Tuesday November 21, 2017

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.

Book Review: Was Surpanakha a destructive Demoness from the Ramayana or tormented Woman?

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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Ever Wondered what do Ancient Sites mentioned in Ramayana look like? Visit these Ramayana Destinations to know!

Visit these Ramayana destinations the first chance you get, to feel closer to your roots.

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Ramayana destinations
Ramayana is not just a story, it is a way of life which has been guiding believers and non-believers for centuries about the right way to live on this planet. Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 8, 2017 : Ramayana is not just a story, it is a way of life which has been guiding believers and non-believers for centuries about the right way to live on this planet. I can confidently vouch that we have all heard stories from Ramayana at one point in our life. Ramayana is not just a story, it is an indispensable part of the Hindu religious law.

There exist innumerable arguments questioning the authenticity of Ramayana. While it is almost impossible to prove or disapprove anything, what is feasible is to trace the chronology of events, focusing on various Ramayana destinations that can still be visited to experience the ethereal world that is believed to have existed in the Treta Yug.

Here is a list of ancient sites mentioned in Ramayana.

You can plan a trip to these Ramayana destinations to feel closer to Him, and personally experience what we have all grown up reading and hearing about.

  1. Janakpur

Mention in Ramayana

First on our list of Ramayana destinations is Janakpur. A key phase took place at Janakpur, one of the many other Ramayana destinations. The ancient city of Mithila, as it was previously called, was home to Sita, where she lived till her marriage.

Legend has it that to get rid of a devastating drought, the King of Janak ploughed the land in Janakpur when he stumbled upon an earthen pot out of which Sita emerged. This also explains why the place is also known as Sitamarhi.

King Janak brought the child back to the palace at Mithila, where she grew up and was married to Ram.

The Ramayana explains Mithila as a ‘divya-bhumi’, a sacred land that pulled Ram to it.

Visiting Janakpur

A small town in Nepal, you are sure to come across compelling stories of Sita (or Janaki) infused in the landscapes, temples and the people of Janakpur.

Sita’s  swayamvar, the ceremony which saw participation of learned men from all big and small territories, took place at Rangbhoomi. It was in this ceremony that Shiva’s bow was broken into pieces by Ram.

Dhanush Sagar is a tank on the area where a piece of the bow of Shiva, broken by Ram in an attempt to win Sita’s hand, had fallen. Another piece is believed to have fallen at some distance, now known by the name Ratan Sagar. And the third piece is believed to have fallen in Dhanusha, 15 km away from Janakpur.

Ramayana destinations
Dhanush Sagar in Nepal. Wikimedia

Visitors can also visit the Ram-Sita vivah mandapa, which has been made in Janakpur.

Multiple devotees flock Janakpur every year o pray and pay homage to Sita during Vivah Panchami, the day Ram and Sita are believed to have got married. The quaint little town also witnesses tourists on Ram Navami, the birthday of Lord Ram.

How To Reach Janakpur

Janakpur is one of the ancient sites mentioned in Ramayana, only a few km from the Indian border and can be reached by flight, train or via road.

Travelers can fly to Kathmandu and take a smaller airline to Janakpur. However, make sure you check flight availability beforehand as they only ply a few times in a week.

Otherwise, one can also visit Janakpur via buses.

  1. Chitrakoot

Mention in Ramayana

Next on our list of Ramayana destinations is Chitrakoot. It is one of the most intricately explained Ramayana destinations. Upon being banished from the royal palace, it was here that Lord Ram, accompanied by wife Sita and brother Lakshmana spent eleven of their 14 years of exile (vanvas).

Ramayana also mentions of Bharat who came to Chitrakoot to persuade his brother Ram to return to Ayodhya. It was also here that Ram performed the last rites of his father, King Dasharatha in presence of all gods and goddesses.

Chitrakoot’s peaceful environment also acted as a source of inspiration for the great poet Goswami Tulsidas to pen the Ramcharitmanas, retelling the life of Lord Ram in Awadhi.

Visiting Chitrakoot

Nestled between the borders of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, Chitrakoot has a breathtaking location with a tranquil aura.

Quick fact : ‘Chitra’ means a beautiful painting and ‘Kuta’ means mountains.

While all ancient sites mentioned in Ramayana hold spiritual transcendence, located along the Mandakini River, the sacred city of Chitrakoot is particularly known as a centre for spiritual enlightenment, and is a potpourri of devotion, legend and traditions.

Pilgrims can visit the Bharat Milap Mandir, where Bharat visited elder brother Ramand requested him to return to Ayodhya to claim his rightful throne. Upon his refusal, Bharat took his khadau (slippers) with him to the palace to place on the throne until Ram returned to the kingdom after 14 years.

Located on the Kamdagiri Hills near the temple premise, there exist engraved footprints of Ram and his brothers that are worshipped till date.

Located at the centre of the town is Ramghat where Ram used to take a dip in the mighty Mandakini river. This also happens to be the place where Tulsidas met Ram and Lakshmana.

Ramayana destinations
Ramghat in Chitrakoot. Wikimedia

Legend has it that Tulsidas was making sandalwood paste when the two brothers disguised as two kids approached him and asked him to apply a tilak on their forehead too. Not knowing the boys were really God, the poet made the tilak. It was Hanuman who helped Tulsidas recognize the brothers by reciting the famous verse,

“Chitrakoot ke ghaat pai bhai santan ki bheer,

Tulsidas chandan ghise tilak det Raghubeer.”

One can also visit the Gupt Godavari caves at a distance of 18 km, where inside the saves stand two natural throne-like rocks where Ram and Lakshmana sat during their stay.

How To Reach Chitrakoot

You can take a flight to Khajuraho, from where buses and taxis operate. The nearest railway station is Chitrakoot Dham. You can also choose to take the road to reach Chitrakoot.

3. Panchvati, Nasik

Mention in Ramayana

Third on our list of Ramayana destinations is Nasik. During his exile years, Lord Rama, accompanied by Sita and Lakshmana moved from one place to another, to find tranquility in nature and feel closer to the natural way of life. After staying in Chitrakoot for eleven years, the next Ramayana destination was Nasik where they spent a significant amount of time.

Their hut was built in Panchvati, which is famous for its five huge Banyan trees and is only 4 km away from Nasik.

Located on the banks of the Godavari, it was in Nasik that Lord Rama and Lakshmana had an encounter with Surpanakha, Ravana’s younger sister, where consequently her nose was cut off. This explains the rationale behind the name of the place. (Nasika means nose in Sanskrit)

To avenge the disrespect faced by his sister, it was from here that Ravana abducted Sita and flew her to Lanka on his Pushpak Vimaan. Needless to say, it was here where Lakshmana drew the ‘Lakshmana Rekha’,.

Visiting Nasik

The Kala Ram Mandir in Panchvati, Nasik is believed to have been built right where Lord Rama’s kuti (hut) was built.

Ramayana destinations
Kalaram temple in Nasik. Wikimedia

Nasik’s Rama Kunda is the chief pilgrimage place in Nasik. The Kunda is primarily a tank where Lord Rama and Sita allegedly bathe. This makes the tank extremely sacred.

The Rama Kund is also known Asthi Vilaya Tirtha, because human bones are known to dissolve here. Legend has it that Lord Rama performed funeral rites at the Kund in memory of His deceased father, King Dasharatha.

How To Reach Nasik

Nasik is very well connected via air, trains and road.

Panchvati is only 4.2 km away from Nasik and can be easily reached through road.

4. Kishkindha, Hampi

Mention in Ramayana

Next on our list of Ramayana destinations is Kishkindha. Marked by dense forests, huge rocks and the Tungabhadra river, Karnataka’s Hampi can be mapped to Ramayana’s Kishkindha, one of the most active Ramayana destinations.

In the forests of Dandak, Kishkindha was the kingdom of the Vanara king Bali.

It was in the forests of Kishkindha where Lord Rama met Hanuman.

After Sita was abducted by Ravana, Lord Ram had first entered the kingdom of apes looking for her, along with Lakshmana.

After a fight between the two monkey kings, Sugriva and Bali, Sugriva took refuge on the Matanga mountain along with Hanuman. Lord Rama had killed Bali and helped Sugriva win the throne. The brothers then stayed in Kishkindha awaiting results of Hanuman’s search for Sita.

Sugriva’s army of apes also pledged their support to Lord Ram here and hence came into being his army against Ravana.

Visiting Kishkindha

Ramayana clearly traces the roots of Kishkindha to the Tungabhadra river, which till date is counted among some of the major rivers of Karnataka.

One of the many ancient sites mentioned in Ramayana, the region along the river near Hampi in Karnataka is identified as Kishkindha from Ramayana.

Ramayana destinations
Kishkindha mountain. Wikimedia

Hampi has a culturally rich past and has much more to offer to visitors. However, for those of you looking to trace Ramayana’s trajectory, this place will not disappoint you.

Tara Mountain near Hampi is named after Bali’s wife, who had been saved by the monkey kind from demons.

As per Ramayana, Sugriva had taken refuge inside the Rishyamuk mountain. Legend has it that Bali had been cursed by a saint, who said the monkey king would perish if he entered the mountain. Thus, to save his life, Sugriva took refuge inside this mountain.

Pilgrims can also visit Nidapuram where a huge mound of scorched ash remains and is believed to be the cremated remains of Bali.

A little to the north-west lie the Anjanadri mountain, which is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, who lived here with his parents, Kesari and Anjani.

The mountain has been named after Hanuman himself, who was called Anjaneya.

Quick fact : You will have to climb 550 stairs to reach to the ancient Hanuman temple situated on this mountain.

How To Reach Kishkindha

Hampi is at a distance of 330 km from Goa and can make for a comfortable road trip. The nearest railway station is Hospet Junction which is merely 13 km away. The station is well connected with trains, and roads. You can also avail the bus services by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation

While it cannot be confirmed that everything we know about Ramayana took place as we know of it. However, these Ramayana destinations continue to exist till date and prove that they may just have transpired in reality.

Visit these Ramayana destinations the first chance you get, to feel closer to your roots.

 

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7 Most Beautiful Goddess Lakshmi Temples of India

On this Diwali Day, aware yourself of the most beautiful Goddess Laxmi Temples ensembled in India and keep up your beliefs on the almighty

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Sripuram Golden Temple.
Sripuram Golden Temple. Wikimedia

Goddess Laxmi is one of the principal deities of Hindu religion. She is the goddess of destiny, wealth, and prosperity. The goddess is also worshipped by Jains and Buddhists.

On the eve of Diwali, we bring you the most beautiful Goddess Lakshmi Temples situated all over the India.

Sripuram Golden Temple, Vellore

Goddess Lakshmi
Sripuram Golden Temple, Vellore. Wikimedia.

Sripuram Golden Temple is one of the biggest temples in India, this Lakshmi temple is dedicated to the worship of the goddess. It is situated on a hill called Malaikodi, located in Vellore of Tamil Nadu.

Lakshmi Narayan Temple (Birla Mandir), Delhi

Goddess Lakshmi
Lakshmi Narayan Temple (Birla Mandir), Delhi. Wikimedia.

Birla Mandir situated in New Delhi is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and Vishnu. One popular fact about this temple is that it was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. Hundreds of devotees visit Birla Mandir during festive occasions including Diwali.

Mahalakshmi Temple, Mumbai

Goddess Lakshmi
Mahalakshmi Temple, Mumbai. Wikimedia.

Mahalakshmi Temple is an ancient temple of the goddess Lakshmi. It is situated in Mumbai. and has an interesting story behind it. After the wall of Hornby Vellard collapsed twice, the engineer dreamed of the goddess of wealth. On this very, location a statue of the goddess Lakshmi was found. Hence, the statue was put up and a temple was built.

ALSO READ: Hinduism: The Nine Basic Beliefs that you need to know

Lakshmi Devi Temple, Hassan

Goddess Lakshmi
Lakshmi Devi Temple at Hassan. Wikimedia.

Goddess Lakshmi temple in Doddagaddavalli relates the period of Hoysalas in Karnataka. It is one of the earliest architectural temples of Hoysala style.

Ashtalakshmi Temple, Chennai

 

Goddess Lakshmi
Ashtalakshmi Temple Chennai. Wikimedia.

Ashtalakshmi Temple is famous for various shrines of goddess Laksmi which depict all 8  forms of Lakshmi Devi. The temple is located near Elliot’s beach of Chennai.

Kaila Devi Temple, Karauli, Rajasthan

Wikimedia
Kailadevi Temple Rajasthan. Wikimedia.

Kaila Devi is regarded as an incarnation of Mahalakshmi or the Wealth Goddess. This temple situated in Karauli District of Rajasthan.

Goravanahalli Mahalakshmi Temple

Goddess Lakshmi
Goravanahalli Mahalakshmi Temple.Wikimedia.

Goravanahalli Mahalakshmi Temple is an extremely popular Mahalakshmi temple built up in Tumkur District, Karnataka. The worshipped idol of Mahalakshmi is believed to have originated on its own.

-Prepared by Bhavana Rathi of NewGram. Twitter @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.