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Krishna Janmashtami 2017 : Hindus in India and Abroad Gear Up to Celebrate birth of Lord Krishna

The legend behind Lord Krishna's birth is one of the most celebratory tales of the Hindu mythology.

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Janmashtami celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna
You might think Janmashtami is only celebrated in India. However, the festival attracts huge crowds and is celebrated with zeal and enthusiasm in countries abroad alike. Wikimedia
  • Janmashtami, being celebrated on the 14th of August this year, marks the birth of Lord Krishna
  • Krishna is believed to be the eighth avatar or Lord Vishnu
  • Rasleela as part of the tradition is organized on an auspicious day

New Delhi, August 14, 2017 : Hindus across India and abroad are gearing up for one of their most significant festivals. You will see processions the road, decorations all around; a vibrant environment with kids dressed as Radha-Krishna and lines of devotees dancing, singing and chanting to the tunes of ‘Aala re aala, Govinda aala’ (Here comes Govinda (Krishna). This year it will be celebrated on August 14.

Krishna Janmashtami, popularly known as Janmashtami celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, who is considered the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu.

It is popularly believed that all the devotion and affection offered to Lord Krishna benefits the devotees unlimitedly, and those benefits stay for eternity.

Janmashtami Date 

Krishna Janmashtami falls on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the month of Shravana.

Significance of Janmashtami

Janmashtami is celebrated with a lot of fervor to commemorate the birth of Krishna, who is considered the right avatar of Vishnu.

Times were tough, freedom was denied, evil was everywhere, and there was a threat to life. It was in such a scenario that Krishna was born at midnight on the eighth day of Bhadrapada, in Mathura to Devaki and Vasudeva. As his uncle King Kansa posed a threat to his life, Vasudev crossed the river Yamuna with a young Krishna in tow, and took him to foster parents in Gokul named Nanda and Yashoda.

This legend is celebrated by devotees on Janmashtami by fasting, and signing devotional songs of love for Lord Krishna.

Celebrating The Birth of Lord Krishna

At Vaishnava temples, festivities commence before dawn breaks and extend all day till the midnight, when the Lord Himself is believed to have taken birth. Women draw tiny Krishna footsteps outside their doors, and leading their way to the kitchens and the house-temple, which is symbolic of Krishna’s journey into their homes.

After his midnight birth hour, Krishna deities are bathed in a variety of pious liquids like milk, yogurt, ghee, honey, and water-this ceremony is called the abhisheka. Krishna idols are then decorated with new clothes, flower garlands, kumkum and other decorations.

Janmashtami celebrates the birth of lord Krishna
Lord Krishna dolled up in new clothes for Janmashtami. Wikimedia

Incense sticks are burned and scriptures are also read. Men, women, and children alike indulge in kirtan by singing songs in Krishna’s name, and japa-mala (praying with a rosary), which is a more intimate form of prayer. Some people also observe a day long fast which is then broken by sharing food and sweets. Women cook elaborate dishes to welcome and feed the mischievous God.

Finally, at midnight priests pull apart the curtains to reveal the freshly dressed deity Krishna who sits either in a tiny cradle or on an altar specially decorated for the night.

How is Janmashtami Celebrated In the Country and Outside

Major Krishna temples organize recitals of the Bhagwat Gita and the Bhagwat Purana to celebrate Lord Krishna’s birth. A rich traditional form of dance-drama called Rasleela or Krishna Leela is also organized which begins a few days before Janmashtami.

Maharashtra: Popularly known as Gokulashtami in Maharashtra, it is celebrated as Dahi Handi in cities like Pune and Mumbai.

Legend has it that baby Krishna would steal yogurt and milk-cream from homes, which is reflected in these celebrations. Pots of yogurt are hung up high through ropes and a team of young boys called ‘Govindas’ climb over one another to form human pyramid scheme thus attempting to break the earthen pots. The girls surround them; teasing and cheering for them. The content that spills out of the pot is considered Prasad (holy offering) and are then distributed.

Gujarat: The festival is known as Makhan Handi (pot with freshly churned butter) in the city of Dwarka, where Krishna is believed to have established his kingdom. Folk dances and Bhajan recitals are performed at temples. In Kutch, farmers take out Krishna processions in decorated bullock carts.

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Northern India: Janmashtami is the largest festival in Braj region, in the cities Mathura where Krishna was born, and Vrindavan where he is believed to have grown up. Krishna temples are decorated and lighted up, where Bhakti events are organized and night vigils observed.

In the northern states, Rasleela is played which literally means play (Leela) of delight, essence (rasa) wherein the childhood mischief of Krishna and the love affair of Radha-Krishna are primary enacted.

Janmashtami is not only widely celebrated in India but also in other countries. More than eighty percent population of Nepal identifies as Hindu and celebrates the festival with full zeal. The day is also recognized as a national holiday in Bangladesh. Janmashtami in Fiji is known as Krishna Ashtami and is celebrated by a quarter of the population.

The festival also attracts large crowds in the western states and is celebrated with great pomp and show.

Fasting rules for Krishna Janmashtami 

On the day of the fast, devotees take a pledge, known as Sankalpa, to observe a day long fast in the devotion of Krishna. This fast is then broken on the following day when both Rohini Nakshatra and Ashtami Tithi are over. The Sankalpa must be taken after finishing all morning rituals, only after which fast begins.

Fasting rules on this day are essentially the same as for Ekadashi fasting and no grains should be consumed when fasting on Krishna Janmashtami.

On the following day, when both Ashtami Tithi and Rohini Nakshatra are over, the fast can be broken-this practice is known as Parana. If both Ashtami Tithi and Rohini Nakshatra don’t get over before sunset, then fast can be broken during day time when either of the two ends.

ALSO READ: Hindu Temple in New Jersey Consecrating Unique Krishna Idol with 19-day Rituals

Why Are There Two Krishna Janmashtami Dates?

Krishna Janmashtami is usually listed on two consecutive days.

  • The first date is for the Smarta Sampradaya.
  • The second date is for Vaishnava Sampradaya.

A single date would mean both the Sampradaya observe Krishna Janmashtami on the same day.

The ISKON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is established on the principles of Vaishnava traditions. In this belief system, preference is given to Ashtami Tithi and Rohini Nakshatra and Janmashtami is observed on the Saptami. In North India, most people observe Janmashtami on the day chosen by ISKON. The ISKON date is also collectively followed in Braj region.

Janmashtami is celebrated to commemorate the birth of lord Krishna
The ISKON temple at Delhi is decorated with lights and diyas to celebrate Lord Krishna’s birthday. Wikimedia

People who aren’t followers of Vaishnava are Smartiam. They give preference to the Hindu midnight or Nishita for Janmashtami celebrations – either Saptami Tithi or Ashtami Tithi. Finally, the most auspicious combination of Ashtami Tithi and Rohini Nakshatra during Nishita time is given the highest preference. In a situation when a person is not a follower of Vaishnava Sampradaya, Hindu religious texts Dharmasindhu and Nirnaysindhu should be considered to decide Janmashtami day.


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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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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
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

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Paintings Which Beautifully Depict Scenes From Ramayana

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Ramayana
Ram lifting the bow during Sita Swayambar. Wikimedia Commons.

Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic which describes the narrative of Ayodhya Prince lord Rama’s struggles. The struggles include- exile of 14 years, abduction of his wife Sita, reaching Lanka, destruction of the evil. It is strongly ingrained in the Indian culture, especially, the Hindu culture since a long time. Hindus celebrate Diwali based on the narratives of Ramayana.

The story of Ramayana gives out the beautiful message that humanity and service to the mankind is way more important than kingdom and wealth. Below are five paintings describing the scenes from Ramayana:

1. Agni Pariksha in Ramayana

Ramayana
Agni Pariksha. Wikimedia.

When Lord Rama questions Sita’s chastity, she undergoes Agni Pariksha, wherein, she enters a burning pyre, declaring that if she has been faithful to her husband then the fire would harm her. She gets through the test without any injuries or pain. The fire God, Agni, was the proof of her purity. Lord Rama accepts Sita and they return to Ayodhya. 

2. Scene From The Panchavati Forest

Ramayana
scene from the panchavati forest. wikimedia.

The picture describes a scene from the Panchavati forest. It is believed that Lord Rama built his forest by residing in the woods of Panchavati, near the sources of the river Godavari, a few miles from the modern city of Mumbai. He lived in peace with his wife and brother in the forest.

3. Hanuman Visits Sita

Ramayana
Hanuman meets Sita. Wikimedia.

Hanuman reaches Lanka in search of Sita. At first, he was unable to find Sita. He later saw a woman sitting in Ashok Vatika, drowned in her sorrows, looked extremely pale. He recognized her. After seeing the evil king, Ravana making her regular visit to Sita, he hid somewhere in the Vatika. After Ravana left, Hanuman proved Sita that he is Rama’s messenger by showing her his ring. He assured her that Rama would soon come to rescue her. Before leaving Lanka, he heckled Ravana. Agitated by Hanuman’s actions, Ravana ordered to set Hanuman’s tail on fire. With the burning tail, Hanuman set the entire city on fire.