GEETA is a universal text-book, healthy for all the various races and types of men living the variegated walks of life, each striving to maintain a variety of standards of life. For all men who are sincere and intelligent enough to perceive their own imperfections and courageously come to make a demand for a better perfection, in them are the fit students on whom Geeta pours out her best blessings.
As a SCRIPTURE of activity and optimistic endeavour, GEETA unmistakably emphasizes the ultimate independence of man over his present weaknesses and even over his present circumstances. The secret strategy for the sure conqueror: “DEVOTION AND CONSISTENCY OF SELF-APPLICATION, FREE FROM ALL EGO-CENTRIC ATTACHMENTS WITH THE WORLD OF OBJECTS”, is the way chartered out in the GEETA.
The originality of the GEETA is not “in what” it says, but “in how” it states. The call of Krishna is the divine call to man to discard his melancholy dejections at the face of life’s challenges and to come forward to play out his best “the game of life” with a firm determination to strive and to win.
The religion of GEETA ushers mankind to a wider field of perfections, which can be made available even while we are sweating and toiling at our alloted posts of duty. All through the GEETA we find brilliant strokes of the unforgettable picture of a mighty Man of Knowledge at the driver’s seat on a chariot, philosophically refilling a “flattened” mortal to brace up and face again the road to success! Never does GEETA at any point in its length, encourage man’s surrender to circumstances or even to his own present debilities and incompetencies.
The concluding word of the GEETA is “my” (mama) and the opening word in the GEETA is “Dharma”. Between these two words, the 700 stanzas are strung together as a garland of immortal beauty. And so, the meaning of the GEETA is “My Dharma”. GEETA explains the “nature of man – my dharma”, and the “Nature of Truth – MY DHARMA”, and how the TRUE LIFE starts when these two are harmonised together and come to play in one single individual.
MAGHA SNANA (taking a dip in the waters during Magha Maasa) also known as mini Kumbha Mela is as important, significant and meritorious as KARTIKA DEEPA (lighting the Deepa) in the month of Kartika. From Pushya Purnima to Magha Purnima, devotees undertake the Magha Snana Vrata. Apart from Snana, Charity (Dana) is also one of the main features of Magha Vrata. When the Sun enters the Makara Rashi (Uttarayana), the inclination of the Sun-rays, and consequently the light as well as the warmth (heat) reaching the terrestrial plane is different. The season is slowly changing – from cold (winter) to warm (summer) climate. In the dry winter season, there is a deficiency of sufficient light and warmth which weakens the immunity system of an individual. Now, with the arrival of Uttarayana, the soft and tender rays of the Sun energize the waters of the rivers and the ocean. This water (especially the saline ocean water) is extremely beneficial for us to fight the cold as well as the seasonal infections. Apart from this, the vibrational energy from the Sun during this time-period is extremely beneficial at the pyscho-spiritual level also. The various Puranas endorse this and therefore, this cosmic & celestial event has been incorporated as a mandatory religious vow or vrata. The Magha Snana is to be taken at dawn (Arunodaya Kaala) just before sunrise preferably in rivers, lakes or tanks which are exposed to Nature and are close to temple or pilgrim centres. Magha Snana at Prayagraj (Magha Mela) is considered highly meritorious because of the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. After the Magha Snana, Surya Bhagavan is invoked and Lord Madhava, the presiding deity of Magha Maasa is worshipped.
Magha Navaratri Vrata is also undertaken by the devout. Goddess Saraswati, the presiding deity of Knowledge & Art-forms is worshipped on Vasanta Panchami or Sri Panchami Day. The Magha concludes with the Mahashivaratri on the chaturdashi day prior to Amavasya. In the month of Magha, Lord Sun is worshipped on the Ratha Saptami Day which is also known as Surya Jayanti and Arogya Saptami. It is said that the northward course of the Sun gains momentum on the Ratha Saptami! Apart from the Gayatri mantra, Surya Ashtakam and the Aditya Hridayam are fervently chanted to invoke the grace and blessings of Surya Bhagavan. Ratha Saptami signifies the change of season. It heralds the onset of the fresh ever-green Spring (Chaitra) and the end of the dry and cold Winter. For the farmers, this is the beginning of a new harvest year. On the Ratha Saptami Day, the utsava-murthi (procession-deity) in many of the temples (especially in Tirumala) is adorned with a kavacham inlaid with diamond and other precious gems and brought out in the early morning to face the rising Sun. It is an overwhelming sight to see the radiant and golden glow reflected from the Deity as well as the gems sparkling at the touch of the first morning rays of the Sun! The divine and blessed feeling of being wrapped in the light and warmth of the Lord’s immediate presence is inexplicable!! The fresh and tender Sun’s rays are extremely rejuvenating and beneficial to the physical body as well as the mind-intellect equipment.
MAGHA means “do not commit sins (mistakes) or do not fall” or “may we not suffer any grief or sorrow.” This is an indication that an individual must consciously walk the path of righteousness (dharma) and also be alert so that inadvertently one doesn’t slip into the path of unrighteousness (adharma). Hence we invoke Surya Bhagavan to keep us in the Light of Knowledge. Surya Bhagavan is worshipped as the Lord riding on a chariot with one wheel – the WHEEL of TIME (Kaala Chakra). The three-sectioned hub of the Wheel, represents the three Chaturmasa-s. The six rims (or six sections of the rim) of the Wheel represent the six seasons and the twelve spokes represent the twelve months of the year. Hence the Wheel is also known as SAMVATSAR or a YEAR. In one year, Lord Sun moves through the twelve zodiac signs, each of which represents one month of the Hindu calendar. The chariot is yoked to seven divine horses which are named after the Vedic metres or chhandas. They represent the seven colours – VIBGYOR – the seven components constituting Sun (White) Light; but the horses are green in colour! Anything that is far from our view appears GREEN, which indicates vastness and expansiveness. Green is also the CENTRAL colour in VIBGYOR. Hence “green” represents “balance, stability and equilibrium” in the cosmic configuration. The horses also represent the seven days of the week starting from Sunday – the first day of the week. Aruna is the Lord’s charioteer and he represents Dawn. Surya Narayana is the Lord of Light and Heat, Knowledge and Wisdom, Health and Prosperity. It is HE who nurtures, nourishes and sustains the entire world of things and beings.
“Saptashva Rathamarudham Prachandam Kashyapathmajam; Shveta Padmadharam Devam Tam Suryam Pranamamyaham”
“Prostrations to Surya Bhagavan, the Self-effulgent and the son of Sage Kashyapa who is seated in a chariot drawn by seven horses and sports a white lotus in his hand.”
Makara Sankranti is a socio-religious celebration. Kranti means “change”. Sankranti signifies “total and complete change”. When the Sun moves from one zodiac sign (Rashi) to another it is called Sankramana or Sankranti and it denotes the change of the month. Therefore the sun in the 12 zodiac signs represents the 12 months of the year. Out of the 12 Sankrantis, Karkataka Sankranti and Makara Sankranti are important. Karkataka Sankranti indicates the Southern Solstice (Dakshinayana Punyakala) when the Sun moves from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere. Makara Sankranti which comes in the month of Pushya, represents the Northern Solstice (Uttarayana Punyakala) when the Sun enters the Makara Rashi and starts moving towards the Northern hemisphere.
The month of Kartika represents initiation into Spiritual Knowledge. The next month, Margashirsha represents intense Spiritual Sadhana. Then comes Pushya, which signifies nurturing, nourishing (poshan) and concretization of our Spiritual Endeavours. Hence we invoke Lord Sun who is the Nurturer and Nourisher of all Life and Life’s activities – material and spiritual. One human year represents one day for the devatas. If Margashirsha represents the Brahma Muhurtha of the devatas, Pushya represents the early morning (sun rise) for the devatas. Hence it is customary to get up early in the morning during this month for spiritual practices and align ourselves with the “early morning of the devatas.” On Makara Sankranti, we invoke and express our devotion and gratitude to Lord Sun, the Sole Nourisher of all Life and who represents the Light of Spiritual Knowledge, Divinity, Power and Glory.
Our Rishis were aware of the influence of the celestial bodies like the sun, moon, stars and planets on the intermediate atmosphere as well as on the beings on the terrestrial plane. These important aspects were brought into the lives of people in the form of rituals, vratas, etc. The 360° movement of the sun, and its transition through the various zodiac signs, its inclination and effect on the various planets and consequently its effect on us keeps on changing every month. Makara Sankranti ushers in a life of intense activity, both material and spiritual as against the previous winter months of lethargy. Just as lighting the lamp was mandatory and auspicious in the month of Kartika, taking a holy dip in the temple tanks, lakes, rivers and oceans where the waters have been exposed to the beneficial rays of the sun is considered very auspicious and beneficial starting from Pushya Purnima to Magha Purnima. It is known as Magha Snana. Similarly, kite flying festivals are encouraged during the Makara Sankranti so that people are exposed to the beneficial rays of the Northward bound Sun. The Sun’s rays (electro-magnetic vibrations) during this period are extremely beneficial, especially for spiritual growth.
Makara Sankranti also marks the beginning of the harvest season. The bullocks and cows are decorated and worshipped to express our gratitude to their eternal and selfless service to mankind in the field of agriculture and dairy farming. The freshly harvested crops are worshipped, shared and used for cooking. Sweet Pongal (South India) and Khichidi (North India) are prepared during Sankranti. It is significant to note that both Pongal and Khichdi are by themselves, even individually, a complete meal – a combination of Rice (carbohydrate) and Lentils (protein). The other add-on ingredients like jaggery, ghee, spices like pepper and cumin, turmeric, ginger, dry fruits etc., have therapeutic value. Apart from this, it is customary to prepare til and jaggery ladoos for consumption and distribution amongst relatives, friends and well wishers. Hence Makara Sankranti is also known as Til Sankranti. Til or Sesame is one of the oldest known oil-seeds and is known as the “seed of immortality” and its oil is known as “queen of oils”. It has the highest oil-content and possesses rich nutritive and immense medicinal benefits. It has high stability and preservative qualities and possesses antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial, anti inflammatory, antidiabetic, anticancer properties. Til seeds provide the energy necessary to fight the cold and its oil-content helps to fight the dry weather. It also nullifies the negative energy in the surroundings. Similarly, jaggery is rich in iron, and other minerals and vitamins and activates the digestive enzymes during the cold season. Together, til and jaggery boosts the immune system, provides warmth and protects the body from seasonal infections. Til and jaggery (ellu-bella) are exchanged amongst near and dear ones with the words, “Ellu Bella thindu olle mathadu” (Kannada). This means “eat til and jaggery and speak good words!” This signifies vak-tapas (penance of speech). Til is associated with Saturn and it helps the heart-nadi which is governed by Saturn to function smoothly and effectively.
Lord Sun is the presiding deity of Spiritual Knowledge. During this Sankramana, Sun enters Makara Rashi. Lord Saturn (Shani dev) who is the Lord of Makara Rashi is the presiding deity of Karma. Therefore, Lord Sun entering Makara signifies KARMA BEING PERFORMED WITH THE HELP OF THE RIGHT KNOWLEDGE. The Sun and Saturn are opposed to each other, and therefore, the Sun entering the house of Saturn signifies harmony and peace and the consequent end of bitterness and conflict! Makara (crocodile) represents ego or spiritual ignorance. The house of Saturn represents challenges, problems, lethargy, inertia etc. The Sun entering this house represents “overcoming all these adversities with the help of knowledge” – the transition from lethargy and materialism to ACTIVITY and SPIRITUALISM. Hence the importance of Makara Sankranti in an individual’s life.
“Surya Murthe Namostute Sundara Chhayadhipathe; Karya Karanathmaka Jagat Prakasha Simha Rashyadhipathe, Arya Vinutha Teja Spoorthe Arogyadhi Phaladakeerthe” ~ Keerthana on Lord Surya (Navagraha Krithis) by Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar
Alluri Venkatadri Swami (1806-1877) was born to a pious couple in Alluru in Andhra Pradesh. He was devoted to Lord Narasimha of Alluru. He obtained mantra deeksha from his Guru, Narasimha Dasa and took to Hari Nama Sankeerthana. Venkatadri Swami travelled to many pilgrim centres and temples and offered his services to the various Deities in the form of keerthanas – Naadopaasana. At Bhadrachala, along with sangeeta seva, he completed one crore Rama Nama and had the divine vision of the Lord. He then travelled to Tirumala and offered his services to Lord Venkateswara.
From Tirumala, Venkatadri Swami reached Kanchipuram and stayed in a room on the banks of the Brahmateertha pond which is even today known as “Venkatadri room”. Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi would physically be present to enjoy the beautiful keerthanas while an overwhelmed Venkatadri Swami sang for him! Venkatadri Swami was different from other renunciates. He accepted donations from devotees and utilised it completely for the Lord’s daily seva. He contributed to renovation and construction works related to various temples. Inscriptions are available for the same in the temples. Along with Veda-abhyas program for children, he started various seva projects and to make sure that all the projects continued without any hindrance, he set up a permanent charity and bought dry and wet lands to generate revenue for the same.
One day, Lord Varadaraja appeared in Venkatadri’s dream and asked for a diamond crown for himself! In search of resources, Venkatadri Swami came to Chennai. Amidst hardships, he reached the famous Sri Parthasarathi temple in Triplicane and sang, “Parthasarathi pada bhajana cheyave manasa (O mind! sing the glories of Lord Parthasarathi)”. By Lord’s Grace, the devoted people volunteered and contributed for the diamond crown. The beautiful diamond crown was completed in time. The devotees carried the crown in a procession through the streets of Chennai, accompanied by umbrella (chhatra), dhwaja (flag) and sangeeta (music). The crown reached Kanchi Sri Varadaraja temple. On the Vaishaka full-moon day, during the Garuda Seva, the Lord (utsava murthi) was adorned with the crown which came to be known as “Venkatadri Crown!” An overwhelmed Venkatadri Swami poured out his devotion to Lord Varadaraja in the form of beautiful keerthanas. Even today, on special occasions the Lord’s utsava murthi is adorned with the “Venkatadri Crown”. He then proceeded to make crowns studded with diamonds and other precious gems for the Lord’s consorts, Sridevi and Bhudevi.
At the behest of the Lord’s divine will, Venkatadri Swami had a precious crown made for the utsava murthi (known as Namperumal) of Srirangam to replace the old damaged Pandian Crown. Unaware of the actual measurements, a model crown was made, and yet the crown fitted the deity perfectly! It is said that Lord Ranganatha Himself provided the measurements for His crown! The diamond crown needed a ONE INCH SQUARE EMERALD for completion. Not knowing what to do, Venkatadri Swami invoked the Lord to show him the way. The Lord appeared in his dream and told him that the required emerald was available with a diamond merchant, Madhav Seth in Kolkata. When the merchant was approached, he cheated them by providing an ordinary green stone. However the Lord forewarned and the merchant was confronted. Finally, the real and big emerald was obtained and the Pandian Crown was completed. The Utsava murthi, Namperumal was adorned with the new Pandian Kondai (Crown) on Margashirsha Vaikunta Ekadashi day!
Sri Azhagiya Manavala Jeeyar of Kanchi initiated Venkatadri Swami into the Pancha Samskaras of the Sri Vaishnava tradition. Later on, he was initiated into the sanyas order by Sri Ranga Narayana Jeeyar and came to be known as Thiru Venkata Ramanuja Jeeyar. Venkatadri Swami was well known for his socio-religious services. In recognition of his seva, apart from scholars, high-ranking officials and businessmen, the then Governor of Chennai, Lord Francis Napier also came to Srirangam and paid his respects to Venkatadri Swami. In 1877, Venkatadri Swami left his mortal body and attained to the Lord’s feet. His memorial is situated on the banks of the river Kaveri. Venkatadri Swami was a great Composer-Musician-Saint as well as a Karma Yogi. His compositions are simple yet profound in their message. None of his keerthanas which are overflowing with devotion carry his signature-name which speaks of his extreme humility and dispassion. Various Bhajan Mandali-s have been carrying forward his rich musical legacy even to this day.