Lord Nataraja of Chidambaram!

The Rishis who lived in Darukavana (pine forest) engaged themselves in intense tapas and yagnas continuously. Due to their meritorious activities, they became very powerful and consequently very arrogant and full of pride. They thought that they could control all the devatas because of their austerities and mantras-siddhis. When Lord Shiva heard of their attitude, he set out to destroy their pride. He disguised himself as a pious man. On the behest of Shiva, Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini and accompanied Shiva as his wife. Both of them came to Darukavana. The rishis and their wives were totally mesmerized by the beauty and charm of the divine couple and became distracted from their austerities. A little later, the rishis realized that they had been distracted from their austerities and became angry. 

The rishis started a yagna to attack and counter the couple without knowing that it was Lord Shiva and Vishnu in front of them. In the ‘yagna-fire’, they invoked a ferocious tiger and directed it towards Lord Shiva. The Lord killed the tiger and wore its skin around his waist. Next came a serpent from the sacrificial fire. Shiva seized it in his hand and wore it round his neck as an ornament. A wild elephant was invoked next, which the Lord easily killed. A demon called Apasmara (representing ignorance) was sent next. The Lord put him under his feet and rendered him immobile. Various hurdles and obstacles in the form of mantras were sent towards Lord Shiva. He converted them all into anklets and wore them round his feet. Having met all the challenges successfully, the Lord started his wonderful and most awesome cosmic dance called “Ananda Tandava” (the dance of eternal bliss). The Lord danced and Lord Vishnu watched the beautiful Tandava! The rishis were stunned at the breath-taking, beautiful Cosmic Nritya (Dance). Lord Shiva’s Tandava represents Creation, Sustenance, and Dissolution. The rishis realized their mistake and prostrated to the Lord and asked for forgiveness.

After reaching Vaikunta, Lord Vishnu who was witness to the great Shiva Tandava narrated the entire episode and described the Tandava in particular to Adi Sesha. Adi Sesha was very eager to see the unique and divine dance of the Lord. Sri Hari told him to proceed to the Thillai forest (mangrove forest), which is Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu), and perform tapas. Adi Sesha manifested as Sage Patanjali and came to the Thillai forest. He was joined by Sage Vyaghrapada. They made a Shiva-linga and invoked and worshipped Lord Shiva in it. 

Lord Shiva was pleased with their penance. It was on the auspicious day of Margazhi Purnima that the Lord performed the Tandava for them. The star on that day was Arudra Nakshatra which is associated with Lord Shiva. Chidambaram was the only place in the universe that has the strength and stability to become the divine stage for the Lord of Dance, NATARAJA, for his Cosmic Dance. Hence this auspicious day is known as ARUDRA DARSHANAM.

All the devatas, rishis, and gandharvas came to witness the dance. Celestial musicians sang. Narada played his veena and Nandi played the mridangam. The Vedas became the Lord’s anklets! The devatas and rishis who had witnessed the great performance requested the Lord to continue his Nritya for the welfare of the whole world. Lord Nataraja agreed and made Chidambaram his abode.

Chidambaram means “covered or clothed with knowledge”. The Lord is worshipped there in the form of Nataraja (with form), as crystal Linga (form-less), and as Akasha or Space-linga (invisible). Hence, this kshetra is one of the Pancha Mahabhuta Kshetras. There are five sabhas in which Lord Shiva performed five different types of Tandavas. CHIDAMBARAM is the KANAKA (Golden) Sabha where the Lord performed the ANANDA TANDAVA. The temple was designed and consecrated by Sage Patanjali himself who is the author of the ‘Yoga Sutras’. The structure of the Chidambaram temple is very unique and can be related to the entire structure of a human being. The temple is located at the centre point of the world’s magnetic equator. Lord Nataraja represents the five great Elements necessary for creation. He symbolises the Pancha Kriyas: Srishti (Creation), Sthiti (Sustenance), Samhara (Dissolution), Tirobhava (Veiling) and Anugraha (Showering of Grace). SHIVA TANDAVA represents Life and Life’s activities (micro and macro) in the entire Cosmos.

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Kashi Vishwanatha ~ Swami Chinmayananda

KASHI VISHWANATHA represents the Infinite Reality behind the entire universe of names and forms. Every name and form rises in Him, exists in Him and ultimately disappears into Him. The Sole Ground upon which the projected world of all minds exist and play out, famous in the Vedas as Brahman, is none other than Sri KASHI VISHWANATHA. The ever-present Self, by whose grace alone all activities of perception, feeling and thinking are made possible is KASHI VISHWANATHA. 

Devotion to KASHI VISHWANATHA is the MEANS, the way, to awake into the Supreme State of Pure Awareness; and the Viswanatha-State of Consciousness is the GOAL, the final destination.

KASHI VISHWANATHA as a “sacred symbol” is worshipped so that the wandering mind of the devotee, with the force of his devotion becomes quietened and comes to rest at the Altar of his devotion. The beloved Lord Viswanatha alone is the sole refuge. Seek the Lord and surrender totally unto Him – “O! Mind, seek the feet of Lord Mahadeva. Drink deep the honeyed sweetness of the memory of the fragrance of those lotus feet of the Lord and get intoxicated in its blissful fervour!” 

“Oh Lord! Thou art Ever-Full within and without. Thou art an ocean of kindness and mercy. Thou art the only one who can lift us up from this illusory world of names and forms. Thou art ever shining in Thy self-effulgent glory in the lotus of our heart like the ever-brilliant Sun. Only by realising Thee, as the very nature of the Supreme Self within, by transcending the body, mind and intellect, one can attain true Liberation, and remain ever in True Shanti.” 

“The final goal of all meditations, the blissful Self, is KASHI VISHWANATHA. May His auspicious form ever rise in our heart!”

Hara Hara Mahadev! Gange Hara Hara !

(Source : Sri Soumyakasheesha Stotra by Sri Swami Tapovanam. Commentary by Swami Chinmayananda.)

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Bhagavad Gita Messages-1 by Swami Chinmayananda

The act of understanding himself as different from his matter-vestures is man’s highest Art – the Art of Unveiling the Infinite through the finite. The technique of this ART is the theme of the GEETA!

BHAGAVAD GEETA is an enchanting impossibility; it is at once a SCIENCE and a PHILOSOPHY, and yet, strangely enough, it is neither a scientific philosophy nor a philosophical science. In its eighteen chapters, it explains a PHILOSOPHY-of-LIVING, and while doing so, it expounds and demonstrates the SCIENCE-of-LIVING. When a perfect combination of both SCIENCE and PHILOSOPHY is sung to the “melody of perfection” that KRISHNA was, we have this piece of work – the BHAGAVAD GEETA – an appeal both to the head and to the heart — the secret charm of the Lord’s Song that had enthralled generations, from the day of its production!

GEETA is a PIECE OF ART of strange beauty and it stands apart from everything else in a class all by itself. It is liquid poetry, expounding solid philosophy! In the fluidity of its metre, it crystallizes some of the rarest gems of moral and spiritual values. Its breezy discourses have a solid style. The fluidity of its eloquence falls like merciful rain upon every broken personality, making it whole by its magic touch. It is not a book of science, and yet, it is very scientific in its approach to the theme. It has not the airy nothingness of the familiar philosophical discourses, and yet, all philosophies seem to meet within its ample stretch. An inviting Art of Divine Beauty — every word in it is a detail, at once revealing and inspiring. The pause between the verses is not merely an inevitable blank-period of literary necessity, but something that suggests many a hidden truth!

The PHILOSOPHY of the Geeta reveals to us the glorious purpose in life, inspires and thrills the thinking aspect in man, and the VISION of the smiling Lord of Vrindavan “behind” every name and form, “beneath” every experience, “under” every situation, adds a life-giving joy and maddening ecstasy to the drunken heart of love!!

GEETA is the Lord’s own song, sung to revive His devotees! GEETA sings its song directly to us!! The GEETA serves us!

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Amongst the months, I am Margashirsha ~ Lord Krishna

Amongst the months, I am Margashirsha, says Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Geeta. Margashirsha is the ninth month in the Hindu calendar year. It is also known as Margazhi. It is also called as Dhanur or Shunya Maasa from the day of Dhanur-sankramana. The entire month is conducive for spiritual practices and is therefore dedicated to the worship of the Lord. Social and family celebrations like marriage, gruha pravesha etc., are avoided during this month. The benefits of any religious and spiritual sadhana undertaken this month gets multiplied – manifold times. The Gopis performed the Katyayani Vrata during this month to invoke Sri Krishna’s grace and blessings. Sri Andal undertook the same Vrata seeking union with Lord Ranganatha. Each day, one verse of TIRUPPAVAI composed by Andal are rendered at homes and in temples early in the morning during the Margashirsha month. In almost all the temples, during the Margashirsha month, devotees take a dip in the river or the temple tank and offer pujas very early in the morning during the auspicious Brahma Muhurtha. Japa and Dhyana are also undertaken during the Brahma Muhurtha. In many places, Nagara Sankeerthana is undertaken. With harmonium, tambura and tala (cymbals), devotees go round the streets of the village or town singing the Lord’s bhajans or kirtans to wake up the people who are sleeping. They are also encouraged to join the music or bhajan group. The Nagara Sankeerthana usually concludes in the temple. 

One human year is equivalent to one day of the devatas. Six months of Uttarayan Punyakala or Summer Solstice denotes day-time and six months of Dakshinayana Punyakala or Winter Solstice denotes night-time for the devatas. Margashirsha comes almost at the end of Dakshinayana and hence signifies the time just before sunrise for the devatas. Margashirsha denotes the Brahma Muhurtha of the Gods. Therefore to perform our religious and spiritual sadhana during our Brahma Muhurtha in the month of Margashirsha is to align it with the celestial Brahma Muhurtha during this auspicious month. This is extremely significant and immensely beneficial. In this month, during the winter season, the ozone layer is very clean and close to the earth. To benefit from this fresh and pure air as well as benefit from the cosmic energy, we are encouraged to wake up early, open the main door, clean the front porch and draw rangoli patterns (Margazhi kolam). By doing so we are not only exposing ourselves to the healthy positive environment but allowing the pure fresh air to enter our homes. This is followed by puja and other religious and spiritual sadhana at home or in the temples. 

Margashirsha is auspicious for Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. In the Vaishnavite temples, Vaikunta or Mokshada Ekadashi and Mukkoti Dwadashi are celebrated in the bright fortnight of the month. The beautifully decorated deity is taken through the Vaikunta Dwara on the northern side of the temple or the parikrama closest to the sanctum which is opened on this auspicious day. The devotees also enter the Vaikunta Dwara along with the Lord. Vaikunta Ekadashi is also known as Geeta Jayanti – the day on which Lord Krishna gave His message in the form of the Bhagavad Geeta to his disciple-devotee, Arjuna. In some parts of the country, especially in the South, Hanuman Jayanti is observed on Shukla Trayodashi day. It is significant to note that Lakshmi Vrata is observed on every Margashirsha Guruvara (Thursday). 

Similarly, pujas are offered to Lord Shiva also during the Brahma Muhurtha. Just like the TIRUPPAVAI of the Vaishnavites, the sacred TIRUVEMBAVAI is chanted by the devotees of Lord Shiva. In the famous Nataraja temple at Chidambaram, the Arudra Darshanam is observed on the full moon day of Margazhi with great festivity. Nature is a manifestation of the Lord and the beautiful soothing beams of moon light through the dew (hima) have a profound healing effect on us. The Arudra Nakshatra associated with Lord Shiva signifies the bright golden-red flame. Golden colour represents LIFE-FORCE or the KNOWING PRINCIPLE and red colour represents ACTIVITY. SHIVA TATTVA represents both Life (Energy or Spirit) and Activity (Matter) in each and every particle – micro or macro. Every particle in the Universe resonates the Tandava of the Lord indicating that “activity is the expression of life” which is represented by the icon of the dancing Lord Nataraja. The Divine Dancer also signifies the five great Elements (earth, water, fire, air and space) necessary for creation as well as symbolises the Pancha Kriyas: Srishti (Creation), Sthiti (Sustenance), Samhara (Dissolution), Tirobhava (Veiling) and Anugraha (Showering of Grace).  

Apart from rendering the verses from the sacred texts of great saints and singing bhajans during Margashirsha, there are religious discourses, harikathas, classical music, dance and drama performances also organised extensively during this month. Some of the festivals associated with Margashirsha are: Kalabhairava Jayanti, Dattatreya Jayanti (Purnima), Mitra Saptami, Annapurna Jayanti, Vivaha Panchami (Seeta-Rama Kalyana).

The names of the Hindu calendar months starting from CHAITRA to PHALGUNA, progressively refer to the various stages of spiritual evolution. The New Year in Chaitra represents “newness or change for the better”. From here the spiritual yatra starts for a seeker which ultimately gets fulfilled in “Shiva darshan (Shivaratri)” in the month of Phalguna. In this scheme, MARGASHIRSHA represents a very important stage of spiritual practice. MARGA means “path” and SHIRSHA represents the “head or the Higher”. Therefore, MARGASHIRSHA denotes the “path leading to the Higher”, wherein the seeker in his seat of contemplation, constantly and consistently negates the world of plurality (the unreal) and asserts the One Eternal Truth (the Real) which ultimately leads the seeker to the State of Enlightenment.

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