Sunday July 22, 2018

Annual Hindu Thaipusam Fest celebrated by thousands in Malaysia

Temples all across Malaysia were filled with huge crowds of Hindu devotees who came together from faraway lands to celebrate the Thaipusam festival

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Batu Caves (Malaysia), Feb 9, 2017: Temples across Malaysia were filled with more than a million Hindus today to celebrate the annual Thaipusam festival. Many even pierced their bodies with hooks and skewers to show devotion to the deity Lord Murugan.

According to PTI, Massive crowds filled with devout Hindus and other enthusiasts descended on the stunning Batu Caves temple complex on the outskirts of capital Kuala Lumpur to be a part of the festival, which commemorates the day when the goddess Parvathi bestowed her son Lord Murugan with a powerful lance to fight evil demons.

With handful of gifts including milk pots and coconuts which are eventually smashed as offerings, worshippers walked barefoot up 272 steps to reach the temple which is an important religious site for Tamil Hindus.

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Many displayed their dedication by carrying heavy ornate metal structures called kavadis, affixed to their bodies with sharp metal spikes that are hammered into the skin. Some devotees looked like they were in a state of trance as they carried the kavadis, which can weigh as much as 100 kilogrammes or even more.

Some of them pierced their faces with tridents or hung multiple hooks and chains from their bodies in an act of penance.

While talking to PTI, A.Yuven, a devotee said, “My brother is carrying a kavadi today to help the family and… also for our other brother who is suffering from a neurological disorder,” as a group of men chanted prayers and percussionists encouraged and cheered.

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Prior to Thaipusam ceremony, devotees are supposed to typically join daily prayer sessions, abstain from sex and stick to a strict vegetarian diet for weeks.

“I have no special demands. I am just here to offer my prayers,” said Aiyya Valmundi, who has been participating in Thaipusam festivities for more than a decade.

Even though most of Malaysia’s roughly 31 million people are Muslim, the country has around two million ethnic Indians. Most of the Indians are descendants of laborers brought from ethnic Tamil areas of southern India by former British colonial masters of Malaysia.

Lord Murugan is particularly worshipped in southern India and among ethnic Tamil communities in South East Asia.  Thaipusam is also celebrated in India and Singapore with great excitement and enthusiasm.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang

 

 

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Shankaracharya: A remarkable genius that Hinduism produced (Book Review)

The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara's philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.

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He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita
He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita.

Title: Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker; Author: Pavan K. Varma; Publisher: Tranquebar Press; Pages: 364; Price: Rs 699

This must be one of the greatest tributes ever paid to Shankaracharya, the quintessential “paramarthachintakh”, who wished to search for the ultimate truths behind the mysteries of the universe. His genius lay in building a complete and original philosophical edifice upon the foundational wisdom of the Upanishads.

A gifted writer, Pavan Varma, diplomat-turned-politician and author of several books including one on Lord Krishna, takes us through Shankara’s short but eventful span of life during which, from having been born in what is present-day Kerala, he made unparalleled contributions to Hindu religion that encompassed the entire country. Hinduism has not seen a thinker of his calibre and one with such indefatigable energy, before or since.

Shankara’s real contribution was to cull out a rigorous system of philosophy that was based on the essential thrust of Upanishadic thought but without being constrained by its unstructured presentation and contradictory meanderings.

He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita. He wrote extensive and definitive commentaries on each of them. Of course, the importance he gave to the Mother Goddess, in the form of Shakti or Devi, can be traced to his own attachment to his mother whom he left when he set off, at a young age, in search of a guru and higher learning.

The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara's philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.
Shankara wrote hymns in praise of many deities but his personal preference was the worship of the Mother Goddess.

Against all odds, Shankara created institutions for the preservation and propagation of Vedantic philosophy. He established “mathas” with the specific aim of creating institutions that would develop and project the Advaita doctrine. He spoke against both caste discriminations and social inequality, at a time when large sections of conservative Hindu opinion thought otherwise.

Shankara was both the absolutist Vedantin, uncompromising in his belief in the non-dual Brahman, and a great synthesiser, willing to assimilate within his theoretical canvas several key elements of other schools of philosophy. He revived and restored Hinduism both as a philosophy and a religion that appealed to its followers.

Also Read: Hinduism: The Nine Basic Beliefs that you need to know

Varma rightly says that it must have required great courage of conviction as well as deep spiritual and philosophical insight for Shankaracharya to build on the insights of the Upanishads a structure of thought, over a millennium ago, that saw the universe and our own lives within it with a clairvoyance that is being so amazingly endorsed by science today. The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara’s philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.

Shankara wrote hymns in praise of many deities but his personal preference was the worship of the Mother Goddess. The added value of the book is that it has, in English, a great deal of Shankara’s writings. Unfortunately, most Hindus today are often largely uninformed about the remarkable philosophical foundations of their religion. They are, the author points out, deliberately choosing the shell for the great treasure that lies within. This is indeed a rich book. (IANS)