Friday November 24, 2017

Vivaha Panchami: Celebrating Rama’s marriage to Sita

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Vivaha Panchami

By Nithin Sridhar

Vivaha i.e. marriage is a sacred bond, a commitment between two people who take a vow to pursue their desires, dreams, and duties together. And Hinduism, which has always upheld Grihasta ashrama (the stage of marriage) as one of the most important stages in society, cherishes this beautiful bond by celebrating every year the ‘Vivaha’ of Lord Rama and Devi Sita.

Every year the festival, which is named as ‘Vivaha Panchami, is observed on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of Margashirsha month. This year the day has fallen on December 16, i.e. today.

Lord Rama is called as ‘Dharma Murti (the symbol of righteousness/duty) by Maharishi Valmiki in Ramayana. The Hindu tradition has always looked up to Rama as an epitome of the best in humans- as a King, as a son, as a brother, and of course as a Husband.

But, in modern times, Rama’s treatment of Sita has been seriously questioned and severely criticized by many liberals, feminists, and even common Hindus. In view of such criticism, the celebration of Rama’s marriage to Sita as ‘Vivaha Panchami’ may appear as incorrect or without any meaning, or downright misogynist to many people.

Thus, it becomes very vital to examine the life of Rama and his relationship with Sita especially in the context of Rama’s actions that have been criticized.

There is nothing wrong per se in questioning and criticizing, but an analysis of the past, especially the judgment of morality of characters from the past should never be done by imposing current notions of morality on the past. Such, impositions of our own pre-conceived notions without taking into account the essence and worldview of the scriptures which speak about a particular incident will almost always result into distortions.

The criticism of Rama’s treatment of Sita is on two counts: One, after the slaying of Ravana, Rama did not go straight away to meet Sita. He, instead, made her prove her purity by ‘Agni Pariksha’ (trial by fire). Two, Rama abandoned a pregnant Sita in the forest because some of his subjects raised questions about her character.

These two actions of Rama have been used to portray Rama as a bad husband and a misogynist. Further, Sita is portrayed as a submissive woman who is forced to follow her husband’s whims and fancies. But it is conveniently ignored that Rama went to war with Ravana for saving Sita and that Rama never married again even after sending Sita to the forest. In fact, he conducted Yajna’s with an idol of Sita beside him.

Also Read: Marriage is a commitment, not contract

Let us, for a moment, forget that Rama was an avatara of Lord Vishnu. As far as Valmiki Ramayana is concerned, Rama perceives himself just as a Man. But, the Ramayana tells that he was such a man whose every action was taken after examining all available paths and the righteousness of each path. He tried to stick to his duties even in the most difficult situation despite enormous sufferings he had to face.

Now, coming to the episode of Agni-Pariksha, a careful reading of Valmiki Ramayana shows that it was Sita, who said she would enter the fire and not Rama (Yuddha Khanda 116.18-19). Though, Rama did not stop it and, in fact, allowed it to happen, it is wrong to say that he specifically asked her to enter the fire.

In any case, the question to be asked is, why did Rama allow Sita to enter fire? Does it show that Rama doubted her character?

In answer to the second question, Rama himself has given a clear ‘No’. In Yuddha Khanda 118.13-20, Rama explicitly stated that he knew that Sita is without blemish and no one can violate her. He has repeated this statement that he never doubted Sita again and again.

But, he adds, as if in answer to the first question, that Sita was allowed to go through Agni-Pariksha because otherwise people would have questioned her character as well as his decision to accept her. He further adds that she deserved to be proven innocent and without faults in front of the whole world.

Thus, his actions were not only guided by the fact that he was about to become a King and Kings do not have the privilege of ‘privacy’ and have a duty to be morally unquestionable, but also by his desire to show to the world that his wife is innocent and hence, no person should ever raise a finger against her. Rama was simply trying to do his duty as a husband as well as his duty as a future King. The episode can serve as the best example of nuanced and deep love which do not always become obvious.

The fact that after the Agni-Pariksha, when Sita heard Rama’s explanations, instead of refusing to go back to Rama, she was happily united with him, establishes beyond doubt that Sita did not view Rama’s actions as misogynist, instead she clearly understood the compulsions and subtle love that made Rama act the way he did. Rama, in fact, calls Sita as being non-different from him, the way sunlight is non-different from the Sun which again goes to show his deep commitment and love for Sita.

Another issue raised regarding the Agni-Pariksha episode is that it portrays Sita as meek and submissive to her husband. Sita was no doubt a dedicated wife, but she was by no means meek or submissive. This is clearly brought forward in the chapter 117 of the same section, where Sita criticizes Rama’s behavior towards her. She boldly calls out the wrong treatment being meted out to her, though she was without fault. Sita was so self-confident and assertive that she decided to enter the fire to prove her innocence.

Now coming to the episode when Rama abandoned Sita when some people in his kingdom raised doubts over her chastity. The episode is a fine example of what is called as ‘Dharma-sankata, wherein a person sees himself in a situation where various duties clashes and no path is completely right.

Rama could have simply ignored the citizens’ questions about Sita’s chastity and his acceptance of her as his wife. But then the rumors would have spread like fire and defamed Sita. Further, many people would have misused it to justify their own acts of cheating and adultery. As a husband, Rama could not allow his wife to be defamed like that and as a king, he could not allow adultery to be accepted as a virtue especially by wrongly quoting Rama-Sita as an example.

Rama could have punished all those people who questioned their queen’s character, but then he would be called as an oppressor who oppressed his people! Rama loved his citizens, he never wanted to cause suffering to them on his account. So, he obviously did not choose it.

Rama could have simply abandoned his Kingdom and went away with Sita to the forest. But then it would have meant that he abandoned his own children because a King is like a father to his subjects. A King’s duty towards his citizens always comes before other duties just as a father’s duties towards his sons and daughters comes before other duties. Would Sita, who was well versed in Vedas and Dharma, have approved of such abandonment of duty by Rama for her sake? It is highly unlikely.

Rama could have called Sita and asked her to take another Agni-Pariksha. But, this would have been an insult to his wife, whom he loved dearly. So, instead of taking any of the above-mentioned options wherein he would have either abandoned his duty as King, or caused insult to Sita, he took the path which caused him, and Sita, enormous personal suffering, but it neither insulted Sita nor caused abandonment of his Kingly duties.

Thus, Rama’s act of leaving Sita near Valmiki’s hermitage was not an act of misogyny. It was an act of supreme sacrifice, wherein he chose to suffer from pangs of separation from Sita and subjected Sita- his better half to such a suffering as well. The love and bond between Rama and Sita remained intact despite their separation. This is clearly established by the fact that Rama never married another woman and he kept a golden statue of Sita with him and Sita never taught her children to hate their father.

The relationship between Rama and Sita should not be perceived in black and white. Life is not black and white. Their life, just as ours in today’s society, had many complications and difficult situations. Rama took the decision he perceived as the best among the various options available to him at that time. He was always united with Sita in his heart and Sita with Rama.

This unity in the hearts and minds despite physical separation or innumerable challenges and obstacles posed by life is the ultimate ideal of ‘Vivaha’ and this is what should be remembered and celebrated by everyone, especially the couples during ‘Vivaha Panchami’.

(Photo: http://www.dollsofindia.com)

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Sins in Hinduism: Facts, Meaning,Philosophy,Types & Atonement

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Sins in hinduism
The sins in Hinduism can be washed away with devotional means. Pixabay.
  • Sin is regarded as an impurity arising in one’s body as a consequence to his own evil deeds. It is an effect that can be neutralised through various practices to lead your life into Moksha or liberation.
  • A liberated being or Jivanmukta is purified of all his sins who does not have to go through any further sins and rebirth. In order to make your soul pure and sinless, practice every deed with God’s grace.
  • The Sins in Hinduism, sinful conduct and their remedies have been referred to in Hindu Scriptures such as in Upanishads, Bhagavadgita, Yoga Sutras, Manu Smriti and Garuda Purana. 

As stated about sins in Hinduism, sin may form up with disobedience to God’s divine laws of Dharma. It may however be difficult to follow, but is considered obligatory for humans. The sins in Hinduism can be forgiven if Dharma is upholded as a service to God through self-effort and pure devotion to God.

Sins in Hinduism
Meditation is considered as the easiest from of removing sins in Hinduism. Pixabay.

What is the meaning of Sins in Hinduism?

The word Pāpam (paap) is often used to describe sins in Hinduism as mentioned in the Vedas and Hindu scriptures. Punyam (punya) is the opposite (antonym) of sin. It does not acquire an equivalent word in English since the concept of sins in Hinduism is different in western culture and Christianity.

Separating the word, ‘Pa‘ means to drink, inhale or absorb. ‘Apa‘ means water, combinedly meaning consuming or drinking impure water or poison. Pāpam also denotes evil, wicked, mischievous, destructive, inferior, corrupt and guilt.

It is believed that the sins of Hinduism manifests in the body with the impurities of worldliness (vishaya-asakti). The human body becomes subject to various poisons (visham) such as egoism, greed, ignorance, selfishness, desires and so on, which emerge with our attachments with worldly things (vishayas). These poisons of sins make the humans to take rebirths and deaths until they are removed completely. In the Hindu culture, Lord Shiva is regarded as the destroyer and the healer who gets invoked by devotees prayers and can remove or destroy such poison or sins to grant them liberation.

Sins in Hinduism
The sins in hinduism have been depicted in the scriptures. Pixabay.

What is the Philosophy of Sins in Hinduism?

The sins appear from physical, mental or oral actions, due to the impurities or poisons pertaining to Dharma and Hinduism. The poison of sin is stimulated if one harms intentionally to others or oneself by way of pain and suffering continuing the cycle of rebirth and death.

The repurcussions of sinful acts or karma are fault or mistake (aparadha), worry or anxiety (cintha), impurities or imperfections (doshas), evil intentions (dudhi), evil qualities (dhurta lakshana), immorality (adharma), demonic nature (asura sampatti), chaos or disorderliness (anrta), mental afflictions (klesha), destruction (nirtti), karmic debt (rna), sorrow (shoka), darkness or grossness (tamas) and suffering (pida). Others include: inferior birth, birth through demonic wombs, downfall into hells, increased suffering to ancestors, adversity, loss of reputation.

Sins in Hinduism
Visit Pilgrimage shrines to erase your sins in Hindusim. Pixabay.

What are the types of Sins in Hinduism?

The Dharmashastras of the Hindu scriptures denote sin as Pātaka which represents the causes of one’s downfall or destruction (patanam).The following are the three types of sins in Hinduism: Mortal Sins (Mahapatakas), Secondary Sins (Upa Patakas) and Minor Sins (Prakirna or prasangika Patakas)

The Mahapatakas

These are the gravest and darkest sins in Hinduism leading to the worst downfall of the mortals into the darkest of hells. They can neither be neutralized or washed away without suffering. Some Puranas and Vedas indicate to devote oneself purely to God to remove such sins. The Dharmashastras have stated such five gravest sins termed as the Pancha Mahapatakas. In Hinduism,the company of sinners is also not advisable as associating with sinners will lead you to the same consequences.

The Upa Patakas

These secondary sins may emerge out of minor offenses that include incompetency to perform sacrifices regularly, displeasing the Guru, selling harmful and intoxicating drinks, disbelief in God, giving false witness, making false acclaims, and performing a sacrifice for an unworthy person or unworthy cause and engaging in illicit sex.

The Prakirna Patakas

These type of sins in Hinduism form the minor offenses committed intentionally or unintentionally out of ignorance or carelessness which can be removed or washed away by performing sacrifices (prayaschitta) or by punishments and requesting forgiveness. The law books regard more than fifty minor sins in Hinduism such as selling the wife, making salt, studying forbidden Shastras, killing a woman, marrying the younger son before marrying the elder one, killing insects and other creatures, ignorance to parents, accepting gifts without performing sacrifices,adultery etc.

What are the solutions to overcome Sins?

Fines and punishments

The Dharmashastras render both corporeal and monetary punishments for various offenses or sins in Hinduism, apart from the sufferings in hell or rebirth. According to Hindu scriptures, the ancient era saw immense difference in the application of punishments from caste to caste.

Confession

The best path to deal with sins of Hinduism is to surrender yourself infront of God and seek forgiveness with your own confession of the sin committed. The king was regarded as a similar figure to God who demanded a public confession (abhishasta) from the sinner.

Austerities and Atonement

By performing Vedic traditional rituals, the sins in Hinduism are removed by fasting, virtuous conduct, self-control, practice of nonviolence, truthfulness, austere living, practice of silence, concentration and meditation.

Sins in Hinduism
Your sins in Hinduism can be removed by Devoting yourself to the grace of God. Pixabay.

Rituals and sacrifices

The Vedas have recommended various rituals or sacrifices to wash away the the impurities (dhosas) arising from one’s birth, karma, relationships, place or direction related issues, vastu defects, dangerous diseases and evil conduct.

Prayers and Mantras

Vishnu Purana of the Hindu scriptures pronounce the effective importance of the continuous chanting of names of God (japam) in the Kaliyug. Some mantras and hymns are considered more significant than meditation and sacrifices to clean the impurities of the body.

Recitation of the Vedas and other Sacred Books

Knowledge (jnana) has the eternal power to remove the sins in Hinduism. It can be derived with regular reading up and learning from the scriptures of sacred importance.

Visiting pilgrimages

To grant your devotion and gratitude, Hinduism seeks to commit to Dharma by visiting holy pilgrimage place. It is a divine form of self-cleansing and experiencing peace and happiness.

Bathing in the sacred rivers

The sacred pilgrimages are mostly located near the banks of the rivers that are also treated as purifiers. Hence, bathing in those rivers lead your life into devotional worship as a purification rituals to overcome sins in Hinduism.

Yoga and Meditation

Pranayama and meditation are the suggested methods to practise peace and overcome past sins. They also form a major part of the austerities to cleanse the internal mind and body.

The blessings of saints and gurus

Saints, sadhus and mahatmas have been given a special status in Hinduism because of their respectful purity and virtue. They acquire divine knowledge and supreme powers, with which they cleanse those who approach them for blessings.

Sins in Hinduism
Worshipping the saints remove the sins in hinduism. Pixabay.

Virtuous conduct

Sinful karma can be countered with huge efforts into virtuous karma. The sins in Hinduism are washed away with kind and healthy conduct to everyone equally.

Charity

Dana (gift giving) or charity is very significant in Hindu Dharma. By conducting sacrifices and spiritual practices one must conduct charity as well. As a part of Vedas, the higher castes are under obligation to perform five daily sacrifices including offer food to gods, ancestors, sages, humans and creatures.

-Prepared by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram. Twitter @tweet_bhavana

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Chhath Puja 2017: 5 Interesting and Lesser Known Facts about Hindu Festival Chhath Puja

Here are 5 interesting facts that you should know about the most ancient festival of Chhath Puja.

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Chhath Puja Ritual
Chhath Puja Ritual. Wikimedia commons
  • The festival of Chathh Puja is Celebrated for four days where women fast for 36 hours. 
  • On this festival, God Surya is worshipped for sustaining life on earth and granting Health, Prosperity & Abundance.

Chhath Puja 2017: This year Chhath Puja will be Celebrated from 26 October

Chhath is considered to be an ancient Hindu festival.On Chhath Puja various rituals are performed for Thanksgiving Sun God for sustaining life on earth and granting Health, Prosperity & Abundance.

The word “Chhath” symbolizes the number 6 in Hindi language and the festival begins on the sixth day of the Hindu lunar month of Kartik.The festival continues for four days during which people, especially women, follow diligent rituals including fasting for 36 hours.

Here are 5 interesting facts which you need to know about Chhath Puja:

Chhat Puja is the only Vedic Festival of India: Chhath Puja is considered to be one of the most ancient festivals of India surviving on earth.This puja first finds mention in the Rig Veda which contains hymns worshiping the Sun God and describes similar rituals.

The rituals performed during Chhath have scientific reasons: Rituals in Chhath Puja increases absorption and conduction of solar-bio-electricity in a human body. The processes and the rituals of the Chhath puja aim at preparing the body and the mind of the devotee for the process of cosmic solar energy infusion.

Also Read: Hindu Festival Chhath Puja gives great message to Society, says PM Narendra Modi

Four days rituals are designed in such a way that it benefits the health of the devotee: During the Puja, standing in the river Ganges allows the absorption of energy from the sun which moves along the spine and cleanses the body. This helps in better functioning of the body and calms down the mental state of the devotee. It reduces anger and negativity from the life of the devotee.

Worshipping Sun God on Chhath is prevalent in the ancient Egyptian and Babylonian civilizations of the world: Chhath puja has its international significance as it also celebrated in other countries like Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago etc. as a part of their own traditions & customs.

Chhath Puja hails back to the time of the Mahabharata: Draupati is also considered to be the devotee of Sun God apart from Karna. Due to her devotion toward Surya, she was gifted with the unique power to cure even the deadliest diseases. Through this power gifted by her, Pandavas survived and won the Kurukshetra Battle over Kauravas and regained their kingdom back.

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Hinduism is Not an Official or Preferred Religion in Any Country of The World, Says a New Report

Though Hinduism is the third largest religion of the world, it is not the official state religion of any country according to a Pew Research Center Report

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Hinduism is not an official religion of any country in the world. Instagram.
  • No country has declared Hinduism as its official state religion – despite India being an influential Hindu political party
  • Hinduism is not an official or preferred religion in any country of the world, according to a Pew Research Center report.
  • 53% of 199 nations considered in the study don’t have an official religion
  • 80 countries are assigned either an “official religion” or “preferred religion”

Nevada, USA, October 16: Hinduism is the primeval and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion followers of moksh (liberation) being its utmost desire of life. India is among the category of nations where the government do not have an official or preferred religion.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank headquartered in Washington DC that aims to inform the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

The report states that a country’s official religion is regarded as a legacy of its past and present privileges granted by the state. And a few other countries fall on the other side of the gamut, and propagate their religion as the ‘official religion’, making it a compulsion for all citizens.

It adds up on the context of allocation that more than eight-in-ten countries (86%) provide financial support or resources for religious education programs and religious schools that tend to benefit the official religion.

Hinduism
Islam is the most practiced official religion of the world. Instagram.

Commenting on Hinduism, the report states:

In 2015, Nepal came close to enshrining Hinduism, but got rejected of a constitutional amendment due to a conflict between pro-Hindu protesters and state police.

Although India has no official or preferred religion as mentioned in the Constitution,it was found by PEW that in India the intensity of government constraints and social antagonism involving religion was at a peak. “Nigeria, India, Russia, Pakistan and Egypt had the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion among the 25 most populous countries in 2015. All fell into the “very high” hostilities category,” the report added.

As per the 2011 census, it was found that 79.8% of the Indian population idealizes Hinduism and 14.2% practices to Islam, while the rest 6% pursuit other religions.

While Hinduism stands up with the majority, Article 25 of the Constitution of India contributes secularism allowing for religious freedom and allows every Indian to practice his/her religion, without any intervention by the community or the government.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, applauded the Hindu community for their benefaction to the society and advised Hindus to concentrate on inner purity, attract spirituality towards youth and children, stay far from the greed, and always keep God in the life.

According to Pew, these are “places where government officials seek to control worship practices, public expressions of religion and political activity by religious groups”.

-by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram.  She can be reached @tweet_bhavana