Sunday, October 21, 2012

Saraswathi pooja in dasara

It is a tradition to worship goddess sarasawthi  on sapthami or 7th day of  dasara. Saraswathi is goddess of satwik knowledge, which includes all forms of arts, music, science, languages the list goes on. Few shlokas depicting importance of devi saraswathi were taught to us in childhood.  

Saraswathi namasthubhyam varade kamaroopini |
Vidhyarambham karishyami siddhirbhavatume sada|| 

Yakundendu tushara haradhavala
Yashubhra vastranvrita, yaveena varadanda manditakara ,
yashweta padmasana, ya bramha achyuta shankara prabhutivihi daivaisada poojitha.
Saamampaathu saraswathi bhagavathi nishyesha jaadyaapha

Recitation of these shlokas before starting studies in morning and evening was a daily routine.

On the day of saraswathi pooja books and musical instruments are placed near god or in front of doll arrangement. An idol of goddess is placed on top of this.  Sweets  and fruits are offered as nevedya. The sweet of the day is yeriappa made of rice flour and jaggery. Till date it is an unwritten rule that maths texts and notes are first to go into Saraswathi pooja as they cannot be taken out until Vijayadashami.  (Last day of dasara)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

History of Dussehra

One of the popular Hindu festivals, Dussehra is celebrated with pomp and gaiety. Since ages, a number of rituals are performed to please the Almighty, on the ceremonious occasion. It is the climax of the nine-day long celebrations of 'Navratris', which precede it. The festival commemorates the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. Apart from the legend from the epic Ramayana, and the story of the triumph of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura, a vibrant history is associated with the festival. In this article, we have provided interesting information on the history of Dussehra.

History & Origin Of Dusshera

Triumph Of Lord Rama Over Ravana
The celebration of Dussehra is rooted in the Hindu epic of Ramayana, according to which, Lord Rama, the eight incarnation of Lord Vishnu, killed the ten-headed demon Ravana, in Satyug. Ravan had abducted Rama's wife Sita. Rama, along with his brother Lakshmana, follower Hanuman and an army of monkeys, headed towards Lanka (Ravana's Kingdom) in order to enter a war with Ravana and rescue Sita. On his way to Lanka, Rama organized Chandi Pooja to seek the blessings of Ma Durga, the Goddess of power and courage. After seeking her blessings, Lord Rama defeated and killed Ravana, with the help of his fellow beings. Therefore, the day was celebrated to commemorate the victory of Rama over Ravana, which later came to be known as Vijayadashmi or Dussehra.

Assassination Of Mahishasura By Goddess Durga
Another legend is connected to Goddess Durga. According to the story, all the Gods in swarglok and the living beings on earth were upset by the tyranny of the demon Mahishasura, because he had acquired invincible power to conquer the world. He was undefeatable, even by the mighty deities - Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Therefore, all the Gods decided to create a power, which would destroy Mahishasura, freed the living beings from his despotism and restore the swaglok to them. This gave rise to the creation of Goddess Durga, an avatar of Ma Shakti. With the weapons given to her by the Gods, Goddess Durga went to fight against Mahishasura. She defeated the demon, successfully, and restored the swaglok to the Gods, as promised. Her victory is celebrated as Vijayadashmi or Dusshera, by many people following Hinduism.

Rain Of Gold Coins
According to a story, Kautsa, the young son of Devdatta (a Brahmin), was residing in the city of Paithan. After pursuing his education under the guidance of Rishi Varatantu, he wanted to offer a dakshina to his Guru. Although the guru refused initially, he later asked for 140 million gold coins. The student approached King Raghu for the coins, because he was renowned for his generosity. Within three days of the student's request, King Raghu asked the God of Wealth - Kuber - to create a rain of gold coins near the apati and shanu trees. After presenting the promised gold coins to his guru, Kautsa distributed the rest of the coins to the needy, on the day of Dussehra. Since then, people loot the leaves of apati trees and present to each other as a symbol of gold, on Dussehra.

Shami Tree
Another legend connected to the origin of Dusshera finds place in the greatest Hindu epic - Mahabharata. According to a story, Pandavas where banished by Kauravas for 12 years and 1 year of disguise, because the former were defeated in gambling (chausar) by the latter. Subsequently, Pandavas decided to spend their first 12 years of exile in the woods and the last year in disguise. Since they were asked to remain incognito during that period, Pandavas did not want to be exposed to others. Therefore, they lay aside their divine and powerful weapons during the exile. They concealed their weapons under the shami tree, situated close to the place of their residence. At the end of every year of the exile, Pandavas came to the shami tree to check whether their weapons were there.

Whenever Pandavas approached the tree, they worshipped it and Goddess Durga, the presiding deity. In the mean time, Kauravas were making every attempt to trace Pandavas, so that they could extend the exile time, because it was said that if they were found, they would have to spend another 12 years in the woods. However, the Kauravas could find the Pandavas only past the stipulated time. Subsequently, the Pandavas went to the shami tree, fetched their concealed weapons and went straight to the battle field to fight the Kauravas. Pandavas emerged victorious. The event took place in dasami and since good had achieved victory over the evil, it came to be known as Vijayadashmi. Since then, people hug each other under the shami tree and exchange its leaves.

Dasara Mythology

Dasara is one of the most colourful and popular festivals of India. It is also referred to as Navarathri. Though the celebrations manifest themselves in different ways, there is a unity underlying them all and that is the victory over the evil through the goddess. Thus it is a festival of goddess though her name may differ from place to place. Hence, Dasara or Navarathri is a good example of the unity in diversity of Indian culture.

The entire country during Dasara throbs with an unusual religious fervor combined with cultural enthusiasm. Different cultural activities highlighting the greatness of our heritage are arranged throughout the country. However, the Dasara of Mysore has been famous throughout the world and is being celebrated in a grand manner. But what we see today is a highly evolved festival as compared to the Dasara described in mythological works. Thus the origin of Dasara can be traced back to the times of puranas and epics.

Navarathri the forerunner of Dasara is a festival of mother goddess. This goddess amalgamated the power and prowess from no less than Vishnu, Shiva and Agni for the sake of protecting the good from the evil. For this task, the gods thought that Devi was the right person and requested her to take up this responsibility of killing the demons who were a menace to the society. Each one of the gods gave their own powers and weapons to this goddess and she became indomitable energy personified.

This goddess had to destroy many demons. Most of them had obtained powers from Siva, Vishnu and Brahma and hence the goddess had to assume multifaceted forms in accomplishing her goal. Thus she is known by various names and the work Devimahatmya describes all these forms:

Mahakali the destroyer of Madhu Kaitabha; Mahishasuramardini, who killed demon Mahishasura; Chamudeshwari, the vanquisher of Chandamunda; Kali, the destroyer of Raktabija; Durga, the harbinger of the destruction of Kamsa; Raktadanti, the great destroyer of Danti; Sakambari, the goddess who destroyed the demon of famines; Durgi, who killed demon Durga; Bhramani, the killer of Aruna.

However, there is no unanimity among the puranas regarding the above nine names of the goddesses and the demons killed by them. Of these nine forms, the most popular in Karnataka in particular and South India in general is Mahishasuramardini, Durga and Chamudeshwari.

Our land is closely associated with the goddess Mahishamardini, the destroyer of the valiant buffalo - headed demon Mahishasura. This Goddess is said to have destroyed this wicked demon in what we call today Mysore. In fact in ancient records and inscriptions, this city is referred to as Mahishasurapura or Mahishana Uru, meaning the town of Mahisha or it may be construed as Mahisha meaning the vanquisher of the demon. Though this name is believed to have been mythological in nature, it was in use in the early period. Ashoka is said to have sent a Buddhist monk by name Mahadeva for the propagation of Buddhism to Mahishamandala.

Even Mahabharata also referred to Mahishaka. The contemporary Tamil people identified and equated Mahishamandala with Yeumainad meaning the land of Mahisha or buffalo. From all these evidence it becomes clear that contemporary and later people firmly believed that Mysore area was the land connected either with Mahishasura or Mahishamardini. Sculptures of Mahishamardini killing demon Mahishasura have been quite popular in temples of Karnataka. Thus traditionally Mahishasuramardini is closely associated with South Karnataka or former Mysore State.

According to puranas the Devi assumed nine forms to accomplish the task given to her. Hence these nine forms are worshipped during the nine days of festival from Padya to Navami (day 1 to 9 according to Hindu Panchanga). In course of time the worship of Lakshmi and Saraswathi were also added as the two goddesses had become highly popular in Hindu pantheon. Another significant ritual of Navaratri is the exalted position given to unmarried girls (Kannikas) who are supposed to personify the great goddess. It is said, unmarried girls during Navaratri festival take the forms of Kumari, Kalyani, Rohini, Chandika, Sambhavi, Durga, Subhadra and Kali. Each one is worshipped during these nine days and the young girls are fed and given presents.

That Navaratri is not confined to human beings alone is attested to by the fact that gods were the first to celebrate Navaratri to pay homage to the goddess who removed their rivals in the form of demons long long ago. Thus the celebration of Navaratri was inaugurated by gods themselves. When the puranas and epics glorified this festival which was performed by the gods, it had great impact on the kings who considered themselves as gods on earth. Ramayana narrates that Sri Rama invoked the goddess and achieved significant victory over Ravana, the personification of evil, on Vijayadashami day.

Mahabharata also extols the efficacy of this festival. Pandavas who had hidden their weapons under a Shami tree (banni) worshipped them and started their victorious march (digvijaya). In all these context it has to be noted that the goddess was invoked not for any personal gain but for the happiness of the people upholding the moral order.

Naturally the kings of the later days imitated the gods and it became a tradition. Though Navaratri is mentioned in inscription, details are not available. The real Navaratri as we perform today was the contribution of Vijayanagar emperors which itself may be studied separately. Thus the origin of Dasara is shrouded in mythology.

Prof. A. V. Narasimha Murthy,
Former Head,
Department of Ancient History & Archaeology,
University of Mysore

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Significance of Mahalaya Amavasya - Isha Yoga Center

Sadhguru:- We are who we are today only because of all the things that have been given to us.

The new moon day known as the Mahalaya Amavasya is the beginning of Dussehra. It is a special day dedicated to making an offering to express our gratitude to all the previous generations of people who have contributed to our life.

Scientists say that human beings and their ancestors have existed on this planet for 20 million years. That is a lot of time. All these hundreds of thousands of generations that lived on this planet before us have given us something or the other. The language that we speak, the way we sit, our clothes, our buildings – almost everything that we know today has come to us from generations before us.

When only animals existed on this planet, it was all about survival, eating, sleeping, reproduction and dying one day. Then slowly, this animal which knew only survival, started evolving. From being horizontal, it started standing up; the brain started growing, and this animal’s ability to do things suddenly started multiplying. The significant thing about being human is that we can use tools. This simple ability of using tools, we multiplied or made it grow into technologies. The day an ape picked up a thighbone of an animal and started fighting with that bone instead of with just his hands; when, apart from his own body, he had the necessary intelligence to start using tools to make his life, in some way that was the beginning of human life on the planet.

Now, human beings started structuring lives so that we could live a little better than animals. Shelters came up, buildings came up, clothes came – so many things happened on this planet because of human beings. From simple things like making fire to discovering the wheel and innumerable other things, this legacy has been passed on from generation to generation. We are who we are today only because of all the things that have been given to us. Let us say, human beings had never worn clothes, and suppose you were the first person who had to stitch a shirt, it would not be easy; it would take many years to figure out how to stitch a shirt.

We have taken all the things that we have today for granted. But without the generations that came before us, firstly we would not exist here; secondly, without their contribution we would not have all the things that we have today. So instead of taking them for granted, today is a day when we express our gratitude to all of them.  It is done as a ritual to pay homage to one’s dead parents, but is actually an expression of gratitude for all those generations of ancestors who lived before us.

During this time, in the Indian subcontinent, new crops would have just begun to bear yield. So their first produce is offered to the ancestors as a mark of respect and thankfulness, by way of pinda, before the whole population breaks into celebration in the form of other festivals like Navaratri, Vijayadashami and Diwali.

Story about Pitru Paksha

The story why the Pitru Paksha is marked by daan and charity has its deep ingrained meaning in a  story of the Mahabharata.

When Karna died in the epic Mahabharata war, his soul moved to heaven, where he was offered gold and jewels as food. Karna had done limitless charity of wealth, but had neglected to do Anna-Dana. Hence he found wealth and luxuries, but with no food to appease him. Lord Yama then told Karna that he had donated gold all his life, but had never donated food to his ancestors in Shraaddh.

 Lord Yama

Hence to make amends, Karna was permitted to return to earth for a fifteen day period, so that he could perform Shraaddh and donate food and water in their memory. This period is now known as Pitru Paksha.  It is believed that in these 15 days the souls of our ancestors are the closest to the earth, moving around us and as we fail to recognize them, they return to their ORB unsatisfied and unhappy that we do nothing for them.

The fifteen days of Mahalaya Paksha consists of 15 Tithi. They are Pratipat, Dvitiya, Tritiya, Chaturthi, Panchami, Shashti, Ashtami, Navami, Dasami, Ekadasi, Dvadasi, Trayodasi, Chaturdashi, New Moon day (Sarvapitru Amavasya). According to Hindu mythology, every individual’s who wants to perform this Pitru Tharpanam, they should do it on the same day of their ancestor died which will fall within any one of these fifteen days.

Pitru Moksha (Ancestor Salvation) Spots Worshipped by Lord Sri Rama – Ideal for Pitru Worship

There are Pitru Shakti spots imbued with the spiritual potency of exalted Pitru Deva Beings. And then there are Pitru Mukti spots – places so holy that they are able to grant mokshato even these exalted Pitru Devas!
Seshambadi near Kumbakonam and Poovalur near Trichy as some of the best Pitru Mukti (ancestor salvation) spots in the entire world.
Others are Rameswaram, Nedungudi, Thilatharpanapuri, Innambur, Theerthandapuram and Kekkarai. Considering the whole of the holy land of India, there are more than 1008 Pitru Mukti kshetras including the well known ones such as Varanasi, Prayag, Gaya, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
In all these Pitru Moksha spots, the exalted Pitru Devas themselves accept your tarpana, argya and sraddha offerings at all times, but particularly during the Mahalaya Paksha fortnight.
Thus these pitru mukti temples and sacred spaces are the best places in the world for conducting your pitru worship and pitru karmas.