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Shravan or Sawan: The Holiest of Months in Hinduism is dedicated to Lord Shiva

According to Hindu Mythology, in this month Lord Shiva drank Halahala, the poison that emanated from Samudra Manthan along with Ambrosia, a drink that conferred immortality to the Gods

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Shiv Linga. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
  • In 2016, Shravan month will start from July 20. The whole month is dedicated to Lord Shiva
  • Shravan month is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Mondays during the month are considered highly auspicious
  • All Tuesdays or Mangalwar are dedicated to Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. Tuesday’s fasting during the Shravan month is known as Mangal Gauri Vrat

Shravan month (July- August) is considered as the holiest of months, according to the Hindu Calender. In 2016, Shravan month starts from July 20 and the whole month is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Legend has it that, in this month, Lord Shiva drank Halahala, the poison that emanated from the churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan) along with Ambrosia, a drink that conferred immortality to the Gods.

The Mondays during the month are considered highly auspicious. The story of the churning of the ocean milk , one of the most popular in Hinduism, is retold by Savities, worshipers of shiva, at this time. The story begins with devas, or demigods, complaining of the weakness of curse that had been placed on them, mentioned the Speakingtree.com Website.
The deity Brahma told them that they needed to drink amrit, the nectar of immortality, which could be obtained by the churning of the ocean. the devas were assisted by the asuras (demons) in the churning activity, which was so successful that the turbulent ocean threatened to become destructive of force, and Vishnu was forced to take action to calm it.
Lord Shiva consuming Halala Image source: legendsofmagadha.blogspot.com
Lord Shiva consuming Halahala during churning of Ocean. Image source: legendsofmagadha.blogspot.com

Due to the churning of the ocean by the asura and devas, a pot of poison called Halahala was produced. This poison was determined to be so toxic that it could destroy all the creation. The devas thus approached god Shiva, and out of his compassion, he drank the poison. Alarmed at his action, Shiva’s wife Parvati strangled his neck and prevented the poison from moving downward and spreading all over the universe, supposed to be in Shiva’s stomach. And the colour of Shiva’s neck turned blue and he got the name Neelkanth.

Churning of the Ocean. Image source: divinations.wordpress.com
The Churning of the Ocean. Image source: divinations.wordpress.com

Shravan month is also known as Sawan in North Indian states. All the Mondays or Somwar(s) which fall during this month are considered highly fortunate for fasting and known as Sawan Somwar.

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All Tuesdays or Mangalwar are dedicated to Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. Tuesday’s fasting during the Shravan month is known as Mangal Gauri Vrat.

Major Festivals of Shravan month

  • Nag Panchami: In the month of Shravan, on the fifth day, serpent Gods are worshipped across India and is observed as an auspicious day by the Hindus. Usually, this festival falls two days after Hariyali Teej. During the festival, women worship Nag Devta as well as offer milk to snakes on this auspicious day. Apart from that, women also pray for the well-being of their brothers as well as their family.
  • Shravan-Narali Purnima: Is celebrated on the day of the full moon in the month of Shravan. On this day coconuts are thrown into the sea because it is a good omen for trade; ships resume voyages which had been interrupted due to the monsoons; Brahmins renew their sacred thread (zan’vem) and evoke the memory of rishis (who are believed to be their ascendants).
Nariyal Poornima. Image source: magnificentmaharashtra.wordpress.com
Narali Poornima. Image source: magnificentmaharashtra.wordpress.com

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  • Janmashtami: The birth of Krishna is celebrated in one in the fourth waning quarter of the moon in the month of Shravan. The Hindus fast, worship Krishna at midnight, offer him Tulasi leaves and then take their first meal of the day. On this day, the birth of Lord Krishna is celebrated.
Children celebrating Janmashtami. Image source: www.bagariaschool.org
Children celebrating Janmashtami. Image source: www.bagariaschool.org
  • Rakshabandhan: According to the Hindu Calender, Raksha Bandhan falls on the Purnima of the Shravan month, generally, in the month of August. It is one of the most important Hindu festivals which celebrates the unconditional love and affection of between brothers and sisters.
Rakhi 3.jpg
Rakhi, Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The meaning of Raksha is ‘protection’ and the meaning of Bandhan is ‘bond’. On this day, sisters tie sacred thread Rakhi on their brothers’ wrist symbolises the sister’s love and prayers for well-being and good future of their brothers and the brother’s lifelong vow to protect their sisters.

  • Teej: A seasonal festival is celebrated in northern Indian states, heralding the onset of monsoon season after the season of oppressive heat. It is a festival of womenfolk and is celebrated on the 3rd day of waxing phase of the moon (Shukla Paksha) in the month of Shravan. The festival is named after a small, beautiful, red insect ‘Teej’ which comes out of the soils during rains.
Giddha dance Teeyan Punjab Teej India.jpg
Giddha dance Teeyan Punjab Teej India, Wikimedia Commons

The girls and the women on this day go to temple after taking bath and offer prayers to Lord Shiva’s consort, Goddess Parvati. They also perform ‘puja’ at home. Commemorating Goddess Parvati’s union with Lord Shiva, the festival is celebrated for marital bliss, the well-being of spouse and children and purification of own body and soul. the festival is a three-day-long celebration that combines sumptuous feasts as well as rigid fasting.

– by Akansha Sharma of NewsGram. Twitter: Akansha4117

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Know Why Hindus Are Tolerant And Accept Diversity

Though unborn, it appears to be born in diverse ways

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Hindu God Shiva. Image source: Pixabay

Introduction

“Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti” is a Sutra from Upanishads meaning,  “That which exists is ONE, sages call it by various names.”  This is the reason why Hindus are tolerant and accept diversity.

Many young Hindus and Indians get confused with the diverse concepts of different Gods in Hinduism. This diversity can be confusing when confronted by other faiths who are equally confused with the diversity of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma. This article is an attempt to explain the vast riches of Sanathana Dharma and help Hindus not get converted to other faiths out of confusion with the diversity of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma. Unfortunately an average Hindus doesn’t have an answer because we are not taught Hinduism properly. We only know to go to temple, ask for wishes, take prasad and may be say a few mantras. There is no connection to the Gods or the Mantras because we understand and follow the rituals but are not taught the philosophy.

We hope  to address the confusion young Indians have about multiple Gods, especially to counter the mockery that non-Hindus make on multiple GODS of Hinduism. Our objective is to prepare young Hindu community to give answers to these conversion machines. Some people claim that many Hindus convert to other religions because they didn’t understand Idol Worship and Concept of many Gods.

God

The English word God is a poor translation for Hindu concepts of Supreme Being/Ultimate Reality. In English, the word God refers to an Abrahamic God who is the creator and is separate from HIS creation.

Hinduism has many additional concepts which get lumped together into English translation as one word, God. Hinduism has

  • Brahman
  • Ishvar
  • Avatar
  • Deities
  • Murti

each has a distinct and different meaning and many of them can be in manifest or in un-manifest form. But unfortunately, due to poverty of the English language or a lack of appreciation by language experts, all of these spiritual concepts get translated into Godthus causing confusion. In western terminology, most often, Hindu Gods are also referred to as Deities.

33 Million Hindus Gods

There is, a popular perception stating that there are 33 million deities (Gods?) in Hinduism.[116] No one has a list of all the goddesses and gods, but scholars state all deities are typically viewed in Hinduism as “emanations or manifestation of genderless principle called Brahman, representing the many facets of Ultimate Reality”.[115][116][117] This concept of Brahman is not the same as the monotheistic God of Abrahamic religions. In those religions God is considered, separate from humans as “creator of the world, above and independent of human existence”. Hinduism accommodates that concept of God as duality as well as a concept of God, the universe, human beings and all else is essentially one thing and everything is connected oneness, the same god is in every human being as Atman, the eternal Self.[117][118]  It is quite likely that when the world’s population was estimated to be only 33 million, each atman being one with Brahman, led to the popular belief of 33 million Gods.

god ganesha

For many young Hindus and Indians who are confused with the diverse concepts of Hinduism, are adviced to seek through choosing one form that they connect most with. Then Surrender, be open and have faith, Seeking will come and path will be shown through perseverance. Hindus are implored to invest more time in understanding the vast rich Sanathana Dharma and not get converted to other faiths because they are confused with the diversity of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma.

Sagun/Nirguna

The concept of Brahman (wrongly translated as God) can be understood as Saguna or as Nirguna. The Formless Pure Consciousness is the unmanifest energy (Nirakar/Nirguna) which can manifest into form (Saakar/ Suguna) of Brahma as the Creator, Vishnu as the Protector and Shiva as the Destroyer. In unmanifest form, this is pure consciousness,  Nirguna – with no Gunas or attributes , Nirvisesha – no special characteristics, Sat-chit-ananda – Eternal truth consciousness. This unmanifest form when manifested, it has form and Suguna – attributes or qualities required for sustenance of the creation. But both the Manifest (Suguna) and UnManifest (Nirguna) forms of this cosmic energy are eternal, non-destructive and non-differential from each other.

Vedas and the Upanishads have said that there is one supreme energy named “’PARABRAMHA” which is formless, infinite, all pervading, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, genderless, eternal and unfathomable or indescribable in Human language. “God” is a Supreme cosmic energy, with infinite potentialities and attributes, which is formless but can manifest into a form when required to run and sustain creation.

In comparison, other religions express God either as a Nirguna (formless, unmanifest) or Saguna (with form, manifest) but it is only Hinduism that understands God in both unmanifest as well as manifest form. Other religions when the explain God as manifest usually insist of one form of God only which sometimes is depicted as an old White Male with a flowing beard.

Deities

Hafeez Jalandhari wrote Krishn Kanhaiya, praising Hindu God Krishna
Hafeez Jalandhari wrote Krishn Kanhaiya, praising Hindu God Krishna. Pixabay

Deities in Hinduism are referred to as Deva (masculine) and Devi (feminine).[44][45][46] The root of these terms mean “heavenly, divine, anything of excellence”.[47] Manifest Gods in Hinduism are symbolism for spiritual concepts. For example, god Indra (a Deva) and the antigod Virocana (an Asura) question a sage for insights into the knowledge of the self.[71] Deva-Asura dichotomies in Hindu mythology may be seen as “narrative depictions of tendencies within our selves”.[71] Hindu deities in Vedic era, states Mahoney, are those artists with “powerfully inward transformative, effective and creative mental powers”.[72]

Another Hindu term that is sometimes translated as God or deity is Ishvara[77] The term Ishvara has a wide range of meanings that depend on the era and the school of Hinduism.[78][79][80] In ancient texts of Indian philosophy, Ishvara means supreme soul, Brahman(Highest Reality).[78] In medieval era texts, Ishvara means God, Supreme Being, personal god, or special Self depending on the school of Hinduism.[2][80][81]

Avatars

Hindu mythology has nurtured the concept of Avatar, which represents the descent of a deity on earth.[155][156] This concept is commonly translated as “incarnation“,[155] and is an “appearance” or “manifestation”.[157][158]

The concept of Avatar is most developed in Vaishnavism tradition, and associated with Vishnu, particularly with Rama and Krishna.[159][160] Vishnu takes numerous avatars in Hindu mythology. He becomes female, during the Samudra manthan, in the form of Mohini, to resolve a conflict between the Devas and Asuras. His male avatars include Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Kalki.[160]Various texts, particularly the Bhagavad Gita, discuss the idea of Avatar of Vishnu appearing to restore the cosmic balance whenever the power of evil becomes excessive and causes persistent oppression in the world.[156]

In Shaktism traditions, the concept appears in its legends as the various manifestations of Devi, the Divine Mother principal in Hinduism.[161] The avatars of Devi or Parvati include Durga and Kali, who are particularly revered in eastern states of India, as well as Tantra traditions.[162][163][164] Twenty one avatars of Shiva are also described in Shaivism texts, but unlike Vaishnava traditions, Shaiva traditions have focussed directly on Shiva rather than the Avatar concept.[155]

Murti

Hinduism has an ancient and extensive iconography tradition, particularly in the form of Murti (Sanskrit: मूर्ति, IAST: Mūrti), or Vigraha or Pratima.[22] A Murti is itself not the god in Hinduism, but it is an image of god and represents emotional and religious value.[124] A literal translation of Murti as idol is incorrect, states Jeaneane Fowler, when idol is understood as superstitious end in itself.[124] Just like the photograph of a person is not the real person, a Murti is an image in Hinduism but not the real thing, but in both cases the image reminds of something of emotional and real value to the viewer.[124] When a person worships a Murti, it is assumed to be a manifestation of the essence or spirit of