All About Hinduism

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

The Glory of Hanuman

Image

Prince Ram is the undisputed hero of the epic Ramayana but without the help of his devoted friend Hanuman, he may well have struggled to defeat the demon Ravana.

Hanuman leapt across an ocean, single handedly fought an army and moved a mountain to help Rama and his brother Laxman. Yet, when Ram asked Hanuman in wonder, “ O mighty hero, how did you cross the ocean? How did you burn down the Golden Lanka?” Hanuman replied, “By the power and glory of Thy name my Lord.”

Therein lies the true greatness of Hanuman. There have been many who were strong and powerful but none as humble as he. Hanuman did not see himself as the mighty hero that he was but simply as a devotee of Shri Ram. To serve Lord Ram was the only purpose of Hanuman’s life.

His unflinching devotion and humility make this much loved Monkey God a symbol of loyalty and selflessness. He is worshipped all over India either alone or along with Ram and Sita.

Hanuman, inspires men towards Purushartha, the courage and self-restraint needed to live a righteous life. A life of truth and selfless service.

On the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti Hindus celebrate the birth of this divine soul.

Hanuman was born on the full moon of the month of Chaitra to Anjana. It was all part of a divine plan. Vishnu had incarnated on earth as Ram to defeat the demon Ravana. To assist Rama, Shiva is believed to have taken the avatar of Hanuman. Together they restored peace on Earth.

You can read the full story of Hanuman’s birth interestingly told by Shiva here

Today many Hindus, especially men will observe a fast, offer special prayers and chant the Hanuman Chalisa or the Hanuman Ashtak.

As an avatar of Shiva and a true karma yogi, Hanuman is also dear to those who wish to follow the spiritual path.

Advertisements

Ramnavmi

Image

Ramnavmi celebrates the birth of Rama, hero of the epic Ramayana, who was born on the ninth day (navami) of the waxing moon in the month of Chaitra.

Lord Rama was the King of Ayodhya. He was the ideal son, the perfect King, the best of men. So virtuous that he became god. In him people witnessed the seventh incarnation of Vishnu, born on earth to destroy the demon Ravana.

Swami Sivananda writes, ‘He was the Lord of the mind and the senses.  He was a sage in counsel, kind and sweet in speech, and most courteous and handsome in appearance. He was master of all the divine weapons, and a great warrior. He was brave and valiant, yet gentle and modest. Ever devoted to the good of his kingdom and his subjects, he was a defender of the weak and protector of the righteous. Endowed with numerous wondrous powers of the mind, he was well versed in all sciences–in military science as well as the science of the Self.

Deep and unfathomed like the ocean, firm and steadfast like the Himalayas, valiant like Lord Vishnu, he was the joy of Kaushalya. Though fierce like fire on the battlefield, he was calm like the cool breeze of the Mandara Hills, patient like Mother Earth, bounteous like the god of wealth and righteous like the lord of justice himself.  Such a great person was the Lord Rama!’

When Rama was King, his subjects enjoyed heaven on earth. Ramrajya, the rule of Rama is now synonymous with an ideal state.

As loved today as he was in Ayodhya, Ram remains one of the most popular Hindu deities.

ImageAt mid-day, the time Rama’s birth, all Ram temples across India, will begin special poojas with chantings from the Vedas and readings from the Ramayana. But the largest celebrations will be in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Ram. A rath yatra is the highlight of the celebrations here. A procession with a chariot, rath, moves through the city carrying actors dressed as Ram, Sita, Laxman and Hanuman who enact parts of the Ramayan while crowds line the streets to watch.

In the south of India, the day is also celebrated as the wedding anniversary of Sri Rama and his consort Sita. Sitarama Kalyanam, the ceremonial wedding ceremony of the celestial couple is held at temples throughout region.

It is interesting to note that Ramnavmi has many elements of Sun Worship.

Ram was a Raghuvamshi, a descendant of the Sun Dynasty. Ramnavami is celebrated at the beginning of summer when the sun is moving higher up in the skies( of the Norhern Hemisphere).

Ram was born at noon, the time when the sun shines most brilliantly .On Ramnavami the prayers start not with an invocation to Rama but to Surya, the sun.

Rama is also known as Raghunatha, Raghupati, and has other names which begin with the prefix Raghu meaning sun.

The syllable Ra is used to describe the sun and brilliance in many languages. In Sanskrit, Ravi and Ravindra mean Sun.

The ancient Egyptians termed the sun as Amon Ra or simply ‘Ra’. And in Latin the syllable Ra is used to connote light as in radiance.

Could it be that Valmiki modelled his Rama on the mighty Sun? Was Ram a personification of the Sun? Or, did Ram simply embody the qualities of the Sun? I wonder.

Happy New Year !!!

Today, as the sun moves into the Aries constellation and both day and night find themselves equally balanced on the vernal equinox *, Hindus will wake up to an auspicious morning- the first day of the month of Chaitra and of the Hindu New Year.

It is a day full of astrological, mythical and historical significance.

According to the Brahma Purana, this was the day Brahma created the Universe. The River Ganges is said to have first descended onto Earth on this day( one can imagine the snow melting in the Himalayas with the coming of spring and flowing down as the Ganges).

On this day Prince Rama was crowned King after his return to Ayodhya following a fourteen year exile.

And, towards the end of the Fifth Century A.D, King Shailvahan of the Satvahana dynasty defeated the invading Huns on this very day and changed the course of Indian history.

The New Year is known by different names and is celebrated in different ways across the various states of India.

In Marathi it is called Gudhi Padwa. Maharashtrians will welcome the New Year today by decorating the entrances to their houses with rangolis and by hanging garlands of mango leaves and marigold flowers over their doorways. Image

They will pray to Brahma, the Creator before propping up a gudhi( a wooden stick topped with a metal pot, a new piece of fabric and a garland of flowers) in their balconies and windows. The gudhi is a symbol of victory and represents the flag of Brahma, the flag of Rama and of Shivaji Maharaj, its most famous king.

In the Deccan regions of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh it is called Ugadi, translated as ‘Beginning of a New Era’.
It is a custom here to start the new year by eating a mixture of neem Imageflowers,jaggery,pepper,salt, tamarind juice and unripened mango. The bitter, sweet, salty, spicy, sour and tangy flavours represent the six experiences of sadness, happiness,anger,fear, disgust and surprise. A sombre reminder to accept with equanimity everything the year brings.  

Known as  Vishu in Kerala it means ‘equal’ denoting the vernal equinox. The highlight of Vishu is the Vishukani, a spread of fruits, vegetables, coconuts, flowers and money to be viewed first thing on waking up, before setting eyes on anything else. The oldest person in the family guides the rest of the members to the kani before dawn and here in the light of a lamp they see themselves in a mirror and then look at the spread before them to ensure a fruitful and happy new year.

In Tamil Nadu they call it Puthandu and is celebrated similarly by  preparing feasts and visiting temples.

baisakhi with creditIn the Nothern India it is Baisakhi for the Punjabis, Poila Boisakh for Bengalis and Bohaag Bihu for the Asameese. It is marked by thanksgiving for a bountiful spring time harvest and by praying for prosperity. In Assam the celebrations go on for days with a lot of merrymaking. Young girls sing and dance to attract suitors and choose their companions during these celebrations.

This is also an important day for the Sikhs of Punjab. In 1699, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh laid down the foundation of the Panth Khalsa on this day.

* according to the Hindu Calendar this date is generally the 13th or 14th of April but can range over three to four days .

Gangaur Festival -Rajasthan

Image

Every state of India has one festival, more than any other, that truly captures its spirit.

For Rajasthan it is Gangaur- the Spring Festival dedicated to Gauri, the loving wife of Shiva and the Goddess of Fertility.

When Parvati married Shiva she accepted all his followers (gana) as her own and became Gana Gauri, goddess of the people. Hence the name Gangaur.

For eighteen days from the day of Holi which signals the start of Spring, the women of Rajasthan lose themselves in the legend of the Goddess.Image

Beautiful clay or wooden idols of Gauri and Shiva are made in every home and lovingly dressed in fine clothes and jewelry.  As the women prepare the goddess for her wedding to Shiva, they honour her by fasting as she had once done to win his heart. The days are marked by pujas and evenings by colourful processions.

At sunset the women dressed in their colourful ghagras walk down the streets, carrying earthen pots with the lamps on their heads, singing songs of Gauri and collecting gifts and sweets from elders.

After a fortnight of celebrations the festival ends on the first day of the month of Chaitra, the first day of the Hindu New Year. On this day the beautifully decorated idols of Gauri are carried around the towns and villages before being taken to a lake to be immersed. Gauri is thus bid farewell as she leaves for her husband’s home in the Himalayas. Image

While Gangaur fairs are held in many towns and villages, those in Jaipur and Udaipur are most well known and hundreds of locals and tourists gather to watch the final processions.

This year Gangaur will be celebrated on the 13th of April.

Om- Symbol of the Absolute

Image

In beginning there was the un-manifest Absolute. In this stillness, Consciousness stirred of its own accord and a sound arose – Om. Its vibrations rippled outwards creating Space and Time and the Universe was born.

Om is the primordial sound. It is Nada Brahman, Consciousness manifested as sound. Everything, the Vedas say, begins from Om and comes to rest in Om.

The Mandukya Upanishad begins with this beautiful declaration-

Om ityetadaksharam idam sarvam, tasyopavyakhyanam bhutam bhavat bhavishyaditi sarvam omkara eva.

OM is this imperishable Word. OM is the Universe.
The past, the present and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be, is OM.
Likewise all else that may exist beyond the bounds of Time, that too is OM.

It goes on to say of Om,

This is the Almighty, this is the Omniscient, this is the Inner Soul, this is the Womb of the Universe.
This is the Birth and Destruction of creatures.

Om is the nama(name) rupa(form) of the Absolute. It is pranava, the source, the very breath of all mantras. It is the beej mantra, the seed that lies within all mantras.

Om is both the Self and the way to know the Self. Hence the yogis meditate upon it,focussing on its three syllables AUM .

The letter A symbolizes the conscious or waking state, the letter U is the dream state and the letter M the dreamless sleep state of the mind and spirit.

The entire symbol, together with the crescent and the dot, stands for the fourth state which combines all these states and transcends them. This is the state of samadhi or superconsciouness

This most important of Hindu symbols also forms an integral part of every Hindu’s life. All prayers begin with Om. You will find the symbol in every home and temple. All auspicious ceremonies begin with Om.  Even a newborn is welcomed into this world by an Om drawn  on his tongue with honey!  OM.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: