ensuring good rains during Monsoon Season it is important to understand the relevance of Verse 28 and Verse 30 of Chapter 21 of Brihat Samhitā:

भद्रपदाद्वयविश्र्वाम्बुदेवपैतामहेष्वथर्क्षेषु |

सर्वेष्वृतुषु विवृध्दो गर्भो बहुतोयदो भवति ||२८||

“Bhadrapadādvaya Viśvāmbudeva Paitā Maheṣvathkṣerṣu \

Sarveṣvṛtuṣu Vivṛddho Garbho Bahutoya Do Bhavati  \\28\\

The Rain-foetus that develops when the Moon stands in any of the five asterisms viz. Purvabhādra, Uttarabhādra, Purvaṣadha, Uttaraṣadha and Rohiṇī in any season will yield plenty of rain. Also

मृगमासादिश्वष्टौ षट् षौडश विंशतिश्र्चतुर्युक्ता |

विंशतिरथ दिवसत्रयमेकतमर्क्षेण पन्चभ्य: ||३०||

Mṛgamāsādiśvaṣto  Ṣat Ṣodaś Vimśatischaturyuktā |

Vimśatiratha Divasatraya Mekatamarkṣeṇa Panchabhyaḥ ||30||

Rain-foetuses coming into being when the Moon is in conjuction wih any of the aforesaid asterisms during the month of Margaśirṣa, Pauṣya, Māgh, Fālguna, Chaitra and Vaiśakha; will yield rain after 195 days for 8,6,16,24,20 and 3 days respectively.

Thus celebration of and participation in the festivals based on Yajñā concept by masses ensures restoration of Atmospheric Order, Eco-Seasonal balance and good rains during the rainy season. This is the great wisdom and sagacity of our Ṛṣis and Seers in interweaving seamlessly the festivals based on Yajñā concept in our social and cultural life. Therefore these festivals should be celebrated with proper understanding of the Yajñā concept incorporated into them and not simply by way of fun and frolic or introducing any pervert way of celebration. The sanctity of Yajñā, Agni Devatā and Sūrya Devatā has to be kept in mind in the joyful celebrations of these festivals.

References:

  • Panditabhushan Sastri VS & Bhat MRV, “Varāh Mihir’s Brihat Sanhita” With an English Translation  and Notes . V.B. Soobbiah & Sons Bangalore City.1946.
  • Jyotirbhaskar Jayant Salgaonkar, “Dharmbodh” (in Marathi) Jaya Ganesh Mandir  Nyas, Medha Malwan, Dist-Sidhudurga Maharashtra 2011.

Sh. Anand GaikwadKrishi Bhushan Sendriya  Sheti  M. S. & Retd. Executive Director/Company Secretary

Advertisements

श्री परशुराम आधारित अवतारवाद-विश्लेषण

-डॉ. श्यामदेवमिश्र

आज के सामाजिक अस्त-व्यस्तता के युग में क्रांतिकारी विचारों की आवश्यकता है। परशुराम के जीवन अवतार की वर्तमान में प्रासंगिगकता और अनुकरणीयता को प्रस्तुत आलेख में स्पष्ट करने का प्रयास किया गया है।

(Editor’s note)

अवतारवाद का औचित्य

परब्रह्म-तत्व को मन और बुद्धि से नहीं जाना जा सकता है अत:, उसके विषय में चिन्तन करने के लिए जितने भी उपाय शास्त्रों में वर्णित हैं उसमें ‘अवतारवाद’ सबसे उत्तम कहा जा सकता है क्योंकि जब निर्विशेष (अर्थात् गुण, आकृति आदि से रहित) ब्रह्म बुद्धि में आ ही नहीं सकता है तब उसकी उपासना कैसे सम्भव होगी? ऐसे में मनुष्य, प्रत्यक्ष दिखाई पड़ने वाले पदार्थों में परमेश्वर के लक्षण देखकर उन्हें (उन पदार्थों को) आलंबन (सहारा) मानकर ब्रह्मभाव से उसकी उपासना करता है। उसमें भी, चेतना में – विशेषकर मनुष्यरूप में,  ब्रह्मत्व का भाव रखना तथा उसकी उपासना करना अत्युपयोगी व सरल है क्योंकि उपासक मनुष्य का मन अपने सजातीय में स्वाभाविक रूप से लगने के कारण उससे ही प्रेम करने लगता है जिससे, चित्त स्थिर हो जाता है । यही ‘अवतारोपासना’ है ।

अवतार की अवधारणा

सर्वत्र स्थित, सदा प्रकाशित, शाश्वत, एकरूप शक्ति के अतिरिक्त कोई भी शक्ति नहीं है जो हमारी ज्ञानेन्द्रियों में प्रवेश कर सके। वही चैतन्य शक्ति जब इन्द्रियग्राह्य होने के लिए स्थूल बनता है अर्थात् अपने उच्च स्वरूप से नीचे अवतरण कर स्थूल रूप धारण करता है, तब उसे ईश्वरीयशक्ति का अवतार होना कहते हैं। गीता के चतुर्थ अध्याय के छठे श्लोक “अजोऽपि सन्नव्ययात्मा ……सम्भवाम्यात्ममायया” में भगवान् स्वयम् अवतरण को स्पष्ट करते हुए कहते हैं कि मैं जन्मरहित, अविनाशी तथा सभी भूतों में रहते हुए भी अपने अनन्त-रूप-धारण-सामर्थ्य-सम्पन्नरूपी स्वभाव-धर्म-शक्ति का उपयोग करके अपनी माया से स्थूल जगत् में अवतार धारण करता हूँ।

दश अवतार

वराहपुराण के अनुसार दश अवतार क्रमशः इस प्रकार हैं –

  1. मत्स्य: कूर्मो 3. वराहश्च 4. नृसिंहो 5. वामनस्तथा
  2. रामो 7. रामश्च 8. कृष्णश्च 9. बौद्ध: 10. कल्की तथैव च ।।

इसमें छठे अवतार राम अर्थात् परशुराम थे। इसके अतिरिक्त पुरुषावतार, गुणावतार, मन्वन्तरावतार इत्यादि प्रसिद्ध हैं ।

cleanh3sha2uf_ael_2_300

(Source of image: http://vishnudashavatars.blogspot.in/2010/04/vishnu-dashavatar.html)

अवतारों के प्रकार

यद्यपि सभी अवतार परिपूर्ण हैं, किसी में तत्त्वत: न्यूनाधिक्य नहीं है; तथापि शक्ति के प्रकटन की न्यूनता-अधिकता के आधार पर अवतारों के चार प्रकार माने गए हैं –

1. आवेश, २. प्राभव, ३. वैभव और ४. परावस्थ

परशुराम, कल्की आदि आवेशावतार हैं। कूर्म, मत्स्य, वराह आदि वैभवावतार तथा श्रीनृसिंह, श्रीराम एवं श्रीकृष्ण परावस्थवतार या पूर्णावतार हैं ।

अवतार का प्रयोजन?

अवतरण हेतु आवश्यक परिस्थिति या उचित काल को भगवान ने स्वयं ही गीता में बताया है –

“यदा यदा ही धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत। अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्याहम् ।।”

(गीता 4.7)

अर्थात् जब धर्म की हानि होती है और अधर्म का उत्थान होता है तब मैं अवतार लेता हूँ।

अवतार का प्रयोजन आगे स्पष्ट करते हैं –

“परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम् । धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे ।।”

(गीता 4.8)

अर्थात् सज्जनों की रक्षा करने के लिए, दुष्टों का संहार करने के लिए तथा धर्म की पुन: प्रतिष्ठा करने के लिए मैं हर युग में अवतार लेता हूँ।

विचार किया जाए तो किसी व्यक्ति, वस्तु या घटना की प्रासङ्गिकता अथवा समसामयिकता का निर्धारण एवं मूल्याङ्कन, काल तथा प्रयोजन के अधीन (सापेक्ष्य) है। ऊपर के भगवदुक्त श्लोकों से स्पष्ट है कि अपने अवतरण हेतु उचित काल तथा प्रयोजन-विशेष का निर्धारण जगत-नियंता (ईश्वर) के ही हाथ में है। अत:, सामान्य रूप से विचार करने पर सर्वाधिक-सर्वथा-उचित काल में समसामयिक व प्रासङ्गिक उद्देश्य से युक्त भगवत-अवतरणों की तत्तत्कालीन प्रासङ्गिकता स्वत: स्पष्ट हो जाती है । चूंकि, काल-क्रम से अधर्म की वृद्धि व धर्म की हानि युग-धर्म है अत: प्रत्येक युग में अवतारों की प्रासंगिकता भी उतनी ही रहेगी । किसी एक अवतार-विशेष को, चाहे वह परशुराम हों या अन्य कोई, इससे अलग  रखकर विचार नहीं किया जा सकता है। भगवदवतरणों के सम्बन्ध में (प्रासंगिकता, समसामयिकता और महत्त्व पर) इससे अधिक कहना पिष्टपेषण (चबाये हुए को चबाना) ही होगा क्यूंकि, उस विषय में भगवान स्वयं ही वचनबद्ध हैं-

“यदा यदा ही धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत। अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्याहम्।।

(और उनसे अधिक काल और कालानुरूप प्रासङ्गिकता को कौन जान सकता है!!)

वैसे विचार किया जाए तो, प्रत्येक अवतार एक नायक ही तो है । इन अलौकिक नायकों (अवतारों) से इतर, समाज को नई दिशा दिखाने वाले स्वामी विवेकानन्द सदृश विशिष्ट-शक्ति-सम्पन्न लौकिक नायकों की प्रासंगिकता तो हर युग में रहेगी ही और फिर वर्तमान में तो, युग-धर्म के कारण, नितान्त अशक्त और नाना प्रकार के जञ्जालों में फंसे हुए मानवों के लिए, ऐसे नायकों का सम्पूर्ण जीवन-चरित्र ही प्रेरणादायक और अनुकरणीय होने के कारण और भी प्रासंगिक है। ऐसे में न केवल प्रभु के सभी रूप (अवतार) प्रासङ्गिक नज़र आते हैं अपितु इन अवतारों का स्मरण, अनुकीर्तन आदि ही समस्त दुखों का नाश करने वाला बन जाता है । कहा ही है –

“यस्य स्मरणमात्रेण जन्मसंसारबन्धनात्। विमुच्यते नमस्तस्मै विष्णवे प्रभविष्णवे।।”

जहां तक प्रश्न अवतारों के वर्ग (जाति) का है (विशेषकर, परशुराम अवतार में), मेरी समझ से अवतारों को जातिगत-दृष्टि से देखना किसी भी व्यक्ति के लिए (चाहे वह इतर अवतारों की अपेक्षा, अवतार-विशेष में विशिष्ट प्रीति रखने वाला हो या उसके विरुद्ध विचार या आचरण वाला हो) कतई न्यायपूर्ण या तर्कपूर्ण नहीं है। यह तो न सिर्फ उल्टे भगवान् को ही बांटने जैसा हो गया बल्कि उसकी अवतार-व्यवस्था के मूल पर ही आघात करने जैसा है क्यूंकि, जिसका अवतरण ही समाज को धर्मयुक्त व संगठित करना तथा समाज का कल्याण करना है उसको (विरोधी विचार रखने वालों के द्वारा) धर्म-विशेष, जाति-विशेष का प्रतिनिधिभूत मानकर अवतारविशेष के प्रति अरुचि या अश्रद्धा का भाव रखना अथवा कुछ दिग्भ्रमित लोगों के द्वारा, उस अवतार-विशेष को केवल अपने ही वर्ग का गौरव बताना नितान्त भ्रमोत्पादक व कलहोत्पादक है ।

परशुराम जी के विषय में एक अन्य बड़ा प्रश्न यह उपस्थित होता है कि जब वह अवताररूप हैं तब अन्य अवतारों की भांति उनका पुनर्गमन क्यूँ नहीं हुआ और वे चिरजीवी कैसे रह गये? वस्तुत: वैष्णव-परम्परा में परिगणित दश अवतारों में परशुराम आवेशावतार माने गए हैं अर्थात्, भगवदंश का आवेश उनमें है इसीलिये वे अंशावतार कहे गए हैं। आवश्यकता पड़ने पर, भगवदंश से आविष्ट परशुराम जी ने अपने अवतरण का प्रयोजन सार्थक किया और भविष्य में भी तादृश परिस्थिति उत्पन्न होने पर परब्रह्म (वैष्णवागम में प्रभु विष्णु) की प्रेरणा से वह पुन: अपने अवतरण को सार्थक कर सकें एतदर्थ ही वे चिरजीवी भी हैं। कहने का आशय यह है कि सामान्यत: वे मनुष्य-रूप होने के कारण चिरजीवी हैं किन्तु, परिस्थिति-विशेष में उनका, अन्तस्थ भगवदंशरूप आवेशावतार लोक-कल्याणार्थ प्रकटित होता है ।

 उपसंहार

सुनीति एवं सद्धर्म ही उन्नति का सर्वोत्तम मार्ग है। अतः, जो अधर्म एवं कुरीतियों का हटाकर इनकी प्रतिष्ठा करते हैं, वो महापुरुष कहलाते हैं। भगवान् परशुराम ने तत्कालीन समाज में व्याप्त अनैतिकता एवं राक्षसी प्रवृत्तियों का समूलोच्छेद करके सनातन धर्म की स्थापना की। निश्चय ही भगवदंशावतार श्री परशुराम का इतिवृत्त एवं जीवन-चरित्र का सतत अनुशीलन न केवल हमें अपने देश के गौरवशाली इतिहास का दिग्दर्शन कराता है अपितु अपनी संस्कृति व सभ्यता के रक्षार्थ सतत प्रेरणा का भी संचार करता है।

-डॉ. श्यामदेवमिश्र, सहायकाचार्य (ज्योतिष), राष्ट्रिय-संस्कृत-संस्थान, भोपाल परिसर,भोपाल, म.प्र.

Festival of Holi

-Mrs. Sushma SharmaIMG-20170305-WA0014-1

The colorful festivals of Hindus are an integral part of every Indian. They speak of India’s rich cultural and traditional background. The commonness in all the celebrations is that they rejoice humanity and promote basic human values. Indian festivals have many aspects in their significance, namely spiritual, philosophical, religious and cultural. The cultural aspects of festivals deal with the joyous expressions of music and dance, with people wearing beautiful traditional dresses. The celebration of such festivals is one of the key strengths of continuity of cultural values. Culture in India is related with agriculture on one hand, and religious ideals on the other. Holi festival’s cultural significance can be evaluated in both contexts. 

guj

Holi, the festival of colour is celebrated every year throughout India with a feeling of strong community bonding and excitement on the last day of Phalguna and the first day of Chaitra month of Hindu calendar. On the eve of Holi, people burn firewood namely ‘Holi’ and enjoy with dance and music making circle around it. On the next morning, they play ‘Holi’ with colors. People put colors on each other without any discrimination, and eat especial sweet preparations, especially Gujjiya.

It is a seasonal celebration of spring time after a long winter. In spring season new harvest gets ready and it is time of happiness for farmers and others. The waste material of crops is to be destroyed. The natural process of destroying the waste through fire is celebrated as Holika-Dahan.

In Puranas, the story of wicked and powerful king named Hiranyakashyap and his virtuous and divine young son, Prahlad, is associated with Holika-Dahan. Holika was the sister of Hiranyakashyap who got a boon from God that she will never be damaged or burnt by fire when alone. Later being in her arrogance she forgot the condition of boon. Hiranyakashyap decided to kill his son Prahlad, a devotee of Lord Vishnu who had single-minded love for God, because he felt jealous. The king failed in his attempt to do so. Then finally he took the help of his sister who had the boon of not being burnt by the fire. Hiranyakashyap put Prahlad on the lap of Holika and blazed fire. Due to the grace of God, Prahlad was not burnt in the fire and Holika was destroyed. She was killed having evil intentions in mind, while Prahlad survived having full faith in Almighty. The moral of the story is clear that always virtue wins over vice.

holik

The same story is told in a different way too, that Holika had been given a special shawl as a boon from God. When she wore that shawl she could not be burned by fire. Prahlad’s father and Holika planned to kill Prahlad by placing him in her lap while sitting in the fire using her shawl to protect her. But divine plan always works. When both entered in the fire, a strong gust of wind came and blew her shawl off of her. Hence, Holika was burnt in the fire of her own evil plan, and pure divine Prahlad remained safe with the devotion to God. Inner purity and inner piety are what truly save us.

Spring season is full of colorful flowers. Originally, playing Holi with colors symbolized association of prosperity and happiness with a good season and atmosphere. Holi is connected with Shri Krishna also who used to play Holi with his friends with great joy in his childhood at Mathura and Vrindavan. Even today Holi is regarded as the most popular festival of Vrindavan and Mathura regions. 

sp

One meaning of Holi is ‘sacrifice.’ We must remember to sacrifice that within us which is devilish and impure. Only then we will be protected, happy and pious to celebrate all colors of life.

Mrs. Sushma Sharma, Principal, New Vision Intermediate College, Kanpur, UP, India

 

Understanding Shiva and Maha Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in honor of Shiva, one of the trinities of Hindus. Shiva occupies the highest level in importance in most of the Hindu texts, and is also acknowledged in many cultures beyond India and Hindus. Although there are more than one legend associated with Maha Shivaratri, such as the marriage of Shiva to Parvati on this occasion, worshipping of Shiva on this night to get rid of sins, or get enlightenment, the most common legend connects this night to the cosmic dance or tandav of Shiva that initiates creation, preservation, and destruction of the cosmos.

Attributes of Shiva in his representation (damaru, trishul, moon on his head, serpent around neck, etc.), sitting bare body in yogic posture, tandav dance, opening of third eye, and focus of worship by all, including devas and other members of trinities, particularly prominent incarnations of Vishnu, all indicate to the symbolism in gross, thoughts, and action (GTA).

GTA are all the features of the physical world, which gets created, remains sustained for a fixed period, and then ends. This phenomenon is entirely attributed to Shiva to initiate through the sound of damaru and movements of the dance. Shiva is fully part of the physical world, thus has a place of abode (Himalaya), marries to the daughter (Parbati) of Himalaya or Parbatraj (meaning mountain), and has children, just like any other mortal being on the Earth.

sh

Among the trinities, Shiva is thus the lord or swami of the physical world. Brahma is the lord of the subtle world where his thoughts are all that are needed to create the cosmos. Brahma does not have any physical possessions, although he has manasputra (created through thoughts of mind) like Indra, Narada, etc. Vishnu on the other hand does not have even mental creation, as He is the lord of the causal world, where cause of everything exists.  As per the common practice each of these trinities respect and differ to the lord of the world they enter. For example, Vishnu incarnation Ram and Krishna both worship Shiva when on Earth to signify the supremacy of the Shiva element in the physical world.

With the above understanding, one should approach the Shiva and Maha Shivaratri to rationally and practically understand their importance and practice. Many times Shiva is considered the destroyer, even though the literal meaning of Shiva is auspicious. Shiva is a yogi par excellence sitting bare body in the coldest place on Earth to indicate that He has mastered the physical world, thus proving his lordship beyond any doubt.

On a related note, Om symbol is used with many chants and rituals of worship, but is most commonly associated with Shiva, like in Om Namah Shivay! Linguistically, Om or more appropriately Aum is expressive meaning of Shiva. It starts with the ‘a’ sound as the open vowel with only aspiration of air, passes through the closed vowel ‘u’, still using the air but changing the shape of mouth in the middle, and finally the last letter ‘m’ of the last of the five classes (guttural, palatal, cerebral, dental, and labial) of the consonants of the Devanagari-aksharmala (alphabets) arranged in two dimensions. The Aum thus represents the sutra or formula with capacity to express the entire visible world (i.e., the expressed physical world). Therefore, this linguistic expression is also consistent with Shiva being the lord of the physically expressed world.

shi

Why is then Shiva considered as the destroyer of the world? He is not the destroyer of the world, he presides over the physical world that is by nature destroyed. Anything that is created is destroyed by nature. However, people mistakenly attribute Shiva to be the destroyer. Similarly, people attribute Shiva with intoxication, such as cannabis and bhang, even though Shiva is yogi, totally away from all these vices. People considered him to be the epitome of purity who can live without even food, and thus started giving up their vices by surrendering those items at his alter, which others thought was an offering to Shiva. And, this was taken to justify their vices citing Shiva associated with those habits.

On the occasion of the Maha Shivaratri, traditions have provision for fasting, chanting, night vigil to give up even sleep, to indicate sacrifice rather than indulgence. Maha Shivaratri is to remind us of the nature of our existence and its ultimate disappearance. It is a celebration of this understanding which makes us free from the fear of even death.

Om!

Prof. Bal Ram Singh, School of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA

Children in Puranas

Great personalities have always their bright childhood as continuity of qualities is a fundamental truth-

 Dhruva

In some Purāṇas, we find story of a child Dhruva who was a symbol of firm determination and profound devotion towards God. Dhruva was son of King Uttānapāda  and his wife Sunīti . The king also had another son named Uttama, born to his second queen Suruchi, who was the preferred object of his affection. Once, five year old, Dhruva was sitting on his father’s lap at the King’s throne. Suruchi, the step-mother, who was jealous of the Dhruva, forcefully removed him from his father’s lap. When Dhruva protested and asked if he could not be allowed to sit on his father’s lap, Suruchi scolded him ruthlessly saying; ‘only God can allow you that privilege. Go ask him.’

dhruv-vishnu_1480423840

(Source of Image : Daily Bhaskar.com)

Sunīti, a lady of gentle nature but lesser favorite wife of king, tried to console her distressed son, but Dhruva was determined to hear about his fate from the Lord.  Seeing his firm determination, mother Sunīti allowed him to go to the forest. Dhruva was determined to seek for himself his rightful place. Noticing his resolution, the divine sage Nārada appeared before him and tried to abstain him from obtaining severe austerity at such an early age. But Dhruva was firm on his decision, and therefore, overwhelmed sage guided him towards his goal by teaching rituals and mantras to meditate and please the lord Viṣṇu. The one mantra, taught by Nārada which was effectively used by Dhruva, was Om Namo Bhagavate Vāsudevāya. Little Boy fixing his mind on Lord, started his meditation, and went without food and water for six months for the gratification of Viṣṇu. His tapasyā shook the heavens, and Lord appeared before him, but the child would not open his eyes being merged in the inner vision of Viṣṇu’s form described by Nārada. Lord Viṣṇu adopted a strategy to disappear that inner vision. Immediately Dhruva opened his eyes, and seeing outside what he had been seeing in his mental vision, prostrated himself before the Lord. He could not utter a single word. The Lord touched his right cheek by his divine conch and that sparked off his speech. He recited a beautiful poem of twelve powerful verses in the praise of the Lord which is called Dhruva-stuti. The Dhruva-stuti as mentioned in the ViṣṇuPurāṇa is quite different from the Dhruva-stuti of BhāgavataPurāṇa.

Having spent a long time in the Lord’s commemoration, he even forgot the objective of his tapasyā, and only asked for a life in memory of the Lord. Pleased by his tapasyā and by his stuti, Viṣṇu granted his wish and further decreed that the child would attain Dhruvapada – the state where he would become a celestial body which would not even be touched by the mahā-pralaya. Dhruva returned to his kingdom. Now he was warmly received by his family. He attained the crown at the age of six and ruled his kingdom for many decades in a fair manner. Today people highlight any fix position or firm decision, saying it as ‘dhruva.

 Prahlāda

Prahlāda, a young boy is known in the Purāṇas for his firm devotion towards Lord Viṣṇu. Demon king, Hiraṇyakaṥyapa was his father who had commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. But his son, Prahlāda refused to worship his father and became an ardent devotee of Lord Nārāyaṇa. Hiraṇyakaṥyapa tried several ways to kill his son Prahlāda but Lord Viṣṇu saved him every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holikā to enter a blazing fire with Prahlāda in her lap. For, Hiraṇyakaṥyapa knew that Holikā had a boon, whereby, she could enter the fire untouched. Holikā took her seat in a blazing fire with Prahlāda in her lap. Holikā was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone. Prahlāda, who kept chanting the name of Lord Narāyaṇa, came out unharmed, as the lord blessed him for his extreme devotion.

prahlad-as-the-devotee-of-lord-vishnu

(Source of Image : http://www.padhokhelo.com)

Prahlāda was finally saved by Lord Narasiṁha (half-man half-lion), a prominent avatāra of Viṣṇu who killed his wicked father too. After the death of Hiraṇyakaṥyapa, Prahlāda took his father’s kingdom and ruled peacefully and virtuously. He was known for his generosity, kindness, determination and faith in God. In the story, we see that God saved his devotees and punished the evil. Therefore, Prahlāda is regarded as a symbol of goodness and divine faith.

– Dr. Shashi TiwariGeneral Secretary, WAVES –India & Former Prof. of Sanskrit, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi

Concept of New Year (or Calendar) in Vedic System (Part- II)

Continued from Part-I

Vikram Samvat (Chaitraadi):

After winter season, agriculture starts with spring, so spring equinox is generally a starting point of another system of calculating years. It coincided with sun’s entry in Mesha (0 degree in the zodiac) in 285 AD. Now it is on 14th April. After 25 years since his coronation, Vikramaditya (82BC -19 AD), the king of Ujjayini, started Vikrama samvat in 3044 kali or 57 BC from spring equinox when the sun entered in Mesha (at the initial point of Ashwini) in the lunar month of Chaitra Krishna paksha (Dark half). But later on, the commencement of Vikrama Samvat was postponed to 15 days and celebrated from auspicious Chaitra Shukla Paksha Pratipada, the starting day of Vasant Navaratra (9 sacred autumnal days of Goddess Durga).

In present time, it falls 15 days after Holi (on Phalgun Shukla poornima or full moon). This tithi (i.e. the 1st day of Chaitra Shukla) is known as epoch and copiously termed as Kalpadi (the 1st day of Kalpa) & Yugadi (1st day of Yuga) in Hindu scriptures and astronomical texts. In ancient astronomical texts, this tithi is referred as the first day of creation. It is also celebrated as the Matsya-Jyanti since according to Puranas, it was the day when lord Vishnu reincarnated himself as Matsya to sail the ship of Manu across the Pralay (the great flood). In north-west region of India especially in Rajasthan this tithi is also celebrated as Gana gaur or Gana gauri. Couples offer their prayers to goddess Gauri (manifestation of Durga). In Maharashtra and south India this tithi is also celebrated as Gudi Padawa. Currently, Vikram Samvat 2072, known as Keelaka, is moving on the verge of its end on 7th April 2016. The New Vikram Samvat 2073 will be started from 8th April 2016. The name of New Vikram Samvat is Saumya.

Do’s & Don’ts of this month:

  • Offer prayers to the goddess Durga.
  • According to various Grihya-Sutras, oil-massage considered as an auspicious work in this month.
  • Eat Neem leaves with Gud (the condensed form of Sugar cane).
  • Milk, Curd, Ghee & Honey must be avoided in this month.

Vikram Samvat (Kartikaadi):

There is another Vikram Samvat which is being practiced in Gujarat, starts from Kartika Shukla Pratipada and thus called as Vikram Samvat Kartikadi. It is believed that keeping the suitable conditions for trading through sea voyages in mind, King Vikramaditya himself started this calendar as well for the trading purpose in Gujarat from this month. It begins from the 1st day of Kartik Shukla Paksha, just after Deepavali. Apart from Vikram Samvat there are; Srishti (creation) samvat, Parashuram-samvat, Yudhishthir Samvat and Kali Samvat.

Let's Explore Science... Space

Parashurama Samvat (6177 BC):

Parashuram Samvat started from the time of killing of Kartveerya or Sahasraarjun by lord Parashuram.  Incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of Parashurama took place in the Treta of descending period which started from 9,102 BC. Since he born in 9th treat during this period, thus his period starts from 9102-8×360=6,222 BC. According to Mahabharat, in 6177 BC he killed the Kaartiveerya Arjun which is the advent of Parashuram Samvat. It is called Kollam in Kerala, starting in 6,177 BC.

Yudhishtihir Samvat(3139 BC):

According to Brihat Samhita(13/3), when Saptarshi (Ursa Major) was in Magha Nakshtra (Regulus), Yudhisthir was crowned in 3139BC. Hence the Yudhishthir Samvat started from 3139BC.

Kali Samvat (3102BC):

KaliYuga Started after 36 years of lord Sri Krishna’s demise in 3102 BC on Magh Shukla Pratipada (17/18 February). Hence, 5117 years have passed since the Beginning of Kali Samvat or Era.

Shaka and Samvatsara are 2 different Scenario:

As the word Samvat has been used in previous paragraphs, one must know that Samvatsar and Shaka; these two words are being used in same meaning because of ignorance. Even Shalivahan- shaka is frequently called as ‘shaka-samvat’ which has no meaning. It can be either ‘shaka’ or ‘samvat’. The word Shaka is used in astronomical texts for calculation. In Vedas the word Shaka is used for ‘the bundled form of kush’. A kush (straw) is a thin line shaped object and a symbol of small unit in counting. By making bundle, ‘kusha(Panini 4/108) becomes stronger, and is called shaka {powerful (Panini 5/16)}. Thus total count of days (ahargana) is called shaka, and the year system starting from a point is also called ‘shaka’. Shaka is considered related to Shaka tribe or the Shaka–dvipa (continent) which surrounds or is adjacent to Jambu-dvipa as per puranas. But no Shaka in India, was started by Shaka invaders. It is only a misconception of ignorant historians. Actually it was Shalivahana, the grandson of Vikramaditya who started the ShalivahanaShaka in 78 AD after defeating the Shaka invaders. Apart from Shalivahana, there are shakas in name of Shudraka in 756 BC, Shri Harsha shaka in 456 BC, Kalchuri or Chedi shaka in 248 AD etc.

The Christian Era or Eesavee Samvat:

The Julian, now Gregorian calendar does not start with the exact points of sun’s entry in the zodiac signs. This is commonly called Christian calendar. It was started by Julius Caeser, emperor of Roman Empire in 45 BC after 10 years of Vikram Samvat. He wanted to start the year on winter solstice, but the practice was to start month from new moon day all over the world. So despite his order, the year started 7 days after winter solstice in Puash Krishna of 10th Vikram Samvat. The original intended day of start of year was called Christmas.

-Dr. Shyam Deo Mishra, Assistant Professor, Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi

Rediscovering Rama (Part-II)

sita-with-luv-and-kush-CH85_l

Continued from Part-I

Even if, for the sake of argument, we do take into account the interpolation of the Uttara Kanda as part of the Ramayana, the story of Sita’s banishment cannot be read to be sexist or oppressive.  It is rather a tale of pathos, tragedy, and sympathy for the plight of both Sita and Rama.

Nowhere in the Ramayana do the main characters truly doubt Sita’s purity. What is being shown, however, is the fickleness of public perception, and the lesson being taught is the need to pay heed to the words and concerns of a king’s subjects, the duty to put the interests and desires of the subjects of one’s kingdom above the desires of the king and queen themselves. Lakshmana in many ways fills the role of everyman in the poem: his anger at the agni pariksha and banishment of Sita, his anger at Dasaratha for depriving Rama of his crown, his sense of despair when he must leave Sita at the forest, these are what we all feel upon reading the Ramayana.  This is indeed what the poet Valmiki intends us to feel.  The ability of Rama to, however, transcend these feelings, to put Dharma first, above his own heart and heartbreak—that is what makes him stand apart as the Maryada Puroshottam and what makes his reign forever hallowed as Rama Rajya.

Even in the worst moments of Uttara Kanda, the cruel, heartless Rama that others would have us believe hatefully cast away Sita simply does not exist.  There is a beautiful passage that describes the bliss shared by Sita and Rama during their time back in Ayodhya after Ravana was vanquished:

Rama and Sita would spend the second half of every day together in Rama’s Ashoka-grove, enjoying heavenly music and dance and partaking of gourmet food and intoxicating drinks.  It is said, Taking in his hand the pure nectar of flowers as intoxicating as the Maireyaka wine, Rama…made Sita drink it, just as Indra does Sachi…Seated in the company of the celebrated Sita, [Rama] shone with splendour like Vasishta seated along with Arundhati.  Rama, steeped in joy like gods, afforded delight thus day after day to…Sita, who resembled a divine damsel.’ (Srimad Valmiki-Ramayana (With Sanskrit Text and English Translation), Gita Press, Gorakhpur (Sixth Edition 2001), Book 7, Canto 42, Verses 19 and 24 (Volume 2, p. 819))

It is at such a moment that one day Sita informs Rama that she is pregnant.  Delighted at this revelation, Rama asks her to name a desire of hers that he will immediately fulfil.  Sita responds, O Raghava! I wish to visit the holy penance-groves and to stay, O Lord!, at the feet of sages…living on the banks of the Ganga … This is my greatest wish that I should stay even for one night in the penance-grove of those who live only on fruits and (edible) roots’ (Id., Verses 33-34, (Volume 2, p. 820).  Rama promises that she will be taken there for a visit the very next day.

Immediately afterwards, in the evening, Rama is informed by a spy of negative gossip surrounding Sita.  Rama is told that he is being rebuked by the people of Ayodhya as follows:  ‘Why does not Rama censure [Sita], who formerly had been forcibly carried away by Ravana? … Such conduct of our wives shall have to be suffered by us also, since whatever a king does, the subjects follow’ (Id., Canto 43, (Volume 2, p. 821).

When the gossip has been confirmed by others, Rama summons his brothers and tells them of the news.  He attests to his own certainty of Sita’s purity:  ‘To convince me Sita at that time entered the fire:  before you, O Lakshmana (son of Sumitra), Fire-god, the bearer of oblations to gods declared that Sita was free from sins, so also Vayu, who dwells in the sky, (so also) proclaimed the two—sun and moon, before the gods, Sita free from sins, before all the Rishis.  In Lanka, Sita, (Pure of conduct), has been handed over to me by Mahendra (the lord of gods), in the presence of the gods and the Gandharvas and my inner conscience bears testimony to her purity and nobility’ (Id., Canto 45, (Volume 2, p. 824).

However, it is the danger of infamy and the risk it poses to his ability to rule effectively that causes Rama to drive away Sita.  He tells his brothers, ‘O heroes among men, afraid of ill-report, I can even give up my life or all of you together, O bull among men, how much it is incumbent to leave Sita.  All of you see me submerged in the ocean of sorrow.  I do not see any greater misfortune than this’ (Id., Canto 45, Verses 13-16 (Volume 2, p. 825).

It is not doubt about Sita’s chastity that drives Rama towards this terrible deed but rather the dread realization that in order to safeguard his kingdom and his reputation among his subjects, he must go against what he knows to be true in the depths of his inner conscience.  The takeaway here is not that wives are easily discarded but rather the terrible price Dharma often exacts upon us, and more specifically, how beholden even the most powerful of kings are to the most humble of subjects.  It is after all in Rama Rajya that even a dog has a voice in court.  (Once, a dog appeared in Rama’s court to complain of being beaten by a man, and Rama duly gave the dog justice and punished the perpetrator).

One may also speculate that in accordance with the ancient principles of Garbhasamskar (prenatal education), Rama may have wanted to protect Sita from the distress of being surrounded by such poisonous rumours.  Stress and anxiety is not desirable during pregnancy, as every thought, feeling, emotion, action of the mother has tremendous impact on the child in the womb.  It may be that the ashram of Vasishtha was the best place for her during this part of Sita’s life and the best environment in which to raise Lava and Kusha to become the great heroes they grew up to be.

The Ramayana shows us that the king is beholden to the lowest of his subjects, even a crass, gossip-mongering person.  The cost of infamy, of earning a bad name before his subjects no matter how unfairly, is too dear to pay for a sovereign whose first duty must be to safeguard the interests of his kingdom and to preserve his reign.  A celebrated Sanskrit shloka proclaims, yatha bhumis tatha toyam, yatha bijam tathankurah / yatha deshas tatha bhasha, yatha raja tatha praja (As the land so the [ground] water; as the seed so the sprout; as the region [country] so the language; as the king so the people).  This is the entire theme of the Ramayana.  Rama must always hold himself to the highest standards, to be above reproach (even unfair reproach), to serve as the role model that the king is meant to be.

As  Sri Aurobindo advises in his writings on the Epics of India, while dealing with the human personality of Rama, one must take into account the  spirit  of his age and race:  I  consider myself  under  an obligation to enter into the  spirit,  significance, atmosphere  of  the Mahabharata, Iliad, Ramayana and  identify  myself with  their  time-spirit before I can feel what their heroes  were  in themselves apart from the details of their outer action’ (Volume: 22-23-24 [SABCL] (Letters on Yoga), 419).  It is of utmost importance that we must have a thorough knowledge of the yugadharma of the age of Ramayana and interpret the events accordingly.  We create needless confusion and conflicts when we interpret ancient texts in the context of present times and present yugadharma.  When interpreted in light of the yugadharma of the age of the Ramayana, it is clear that every action of Rama was flawless and he followed the maryada of the yugadharma.

Indeed, Rama’s life is meant to exemplify that of Maryada Purushottom.  He is the best among men who scrupulously observed and honoured the relevant ethics, customs and mores of the society in which he lived.  He is the one worthy of emulating—an ideal son, an ideal husband, an ideal brother, an ideal king, an ideal protector of Dharma, an ideal friend, who placed Dharma and honour above all else.  In this, Rama is different from Krishna.  Rama is Maryada Purushottom, whereas Krishna is the Sampoorna Avatar who often had to break the strictures of Dharma in order to protect Dharma.  Both are Vishnu, but their roles are different.  It is said that to approach Krishna, one must first worship and follow Rama.  Only then is one qualified to worship Krishna.

This is the worldview of Dharma that underpins Hindu thought and literature.  It is in stark contrast to Western individualistic romanticism that valorises the story of King Edward VIII of England who abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee.  In Hindu Dharma, a kingdom is not a toy or privilege to be thrown away at whim.  The totality of a king’s life must be devoted to his kingdom above all else; that is his svadharma that he must perform at all costs.

While the plight of Sita is truly terrible—she is perhaps Hinduism’s most famous and revered single mother—Rama is no less a victim.  He never takes another wife, so devoted is he to Sita.  Rather than take a second wife, he has an image of her constructed to be placed next to him during yajnas (because yajnas can only be performed by a man in the company of his wife).  Nor is his action in any way misogynistic.  It is not that Sita is badly treated because she is a woman and therefore inferior; in fact, later on in the Uttara Kanda, even Lakshmana is banished for the sake of preserving Rama’s honour and Dharma.  His entire life, Rama had to sacrifice that which was most beloved to him for the sake of Dharma—in order to protect his father’s word, he gave up the kingdom; similarly, when taking into account the Uttara Kanda, Rama has to sacrifice Sita and Lakshmana, those who were the closest to him.  As the Mahabharata instructs us, “For the sake of the family, the individual may have to be renounced; for the sake of the community, the family may have to be renounced; for the sake of the country, the community may have to be renounced; for the sake of the Self, the whole world may have to be renounced.”

My reading of the Valmiki Ramayana transformed my life.  I now turn to Rama for comfort, solace and peace, and always find it in his tender, compassionate gaze.  To know the love of Rama, simply chant the divinely powerful mantra, ‘Om Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram’.  This is one of the most powerful mantras, and the reason it is so often recited at the time of death is because of the ultimate peace it bestows upon the atman.

Do not just take my word for it.  Rediscover Rama on your own.  Dive into the ocean of the primary sources of the Ramayana.  It is a travesty that today the publication of our primary source texts and their authentic translations are languishing, while popular but unauthoritative interpretations or retellings are proliferating, leading to confusion and misperceptions of the truths of our shastras and Hindu tradition.  We must learn the Ramayana from the lips of Valmiki himself; the likes of Devdutt Pattanaik and Amish Tripathi cannot suffice or substitute.  We must go back to the source texts and traditions of Dharma to rediscover the glories of our Itihaasas and our deities.  With respect to Valmiki Ramayana, I would recommend the following as English sources (much better sources are available in Hindi and other vernacular languages; unfortunately, the choice in English is still rather limited): the Gita Press, Gorakhpur English translation of the unabridged text; the verse-by-verse translation provided on www.valmikiramayan.net; Kamala Subramaniam’s English translation (which although abridged is quite comprehensive) of the text; and Lectures on the Ramayana by V.S. Srinivasa Sastri.

– Ms. Aditi Banerjee, Board of Directors, World Association for Vedic Studies