Tag Archives: Hinduism

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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Lord Vithala and Pundalika

Janudev and Satyavati were a pious couple devoted to the Lord who lived in Dandirvan in Maharashtra. They had a son by name Pundalika (Pundarika). He was noble, respected his parents and was devoted to the Lord. At a suitable age, Pundalika got married. Under the influence of his wife, he neglected the worship of the Lord. He started abusing and ill-treating his parents. His wife started making them do all the domestic work. Tired and exhausted, sad and dejected at their plight they decided to go on a pilgrimage to Kashi. 

Pundalika and his wife also immediately decided to accompany them to Kashi. They made the old couple walk, while they rode on the horse-back. Throughout  the journey they harassed them enough that they even regretted having undertaken the pilgrimage. Enroute they arrived at Kukkuta Rishi’s ashram and decided to break the journey and stay there for a few days . 
At night when everyone was sleeping in the ashram, Pundalika was disturbed by the sound of anklets. He got up and went out to see from where the sound was coming. To his surprise he saw three young and beautiful women cleaning Kukkuta Rishi’s ashram. Their clothes were extremely dirty. And surprisingly, when they had finished cleaning the entire premises and were about to leave the ashram, their clothes were spotless white and clean! This happened consecutively for three days.

On the third day, unable to check his curiosity, Pundalika approached the women and asked them who they were and why their clothes were dirty and how their clothes became clean after cleaning the ashram. The women told Pundalika that they were the presiding deities of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. They said, “every day thousands of devotees come and take a holy dip in our waters and wash off their sins because of which our clothes become dirty. As a result of serving the great Kukkuta Rishi by cleaning his ashram, we get rid off the sins of thousands of pilgrims and inturn our clothes again become spotless and clean and we once again regain back our lost glory.” And the river-deities continued, “of all the people, you are the most sinful one because you ill-treat and harass your parents. We are able to regain our glory because Kukkuta Rishi consistently and constantly served his old parents by looking upon them as the Lord himself. That is the Rishi’s Greatness and Glory .”

These words went straight into Pundalika’s heart. He immediately remembered how badly he had treated his parents. He was overcome with remorse. He narrated everything to his wife and told her that the rest of his life would be spent only in looking after his aged parents. He ran to his parents, fell at their feet and asked to be forgiven. He convinced his parents to return home and promised to look after them well. They were overjoyed at the transformation of their son whom they had totally given up and happily agreed to return back home. While coming back, the aged parents rode on horse-back and Pundalika and his wife walked by their side.
After coming back home, from that day onwards, day and night, Pundalika looked after and served his parents with all devotion. To him they were the manifestation of Lakshmi and Narayana. The Lord was very pleased with Pundalika’s devotion and decided to bestow his grace upon him and decided to come to the banks of the river Chandrabhaga where Pundalika was staying. Lord Shiva came to know about this and wished to accompany Sri Hari. The Lord agreed and asked Lord Shiva to occupy the crown on his head and Shiva seated himself on the crown of Hari in the form of Shiva-linga. 

Hari and Hara came to the dwelling of Pundalika and Hari called out to Pundalika and announced his arrival. Pundalika was massaging his father’s leg at that time and therefore told the Lord that he was busy serving his father and would not be able to leave his duties and come outside immediately. He threw a brick that was lying nearby and told the Lord to stand on it and wait. Lord Hari stood on the brick and with both his hands on his waist, waited for Pundalika. After his service, Pundalika came out of his house and was overwhelmed with the darshan of the Lord. He prostrated to the Lord. Pleased with his devotion to his parents, the Lord asked him what boon he wanted. Pundalika told the Lord that he wanted nothing for himself but asked the Lord to permanently stay there to bless all the devotees. The Lord agreed and stayed there standing on the brick with hands on his waist as Lord Vithala along with his consort, Rukmini in Pandharpur on the banks of the river Chandrabhaga.

Jai Sri Vithala! Jai Hari Vithala! Vithala Vithala! Panduranga Vithala!

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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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Ganesha and Analasura

Lord Ganesha

Analasura was a rakshasa who was very powerful and invincible. His very name ANALA means “fire”. His eyes were fiery. His very breath would burn and destroy everything it came in contact with. And his mouth emitted fire. He had a boon from Brahma, the Creator that no weapon whatsoever could harm him. Arrogant and vain, that he had conquered death and become immortal, Analasura went about torturing and harassing people on the surface of the earth as well as the gods in heaven.

Tired of Analasura’s endless attacks on them, all the devatas went to Vaikunta to seek the Lord’s help. Lord Vishnu told them that his Sudarshana Chakra cannot destroy him and told them to invoke Lord Shiva. All of them went to Kailasa and told Lord Shiva the havoc that Analasura was creating. Lord Shiva too told them that his mighty Trishul would not be able to counter the evil rakshasa. Lord Ganapati who was also present there heard everything. He immediately told them all not to worry and he would destroy the demon. Lord Vinayaka challenged the rakshasa to a dual war. The rakshasa fought fiercely and rushed forward in his huge form towards Ganesha.

The Lord immediately assumed his huge cosmic (virat) form. He caught hold of Analasura and swallowed him up. As a result of this, the heat generated in Ganesha’s stomach became unbearable. To reduce the heat, Lord Varuna showered water on him. Sankara tied the snake which is cold to the touch around Ganesha’s waist, Lord Chandra, the cool moon sat on his head and Lord Vishnu gave the lotus which is always in water to his hands, but none of them were capable of removing the tremendous heat which was consuming Ganesha. 

A group of Rishis who were performing a yagna heard of Ganesha’s trouble. They came there with a bunch of Durva Grass which they were using for their yagna. They tied twenty one blades of Durva grass into a bundle and asked Ganapathi to swallow it. The moment the Durva grass entered his stomach, the heat and the burning sensation completely subsided. Lord Ganapati was so happy at the marvel of this divine creation of the Creator! Durva grass seemed so insignificant amongst the created, and yet, so profound were its benefits. Ganapati declared that in future whoever worshipped him with the offering of Durva grass would earn his grace and blessings for sure.

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