Tag Archives: sanatana dharma

Importance of Temples : Introduction – Devaalaya

TEMPLE COMPLEX is an institution and not just a place of worship. They are called as Devaalaya, Praasaada, Teertha Kshetra, Yaatra Sthala. DEVA means “divine”. LAYA is “dissolution”. AALAYA means total dissolution. A place wherein we can connect with the Divinity in order to completely eliminate our ego is DEVAALAYA. It also means “the House of God”. 
PRASADA means “Grace, Blessings or even Peace”. It also indicates the “State of Enlightenment bestowed upon a seeker by the Lord’s grace”. Therefore that place wherein an individual can obtain the grace and blessings of the Lord, and ultimately reach the highest state of liberation is called PRAASAADA. 
KSHETRA stands for “place”. TEERTHA means “to move towards the Higher State”. TEERTHA KSHETRA therefore “represents a place which helps the seeker to move towards the Higher State within himself. YA means “to move or to go”. TRA means “to cross over”. STHALA means “place”. YATRA STHALA means that “place which helps an individual with the pre-requisites which will ultimately help him to cross over the ocean of samsara”.
Temple complexes are built where there are large geo-electro-magnetic fields. The place or site as well as the temple structures are  excellent absorbers and radiators of the divine, spiritual vibrations in the cosmos. Since the human personality has inherent and inbuilt magnetic properties within himself, the effect of such places on him becomes very profound. Infact, the place and the area, the dimensions and shape of the temple, the various types of materials used, the architecture and intricate designs and carvings are all factors which significantly contribute to absorption, containment and distribution of cosmic spiritual energy at individual (micro) and at congregational (macro) level. 

The entire temple structure resembles a human body (Jeeva). Every part of the temple can be identified with one aspect of our physical body. Since the Lord (Deity) is also invoked in our own image, the entire temple structure represents the Lord (Iswara) as well. There are various deities in different parts of the temple complex. Most of the temples have shops, and houses inside the temple complex – a mini universe (Jagat) indeed! Therefore, the temple complex includes and incorporates the Universe (Jagat), Presiding Deity (Iswara) and the individual pilgrim (Jeevatma) – ONE WHOLE!
The temple complex is situated mostly in the centre of the village or town with large doorways or “GOPURAMS” in all the four directions making it easily accessible for the pilgrims. Since the temple is at the centre, the city, the people and their transcations are automatically TEMPLE-CENTERED or GOD-CENTERED. The tall gopurams are landmarks for the travellers and pilgrims. The vast temple complex area not only provides shelter for travellers but provides an opportunity for the devotees to walk around and thereby stay in the serene and peaceful environment of the temple premises for a longer time for maximum benefit. Trees like the PEEPUL tree are an important aspect of the temple complex. They are rich in ozone content and have enormous medicinal value. They provide a holistic atmosphere and their energy and vibrations is very conducive for upasana and meditation.                                                 


Next Post: significance of the gopuras (towers), dhwaja stambha, mantapam, praangana (courtyard) and garbha griha (sanctum) & their relation to the human body structure.

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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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Devi Karpagambal of Mayil-puri!

Lord Brahma, the Creator had five heads and therefore he considered himself to be superior to Lord Shiva. Once when he went to Kailasa, he disrespected Lord Shiva. To teach him a lesson, Lord Shiva plucked off one of the head of Brahma and made the skull (kapala) into his begging bowl. Lord Brahma realized his mistake and undertook severe penance to atone for his mistake in a place called Shukra-puri (Shukracharya performed penance here and regained his lost eye) or Veda-puri (Vedas worshipped Lord Shiva here). Brahma installed a Shiva-linga over there and named it “Kapaleeswara.”

Parvati once asked Lord Shiva to explain to her the importance of the “Shiva Panchakshara”: Na Ma Si Va Ya which can be spelt in the reverse order also as Si Va Ya Na Ma! The Lord started explaining to her the significance of the mantra. However, Parvati’s attention got diverted to a flock of peacocks dancing beautifully. Her mind got carried away. Shiva was annoyed at her attitude and cursed her to become a peahen. She was ordered to go down to bhu-loka and perform tapas to redeem herself of the curse. Parvati came to Veda-puri and performed severe penance in the form of a pea-hen under a Punnai tree. After years of penance, Lord Shiva granted her darshan and she regained back her original form. The place became known as Mayura-puri (Mayura means peacock). Later the place came to be known as Mylapore, in Chennai.

Parvati after regaining her most beautiful and enchanting form decided to make Mayura-puri her abode along with Sri Kapaleeswara for the sake of devotees. She is known as Karpagambal (Karpagam: Wish-yielding tree and Amba: Mother). She stands there to fulfill all the wishes of her devotees. Lord Karthikeya prayed to Sri Karpagambal over here before fighting with Surapadma, and she blessed him and gave the sacred Sakti-Vel to him.  

Sivanesa Chettiar was a wealthy tradesman residing in Mylapore. He was also a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He had a beautiful daughter by name Poompavai. One day while plucking flowers in the garden she died by a snake bite. The grieving father collected the ashes of her dead body and preserved it in a pot and waited for the great Saint Thirugnanasambandhar to come to Mylapore. When the Saint came to Mylapore, Chettiar met Thirugnanasambandhar and told him of his daughter’s demise. He pleaded with him to restore her back to life.

Thirugnanasambandhar prayed to Lord Kapaleeswara and Devi Karpagambal. Thirugnanasambandhar addressed the pot of ashes, “O Poompavai! The very purpose of human birth in this world is to be of service to the Lord and his devotees, and to witness the grand utsavam of Lord Kapaleeswara. If this be true, arise in the presence of all. Do you want to go away without witnessing the Lord’s utsavam?” The great Saint then sang the glories of the Lord and when he had just completed the tenth verse, Poompavai rose up from the ashes as though she had woken up from sleep! Everyone gathered there were overwhelmed at the grace of Lord Kapaleeswara and Sri Karpagambal and the greatness of Thirugnanasambandhar.

“O Devi Karpagambika, residing in the sacred kshetra of Mayil-puri (Mylapore)! You are the embodiment of Sat-Chit-Ananda! Pray, cast your divine compassionate glance on thy devotee!”

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Vatapatrashayee – Significance!

 

VATAPATRASHAYEE signifies a Man of Realisation – a Jeevanmukta. He is none other than Lord Mukunda: One who gives Mukti to the spiritual seeker.  

Sage Markandeya undertook intense tapas to propitiate Lord Vishnu. Pleased with the Sage’s austerity, the Lord appeared before him. Overwhelmed with joy at the divine and glorious darshan of the Lord, Markandeya put forth a unique request to the Lord. He wanted to ‘see’ the LEELA or the Sport of the Lord-of-Maya! Sri Narayana smilingly acknowledged. A few days later, the sky opened up, clouds burst, winds swept, thunderstorms and torrential rains created floods, the ocean rose and in a short time all the worlds including the entire earth was engulfed with water – it was Pralaya. In the darkness of the Deluge, drifting along in the dangerous and swirling waters, Markandeya who was ever well-established in the Higher State of God-realization beyond all traces of duality, now went through the gamut of hunger and thirst, fear and sorrow, pain and grief! He was unable to come out of it – the Play of Lord’s Maya! And suddenly, to his utter surprise, he found a small lone infant also drifting in the waters. Curious to know who it was, he swam towards the infant. Extremely divine was the vision! Markandeya saw a dark-blue hued child exquisitely charming and captivating lying on a banyan leaf. The infant held its lotus-like foot in its beautiful hands. And he was blissfully sucking at the toe which was in his mouth – Lord VATAPATRASHAYEE! Markandeya was sucked into the body of the infant along with its in-breath. There in the body of the infant, Markandeya saw the outer and inner space and all the worlds, including himself! With the infant’s out-going breath, Markandeya was thrown back to the surroundings. And suddenly the deluge-vision disappeared. Markandeya was back in his hermitage. Nothing had really happened. It was all Lord’s Maya – a mere delusion created illusion! Sage Markandeya had witnessed the Play of Lord’s inscrutable Maya!!

Significance: The waters all around represent pralaya (deluge) or dissolution, which is the Destructive Aspect of Nature. The infant on the banyan leaf represents the Constructive Aspect of Nature. At the Cosmic level, Nature balances the destruction-construction phenomena. If the dark waters represent disaster, trouble and spiritual ignorance, Sri Krishna (Vatapatrashayee) represents relief, hope and Light of Knowledge. 

The Lord’s ‘breathing-in’ represents the DISSOLUTION of the worlds. Hence Sage Markandeya was sucked into the Lord’s mouth. The Lord’s ‘breathing-out’ represents the CREATION of the worlds; the sage was thrown back into the surroundings. Between creation and dissolution, the Lord nurtures, nourishes and MAINTAINS all that He has created. Therefore BALA-MUKUNDA represents the Powers of Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution – the Ultimate Reality, BRAHMAN. The Lord’s face, hands and feet are compared to the LOTUS. The Lotus represents Beauty, Knowledge and Truth. The Lord is a personification of, an embodiment of Beauty, Knowledge and Truth. An infant/child always “lives and responds” in the PRESENT without the conditionings of the PAST and FUTURE: the Highest State in which a Man of Realization is revelling. Hence, the Lord is depicted as an “infant”. 

The waters represent the “troubled waters of samsara” – the ups and downs. To balance ourselves safely and sail through them we need knowledge. The banyan leaf represents “spiritual knowledge” and its green colour represents “balance or steady mind”. The banyan tree has long life and vast spread with roots hanging down from above. Hence the banyan tree represents the Eternal, Timeless Spiritual Knowledge which transcends all other knowledges, yet includes everything. It flows from the Higher to the lower.

Krishna lying down on the banyan leaf tossed up and down by the waves represents the Man of Steady Wisdom in perfect balance within himself and in absolute harmony with Nature. Krishna holds the big toe of His leg with both His hands, draws it towards Himself and is depicted as sucking the toe by putting it in His mouth. Feet is what one stands on. The Master’s Feet represent Spiritual Knowledge in which he is well-established and rooted in. The big toe is equivalent to the thumb and it signifies the essence of spiritual knowledge which the Man of Realisation is constantly experiencing and revelling in, after turning his attention within himself in his seat of meditation.This inward gaze is represented by the Lord pulling his leg inward, towards Himself. The blissful smile on the Lord’s face signifies the State of Sat-Chit-Ananda which the Jeevanmukta is constantly experiencing within himself!

“Karaavindena Padaaravindam Mukhaaravinde Viniveshayantam; Vatasya Patrasya Pute Shayaanam Baalam Mukundam Manasaa Smaraami” – Baalamukundashtakam

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