Monday December 11, 2017

Navaratri Special: ‘Devi’ in her own words

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By Nithin Sridhar

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 13

The Hindus of the yore, many of whom were Rishis (seers), very clearly perceived the connection between time, place, and cosmic energies. They realized how a particular fortnight was the most conductive for the Pitrs, the spirits of ancestors, to visit the earthly plane and named it as Pitr-Paksha, a time that is most suitable for worship of ancestors.

Similarly, they realized that though God/Brahman is always present everywhere and one should always practice devotion for spiritual and material welfare, there is indeed a particular fortnight when Shakti, or the Power of Brahman, specially manifests itself in the earthly plane in Her various aspects.

They discovered that this fortnight is particularly auspicious for worshiping Shakti, who is also called as MahaDevi (The Great Goddess) and as JaganMata (Mother of the universe), in her various forms, and harness the power/energy as well as the Tattva (essence) associated with each of the forms. Further, the Anugraha (grace) of the Great Mother is particularly available during these periods that can be attained through Sadhana (spiritual effort).

Realizing thus, the Hindu forefathers named the fortnight in the Ashwin month (September-October) that begins right after Mahalaya Amavasya as ‘Devi Paksha– the fortnight of the Goddess. The festivals of Navaratri, Durga Puja, Dussehra etc. have all been celebrated in various parts of India from a very long time for welcoming the Mother Goddess and worshiping her.

People call Her by various names and worship Her in various forms. She is called as Durga, Kali, Tripurasundari, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. She is worshiped in her Sowmya Roopa (calm aspect) of Shailaputri and Brahmacharini, as well as her Raudra Roopa (fierce aspect) of Katyayani and Kalaratri. She is also worshiped as Dasha Mahavidya– the Ten Wisdom Goddess.

Photo: http://enjoyfestivals.com
Photo: http://enjoyfestivals.com

But, who exactly is Mother? What is her real Swaroopa (nature/essence)? The answers to these questions are given by Devi herself in ‘Devi Atharvashirsham’.

The Devi Atharvashirsham which appears in Rigveda, is always chanted before beginning the reading of Chandi Path or Durga Saptashati, which is one of the foremost texts used in the worship of the Divine Mother. Saptashati as well as Devi Atharvashirsham are very important texts used in the worship of the Mother Goddess in the Shakta tradition.

In the Devi Atharvashirsham, when the Devas (gods) approach the Great Goddess and ask her “Oh! Great Goddess, who really are you?”, the Goddess describes her true nature thus:

sābravīt- ahaṃ brahmasvarūpiṇī  I mattaḥ prakṛtipuruṣātmakaṃ jagat I śūnyaṃ cāśūnyam ca ||

Translation: She said: I am the very nature/essence/form of Brahman. From me (has manifested) the entire cosmos consisting of Prakriti and Purusha, (as well as) void and non-void.

Thus, the very essence is that the Mother Goddess is Brahman itself. She is not a demigod, she is not an angel and she is not any limited manifestation. She is not limited by time, space, name, or form. Instead, she is Brahman itself which is the one infinite whole- the very substratum of the Universe.

The gist is, the Goddess is telling us that while worshiping her various forms, people should not mistake her form to be the ultimate truth. Instead, they should understand that she is in essence, Brahman itself, who is both transcendent and immanent reality.

She further calls herself as the mother, the substratum from which the Universe of duality has manifested. The duality referred here as Purusha and Prakriti, refers to the duality of conscious intelligence and the material objects, the witness and the actions.

Further, she mentions that she herself is the source of Void and non-void as well. Here, ‘Shunya or void refers to Unmanifested Prakriti or seed state of the Universe and the non-void refers to the plenum of the manifested universe with its various realms, objects, etc. Thus, the Mother is the source of entire gamut of the Universe, yet is beyond the limitations of the Universe.

The Goddess does not finish her explanation here. She further stresses that she is behind all the dualities- the pair of opposites found in the Universe. She says that she is the Bliss as well as non-bliss, the Veda as well as non-Veda, and the knowledge as well as the ignorance.

She further says that she is both ‘born’ and the ‘unborn’ i.e. She takes birth, yet she is eternal. This is an interesting definition. The law of nature is that whatever takes birth must die and hence, such objects cannot be eternal. Similarly, what is eternal, cannot take birth.

Yet, the Goddess has described herself as both being eternal and as taking birth as Universe. She is called as ‘Maya’ (magic/illusion) in Vedanta because she alone is able to accomplish such an impossible task. In other words, the birth of the Goddess as Universe and its objects is merely an appearance, a mirage, that she manifests using her power and in absolute state, she is eternal.

Devi further describes in the Atharvashirsha, how she is the essence and substratum of all deities- be it Rudra, Indra, Vasu, Aditya, or Vishnu, and how she sustains and cherishes each of them. She points out that she is the first among those worthy of worship, i.e. She being the very essence of all deities, it is She (Brahman) who receives the worship and grants the fruits to the worshiper.

She further describes that her abode is in ‘waters of the oceans’. Here, the ocean refers to Brahman or Consciousness which is Infinite and which exist as Innermost Self/Atman in each creature. Water of this Atman is nothing but the thought patterns that arise in the mind, just as water waves rise in the ocean. Hence, by saying that She resides in these waters of through patterns, Goddess is teaching how one should attain Devi/Atman, by meditating on the ‘I-ness’ or ‘Witness’ that exist beneath each thought that arises in mind.

Thus, through Devi Atharvashirsham, the Mother Goddess herself describes both her real nature as well as the means of reaching her. Understanding this, people should worship the Maha-Devi, who appears variously as Chamundi, Kali, or Durga, with sincere devotion and surrendering during the nine nights of Navaratri.

More in the Series:

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 1
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 2
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 3
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 4
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 5
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 6
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 7
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 8
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 9

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 10

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 11

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 12

 

 

 

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7 spectacular Hindu Temples to visit in Incredible India

Have you ever considered visiting a temple while you are struggling in life? A temple visit is enough to give you strength, calm you down and help you to reconnect with divine. Go for a temple walk. Here is a list of 7 spectacular Hindu temples in Incredible India

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Hindu Temples
Akshardham Temple, Delhi (www.akshardham.com)
  • Hindus have more sacred sites, festivals and pilgrimages, more yogis, monks and sadhus, an older and vaster literature than any religion – Dr. David Frawley

Temples in Hinduism holds a very important place. Hindu temples are popularly known as mandiram, devaalayam or devastanam, meaning the shrine, abode or place of Ishwar. Hindu temples are at once a collective work of art, the adobe of Ishwar, a symbol of the cosmos and a path leading the worshipper into contact with the God, from the temporal to the eternal. Hindu temples are valued and respected both as a means of enabling worship in the presence of God and as a way to uphold Indian culture and dharma. Here is a list of 7 spectacular Hindu Temples in Incredible India you will love visiting as many times as possible in your lifetime.

1. Somnath Temple, Gujarat

Hinduism
Somnath, Gujarat (Image Credit : Shaurya Ritwik)

The Somnath is believed to be the first among the twelve jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. Somnath Temple has been looted, destroyed and resurrected 17 times. In AD 1026, Mahmud of Ghazni first looted the temple, and then came Afzal Khan, the commander of Ala-ud-din Khilji and later Aurangzeb. While the barbaric looters are sleeping in their grave, Somnath still stands as a pillar of Hinduism, as a sign of resistance. Somnath is the place where you can connect with history and your source. Best time to visit Somnath : Well, any time of the year.

2. Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Hindu Temples
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Meenakshi Temple is known for its beautiful architecture. It is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, and her consort, Sundareswar, a form of Shiva. The temple was almost completely destroyed in the year 1310 following the invasion of the Islamic conqueror Malik kafur. Most of the Islamic rulers were noted for their intolerance towards Hindu temples, the invaders destroyed most of the ancient sculptures of the temple. The temple was rebuilt by the Hindu Nayaka dynasty ruler Vishwanatha Nayakar in the 16th and 17th century. According to the Tiruvilaiyatal Puranam, of the list of 68 pilgrimage places in Shaivism, four are most important: Kashi (Varanasi), Chidambaram, Tirukkalatti and Madurai. The sacrality of Madurai is from this temple.

3. Jagannath Temple, Puri, Orissa

Hindu Temples
Jagannath Temple, Orissa (AKL)

Jagannath temple was built in the 12 th century by Raja Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. It is one of the Char Dhams of Hinduism in Incredible India and is situated on the Nilgiri Hill. The temple is known for its annual Ratha Yatra, which attracts millions of Hindu devotees every year. It is said that the divine mahaprasad of the temple is prepared under the scrutiny of goddess Lakshmi. During Rath Yatra, idol of Jagannath along with Subhadra and Balabhadra are placed in huge chariots and brought out to the street. Thousands of people pull the sacred chariot. The main chariot is around 45 feet high. These rathas are constructed new every year. It has wood-carved horses and charioteers. Rath Yatra is held every year during the month of Asadha as per Hindu calendar.

4. Kailashnath Temple, Ellora, Maharashtra

Hindu Temples
Kailashnath Temple, Ellora (Image Credits: AKL)

The Kailasha Temple or Kailashnath Temple is one of the largest rock cut ancient Hindu temples. A megalith carved out of one single rock, it is considered one of the most remarkable cave temples in India because of its size, architecture and sculptural treatment. It is a prime example of extraordinary ancient Hindu architecture. Visiting this temple will definitely give you a ride to our glorious ancient past.

5. Konark Sun Temple, Orissa

Hindu temples
Konark sun Temple, Orissa (Image Source : Wikimedia Commans)

Konark houses a colossal temple dedicated to the Sun God in Orissa attributed to king Narsimhadeva about 1250 CE. Even in its ruined state it is a magnificient temple reflecting the genius of the architects that envisioned and built it. The ruins of this temple were excavated in late 19th century. The Konark temple is famously known for its architectural grandeur and for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work. The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants. A flight of steps lead to the main entrance. If you are in Orissa you can not miss one of the most spell binding temple in Incredible India, Konark sun Temple.

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6. Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand

Hindu Temples
Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand (Image Credit: Shaurya Ritwik)
Hindu Temples
Prime Minister Modi at Kedarnath (Twitter)

Kedarnath is among one of the holiest Hindu temples of Incredible India with Lord Shiva as its residing deity. The temple was built by Pandavas and revived by Adi Shankaracharya himself in the early 8th century. The temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of India and the main temple of Panch Kedar. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April (Akshaya Tritriya) to Kartik Purnima (the autumn full moon, usually November). During the winters, the vigrahas (deities) from Kedarnath temple are brought to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six months. You must visit Kedarnath, one of the most important pilgrimage in hinduism to feel the beauty of nature and divinity.

7. Chennakeshava Temple, Belur, Karnataka

Hindu Temples
Chennakeshava Temple, Karnataka (Image Credit : Wikimedia)

The Chennakeshava Temple, also referred to as Keshava, Kesava or Vijayanarayana Temple of Belur, the erstwhile capital of Hoysala kingdom is a 12th-century Hindu temple in the Hassan district of Karnataka state, Incredible India. This Hindu temple is another testament to the amazing artistry of ancient Incredible India. This place will give you sense of pride regarding what our ancestors left for us.

So, are you ready for a “Walk to Temple”? The wonderful Hindu temples Incredible India has can not be comprehended in a list, there are lakhs of them, visit them to connect with your roots, to get acquainted with Dharma which is eternal.

 

– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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On Gita Jayanti let us look into the timeless wisdom of Bhagavad Gita, holy book of Hindus which inspired millions

Bhagavad Gita is the timeless wisdom of Sanatan Dharma for mankind. One of the most widely read book which inspired millions of people all across the globe. Read how you can shape your destiny through timeless wisdom of Bhagavad Gita

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Bhagavad Gita Jayanti
Bhagwan Krishna revealing Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna in Mahabharata

“Fear not, what is not real, never was and never will be, what is real, always was, and can never be destroyed” – Bhagawad Gita, doctrine of universal truth.

 
Today on occasion of Bhagwad Gita Jayanti I would like to  share my personal and social experiences with the eternal source of knowledge, Bhagawad Gita, book which inspired millions of readers for thousands of years. It’s no surprise that the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita has inspired countless people throughout history; being India’s best gift to mankind. Bhagawad Gita is undoubtedly the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed. 
 
The purpose behind revealing Bhagwad Gita to Arjuna by Shri Krishna was to remove his confusions at the battlefield in Kurukshetra. Similarly, all of us are so much confused in life, but we never turn to the source which can remove these confusions. Not only Arjuna, but every one of us is full of anxieties because of this material existence and scheme of things we are into. The purpose of Bhagavad Gita is to deliver mankind from the nescience of material existence. 
 
I fortunately at very young age was introduced to Bhagawad Gita by my Nana ji, who also happens to be the reason behind my deeply rooted interest in indic studies, indian philosophy, bhakti and spirituality. What Bhagawad Gita gave me in life can not be comprehended in words, it has always been the guiding force in my life, it acted as a beacon of light when life seemed all dark. After being a constant companion of Bhagwad Gita, my life changed drastically, I am sure this holds true for everyone who has been grasping the eternal flowing nectar of Bhagawad Gita. To say that I can explain Bhagawad Gita will be foolish on my part, its an ocean and I might have been blessed to grasp few drops of it. But it certainly gave me new perspective of life beyond this material world, I became more truthful to my duties and most importantly I learnt the act of letting go. The scripture of Bhagavad Gita contains precious pearls of wisdom which ought to be read by all, irrespective of one’s age, caste, color or religion.  The most important benefit envisaged by Bajgwad Gita is the “inspiration for the man to lead a ‘Dharmic life,” a fact often forgotten by the modern man who is too much troubled in making: name, fame, accomplishments, financial achievements, power and ability to control the resources. 
Bhagavad Gita Jayanti
Shri krishna in Mahabharata as “Parth Sarthi”
 
A person can acquire proper meaning in life, a deeper realization of his true identity, and attain a level of self-confidence and peace only by inward reflection and realisation which can never be reached through ordinary, materialistic studies or endeavors. Furthermore, teachings of Bhagavad Gita bring us to our higher potential in everything we do, materially or spiritually. This is the power and the importance of the Bhagavad Gita and the instructions of Shri Krishna found within it.

Gita Saar is the essence of Gita, reading this will inspire you to know Bhagwad Gita further, trust me, its the best gift you can give to yourself or anyone : 

“Whatever happened, it happened for good.
Whatever is happening, is also happening for good.
Whatever will happen, that too will be for good.
What have you lost for which you weep?
What did you bring with you, which you have lost?
What did you produce, which has perished?
You did not bring anything when you were born.
Whatever you have taken, it is taken from Here.
Whatever you have given, it is given Here.
You came empty handed and you will go the same way.
Whatever is yours today, will be somebody else’s tomorrow
And it will be some others’ later.
This change is the law of the universe
And the theme behind my creation.”

– Shri Krishna

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Bhagavad Gita Jayanti
Narendra Modi gifting Bhagavad Gita
Recently, It was so heartening to see Indian Prime Minister Modi gifting Bhagwad Gita to different nation heads. “I have nothing more valuable to give and the world has nothing more valuable to get,” the Prime Minister rightly said. Bhagawad Gita is the identity of India, it is the essence of Sanatan Dharma, the foundation rock of spirituality and guiding force for thousands of years to come.
 
It is impossible to truncate the teachings and glory of Bhagavad Gita into one page and I know that it would be sheer stupidity on my part to even think so. But I hope many of you will  get a copy of Bhagwad Gita on this auspicious occasion of Gita Jayanti, read it, distribute it, cherish it and experience the magic in your life. Gita teaches many things and as Mahatma Gandhi had said “No matter how many times Gita is read it teaches something new every time we read it”

 

–  by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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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