Category Archives: Hinduism

Navaratri Devi Pooja – Significance

SRI LALITHA MAHA TRIPURASUNDARI, the Mother of All, is invoked during the auspicious Sharannavaratri. The Sharad-Kaala (Autumn Season) represents the Creative Aspect of Nature. Since CREATION is synonymous with MOTHERHOOD, the Divine God-Principle is invoked as the MOTHER (Mathru-swaroopini) of the entire Universe of things and beings, of which we are also a part of. On the Mahalaya Amavasya day, Devi is invoked in her Jagat Prasuti Form – One who has delivered (created) the universe. With her grace and blessings alone the seeker can hope to totally dispel (Maha-Laya) the spiritual ignorance (Ama-Vasya) within himself. During the next nine days referred to as NAVARATRI, Devi is invoked and worshipped as MAHA DURGA (first three days), MAHA LAKSHMI (next three days) and MAHA SARASWATI (last three days). The sequence of worship of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati is different in different traditions and states, but the significance remains the same. The tenth day after Navaratri is known as VIJAYADASAMI (the day of Everlasting Victory – Mukti or Enlightenment).

DEVI DURGA is invoked during the first three days. Durga means “one who helps us to overcome our difficulties and negatives.” It is with her grace alone that the seeker can eliminate all the negative qualities lurking in him. They are represented as the various rakshasas whom Durga annihilates. She is depicted in red attire to represent Activity. In her hands, she carries different instruments of annihilation to destroy the various rakshasas. Mother’s destruction is ‘constructive destruction’ – it is creative and purposeful, it is for the sake of Dharma. Hence Durga is depicted as riding on a Simha (lion). SIMHA stands for Righteousness or Dharma. Its opposite is HIMSA which denotes violence and adharma. Simha also stands for “fearlessness”. 

The next three days, GODDESS LAKSHMI is worshipped. Lakshmi means “to guide” the seeker on the path of spirituality to reach the Ultimate Goal of Self Realisation (Lakshya). Lakshmi represents the WEALTH of Sattvik qualities (Lakshana-s, like Truthfulness, Humility, Nobility, Devotion, Faith, Compassion, Courage, etc.) that an individual has to nurture and nourish within himself. Sri Lakshmi’s attire is depicted in different colours depending on what she represents: White for Purity and Knowledge, Red for Selfless Activity and Material Wealth, Green for Plenty, Prosperity and Food, etc. The lotus which is associated with her represents Knowledge, Beauty, Symmetry as well as Moksha. She represents both, the Standard of Life and Standard of Living. When Goddess Lakshmi signifies material wealth she is portrayed as riding on the owl. She rides on an elephant when she is invoked for a higher and purposeful life. As the bestower of Mukti (Liberation), she along with her consort, Lord Narayana are shown seated on Garuda (eagle).

During the last three days, SRI SARASWATI is invoked and worshipped. SARA means “essence” and SWA means “one’s own”. Saraswati means “one who facilitates the individual to understand and experience his true Higher Nature (State of Immortality) within himself.” Therefore, Sri Saraswati represents Spiritual Knowledge and the Higher Divine Experience. She is always depicted in white attire indicating a pure, tranquil and contemplative mind. In one hand she holds a mala which signifies the akshara-mala or the alphabets. In the other hand she holds a book signifying knowledge. SARASWATI is invoked at every stage – right from AKSHARA-ABHYASA (initiation into the alphabets) through VIDYA-ABHYASA (study of scriptures) to DHYANA-ABHYASA (practice of contemplation). She sports a veena in the lower pair of hands. The veena represents an individual who has totally surrendered unto Mother Saraswati as an empty and willing instrument. When she uses such a devotee to accomplish her divine work, her Will and the Expression of it becomes the beautiful music of life – the Glory of a Man of Realisation! Goddess Saraswati’s vahana (vehicle) is the Hamsa (Swan). Hamsa is a mystical bird which has the ability to separate milk from water from milk-water mixture. This signifies the discrimination between the Real and the Permanent (milk) from the Unreal and the Impermanent (water). Therefore Hamsa represents a Man of Realisation. The Jivanmukta is known as “Supreme Swan” – PARAMAHAMSA. 

Alternatively, in some traditions, the sequence followed is: Maha Lakshmi, then Sri Saraswati and finally Sri Durga. Initially, a spiritual seeker invokes Goddess Lakshmi to cultivate within himself the noble and virtuous qualities. After that Sri Saraswati is invoked for Adhyatma Knowledge. Finally, Goddess Durga is invoked. By her grace alone, Mahishasura, the ego can be annihilated. Mahishasura is destroyed with the help of her trident (Trishula), which signifies the transcendence of the tri-groups (three gunas, three states of consciousness, three periods of time, the three equipments – body, mind and intellect, the three worlds, etc). This leads to the State of Self-realisation.  

During Navaratri, apart from the parayana of Durga Saptashati, Lalitha Sahasranama, Devi Stotras, etc., there is a beautiful tradition of singing Sri Kamalamba Navavarana Krithis (composed by Muthuswami Dikshitar) or Sri Kamakshi Navavarana Krithis (composed of Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer). The krithis are based on Sri Vidya Upasana and are structured around the 9-layered Sri Chakra. The 11 Krithis (1- dhyana, 9 – one for each of the 9 days, and 1- mangala), are deep in mysticism and rich in their significance. The krithis signify the seeker’s spiritual journey from the outer pluralistic world to the Innermost Divine Centre within himself. It is the unveiling of the Divinity present within us. It is the transcendence of our outer personality-layers to ultimately reach Sri Maha Tripura Sundari, the personification of Parabrahma – the Sarvanandamaya State within ourselves.

Therefore, the entire Navaratri Puja wherein Mother Goddess is invoked as Devi Durga, Maha Lakshmi and Sri Saraswati represents the spiritual journey of a seeker from the darkness of Spiritual Ignorance to the Light of Spiritual Knowledge – from the State of Mortality to the State of Immortality – from Mahalaya Amavasya to Vijayadasami !!

Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Buddhi Roopena Samsthita I

Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namaha II 

Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Lakshmi Roopena Samsthita I

Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namaha II

Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Shakti Roopena Samsthita I

Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namaha II 

Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Mathru Roopena Samsthita I

Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namaha II

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Raja Rishi Sri Narahari Tirtha

Shyama Shastri (13-14th century) was an erudite scholar, statesman and the minister of King Gajapati of Kalinga (Orissa) State. When Sri Madhvacharya reached Orissa while returning from Badrikashrama, a Vidvat Sabha was arranged there. Among the galaxy of scholars, pandits and philosophers, Shyama Shastri also was present. Acharya Madhva defeated all the scholars and upheld the supremacy of Dvaita Philosophy. Inspired by the Dvaita philosophy, Shyama Shastri became the disciple of the Acharya and followed him to Udupi. He was initiated into the sanyasa-order and was given the name NARAHARI TIRTHA. 

Narahari Tirtha engaged himself in spreading the doctrines and philosophy of Dvaita. At the time, Madhvacharya sent Narahari Tirtha to Orissa to propagate the Dvaita Philosophy and also to bring back the ancient gold vigraha of Lord Rama known as MOOLA RAMA, along with the vigraha of Seeta. The deities were a part of the Kalinga State treasury. Narahari Tirtha set out to Kalinga and stayed in a remote cave on the outskirts of the city.

Around that time, the king of Kalinga died and his son who was to be the successor was very young. As was the custom prevalent those days, the royal elephant was given a garland and left free to move around. Whomsoever the elephant garlanded would be accepted as the king. The elephant headed straight towards the cave where Narahari Tirtha was residing. Hearing the commotion of people and the elephant’s trumpet, Narahari Tirtha came outside. The elephant immediately placed the garland around Narahari Tirtha’s neck! The people were surprised but happy at the same time because they recognised their own minister, Shyama Shastri in the Sanyasi! Accepting it as the Lord’s Will, Narahari Tirtha ascended the throne. He beautifully integrated his SANYASA DHARMA along with RAJA DHARMA – verily a “RAJA-RISHI”. He diligently and efficiently ruled over the kingdom and its people for a period of twelve years. There are innumerable stone-inscriptions describing the religious as well as the welfare programs undertaken by Narahari Tirtha for the community. When the prince was capable of taking charge of his responsibilities, Narahari Tirtha, the “personification of dispassion”, handed over the kingdom to him and made preparations to leave for Udupi. The young king wished to express his reverence and gratitude to the Acharya who had ruled and looked after the kingdom all these years. He requested Narahari Tirtha to ask for anything that he wanted as a gift, and it would be his fortune and privilege to offer it to the acharya. The Acharya told the king that he did not want anything for himself, but requested for the idols of Moola Rama and Seeta which were in the royal treasury. The king willingly handed over the idols to Narahari Tirtha. 

A contented and fulfilled Narahari Tirtha reached Udupi. He had been able to carry out his Guru’s words and bring the divine idols to Udupi. Sri Madhvacharya was overwhelmed to receive the beautiful Moola Rama and Seeta vigraha-s. The rare and unique idols were crafted by the celestial architect, Viswakarma at the behest of Lord Brahma himself. Through the ages, they reached the Kings of Kalinga and were safely kept in the State treasury. Sri Madhvacharya intuitively knew about the idols and wanted to revive the worship of Moola Rama and Seeta. On receiving the idols from Narahari Tirtha, Sri Madhvacharya placed the idols alongside Sri Krishna and worshipped them. From then onwards, the pontiffs of Madhva Matha have been worshipping the idols. Sri Moola Rama and Seeta vigraha-s were worshipped by Sri Raghavendra Tirtha of Mantralaya who also belonged to the same parampara and the tradition of worshipping and offering services to Sri Moola Rama and Seeta continues to this day by the present Acharya-s. 

Narahari Tirtha was one of the foremost amongst the Haridasa-s of the Bhakti movement. He composed beautiful kirtan-s in the kannada language under the signature of “Narahari” and “Raghupati”. He wrote commentaries on various scriptural texts as well as on Sri Madhvacharya’s works. He built many temples and was instrumental in extensively spreading the philosophy of Sri Madhvacharya. It is said that the well-known Art-forms known as “Yaksha Gana” and “Bayalu Aata” (open theatre drama) were introduced by Narahari Tirtha, as a part of Vaishnava Bhakti Movement.

ससीतामूलरामार्चा कोशे गजपतेः स्थिता।
येनानीता नमस्तस्मै श्रीमन्नृहरिभिक्षवे॥

“Prostrations unto Sri Narahari Tirtha, the Great Ascetic, who brought the icons of Moola Rama and Seeta (to the Madhva Matha) from the treasury of King Gajapati”.

“Sriman Moola Ramo Vijayate! Sri Guru Rajo Vijayate!”

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Hanumat Vibhuti by Swami Chinmayananda

[Excerpts from talks & articles by Swami Chinmayananda]

HANUMAN represents a perfect man of education and culture, proficient and efficient, and ever a go-getter. Nothing seems to be impossible for him. To think is to act for him; to conceive is to achieve. Yet, this beautiful characterisation, all along Ramayana, so tenderly both handled and dandled by the sensitive poet Valmiki, has been deliberately wrapped up in the outer anatomical shell of a monkey! Any sensitive student of literature will be compelled to pause for a moment to wonder, “was it a monkey?” To suggest this question in the mind of the readers, Valmiki himself describes him as. “is he a man?” (VA – Nara?). The symbolism suggested is evidently clear to all deep students of our spiritual texts, who are familiar with our cultural diction, and who are trained to be sensitive in Indian traditions of poetry. 

Monkeys represent THOUGHTS; the similarity being that both are restless (chanchala) and unsteady (asthira). Of all thoughts, the very minister of Su-greeva (sushtu greevam — well reined) now in his exile, was HANUMAN, extremely erudite and scholarly. Yet, this thought-personality cannot bring out its potential might and beauty, albeit serving as the minister to “Self-Control”. Knowledge and erudition, with moral restraint and physical control, is the highest from the standpoint of material education, and according to the systems of worldly education. Yet, Valmiki demonstrates that all the potentialities inherent can blossom forth only when that knowledge bows down to Rama, the Spiritual Essence!

From the moment, Anjaneya meets with Rama, Ramayana distinctly reveals a mysterious unfoldment of great powers, an explosion of inconceivable merits and beauties in that apparently ridiculous and seemingly insignificant form of a monkey. However wise and intelligent we may be, even when that wise man has character and self-control, it is not all. Only when these thoughts move, in utter devotion and total loyalty towards “that which revels in everything” (Rama), that all the inherent potentialities divine can get a chance to blossom forth.

Thereafter, as the loyal servant of Sri Rama, the personality of Hanuman unfolds its infinite strength and endless beauty, for all generations to watch, and yet in himself he remains outwardly a “va-nara” and inwardly a steady and total devotee. Every hair on his body was heard to whisper the divine name of RAMA. The mind of Hanuman was always totally involved in singing Rama’s name. Centred in Rama, he acted. For Rama, he achieved. Rama’s glory was his only glory. There stands now the puny monkey, larger than life: greater than the greatest, the eternal devotee, his strength, his wisdom, his love, and his all, dedicated totally to Rama. Thereafter, we detect the Supreme expressing through this insignificant-looking monkey, making us all wonder, “is it a man (Va-nara)?” or “is it a God (Va-deva)?” 

HANU is “killing” and MAN is “vanity”. So HANUMAN can be interpreted as one who has destroyed his vanity. Though a monkey, he has risen to the stature of a Divine God, only because of his PHYSICAL READINESS TO SERVE THE CAUSE, MENTAL DEVOTION TO THE CAUSE, and INTELLECTUAL CONSISTENCY OF FAITH AND PURPOSE IN THE CAUSE. Whoever brings out these sincerities in his actions, even if he be a monkey, will certainly unfold himself to reveal his divine stature and might. Such an individual is the Child of “Pavana,” the Lord of Storms — the Might of the mighty! 

The victory over the “animal’ can be gained, even if you be Sri Ramachandraji, only with the help of HANUMAN, the monumental strength of perfect “Brahmacharya”. Control the Indriyas; delve within. Cross the Sethu – the distance between the DIVINE that you want to become and the animal you ‘are’ now!

When you lead a life in complete surrender to Lord Rama, then the strength that rises from within you, THAT IS HANUMAN. When love, beauty, erudition, courage, determination and success come to your life from a source beyond the body, mind and intellect, THAT IS HANUMAN. When you reach your life’s goal, like a sure-shot arrow from Sri Rama’s bow, THAT IS HANUMAN. Grace of Rama Dhoota Bhakta Siromani Hanuman brings Health, Devotion and Spiritual Success. We need them all on the Path Divine. Keep Him always within your heart as the situation demands, chanting the Lord’s name in times of peace and in the face of imposing challenges, for that is where He belongs!!

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Sri Rama Pattabhisheka – the Significance!

SRIMAD-RAMAYANA represents the spiritual yatra of a seeker – the AYANA (journey) of a spiritual seeker represented by RAMA. Hence it is known as RAMAYANA. Ramayana is also a treasure house of VALUES to be inculcated and practised at every stage in life. The Epic also highlights the various relationships amongst the different characters, and the need and importance to nurture, nourish and maintain these relationships at individual and social level. Lord Rama and his consort, Seeta as well as all the other characters through the various incidents, situations and circumstances demonstrate the journey from the realm of mortality to the State of Immortality. These incidents, situations or circumstances (each and every one of them) are “dynamic pictures with enormous significance” which are to be clicked on our mental screen and contemplated upon for they carry “life transforming” messages for us! 

One of these pictures which is very familiar to us is the SRI RAMA PATTABHISHEKA. In fact, whether in the temple or in our puja room, Lord Rama whom we invoke and worship is the “Pattabhisheka Deity – SRI PATTABHIRAMA”. The great musician-saint, Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar has composed a kirtan on the “Pattabhisheka Scene” which is beautiful and vividly captivating, complete and extremely significant! 

“O, Pattabhi-Rama, who adorns the Seat of Sovereignty and whose auspicious and sacred name, RAMA, is glorified by the ever-victorious Maruti (Hanuman), protect me. Rama, the Pure and the All-perfect, who is supremely contented and ever fulfilled, carries the Kodanda-bow in His hand and is the personification of Auspiciousness. The Lotus-eyed Lord belongs to the illustrious Raghu dynasty. Rama whose feet are soft and tender, is of dark complexion resembling the rain-bearing clouds. Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna are attending upon and serving their brother, Sri Raja Rama with the royal umbrella (chhatra) and the chamara (fly-whisks). Vibhishana, Sugreeva and others are offering their obeisance to the Lord. Sri Rama, son of Dasaratha is the recipient of the blessings of the great Rishis like Atri, Vasishta and others. In a gem-studded navaratna-mantapa, Sri Rama, along with his consort Seeta adorns the beautiful bejewelled suvarna Simhasana. Lord Sri Rama of exemplary character and conduct (the embodiment of Dharma), is extremely dear to Guruguha (Lord Subramanya). He is like the beautiful moon to the ocean of the solar dynasty. He is verily the Ruler and Protector of the whole Universe, SRI RAMACHANDRA!”

The “Rama Pattabhisheka” Scene or the Picture represents a MAN of REALIZATION – a Jivanmukta. Ayodhya is “A – Yudha”. It means “No conflict”. Therefore, it represents the Inner State of Absolute Peace and Bliss – the State of Mukti or Enlightenment. In this State of Bliss, Lord Rama and his consort Seeta are seated on the royal throne – the Simhasana. ASANA means “seat” and SIMHA means “Dharma”. Therefore, SIMHASANA means the “Seat of Dharma or Righteousness”. Sri Rama and Seeta together represent the “One State” beyond the aspects of Purusha and Prakriti – the State of Jivanmukti. The Man of Realization is one who has attained the Dimensionless State of Infinitude – he is VIRAT. He is a Master of the external world (Samrajya) as well as the inner world (Swarajya). Such an individual is a real SAMRAT and SWARAT. When he is working for the welfare of the community, he is ever rooted in and established in Dharma. There alone is the true RAMA RAJYA. Therefore, Sri Rama who is the embodiment of Dharma represents a Jivanmukta. Rama is surrounded by his brothers, the Rishis, Hanuman, Sugreeva, Angada, Vibhishana and others. All the characters represent one of the noble traits or virtues to be developed within us.

Alternatively, Seeta and Rama represent a well-integrated Mind and Intellect equipment. Lakshmana represents Karma Yoga, Bharata represents Vairagya or Dispassion, Shatrughna stands for the Ever-victorious and Hanuman signifies unconditional Surrender and total Devotion (there are different interpretations as to what each character stands for). Therefore the entire picture with all the characters of SRI RAMA PATTABHISHEKA is ONE WHOLE SPIRITUAL message for us!!

Keep within RAMA-MAYAM as Sadhana. To see RAMA-MAYAM is Sadhya; the former the Way, the later the Goal. Merge into Rama. Disappear in Rama!! “When will this be?” What a question! “When you choose to be,” is the scriptural answer!! Go beyond the famous “Coronation Picture” of Sri Ramachandra into the Ocean of “Rama Tattva” behind His Golden Throne. Through Rama to “Rama-Tattva”; through names and forms to the “BEYOND!!” ~ Swami Chinmayananda

रामो राजमणिः सदा विजयते रामं रमेशं भजे
रामेणाभिहता निशाचरचमूः रामाय तस्मै नमः ।
रामान्नास्ति परायणंपरतरं रामस्य दासोस्म्यहं
रामे चित्तलयस्सदा भवतु मे भो राम मामुद्धर ॥ (Sri Rama Raksha Stotra)

महारत्नपीठे शुभे कल्पमूले
      सुखासीनमादित्यकोटिप्रकाशम् ।
सदा जानकीलक्ष्मणोपेतमेकं
      सदा रामचन्द्रम् भजेऽहं भजेऽहम्  ॥ (Sri Rama Bhujanga Stotra)

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