Category Archives: Hinduism

Significance of Navaratri ~ by Swami Chinmayananda

The DUSSEHRA festival is celebrated throughout the country. During this festival, everyone spends his time in worship, devotion, and study of the Sastras, and every house assumes the sanctity of a temple. The ten days are divided into three stages of three days each, for worship, and the culmination of the festival on the tenth day is called VIJAYA DASAMI.

The first 3 days we invoke Mother Durga, the “Power Terrible” to help us, by eliminating from within us all negative forces, all weaknesses; followed by the constructive efforts at the organisation of order and security by the patronage and growth of the Divine Forces in us. Lakshmi, she is the Goddess of Aishwarya: Devi Sampath. She is the embodiment of Love, Charity, Kindness, Devotion, Tolerance, Patience, Endurance, Vairagya, Viveka, Peace, Tranquility, Honesty, Courage, Faith, and Mumukshutva! These are to be engendered, and the vacancies created by the elimination of the negative qualities must be filled by these positive traits. Hence the Lakshmi Puja for 3 days following the Kali Puja of the first 3 days. When a Jiva on his march has thus purified himself, and gets recharged with the Devi Sampath, he is a fit Adhikari – a fit student – to be initiated into the philosophical side of Religion, the Supreme Reality, the State of Sat-Chit-Ananda, the Padavi of “Sivoham”. The Goddess of Jnana, Devi Saraswati is invoked. Her Veena is tuned within when the heart-strings are polished “off” its clogs – the Asuric Sampath. The strings are “tuned” when the inner heart-strings are adjusted with the cultivated Devi Sampath. In the resulting shanti, the soft floating tunes waft from within as the Lady of Veena passes Her tender fingers blessingly over the heart-strings. The music is the magic touch that turns the Premi into Prem! the Lover into Love!! The Siva bhakta melts in that MUSIC of the within and becomes one with Siva – the final waking from the dream of samsar into the fact that I am the Knowledge in Itself, Pure Existence beyond Time, Space and Causality. As Sri Saraswati sings Her divine song of Joy, the Kalyana Muhurtha is on! Now, “I am Siva! I am He! He am I !!” This is the great Victory – the Total Victory, the VIJAYAM.

Mother Durga is invoked by worshiping her for 3 days. Man merely invokes his own power which lies dormant within, to discover and destroy the negative forces lurking in his bosom. Destroying one’s evil tendencies is only a negative approach to spirituality. So, the next stage is to practice the positive aspect of the Sadhana. This is done by Sri Lakshmi Puja for the next 3 days. Lakshmi is the Goddess of Aishwarya. Aishwarya is not to be understood in the narrow sense of material wealth and possessions alone but as including the divine wealth of love, kindness, devotion, patience, endurance, charity, ahimsa and the like. Again, these are not to be gained from without, but are to be engendered from within by the invocation of the Goddess within ourselves. By the end of these 3 days, these divine qualities should replace the devilish tendencies which had usurped and enveloped our bosom. With the development of the divine traits, the seeker is fully qualified and becomes an Adhikari for philosophical study, contemplation and meditation. The invocation of Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, is therefore, the last and the final stage in the spiritual evolution of man. Just as she brings out the music and melody from her well-tuned veena, one can manifest the divinity and harmony with a well integrated mind, by the study of the sastras, constant reflection and meditation. After the 3 stages are gone through, on the last Vijaya Dasami Day, the devil is burnt down indicating the “transcendence of ego”, when man attains the great victory – VIJAYA – over his sense-life and revels in the ecstatic experience of the Transcendental Reality!  

Dussehra indicates as the word suggests, DASA-PAPA-HARA, the end or liquidation of ten sins. The ten sins are attributed to the 10 sense-organs through which the mind contacts and gains knowledge of the phenomenal world, and also reacts to the stimuli received from the world of objects. Therefore the idea is that on this sacred day, the ten sins are ended which signifies the end of the mind and therefore the end of the world of plurality when one becomes rooted in the Transcendental Experience – the Vijaya Dasami Day, the day of Sree Parameswara Prapthi!!          The 9 days Pooja ends in the Great Grand festivity and Joy inexpressible, on the 10th day – the Vijaya Dasami Day. The 9 days Devi Pooja has removed the 9 great sins of man. The 10th day ends the last of his sins and the mortal limited man in himself discovers that he is God! Live thy Life of Dasara! Burn down the ugly monstrous Rakshasa Roopa that we had ourselves built up in the previous nights; and in joy and revelry, dance round the wrecked blazing Monster — the “I”.  The great Victory — the Vijaya! The Home-Coming — the great Vijaya Dasami Day!

“Dasa hara” is the victory over the senses – means, end of Mind; which ends in the disappearance of the dreadful shadow “I”. When the mind is “off”, what remains is the Blissful, the Omnipotent and Omniscient mass of Beauty and Grandeur, the Supreme Mother! Make thy life a Mahanavami Celebration! With songs and dance, with puja and worship, with feasting and illumination, with Japa and Tapa, invoke the Powers of the Self, the Eternal Nature of Thee! Sivoham! Bring about a Dasara in Thy life – celebrate the life’s Vijaya Dasami – through Purushartha, which in the bhakta is not a stupendous task of adventure and strife, but a pleasure Puja Festival — a Mahanavami Celebration

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Raksha Bandhan – Significance

Raksha Bandhan is a day on which sisters tie the sacred thread (rakhi) on the wrist of their brothers. A sense of responsibility, well-being, bonding between family members, sharing, etc., is inculcated into the family members through the ritual of raksha-bandhan. The ritual not only stands for the health, wealth, prosperity, happiness and long life for the brother, but it also represents the brother’s commitment to protect the honour and dignity of the sister.

However, in its larger perspective, “Rakhi” is known as “Raksha Sutra” (thread for protection). The day chosen, who ties the raksha-sutra, and to whom, etc., depends on the occasion and the purpose. The raksha-sutra is first placed at the altar of the Lord. It is sanctified by prayerfully invoking the Lord’s Grace and Blessings. It is then tied round the wrist of the individual.

The raksha-sutra is used to invoke the Lord’s blessings for protection from all dangers, harms, calamities etc. Usually, after invoking the Lord’s blessings, the sacred thread, is tied round the concerned individual by the priest or the eldest in the family. By tying the raksha-sutra round the wrist of relatives, friends and well-wishers it also encourages a sense of oneness and harmony in the society.

In almost all puja-sankalpas and vratas undertaken, during celebrations like marriage, namakarana, grihapravesha etc., tying of raksha-sutra is mandatory. The raksha-sutra symbolizes the sacred bonding between the individual (jivatma) and the Lord (Paramatma). The sanctified raksha-sutra is tied round his wrist with appropriate chants and rituals. In this case it is called “kankana”. The individual is “kankana-baddha”, meaning committed to his sankalpa or vow. When the sankalpa or vow is fulfilled, the “kankana-visarjana” (removing the thread round the wrist) is carried out with specific chants. The colour (red, yellow, black, etc) of the thread depends upon the sankalpa. Undertaking a sankalpa or vow demands discipline and earnest self-effort on the part of the individual. The thread or sutra or kankana itself represents the SANKALPA or VOW. It is a TAPAS, whether undertaken for one’s own self or for someone else. It is a reminder that the wearer should constantly engage himself or herself in noble and purposeful activities ensuring the well-being and welfare of everyone around including himself or herself.

The use of Raksha-Sutra or Rakhi goes back to the Puranic age. On the Poornima (full moon) day of Sravana, Goddess Lakshmi pleased with the hospitality of Bali Chakravarti’s tied the “raksha-sutra” round his wrist; and the divine couple, Sri Lakshmi Narayana bestowed upon him their grace and blessings. Hence the tradition of women tying the “raksha-sutra” not only to brothers, but to all their well-wishers, wishing them happiness, health, plenty and prosperity, and they in turn promise to protect the dignity of their mothers, sisters and daughters. Also, during Yudhisthira’s Rajasuya Yagna, Draupadi tore a part of her vastra and tied it round Lord Krishna’s finger which was injured and bleeding because of the sharp edges of the revolving Sudarshana Chakra which had just killed the evil Sishupala. The Lord reciprocated by protecting her with “akshaya vastra” in the Kaurava court. Therefore, Raksha Bandhan also represents Sri Krishna protecting Draupadi who considered the Lord as her brother.

O, Adimoola (Primordial One)! thou art my ANGA-RAKSHA (My Sole Protector & Saviour)! Lord of Sree, thou alone art my JIVA-RAKSHA (Protector of Life)! Purushottama, the consort of Bhudevi, thou art my BHUMI-RAKSHA (Protector from Terrestrial Calamities)! Lord who reclines on the vast ocean is my JALA-RAKSHA (Protector from Water Calamities)! Yagna-murthi, in the form of the sacrificial fire, thou art my AGNI-RAKSHA (Protector from Fire Calamities), Lord of Hanuman, the son of Vayu, thou art my VAYU-RAKSHA (Protector from Air Calamities)! Vishnu, the All-pervading One, who measured space with His lotus foot, thou art my AKASHA-RAKSHA (Protector from Spacial Calamities)! Lord of Venkatadri thou art my SARVA-RAKSHA (my All-in-all Protector)! The kirtan can also be interpreted as: “the Lord who supports, nurtures and nourishes the BEINGS in the form of the Elements of Nature – Earth, Water, Fire, Air & Space” ~ Sri Annamacharya (Poet-Saint).

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Arunagirinathar : the divine transformation!

Arunagirinathar was born to a pious couple in Tiruvannamalai (15th century). Soon after his birth he lost his father. Arunagiri was brought up by his mother and sister and they instilled in him the religious and cultural traditions. He was intelligent, religious and devoted to the Lord. However as he grew up, he associated himself with court dancers and started spending all his time in their company. He spent all the money he had on the women. He sang praises of the rich and wealthy people and whatever he earned from that was all invested in his sensuous life. He totally neglected his duties, and constantly demanded money from his sister. His mother and sister were worried about him but there was nothing they could do to stop his wayward life. His health started to fail him because of his wrong habits but still he continued his extroverted life.

One day, as usual he asked his sister for money. She replied that she did not have any money to give him. Extremely angry with her for denying, he picked up a quarrel with her. Overcome with anger and tired of his unethical and immoral habits, she told him that she had no money to give him and if he still wanted money, the only way was by “selling her”. Her words stung him to the core. It was like molten liquid being poured into his ears. Suddenly it dawned on him as to how selfish and sinful he had been all these years. He was a shame to his family and the entire town. Overcome with remorse and feeling extremely guilty, Arunagiri hit his head hard on the stone pillars of the temple and decided to end his life. He climbed up to the tower of Arunachaleswara temple and jumped down. But instead of landing on the hard granite, he landed in the hands of his saviour. He looked to see who had saved him. The smiling saviour told him, “You are not to fall and die. Yours is a life to save and help others to rise. You have a divine mission to accomplish. Write and sing the glories of Lord Muruga“. 

Arunagiri’s saviour was none other than Lord Karthikeya himself! Lord Muruga in all his glory and splendour stood in front of him with the Vel in his hand. His vehicle, the peacock stood next to him. Arunagiri was overwhelmed and overjoyed at the compassion of the Lord who had come all the way to redeem a sinner like him. He prostrated to the Lord. Lord Shanmukha wrote his sacred six-lettered mantra, SARAVANABHAVA on Arunagiri’s tongue with the pointed tip of his Vel. Arunagiri was initiated by Lord Muruga himself! What a blessing! What a transformation! Arunagiri was instantaneously blessed with all the knowledge of Kavya (poetry) and Sangeeta (music). Lord Muruga started the devotional-poem for Arunagiri with his own words: “muthai tharu patthittirunagai!” Being blessed, Arunagirinathar continued singing praises on Lord Kartikeya which came to be known as “Tiruppugazh”.

Arunagirinathar’s, “Tiruppugazh” is a masterpiece which was initiated by Lord Muruga himself. The glory and grandeur of Lord Muruga in his six sacred abodes is beautifully described in these verses. The beautiful lyrics are woven intricately with complex rhyme and rhythm. The philosophical content soaked in devotion is beautifully couched in divine music! His “Kandar Alangaram” is another beautiful garland of verses describing the beauty and splendour of Lord Muruga from his sacred head to his lotus feet! Arunagirinathar’s works are incomparable and they ushered in an era of Naada Upasana.

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Ganga – the Flow of Spiritual Knowledge!

River Ganges is respected and adored as Mother Ganga. As a river she is the main source of water especially for the northern part of Bharat. Apart from being a source of water, she has unique properties. Since she flows down through the Himalayan ranges, she carries along with her the inherent and unique properties of the soil, minerals and foliage through which she flows which gives her waters distinctive features. A dip in her waters or to drink her waters is extremely beneficial. Her oxidation level is also very high and therefore the Ganges water can be stored for years together – it still remains fresh and uncontaminated. 

King Bhagiratha of the Solar dynasty performed intense tapas to bring the sacred Ganges from the higher realms down to the plains to redeem his forefathers of their sins. Pleased with his tapas, Ganga appeared before him and told him that the force of her descent from the Higher Realms can be very devastating and everything within her reach will be totally wiped out. The only person who could withstand and contain the impact of her mighty descent was Lord Shiva. So Bhagiratha performed penance to propitiate Sankara. The Lord appeared before him. Bhagiratha narrated everything to Lord Shiva. The Lord agreed to take the tremendous impact of Ganga when she descends upon himself. Lord Shiva came to Gangotri and on the auspicious Ganga Dussehra day, Mother Ganges descended down from the higher realms with full force. Lord Shiva received Ganga into his open “Jata” (locks of hair). Subsequently the Lord released Ganga slowly in the form of small streamlets from His Jata. The Ganga from the Lord’s Jata followed Bhagiratha from the higher altitudes to the lower terristrial plains and then finally reached the lower realms to redeem the forefathers of Bhagiratha. After traversing the entire Northern plains known as the Gangetic Plains, Ganga reaches the ocean (Bay of Bengal) at Ganga Sagar and merges to become one with the ocean.

GAM means “knowledge”. GA means “to move”. Therefore GAMGA or GANGA represents “the eternal flow of Spiritual Knowledge”. She is the personification of Mother Sruti (scriptures). She is worshipped as AKASHA GANGA, wherein she represents the Highest, Subtle and Incomprehensible Spiritual Knowledge. The ‘vahana’ (vehicle) of Ganga is crocodile. The crocodile represents ‘spiritual ignorance’. Ganga signifies ‘Spiritual Knowledge’. Ganga seated on the crocodile represents the destruction of ignorance with the help of Spiritual Knowledge. To partake a DROP OF THIS KNOWLEDGE is to transcend and move beyond name, form, attributes, activity and reach the realm of Highest Experience: the State of Enlightenment.  King Bhagiratha represents a spiritual seeker. BHAGA means “glories”. RATHA means “chariot”. BHAGIRATHA therefore means “personification of all divine qualities”. He is born in Solar dynasty meaning “he is endowed with spiritual knowledge”. 


When the seeker invokes the spiritual knowledge within himself in his seat of meditation, it descends down with such an impact that in one sweep the entire world of plurality and multiplicity becomes non-existent for him, leaving behind only the experience of Absolute Oneness. The seeker in the present moment may not have the ability and capacity to take on the impact. Only Lord Shiva who represents the Highest State of Meditation can contain the knowledge and revel in the experience of Absolute Oneness. Therefore Ganga (Divine Knowledge) descends onto his head (intellect). Hence Shiva also represents the Guru who has not only the Knowledge of the Higher State, but has experienced it within himself. When the seeker approaches the Guru, depending upon the constitution of the seeker and his ability and capacity to absorb the Higher Knowledge, the Guru slowly initiates him which is represented by the flow of Ganga from Lord Shiva’s tresses. Just as Ganga on reaching the vast shoreless and depthless ocean, loses her individual identity to merge and disappear into the ocean and becomes one with it, so too the spiritual seeker (jivatma) slowly progresses on the path of meditation to reach and become one with the Highest State (Paramatma). This is the State of Mukti or Enlightenment.


Gange Hara Hara! Gange Hara Hara!! 

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