Wednesday November 22, 2017

Behold Irish connection of Ganesha

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Dublin: Of the numerous temples established by emigrant Hindus in the various places they settles, the Sri Ganesha Pilgrimage in Ireland is indeed astonishing. However, a visit to a fascinating 22-acre field in Roundwood which houses nine Ganesh idols would not only surprise a person but also mesmerise you. Roundwood is a small village in county Wicklow, southeast of Dublin.
Apart from one sitting idol of Sri Ganesh, reading a tome, all the others are either dancing or playing a musical instrument. Notably, the Victoria’s Way collection of black granite Ganesha (Vinayaka) took about nine years to design, model and carve. The sculptures range in size from 5.6ft to 9ft and weigh between 2 and 5 tonnes. The sculptures were envisioned and sketched in Roundwood by park owner Victor Langheld. The sculptures were later modelled by artist DV Murugan in Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram), Tamil Nadu, India. They were carved in Mahabalipuram by an outstanding sculptor, the stapathi master T Baskaran.

Besides the Ganesh idols, there are idols of Lord Shiva, Durga Devi and a fasting Buddha. Vgarden-ganesh-statueictoria’s Way is a mini pilgrimage that guides the pilgrim from spiritual birth. Passing through the Creation Gate, the pilgrim encounters the different sculptures of Lord Ganesha, who helps the pilgrim reach the wellspring of his spiritual journey. Then the wanderer enters an enchanted forest where he comes across sculptures that symbolize the crossroads of the spiritual quest. They encourage the pilgrim to meditate, and move forward to the final goal: realisation of the true self. A magnificent 15-ft bronze statue of the future Buddha represents the ascetic phase through which all pilgrims must pass.

Victor was born of German Jewish parents in Berlin in 1940. Victor’s father moved to Ireland and settled there with his family. Victor himself started his primary education in Ireland. By the age of 14, he had decided to go to India, keen to become a sadhu and spend his life in the pursuit of enlightenment. Before he had reached 25, Victor was in India. Thereafter, he spent the next 25 years as a wandering monk in India, learning about Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoga, studying the Vedas and Upanishad. He spent some time at the Arobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. He travelled widely through India, spending time at various ashrams, under the tutelage of many gurus.

During his long stay in India, not only did he came to love the country, but his own devotion to Sri Ganesh, arguably the most beloved of the gods, grew. That gave him the idea of starting a Ganesh Park in Ireland. Once the idea took root, it took 20 years for that dream to become reality.

ganesh8During his long stay in India, Victor learnt that we Indian are absolutely cricket mad. To pay tribute to that passion, he designed a mouse, wearing a cricket cap, with a transistor radio, slung on its shoulder. This venerable vahan (vehicle) of Lord Ganesh stands behind the tabla-playing Ganesh.

Indian devotees of Ganesh make a pilgrimage to 8 shrines of Ganesh. They are scattered all over Maharashtra. It takes two to three days and can be exhausting. From London to Roundwood, Ireland, a similar pilgrimage can be completed in one day and it is a worthy experience.

(Manohar V Rakhe, www.indiatravelogue.com)

 

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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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‘Parent by Choice for Choice’ : Thousands Join Protests Against Ireland’s Abortion Laws

This year's march against abortion laws was more significant than ever given the latest confirmation that there will be a referendum on abortion next year

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Thousands gathered to protest against Ireland's abortion laws holding placards saying "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries" and "Parent by choice for choice (representational image) Wikimedia

Dublin, September 1, 2017 : Thousands of people staged a massive protest in Dublin, calling for an end to Ireland’s strict abortion laws, the media reported.

Campaigners took part in the March for Choice in the capital’s city centre on Saturday, chanting: “Hey, hey Leo (Prime Minister Leo Varadkar), the eighth amendment has got to go” and carrying banners which read: “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries” and “Parent by choice for choice”, reports the Guardian.

This year’s march against abortion laws, the sixth in a series of annual events, was more significant than ever given the latest confirmation that there will be a referendum on abortion next year.

The Irish government recently set a potential timescale of early 2018 for the referendum on the eighth amendment, the section of Ireland’s constitution imposing tight legal restrictions on terminations.

ALSO READ Anti-abortion Activists and supporters of a Woman’s right choose staged demonstrations in US

The amendment, which was voted into the constitution by referendum in 1983, affords equal rights to unborn babies and pregnant women and gives foetuses the right to life by law, the Guardian reported.

Terminations are only permitted when the life of the mother is at risk, and the maximum penalty for having an illegal abortion in Ireland is 14 years in prison.

Thousands of Irish women travel to the British mainland each year to have a legal termination.

ALSO READ DIY abortions: To do or not to do?

Anti-abortion activists staged counter events in the city and across Ireland to warn against the relaxation of the current law reports the BBC.

A pro-choice rally was also staged outside the Irish embassy in London on Saturday, with campaigners highlighting the numbers of Irish women who have traveled to the UK for an abortion in the last three decades.  (IANS)

 

 

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The importance of the holy Ramayana Masam (Karkidaka Masam) in Kerala

Karkidaka Masam is an auspicious month for people of Kerala and helps in keeping the roots of tradition intact.

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Rama,Hanuman Statue
Rama,Hanuman Statue. Pixabay
  • The aanayoottu (feeding the elephant) is a festival that takes place in Vadakkunnathan Temple, Thrissur, Kerala. In this festival, there’s an interesting sight of a long row of elephants feasting on jaggery, palm leaves, and coconut
  • Karkidaka Masam comes with the raging monsoon, brings farming to a halt and confines people to their homes, has deep religious significance to it and also health rejuvenation rituals
  • Seated around the nilavilakku, elders read the Ramayana to family members, a tradition that aims to imbibe the values learned from the epic but also helps to have the strength to face the tough times, and this also lent Karkidakam its more popular name – the Ramayana Masam (month)

 Kerala, August 2, 2017: The holy month of Karkidaka Masam, famously known as Ramayana Masam is celebrated with great fervor in Kerala. The name Karkidaka is because in this month there’s the sun’s transition to Karkidaka Rasi from the Mithuna Rasi, this Malayalam month is observed from 17 July to 16 August.  It is said that the festival witness’s scarce attendees nowadays but it seems to have acquired a refined format and adapted to the ‘next-gen’ liking which is very different from the solemn observance of the season by an agrarian society that once was Kerala.

Ramayana
Ramayana. wikimedia commons

The aanayoottu (feeding the elephant) is a festival that takes place in Vadakkunnathan Temple, Thrissur, Kerala. In this festival, there’s an interesting sight of a long row of elephants feasting on jaggery, palm leaves, and coconut. It occurs during Karkidakam celebrations. This festival is celebrated with the belief that offering puja and providing delicious and healthy food to elephants is a way to propitiate Lord Ganesha, the elephant-faced God according to Hindu faith.

At Sri Krishna Temple of Guruvayoor, the temple elephants can be seen being pampered with a rejuvenation therapy called sukhachikilsa which includes- herbal solutions, body wraps, and a special diet.

Karkidakam Masam in Hinduism: The Last month in the Malayalam Calendar is full of Monsoon Fury and Prayers

As soon as the Karkidaka Masam ends Chinga Masam begins. It is the month of the Onam festival and a period which witnesses many festivals.  Another associated concept is Illam nira (fill the house) festival in Kerala, it is related to harvest which symbolically represents a prayer for prosperity. In this festival, special pujas are performed for the newly reaped paddy spikes at temples and are celebrated during Karkidakam.

A typical Karkidaka Masam stays true to its purpose.  It comes with the raging monsoon, brings farming to a halt and confines people to their homes, has deep religious significance to it and also health rejuvenation rituals.

The traditional lamps called nilavilakku take center stage across the yards of Kerala households, their flames fill brightness in the dark nights, especially during this monsoon month. Seated around the nilavilakku, elders read the Ramayana to family members, a tradition that aims to imbibe the values learned from the epic but also helps to have the strength to face the tough times, and this also lent Karkidakam its more popular name – the Ramayana Masam (month).

Malayalam to be taught compulsorily at all Kerala schools till Class 10 irrespective of the syllabus: CM Pinarayi Vijayan

According to a report by Swarajya website, Rajagopalan M K, retired assistant commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowment, Kerala, said “The reading of the Ramayana helps tide over hardship like the Karkidaka Masam. With inundated fields beyond their access, people spend their time in pursuit of cleansing the body and mind. They read the Ramayana to prepare themselves to brace for the panja (lean) Masam.”

Though the roots of nilavilakku still hold its own, Kerala, today, has been mostly getting drifted away from the Karkidaka customs in its original form. Malayalees use the Ramayana’s audio version for their children to teach them the essence of the epic, yet another storytelling ritual modified by modernity. But Rajagopalan says there is thankfully a sustaining interest in Karkidaka events, despite the big change in lifestyle and livelihood. “There is a 40% increase in the restoration of its activities and the number of people mingling in with the aura generated during this season is rising by the year.”

Kerala’s extended home, the Gulf region, observes Karkidakam too. The Malayalees there do it too, perhaps, to not be left behind in the race to preserve cultural values. Temples, religious and spiritual organizations have kept Ramayana Masam celebrations alive by ensuring their continuity through elaborate programmes, public discourses, plays, recitals and competitions based on the Ramayana. These kinds of initiatives take the nitty-gritty of the season through television to the drawing rooms of Malayalees around the world.

The fifth segment of the Ramayana portraying Lord Hanuman, Sundara Kandam is mostly chosen to be read during this time. “Who could be a better role model than Hanuman, someone who is wise and powerful, for the younger generation? Humility despite the strength, Hanuman’s single-minded focus and devotion to his lord Maryada Purushottam Rama, these are some of the values that can be inculcated in the young,” Rajagopalan said.

The Ramayana is read for another and a more scientific reason. Karkidakam marks the beginning of the second part of the Hindu year, Dakshinayana, during which the sun moves in the southern direction, impacts the health of mind and body and its low rays affect immunity and digestive powers. A combination of worship, fasting, and practice of rituals helps overcome diseases and achieve tranquility of the mind, a reason why the Ramayana, which shows the path of righteousness, is read with fervor.

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A person indulging in various ayurvedic treatments is also because of its positive impact on health. In today’s times, ayurvedic health resorts utilize the Karkidaka period in a profitable way and offer treatment package, rejuvenating spa holiday and thus in a way contributing in diluting the traditional essence of the period. There is an ayurvedic blend, oushada kanji which is prepared with rice as the base and many other herbal ingredients boiled in coconut or cow’s milk and jaggery. It is a herbal gruel savored at dawn and dusk during this month to spruce up health and aids in body purification.  Nowadays, it is an instant affair as the kanji mix can be bought off the shelves of a department store. Though, it is distributed by certain institutions and organizations working hard to promote the centuries old tradition, with the body getting the nourishment in the process.

Ever wondered from where this reading a Ramayana practice began from? It began in the sixteenth century when the most elementary version of the epic- Adhyathma Ramayanam Kilippattu crafted by Thunjathu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, called the ‘father of Malayalam language.’

This month is also marked by a day’s pilgrimage to the four temples in the Thrissur district, dedicated to Rama in Triprayar, and his brothers, Bharatha in Irinjalakuda, Lakshmana in Moozhikkulam and Shatrughna in Payamma, known as naalambala darsanam (pilgrimage to four temples). The trip was undertaken by foot in the bygone days when the pilgrims sought to reflect on and celebrate the bond shared by the brothers and it’s replaced by package tours now.

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Karkidakam also denotes the panchamahayajna (five duties) of a Hindu householder, and of that the pitri yajna has great importance. The amavasya (no moon) day of this month marks with the chanting of pitri puja mantras in the wee hours of the morning. Karkidaka Bali is a ritual performed by hundreds of men, women, and children for their departed ancestors in batches of hundreds. The event is marked by a huge footfall across the state and is believed to be a homage to the departed souls that will help them attain moksha (salvation).

The first day of Karkidakam which is July 16 is welcomed with obeisance to Lord Ganesha. This is marked by inviting the elephants into the Shiva temple of Vadakkunnathan at the heart of Thrissur, and offering them a special feast. A day before the month begins with the house tidied up as part of Karkidaka sankranti rituals and it is prepared for the visit of goddess Lakshmi.

Karkidakam may have modified with time to be a spa-style experience, yet it still represents the earnestness to understand tradition and utilize them to our full benefit. It represents a life protocol where a man is restricted by nature from venturing out and instead to use the time to introspect and dwell on divinity and health.

– prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08.

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