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In 5 Days, more than 71,000 pilgrims perform Amarnath Yatra

The 48-day long Yatra will conclude on August 17 coinciding with Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan festivals

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Amarnath Yatra. Image source: www.thetathaastu.com
  • Devotees believe the ice stalagmite structure called the ‘Lingam’ symbolises mythical powers of Lord Shiva
  • The south Kashmir Pahalgam route passes through Chandanwari, Sheshnag, Pissu Top and Panchtarni
  • Hindu scriptures mention, this route that Lord Shiva used to reach the cave is where he told goddess Parvati the study of immortality and eternal life

Jammu: Over 71,000 pilgrims have performed the Amarnath Yatra so far as another batch of 1,612 pilgrims left Jammu on Thursday, July 7.

An official of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) that manages the affairs of the annual pilgrimage said, ” A total of 1,612 pilgrims comprising 1,266 males and 346 females left Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas today (Thursday) in 35 buses and 22 light motor vehicles in a convoy escorted by security forces for the Valley.”

“Since the Yatra started on July 2, two pilgrims have so far died of natural causes.”

An ice stalagmite structure inside the cave situated at 3,888 feet above the sea level wanes and waxes with the phases of the moon.

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Devotees believe the ice stalagmite structure called the ‘Lingam’ symbolises mythical powers of Lord Shiva.

Pilgrims use the north Kashmir Baltal and the south Kashmir Nunwan (Pahalgam) base camps to reach the cave Shrine.

Source: Google images
Amarnath Yatra. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

From Baltal in Ganderbal district, pilgrims have to trek 14 km to reach the cave while those using the traditional Pahalgam route have to trek 46 km.

The south Kashmir Pahalgam route passes through Chandanwari, Sheshnag, Pissu Top and Panchtarni.

According to Hindu scriptures, this route that Lord Shiva used to reach the cave is where he told goddess Parvati the study of immortality and eternal life.

Helicopter services are also available for the pilgrims from Baltal and Pahalgam to and fro the shrine.

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Due to heightened militant activities in the Valley this year, extra security measures have been taken to provide protection to the pilgrims.

A three-tier security cover manned by the Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force, Central Reserve Police Force and state police are in place to secure the Jammu-Srinagar national highway which is the only surface link used by the pilgrims.

The 48-day long Yatra will conclude on August 17 coinciding with Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan festivals. (IANS)

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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.

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Karwa Chauth 2017: Know the Customs, Age Old Tale, Meals and Muhurat

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Karwa chauth 2017
Karwa Chauth 2017. Wikimedia

Chandigarh,Punjab [Published on 5th Oct’2017]

About Karwa Chauth:

Karwa Chauth is an important festival for married Hindu women all over the world. This year Karwa Chauth will be celebrated on 8 October 2017.

The festival of Karwa Chauth falls on the Krishna Paksha Chaturthi of the Kartik month (October). On the eve of Karwa Chauth, married women keep an uninterrupted fast for their husband’s long life. The ritual of fast keeping for husbands is prevalent in north India like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana.

On this day married women neither consume water and nor food, to pray for their husband’s long life.

There is a story related to Karwa Chauth that a married woman had brought the life of her dead husband back.

There is another story with this, in the past, when the girls got married in a village or place away, they had to leave their families and friends behind and build new relations.

These little girls did not have any information about their husbands, they needed some time to get involved in new family and customs. In order to make this link easier for girls, people of the village started a practice in which the newlyweds used to be friends with their age girls.

During this time, all the girls could express their minds in front of each other. Between the celebrations of this friendship, they got an opportunity to make Dharam sisters. It is believed that the beginning of this festival of Karwa Chauth took place as a celebration of friendship.

The women used to come and carry them and decorate them to their sisters. But, over time, the traditions changed and women started fasting for husbands on this day.

Karwa Chauth 2017: The story of Rani Veeravati

Veeravati was the only sister of seven brothers, who loved all the family very much. With full devotion, Veeravati awaited for the moon with anxiety, keeping the fast throughout the day. Veerawati’s brothers deceived her and showed moon using glass and peepal tree. She broke her fast by looking at the fake moon, and as soon as she started pouring the mouth of the food into her mouth, the servants came and told her that her husband has died.

After receiving this news, Veeravati cried all night, suddenly a goddess appeared in front of her and she told her that if she wanted to see her husband alive again, then she will have to follow the fasting rituals with complete dedication and devotion. Veeravati again fasted Karwa Chauth and after seeing her devotion, the god Yama had to return the life of her husband.

“How to celebrate Karwa Chauth”

Karwa Chauth 2017
Shiv and Parvati. Wikimedia

Married women eat sargi before sunrise – which is prepared by their mother-in-law. After eating sargi, women sustain without water and food till the time they see the moon at night. On this day women worship Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and Kartik. In the evening, women worship God and wish for their husband’s long life. On the first glimpse of the moon, women offer water to the moon. After this, the husbands feed water to their wives and complete their fast.

Karwa Chauth 2017: Customs associated with Karwa Chauth

Before watching the moon, a festival is organized by married women in which women participate in wearing red colored sarees. In the meantime, they all rotate their thalis seven times and narrate the story of Karwa Chauth and sing songs. After this, women worship goddess Parvati and pray for their husband’s long life.

Karwa Chauth 2017: Sargi meal eaten
Karwa Chauth 2017: Sargi meal during fast. Wikimedia

Karwa Chauth 2017: “Sargi” Meals during fasting

On the day of Karwa Chauth, the sargi which is eaten before sunrise, contains mathri, sweet, cashew curry, dry fruits, and other foods. At the same time after completion of fasting, women enjoy delicious recipes like kheer, chhole puri, chaat, dahi bhalle with their families.

Karwa Chauth 2017: Muhurat and Timing

The muhurat to worship Chauth Mata is between 17:55 to 19: 09 according to drikpanchang. You can worship the goddess within 1 hour and 14 mins. Moonrise on Karwa Chauth will be at 20:14. However, do check the timing in your city. Chaturthi tithi will begin from 16: 58 on October 8 and will end at 14:16 on October 9.

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Navratri Day 3, Is Dedicated to ‘Maa Chandraghanta’ the Goddess of Feminine Power

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worship maa chandraghanta
Source: Wikimedia Common

New Delhi, September 23, 2017: The celebration for Navratri continues for the third day. Tritiya, as it’s named suggest the third day is devoted to Maa Chandraghanta, the married form of Goddess Parvati. The ten day long festival of Sharad Navaratri is the celebration of the feminine divine power Goddess Durga.

Maa Chandraghanta, which means “one whose bell is shaped like half-moon” is worshipped with a belief to be free from any ill effects of Shukra (Venue), one of the nine planets. Shukra is believed to be the controller of our sense organs and empower us to achieve name and fame.

In the religious manuscript the goddess is represented with the deity mounting over a tigress. Chandraghanta is portrayed with ten hands with each carrying mace, trishul (trident), sword, water pot, bow, arrow, rosary, and two hands with the blessing posture of Varadamudra and Abhayamudra. She has her third eye, always open, which symbolise her to be ever ready for war against the evil.

People worship her to get rewarded with her grace, and courage. It is believed that with her grace the evil doing, sins, physical and mental suffering are all destroyed.

What the legend of Maa Chandraghanta says?

When we come to the legend of our Hindu God and Goddess, the tales are never ending. A story tells that Lord shiva, the destroyer, promised Parvati that he will not marry any woman. However, Parvati’s devotion overwhelmed Lord Shiva and so, he agrees to marry her. On the day of their marriage, Shiva march along with other Gods, mortals, ghost, Aghoris, ghouls and Shivaganas to King Himavan’s Palace to take away his daughter, Parvati. The terrorized form of Shiva traumatized Parvati’s mother. This is when Parvati transform into Goddess Chandraghanta to protect her parents.

Chandraghanta persuaded Lord Shiva to reappear in his original form. Shiva appeared as a prince ornamented with jewels, and soon Parvati and Lord Shiva gets married.

The day starts with early morning prayers where devotees chant mantra ‘Om Ayam hreem Chandraghantaya namah’ to worship Maa Chandraghanta. Later, an offering of Goddess favourite jasmine flowers, sindoor (vermilion), kheer (sweet rice), and cow milk is made, followed by prayers to Lord Shiva.

The festival holds immense importance in Hinduism. It is believed from the tales that during the festival, Goddess Durga descends on earth to bless her devotees with happiness and prosperity and bring an end to the evil.

Devotees believe that by fasting for all nine days can bring a change to their physical life and also make their wishes come true.

Prepared by Abhishek Biswas of NewsGram Twitter: @Writing_desire