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History of Hindus of Bali

About 92 percent of the population of Bali located amidst the world’s most populous Islamic nation practice Agama Hindu Dharma.

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Map of Bali
Map of Bali, Wikimedia Commons

By Akanksha Sharma

Bali is an island and province of Indonesia. It is part of the coral triangle, the area with the highest diversity of marine species. This famous island of Indonesia is located at the westernmost end of Lesser Sunda Island. It blends spectacular mountain scenery and beautiful beaches with warm and friendly people, and also unique for its cultural tradition. About 92 percent of the population of Bali located amidst the world’s most populous Islamic nation practice Agama Hindu Dharma.

History

Hinduism which ruled Bali a millennium ago was originated from India via Java.  The Balinese version was formulated when priests and rulers from the powerful Majaphit Hindu Kingdom that ruled Java and beyond fled to Bali in the 15th century as Islam encroached.

Nowadays, Balinese Hinduism embraces the elements of Buddhism which flourished in Bali during the 8th and 9th century and animist belief that predate the introduction of Hinduism.

A procession with offerings entering a Hindu temple Bali
A procession with offerings entering a Hindu temple Bali, Wikimedia Commons

Beliefs of Balinese Hinduism

i) Balinese Hinduism differs dramatically from Indian and Nepalese Hinduism . The theological beliefs of Hindus of Bali originated from Indian philosophy while the indigenous beliefs stem from the backbone of rituals.

ii) Balinese Hinduism divides the cosmos into three layers: Highest level is Heaven or Swarga, home of gods. Next is the world of man, Buwah. Below is the Hell or Bhur, where the demons live. This tripartite division is reflected in the human body (head, body and feet) and the shrines found outside the Balinese buildings.

A Hindu shrine, or Padmasana outside a house in Bali
A Hindu shrine, or Padmasana outside a house in Bali , Wikipedia Commons

iii) The key belief of Balinese Hindus is that the elements nature are influenced by the spirit. Hence, offerings (sesajen) made from agriculture are offered to this spirit. It is believed that Mount Agung (the highest mountain on Bali) is the house of gods. Their main symbol is ‘Swasthika’, an equatorial cross with its arms bent at right angles.

Deities of Balinese Hinduism

File:Ganesha statue in Bali Safari Park, Indonesia Hindu sculpture.jpg
Ganesha statue in Bali Safari Park, Wikimedia Commons

a) Along with the Hindu gods Shiva and Brahma, Hindus of Bali worship deities which are unique to their branch of religion.
b) Sang Hang Widhi is the designation for one god in Balinese Hindus .
c) The empty chair at the top of the padmasana shrine found outside houses and temples is for Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa.
d) According to Balinese Hindu precepts, there are many manifestations of Sang Hyang Wasa Widhi in the form of gods such as Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice, and many other gods associated with mountains, lakes, and the sea.

Festivals

Galungan and Kuningan
This is one of the most important festivals of Bali. Galungan celebrates the death of a legendary tyrant called Mayadenawa. During this 10 day period, all the gods come down to earth for the festivities. The celebrations culminated with the Kuningan festival, Balinese say thanks and goodbye to Gods.

Related Article: Hinduism in Bali: Galungan and Kuningan

PenjorKuningan.jpg
Penjor lining a road in Bali, Indonesia at Galungan, Wikimedia Commons

Nyepi
Nyepi also known as the Day of silence signifies the start of Balinese Hindu New Year at the New Moon in March or April. The aim of the day before Nyepi is to cleanse Bali of demons so that the next year can start afresh. Nyepi is a day of complete silence, everyone including tourists, remain confined to their homes or hotels and special police ensures that everything is closed including the airports, ( although the hospitals and hotels stay open); that the streets are empty (except for ambulances); that no electricity or lights are being used. The day after (ngembak Nyepi) is celebrated with various rituals, including kissing and water-throwing ceremony in Denpasar, and roads become even more jam-packed than normal as people visit families, friends and temples.

A deserted street at Nyep
A deserted street at Nyepi, Wikimedia Commons

Watugunug
The very last day of Pawukon, Saturday of the 30th week , Watugunug , is a special day devoted to Goddess of learning , Saraswati. Her festival day is a time for making the offering for books, especially the sacred lontar, commonly known as palm leaves. Schools organize early morning ceremonies and student jam the big temple- Pura Jagat Natha in Denpasar for to pray for success and knowledge.

Akanksha is a student of journalism in New Delhi, currently interning with NewsGram. Twitter: @Akanksha4117

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Are We Hindus If We Live in India? The Answer to Contentious Question is Here

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Hinduism. Pixabay

Oct 06, 2017: Have you ever wondered what being a Hindu means? Or who is actually fit to be called a Hindu? Over centuries, Hindus and Indians alike have asked this question to themselves or their elders at least once in their lifetime.

In the 1995 ruling of the case, “Bramchari Sidheswar Shai and others Versus State of West Bengal” the court identified seven defining characteristics of Hinduism but people are still confused to what exactly defines being a Hindu in the 21st century. It’s staggering how uninformed individuals can be about their own religion; according to a speech by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya there are various common notions we carry about who a Hindu is:

  • Anyone born in India is automatically a Hindu
  • If your parents are Hindu, you’re are also inevitably a Hindu
  • If you believe in reincarnation, you’re a Hindu
  • If you follow any religion practiced in India, you’re a Hindu
  • And lastly, if you are born in a certain caste, you’re a Hindu

After answering these statements some fail to remove their doubts on who a Hindu is. The question arises when someone is unsure on how to portray themselves in the society, many people follow a set of notions which might/might not be the essence of Hinduism and upon asked why they perform a particular ritual they are clueless. The problem is that the teachings are passed on for generations and the source has been long forgotten, for the source is exactly where the answer lies.

Religion corresponds to scriptural texts

The world is home to many religions and each religion has its own uniqueness portrayed out of the scriptures and teachings which are universally accepted. So to simplify the dilemma one can say that determining whether someone belongs to a particular religion is directly related to whether he/she follows the religious scriptures of the particular religion, and also whether they abide to live by the authority of the scriptural texts.

Christianity emerges from the guidance of the Gospels and Islam from the Quran where Christians believe Jesus died for their sins and Muslims believe there is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet. Similarly, Hinduism emerges from a set of scriptures known as the Vedas and a Hindu is one who lives according to Dharma which is implicated in the divine laws in the Vedic scriptures.By default, the person who follows these set of religious texts is a Hindu.

Also Read: Christianity and Islam don’t have room for a discourse. Hindus must Stop Pleasing their former Christian or Muslim masters, says Maria Wirth 

Vedas distinguishes Hindu from a Non-Hindu

Keeping this definition in mind, all the Hindu thinkers of the traditional schools of Hindu philosophy accept and also insist on accepting the Vedas as a scriptural authority for distinguishing Hindus from Non-Hindus. Further implying the acceptance of the following of Bhagwat Gita, Ramayana, Puranas etc as a determining factor by extension principle as well.

Bottom Line

So, concluding the debate on who is a Hindu we can say that a person who believes in the authority of the Vedas and lives by the Dharmic principles of the Vedas is a Hindu. Also implying that anyone regardless of their nationality i.e. American, French or even Indian can be called a Hindu if they accept the Vedas.

– Prepared by Tanya Kathuria of Newsgram                                                                

(the article was originally written by Shubhamoy Das and published by thoughtco)

One response to “Are We Hindus If We Live in India? The Answer to Contentious Question is Here”

  1. Hindu is a historical name for people living “behind the river Indus”. So, everyone living in India is a Hindu, eventhough he might have a different faith.

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10 Customs of the Hindu Dharma Explained by Science

Have you ever wondered the rationale behind the customs and traditions of the Hindu dharma?

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Hindu dharma
A deeper look into the practices of Hindu dharma reveal that they are based on scientific knowledge. We tell you how! Pixabay

New Delhi, October 4, 2017 : You might have been moved by the way followers of the Hindu dharma bow down and welcome you inside their homes. Or by the way Hindu women dress, with jewellery adorning their hands and legs. Who doesn’t like the crinkling of their bangles, after all? But have you ever wondered the rationale behind their customs and traditions?

According to popular notions, the traditions and practices of the Hindu dharma have been equated with superstitions. However, a deeper look into the practices reveal that they are based on scientific knowledge and have been observed over generations , keeping in mind a more holistic approach.

Hinduism can hence, be called a dharmic scientific religion rather than just scientific religion. We prove you how!

 1. Worshiping the Peepal tree

Hindu dharma entails a myriad gods and goddesses and there exist a variety of reasons that propagate worship of Peepal tree. According to Brahma Purana, demons Ashvattha and Peepala hid inside and lured people to touch the Peepal tree and consecutively killed them. They were killed by lord Shani and hence the tree has been worshiped ever since. Another legend believed Goddess Lakshmi resides under the Peepal tree every Saturday which lends it a divinely touch. Another school of thought believes lord Hanuman sat on top of the Peepal tree in Lanka to witness the hardships faced by Sita.

Hindu dharma
Leaves of the ‘holy’ Peepal tree. Pixabay

The Peepal tree does not have a succulent fruit, lacks strong wood and does no good other than provide shade. However, it continues to enjoy increasing devotion from people practicing the Hindu dharma. Science confirms that Peepal is the only tree which produces oxygen even during the night. Hence, in order to preserve this unique property, ancestors of the Hindu dharma related it to God. Additionally, the tree is of utmost significance in Ayurveda and its bark and leaves are used to treat diseases and illnesses.

 2. Do not chew leaves of Tulsi plant

The Tulsi plant is revered in the Hindu dharma. Apart from its medicinal qualities, the plant is also known for its symbolic presence in Hindu mythology.

According to popular belief, Tulsi is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Hence, biting and chewing it is considered disrespectful.

Hindu dharma
According to popular belief, Tulsi is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Pixabay

However, according to botanists, Tulsi has high quantities of mercury. If raw mercury comes in contact with teeth (calcium), it can possibly result in inundation, making the teeth fall. Hence, leaves of the Tulsi plant are suggested to be swallowed and not chewed.

 3. Applying tilak on your forehead

Application of tilak is a religious ac. According to the Hindu dharma, the forehead signifies spirituality. Hence, application of a tilak on the forehead denotes an individual’s thoughts and conviction towards spirituality.  Various Vedic scriptures and Upanishads maintain that energy, potency and divinity comes to those who apply a tilak.

Hindu dharma
A flute player from India with a tilak on his forehead. Wikimedia Commons.

However, science asserts that during the application of a tilak, the central point in the forehead and the Adnya-chakra automatically pressed which encourages blood supply to the facial muscles.  According to body anatomy, a major nerve point is located in the middle of the eye brows on the forehead. Application of the red tilak is believed to maintain vitality in the body and prevent the loss of energy. The Tilak is also believed to control and enhance concentration.

 4. Obsessive cleaning during Diwali

Diwali, the festival of lights honors the goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth. The festival also commemorates the return of lord Ram after an exile of 14 years to his kingdom in Ayodhya. According to Hindu mythology, the night of his return was a new moon night. To illuminate his path in the pitch dark night, the villagers of Ayodhya cleaned the entire village and lit it with lamps.

Hence, Diwali is preceded by extensive cleaning of the entire house in honor of both the deities of Hindu mythology. Legend also believed goddess Lakshmi comes home on Diwali and thereby, the entire place should be cleaned and decorated to welcome the goddess.

However, science backs the concept and explains that Diwali essentially falls in October and November, and mark beginning of winters and end of monsoon season.

Hindu dharma
People indulge in cleaning, repari and beautification of their homes ahead of Diwali to welcome goddess Lakshmi. Pixabay

In older times, the monsoons were not a good period as they were characteristic of excessive rains that often resulted in floods and damaged homes, which then needed repair. This is why people indulged in repair, cleaning and beautification of their homes.

 5. Folding your hands for ‘Namaskar’

You will often find people practicing Hindu dharma greeting people by joining their palms together. The ‘Namaskar’ is believed to signify respect for people.

Hindu dharma
People practicing Hindu dharma greeting people by joining their palms together. Pixabay

This pose requires an individual to join all finger tips together that carry the pressure points of ears, eyes and mind. Science says pressing them together activates these pressure points, making our mind attentive.  This aids us to remember people for a longer duration.

The Namaskar can also be backed up by an act to maintain hygiene and cleanliness since it does not involve any physical contact.

 6. Wearing toe rings

Traditionally, toe rings are worn by married woman on the second toe and are treated as a sign of holy matrimony. However, they are believed to be a part of the Indian culture since the times of Ramayana when Sita threw her toe ring for her husband lord Ram, upon being abducted by Ravana.

Science says that a nerve on this toe connect the uterus to the heart.  Wearing a ring on this finger helps regulate blood flow, thereby, strengthening the uterus and regulating menstrual cycle. It is also believed to have an erotic effect.

 7. Applying henna on hands and feet

Mehendi or henna is usually applied during weddings and festivals to enhance the beauty of the women-folk. According to popular beliefs, the color of the henna denotes the affection a girl will enjoy from her husband and mother-in-law.

Hindu dharma
Mehendi or henna is usually applied during weddings and festivals to enhance the beauty of the women-folk. Pixabay

However, science provides rationale of applying henna during the stressful times of festivals and weddings. Festivity stress can bring fevers and migraines, which when mixed with excitement and nervous anticipation can prove to be harmful for an individual.

Thus, besides lending color, henna also possesses medicinal qualities that relieve stress and keeps the hands and feet cool thereby shielding the nerves from getting tense.

 8. Fasting during Navratri

There are four major Navratris throughout the year, however only two are celebrated on a grand scale. Throughout the nine day festival, devotees observe ritualistic fasts, perform several pujas and offer bhog (holy food) to Goddess Durga in an attempt to gratify her.

Hindu dharma
Durga, the Goddess of strength. Wikimedia

But according to science, these navratris are celebrated when the seasons are transitioning. As the seasons and the temperatures change, our eating habits also do.

Fasting during Navratri allows our bodies to adjust to the changing temperature. Individuals get a chance to detox their bodies by quitting excessive salt, sugar and oil. Additionally, Navratris allow them to meditate and gain positive energy. This helps them prepare for the upcoming change in seasons.

 9. Applying sindoor

In traditional Hindu societies, the Sindoor denotes a woman’s desire for their spouse’s longetivity. The red powder is believed to be the color of power, symbolizing the female energy of Parvati and Sati. The Hindu dharma holds a woman is ‘complete’ or ideal only when she wears Sindoor.

Hindu dharma
Sindoor a cultural identity of every Hindu women. Wikimedia

Science explains that sindoor is made out of Vermilion, which is the decontaminated and powdered type of cinnabar (mercury sulfide). Because of its characteristic properties, mercury is known to reduce anxiety, control blood pressure and also initiate sexual desire, the primary reason why married women are advised to wear the ‘holy’ red powder. This is also the reason why widows are prohibited from wearing sindoor.

10. Wearing bangles on wrists

Bangles have been worn in the Hindu dharma since times immemorial- goddesses are also pictured to adorn these beautiful rings in their wrists. Bangles are believed to enhance feminine grace and beauty. The Hindu dharma almost makes it mandatory for newly-wed brides and to-be brides to wear bangles as they are believed to symbolize the well-being of the husbands and the sons.

Hindu dharma
Bangles are believed to accentuate the beauty of the Indian woman. Pixabay

Science suggests the constant friction caused by wearing bangles in the wrists expands the blood flow level. Besides this, the energy passing through the external skin is once again returned to one’s own body due to the round-molded bangles which has no ends to pass the energy out.

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8 Immortals In Hindu Religion You Would Like To Know About

There are 8 immortals in Hindu religion who are believed to remain alive through kali yoga. Until a person attains Moksha, their life cycle is incomplete and Samsara of life and death continues. There is no escape to this fate.

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Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

New Delhi, September 24, 2017: Hinduism is the oldest known religion in the world. The way of life and spirituality in Hinduism is followed by certain rules, called Hindu dharma. Widely practiced in South Asia, Hinduism dates back to 4000 BCE to 1500 BCE in context to pre-Vedic religions and Vedic period.

Hinduism observes a comprehensive range of philosophies, from where the Hindu text are themed into four Purusarthas, Dharma (duties), Artha (work/prosperity), Kama (desires), and Moksha (freedom/salvation). These are the important part of fulfilling and happy life that makes a complete cycle of living.

Until a person attains Moksha, their life cycle is incomplete, and Samsara of life and death continues. There is no escape to this fate, and it is believed in Hindu Dharma that 8 personalities are in the same infinity cycle of Samsara. The eight immortals or Astha Chiranjeevi as they are known stands the loop Chiram (Long) and Jivee (Lived).

The 8 immortals in Hindu religion who are believed to remain alive through kali yoga

Maha Rishi Markandeya

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

One of the devotees of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu, Rishi Markandeya comes from the Bhrigu, a clan of sages. The legend behind speaks of the great devotion of Markandeya towards Shiva to save himself from the god of death, Yama.

Rishi Mrikandu and his wife Marudmati worshipped Lord Shiva and requested from him the boon with a son. However, the boon came up to them two options, either their son will have a short lifespan or the son will have low intelligence. Mrikandu chose the first option and was blessed with Markandeya, who was destined to die at 16. The destiny cannot be escaped, and so the time came.

Markandeya knew about his fate, and on the day of his death, he started to worship Lord Shiva near the Shivalingam (the symbolic statue that represents Lord Shiva). The devotion and prayers were so powerful that the messenger of death God Yama was unable to take his life. Hearing this, Yama appeared himself to take away Markandeya’s life. He started to create a trap around the teenage sage, but mistakenly it grounded upon the Shivalingam. Furious Shiva emerged from the Shivalingam and a battle started between them on point of death. Yama couldn’t handle the rage of Shiva and thus resulted in losing it and sparing the life of Markandeya. Also, Shiva revived Yama to give the boy a boon of immortality.

This legend made Maha Rishi Markandeya be one of the 8 immortals in Hindu religion.

Asura King Mahabali

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

The great-grandson of Hiranyakshipu, the grandson of Prahlada and son of Virochana, Mahabali.

The most beloved king in Kerela, Mahabali ruled his kingdom with prosperity and happiness. His success as a king led Gods to be cautious and bring him demise by Vamana, Vishnu avatar. Vamana asked Mahabali for 3 steps of land at the time of Ashwamedha Yoga, a Hindu rite that Bali performed to maintain dominance over three worlds. Bali agreed to it and granted Vamana the boon. Vishnu avatar Vamana covered the earth and the heaven with his two steps and asked Bali now that you don’t have anything left how will you fulfill my grant. Mahabali offered Vamana his head as a place his last step, which compelled Bali to go underworld.

Vamana got pleased with his devotions and blesses Bali to be the Indra during the period of Manu, known as Savarni. Bali’s devotion, dharma, and polite words mesmerized Lord Vishnu and he was granted with a boon of visiting the earth once a year. Onam festival in Kerala is celebrated to welcome Asur King Mahabali in this regards. He is also one of the 8 immortals in Hindu Religion.

Parashurama

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

Born in Brahmin family, Parashurama was a warrior. Unlike other Brahmins, he was very temperamental and was also known to all as the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu. Parashurama, the Brahmin-Kshatriya has many personas of being Kshatriya like warfare, valor, and aggression.

He is a martial Shraman ascetic. However, it is believed that he still lives on earth and is one of the 8 immortals in Hindu religion. He is an avesha avatar, the one who takes spiritual possession on other with his special power.

Like other avatars of Lord Vishnu, Parshuram appears at the time when evil tries to prevail earth.

ALSO READ: Was Taj Mahal Once a Shiva Temple? The Debate over the Tomb Continues

Vibhishana

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

Vibhishana, the younger brother of demon king of Lanka,‘Ravana’. He comes from a rakshasa family (demon family) but was a nobleman who advised Ravana to release Maa Sita, who was kidnapped. He insisted Ravana to return Sita to her husband, Lord Rama, but his advice was not entertained. Eventually, he left Lanka to join Rama’s army.

With his knowledge and support, Rama defeated Ravana and crowned Vibhishana as the King.

When Vibhishana became the king of Lanka, he ruled the country with peace and prosperity following the path of Dharma.

During the end of Rama avatar, Lord Vishnu directed Vibhishana to stay on earth and maintain and guide people to the path of dharma. Hence, he is counted to be one of the 8 immortals in Hindu religion.

Hanuman

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

Pavanputra(Wind-God son) Hanuman was born to Anjana and Kesari.

According to ancient legends, Anjana and Kesari long devotions and prayers towards Shiva brought them to have Hanuman as their son. The story goes like while Anjana and Kesari were worshipping Shiva, the king Dasaratha of Ayodhya performing the ritual of Putrakama Yagna for the same reason.

On finishing the Yagna, Dasharatha received a sacred kheer to be shared by his three wives, Kausalya, Kaikeyi, and Sumitra. By the grace of God, a kite snatched a splinter of that kheer and it fell down while the kite was flying over the forest. Vayudev (Wind God) brought that splinter to Anjana, which she consumed and Hanuman was born as a result.

Hanuman is one of the major characters of Ramayana meets Lord Rama in the last year of latter’s 14 years exile. Hanuman helped Rama to defeat Lanka King Ravana, who kidnapped Rama’s wife Sita.

Hanuman is pictured as the devotee of Lord Rama and Maa Sita. The story follows during the last age of Rama, Hanuman was blessed with immortality.

Veda Vyasa

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

Vyas, the author of legendary epic Mahabharata and the holy book Shrimad Bhagavatam is a great scholar and Hindu scriptwriter. He is among the 8 immortals in Hindu religion who is a prime example of knowledge and wisdom.

Many believe that Vyasa is Chiranjivins (immortals). A festival in India is dedicated to him, named Guru Purnima on account of his birthday.

Ashwatthama 

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

Ashwatthama or Drauni, son of Guru Dronacharya, is a mighty Maharathi, who fought from the Kaurava side in the battle of Kurukshetra against Pandavas. He is among the eleven Rudras avatar and also one of the seven avatars of Chiranjivi.

Born as Chiranjivi, it is believed that he has a gem on his forehead which gives him the power to take control over all living beings except humans. It also protected him from thirst, hunger, and tiredness.

The tales say that during the Mahabharata war, on the night after the conquest of Duryodhana, Ashwatthama was terrified and twitchy. He made up a plan to attack Pandavas camp during the nightfall. With his desire, he affected a large part of Pandavas army by massacring them.

The next day when Lord Krishna and Arjuna came to know about it, they searched for Ashwathama. The fierce fight resumed again, with both Ashwatthama and arjuna drawing Brahmaastra at each other. Vyasa was aware of the power of it and asked them to revoke it.

Arjun learned the words of Vyasa and retract his Astra, while Ashwatthama diverted it towards the womb of Uttara, where the only lineage of Pandavas was living. Lord Krishna protected the baby from it but he cursed Aswastthama with 3000 years of sufferings.

He was asked to give away the gem on his forehead and he will be wandering around in the forest with puss and blood coming out of his body.

It is believed that he is one of the 8 immortals in Hindu religion and still there roving around with incurable diseases.

ALSO READ: Hollywood Celebrities Who Converted to Hinduism

Kripacharya

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

Known as one of the most important characters in Indian epic Mahabharata, Kripacharya is the true embodiment of impartiality.  He is one among the immortals in Hindu religion and the boon was bestowed upon him by Lord Krishna. Kripacharya is placed even above Dronacharya in the list of Hindu immortals because of his virtues,

Kripacharya is placed even above Dronacharya in the conference of immortality because of his virtues, righteousness, and impartiality. It is because of his quality to remain calm in any stressful condition that he stands out from the rest of the immortals. As stated in Mahabharata, Kripacharya was also capable to manage 60,000 in

As stated in Mahabharata, Kripacharya was also capable to manage 60,000 in the battlefield.

– Prepared by Abhishek Biswas of NewsGram Twitter: @Writing_desire