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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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Bharatiya Katha Vaibhava – 2 : https://www.zorbabooks.com/store/children/bharatiya-katha-vaibhav-2/

Krishna and Akrura!

Kamsa, the self-proclaimed tyrant king of Mathura sent rakshasas time and again to Gokula and Vrindavan to annihilate Krishna, but Krishna very easily destroyed them all. Furious that all his plans and schemes had failed, Kamsa decided to bring Krishna to Mathura. He conceived of a plan to destroy Krishna. Kamsa arranged for a Dhanur Yagna to invoke Lord Shiva and earn His grace and blessings to win over his enemies. He arranged for wrestlers to challenge Krishna. He made sure a wild elephant was there at the entrance of the Yagnasala ready to trample Krishna as He enters. Kamsa then summoned the wise and elderly Akrura and sent an invitation to Krishna and His elder brother Balarama to attend the Yagna. Akrura saw the irony behind this. Till now Kamsa was sending rakshasas all the way to Vrindavan to kill Krishna. Now, as his end was approaching, Kamsa himself, without his knowledge, was sending an invitation and making all arrangements and preparations to receive Krishna at whose hands he was to die, right in his own territory! Lord’s ways are unique! Destiny ultimately has its own mysterious ways of fulfilling itself! Akrura started for Vrindavan. He was very happy – he was going to have darshan of the Lord! 


In the meantime, Sage Narada came to meet Krishna in Vrindavan. In the divine presence of the Lord, Sage Narada saw the entire happenings of the future unfurling themselves in front of him! Starting from “the Lord slaying Kamsa in the immediate future to becoming the charioteer of Arjuna in the kurukshetra war later on” – he had a glimpse of everything! Rest assured of the purpose of the Lord’s Avatar, Narada offered his prostrations to the Lord and left.

On reaching Vrindavan, Akrura saw the footprints of Sri Krishna on the sacred soil of Vrindavan! He got down from his chariot and applied the sacred dust on his forehead. He was received by Nanda. The moment he saw Krishna and Balarama, he prostrated at their feet. Totally overwhelmed, Akrura wept with joy at his blessed fortune of the Lord’s darshan! The next day, Akrura left Vrindavan along with Krishna and Balarama. As they were travelling to Mathura, a doubt crossed the mind of Akrura, “Can these two young, delicate boys – Krishna and Balarama, really challenge the mighty Kamsa? Is it possible? Will they be able to accomplish this mission of destroying the tyrant Kamsa and redeem Mathura and its people from his dictatorship?” Krishna understood what was going on in Akrura’s mind. Both the brothers looked at each other and smiled! The Lord had to dispel Akrura’s doubt….

They reached the banks of river Yamuna. Akrura got down from the chariot to perform his mid-day sandhya. When he took a dip in the waters, he beheld Krishna and Balarama in the waters. He was astonished at the vision because both the brothers were seated in the chariot. He immediately rose up from the waters and looked towards the chariot. Sure enough, he saw Krishna and Balarama seated in the chariot! He was puzzled. To check whether the first vision was true or a mere hallucination, Akrura again plunged into the waters. 

This time he saw Lord Vishnu reclining on Adisesha, blue in colour, clad in yellow, with sankha, chakra, gada and padma in his four hands. He shone resplendent with gem-studded golden ornaments, the shining kaustubha and the fragrant Vaijayanti garland. He was attended to by the divine gods, gandharvas, the kumaras and devotees like Prahlada, Narada and others. Bhagavan was surrounded by the Goddess of Beauty and Fortune (Sri), Goddess of Nutrition (Pushti), Goddess of Speech (Saraswati), Goddess of Splendour (Kanti), Goddess of Glory (Kirti), Goddess of Contentment (Tushti), Goddess of Knowledge (Vidya), Goddess of Energy (Sakti) and others. Extremely overjoyed at the unique and auspicious darshan of the Lord in full Glory, Akrura prayed fervently to the Lord. He realized the Omnipotency of Lord Sri Krishna. Akrura’s doubts vanished like mist melts at the very touch of the early morning sun’s rays.

The Lord withdrew His divine form. Akrura emerged out of the waters. Overwhelmed at the divine beautiful vision of the Lord – rare and unique, Akrura reached the chariot. 
Still revelling in the joyous experience of the Divine Vision, Akrura approached Krishna and Balarama. Krishna smilingly asked him, “You seem to have had an unearthly wondrous experience in the waters of Yamuna, what is it?” Akrura prayerfully replied, “O Lord, whatever wonders that exist in all the worlds, they all exist in You alone, who pervades and permeates the entire universe. What wonders can remain unseen by me, when I am directly looking at the Wonder of all wonders, Your Divine Form!” With a mind calm and serene, totally free from anxiety and doubts, Akrura silently drove the chariot to Mathura. It was Akrura, the Lord’s devotee, who had the rare and unique privilege of bringing Sri Krishna and Balarama to Mathura! 

“Deva deva Jagannatha Punyashravanakeerthana; Yaduttamottamashlokaya Narayana Namostute!” ~ Akrura’s invocation (Srimad Bhagavatham)

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Bharatiya Katha Vaibhava – 2 : https://www.zorbabooks.com/store/children/bharatiya-katha-vaibhav-2/

Nandanar: Devotee for whose sake Nandi moved!

Nandanar was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He is considered as one among the 63 Nayanars (Shaivite Saints). Nandanar belonged to a small village known as Adhanur in Tamilnadu. He belonged to the community that made percussion instruments and in those days they were looked down by the upper community. After his daily work, he would spent most of his time singing the glories of the Lord.

Nandanar once visited Lord Shiva’s temple at Thiruppunkoor. Since he was not allowed to enter the temple, he stood outside and prayed fervently to the Lord. He longed to have darshan of the Lord from far, but the huge Nandi was right in front of the Lord and was obstructing his view. Nandanar prayed to Nandi to move a little so that he can have a glimpse of the Lord. His prayers were answered and Nandi moved a little so that Nandanar could have the darshan of Lord Shiva! Even to this day, Nandi is tilted slightly to one side in this temple!

Nandanar cherished a deep desire to go to Chidambaram and have the darshan of Lord Nataraja. Every day people would ask him when he planned to visit Chidambaram. But the thought of not being allowed to enter the temple made him postpone his visit and he would tell people that he will “go tomorrow”. Every day he would tell people, “I will go tomorrow”. All the people started mocking him. They concluded that he would never go to Chidambaram and started calling him “tirunalaipoovar” meaning “one who will go tomorrow!”

One fine day, having made up his mind, Nandanar asked his landlord for permission to go to Chidambaram. The landlord asked Nandanar to first plough his agricultural land and only then he would give him permission. It was a huge task which would take days. Nandanar prayed to the Lord and started ploughing the field. Late into the night, he was exhausted and fell off to sleep. When he woke up next morning the entire field had been ploughed and was ready for sowing. The landlord was surprised and realized the greatness of Nandanar and immediately allowed him to go to Chidambaram. 

Overwhelmed by the Lord’s grace, Nandanar happily proceeded to Chidambaram, but he was not allowed to enter the temple. Singing the glories of Lord Sankara, he went round the holy city a number of times. Lord Shiva decided that it was time the world realized the greatness of Nandanar and his supreme devotion. The Lord appeared in Nandanar’s dream and beckoned him to enter the temple. Next day, in the morning, Nandanar joyously started walking towards the temple. At the temple, the priests had lit up the huge Vedic fire for a yagna. With a mind soaked in single-pointed devotion to the Lord and oblivion of the surroundings, Nandanar walked straight into the fire-kund which was right in front of him. Everyone around were stunned at the sight of Nandanar entering the homa-kund. But nothing happened to him! He came out of the fire unscathed. Nandanar’s physical form was shining like burnished gold! The presence of an inexplicable divine aura around him was evident. The priests realized the greatness of the Lord’s devotee and respectfully escorted him into the sanctum of the Lord. In the presence of all those assembled, that very moment, Nandanar merged and disappeared to become one with Parameshwara: the Lord-of-his-heart! 

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Sri Krishna and Paal-payasam!

Lord Krishna is worshipped as Parthasarathi, the charioteer of Arjuna at Ambalappuzha in the Alappuzha district of Kerala. The Lord has the whip in one hand and the conch in the other. The temple was built by the local ruler during the 17th century. The unique feature of this temple is the PAAL-PAYASAM (rice and milk kheer) which is offered to the Lord as naivedya and distributed as prasad to all the devotees. Tradition has it that Lord Guruvayoorappan daily comes to accept the Paal-payasam!

Chembakassery Pooradam Thirunal Deva-Narayana Thampuran was the king of this region. He was very good in the game of dice (chathurangam). One day, Sri Krishna disguised as a sadhu approached the king and challenged him for a game of dice. The king who was an expert in the dice-game readily agreed. Now there has to be a prize for the winner of the game. The king who was very confident of winning the game asked the sadhu what he wanted in case he happened to win the game. The Lord told the king that a sadhu’s life is a simple one and therefore he did not have any big demands, and all that he wanted was a few grains of rice as measured by the number of squares on the dice-game board. One grain of rice for the first square, two grains for the second square, four grains for the third square, eight grains for the fourth square, sixteen grains for the fifth etc., by the process of doubling (exponential growth!). The king readily agreed. 

The king very confidently participated in the dice-game with the Lord, but he lost the game. According to the terms and conditions of the game, the king asked for rice to be brought. He started calculating and placing the grains of rice in each square. Suddenly he realized that this was a measurement on a very large scale ! A 64 square dice-game board needs trillions of tons of rice!! All the rice from the granary was brought and still there was a shortage!

The king was in a dilemma because he was unable to fulfil the requirements of the sadhu and this was unpardonable. He knew that this was no ordinary sadhu. He prayed to the sadhu to help him with a solution. Lord Krishna revealed his true form to the king. The king was overwhelmed since he had had the unique fortune of playing the dice-game with none other than the Lord himself. Indeed what a blessing! Since the king was unable to fulfil the conditions that had been put forth prior to the game, as an alternative, the Lord told the king to serve “PAAL-PAYASAM” every day to the pilgrims until the debt is cleared. The king joyously agreed and started the unique tradition of offering PAAL-PAYASAM as Naivedya to Sri Krishna daily.
Every day, early in the morning, the preparation of large quantities of paal-payasam starts. Those in-charge of preparing the payasam seek the Lord’s permission at every stage of adding ingredients into the huge cooking vessel. When the sugar is being added to the payasam, one of them comes to the door and loudly calls out: “VAASUDEVA!” It is to inform the Lord to come for naivedya since the payasam is almost ready! Normally a small portion of the food is offered as naivedya at the Lord’s altar. But in this temple, the entire quantity of Paal-payasam prepared is offered to the Lord. The payasam filled vessels are carried to the altar to the accompaniment of shankha-naada. The paal-payasam is then offered to Sri Krishna and then served to all the devotees who come to the temple. The paal-payasam has immense medicinal value and benefits and hence is known as GOPALA KASHYAYAM.

“May Sri Krishna, the Madhuradipathi (the Lord of Bliss), the Lover of PAAL-PAYASAM, reside in our minds and render it pure and sattvic (like milk), fill it with sweet devotion (like sugar) unto His lotus feet, and finally grant the State of Realization unto us (like the cooked rice in the payasam: Annam is Brahman)!”

“Sri Krishna Govinda Hare Murare, He Natha Narayana Vaasudeva!”

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