Category Archives: Vishnu Sahasranama

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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Adhika Maasa (Purushottama Maasa) -Significance

There is a difference in calculation between the solar and lunar calendars. After 32.5 months of the lunar calendar, there arises a discrepancy of 30 days (1 month) which has to be included in the lunar calendar to perfectly align it with the solar calendar. This month is called as ADHIKA MAASA (Extra Month). Each month has its own presiding deity. However Adhika Maasa did not have any presiding deity. Adhika Maasa approached Lord Vishnu and said, “Lord, there is no presiding deity allotted to me. I am known as “extra” and “unwanted” month. Everybody totally ignores me and no one associates anything auspicious with me.” The Lord heard Adhika’s plea and said, “Do not worry. I myself as PURUSHOTTAMA – “the Best of Beings”, will be the presiding deity of Adhika Maasa.” Hence the Adhika Maasa is also called as Purushottama Maasa. All the divine glories associated with the Lord are therefore associated with Adhika Maasa.

The Adhika Maasa is an extra month that Prakriti or Mother Nature has given to mankind which comes after every 32.5 (nearly 33) months. Normally an individual is constantly engaged in sheer worldly pleasures and materialistic activities all through the months, year after year. The call of our great Rishis is that atleast in the Adhika month we should refrain from all materialistic activities and devote the entire month to religious and spiritual activities. Hence in this month vivaaha, gruhapravesam, naamakarana etc are not celebrated. Importance is given to Japa, Tapas, Upavasa, Puja, Homa, and Dana. All the merits acquired by performing pooja, japa, tapa and dana in the other thirty three months put together collectively can be acquired by performing the same in just this one Adhika Maasa. Lord Brahma once weighed all the sadhana he had pursued prior to his work of creation with the sadhana performed in the Adhika Maasa. The scales tilted in favour of the sadhana undertaken in the Adhika Maasa!

Reading of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Geeta, Bhagavatham, Ramayana, Chanting of Stotras like Vishnu Sahasranama, Lalitha Sahasranama, Aditya Hridaya, Hanuman Chalisa, chanting the 15th chapter (Purushottama Yoga) of the Bhagavad Geeta, etc., attending Satsanghs, undertaking pilgrimage to various holy places are also taken up during this period. Lighting Akhanda Deepa (day and night) all through the Adhika Maasa which represents the “initiation of spiritual knowledge in an individual” is also undertaken during this period. There are Adhika Maasa Vratas and Vows prescribed for this month. Any noble and virtuous activity taken up during this Adhika Maasa is supposed to give Adhika-phala (extra merit). 

33 (thirty three) is a number associated very closely with the Adhika Maasa, since this extra month comes after 33 (32.5 to be precise) lunar months. If we have not performed our religious activities and charity during the last 33 months, it is atoned for now by doing the same 33 times in the Adhika Maasa. Therefore chanting of a specific mantra 33 times or in multiples of 33 is normally undertaken. When fruits, tamboola (betel leaves), or sweets are offered to the Lord the number prescribed is again 33 or multiples of 33. Similarly when dana or charity is given, it is 33 or in multiples of 33. This is supposed to take care of the lapses on our part in our religious activities and charity during the previous 33 months. 

Amongst the danas, “Anna-dana” (food distribution to the needy) is supposed to be very important. A unique feature of Adhika Maasa is “Apoopa dana” – the dana of “Athirasa” (Apoopa in Sanskrit). It is a deep-fried sweet-dish prepared by using rice flour, jaggery and ghee – a wholesome nutritious delicacy. Traditionally, 33 apoopas are given in charity every day along with 33 fruits, 33 betel leaves and 33 coins. If it is not possible daily, this unique dana is done atleast once during the Adhika Maasa. Apoopa dana is considered equivalent to prithvi-dana!

The glory and uniqueness of the sacred Adhika or Purushottama Maasa was narrated by Lord Narayana to Sage Narada, and by Sri Krishna to Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandavas.

[This year Adhika Maasa begins on 18th Sept 2020 and ends on 16th October 2020]

Charity must come from one's sense of abundance. True charity springs from a sense of oneness between the giver and the recipient. - Swami Chinmayananda

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Sri Varalakshmi

Sri Varamahalakshmi festival falls on the friday just before the full-moon in the month of Shravan.

Vaikunta and Sri Lakshmi Narayana: In Vaikunta, Lord Vishnu is depicted as lying down in yoga-nidra on the coiled Adisesha in the milk-ocean. Sri Lakshmi is seated at his feet and constantly serving him, but her gaze is completely focused on the Lord’s beautiful face. Vaikunta means ‘without any defects or limitations or conditionings’ and therefore it represents the State of Enlightenment. The milk-ocean represents a ‘pure and conducive spiritual environment within oneself’. Adisesha lies coiled with its hood turned inward which represents a ‘mind completely under self-control and turned within’. Lord Vishnu in yoga-nidra represents a ‘Man of Realisation (Jeevanmukta) who is completely relaxed and revelling in his State of self-realization’. Lakshmi serving at Narayana’s feet with total attention rivetted on the Lord represents a ‘Master rooted in his true inner nature within and simultaneously engaged in selfless activities of guiding the generation to walk the path of spirituality’.

Sri Laksmi Narayana – the Path and Goal: To a seeker, Narayana represents the Spiritual GOAL and Lakshmi represents Knowledge and Values. Her constant and consistent service to the Lord indicates the PATH – materialistic and spiritual activities undertaken by a devoted seeker in total dedication to the Lord. 

The great musician-saint, Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar has composed a kriti exclusively for the auspicious occasion of Varamahalakshmi Vrata – “Sri Varalakshmi namasthubyam…..”: “Salutations to Sri Varalakshmi, the Bestower of Fortune! One with lotus like feet, graceful at every step, protect me. An embodiment of all virtues, shining like molten gold and with effulgence that surpasses a crore of suns, she is easily accessible to those who worship her and she bestows her choicest blessings upon them. Lakshmi resides in the heart of Lord Kesava and is worshipped by all the sumangalis on FRIDAY PRIOR TO THE FULL MOON OF SRAVANA. Adorning a gem-studded garland offered by GURU-GUHA (Karthikeya), worshipped by Bharati (Saraswati), she bestows materialistic wealth and kaivalya-pada (moksha) on her devotees.”

There is a beautiful and very significant line in this kriti: “sarasapade..rasapade…sapade…..pade……pade”.

The padartha or word-meaning is very simple. It means: “One with lotus like feet (sarasa pade), who is graceful at every step (rasa pade), slowly but surely (sapade), step by step (pade…pade)” — protect me.
Significance of this line: PADA means ‘State’. SARA means ‘Essence’, the Supreme Essence, the Unmanifest Parabrahma Tattva. SARASA (Lotus) signifies Truth, Knowledge, Beauty and Bliss. SARASAPADE: Lakshmi represents the Supreme Parabrahma State, the State of Sachidananda (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss), the Nameless, Formless and Attributeless. RASA is the opposite of SARA, and therefore it represents the Manifest Deity with Name, Form and Attributes. RASAPADE: represents the Mother of the Universe in her manifest form – the Supreme GOAL. SA means ‘sahitha’ or ‘along with’.   SAPADE: Lakshmi is an embodiment of moral and ethical values which a seeker needs to walk the path of spirituality, and therefore, she represents the PATH to be taken by the seeker. PADE…..PADE: to ‘walk step by step’.  The prayer to Goddess Lakshmi is that, “O Mother, you represent the Highest Goal and also the Path to reach the Goal. As my preceptor walk along with me, guide me, slowly but surely, step by step to ultimately reach the All-perfect State of Enlightenment”.

Hold on to Narayana; Lakshmi can never be far away. Wealth with character alone can bring joy, peace and prosperity. When one is kind and sincere, alert and consistent, he attracts to himself wealth and glory. - Swami Chinmayananda

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