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History behind the festival of colors, Holi

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Lathmar holi celebration

Syona Sachdeva 

As the summer knocks on the doors and winters slowly moves out, comes the holi. The festival has a mythological and a scientific reason to be celebrated but most important is the way it is celebrated. People put different colors (gulal) on each other going from home to home. Gujiya, Papdi, and many other snacks are made for the family and guests who come to greet

Countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Australia and many others also celebrate this day performing the various activities of Holi.

Mythological significance- victory of good over evil

Many might wonder where the term ‘Holi’ originally came from or why Holi is even celebrated or why is it that we burn Holika a night before we play with colors. There are many legends that explain the reason for celebrating this festival but the most prominent one being the tale of Hiranyakashyap.

According to the Narad Purana, this day is celebrated to mark the Prahlad’s victory over the demon king Hiranyakashyap and his aunt Holika. The devil king has wished everybody in his kingdom to worship him like god and denied devotion to any other god. Meanwhile, his son Prahlad became a follower of Lord Vishnu. This was unacceptable to the king and an insult to his power. Hiranyakashyap ordered his son to sit in the fire along with his aunt ‘Holika’ as she was immune from fire due to the magical cloak she wore.  As instructed, Holika sat in fire with Prahlad in lap. But it did not worked out as planned. When fire roared, the cloak flew to Prahlad who was reciting the name of Lord Vishnu and Holika turned into ashes.

After this Lord Vishnu appeared and killed the cruel king Hiranyakashyap.

It is the defeat of Holika that signifies the victory of good over evil and hence every year Holika is burnt to celebrate the victory of good.

Legend of Radha-Krishna

But why play with colors? Why spoil our clothes and paint ourselves with colors?The reason takes us back to the story of Radha-Krishna.

Krishna being dark blue colored was always jealous of fair Radha. One day, notorious Krishna complained to his mother about the skin difference they both had. Mother, to boost his confidence, asked Krishna to color her with any color he wanted, making her look similar to him. Kanha took his mother Yashoda’s advice and colored Radha. They then became a couple and the trend of playing with colors started.

Beliefs in South India

People of South India wholeheartedly believe Lord Kaamadeva– the lord of love and passion. It is said that when Lord Shiva’s wife Sati died after she took the form of the goddess, Lord Shiva was left in grief. He was angry and sad. He detached himself from the matters of the world and went into deep meditation. The complications and destruction began. The gods then asked for help from Lord Kaamadeva to bring Lord Shiva back to normal.

Kaamadeva, well aware of the consequences he might have to suffer, shoot his arrow on Lord Shiva while he was meditating. This made him furious, he opened his third eye and turned Kaamadeva into ashes. But the arrow worked on Shiva and he married Parvati who had been worshiping and meditating to acquire Shiva as her husband.

After a while Lord Shiva revived Kaamadeva on the request of his wife, Rati. Thus, everyone was happy in the end.

It is believed that it was the day of Holi when Lord Kaamadeva sacrificed his life and was turned into ashes. The people, hence, celebrate the sacrifice of the ‘Love god’.

When is it celebrated?

 Holi is known as the festival of spring which is a two days festival. It starts on the Purnima (full moon day) in the month of Falgun which falls in between the end of February and mid of March.

On the first day, Holika is burnt in remembrance of Prahlad’s victory. People start collecting pieces of woods many days before and finally light the huge pile collected on the first day. This day is known as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi.

The succeeding day is the day of colors, known as Rangwa Holi or Dhulandi when friends and family get together to spray colors on each other. The day is enjoyed with dry and wet colors as well as water. Feeling of love, joy, togetherness, forgiveness is shared among people.

Why visit Mathura Vrindavan during Holi?

 Mathura, the birth place of Lord Krishna, celebrates the fun filled festival for a week. Holi is an important Indian religious festival in Mathura as well as Vrindavan where Krishna was brought up. The cities situated in Uttar Pradesh celebrates the festival in different temples, one temple on each day of the week.

One of the significant temple and tourist attraction is ‘Bakai-Bihari’ temple of Vrindavan where people are full of the spirit of Holi and love for Lord Krishna.

Yet another interesting place is Gulal-Kund where the enactments of the Holi take place near the river side. Boys dressed up as Krishna display the stories of Holi for the pilgrims.

Near Mathura, in the town of Barsana and Nandgaon, Lath Mar Holi takes place where women beat up men with lathis (sticks). Men protect themselves from women with a shield. Thousands of people come to witness the strength of women and skills of men in this friendly fight.

This festival of colors marks the celebration of good over evil, beginning of the spring, joy of being together and sharing the love and building up relationships. Let us all get blended in colors and enjoy the day.

Also: Read at NewsGram how Holi is celebrated at different place outside India: www.newsgram.com/holi-celebrating-colors-of-joy-across-the-world/

Syona Sachdeva is an engineering student who likes to write on many issues

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Seven Wonders of the World : Ancient and Modern

The Seven Wonders of the World are a set of monuments which show the artistic and architectural excellence of humanity from history to the present times. Read more to find out about the ancient and the modern seven wonders of the world

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FILE - The silhouette of the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado hill stands out against the full moon in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 19, 2016. VOA

The Seven Wonders of the World in the ancient times was a list made by the Greeks in order to honor the most magnificent piece of architecture in their known world. Sadly today other than the Pyramid of Giza, none of the other wonders have been able to survive the test of time. Since then a new list has been made in order to acknowledge the modern Seven Wonders of the World.

The Original Seven Wonders of the World as per the Greeks: 

  • The Great Pyramid of Giza – The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only wonder of the ancient wonder which has survived. This pyramid erected in the year 2560 BC, is known to be the tomb of the Pharaoh Khufu. It is the oldest of all ancient wonders.

Pixabay
The Pyramids of Giza – Pixabay

  • The Hanging Garden of Babylon – There is not much to say about this wonder because of the fact that there is very little historical documentation about these gardens. They were built by King Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife in 600 BC because she was missing her hometown in the hills.

A Painting of Hanging Garden of Babylon – Wikimedia Common

  • The Lighthouse of Alexandria – The Lighthouse of Alexandria was 400ft tall in length and had kept its record for being the tallest building in the world for centuries. This was built around 280 BC. This magnificent structure was destroyed by several earthquakes. In 1480, its ruins were used to construct the Citadel of Qaitbay, which till date stands on Pharos Island.
  • The Colossus of Rhodes – The Colossus of Rhodes is a nearly 100 feet tall statue of the Greek sun god Helios. Built in the city of Rhodes in 280 BC, it was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 BC.
  • The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus – The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was built as the tomb of Mausoleum around 350BC. The structure was demolished by a series of earthquakes which occurred between the 12th and 15th centuries.
  • The Statue of Zeus at Olympia – The statue was made by the Greek sculptor Phidias, it represented Zeus seated on his golden throne. The statue itself is 40ft tall and is adorned with gold and ivory. The cause of the destruction of the statue is not clearly known but it was destroyed sometime in the  5th century.

A Painting of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia – Pixabay

  • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus – The temple is located in Eastern Turkey. It has been rebuilt several times following its destruction every time. One memorable incident related to the temple is the fact it once burnt down the same night when Alexander the Great was born. The third temple was acknowledged by the Greeks as a wonder. It was finally destroyed for good by the Goths in 268AD.

The Temple of Artemis Ruins – Wikimedia Commons

The List of the Modern Seven Wonders of the World

On July 7, 1997, a new set of seven wonders was developed which was based on the online voting system from all around the world. The new Seven Wonders of the World are:-

  • Chichen Itza, Mexico – The Chichen Itza is the ruins of a complex in the form of a step pyramid from the Mayan civilization.

Chichen Itza – Pixabay

  • Christ, the Redeemer, Brazil – This is a 98 ft statue of Jesus Christ located in Rio de Janeiro. This statue was built by French sculptor, Paul Landowski.

Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil – Pixabay

  • The Great Wall of China – The Great Wall of China is a wall that was built along the northern border of China in order to protect the Chinese empire from the nomadic attacks from the Eurasian tribes.

The Great Wall of China – Wikimedia Commons

  • Machu Picchu, Peru – Machu Picchu is an Incan citadel which is located high up on the Andes Mountains. It is famous for its age-old stone block walls. The exact nature of use of this citadel is not exactly known.

Machu Picchu – Pixabay

  • Petra, Jordan – Petra was an ancient desert in Jordan which consists of numerous temples and tombs carved in pink sandstone thus earning its nickname as the “Rose City”.

Petra – Jordan, Wikimedia Commons

 

  • The Roman Colosseum, Rome – The Colosseum as it is famously known, is a huge amphitheater located in the center of the city of Rome in Italy. It is the largest amphitheater ever built. It was used for gladiator fights, animal matches, and re-enactment of various dramas prevalent in those times.

Colosseum in Rome – Wikimedia Commons

  • The Taj Mahal, Agra – The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum which is built in pure white marble on the orders of Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is situated on the south bank of the Yamuna River and was commissioned to be built in 1632.

The Taj Mahal, India – Wikimedia Commons

The Seven Natural Wonders of the World

CNN announced a list of wonders which were not manmade but were formed naturally over a period of thousand years. This list was given in 1992.

  • Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon – Wikimedia Commons

  • The Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef – Pixabay

  • The Harbor at Rio de Janeiro
  • Mt Everest

Mount Everest – Pixabay

  • Northern Lights

Northern Lights -Pixabay

  • Paricutin Volcano

    The Crater of Paricutin Volcano – Pixabay
  • Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls Africa – Pixabay

No list of Seven Wonders is definite. These lists tell us how much the humanity has progressed and nature has evolved over the years.  These wonders are nothing but the remainder of the accomplishments of mankind from history to the present.

Prepared by Saloni Hindocha (@siatipton)

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7 Things That We Can Learn From ‘Arjuna’ of Bhagavad Gita

Arjuna is one of the best examples of an ideal student. There are many qualities of Arjuna that we should try imbibing in ourselves. Read on to find what can be learned from Arjuna.

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Krishna and Arjuna
Lord Krishna and Arjuna from a scene in the Hindu epic book Mahabharata. Pixabay

Arjuna is one of the characters around whose life story is depicted by the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna in many ways was an ordinary person just like us. The one thing that makes him more than ordinary was the fact that he had a good heart. But he also had his own good and bad habits. Lord Krishna chose Arjuna to reveal the Gita because he saw that not many men were as sensitive as Arjuna. Usually, not many men hesitate morally in order to fight a war and stand for their rights. We have received the teachings of God because of Arjuna who was the student and Veda Vyasa who recorded it. We have made a list of 7 things about why he was an ideal student and how we can learn things from ‘Arjuna’.

Death of jayadarath
The painting depicts the scene where Arjuna is fighting in the war of Mahabharata. Wikimedia

Here are the 7 things

Humility

Arjuna was very humble and sincere. He was willing to accept his flaws and learn from them. To quote the Gita, Arjuna to Krishna, “Overcome by faintheartedness, confused about my duty (Dharma), I ask you: Please tell me that which is truly better for me. I am your student. Please teach me, I have taken refuge in you” Gita 2.7

Willingness to leave his family for learning

When the Pandavas were banished to the forest because of Duryodhana treachery, Arjuna decided to make use of the time he had and learn some new skills and the science and art of using new weaponry. So he separated from his family in order to learn about advanced weapons from Bhagwan Shiva.

Respectful towards his teacher

Arjuna was extremely respectful towards his teacher and always adhered to his instructions. This can be understood in the following instance. Guru Dronacharya had been humiliated by King Drupad. When all the Pandava princes ended their education Guru Dronacharya asked for his ‘gurudakshina’ which was capturing King Drupad alive and bringing the king to him. Arjuna faithfully carried out his teacher’s orders even if has meant risking his own life.

Hindu Epic Mahabharata. Image source: Wikimedia

Not being addicted to sleeping or eating

Arjuna was a sincere student who was ready to give up on his sleep and food if he wanted to master something. The following incident proves Arjuna’s sincerity and dedication. One time while Bheema, his brother was eating his food, the lamp blew out leaving them in darkness. Bheema was still able to complete his food. Inspired from Bheema eating in the dark, he thought that if Bheema could eat in the dark, then he could also aim and hit his target in the dark only by listening to the sounds made by the target. He kept on practicing this skill until he mastered the skill of shooting in the dark. In order to master it, he had to cut down on his sleeping hours. Arjuna has another name ‘Gudakesha’ which meant ‘He who has mastered sleep’.

Attentive and focused

Arjuna was very observant and focused. There is a very famous incident which proves Arjuna’s was very attentive and dedicated. Once Guru Dronacharya asked all the Kauravas and the Pandavas to shoot the eye of a bird that was perched on the tree with a bow and arrow. He called each of them one by one and asked they could see. All of them answered with things like tree, bird, leaves and Guru Drona himself. When Arjuna’s turn came, he answered that he could only see the bird’s eye. Thus he was able to hit the target successfully because his focus was only on the bird’s eye. There is no doubt that Arjuna became an extremely good archer.

Hindu Epic Mahabharata. Wikimedia

Persistent and Hardworking

Arjuna was extremely hard working and spent a lot of effort and time in mastering his skills. Once all the Pandavas and the Kauravas complained that Guru Dronacharya favored Arjuna too much. Dronacharya decided to test them to in order to see how they can perform compared to Arjuna. He sent Arjuna on an errand. Immediately after sending Arjuna, he taught everybody about aiming at a leaf and hitting it successfully. The lesson was completed and everybody left the site before Arjuna returned. On returning he saw a lot split leaves on the ground and understood that he had missed an important lesson. In order to make up for the lesson, he started practicing on leaves in his free time and thus covered up his missed lesson quickly. After coming to know the hard work that Arjuna put in, in order to cover the missed lesson, all the princes understood why he was Guru’s favorite.

Chose God over materialistic riches and power

Before the great war, both Arjuna and Duryodhana approached Krishna to get him to fight for their respective sides. But Krishna told them that he would personally not pick up any weapon and fights and gave both them a choice between him and his mighty army. Duryodhana chose Krishna’s might army while Arjuna just chose Krishna as his charioteer and allowed God to lead him and did not care about the mighty army. Life is full of choices. We often act as Duryodhana and choose the path of power and wealth, compromising on our honesty and justice. But we should always be like Arjuna choosing the path of truth and ‘dharma’ over worldly temptations. This is the reason why Arjuna won the battle even after having a smaller army

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Exploring the Faces of Faith and Devotion: 7 Principal Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism

Foremost among the several gods and goddesses of Hinduism are the Trimurti; Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, the holy triad that signify supreme divinity in Hinduism – the creater, sustainer and destroyer of the world

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Are you familiar with the various gods and goddesses of Hinduism? Pixabay

New Delhi, October 9, 2017 : Devout Hindus have a god for every occasion and every day – over 33 million, according to popular beliefs. While people of other religions often interpret them as fictional characters, the multiple gods and goddesses of Hinduism are held with utmost devotion and sincerity by the believers.

Ours is a polytheistic religion – in other words, a myriad of gods and goddesses of Hinduism. Foremost among the several gods and goddesses of Hinduism are the Trimurti; Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, the holy triad that signify supreme divinity in Hinduism – the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world. These divine forces are known to appear in different avatars, embodied by different gods and goddesses.

In Hinduism, Lord Brahma is the creator of the Universe and the first member of the holy trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh). However, he is not worshiped as Vishnu or Shiva with only one temple dedicated to him, the Pushkar temple of Rajasthan.

Here are some of the many gods and goddesses of Hinduism.

1. Vishnu

Vishnu is the second member of the holy Hindu triad, who sustains the entire world – Vishnu is believed to return to the earth during distressed times to restore the balance between good and evil.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Lord Vishnu. Wikimedia

Believed to have incarnated nine times, Vishnu symbolizes the principles of order, righteousness, and truth. His associate is Lakshmi, the goddess of family life and prosperity.

Vishnu is always depicted with a blue-colored human body with four hands, each of which carries four different objects – a conch, chakra, lotus flower and mace. The god is shown to ride the Garuda, an eagle.

So far, Vishnu has appeared on earth in various incarnations. These include fish, turtle, boar, Narsimha (half lion, half man), Vamana (dwarf sage with the ability to grow), Parsuram, Ram, Krishna and Buddha. Devotees believe he will re-incarnate in a last avatar, popularly known as ‘Kalki’, close to the end of this world.

Hindus who worship Vishnu are primarily known as Vaishnava and regard him as the greatest god.

2. Shiva

One of the members of the holy Hindu trinity, Lord Shiva is as the god of destruction, so that the world may be recreated by Brahma. Thus, his destructive powers are perceived as regenerative: necessary to make renewal possible.

Known by different names like Mahadeva, Nataraja , Pashupati, Vishwanath and Bhole Nath, Shiva is known to have untamed enthusiasm, which drives him to extremes in conduct. It is his relationship with wife Parvati which established the balance. While other gods and goddesses are represented in glorious avatars, Shiva is dressed in plan animal skin and usually sits in a yogic aasana.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
God Shiva, Wikimedia

Shiva is often addressed as the Lord of Dance, with the rhythm of the dance believed to be symbolic of the balance in the universe, masterfully held by Shiva. His most significant dance form is the Tandav.

Hindus who worship Shiva as their primary god are known as Shaivites.


3. Lakshmi

One of the most popular goddesses of Hindu mythology, Lakshmi gets hers name from the Sanskrit word ‘lakshya’, meaning ambition or purpose. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, prosperity and purity and is the associate of Vishnu.

Lakshmi is believed to reside in places of hard work, and sincerity, However, the goddess leaves whenever an individual is overcome with greed or malice or when these qualities are not evident anymore. Hindus believe Sita is an incarnation of Lakshmi. Hence, they worship the goddess of prosperity primarily during Diwali, which commemorated the Hindu epic Ramayana.

Gods and goddesses of hinduism
Goddess Lakshmi. Wikimedia

Lakshmi is widely represented as an enchanting woman with four arms, settled or standing on a lotus flower.

Devout Hindus worship Lakshmi at temples and inside homes alike, and believe worshipping her with utmost sincerity blesses an individual with success and fortune.


4. Ganesha

The pot bellied, elephant-headed god Ganesha, also known as Ganpati, Vinayak and Binayak, is the son of Shiva and Parvati. one of the most popular gods and goddesses of Hinduism, Ganesha is revered as the remover of all obstacles, which is why his presence is first acknowledged before beginning any new work.

The lord of success and wealth, Ganesha is also the patron of knowledge and learning; devotees believe he wrote down parts of the Hindu epic Mahabharata with his broken tusk.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
Ganesh Puja. Wikimedia

Ganesha is typically depicted as a pot-bellied, elephant-headed red colored god, with four arms and a broken tusk. This head is believed to characterize the atma or the soul and the body represents the maya or mankind’s earthly existence. The rats, which can gnaw their way through every hardship, are believed to symbolize Ganesha’s ability to destroy all obstacles.

Lord Ganesha is shown riding mouse, which can gnaw their way through every hardship, are believed to symbolize Ganesha’s ability to destroy all obstacles.


5. Krishna

Believed to be the most popular and the most powerful avatar of Vishnu, Krishna is revered as the Supreme Being or the Purana Purushottam out of a list of several hundred gods and goddesses of Hinduism, by several devout Hindus. One of the most loved and mischievous gods, Krishna means ‘black’ and can be believed to denote mysteriousness.

In Hinduism, Krishna takes several different roles- that of a hero, leader, protector, philosopher, teacher and a friend and is believed to have lived on earth between 3200 – 3100 BC. His birth is widely celebrated on the midnight of Ashtami during the month of Shravan, and is called Janmashthami.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Picture of idols of Lord Krishna and Radha, decorated for Janmashtami. Wikimedia

Stories of Krishna’s birth, childhood and youth and widely read and circulated, with every mother wanting to have a child like him. His raas with Radha is also remembered widely.

Krishna is held with utmost reverence for his role as the charioteer of Arjuna, as explained in the Mahabharata. It was in the middle of this war that Krishna delivered his famous advice about ‘Nishkam Karma’ which propagated action without attachment, which formed the basis of the Bhagwat Gita.

Krishna is extremely fond of white butter and there are several stories about how he stole butter from gopis throughout his childhood. He is depicted as a dark and extremely handsome, usually depicted with a flute which he used for its seductive powers.


6. Ram

Maryada Purushottam Ram is the ideal avatar of Vishnu. An epitome of chivalry, virtues and ethical demeanor, Ram is the seventh incarnation of Vishnu who is believed to have taken birth to eradicate all evils from the world.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Ram Darbar. Wikimedia

Unlike all other gods and goddesses of Hinduism, Ram is believed to be a historical character, instead of an imaginary figure. The Hindu epic Ramayana is a retelling and celebration of Ram’s life – a tale of his fourteen years in exile with his wife and brother.

Ram’s birthday is celebrated as Ramnavmi, wherein devotees invoke him with religious chants to attain his blessings shield. The festival of lights, Diwali, which is one of the major festivals in Hinduism, is also observed to celebrate the return of Ram, Laksham and Sita back to Ayodhya after an exile of fourteen years.

Ram bears a dark complexion to show his resemblance to Vishnu and his other avatar Krishna, and is almost always depicted with a bow and arrow in his hands and a quiver on his back. Ram also wears a tilak on his forehead. Accompanying the statues of Ram are idols of his wife Sita, brother Lakshman and the celebrated monkey-god Hanuman, who together combine the Ram Darbar.

7. Saraswati

Daughter of Shiva and Durga, and the consort of Brahma, Saraswati is revered as the goddess of wisdom, learning, speech and music. She is the goddess of knowledge and arts. Devotees often worship the deity before commencing any educational work- books and stationary items are often revered as Saraswati is believed to reside in them.

Saraswati Vandana, religious chants dedicated to the goddess of music often begin and end all Vedic lessons. The goddess also plays songs of wisdom, affection and life on the veena, a string instrument.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
Sarswati, Wikimedia Commons

Saraswati is visually represented in pure white attire and rides a peacock, with a lotus in one hand and sacred scriptures in the other. She also has four hands that signify the four aspects of learning- mind, intellect, alertness, and ego.

Out of all the 33 million gods and goddesses of Hinduism, devout Hindus believe only Saraswati can grant them moksha- the ultimate emancipation of the soul.