Wishing you all and everyone at home a very Happy Diwali…
In these times of the pandemic, all I ask from God is to bless us all with a very healthy life. May these clouds of fear and danger pass soon and let the Sun shine upon us as always!
Let us all be socially responsible and follow the Covid-19 guidelines to their fullest and spend time with our individual families. Let the time spent be not only of fun and frolic, but also spent on thinking about our responsibilities towards self, family, society, nation and the world as a whole.
Wishing you all and all your extended families a very Happy Diwali and a Prosperous New Year.
येन बद्धो बलि राजा, दानवेन्द्रो महाबल। तेन त्वाम् प्रतिबद्ध्नामि रक्षे मा चल मा चल ॥
(O Brother! I tie you (towards your responsibilities) in the same way the King Bali was tied to, by his sister, Goddess Lakshmi. And pray that you may not waver from your path of responsibilities).
Am in two minds from many days whether to write or not on this caring and a beautiful relation. The great poet Valmiki too has refrained from describing Ram’s relation with his sister, Shanta. (Many of my readers may not that Ram too had a sister.) And Vyas too has not written any details about relations shared by Krishna – Balram – Subhadra or 105 Kuru Princes – Dushyala. If these great poets refrain to describe this relation, then I am just a student of this great culture and civilisation. At the same time, it is a relation which I want to write on and let the new generation also know and understand the real meaning behind this relation.
फूलों का तारों का, सबका कहना है एक हज़ारों में मेरी बहना है सारी, उमर, हमें संग रहना
I love these lines as they convey my feelings, or rather every brothers feelings towards his sister/s. Sister is the one and only relation where we can have fun and share what we like and don’t. She takes care of her brother as a protective Mother. She is a guiding force to her brothers. And so She is unique amongst the thousands of women on this Mother Earth.
This relationship is truly unique as there is a Day celebrated for it in our culture. We have Matrudin and Rakshabandhan. Both these festivals celebrate the most important and valued relations in our lives. It is considered a matter of pride to be a brother to a sister. It’s a truly selfless relation which needs to be taken care of and enjoyed.
Then why tie a Raksha (thread) around Brothers wrist? The understanding today is that the sister asks for her brothers protective covering. The brother would help and protect his sister in times of need. I feel this thought become the line of thinking during the last 1000 years of foreign rule. Our women needed to be protected from the foreigners and so who, but her brother. Question that arises to my mind is that in case of married man, what will he do for his wife? And a larger picture today is that woman today is herself quite qualified to take care of herself. And keeping this fact in mind, this festival will loose it’s sheen slowly and fade into memories in the coming years, if this would be our understanding. Or it will become just a ritual or a formality.
This festival is basically not for protection of women, but to develop an understanding amongst men on how to look towards women. Rather what should be a man’s attitude towards a woman. ‘Every other women, other than my mother and wife is like a sister to me,’ is what the festival wants to convey. The sister applying tilak on brothers forehead is giving him this understanding. It’s a third eye (tilak) for the brother through whose lens he learns to see every other woman as his sister. The thread around his hand conveys that the brother promises the same and promises not to deviate from this outlook or path (मा चल मा चल). It’s a Bandhan (commitment) that he is accepting. Hope, my readers atleast will understand this and try to inculcate this understanding in their lives.
I know am talking to a generation which asks “Can a boy and girl just not be friends?”, “My sister is my best friend.” I truly sometimes wonder whether todays generation thinks beyond friends and about the relations they have got. I personally have no such problems with their questions but do they think before they ask is what I ponder over later. My dear readers, let us all learn to enjoy every relation that we have got. Try to understand them and live in that way. And my question is if you both can be friends, then what’s the problem in accepting the girl as your sister or the boy as your brother. I leave this thought for you to think, discuss and debate.
God! Let my bond with my Sister be strengthened more in this coming year and let things get done from me, which will make Her happy.
Today is Shitla Saptami. It is the day of non cooking. Food is prepared one day before (yesterday) and is savoured today. Yesterday had its own significance too.
Yesterday was Randhan Chaatth (the day of cooking). It is the day of cooking the best delicacies possible and yeah at the same time, the ones which we can savour the next day. The women of the household start the preparations early morning itself. At some villages in Saurashtra, the women get together to cook. They sing and enjoy this whole process. Some households also offer this food as Prasad to the Annapoorna. This festival (It cannot be called a festival as it is more a gathering) of cooking is always awaited during the year.
Some of my readers may feel it unhygenic to eat food cooked a day before. But frankly we all love cold food. Especially many foods like Khichadi and foods made from spices tastes great when eaten, the next day after preparation. But it is unhygenic and unhealthy to eat it. So our Rishis have kept one day in the whole year when we can satisfy our urge to eat food cooked overnight through this festival. People who regularly eat canned foods need to understand the healthy habits inherent in daily cooked food.
In the morning, the lady of the household, wakes up early and worships the stove. She makes a swastik with red vermilion and put a twig of a mango tree over it as an offering. The mango twig signifies sweetness and it is believed that it imparts coolness. The lady prays to the stove to help her cook food which will be sweet to eat and impart coolness to the digestive system of the one who eats it. Many families chant “Annapoornastotram” as a prayer to the Goddess of Food, who provides and feeds us everyday.
Apart from this, it is also a way of expressing our gratitude to the stove / gas burner who burns the whole year for giving us food. This whole day, the stove is not lit. In our way, we would say that’s it’s a holiday for the stove. It is one way of looking at the presence of Chaitanya in non-living too.
Also it is day to worship Goddess Shitla, the Goddess of cleanliness and health. Goddess Shitala is represented as a young maiden crowned with a winnowing-fan, riding a donkey, holding a short broom (either to spread or dust off germs) and a pot full of pulses (the viruses) or cold water (a healing tool). Sometimes, she is said to be carrying a bunch of neem leaves, a herb used throughout India since ancient times that is believed by some to be an effective remedy to most skin diseases to this day. And so even today in India we keep neem leaves around the patient suffering from Chicken pox. And after 5/7 days, parents take their kids for a darshan of Shitla Mata and worship Her and thank Her for curing the child of the disease. (Medicines are administered regularly, but it is a matter of faith and gratitude towards nature). (Also reading reports nowadays that Neem is effective as a precautionary measure of Covid – 19). On this day, we are expected to offer our gratitude to the broom and every other object which helps to keep our food and surroundings clean. Some people do worship the broom and the winnow on this day.
In these days of Covid-19, hope we Indians atleast understand the importance of cleanliness of ones house, kitchen and surroundings. Also personal hygiene, today signified by taking a bath after coming from outside or back from work; or washing hands after coming from outside was a must in the olden days. These were not habits which consumed time or we did not use any tissues to rub, but it was a compulsory wash which was required. Even today there are many households where the lady of the house does not touch the utensils of her kitchen without taking a bath. There is nothing religious in it, but hygiene. Our Rishis were great enough to male such practices part of our day to day life through activities and giving a religious connotation to it.
Shitala is the also considered as the form of Goddess Katyayani. She gives coolness to the patients of fever. According to Devi Mahatmya when a demon named Jvarasura gave bacterial fever to all the children, Goddess Katyayani came in the form of Shitala to purify children’s blood and to destroy the bacteria of fever in blood. In Sanskrit ‘Jwar’ means “fever” and ‘Shital‘ means “coolness“. She is worshipped all over India by different names.
These days are of showers. Showers heavy and light keep the atmosphere clean and cool. The combination of the showers and these festivals are like a combination of lime and jaggery. They are both good for health and taste.
On these days,
Let us learn to inculcate a feeling of gratitude towards even towards the smallest of the things which make out lives healthy and better.
Let us learn to keep our surroundings clean and keep ourselves clean and healthy, free from diseases.
Let us know our ancestors and their vision and their efforts to keep us civilised.
Today we talk and understand, the Vedic way of expressing ones gratitude to Nature. We believe that God resides in everything. Rather it is the will and wish of God, that He created us, the non living and the living. We both co-exist. We believe (even science today believes) that we have come from the non-living. Science believes that there is ‘chetan’ (atoms) in everything and we believe that there is ‘chaitanya'(God) in everything. The Theory of evolution as suggested by Darwin has already been proposed many thousand years back by us in the form of 10 avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu.
So with this broad outlook we will look into the festival of Nag Panchami (नाग पंचमी) being celebrated today. It is a festival celebrated to worship the Serpents. The serpents are representatives of the reptile world.
As civilisation thrived, we had to cut down forests to make big towns and cities to accommodate more and more people. We knowingly had to drive out the reptiles from their natural habitats. As these reptiles cannot speak and express their emotions to us, for a few time they must have resisted but after finding their fight futile, they sacrificed their homes and went deeper into the jungles.
Our Rishis had a great intellect and an emotional heart. They felt that we need to express our gratitude to this class of animals who are sacrificing their homes for Humans. So they inculcated this practise of celebrating Naag Panchami.
On the occasion of Nag Panchami also want to talk about, the Naga people and Naglok, and giving a broader cultural and social outlook towards the society at large.
Were Nag people humans? Were they part of India? Yes 100%. They were humans and they were a part of India. We have had social and cultural relations with all the different tribes which exist in India even today.
Even today, in modern India, we have the Nagaland. The people residing there are called Nagas. It is just one tribe residing there, from many.
From our history we are all familiar with Vasuki, the serpent King. Just feel like sharing an anecdote about Him. Vasuki has played an important part during the churning of the ocean. Vasuki took part in the incident of churning of the ocean (samudra manthan) by allowing both the devas and the asuras to bind him to Mount Mandar, which was used as a blender in the churning of the ocean to extract “amrut” (nectar). Today it is found that Mount Mandaar or Mandar Hill or Mandar Parvat, as it is popularly known, is located in Banka District, in the State of Bihar in India. A the temple of Lord Shiva, called Vasukinath, literally meaning “the Lord of Vasuki”, is just a few kilometres away from Mandar Parvat, in the State of Jharkhand, in Dumka District.
I believe that this is my countries history and the Serpent King must have played an important part during the debates and discussion which the Devas and the Asuras had during the yesterday years. All these serpents, devas and Asuras were basically humans but names of different types of people who got their names from their characteristics. And the Serpents must have been the anchors of the debate or discussion which took place between the Devas and the Asuras.
Lord Krishna in His celestial song, Shreemad Bhagwad Geeta has called the serpent Vasuki as one His “vibhuti’s.” सर्पाणामस्मि वासुकि: (Amongst the serpents, am Vasuki. And it is this Vasuki, which can be seen around the neck of the lord or lords, Mahadev.
We know and have read about the Nagalok and how Arjun was married to a Nagkanya Ulupi, who gave him a son Iravan, who had participated in the Mahabharat war. And also a reference to that when Bheem, the second Pandav, was poisoned in his childhood and was drowned into a river, it was the Nag people who had saved him. Bheem’s strength is attributed to the potions given to him by them.
So friends, Nag people have been an integral part of our civilisation from years and we have had cultural and social relationships with them. We might have adopted this Nag pooja from them.
So, my readers, our festivals have a divine but cultural and social outlook too, which we need to understand and not laugh upon them. The westerners may call us the land of serpents, but we are far more ahead in our understanding about nature and humans, unlike them. Hence, we need to develop our own understanding about all our festivals.
Today is the last day of Asadh as celebrated here in Western India. It is the last day of the month. But for the Northern India it is the 15th day of the 2nd month of Chaturmaas ie Shraāvan. (Why so? is another topic of research and study). In Western India, a month begins after Amaāvasya whereas in Northern India, Amaāvasya is in the middle of the month. So it is Amaāvasya (No / New Moon Day) today all around India.
Today is Deep Amaāvasya. The day to clean all the Diyas (earthern lamps) made of copper, steel, silver and gold. (Or any other metal) All the used and the unused Diyas are thoroughly cleaned today. And then in the evening time, they all are lit with rangolis (geometrical design with different colours) drawn around it. The Diyas are then worshipped and offered flowers. And the family members then share sweets with each other.
The worship has its own significance. It is spreading light in our lives and the lives of others too. Light is considered auspicious. It removes the darkness from the outer world and at the same time enlightens the inner self. We, Indians, light a Diya everyday and say the following shlokas invoking the blessings of the Gods :
शुभं करोति कल्याणं आरोग्यं धनसंपदः । शत्रुबुद्धिविनाशाय दीपज्योतिनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
दीपज्योतिः परब्रह्म दीपज्योति जनार्दनः । दीपो हरतु मे पापं दीपज्योतिनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
(I bow to the Light, which brings abundance and prosperity of Health, and wealth and which destroys the intelligent enemy [darkness]…
It is you O Light! That is the creator and the operator and you will lead me to light away from sins, so I bow down unto you…)
The Mother Goddess (Shakti) is also symbolised by a burning flame of a diya. Fire helps the mother cook the food. At the same time, they both symbolise energy. And so one of the names of the mother is “Shakti”. Will deal upon it in some later blog.
Lastly am reminded of a short story (or maybe it’s a poem). The Sun is ready to set. The Sun asks everyone in the Universe that who will take his place and give light to the world in his absence? No one answers. A small earthen lamp moves upto him and humbly says, that it might not be as large as the Sun and may not have enough energy to lighten up the world but it will try to lighten up the area around, in which it is kept. This makes the Sun very happy. It signifies the importance of small things in life. However small may one be, with determination one can do the work done by the great ones.
Also I understand the Sun as God and the earthern lamp as Humanity. The Human being promises to be His representation in this Universe and it is his/her responsibility to lighten up the world. So let us all try to be small and humble Diya’s and try to enlighten our lives and the lives of the people around us.
Wish you all a Shubh Deep Amaavasyaa.
Tommorrow onwards is the month of Shraāvan. A month of Devotion and Festivals. Naag Panchami, Shitla Saptami, Janmashtami and many others.
Have decided to write a series during these months of monsoon on the different festivals we celebrate. Will write about the known ones and the lesser known ones too as I have done today. Will try to keep them as short as possible.
At the onset of my blog itself, wishing all my Kutchhi brothers and sisters a very Happy New Year
असां जे कच्छी माडुओ के नव वर्ष की लख लख वधाई।
मेठो पांजो कच्छडो, मेठा पांजा माडु,
मेठी पांजी गालीयुं, ने मेठी पांजी प्रीत,
हलो हलो रे… आवई अषाढी बीज ।
The 2nd day of the month of Asaadh is a day celebrated as the onset of monsoons in Gujarat and Kutchh. The monsoons bring a smile on everyone’s face and people rejoice and celebrate as if it’s a new year.This day is celebrated all over India, especially Odisha, as the Rathyatra, “the procession of Chariots”. Lord Jagannath alongwith his elder brother Balbhadra and sister Devi Subhadra moves in their chariots around the Odia town of Jagannath Puri. This annual rath yatra attracts tourists from around the world. People get to touch their Lord and pull his chariot which is a one in a lifetime experience.
Jagannath Swami rides in the rath which is majorly decorated in yellow and called the “Nandi Ghosh.” Lord Balbhadra rides in “Tala dhwaj” decorated in green. And Devi Subhadra rides in her “Padma Dhwaj” black chariot. It’s the time when the siblings move out of their temples to meet the people, common folk, of their town. From their temple, they go to Gundicha temple, 3km away. Hence this yatra is also called as the Gundicha Yatra.
The names of the chariots and the colours too have their own significance. The chariots have their own charioteers. Daruka is on the Nandighosh, Matali on Taladhwaj and Arjun on Padmadwaj.
First the Deities are brought out from the temple in a very typical way. The deities do not have full body, but just a the face. So they need to be lifted and got out. This ritual is called the “Pahandi“. When one sees the deities being taken out, it seems as if they are being dragged. The multitudes of people try to catch a glimpse of the Lord and touch Him.
As soon as the Lord settles on His rath with His siblings (note that each deity has His or Her own individual rath), the erstwhile King of the Gajapati clan, arrives in a dress of a sweeper and cleans the rath and the roads with a broom in hand. This ritual is called “Chera Pahara“. It signifies that in the presence of the Lord, everyone is equal. The Kings, too through the years, have been very humble andgrateful to the Lord, to let them serve Him.
Then begins the journey.
The journey of the Lord to see His own people
The journey where the people can see their Lord
The journey of life to eternity.
The common man gets an opportunity to pull the three Raths and carry their Lord to His destination. The millions who have assembled, all, just try to touch the ropes attached to the Rath and feel grateful. The idea of a mere Human pulling the Rath of the Lord is in itself such a beautiful thought. It is He who pulls our lives throughout, but this day we get an opportunity not only to see Him, but pull his Rath as well.
Being elder, Balbhadra leads the triad. Followed by Subhadra and lastly comes Lord Jagannath himself. The idea of the brothers taking care of their sister is so divine. At the same time, it also signifies that Strength (Balbhadra) and Power (Jagannath), need to be balanced in Life. It would be possible only when one has the “bhadra” outlook (Subhadra).
Once the deities reach the Gundicha temple, they stay there for 10 days and will return back to their house after that, in the same manner as today. These 10 days are of Nagar Yatra and Darshan. The people get to see their Lords amongst themselves. The Lord too through this Yatra demonstrates that people in power need to keep their feet firmly on the ground and also keep in touch with the masses living in his or her kingdom.
The Yatra lasts for 6-7 hours and sometimes even takes 15-16 hours depending upon the wish of the deity. It is truly a very divine atmosphere in itself to be witnessed. I would request my readers to atleast visit Jagannath Puri once in a life time and if possible during the Yatra time.
A stotra written by Jagadguru Shankaracharya called Jagannathashtak is worth reciting. Quoting a shlok from it for Lord Jagannath. रथारूढो गच्छन् पथि मिलित भूदेव पटलैः स्तुति प्रादुर्भावम् प्रतिपदमुपाकर्ण्य सदयः । दया सिन्धुर्बन्धुः सकल जगतां सिन्धु सुतया जगन्नाथः स्वामी नयन पथ गामी भवतु मे ॥५॥(“When Lord Jagannatha is on His Ratha-yatra cart and is moving along the road, at every step there is a loud presentation of prayers and songs chanted by large assemblies of brahmanas. Hearing their hymns Lord Jagannatha is very favorably disposed towards them. He is the ocean of mercy and the true friend of all the worlds. May that Jagannatha Swami, along with His consort Lakshmi, who was born from the ocean of nectar, be the object of my vision.”)
Today, in these difficult times of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Lord will come out to bless us all and the world . Wishing you all a very divine and spiritual Yatra (journey).