Sunday, October 23, 2011

DIWALI

Diwali or Deepavali is one of the main and biggest festival of India which is celebrated by all Hindus in India and abroad with enthusiasm fabulously.The word
Diwali and Deepavali literally means 'row of lights'.As the name suggests lights have a vital part in this celebration and this celebration has earned International fame as 'Festival of Lights'.
Deepavali is a public holiday in India,Nepal,Sri Lanka,Myanmar,Mauritius,Guyana,Trinad&Tobago,Suriname,Malasia,Singapore and Fiji.In all these countries people of Indian origin celebrates it ecstatically with full devotion and as per the tradition.
As in the case of some other Hindu festivals there are different variations about the origin of Diwali but all agrees that it denotes the victory of good over evil.
According to one belief it is the celebration of killing of demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna with the aid of his spouse Sathyabhama.He killed the demon on Chaturdasi day of Krishna paksha(Fourteenth day after full moon) and people celebrated the event  fullest by lighting clay lamps,exchanging sweets,dishes and other gifts.The rejoice of Diwali continued further for next two days also.In most parts of Northern India the rejoice of Diwali extends for five days altogether.The third day is the most auspicious day and 'Lakshmi Pooja' is performed on that day.Traditional designs of  colorful 'Rangoli' will be drawn at the entrance of most of the houses to welcome Lakshmi Devi.
Some believes that the significance of Diwali is that Goddess Lakshmi emerged
out of the 'Ksheera Sagar'(Ocean of Milk) when the great churning event was performed for getting nectar by the Devas and Asuras.Lakshmi Devi the goddess of wealth was emerged on the Deepavali day and people celebrates it gorgeously every year.
Diwali is celebrated by Jains also and they believes that Lord Mahavira got enlightenment on this day.
In some parts of India like Uttar Pradesh, importance is given to Lord Rama and people believes that Rama returned to Ayodhya  with Sita  after a long gap of fourteen years stay in the forest and killing Demon King Ravan. He reached there on Deepavali day and the people greeted him with love and joy and celebrated the occasion  lighting up the streets and buildings with oil lamps in large numbers elaborately  in every place.
In Kerala  Deepavali is a one day festival mostly but in several parts people celebrates it for three days consecutively.In many parts of the state on the day prior to Deepavali day which is the Naraka Chaturdasi day from the evening people starts rejoicing by lighting crackers.To enhance the spirit and color of the festival crackers became an important item which turned out to be an   unavoidable essence which spice up  this festival every where in  India.During the one week of Diwali  festival crackers worth several millions of rupees will be burnt and people think it is an essential part of this festival of lights especially the children and youth.
Illuminating houses and commercial buildings with color bulbs is also done throughout Indian cities,town and villages.Even in  foreign countries where Indian communities  live in large numbers they illuminate their residential buildings and commercial spaces.In the Gulf Countries most of the shops and buildings in the city areas will be beautifully decorated and illuminated during Diwali season.
There is reference of this festival in "Skanda Purana' and  'Padma Purana' as the importance of this day is told to Subramanya by Lord Siva.
In Kerala much importance is given to the oil bath to be performed on Deepavali day early morning.The advice given in this manner is that
"Thaile Lakshmir Jale Ganga  Deepavaliam Chaturdasim
Pratha Snanam  hiya kuryath  Yama Lokam na Pasyathy"
It is said that on the Chaturdasi day and Deepavali day performing oil bath should be done since there will be presence of  Lakshmi Devi in the Oil and Ganga Devi in water and those who perform the oil bath in the early morning on these days will be blessed and fatality and untimely death will not  occur for such devotees.
People wear new dress, sweets and feast are prepared on that day and gifts are exchanged with others.This is an occasion  to extend our love and care to all.
May the Festival of Lights,Deepavali remove the evils of darkness from our minds  and  fill it with lights of wisdom and joy.May  God Ganesha the God of auspicious initiations  and  destroyer of obstacles bless us all.May Goddess Lakshmi Devi, the goddess of wealth bless us all with prosperity and well being.



Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple

There are a few temples dedicated to Serpent Gods in Kerala and the most important among them is Mannarasala Temple.It is situated 3km away from Harippad KSRTC
Bus Station and Subramanya Swamy temple of Harippad.Mannarasala  is the largest temple in this category where more than 30,000 Idols of Serpent Gods can be seen kept in rows near the pavements and other places.They are all brought here from several families from different places of Kerala where they were revered in the 'Kavu'(groves) owned by them.
It was a custom and tradition of Kerala Hindus to spare a portion of their living plot of land to modify as a grove and in that miniature jungle serpents,small animals like squirrels,birds and other reptiles lived peacefully.Very big trees were allowed to grow there in plenty and thus the ecological balance of nature was also maintained.One or two Idols of Serpent Gods would be placed in the groves for which Pooja rituals done by the elders of the family once in a year or once in every month .This was the common practice in Kerala till 1950s and 60s and the result was that the climate was better,much more greenery prevailed  and the air was pure and sweet smelling by the flower bearing trees.There was abundant drinking water in wells during all seasons alike.With the upcoming of modern situations and the need for new buildings aroused cutting down  trees  and removing the groves was spread throughout the state.The revered idols of serpent Gods were shifted to Mannarasala temple,Vettikottu Nagaraja Temple etc.
In the 'Puranas' Kerala is mentioned as 'Ahi Bhoomi' which means 'Land of Serpents'.(Ahi is Serpent in Sanskrit).The Western Ghats which is also known as 'Sahyadri' means 'The mountain where good snakes live'(Sa=Good,Ahi=snake,Adri=Mountain).
There are several beliefs about the serpent worship of Kerala.It is believed that Mannarasala temple dates back to 6000years.According to one belief Mannarasala area was part of 'Khandava  Forest' which was destroyed by fire with the help of Arjuna of Pandavas.The forest part of Mannarasala was saved by the people by pouring water and rescued so many snakes.The serpent God(Naga Raja) was pleased and blessed the people.The place name was thus derived as 'Mannarasala'.(The  area where the soil was cooled-"Mannu  aariya Sala' became 'Mannarasala')
According to another belief  Lord Parasurama created Kerala and brought Brahmins to live in here.Since there were serpents in large numbers the Brahmins could not live in peace and all of them left the place.When known about this Parasurama performed penance to propitiate Nagaraja and requested his help.Nagaraja agreed and made a proposal to make a grove in each plot of land for the snakes so that they would not do any harm.This was made practical and people could live in harmony here.In the grove people kept idols of Serpent Gods for which they offered 'Noorum Palum'(Mainly a mixture of rice flour and milk or a mixture of rice flour,tender coconut water,milk,'kadali' plantain fruit,turmeric powder) once in a year or on 'Ayilyam' days every month.In some parts of Kerala Serpent temples were also constructed.
Another belief is that When Parasurama reclaimed Kerala from the sea the land was found not habitable because of salinity.Even herbs and grass were not growing.Parasurama performed penance to please Lord Siva and got advice from him to spread snake poison on the land for the required result.Parasurama performed penance to please Nagaraja, the serpent God.Nagaraja appeared before Parasurama and granted his request.Ferocious serpents arrived and spread the flaming poison and the land of Kerala was desalinated to become habitable and  the land became fertile too.
In the Mannarasala temple there are deities of Nagaraja,Sarpa Yakshi,Naga Yakshi,Naga Chamundi etc.There is a Brahmin family related to this temple and the eldest woman of the family will be the main priest in the temple and lovingly called as 'Mannarasala Amma'.Other members of that 'Illam' can assist her in Pooja rituals.In the cellar of that Illam a sacred Serpent is living for centuries which was born  to an 'Antharjanam by name Sridevi'(Nampoothiri Brahmin lady) along with a human boy.The serpent could speak and lived in the family and several years later told his mother that he would live in the cellar of the house performing meditation.He instructed the pooja rituals to be performed  in the temple and his cellar and promised that he would be there to give prosperity to all members of that family as well as all devotees.He instructed to employ the eldest lady of the family to perform the pooja rituals in the temple and 'Nilavara'(The cellar where the sacred serpent lives).The sacred serpent is lovingly  termed as 'Appooppan' and 'Muthassan'(Grand Father).
The 'Ayilyam day ' in the month of Kanni,Thulam, Kumbham and Sivarathri are celebrated here.The 'Ayilyam Star' day in the month of Thulam is celebrated in a grand manner in this temple.
On that day all the Serpent Idols in the grove and temple are taken in a procession to the 'Illam' (Family connected with the temple) where the offerings such as 'Noorum Palum' are offered to them.Kuruthy( a red liquid made of turmeric and lime) and cooked rice are also made.The eldest female member(Amma) carries the Idol of Nagaraja and the procession  and  other rituals are a variegated,significant,exquisite and differential  ceremony conducted every year with full dedication, enthusiasm and in a colorful manner.Devotees believe that participating in this auspicious function will bring in prosperity and good health because of the blessings from Serpent Gods.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Durgashtami, mahanavami & Vijayadasami

Today is Durgashtami which is the eighth day of Navaratri festival which is celebrated with much enthusiasm throughout India.In Bengal Navaratri festival is the most important festival in which they make life-size clay idols of Durga Devi and worship them in temples and 'pandals' of public places.On Vijaya Dasami day they carry them in colorful processions to immerse in sea or river.The Mahishasura Mardini form of Durga Devi is worshiped there.The tenth day is celebrated as Dussehra.In Karnataka State also 'Ayudha pooja' is given much importance and the tenth day is celebrated as Dussera in which celebration in a large scale is performed.In Uttarpradesh and some other areas of North India Navaratri is celebrated as Ram Leela.Huge effigies of Ravan,Meghanath,Kumbhakarna etc are made and burn them in public places.Thus the eradication of evil by the God is the main reason  as usual  for this celebration.
In Kerala on Durgashtami,Mahanavami and Vijaya Dasami more importance is given to Saraswathi Devi.Students keep their books for pooja on Durgashtami day evening at their home or in a temple and takes back on Vijaya Dasami day morning.
On Mahanavami day all kinds of Machinery and tools are decorated and pooja rituals done and fresh start will be done on Vijayadasami morning.New classes of Nursery school,Dance,Music and other art forms are started on Vijayadasami day.Small children are given 'Vidyarambham'.Using their forefinger of right hand 'Aacharya' help them to write and read 'Hari Sree Ganapathaye Namah' as a prayer of Lord Ganapathy.Even elder people also write alphabets in raw rice taken in a brass plate on that day.
A Famous Saraswathi Prayer which can be recited on Vijaya Dasami day by Students and Others is given below.(This can be recited everyday also)
Dhyana Slokam
Ya Kundendu Thushara hara dhavala
Ya Subhra Vasthravritha
Ya veena Varadanda Manditha kara
ya swetha padmasana
Ya Brahmachyutha Sankara Prabhithibhir
Devai Sada poojitha
Samaam paathu Saraswathi Bhagawathi
Nissesha Jadyapaha
Vagdevi Sthavam
Saraswathi Namasthubhyam Varade Kamaroopini
Vidyarambham Karishyami Sidhir Bhavathu me sada
Saraswathi Mahadevi Thrishu Lokeshu poojithe
Kamaroopi kalajnani namo devi Saraswathi

Sura surai sevitha padapankajaa  kare virajath kamaniya pusthaka
Virinchipathni Kamalasana sthitha Saraswathi nrithyathu vachi me sada
Saraswathi sarasija kesara prabha Thapaswini sitha Kamalasana priya
Ghana Sthani Kamala Vilola Lochana Manaswini bhavathu varaprasadini

Saraswathi Namasthubhyam Sarvadevi Namo Namah
Santharoopa Sasidhare Sarvayoge namo namah
Nithyanande Niradhare Nishkalaye Namo Namah
Vidyadhare visalakshi Sudhajnane Namo Namah

Sudha Sphadika Roopaye Sookshma roope Namo Namah
Sabdabrahmee Chathurhasthe Sarvasidhye Namo Namah
Mukhtalamkritha Sarvangye mooladhare namo namah
Moola mantra swaroopaye Moolasakthye namo namah

Manomayi Mahayoge Vageeswari namo namah
Vaanye Varada hasthaye Varadaye namo namah
Vedyaye vedyaroopaye Vedavedye namo namah
Gunadosha vivarjinye guna deepthye namo namah

Sarva jnane sadanande sarva roope namo namah
Sarva jnaye Sadananda Sampannaye namao namah
Yoga roope Rama Devyai Yoganande namo namah
Divyajnaye Thri netraye Divya moorthe namo namah

Ardha chandra dhare devi Chandra roope namo namah
Chandraditya same devi Chandra bhooshe namo namah
Anuroope maharoope Viswa roope namo namah
Animadrishta Sidhaye Aanandaye namo namah

Njana Vinjana roopaye Jnana moorthe namo namah
Nana sastra swaroopaye Nana roope namo namah
Padmaje Padma vamse cha Padma roope namo namah
Parameshtye paramoorthye namasthe papa nasini

Mahadevye Mahakaalye Mahalakshmye namo namah
Brahma Vishnu Sivakhyaye Brahma naarye namo namah
Kamalakara Gehayai Kamaroope namo namah
Kapali prana nadhayai Karmadayai namo namah.