Friday, September 30, 2011

NAVARATRI

Navaratri is a important Festival of Hindus and in India it is celebrated in all states and all parts of this vast Nation.We believe that Mother Goddess, who is 'Aadi Parashakthi'(The origin of Power or energy) also known as Durga Devi,Mahishasura Mardhini,Bhuvaneswari, etc is worshiped for Nine days and nights and on the 10th day is celebrated as 'Vijaya Dasami Day(Victory Day).To eradicate the evils from the society and the darkness of ignorance from our minds and to allow the rays of knowledge to shine in and around us we pray to the Goddess.The first three days generally is given importance to Durga Devi and we pray to that Goddess form to give us strength and energy to perform our duties, the next three days we give importance to Lakshmi Devi who is the authority of wealth and pray to her to give us prosperity.The last three days we give importance to Goddess Saraswathi who is responsible for wisdom,knowledge,arts etc and pray to her to bless us with knowledge and make us truly wise.
There are 4 Navaratris celebrated in all 4 main seasons and known as Vasantha Navaratri,Ashada Navaratri,Sharada Navaratri and Megha Navaratri.Vasantha Navaratri and Sharada Navaratri are mostly celebrated but prime importance is given to Sharada Navaratri which is celebrated in Sept-Oct every year which is celebrated on same days all over India and by Hindus living abroad.It is calculated according to the lunar calendar.It is the period which comes after the Amavasi day(No Moon Day) of 'Kanni Month' for ten days the tenth day being celebrated as Vijaya Dasami.
Nine forms of 'Aadi Para Shakti' is worshiped on the Nava Ratri days and the forms of the Devi changes as according to the tradition of the region.
Generally Durga,Bhadra Kali,Amba,Annpoorna,Sarva Mangala,Bhairavi,Chandika,Lalita,Bhavani and Saraswathi are worshiped on each day.In some places from Pradhama day to Dasami day  Kumari,Trimurthi,Kalyani,Rohini,Kali,Chandika,Sambhavi,Durga,Subhadra and Shodasi are worshiped.
In some places Kali is worshiped on Pradhama day,Dhoomavati on Dwithiya day,Chinnmastha on thrithiya day,Bhuvaneswari on chaturthi day,Bhairavi on Panchami day,Bahala Mukhi on Shashti day,Thara on Sapthami day,Mathangi on Astami day,Kamalathmika on Navami day,and Srividya Saraswathi on Dasami Day.
Observances are performed by many people on these days.Many people eat only once during the lunch time,some others eat the usual vegetarian meals as lunch and for breakfast and supper takes uncooked food or milk and fruits.For nine days sleeping on the floor on a mat is also widely practiced.
Reciting 'Devi Mahatmya',Lalita Sahasranama etc are done by the devotees.
                                 "Sarva Swaroope Sarvese
                                    Sarva Sakthi Samannithe
                                     Bhayebhya  Sthrayine Devi
                                      Durga Devi Namosthuthe"
Chanting this 'Mantra' several times a day is performed by devotees and chanting
"Saraswathi Namasthubhyam Varade Kamaroopinee, Vidyarambham Karishyami Sidhir Bhavathu me sada" is also nice.
Those who can not perform 'Vrat' for nine days can perform it for three days, easily on Astami day,Navami day and Dasami day by taking meals at lunch time and other meal times consume uncooked foods as well as milk and fruits.
There are certain  stories regarding the origin of Navaratri.One Demon by name 'Durgavan' did penance to please Brahma Deva and got several boons.He started to do cruelties against Indra and other Devas and 'Mahishasura Mardhini' who later killed 'Darika Demon'   was requested to help.Since the Demon was highly powered with the boons he received it was not an easy task to defeat him.So even the Devi
on the 'Ashtami day' kept her weapons for 'Pooja'; took them back before sunrise on Dasami day, and attacked the Demon.He was killed before noon.Devas and humans   were all very happy that their enemy was killed and celebrated the event.
Another story is that Lord Rama before attacking Ravana performed Pooja to Goddess Durga for nine days and in the battle which followed he became victorious. Thus Navaratri pooja was started
Another story is that Pandavas were sentenced for 12years forest life and one year exile life. They kept their weapons safely inside the cavity of a large tree before entering the forest.When it was needed to fight the Kauravas later they took it back and performed Pooja for Nine days to Goddess Durga.Thus Navaratri festival was started to commemorate this event.Since Vijayan(another name of Arjuna) performed the Pooja the tenth day was celebrated as Vijaya Dasami.
What ever be the reason, the Mother Goddess is revered with prayers,Bhajans,Offerings of flowers,fruits,milk, honey and sweets.In several parts of India particularly in Gujarat State the people perform 'Garba Dance' and Dandiya dance with live orchestra which is very lovely and spectacular.The traditional songs which they use during the dance are very sweet and melodious.Men and women in large groups participate in these dance ceremonies.
In Karnataka Navaratri festival is celebrated as Dussehra festival which is celebrated with colour,pageantry and enthusiasm.In West Bengal beautiful Idols of Durga Devi will be made, adorned with colorful dress and ornaments and used to worship at public places during Navaratri period.They will be immersed in rivers or Sea after the festival.
In Kerala Vijaya Dasami day is celebrated as 'Vidyarambham' day on which Goddess Saraswathi Devi is worshiped and small children are initiated to read and write on that day.Starting new courses and new firms on Vijaya Dasami day is considered auspicious.Students keep their books for pooja on the Ashtami day and take them back on Vijayadasami day early morning.Artisans,technicians etc keep their workshop tools for pooja on Navami day and take them back on Dasami Day.In Tamil Nadu they place small idols of insects,birds,animals,humans,Devas and Gods on a step like structure which is known as 'Kolu' which reminds that each and every creation is done by Mother Goddess.Everybody is eager to get the grace and energy from the Mother Goddess for their smooth journey to Victory.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pradosham

When it was determined by the Devas(Celestials) to churn the Ocean of Milk(Paalazhi) to extract the nectar of immortality, they were sure that it would be an enormous task and requested the help of Asuras also assuring the half portion of the nectar and also offered  they could  recover the lost treasures of Mahabali from the Paalazhi.Devas had the intention of using the nectar for their own rejuvenation   and thought of cheating the Asuras.The Asuras but believed them and assured their help.Mount Mandhara was brought as the tool and the great serpent Vasuki agreed help to be used as the coir.Devas caught hold of the head part of the serpent and Asuras the tail part.When the churning started Mt.Mandhara got loose from  the curls of Vasuki and was about to drown in the ocean.At that time Lord Maha Vishnu  took the form of a big tortoise went below the ocean, pushed up Mt.Mandhara and helped it to be in position.When the churning was in full swing the serpent due to the stress exerted to her wholly and the force and pressure on her hood and head expelled venom through the fangs which  was spewed out.No precaution was taken for such an emergency and all the Devas and Asuras became desperate since the power of the spite(Hala Hala) was enough to destroy all the three worlds.The Devas and Asuras fled with terror but the vapours from the venom was spreading fast causing drowsiness to them.The scorching heat was also very high so that 'Agni Deva' the God of Fire also could not withstand it.There was no time to waste and the Devas fell on the feet of Lord Shiva and begged to save the worlds from destruction.Lord Shiva ordered his aid to bring the poison to his abode at 'Kailash'.When it was brought within seconds Lord Shiva took it in his hand which had formed the shape of a pellet and engulfed it.Goddess Parvathy Devi immediately massaged strongly on his throat not allowing the poison to go down the throat.The dreadful poison spread on the front neck part of Lord Shiva turning that part ostensibly bluish.Thus Lord Shiva became 'Neela Kanta'(One with blue throat).The enormous power of the poison but caused drowsiness even to Lord Shiva and he slept for a while on the lap of Goddess Parvathy Devi.Meanwhile Maha Vishnu,Lord Brahma,Lord Indra,Sage Narada,Saptharshis etc gathered there to visit Lord Shiva but had to wait since he was sleeping.When Lord Shiva got up everybody felt very glad.
                                            All of them celebrated the event with dance and music.Lord Shiva danced 'Ananda Thandava'.He danced in between the horns of Nandi, the bull.Lord Ganesha and Lord Subramanya played musical instruments.This happened on a 'Thrayodasi day' of 'Krisha Paksha' and it was Saturday.The 13th day after full moon and 13th day after dark moon (no moon day) is celebrated as 'Pradosham'.Like 'Ekadasi' Pradosham is also twice in a month.
The Pradosham which falls on Monday is 'Soma Pradosham' and which falls on Saturday is 'Sani Padosham' which are given more importance in Shiva temples.
                                              The time between 4P.M. to 6P.M  on Pradosham day is considered as the 'Pradosham time' during which Lord Shiva will be in his happy mood and all Devas including Maha Vishnu and Lord Brahma will summon at Kailash.Lord Shiva will grant all blessings to his devotees who pray to him during this time.There will be special pooja rituals and anointing(Abhishekam) of the Deity at all Shiva temples.Attending to these rituals are being done by all devotees.The devotees offer 'Abhishekam' to the Deity with selected materials for different desires as follows.
Milk                        - Gives Long Life
Ghee                        -Moksha(Salvation)
Honey                     -For Melodious Voice
Sugarcane Juice      -Good Health
Curd                        -Good Children
Tender coconut        -Enjoyment and Happiness
Lemon Juice            -Removes fear of death
Sandalwood paste   -Goddess Lakshmi's Grace
Panjamritham           -Wealth
On Pradosham day many devotees perform fasting from Sunrise to Sunset as 'Pradosh Vrat' for fulfilling all desires,for success and for mental peace.Avoid all kinds of food and drinks during this time and on sun set after consuming 'Theertham'(holy water) food can be eaten.Some devotees practice fasting for 24hours and they do not sleep during that night also.But generally most of the devotees  practice fasting from morning to evening only which is the practice widely accepted and they sleep during the night also.Reciting 'Maha Mrituinjaya Mantra' on Pradosham day during vespers is also followed by devotees.Fasting on the Pradosham day and attending pooja rituals during pradosham time in the evening at a Shiva temple is auspicious.Those who can not attend the pooja rituals in a temple can do pooja at home or recite Shiva Mantras at home during 4.30P.M. to 6P.M.Lord Shiva in his happy mood will bless all his devotees.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ONAM FESTIVAL


Onam is the biggest festival of Kerala when the people  take a pride in their precious heritage and glorious past.We  feel proud about that bygone era when we lived happily in fine fettle.During the reign of Mahabali every individual was contented and people enjoyed the exuberance to the fullest.
                   Maveli Nadu Vannedum Kalam
                    Manusharellarum onnu pole
                   Amodathode Vasikkum Kalam
                    Aapathangarkkum ottilla thanum
During the reign of Lord Mahabali everybody was happy,there was no disasters,weight and measures were perfect, there was no cheating and lies, all were equal before law and in altogether people lead a heavenly way of life.
Hiranyaka Sipu was a great  Asura Emperor who was indulged in outrageous activities.With the powers he gained, he conquered all the three worlds and tortured good people.He insisted everybody to chant his name only instead of God's name.He punished and tried to kill his own son Prahlada for being a  devotee of Lord Maha Vishnu.At the height of his cruelties Lord Vishnu took the incarnation as 'Narasimha' and killed him.Prahlada became the next King and he was a wise ruler.Prahlada's son was 'Virochanan' who ruled the country nicely  and his son was 'Maha Bali' who was the  greatest of all Asura Emperors. .He was a great warrior with very good   qualities and  was an  indefatigable person who was victorious in all battles.He was able to perform 100 'Aswamedha Yagas' and also 'Viswa jeet Yaga' and thus became equal to 'Indra' the King of Devatas.Indra invited Maha Bali  to his abode and ennobled him.But later due to the persuading  advices of  Asura Guru 'Sukracharya' he attacked and defeated the Devas. When returning to Earth he brought several treasures from heaven including precious stones and ornaments  which fell in 'Ocean of Milk'(Paalazhi) on the way.At that time Devas was planning to churn Ksheera Sagara (Ocean of Milk) to get nectar of immortality.The Devas got an idea to get the help of Asuras when Mahabali lost the ornaments and precious stones in the Palazhi..They told Mahabali that by churning the ocean of milk his lost treasures could also be regained.Asuras  were assured of half the portion of nectar of immortality also but their idea was to cheat the Asuras..The churning was an enormous task.Mount Manthara was used as the tool for churning and king of serpents Vasuki was used instead of rope.When the mountain was immersing in the ocean Lord Vishnu took the incarnation form of tortoise and kept the mountain in place.When the pot of "Amrit"(the nectar)  was brought by 'Dhanwanthari',  the Devas played several tricks and cheated them with the help of 'Mohini' a maiden form of Lord Vishnu..The Asuras were not given the nectar as promised and the treasures of Mahabali was also not recovered.Asuras therefore attacked the Devas but in the battle that  Devas were victorious and Mahabali was killed.But Mahabali was revived by Guru Sukracharya.
To be in brief  later Mahabali attacked Devas and defeated them.He became the ruler of the Devas.Indra and others had to flee from there.Mean while 'Aditi' who was mother of Indra requested Lord Vishnu to help Indra to regain his throne.When ever the Devas were in trouble the Trinity-Brahma;Vishnu;Maheswara used to help them.Lord Vishnu took the incarnation as a dwarf 'Vamana' as the son of 'Aditi'.The child acquired the form of a young Brahmin boy  and reached the place near Narmada river where Mahabali was performing some rituals.He begged for three foot of land for him to sit and do penance. Guru Sukracharya understood Vamana was Lord Vishnu and sensed trouble.  He insisted Mahabali to deny Vamana's  request.But Mahabali was willing to give all his possession to God.Vamana grew to an enormous figure and  measured Earth and Heaven with two foot and for measuring the third foot since there was no space left  Mahabali bowed to him and showed his head.Lord Vishnu sent him to the under world 'Suthala'(Pathalam).He was promised by Lord Vishnu to make him   'Indra' of the  next 'Manwantharam'.This is the story of Mahabali and he was not the ruler of Kerala alone.He was a great ruler and his period of reign was a golden period.
Why only  Kerala people believes that Mahabali will come back every year to visit his country and people is not clear.We are not sure that whether his Palace and Head Quarters were  in Kerala.Keralites  are very fond of him and believes that he will visit every home during Onam with Maha Vishnu.
In the puranas it is said that 'Vamana' was born on Dwadasi day of Sukla Paksha in the month of Chingam.
It is believed that Lord Vishnu is having birth star 'Thiruvonam' of month Chingam.There is a Vamana Temple at Thrikkakara near Ernakulam where several rituals are performed during Onam  season.In all Maha Vishnu temples including Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple of Thiruvananthapuram, Thiruvonam Day  in Chingam month is considered as Maha Vishnu's birthday and special pooja rituals are performed. In other temples also Thiruvonam day in Chingam month is auspicious since it is the birthday of Lord Maha Vishnu who is the preserver of the Universe.
Now a days Onam festival has attained a secular status and the religious factors are not highlighted.Mostly it is said that it is a harvest festival also.Chingam the first month of Malayalam calendar and Kanni the second month are harvest periods in our state.That is the reason why it is being said as a harvest festival.
For ten days flower arrangement known as 'Pookkalam' is put in the lawn in front of the house.In the centre of Pookkalam  a pyramid shaped clay figure is placed and it is known as 'Thrikkakkara Appan'(It is Lord Vamana who is none other than Lord Maha Vishnu).On the day prior to Thiruvonam day evening a sweet item 'Ada' is made and offered to 'Thrikkakara Appan' in the Pookkalam  after removing the flowers we put in the morning and has to be revered with fresh flowers again.After Thiruvonam day the deity of 'Thrikkakara Appan' is immersed in river.Some people make three deities instead of one.After Thiruvonam the next two days are also celebrated as 3rd onam and fourth onam but Pookkalam is not used.In central Travancore the fifth day of Thiruvonam  which is 'Uthrittathi' day is also celebrated in a grand manner since it is the day of 'Snake Boat race' at Aranmula in river Pampa and it is the birthday of 'Arjuna' the Pandava Prince.A heavy feast is prepared on that day also.It was Arjuna who established the 'Parthasarathi Temple'  of Aranmula.At Aranmula temple also where the Deity is of Mahavishnu, on Thiruvonam day there is gorgeous celebration and  feast is given to thousands of people.So from the day Atham to Uthrittathi, Onam is a fourteen day celebration for many of the Keralites.
Many people celebrates Onam to commemorate the golden period of Mahabali  for  the love and affection he poured on us, several others celebrate it as a harvest festival,many people celebrates it as an elaborated festival  of Lord Maha Vishnu's Birthday.For some others all these three factors are  reasons for their celebration..For yet another group they are not bothered for any reasons behind Onam  but look at it as a period of splendid joy,colorful pageantry, a time for get together, love and happiness.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

GANESHA CHATURTHI

Today is Ganesha Chaturthi day which is also known as 'Vinayaka Chaturthi'.It is the fourth day after no moon day in the month of Chingam(Bhaadrapada month).It is a very auspicious day which is celebrated all over India,Nepal and by Hindus living abroad.
God Ganesha is famous as Ganapathi,Vinayaka,Vigneswara,Vignaraja etc.He is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy and there are different stories about his provenance.According to one belief he was born during the period Shiv-Parvathy took the form of elephants for fun and so the child turned out to be an elephant.In another story, Shiv-Parvathy with Ganesha were roaming in 'Kiratha' forms when the demon 'Tharakasura' attacked them on the way. Tharakasura was mounted on the  elephant 'Eiravatham' which he had captured from 'Indra'.Ganapathy suddenly took the shape of an elephant and defended.Elephant 'Eiravatham'  in terror fled away with the Asura on its back.The victorious Ganesha requested and pleaded Lord Shiva to allow him to continue in that elephant form always and so Mahadeva(Lord Shiva) and Parvathy Devi agreed to his request.
Yet another story is that Parvathy devi created him from clay and gave life.In another version it is said that Parvathi devi made him from the turmeric paste she applied on her body before taking bath.It is a custom and habit in many parts of India, ladies using turmeric paste all over their body before bath as a natural protective medicine for the skin and as a natural dye.Parvathy devi made life to the statue she made out of the turmeric paste and while taking bath with other friends in the pond ordered Ganesha to stand at the gate in vigil and not allow anybody inside.At that time Lord Shiva arrived there and little Ganesha stopped him at the gate.The provoked Shiva in his instigated state did not even think who the boy was but cut off his head.But he gave back him life by replacing the head of an young elephant.The variation of this story is that when stopped at the gate the provoked Shiva touched  little Ganesha's head with his trident and his head burned to ashes.When understood that Parvathy devi had created him as her son Lord Shiva  revived him using the head of an young elephant.Since the original head was burnt to ashes the need for a new head aroused.And by God's decree Ganesha got an elephant head.In the Puranas it is stated that Ganapathy had eight births  known generally as 'Ashta Ganapathies'.He is depicted as having several hands and with five heads also.
Ganapathy is revered by Hindus as well as Jains and Budhists also.He is well known in Taiwan,Thailand,Malasia etc.He is the God of Budhi(Intellect),Sidhi(Spiritual power) and Ridhi(Prosperity).
He is the God of Knowledge and wisdom also.He is associated with Saraswathi, Goddess of Knowledge,education,art and culture and also got association with Mahalakshmi the Goddess of wealth and prosperity.
Once Goddess Saraswathi handed 'the fruit of knowledge' to sage Narada and asked to give it to anybody who was worth and eligible to have it.Narada gave it to Mahadeva and requested  to give it either to Subramanya or Ganesha.Mahadeva suggested a contest to Subramanya and Ganeha that he would give the fruit of knowledge to the winner who comes first after  going  round the Kailas Mountain on foot. Ganesha started  walking slowly thinking that let Subramanya  win.Subramanya who was walking ahead of Ganesha thought meanwhile that Ganesha should win and he hided beside a rock to allow Ganesha to surpass him and reach first.Ganesha did not see this  but thought that he might have reached  parents abode. When Ganesha reached first and won the race he felt anxious about his brother Subramanya  and   went back in  search of him.Meanwhile Subramanya was being attacked by  a demon who was the elder brother of 'Tharakasura'.The demon found Subramanya sitting alone a rock  and in  revenge for killing his brother Tharakasura, the demon was attacking   Subramanya.The demon was tough like a  rock and Ganesha when struck him with his tusk one of the tusk broke.Thus Ganesha became 'Eka Danta'(Having only one tusk). In another story Lord Parasurama once pushed aside Ganesha and he fell down and broke his left tusk.In many depictions it is shown that Ganapathy holding his broken tusk in his hand.Later Ganapathi used it to write 'Mahabharata' epic also.
When ' Sage Veda  Vyasa' decided to write 'Mahabharata' he wanted the help of  somebody enlightened who could write fast the versus he sings from his mind.Nobody was able to write that much fast and Ganapathy who ate the fruit of knowledge was requested to help him.Ganapathy agreed but with one condition.He said  that Vyasa should recite the versus continuously from his mind without allowing break for Ganapathi's pen.Vyasa agreed but put forth a condition that Ganapathy should understand the meaning of all  the versus while writing down. He also agreed but Ganapathy had to slow down his speed of writing  several times while thinking about the inner meanings of some  words and the meaning of some tough words while Veda Vyasa could frame new lines in his mind.Ganapathy used his broken tusk chiseled sharp and inscribed on palm leaves to make the text of Mahabharatha.
The Devas(Celestial beings) always approached the Trinity, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva to get resolve their problems.One day when their delegates came to 'Kailas' with their sorrows Lord Shiva asked Subramanya and Ganapathi, that who could console Devas and  remove their sorrows.Subramanya said he was ready but Ganesha said nothing.Lord Shiva said he would give blessings and boon to one of them and  powers to remove sorrows of all living beings in all the three worlds.Lord Shiva suggested a contest for them  to revolve round the universe and the winner would be granted several  power of authority.Subramanya immediately flew off on his peacock, but Ganesha thought for a second and made seven rounds (pradakshinas) around Shiv-Parvathy, his  Father and Mother.When finished the seven 'Pradakshinas' he bowed to them and said that he won the contest..Lord Shiva  happily  proclaimed that Ganesha won the race to everbody's astonishment.At that time Subramanya came back after revolving round the universe and he was also surprised to find  that Ganesha was the winner.It was Ganesha's wisdom that made him the winner.Shiv-Parvathy is filled in every corner of the Universe.Going round them and going round the universe is the same.Moreover Ganapathy was revealing the truth  that everbody should consider their parents equal to God  by giving them a higher level in our mind as equal to the universe itself.
(There are variations in the stories.In the Tamil movie 'Thiruvilayadal' the contest for getting 'gnana pazham(fruit of knowledge)  is shown as  going round the universe.)
This incident happened on a Chaturthi Day.Lord Shiva blessed Ganapathi and gave him several powers.He was given power to remove sorrows of all living beings in all the three worlds.He should be worshiped prior to starting of any auspicious ceremonies  and in all important things.In all pooja rituals he will be given the No.1 priority.Thus Ganapathy who was the leader of Lord Shivas semi-divine hosts  became the authority of all living beings also and literally became Ganapathy.(Pathy- authority of all Gana-living beings)The crescent moon was allowed to adorn his crown.Thus Vinayaka Chaturthi Day became a day of Celebration.Ganapathy is worshiped by all for removing their  obstacles.He is capable of giving obstacles as well as removing all obstacles also.He is fond of sweet items such as Modakam,Laddu,Unniyappam etc.Kerala people believes that when coconut is thrown and break to pieces on the stone meant for that purpose in Ganapathi temples our obstacles will  also be  scattered to pieces.Observances are practiced by several devotees on Chaturthi day.It is not difficult but eat only tender coconut,fruits and sweet items like Unniyappam,Modakam,Laddu etc  which we receive from Ganapathi temples on that day.Visit Ganapathy temple and witness the pooja rituals being  held there.
Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated in an elaborate manner all over India especially in Maharashtra and in some north Indian states..Ganesolsavam which is a ten day festival is celebrated which starts on the Chaturthi day.Beautiful idols of Ganesha are made and worshiped in pavilions in all important places.People in the  locality worship him with their offerings.In Kerala also in each and every places Ganesolsavam for 10 days is celebrated. After ten days the idols will be taken in processions to nearby sea,river or pond and immersed.Lord Ganapathy will bring in blessings and prosperity and will take away all evils and bad luck is believed by these cults.
Let us pray Lord Ganapathy to bless us with Budhi(Intellect),Sidhi(Spiritual power) and Ridhi(Prosperity).

                                                       Om Ganeshaya Namaha