Wednesday December 13, 2017

Halloween origins in Hinduism

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Halloween tends to fall bang in the middle of the line of Indian festivals in Autumn such as Durga Puja and Dussehra and often coincides with Diwali or Kali Puja. While the amalgamation of these two festivals where one celebrates life and the other celebrates darkness might seem strange, the true origin of Halloween derives quite a few beliefs from Hinduism among other religions and regional traditions as well.

It was in AD 835, that Pope Gregory IV designated November 1 as All Saints Day or All Hallow’s Day (‘Hallow’ refers to saints), a day for the remembrance of saints and martyred saints. The previous day was called the Hallows evening, later termed ‘Halloween’.

Halloween originated from a celebration by the ancient Druids- the priestly class of the Celtic religion. The Celts were the first Aryans who came from India to settle in Europe. As stated in the Encyclopedia Britannica, “the Celtic religion, presided over by the Druids (the priestly order) presents beliefs in various nature deities and certain ceremonies and practices that are similar to those in Indian religion. The insular Celts and the people of India also shared certain similarities of language and cul­ture, thus indicating a common heritage.”

The Hindu god Siva Pasupati, ‘lord of the animals’, is similar to the Celtic god Cernunnos, a horned god who ap­pears in the yoga position. Savitr, the Hindu ‘god of the sun’ also holds similarities with Celtic god Lug or Lugus, who was perhaps originally a sun god.

The Druids also believed in reincarnation, a belief in Hindu spirituality, and specifically in the transmigration of the soul, which states that people may be reborn as animals.

The Celts, who settled in northern France and the British Isles, engaged in occult arts, worshiped nature. Certain trees or plants, such as oak and mistletoe, were given great spiritual significance. They worshipped the Sun God (Belenus) especially on Beltane, May 1, as their summer festival, and worshiped the Lord of the Dead, on ‘Samhain’, October 31, as their winter festival.

The particular name of the Celtic God of Death for whom the Samhain celebrations are carried out is not known. There was a Celtic hero named Samain or Sawan who supposedly owned a magical cow. However, the similarity in the names of certain other gods to ‘Samhain’ might have contributed to the confusion: Samana (‘the leveler’) is the name of an Aryan God of Death (aka Yama, Sradhadeva, Antaka, or Kritanta) according to the ancient Veda scriptures of Hinduism, and Shamash was the Sun God of the Assyrians and Babylonians.

The Celtic New Year started from November 1 and they believed that on the last night of the year, on October 31, the Lord of Death gathered the souls of the evil dead condemned to enter the bodies of animals. He then decided what animal form they would take for the next year. The souls of the good dead were reincar­nated as humans.

Halloween is a cross-quarter date, approximately midway between an equinox and a solstice. There are four cross-quarter dates throughout the year, where each is a minor holiday: Groundhog Day (Feb 2nd), May Day (May 1st), Lammas Day (Aug 1st), and Halloween (Oct 31st).

It was believed that those who had died in the preceding year were allowed to return to their early homes for a few hours on this day to associate with their families. “Halloween marked the transition between summer and winter, light and dark — and life and death. On that one night, according to folklore, those who had died during the previous year returned for a final visit to their former homes. People set out food and lit fires to aid them on their journey — but remained on guard for mischief the spirits might do.” (Spooky Astronomy. http://spaceweather.com/ present 10/31/07).

The veil between the living and the dead is believed to be the thinnest on the night of  October 31 and bonfires are lit on hilltops to honour the sun god Belenus, and keep away the evil spirits. The donning of masks and costumes came about as a means of pretending that people were being pursued by evil spirits.

The Druids believed that the shapes of various fruits and vegetables could help divine the future. Human sacrifice victims were also used for the same purpose. When Britain was conquered by the Romans, their customs intermingled with the Celtic traditions to create a new celebration where certain Celtic aspects such as human sacrifice, were banned.

Several festivals worldwide celebrate a time when the dead return to mingle with the living. A feast of the dead is celebrated by the Iroquois Native Americans every 12 years, when all those who have died during the preceding 12 years are honored with prayers. The Mexican All Souls’ Day falls on November 2 and is celebrated for several days. The souls of the dead return to the living and doors are decorated with flowers to welcome the souls of children called angelitos.

The Ullambana Sutra speaks of the story of Mahamaudgalyayana, a disciple of Buddha, whose mother had been reborn into a lower realm. Buddha’s instructions to his student are similar to the modern day Halloween practices, which is to offer food and pray for the souls of both living and dead relatives.

Thus Halloween definitely doesn’t originate from a Western or Christian culture. Ruth Hutchison and Ruth Adams, in Every Day’s A Holiday rightly says that the Halloween celebration “probably combines more folk customs the world around than will ever be sorted out, catalogued and traced to their sources.”

 

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7 spectacular Hindu Temples to visit in Incredible India

Have you ever considered visiting a temple while you are struggling in life? A temple visit is enough to give you strength, calm you down and help you to reconnect with divine. Go for a temple walk. Here is a list of 7 spectacular Hindu temples in Incredible India

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Hindu Temples
Akshardham Temple, Delhi (www.akshardham.com)
  • Hindus have more sacred sites, festivals and pilgrimages, more yogis, monks and sadhus, an older and vaster literature than any religion – Dr. David Frawley

Temples in Hinduism holds a very important place. Hindu temples are popularly known as mandiram, devaalayam or devastanam, meaning the shrine, abode or place of Ishwar. Hindu temples are at once a collective work of art, the adobe of Ishwar, a symbol of the cosmos and a path leading the worshipper into contact with the God, from the temporal to the eternal. Hindu temples are valued and respected both as a means of enabling worship in the presence of God and as a way to uphold Indian culture and dharma. Here is a list of 7 spectacular Hindu Temples in Incredible India you will love visiting as many times as possible in your lifetime.

1. Somnath Temple, Gujarat

Hinduism
Somnath, Gujarat (Image Credit : Shaurya Ritwik)

The Somnath is believed to be the first among the twelve jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. Somnath Temple has been looted, destroyed and resurrected 17 times. In AD 1026, Mahmud of Ghazni first looted the temple, and then came Afzal Khan, the commander of Ala-ud-din Khilji and later Aurangzeb. While the barbaric looters are sleeping in their grave, Somnath still stands as a pillar of Hinduism, as a sign of resistance. Somnath is the place where you can connect with history and your source. Best time to visit Somnath : Well, any time of the year.

2. Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Hindu Temples
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Meenakshi Temple is known for its beautiful architecture. It is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, and her consort, Sundareswar, a form of Shiva. The temple was almost completely destroyed in the year 1310 following the invasion of the Islamic conqueror Malik kafur. Most of the Islamic rulers were noted for their intolerance towards Hindu temples, the invaders destroyed most of the ancient sculptures of the temple. The temple was rebuilt by the Hindu Nayaka dynasty ruler Vishwanatha Nayakar in the 16th and 17th century. According to the Tiruvilaiyatal Puranam, of the list of 68 pilgrimage places in Shaivism, four are most important: Kashi (Varanasi), Chidambaram, Tirukkalatti and Madurai. The sacrality of Madurai is from this temple.

3. Jagannath Temple, Puri, Orissa

Hindu Temples
Jagannath Temple, Orissa (AKL)

Jagannath temple was built in the 12 th century by Raja Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. It is one of the Char Dhams of Hinduism in Incredible India and is situated on the Nilgiri Hill. The temple is known for its annual Ratha Yatra, which attracts millions of Hindu devotees every year. It is said that the divine mahaprasad of the temple is prepared under the scrutiny of goddess Lakshmi. During Rath Yatra, idol of Jagannath along with Subhadra and Balabhadra are placed in huge chariots and brought out to the street. Thousands of people pull the sacred chariot. The main chariot is around 45 feet high. These rathas are constructed new every year. It has wood-carved horses and charioteers. Rath Yatra is held every year during the month of Asadha as per Hindu calendar.

4. Kailashnath Temple, Ellora, Maharashtra

Hindu Temples
Kailashnath Temple, Ellora (Image Credits: AKL)

The Kailasha Temple or Kailashnath Temple is one of the largest rock cut ancient Hindu temples. A megalith carved out of one single rock, it is considered one of the most remarkable cave temples in India because of its size, architecture and sculptural treatment. It is a prime example of extraordinary ancient Hindu architecture. Visiting this temple will definitely give you a ride to our glorious ancient past.

5. Konark Sun Temple, Orissa

Hindu temples
Konark sun Temple, Orissa (Image Source : Wikimedia Commans)

Konark houses a colossal temple dedicated to the Sun God in Orissa attributed to king Narsimhadeva about 1250 CE. Even in its ruined state it is a magnificient temple reflecting the genius of the architects that envisioned and built it. The ruins of this temple were excavated in late 19th century. The Konark temple is famously known for its architectural grandeur and for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work. The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants. A flight of steps lead to the main entrance. If you are in Orissa you can not miss one of the most spell binding temple in Incredible India, Konark sun Temple.

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6. Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand

Hindu Temples
Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand (Image Credit: Shaurya Ritwik)
Hindu Temples
Prime Minister Modi at Kedarnath (Twitter)

Kedarnath is among one of the holiest Hindu temples of Incredible India with Lord Shiva as its residing deity. The temple was built by Pandavas and revived by Adi Shankaracharya himself in the early 8th century. The temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of India and the main temple of Panch Kedar. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April (Akshaya Tritriya) to Kartik Purnima (the autumn full moon, usually November). During the winters, the vigrahas (deities) from Kedarnath temple are brought to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six months. You must visit Kedarnath, one of the most important pilgrimage in hinduism to feel the beauty of nature and divinity.

7. Chennakeshava Temple, Belur, Karnataka

Hindu Temples
Chennakeshava Temple, Karnataka (Image Credit : Wikimedia)

The Chennakeshava Temple, also referred to as Keshava, Kesava or Vijayanarayana Temple of Belur, the erstwhile capital of Hoysala kingdom is a 12th-century Hindu temple in the Hassan district of Karnataka state, Incredible India. This Hindu temple is another testament to the amazing artistry of ancient Incredible India. This place will give you sense of pride regarding what our ancestors left for us.

So, are you ready for a “Walk to Temple”? The wonderful Hindu temples Incredible India has can not be comprehended in a list, there are lakhs of them, visit them to connect with your roots, to get acquainted with Dharma which is eternal.

 

– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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On Gita Jayanti let us look into the timeless wisdom of Bhagavad Gita, holy book of Hindus which inspired millions

Bhagavad Gita is the timeless wisdom of Sanatan Dharma for mankind. One of the most widely read book which inspired millions of people all across the globe. Read how you can shape your destiny through timeless wisdom of Bhagavad Gita

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Bhagavad Gita Jayanti
Bhagwan Krishna revealing Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna in Mahabharata

“Fear not, what is not real, never was and never will be, what is real, always was, and can never be destroyed” – Bhagawad Gita, doctrine of universal truth.

 
Today on occasion of Bhagwad Gita Jayanti I would like to  share my personal and social experiences with the eternal source of knowledge, Bhagawad Gita, book which inspired millions of readers for thousands of years. It’s no surprise that the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita has inspired countless people throughout history; being India’s best gift to mankind. Bhagawad Gita is undoubtedly the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed. 
 
The purpose behind revealing Bhagwad Gita to Arjuna by Shri Krishna was to remove his confusions at the battlefield in Kurukshetra. Similarly, all of us are so much confused in life, but we never turn to the source which can remove these confusions. Not only Arjuna, but every one of us is full of anxieties because of this material existence and scheme of things we are into. The purpose of Bhagavad Gita is to deliver mankind from the nescience of material existence. 
 
I fortunately at very young age was introduced to Bhagawad Gita by my Nana ji, who also happens to be the reason behind my deeply rooted interest in indic studies, indian philosophy, bhakti and spirituality. What Bhagawad Gita gave me in life can not be comprehended in words, it has always been the guiding force in my life, it acted as a beacon of light when life seemed all dark. After being a constant companion of Bhagwad Gita, my life changed drastically, I am sure this holds true for everyone who has been grasping the eternal flowing nectar of Bhagawad Gita. To say that I can explain Bhagawad Gita will be foolish on my part, its an ocean and I might have been blessed to grasp few drops of it. But it certainly gave me new perspective of life beyond this material world, I became more truthful to my duties and most importantly I learnt the act of letting go. The scripture of Bhagavad Gita contains precious pearls of wisdom which ought to be read by all, irrespective of one’s age, caste, color or religion.  The most important benefit envisaged by Bajgwad Gita is the “inspiration for the man to lead a ‘Dharmic life,” a fact often forgotten by the modern man who is too much troubled in making: name, fame, accomplishments, financial achievements, power and ability to control the resources. 
Bhagavad Gita Jayanti
Shri krishna in Mahabharata as “Parth Sarthi”
 
A person can acquire proper meaning in life, a deeper realization of his true identity, and attain a level of self-confidence and peace only by inward reflection and realisation which can never be reached through ordinary, materialistic studies or endeavors. Furthermore, teachings of Bhagavad Gita bring us to our higher potential in everything we do, materially or spiritually. This is the power and the importance of the Bhagavad Gita and the instructions of Shri Krishna found within it.

Gita Saar is the essence of Gita, reading this will inspire you to know Bhagwad Gita further, trust me, its the best gift you can give to yourself or anyone : 

“Whatever happened, it happened for good.
Whatever is happening, is also happening for good.
Whatever will happen, that too will be for good.
What have you lost for which you weep?
What did you bring with you, which you have lost?
What did you produce, which has perished?
You did not bring anything when you were born.
Whatever you have taken, it is taken from Here.
Whatever you have given, it is given Here.
You came empty handed and you will go the same way.
Whatever is yours today, will be somebody else’s tomorrow
And it will be some others’ later.
This change is the law of the universe
And the theme behind my creation.”

– Shri Krishna

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Bhagavad Gita Jayanti
Narendra Modi gifting Bhagavad Gita
Recently, It was so heartening to see Indian Prime Minister Modi gifting Bhagwad Gita to different nation heads. “I have nothing more valuable to give and the world has nothing more valuable to get,” the Prime Minister rightly said. Bhagawad Gita is the identity of India, it is the essence of Sanatan Dharma, the foundation rock of spirituality and guiding force for thousands of years to come.
 
It is impossible to truncate the teachings and glory of Bhagavad Gita into one page and I know that it would be sheer stupidity on my part to even think so. But I hope many of you will  get a copy of Bhagwad Gita on this auspicious occasion of Gita Jayanti, read it, distribute it, cherish it and experience the magic in your life. Gita teaches many things and as Mahatma Gandhi had said “No matter how many times Gita is read it teaches something new every time we read it”

 

–  by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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NASA Releases Spooky Space Playlist for Halloween that will Unnerve your Spine

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Space playlist for Halloween
NASA has released space playlist for Halloween. Pixabay.

NASA has released a spine-chilling space playlist for Halloween that is made through the sounds of planets and helium present in the solar system.

  • The space playlist for Halloween by NASA comprises of more than 20 tracks of the sounds of the giant Jupiter, movement of it’s moon, comet encounters, waves and various others.
  • The track has the sound movement of Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon, recorded by Galileo’s Plasma Wave Experiment instrument.

The scientists at NASA have used data sonification by converting radio emissions apprehended by spacecraft instruments into sound waves to understand the signals.

Space playlist for Halloween
Jupiter’s movement has been used to make the space playlist for Halloween. Pixabay.

ALSO READ: Send your Name to Mars and Get a Boarding Pass by NASA

It has been stated by NASA that the Juno’s Waves instrument recorded the encounter of it’s Juno spacecraft navigating past the borderline of Jupiter’s magnetic field. The track was recorded on June 24, 2016 with a timespan of about two hours. This spooky space playlist for Halloween is eerie enough to be used as a background score in horror movies!

-Prepared by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram. Twitter @tweet_bhavana