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Vasant Panchmi: the onset of spring festival

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By Varnika Mahajan

What Diwali is to the goddess of wealth Lakshmi, Vasant Panchmi is to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and arts. The whole country observes this auspicious day of harvest, which indicates the arrival of spring.

It is interesting to observe that in Indian culture, we have three goddesses representing, Wealth (Lakshmi), Power (Shakti) and Education (Saraswati), showing the equal importance being laid on all the three aspects.

Special prayers are offered to Goddess Saraswati on this day and many new schools and training institutes are inaugurated, a trend made famous by the renowned founder of the Banaras Hindu University, educationist Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. He founded the University on Vasant Panchami day in the year 1916.

History behind the festival

The story goes like this- Lord Shiva burnt the god of love, Lord Kamadeva, who was sent by other Gods to tempt Lord Shiva while he was absorbed in Samadhi. This was done so that Lord Shiva would come out of Samadhi, marry Devi Parvati and beget a powerful son who would be able to destroy the wicked demon Tarakasura. Kamadeva discharged a powerful arrow at Lord Shiva from behind a tree, which disturbed Shiva’s meditation and, as a result, he became very greatly enraged. This led to the opening of His third eye which reduced Kamadeva to ashes.

Thus, the God of love- Kamadeva is honored on this day. Kamadeva Puja used to be conducted in many parts of the country in the past though such a practice has greatly reduced in the present. Kamadeva is also known as “Atanu” — one without a body and spring or Vasant being Kamadeva’s close friend, spring is closely associated with the latter.

Saraswati Puja

The major celebration on this day though is the Saraswati Puja. As per the accounts of Brahma Vaivarta Purana, a boon was granted by Krishna to Goddess Saraswati that she would be worshiped on Vasant Panchami.

Traditionally a Kalash containing water is set up with colored powder thrown into the air to mark the occasion.  Men and women wear yellow color which is a sign of auspiciousness and spirituality, representing the ripening of the spring crops.

People celebrating Basant Panchami in The East, generally wear yellow color garments, deck up Saraswati’s idol too in yellow. In the Telugu states, Vasant Panchami is observed with prayers to Maa Saraswati, and also observing Akshara Abhyasam or Vidya Arambham.

Even the food is colored yellow by using saffron with folks getting together and singing songs connected with spring.

Symbolism behind imagery of Goddess Saraswati

Seated on a white lotus, Saraswati draped in White with Veena in her hands, symbolizes knowledge, truth and light. Her four hands often displayed prominently symbolize, manas( sense), buddhi( intellect), chitta( imagination) and ahamkar( self consciousness). The Veena represents all the creative arts and sciences, and her holding represents the harmony created by knowledge.  Sitting on a white swan, it also symbolizes spiritual perfection, transcendence and Moksha. Thus, a sincere worship of Goddess Saraswati will lead one to Vidya and Moksha.

Interesting facts

    • At the end of the festivities, the flowers and mango leaves would be sprinkled with red gulal with girls applying it to their cheeks.
    • Interestingly, there is a gap of 40 days between Vasant Panchami and Holi and it is believed to be the number of days Rati undertook penance, after her husband Kamadeva was burnt to ashes by Shiva’s third eye.
    • Sufi Muslims have been witnessing this day since 12th century AD. It is said that the poet Amir Khusro, dressed in yellow, took flowers to the saint Nizamuddin, who was mourning the death of his nephew which made him feel better. Sufi Basant is observed in Sufi shrines.
    • In Uttarakhand, earthen lamps and incense are lit, to signify worship of the earth as a ‘harvest festival’. On the other hand, people in Bihar and Bengal worship the plough on this day.
    • Saraswati Puja is also called Shree Panchami.
    • Punjab region celebrates it as the Basant Festival of Kites with the observance in Gurdwaras as a Sikh festival.
    • Worshiped not only in India but other countries too, the goddess is called by many names- Brahmani( Goddess of Science), Vani( referring to the flow of music).  In Telugu-speaking states, she is referred to as Chaduvula Thalli( Goddess of education) and as Kalaimagal, Kalaivani in Tamil. A very common name is Sharada, one who loves the autumn season. (Image source: besthdwalls.in)

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Lord Shiva: Man, Myth or Divine? Explains Sadhguru

Sadhguru stresses upon the fact that more often Shiva is described as a non-being

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Sadhguru
Sadhguru has stressed upon this fact that if you read through the Shiva Purana, you cannot identify Shiva as a good person or a bad person. Twitter

By Kashish Rai

“The word ‘Shiva’ means literally, that ‘which is not’. On another level when we say ‘Shiva’, we are referring to a certain Yogi, the Adiyogi or the first Yogi and also the Adi Guru, the first Guru.”

~ Sadhguru

“Shiva” who is known as Mahadeva is one of the chief deities of Hindus. He is considered as the supreme being within ‘Shaivism’, one of the major traditions within contemporary Hinduism. He is known as “The Destroyer” within the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity that includes Brahma and Vishnu.

With context to the Hindu Mythology, Shiva is the supreme being who creates, protects and transforms the Universe~ But Shiva is beyond this identity. Who is Shiva? Is he a god or a construct of collective imagination? Or is there a deeper meaning to Shiva? Revealed only to those who seek? Jaggi Vasudev, an Indian yogi and author popularly known as “Sadhguru” explains it all!

Sadhguru says, “Today, modern science is proving to us that everything comes from nothing and goes back to nothing. The basis of existence and the fundamental quality of the cosmos is vast nothingness. The galaxies are just a small happening – a sprinkling. The rest is all vast empty space, which is referred to as Shiva. That is the womb from which everything is born, and that is the oblivion into which everything is sucked back. Everything comes from Shiva and goes back to Shiva.”

Shiva
“Shiva” who is known as Mahadeva is one of the chief deities of Hindus. He is considered as the supreme being within ‘Shaivism’, one of the major traditions within contemporary Hinduism. Twitter

Sadhguru also stresses upon the fact that more often Shiva is described as a non-being. He is not described as the light but as darkness. Here, Sadhguru describes that the light is not eternal in comparison to the darkness. He says, “Light is not eternal. It is always a limited possibility because it happens and it ends. Darkness is a much bigger possibility than light. Nothing needs to burn, it is always – it is eternal. Darkness is everywhere. It is the only thing that is all pervading.”

Sadhguru tells that in some places in the west, Shiva is considered to be a Demon!

He says that if we look at it as a concept, there isn’t a more intelligent concept on the planet about the whole process of creation and how it has happened.

Shiva: Being the Adiyogi & One and The Same!

Sadhguru further explains that “Shiva refers to both “that which is not,” and Adiyogi, because in many ways, they are synonymous. This being, who is a yogi, and that non-being, which is the basis of the existence, are the same, because to call someone a yogi means he has experienced the existence as himself.”

When we talk about Shiva as “that which is not,” and Shiva as a yogi, in a way they are synonymous, yet they are two different aspects. Because India is a dialectical culture, we shift from this to that and that to this effortlessly. One moment we talk about Shiva as the ultimate, the next moment we talk about Shiva as the man who gave us this whole process of yoga.

Adiyogi
A Still of Adiyogi Statue of Lord Shiva at Coimbatore which is 112.4 ft tall. It has been recognized as the Largest Best Sculpture by the Guinness World Records. The founder of Isha Foundation, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev designed the statue and was inaugurated by Honourable PM Sh. Narendra Modi in 2017.

Shiva is Beyond Any Perception!

Sadhguru has stressed upon the fact that Shiva is beyond the image and perception of what people see in through Indian Calender art.

He says that, “Calender Artists have made him a chubby-cheeked, blue-colored man because a calendar artist has only one face. Why would a yogi like Shiva look chubby-cheeked? If you showed him skinny it would be okay, but a chubby-cheek Shiva – how is that?”

In the yogic culture, Shiva is not seen as a God. He was a being who walked this land and lived in the Himalayan region. As the very source of the yogic traditions, his contribution in the making of human consciousness is too phenomenal to be ignored.

 Devotional Manifestation: Ancient Shiva Temples

Sadhguru says that in India since the the Ancient times, temples were built mostly for Shiva. It was only in the last 1000 or so years that other temples came up.

He writes, “The word Shiva literally means ‘that which is not.’ So the temple was built for ‘that which is not.’ ‘That which is’ is physical manifestation; ‘that which is not’ is that which is beyond the physical.”

There are thousands of Shiva temples in the country, and most of them don’t have any form as such. They just have a representative form and generally it is a linga.

Dhyanlinga
A Still of Dhyanlinga, a yogic temple near Coimbatore, India. Twitter

“The Adiyogi Shiva does not belong to the past, he belongs to the future”

At many places, Sadhguru has stressed upon this fact that if you read through the Shiva Purana, you cannot identify Shiva as a good person or a bad person. He is Sundaramurthy, the most beautiful. At the same time, nobody can be more horrible than him!

Shiva is a terrible combination of everything put together…

(About Sadhguru: Named one of India’s 50 most influential people, Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic, a bestselling author & poet. Sadhguru has been conferred the “Padma Vibhushan” by the Government of India in 2017, the highest amongst the annual civilian awards, accorded for exceptional and distinguished service.)

 

 

 

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3 Refreshing Spring Cocktail Recipes You Can Make at Home

Cool and easy cocktail recipes to try while at home

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Cocktail recipe
Here are the recipe cocktail recipes that you can easily try out in your homes. IANS

BY N. LOTHUNGBENI HUMTSOE

If your indoors and don’t want to ruin your health with too much screen time, it might be the best time to hit the bar.

There’s nothing better than a fully stocked home bar, and a comfy bed within arms reach to cure the hangover. Pernod Ricard India has curated some refreshing spring cocktail recipes you can make at home. Social distancing has resulted in house parties so why not try.

Absolut Lime Mojito

Cocktail recipe
Absolut Lime Mojito is a very popular cocktail. IANS

INGREDIENTS

  • 1½Parts Absolut Lime
  • ¼Part Lime Juice
  • ½ Part Simple Syrup
  • Soda Water
  • 1 Mint Leaf
  • 1 Wedge Lime
  • Crushed Ice

HOW TO MIX

Fill a highball glass with crushed ice. Muddle. Add Absolut Lime, lime juice and simple syrup. Top up with soda water. Garnish with a mint leaf and a lime wedge.

Jameson Spicy Hot Toddy

Cocktail recipe
Jameson Spicy Hot Toddy is a veryrefreshing cocktail. IANS

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 part Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • 3 parts water
  • 0.25 parts Honey
  • 0.5 parts Lemon
  • 0.5 parts Sriracha
  • Ginger, sliced

HOW TO MIX

Add water, honey, sriracha, and sliced ginger pieces to a small saucepan and bring to a low simmer and stir to combine. Let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Jameson and lemon juice and simmer for an additional 3 minutes. Pour into mugs and add a lemon slice and garnish with a thin ginger slice.

Monkey 47 Gin Julep

Cocktail recipe
Garnish your Monkey 47 Gin Julep cocktail with some mint leaves. IANS

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 cl Monkey
  • 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin
  • 1 cl simple syrup
  • 15 mint leaves

Also Read- Maintain a Healthy Skin and Hair Care Routine During This Transitional Season

HOW TO MIX

Muddle all ingredients, shake it with ice cubes and double-strain into a silver mug filled with crushed ice. Garnish it with a mint leave. (IANS)

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Mount Everest Spring Climbing to be Cancelled: Expedition Operators

Guides Say China is Shutting Everest due to Virus Fears

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Mount Everest
Expedition operators on Mount Everest said that Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the mountain due to fears of the coronavirus. Pixabay

Expedition operators on Mount Everest said Thursday that Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the mountain due to fears of the coronavirus.

On the others side of the mountain in Nepal, operators say cancellations for the popular spring climbing season have been pouring in despite the mountain being open for business.

Dawa Shepra of Kathmandu-based Climbalaya Treks and Expeditions said the officials told them though the virus was getting under control in China, they could not risk bringing in foreign climbers. He said the conversation with the China Tibet Mountaineering Association officials was over the phone and no official emails, faxes or messages were sent.

Jiban Ghimire of Shangrila Nepal Trek also said he spoke on the phone with Chinese officials who said there would be no climbing on Everest during this year’s popular spring climbing season.

Climbers using the northern route in China generally uses operators based in Nepal to equip and manage the expeditions. Although China has canceled most sports events for the foreseeable future, Zhang Mingxin of the Tibetan sports administration said it was still monitoring the situation and had yet to make a decision.

Mount Everest
A bird flies as Mount Everest is seen from Namche Bajar, Solukhumbu district, Nepal. Expedition operators on Mount Everest say that Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the mountain due to fears of the coronavirus. VOA

“We have been maintaining contact with overseas organizers of the mountaineering teams to get updated information. It depends on the development of the epidemic situation and the ability of our providing services,” Zhang told The Associated Press on Thursday. In Nepal the mountaineering season began last week and Everest was still open for climbers.

Officials and mountaineering expedition operators, however, said they fear there will be a significant drop in the number of climbers this year. That could reduce government revenue and affect the thousands of workers who depend on the climbers for their livelihoods.

“This season is not very encouraging for the mountaineering industry in Nepal,” said Surendra Thapa, the director at Nepal’s Department of Tourism. Operators says though climbers generally arrive in April so they can attempt scale the peak in May, they were getting many cancellations.

Also Read- UAE Suspends Foreign Visas Due to COVID-19

“We are getting flooded with postponements. They all want to hold on their climb and shift to 2021 season,” said Jiban Ghimire of Shangrila Nepal Trek. Pemba Sherpa of Xtreme Climbers Treks, said all of the cancellations were going to be a big setback for Nepal’s mountaineering industry. (VOA)