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Upakarma: The day when the internal Madhu Kaitaba is killed

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By Nithin Sridhar

“Upakarma” is one of very important festivals observed by those who still live their life adhering to traditional Vedic way of life. “Upakarma” basically means “beginning” and it refers to the day in a year on which the people who practice Veda-adhyayana (the study of Vedas) would change their yajnopavita (sacred thread) and re-start their study of Vedas.

176In the olden days, many used to study Vedas only during six months of the year from August to January and for the rest of the six months, they would study other branches of knowledge, depending upon their interest. Hence, every year, on the full moon of Sravana month, i.e. during August, they would do Upakarma that denoted the beginning of the Vedic study and then at the end of six months, usually in January, they would perform an “Utsarjana” ritual marking the end of the Vedic study for the year.

Even though many people in the present time observe the day only for changing their yajnopavita (sacred text), the day actually marks the beginning of the Vedic study and changing of Yajnopavita is done to mark this beginning, to reinforce the vows to be followed during the study of Vedas. There is a mantra that says “yajnopavitam paramam pavitram” which means the “sacred thread is very purifying”. Hence, changing of sacred thread denotes, a person’scommitment to purity in thoughts, speech and actions.

Further, the three strands of sacred-thread may represent the three karmic debts that a person owes to the rishis (seers), teachers and to the forefathers. Therefore, by doing rituals associated with Upakarma each year, a person is reviving and re-stating his commitment to purity and fulfillment of all his duties during the period of study of Vedas.

Hence, though a large section of people who observe Upakarma do not actually study the Vedas, yet the changing of Yajnopavitam helps them to reinforcing their vows regarding purity and duties and helps them to practice Vedic life to the best of their ability.

There is a deeper significance in the celebration of Upakarma on the full moon of Sravana month. The day is also celebrated as Hayagriva jayanti i.e. the day on which Lord Vishnu had incarnated as Lord Haragriva or Lord who has a horse head. Regarding the incarnation of Lord Hayagriva, Srimad Bhagavatam (5.18.6) says: “At the end of the millennium, ignorance personified assumed the form of a demon, stole all the Vedas and took them down to the planet of Rasatala.

The Supreme Lord, however, in his form of Hayagriva retrieved the Vedas and returned them to Lord Brahmaa when he begged for them. “I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, whose determination never fails.” Elsewhere, this demon has been identified as Madhu Kaitaba.

Lord Hayagriva
Lord Hayagriva

Hence, Upakarma, the yearly beginning of the Vedic study is observed on the day when Lord Vishnu as Lord Hayagriva killed the demons Madhu and Kaitaba and restored Vedas to Brahmaa. This cosmic event has a deep connection with Upakarma and its significance to its Vedic practitioners.

Vedas literally means “Knowledge” and in essence it represents “Ultimate Transcendent Knowledge” that is called as “Brahma-Jnana” or “Atma Jnana”. Vedas are scriptures whose ultimate purpose is to grant Moksha or Liberation. Lord Brahmaa who is the first born and who further manifests the Universe as if extending his own body, represents the whole manifested Universe.

Now, the stealing of Vedas by Madhu Kaitaba represents stealing of Vedic Knowledge-the ultimate Knowledge about Moksha, from the Universe. P. V. R. Narasimha Rao, a well-known Sanskrit scholar and a Vedic Astrologer, explains that “Madhu Kaitaba” means “of belonging to honey bees”. That is, the demon Madhu Kaitaba can be understood as a “personification of a characteristic trait of honey bee.”

The unique trait of Honey bees is that they are very hard workers, but they care about only one thing: collecting honey. Similarly, Madhu Kaitaba represents that aspect of human nature which makes a person completely materialistic and mundane while he completely forgets about Dharma and Moksha.

On the other hand, Lord Vishnu is the personification of Sattva (purity and equanimity). This materialistic attitude which makes people forget that the ultimate goal of life is Moksha is what the cosmic event of Madhu Kaitaba stealing away of Vedas represents. These materialistic tendencies are rooted in Tamas or ignorance.

The incarnation of Hayagriva and his killing of the demon and restoring of Vedas denotes, how by practicing Sattva, by involving in various spiritual practices like study of Vedas etc., one can overcome materialistic tendencies and ultimately attain Moksha (liberation).

Therefore, Upakarma marks a day on which the spiritual practitioner vows to fight his internal demons of passion and ignorance that creates desires for material pleasures by practicing purity, duty, and studying Vedas. The study of Vedas and the practice of Gayatri mantra, leads to purification of mind which then makes one competent to attain Moksha.

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Are We Hindus If We Live in India? The Answer to Contentious Question is Here

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hindus
Hinduism. Pixabay

Oct 06, 2017: Have you ever wondered what being a Hindu means? Or who is actually fit to be called a Hindu? Over centuries, Hindus and Indians alike have asked this question to themselves or their elders at least once in their lifetime.

In the 1995 ruling of the case, “Bramchari Sidheswar Shai and others Versus State of West Bengal” the court identified seven defining characteristics of Hinduism but people are still confused to what exactly defines being a Hindu in the 21st century. It’s staggering how uninformed individuals can be about their own religion; according to a speech by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya there are various common notions we carry about who a Hindu is:

  • Anyone born in India is automatically a Hindu
  • If your parents are Hindu, you’re are also inevitably a Hindu
  • If you believe in reincarnation, you’re a Hindu
  • If you follow any religion practiced in India, you’re a Hindu
  • And lastly, if you are born in a certain caste, you’re a Hindu

After answering these statements some fail to remove their doubts on who a Hindu is. The question arises when someone is unsure on how to portray themselves in the society, many people follow a set of notions which might/might not be the essence of Hinduism and upon asked why they perform a particular ritual they are clueless. The problem is that the teachings are passed on for generations and the source has been long forgotten, for the source is exactly where the answer lies.

Religion corresponds to scriptural texts

The world is home to many religions and each religion has its own uniqueness portrayed out of the scriptures and teachings which are universally accepted. So to simplify the dilemma one can say that determining whether someone belongs to a particular religion is directly related to whether he/she follows the religious scriptures of the particular religion, and also whether they abide to live by the authority of the scriptural texts.

Christianity emerges from the guidance of the Gospels and Islam from the Quran where Christians believe Jesus died for their sins and Muslims believe there is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet. Similarly, Hinduism emerges from a set of scriptures known as the Vedas and a Hindu is one who lives according to Dharma which is implicated in the divine laws in the Vedic scriptures.By default, the person who follows these set of religious texts is a Hindu.

Also Read: Christianity and Islam don’t have room for a discourse. Hindus must Stop Pleasing their former Christian or Muslim masters, says Maria Wirth 

Vedas distinguishes Hindu from a Non-Hindu

Keeping this definition in mind, all the Hindu thinkers of the traditional schools of Hindu philosophy accept and also insist on accepting the Vedas as a scriptural authority for distinguishing Hindus from Non-Hindus. Further implying the acceptance of the following of Bhagwat Gita, Ramayana, Puranas etc as a determining factor by extension principle as well.

Bottom Line

So, concluding the debate on who is a Hindu we can say that a person who believes in the authority of the Vedas and lives by the Dharmic principles of the Vedas is a Hindu. Also implying that anyone regardless of their nationality i.e. American, French or even Indian can be called a Hindu if they accept the Vedas.

– Prepared by Tanya Kathuria of Newsgram                                                                

(the article was originally written by Shubhamoy Das and published by thoughtco)

One response to “Are We Hindus If We Live in India? The Answer to Contentious Question is Here”

  1. Hindu is a historical name for people living “behind the river Indus”. So, everyone living in India is a Hindu, eventhough he might have a different faith.

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi University likely to teach Science through Hindu Text Vedas

In U.S. News and World Report, Physicist Roger Penrose theorised that the Big Bang might be one in a cycle of such events, suggesting that the universe has had multiple existences

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Representational Image. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Bhopal, September 1, 2016: Do science and spirituality intersect? Studies show that Science and Spirituality, Hinduism in particular, are linked.

The administrative wing of Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi University said that the University has decided to teach Science through Hindu Text, Vedas, mentioned a recent report by examswatch.com. According to Indian texts, many of the advanced discoveries we know about today already existed in the past. Therefore we can say that Hinduism is not only the world’s third largest religion but also the most modern of all. Needless to say that all Indians feel proud about the fact, that their ancestors were genius, in true sense of the term.

Attempts are being made at Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi University, Bhopal to teach Science through Hindu religious texts, which contains the writings of bygone-era mathematician Bhaskaracharya and sage scientist Acharya Kanad.

https://twitter.com/NewsGram1/status/770994956894932992

The purpose of this entire project is to imbibe Indian values in youths and make them learn in a better way about the concepts and ideas related to Engineering. The students at the university will be taught about Indian veterans, who were equally important as the scientists – JJ Thomson, John Dalton, Lord Kelvin and others. This programme will be covered under the subject, ‘Bhartiya Gyan aur Parampara‘.

In U.S. News and World Report, Physicist Roger Penrose theorised that the Big Bang might be one in a cycle of such events, suggesting that the universe has had multiple existences. This is common knowledge to one familiar with Vedic philosophy and cosmology.

https://twitter.com/NewsGram1/status/771423280272117760

In Hinduism, the complementary relationship between science and religion is quite close. As we can infer knowledge of an object from its shadow, so by ‘Apara-Vidya’, or material knowledge or science, we can understand something about the existence of ‘Para-Vidya’, or spiritual knowledge. The bottom line is one does not negate the other.

Thus, it is conceivable that many unsolved issues in biology, physics, cosmology, etc., can be resolved by the synthesis of science and religion in Hinduism.

– prepared by Manthra Koliyer of NewsGram 

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Meaning of life according to hinduism “world’s oldest religion”

Hindu text Vedas hold true to their Sanskrit translation- “knowledge” in every aspect of their being, be it knowledge of science or morality

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Hindu Text Vedas. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

August 25, 2016: Hinduism is believed to be one of the oldest religions on the earth and it has an astonishing amount of knowledge related to astronomy, medicine, mathematics, and literature and much more. Therefore, there is no doubt that Hinduism is the world’s oldest known modern religion.

Hindu text Vedas hold true to their Sanskrit translation- “knowledge” in every aspect of their being, be it knowledge of science or morality. The text does not hesitate to use the example of the smallest of insects to demonstrate the significance of life, and justice for every living creature.

Pashu, a book on compilation of animal tales by Dr Pattnaik. Image source: Flipkart
Pashu, a book on animal tales from Hindu Mythology by Dr Devdutt Pattnaik. Image source: Flipkart

The stories with a message of morality and good virtues through animal examples are abundant in all of the 300 versions of the Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. Here are some of the excerpts from “Pashu”, a book compiled by Devdutt Pattanaik, who is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, mythology, and also management.

Mahabharata: Mahaprasthanika Parva

After a rule of 36 years, the Pandavas along with Draupadi decided to scale the mountains and enter the Home of the Gods.

“If we have lived virtuous lives, the Gods will let us enter,” declared Yudhishthira, the Pandava king.

A dog, too, had ventured with them. Only Yudhishthira and the dog managed to reach the top of the mountain and stood before the gates.

“Only you can enter, not the dog” proclaimed the Gods.

“But as equal right, since he has come on the same ardours journey and has never faltered in his desire and diligence. The flesh may be different but the soul is the same. If he cannot come in, I will stay out as well,” argued Yudhishthira. 

The Gods were pleased and blessed Yudhishthira for his righteousness. “The dog is ‘dharma’ and you have demonstrated your innate spirituality in recognising that all creatures are the same.”

Ramayana: Little squirrel who helped Lord Rama!

A little squirrel was labouring hard to help Lord Rama’s army built the bridge to cross over to Lanka.

It was laughed at by many others, but lord Rama picked it up and gently stroked it as a gesture of appreciation, and left the marks of his hands as stripes.

Mahabharata: Gandhari’s 100 sons

According to the legends, at the end of the war Gandhari is said to have lamented to Lord Krishna, whom she blamed for the death of her sons. She is said to have asked the Lord the reason for her sufferings. Lord Krishna replied that the law of cause and effect was the reason behind all sufferings.

He explained to her that long back in an earlier life, Gandhari had poured boiling water after cooking rice on the ground outside her kitchen.

An insect had laid hundred eggs there and all of them were killed. The mother insect cursed her that she too would have to endure the deaths of her hundred children. Another legend stated that Gandhari had crushed the eggs of a mother turtle, who cursed her with a similar fate.

Mahabharata: Sumukh and Gunakeshi

Gunakeshi was the daughter of Matali, Indra’s charioteer, who was in love with Samuka, a Naga (snake). Samuka and Gunakeshi couldn’t get married as Garuda, the eagle, was promised one Naga to feed upon each day as a truce so that he does not kill everyone, and Samuka was his next victim.

Indra, after being begged upon by Matili, went to Vishnu for help to save samuka. Vishnu ordered Garuda to spare the Naga boy. Garuda refused and vowed to remain hungry unless samuka was presented to him.

Vishnu placed a hand on Garuda, and  as a result the eagle was unable to fly anymore. He begged Vishnu for mercy, at which Vishnu replied – for that you must show compassion to others—for that is how all life is sustained. The Naga was spared.

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These are small fragments from the ocean of fables and stories that the scriptures encompasses. An endless mine of treasure which rests between closed book covers!

– by Usman Zafar of NewsGram. Twitter: @HalkiSiChuban

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