Category Archives: Hindu Significance and Symbolism

Dolls Display and Temple Celebrations during Navaratri!

Sharannavaratri is celebrated in the month of Aaswayuja. YUJ means “to unite with, to yoke with or connect with”. SWA means “tomorrow”. Aaswayuja means “to always or to continuously stay connected with”. Aaswayuja also means TRANSCENDENTAL and IMMANENT, which means “pervading everywhere (macro) and at the same time within oneself (micro). Therefore, the every word Aaswayuja means to constantly and continuously stay connected with the Higher, the Ultimate Reality at the universal and individual level. 

Dasara Dolls – Significance: Navaratri (Dasara) during Aaswayuja is therefore a sacred occasion for each and everyone of us to acknowledge and express our gratitude to all of that which is manifest: from the gross to the subtle, from small to the big, from the inert and insentient things to the dynamic and sentient beings, from the terrestrial to the celestial, from micro to the MACRO – from Vishwa to Vishwanatha. However it is next to impossible to go out and individually express our gratitude to each and every one of Lord’s creation – to the whole universe. Therefore, We bring the entire universe into our house! The entire atmosphere and environment within the house becomes sanctified and divinised. Every house is a mini universe! Every house is a temple complex! 

Normally on nine steps (odd number of steps) the entire universe is laid out, or spread out in the form of dolls. The Principle Gods, other devatas representing the cosmic phenomenal forces, the rishis, the saints, the king and queen, the common folk, animals, plants, mountains, rivers, gardens, temples, market place, the agricultural fields, etc, etc., are all systematically and artistically laid out – Vishwa along with Vishwanatha in the house! This is not a mere dolls display or dolls show. The dolls represent something extremely sublime and subtle. The entire universe and its Creator have all been “cast-in-the-form-of-dolls”. With heartfelt gratitude, we acknowledge the significant role and contribution of all of them in our lives. Hence, prostration to this Divine Altar inside our house represents our salutations to the entire universe outside along with its Creator! Therefore, the invocation, salutations, puja and arati are not for the dolls. It is all for the Jagat and Jagadeeshwara undertaken by the Jeeva, the individual. 
Since the Lord in His compassion has given us everything in so much of abundance, we in turn acknowledge, reciprocate, and express our gratitude by offering everything back to Him. When it comes back to us, it becomes His prasad.

Temple Utsavas: Hence the various alankaras (decoration) and utsavas (procession) to the various deities in every temple. Alankara is done to the deities starting from haldi (turmeric) and kumkum, flowers, vegetables, fruits, gold and precious gems, etc. Animals are worshipped in the form of Lord’s vahanas (vehicles). Our own homes (gruha), equipments (ayudha), cars and other vehicles (vahana) are also worshipped and revered. All are nothing but an expression of Lord’s divine glory!

When these rituals are understood in the correct perspective and sincerely undertaken, with implicit faith and total devotion, our constricted minds expand, evolve and become more subtle. When we learn to respect, revere and adore every thing and every living being, we are automatically aligned with and come to live in harmony with the whole universe which is nothing but a loving display of His Glory. Infact, the universe is a manifestation of the Lord Himself! 

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Video talk on ” Why keep dolls during Navaratri?” : https://youtu.be/G1gFPpAoN-4

Video talk on Temple Utsavam during Navaratri : Expression of Gratitude to The Almighty https://youtu.be/yDvKHac30mA

Akasha Ganga of Tirumala!

Tirumala Nambi was a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara. He was also known as Sri Sailapurna. He was highly learned in all the scriptures and was one of the Gurus of Sri Ramanujacharya, apart from being his maternal uncle. It was he who introduced the Ramayana and elaborated the concept of “sharanagati” (surrender) to Ramanujacharya. 
He offered his services to the Lord of the seven hills by bringing water every day from Pushkarini which is about eight kilometres down the hills for the Lord’s abhisheka. Even though he was quite old, regardless of that, every day all alone he would trek down the forest without any fear of wild animals and carry a pitcher of water for the abhisheka. The seva is known as “teertha kainkaryam“. The Lord was happy with his unique and devoted service and decided to bless and help him. 

One day when Nambi was carrying water from Pushkarini up the hill, the Lord came to him in the guise of a hunter-boy. The boy stopped Nambi enroute and said, “Thatha (grandpa) I am very thirsty, please give me some water to drink”. Nambi was struck by the charm of the boy but politely refused to give him water. He said that he was carrying water for the Lord’s abhisheka daily without any break and he did not want any hurdles to the seva. Also Nambi told the boy that if he gave him water he would have to go down all the way to collect it again and that was not possible because he was too old. On the other hand, the boy was young enough to run down to Pushkarini and drink as much water as he wanted. 

Thus, having told the hunter-boy, Nambi started walking uphill. The boy slowly walked behind Nambi and hurled a stone at the pot of water. The pot cracked and all the water flowed out which the boy delightfully drank. Nambi was very sad. He would have to walk back, pick up another pot and then carry the water for the Lord. He was too exhausted and expressed his helplessness. The boy smiled and told Nambi that he did not have to go all the way down to collect the water for the Lord but right there very close to the temple he would provide an alternative for him. As Nambi stood and watched in surprise, the divine hunter-boy released an arrow from his bow. It struck the top of the cliff where they were standing and lo! water started to gush down from the top of the cliff. Nambi knew that this was no ordinary hunter-boy, but the Lord himself come down to help him. He prayed to the Lord to reveal his true form. The Lord stood in front of Nambi in all his pristine glory and told Nambi that this water-fall would be known as “Akasha Ganga” and henceforth the waters from Akasha Ganga would be used for the abhisheka. 

Nambi continued his “teertha kainkaryam” and also introduced other forms of seva like thomala seva, tirumanjanam, vedaparayanam, mantrapushpa kainkaryam etc., for the Lord which earned for him the title “Acharya Purusha” of the temple. Since the Lord had addressed him as “thatha” he is also known as “Thathacharya”. Even to this day, it is the privilege of the descendants of Tirumala Nambi to offer all these sevas started by him to Lord Venkateshwara.

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Manjula: Devotee of Lord Guruvayoorappan

Manjula was a great devotee of Lord Guruvayoorappan. Every day she would collect flowers and make a beautiful garland and late in the evening she would go to the temple with her offering. The priest would adorn Lord Guruvayoorappan with the garland, and she would feel very happy and fulfilled. After having the Lord’s darshan and singing his glories she would return back home. This was her ‘nitya mala kainkaryam‘ to Lord Guruvayoorappan. 

One day, however it became late and by the time she reached the temple with the garland the temple was closed for the day. She felt very sad that she could not offer the garland to the Lord. Slowly she walked upto the banyan tree near the temple and sat down there. With tears filled in her eyes, she started singing Sri Krishna’s glories. Poonthaanam, another great devotee of Lord Sri Guruvayoorappan who had also come for the Lord’s darshan was going back home. He heard the Lord’s song and came there only to see Manjula crying. He asked her what the matter was. She told him about the daily garland-seva to the Lord. That day since she was late, the temple was closed and she could not offer the garland to the Lord.

Poonthaanam realized the deep and sincere devotion of Manjula. He smiled and told her not to worry. He asked her to place the garland on the stone under the banyan tree because the Lord is All-pervading, and exists in every ‘thing and being’. Hence, the offering would reach the Lord. On hearing the words of the great Krishna Bhakta, Manjula placed the garland on the stone and went back home.

Manjulalthara – Banyan tree

Next day early in the morning, the main priest opened the doors of the temple, walked into the sanctum and started removing the previous day’s garlands that were adorning the Lord. One by one he removed all the garlands, but he could not remove one garland. Try as much as he can, the garland simply stuck to the Lord’s Vigraha! The priest and all the devotees gathered there were surprised. At that very moment, Poonthaanam came to the temple. Seeing the priest perplexed, he asked him what the matter was. The priest told him what had happened. He was unable to remove one garland adorning the Lord’s Vigraha. Poonthaanam was overwhelmed. He immediately remembered what had happened the previous night. He joyously cried out, “That is Manjula’s garland. If it is so, let it fall down”. And lo! the garland immediately fell down! All the devotees including the priest realized the complete surrender, total devotion and loving service of Manjula to Lord Sri Guruvayoorappan. Everybody went and offered their prostrations to the banyan tree which came to be known as “Manjulalthara”. A majestic and beautiful deity of Sri Garuda was later installed under the banyan tree.  

Even to this day, devotees who come to Guruvaayoor offer their salutations to this banyan tree!

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Naama Traya Astra Mantra: Lord’s Names become a Weapon!

# The devatas and rakshasas came together to churn Ksheera Sagar, the great milk-ocean to obtain Amrita. The Mandara mountain was the churning rod and Vasuki, the serpent became the churning rope. Lord Vishnu helped by bearing Mandara mountain on his back in the form of a tortoise. As they churned, Vasuki started spewing venom from his mouth. The deadly poison “Halahala” or “Kalakoota” spread in all directions threatening to burn and destroy all the worlds. Fire and poisonous fumes rose almost upto the sky. All the devatas prayed to Lord Sankara, “the One who bestows well-being to all”. Lord Shiva immediately came and saw the havoc and disaster that the poison was creating. Sankara invoked Sri Hari: “Om Achyuthaaya Namaha – Om Anantaaya Namaha – Om Govindaaya Namaha.” This empowered him to be able to drink and handle the deadly poison. He contained the poison in his throat because of which it turned blue giving him the name “Neelakanta“. The three names of the Lord became known as “Naama Traya“, capable of handling any adversity – physical, mental or intellectual.

# Bhandasura was a very powerful rakshasa ruling over Shonitapura. Through severe penance he had acquired boons from the Lord. His was a regime for 60,000 years without any interference. Also whoever confronted him in war, half their strength would go to him. No one could overpower and defeat him. No weapon, however powerful it might be, could destroy him. And his death, if at all, was at the hands of “a woman not born of another woman!” With all these boons, he presumed that he was invincible and harassed both heaven and earth.
All the devatas prayed to the Lord who suggested that they should perform a Yagna, and offer themselves and their powers as oblations to it. And out of the Yagna-fire, Adi Parashakti, the Mother of the Universe would manifest herself and become the destroyer of Bhandasura. The devatas performed the Mahayagna and out of the yagna-kund, Sri Lalitha Maha Tripurasundari manifested herself. Riding on the Srichakraraja Ratha, accompanied by her army, she waged a war on Bhandasura. Every astra that he discharged was countered by her. It was a very fierce battle.

Seeing her might and power, greatness and glory, Bhandasura invoked and discharged a weapon charged with various deadly diseases, the Maha Roga Astra (Weapon of Deadly Diseases). The astra brought forth various types of deadly diseases which spread all around. Under the influence of this astra, the whole army of Devi collapsed. To counter the rakshasa’s astra, Devi through her yogic powers, invoked the powers of “Om – the Supreme Parabrahma” and created and released the most powerful and invincible Astra comprising of the Lord’s three Names which were invoked by Lord Shiva earlier, the Naama Traya Astra (Triple-Name Weapon): “Om Achyutaaya Namaha, Om Anantaaya Namaha, Om Govindaaya Namaha“. The three names of the Lord which are very powerful nullified the effect of the Maha Roga Astra, restored health and brought Devi’s entire army back to life. Bhandasura was finally killed by Sri Lalitha Maha Tripurasundari.

The Naama Traya Astra is considered as a very powerful Mantra (Triple-Name Chant) which can remove all the negative forces around a person. It is able to cure a person of all types of deadly diseases and serves as an antidote for toxic substances. It bestows good health, well-being and protects a person from misfortunes and untimely death. Lord Agni, the presiding deity of fire, assures that whoever chants “Achyutha – Ananta – Govinda” will be benifitted immensely. The Naama Traya Astra Mantra can also be used for japa and contemplation. The names not only indicate Saguna Paramatma but also suggest and signify the characteristics of Nirguna Parabrahma. Achyutha: One who is Unconditioned, Unlimited and who is unfailing. Ananta: Endless and All-pervading. Govinda: Supreme Lord of All.

Om Achyuthaaya Namaha! Om Anantaaya Namaha! Om Govindaaya Namaha!

Achyuthaanantha Govinda Naamoochhaarana Bheshajaat I Nashyanthi Sakala Rogaha Satyam Satyam Vadaamyaham II – Bhagavan Sri Veda Vyasa

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