Tag Archives: Hinduism

Ugadi – Nuthana Samvatsara!

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New Year (Nuthana Samvatsara or Nava Varsha) is extremely significant because it represents CHANGE OF SEASON, from the dry and cold winter to the fresh and warm spring! In most of the States in Bharat, the New Year is a celebration of the Spring Season (Vasanta Ritu) in the month of Chaitra. The New Year tithi varies depending on whether the Lunar or the Solar calendar is followed and is known by different names in different regions: Ugadi (Karnataka, Andhra & Telangana), Puthandu (Tamilnadu), Vishu (Kerala), Gudi Padwa (Maharashtra), Baisakhi (Punjab), Bohag Bihu (North-east), Navreh (Kashmir), Odia Nababarsa (Orissa), Pohela Boishakh (Bengal), etc. A few States celebrate New Year in the month of Kartika. With the arrival of Spring, there is a complete and total change or transformation in Nature. Mother Nature is at her creative best – there is newness and freshness everywhere. All around, there is more greenery which acts as a perfect backdrop for the variety of hues and colours! Mother Nature’s Holi celebration with the colours of life! We in turn reciprocate the same bhava by welcoming, celebrating and expressing our love and gratitude, reverence and respect to Mother Nature with various colours. Agriculture starts. Flowers, Fruits and Vegetables are in plenty. New Year is therefore a socio-cultural and religious utsava. Every region has its own unique customs and traditions.

Nature is nothing but an extension of the human mind – as in Nature, so too in our mind. Therefore, New Year is the best time for each and every one of us to make constructive and positive resolutions and work towards them to change for the better – both in our material and spiritual domain. On the Ugadi day, an early morning oil-bath (removes tamas and increases sattva) is a must and new clothes are welcome (discarding the old and accepting the new). The courtyard is decorated with rangoli patterns. Fresh, new and tender mango leaves, clusters of neem leaves and flowers are used to decorate the main door as well as the puja-room door. Haldi and kumkum, rangoli and flowers are used for decorating the threshold. The seasonal Jasmine (mallige) flowers are used extensively. Everyone collectively participates in the Puja-rituals whether at family level or in the temple at community level. The 9 days starting from Ugadi are known as Chaitra or Vasanta or Rama Navaratri, similar to the Sharannavaratri (Dasara) during the autumn season. Prayers are offered to Adi Sakti, the Mother of the Universe who Creates, Nurtures and Nourishes (Motherhood). Sri Rama is invoked since the Navami tithi is the day of His Avatar. Reading of the panchanga (almanac) is considered very important on Ugadi. The Vasanta Navaratri concludes on the Sri Rama Navami day – the auspicious day of Lord Rama’s Avatar, who is the embodiment of Dharma. We invoke Lord Sri Rama’s grace and blessings upon ourselves for the entire year ahead.

Importance of Mango leaves, Neem leaves and Jasmine flowers: Mango leaves symbolise prosperity. They destroy negative energy and reinforce positive energy. Even after they are cut from the branches, they continue to release oxygen for few days and hence keep the air fresh and purify the surroundings. The mango leaves have antibacterial, antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The green colour signifies balance, tranquility, composure and well-being and have a soothing effect on the mind. The leaves attract insects towards them and hence act as insect repellent. Neem has immense medicinal value. It helps boost the immunity system. Fresh neem leaves and flowers help to fight the seasonal infections (because of change of season) and airborne diseases. The pure white jasmine (mallige) flowers are the seasonal flowers of Spring. During this season, the use of Jasmine flowers is widely encouraged. The white colour and the beautiful fragrance of the fresh jasmine have therapeutic benefits. The positive energy associated with the jasmine soothes the nervous system and calms the mind. Not only for puja, but women are encouraged to adorn their braids with jasmine. In the South, “maggina jade” or “jasmine-flower braid” (braid very artistically decorated with jasmine flowers) is extremely common amongst girls.

Significance of Bevu-Bella (Neem-Jaggery) and Ugadi Pachadi: A mixture of Bevu (Neem Flowers) and Bella (Jaggery) is prepared and offered to the Lord. This is first taken as Prasad at the end of the puja rituals. Life is full of experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant, and no one can avoid them. Both these experiences are yet to come to us during the course of the year. Jaggery and Neem signifying these two types of experiences are offered to the Lord. The sloka chanted while taking the bevu-bella is: “shathaayur vajra dehaaya sarva sampath karaayacha, sarvaarishta vinaashaaya nimbakadala bhakshanam” (by consuming the neem leaves or flowers, we develop a healthy and strong body, gain wealth and prosperity, and all our diseases – physical and mental get destroyed). By the Lord’s grace alone can we hope to go through the various vicissitudes of life. 

The Ugadi Habada Oota (Festival Lunch) comprises of many delicacies and all the members of the family sit down and eat together after the rituals – a mini Pankti (community) Bhojana! This brings in a feeling of togetherness and sense of participation. One of the important item is the Ugadi Pachadi. It is a combination of 6 ingredients which stand for the 6 types of tastes (shad-rasas). The shad-rasas denote the 6 types of emotions which an individual goes through in life. The shad-rasas and the corresponding ingredients are: sweet (jaggery), salt (salt), sour (tamrind), hot or spice (pepper), bitter (neem) and astringent or pungent (raw mango). The Pachadi is offered to the Lord and then taken as prasad. In most of the homes, the Habada Oota is served on a plantain (banana) leaf. The rich green colour not only provides a perfect background for the variety of food, but it denotes calmness & equilibrium. The antioxidant and antibacterial properties of the leaf, as well as its unique aroma is released by the hot food served on it. These benefits reach our system when we eat food served on a plantain leaf. The plantain leaf is placed such that when we sit in front of it, the veins of the upper & lower portion of the leaf are in the “>” shape! This is the sign for “increase” according to mathematics & signifies “progress in life!” May the food offered to the Lord (prasad) and taken by us help us to progress and achieve, to succeed and fulfil, at all levels of our personality – physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual !

नववर्षस्य शुभाशयाः — HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Mahashivaratri : Its Significance ~ Swami Chinmayananda

SHIVARATRI is the day in India when winter ends and from the next day onwards it is summer. Positively the climate changes. The climate changes outside. The Ganges will be flooded because more of the lower layers of snow with be melting. So by this natural phenomena they fixed this particular day, because the day after SHIVARATRI the climate conditions must change. Where? Outside! Meteorological Department! No!! IT IS THE CLIMATE OF OUR MIND!!! After Realization, the Man of Realization gets up from his seat of meditation a totally different man. He is not the man who went to the seat of meditation. It is a complete transformation!

All movements in the Cosmos are elliptical, and therefore, the diagram of the ellipse represents our Cosmos. If that ellipse is half-buried, what would be seen on the surface is a SHIVA LINGA. So, the SHIVA LINGA represents the manifested and therefore, vividly visible part of the Cosmos, which is supported by the other part of the ellipse which is hidden from our vision. Thus, the universe of names and forms is the LINGA (symbol) for the Lord who supports it all.

A time when the usual world of plurality is blanketed away from our awareness of Pure infinite Subjective Experience is that which is indicated by SHIVARATRI. In order that it may come to the masses and the average man may spend time in lifting his mind, turning his mind’s attention to the Lord, it has been brought into a very significant ritual, dedicating this day to Lord Shiva. On this auspicious day, seekers rededicate themselves to the subjective science and the pursuit of excellence in their daily lives.In the present state of your ego, it sees very clearly MAHADEVA with name, form and all properties. When the ego in you through surrender to MAHADEVA comes to experience the awakening, the Essential Reality, that MAHADEVA represents a State of Eternal Auspiciousness and Bliss – SADASHIVA. Therefore, consistent and sincere sadhana is the bridge. Offer all your Rajas and Tamas to MAHADEVA – that is true Archana. As the Sattva predominates in you, your inner equipment become extremely pure and therefore steady in contemplation — there you experience SADASHIVA. 

A spiritual seeker’s sole purpose is to destroy the ego, and the “non-apprehension of the Reality” (Avidya), which is the cause for it. Where this destruction is complete, the very Lord of Destruction, SHIVA “alone” remains. Hence Lord Shiva is represented, often, as the Lord of Meditation. The ability inherent in us to destroy an undesirable thought in us is the “Shiva-Shakti”, the spirit of detachment. Invoking this “power-divine”, we, with the Grace of Lord Shiva, progress on our march from imperfections to PERFECTION. 

Quietened mind becomes contemplative and it becomes the grand way for realising the Shiva-State of Perfection. In the heat of contemplation, our vasanas get burnt down and if anything is burnt, it becomes the white ashes and theses ashes become an ornament “Bhooshana” of Lord Shiva. Beyond all vasanas is the PURE SELF. 

In Dhyan, the Mind, the seat of the separative Ego-centre melts and the relationships of I-seperate-from-my- Shiva….rolls off; the final experience is “I-am-Shiva.” This is ISHWARA DARSHAN — the vision in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum, in the Temple.

The process of Constructive Destruction is SHIVA, the Annihilator. Thus SHIVARATRI is the destruction of Ego in the discovery of the Self – SHIVA. 

May all devotees come to experience at least the shy rays of the early dawn at the end of one’s own inner “ratri” in the emerging beams of the Shiva-Spirit in us. Be quiet. Be silent within. Blind. Deaf. Mum. BE…..  Invoke. Be expectant. Let SHIVA happen. TRY….. May Lord Shiva’s Grace be upon all during this SHIVARATRI celebration!!

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Symbolism of Shiva & Significance of Shivaratri!

SHIVARATRI represents the State of Realisation – Jivanmukti. Ratri signifies darkness – the darkness of spiritual ignorance (Avidya). Shiva is the personification of Auspiciousness – the Awareness or the Knowing Principle. 

Where Shiva “is”; Ratri “is not” (Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya). To reach this Highest State, the spiritual seeker is advised UPAVASA and JAGARANA. 

Upa means “near”. Vasa means “to stay”. Therefore, UPAVASA not only means “fasting”, but in its broader perspective it means “to stay connected with the Higher God-principle”. JAGARANA means “to be alert and aware”. Hence, Upavasa and Jagarana means “to be constantly and consistently identified with the Lord and simultaneously to be in a state of inner awareness, so that the mind does not move away from its focus. In the inner Upavasa-Jagarana State alone, the Vision of the Divine can take place and this is referred to as Shiva Darshana. 

Lord Shiva is the Lord of Ascetics (Sanyasins). He is also the personification of Dispassion (Vairagya). As Dakshinamurthi, he represents the Adi Guru, imparting the Atma Vidya (Subjective Science) to his disciples through eloquent silence with the help of the Jnana Mudra (Chinmudra). As Nataraja, the Lord of Naada and Nritya, he represents the dynamic cycle of creation, sustenance and dissolution – at the universal and individual levels. The SHIVA-LINGA represents the Formless-form of Lord Shiva. The Linga, in its truest form is actually elliptical in shape. It represents the entire Cosmos wherein all planets and celestial bodies are moving in elliptical paths (Keplers Laws of Planetary Motion)! The upper half of the elliptical-shaped Shiva Linga which is visible to us in the sanctum of the temples represents the manifested universe of things and beings. The lower portion of the elliptical-form which is not visible represents the Unmanifest, Absolute Substratum or the Adhishtana for the manifested universe. The elliptical-shape allows maximum absorption of spiritual energy from the Cosmos and radiation of the same to the surroundings.  

To the spiritual seeker, Lord Shiva represents both the PATH and the GOAL. Lord Shiva residing on the snow peaks of Kailasa represents Tapascharya (austerity). The All-pervading Lord is clothed with the very directions from all sides (Dik-ambara). The perennial flow of Ganga from his matted locks stands for the “flow of Spiritual Knowledge”. The moon adorning his head represents the mind which is well integrated with Knowledge! Parvati seated next to the Lord represents Shakti – the ability and capacity to walk the spiritual path. Sankara wears the eternal flow of Time as an ornament round his neck in the form of a snake. The Lord has three eyes representing the sun, moon and fire – the natural sources of light. The two horizontal eyes represent EXPANSIVENESS or SPACE. The third vertical eye represents DEPTH or TIME. Also, the Lord’s RIGHT eye represents the SUN (Life-force, Purusha). The LEFT eye represents the MOON (Matter, Prakriti). The relation between the two factors: Matter and Energy or Prakriti and Purusha, gives rise to the entire universe of things and beings. The THIRD EYE of the Lord represents VIVEKA or DISCRIMINATION or the FIRE-of-KNOWLEDGE which helps the seeker to transcend the concept of duality.

Shiva wields the three-pronged weapon in his hand – Trishula. The three prongs represent transcendence over: the three states (waking, dream, deep sleep), the three gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas), three periods of time (past, present, future), and the three equipments (body, mind, intellect). Lord Shiva resides in the burning ghat (smashana vasi). The burning ghat represents the “inner state” of a realised person where the entire world of plurality with its names, forms, qualities and activities are all burnt up and transcended in the Fire of Spiritual Knowledge (Jnana-Agni). The only residue left behind is the One, Homogeneous White Ash – the Truth behind the entire plurality! The Lord adorns himself with this “Ash”. This is the Ultimate Glory – the Real Vibhuti – of a Man of Realisation. Lord Shiva has Nandi (Bull) as his vahana (vehicle). Nandi represents an individual who has complete mastery over his equipments as well as one who has totally surrendered to the Lord. Such an individual becomes the “fit instrument” for the Lord to function through for the welfare of the world. The Lord is invoked and worshipped with the sacred bilva leaves which are a cluster of three leaflets. The three represent all the tri-groups which one has to transcend in his seat of meditation to reach the State of Enlightenment – Iswara Darshana.

“Om Namah Shivaya! Hara Hara Mahadeva!!”

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Ratha Saptami and Magha Snana!

MAGHA SNANA (taking a dip in the waters during Magha Maasa) also known as mini Kumbha Mela is as important, significant and meritorious as KARTIKA DEEPA (lighting the Deepa) in the month of Kartika. From Pushya Purnima to Magha Purnima, devotees undertake the Magha Snana Vrata. Apart from Snana, Charity (Dana) is also one of the main features of Magha Vrata. When the Sun enters the Makara Rashi (Uttarayana), the inclination of the Sun-rays, and consequently the light as well as the warmth (heat) reaching the terrestrial plane is different. The season is slowly changing – from cold (winter) to warm (summer) climate. In the dry winter season, there is a deficiency of sufficient light and warmth which weakens the immunity system of an individual. Now, with the arrival of Uttarayana, the soft and tender rays of the Sun energize the waters of the rivers and the ocean. This water (especially the saline ocean water) is extremely beneficial for us to fight the cold as well as the seasonal infections. Apart from this, the vibrational energy from the Sun during this time-period is extremely beneficial at the pyscho-spiritual level also. The various Puranas endorse this and therefore, this cosmic & celestial event has been incorporated as a mandatory religious vow or vrata. The Magha Snana is to be taken at dawn (Arunodaya Kaala) just before sunrise preferably in rivers, lakes or tanks which are exposed to Nature and are close to temple or pilgrim centres. Magha Snana at Prayagraj (Magha Mela) is considered highly meritorious because of the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. After the Magha Snana, Surya Bhagavan is invoked and Lord Madhava, the presiding deity of Magha Maasa is worshipped. 

Magha Navaratri Vrata is also undertaken by the devout. Goddess Saraswati, the presiding deity of Knowledge & Art-forms is worshipped on Vasanta Panchami or Sri Panchami Day. The Magha concludes with the Mahashivaratri on the chaturdashi day prior to Amavasya. In the month of Magha, Lord Sun is worshipped on the Ratha Saptami Day which is also known as Surya Jayanti and Arogya Saptami. It is said that the northward course of the Sun gains momentum on the Ratha Saptami! Apart from the Gayatri mantra, Surya Ashtakam and the Aditya Hridayam are fervently chanted to invoke the grace and blessings of Surya Bhagavan. Ratha Saptami signifies the change of season. It heralds the onset of the fresh ever-green Spring (Chaitra) and the end of the dry and cold Winter. For the farmers, this is the beginning of a new harvest year. On the Ratha Saptami Day, the utsava-murthi (procession-deity) in many of the temples (especially in Tirumala) is adorned with a kavacham inlaid with diamond and other precious gems and brought out in the early morning to face the rising Sun. It is an overwhelming sight to see the radiant and golden glow reflected from the Deity as well as the gems sparkling at the touch of the first morning rays of the Sun! The divine and blessed feeling of being wrapped in the light and warmth of the Lord’s immediate presence is inexplicable!! The fresh and tender Sun’s rays are extremely rejuvenating and beneficial to the physical body as well as the mind-intellect equipment.

MAGHA means “do not commit sins (mistakes) or do not fall” or “may we not suffer any grief or sorrow.” This is an indication that an individual must consciously walk the path of righteousness (dharma) and also be alert so that inadvertently one doesn’t slip into the path of unrighteousness (adharma). Hence we invoke Surya Bhagavan to keep us in the Light of Knowledge. Surya Bhagavan is worshipped as the Lord riding on a chariot with one wheel – the WHEEL of TIME (Kaala Chakra). The three-sectioned hub of the Wheel, represents the three Chaturmasa-s. The six rims (or six sections of the rim) of the Wheel represent the six seasons and the twelve spokes represent the twelve months of the year. Hence the Wheel is also known as SAMVATSAR or a YEAR. In one year, Lord Sun moves through the twelve zodiac signs, each of which represents one month of the Hindu calendar. The chariot is yoked to seven divine horses which are named after the Vedic metres or chhandas. They represent the seven colours – VIBGYOR – the seven components constituting Sun (White) Light; but the horses are green in colour! Anything that is far from our view appears GREEN, which indicates vastness and expansiveness. Green is also the CENTRAL colour in VIBGYOR. Hence “green” represents “balance, stability and equilibrium” in the cosmic configuration. The horses also represent the seven days of the week starting from Sunday – the first day of the week. Aruna is the Lord’s charioteer and he represents Dawn. Surya Narayana is the Lord of Light and Heat, Knowledge and Wisdom, Health and Prosperity. It is HE who nurtures, nourishes and sustains the entire world of things and beings.

“Saptashva Rathamarudham Prachandam Kashyapathmajam; Shveta Padmadharam Devam Tam Suryam Pranamamyaham”

“Prostrations to Surya Bhagavan, the Self-effulgent and the son of Sage Kashyapa who is seated in a chariot drawn by seven horses and sports a white lotus in his hand.”

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