Tag Archives: Significance of Hinduism

Kartika & Deepavali: Festival of Lights

KARTHIKA MAASA heralds the onset of winter with shorter days and longer nights. The light and heat from the sun which depends on the inclination of the sun’s rays and the consequent energy that we receive is completely different from that which we receive in summer. Due to the cold climatic conditions, growth is less and stunted in Nature. As in Nature, so in our minds, because Nature is only an extension of our minds. To counter the ‘abundancy of darkness’, we bring in LIGHT, within and without. This is known as DEEPAVALI. When rows of lamps are lit, there is light, warmth and a positive conducive energy field. Similarly, the tamas, inertia and lethargy in our minds is dispelled by bringing in the Light of Knowledge within ourselves by the study of the scriptures. 

When a lamp is lit, the light not only illuminates the lamp but it lightens up the entire surroundings. By keeping the lighted lamps at the threshold, there is illumination inside and outside the house. With the Light of Knowledge within oneself, not only are we benefited, but all those around us are also benefited. The Knowledge helps the inner subtle equipments – the mind and intellect to perform brilliantly and also helps the outer gross physical body to accomplish efficiently.

It is only with the Light of Knowledge, that one can discriminate between the right and wrong, the true and false, between dharma and adharma. Hence the whole month of Karthika wherein we light lamps daily is dedicated to invoking the Light of Knowledge within ourselves, and subsequently exercising the “faculty of discrimination” (Viveka) in us to walk the path of Dhyana or Meditation.

Significance of Deepa : Each one of us is a WALKING LAMP (Deepa). The “body” made up of matter represents the EARTHEN LAMP. The “mind” which is nothing but a flow of thoughts represents the OIL. The “intellect” is the WICK. The BRIGHT FLAME represents the “Light of Spiritual Knowledge” – the SAT-CHIT-ANANDA, the Lord Himself. Another alternative interpretation: the MIND is the vessel or the “lamp”. DEVOTION is the “oil” within the lamp. FAITH is the “wick”. KNOWLEDGE of the Scriptures is the “Light”. Hence the importance of LIGHTING THE LAMP.
The flame of the lamp is brilliant and golden. It always points upwards. The entire conical flame that we perceive is made up of minute flame-lets clustered together. The total vibrational frequency of all the flame-lets give us the appearance of one whole single flame. Similarly, our life should be always progressive – one should move forward as well as higher on the path of spirituality. Though there is so much of plurality, multiplicity and diversity in the world of things and beings, one should learn to recognise the ONENESS behind them all. This is possible only with the brilliant Light of Spiritual Knowledge.

A lighted lamp has immense benefits. The material with which the lamp is made up of, whether mud or metal, the oil which is used, and the material with which the wick is made up of contribute greatly and immensely to our personality. One can feel the presence of something Higher and Diviner by just holding a lighted lamp in our hands in a dark environment – TOUCH THERAPY. The golden flame bestows focusing and concentration and helps lift the mind to higher levels – VISUAL THERAPY. The fragrance of the oil or ghee which is used in the lamp makes the mind calm and serene. It also pervades the entire environment and purifies it – AROMA THERAPY. There is a sense of deep tranquility in the stillness and silence that emanates from the lighted lamp and pervades the entire surroundings – AUDIO THERAPY. Just by being there, the lighted lamp serves one and all – perfect KARMA YOGA – an experience so enriching and fulfilling – RASA THERAPY (RASAVATH).

“Deepa Jyotir Parabrahma, Deepa Jyotir Janaardanah; Deepo Harathu Me Paapam, Deepa Jyotir Namostute”

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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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