Deepavali Fireworks

Lighting up the skies with a display of fireworks has been the hallmark of the Deepavali celebrations in India. The history of using fireworks can be traced back to millennia.

History of Fireworks in India

 Vijayanagar Fireworks – 600 Years Ago

Vijayanagar was a kingdom that covered the Central Deccan area with its capital at Hampi. Its most famed king was Krishnadevaraya. The Vijayanagar kingdom was famed for its prosperity and well administered society.

History of the Vijayanagar kingdom which was at its peak around 600 years ago speaks of dazzling displays of fireworks during festive occasions.


Map of Vijayanagar kingdom 



Bhoja Fireworks – 1000 Years Ago

Around 1000 CE, the vast region of Malwa in Central India was ruled by Raja Bhoja, who was an accomplished scientist, engineer as well as able administrator. The present day city of Bhopal and the 1000 year old dam there, in good working condition even today, owe their name and fame to his technological and administrative skills.


Raja Bhoja


    Malwa kingdom

Bhoja had devised new engineering devices based on mechanics and thermodynamics for protection, defence, comfort as well as for fun.

His work Samarangana Sutradhara describes how fire and certain chemicals could be used in a controlled manner to create objects that could lift off into the sky, create a blast, display lights and sound. Spectators used to gather to watch him set off such displays.

Fireworks in 1st Millennium CE

The early part of the 1st Millennium CE, saw the evolution of various forms of fireworks display ranging from naphtha throwing by the Byzantians and Arabs, the usage of green bamboo to crack and produce loud noise when thrown in fire as used by Chinese to the Indian use of heat and chemicals to send up objects into the sky.

Collectively, these ancient civilizations took fireworks to the stage from which the present day pyrotechnics could evolve.

Bhogar’s Fireworks – 2000 Years Ago

It is worth noting that in literary and history circles, especially in Tamil Nadu, there is mention of how firecrackers can be traced back all the way to one of the Tamil Siddhars, a Siddha saint called Bhogar who lived around 2000 years ago.


The Siddha Saint Bhogar

A goldsmith by birth and alchemist by practice, Bhogar had put the knowledge of chemistry, botany and physiology to a combined, good use. He is credited with having discovered many medicinal cures as well as many chemical and mechanical applications such as steam boats, flying aircrafts etc.

His work Saptakanda describes the various works and experiments he had carried out including formulae for some of them.

The Tamil records speak of Bhogar having travelled to China to spread knowledge.

Indian Treatises on Fireworks

Zain-ul-Abidin, the Raja of Kashmir between 1421 and 1472 CE, had composed 2 works on the manufacture of fireworks.


The tomb of the Kashmiri king, Raja Zain-ul-Abidin

The Samskrt text Kautukachintamanai by Gajapati Prataparudradeva of Orissa authored between 1497 and 1539 CE also contains formulae for making different kinds of fireworks.

Foreigners Observe Indian Fireworks

  1. Barbosa, the Italian traveller who came to Vijayanagar, duringthe prosperous reign of Krishnadevaraya, writes in his travelogue about how Deepavali was celebrated in Hampi with fireworks. This clearly shows us that celebration of Deepavali with fireworks has been a tradition of this land for atleast over 500 years.
  1. Varthema, another Italian traveller who visited much of S.E.Asia between 1502 and 1508, writes about the people of Vijayanagar as great masters in the art of making fireworks and how their fireworks had reached the islands of Sumatra.


Ludovico di Varthema,1470–1517 & his book

  1. Abdar Razzak, an Ambassador from the court of Emperor ShahRukh of Turkey to the court of the Vijayanagar kingdom between April to December 1443, mentions about having seen the use of fireworks in Vijayanagar, during his visit.

The Samskrt dictionary contains age old words such as Sphotak, Visphotak for explosives and words such as agnikreeda meaning sporty display of fires, pointing to ancient Indians’ knowhow and usage of fireworks and explosives.

From Deepavali to other Festivals

 Taking a leaf from Deepavali, today festivals such as New Year, Christmas and many other festivals or even events around the world are celebrated with fireworks.

In England, Guy Fawkes day has been traditionally celebrated with fireworks.


Guy Fawkes celebration

America celebrates Independence Day on 4th of July every year with characteristic displays of fireworks.


America’s Independence Day Fireworks

Fireworks of the God – Ad hir Vettu

In every major temple festival, when the Deity is brought out in procession, fireworks have been an essential part of processional fanfare. A single loud sounding burst from a firecracker at important milestones of the procession, was a signal to the people of the village and nearby areas to be ready to receive and pay respects to the Deity, who was approaching.

Such fireworks in the Tamil land have been called Adhir Vettu – resounding blast.

In Tamil Nadu, there are still specialists who make these loud sounding crackers and they are still used in traditional temple processions and temple festivals, the most famous fireworks being that at Trichur Puram festival.

We thus see an usage of fireworks, especially for Deepavali and other festive occasions going for millennia, in our history.

Why These Fireworks?

 More than for merrymaking, bursting of firecracker has been used as way to announce. Announce either the arrival of the Divine or the departure of the Evil. An age old practice has been to burst cracker on the death of someone, especially wicked, vile.

It is a common tradition followed even today, to burst atleast one cracker, even in the poorest of poor houses, on Naraka Chaturdasi to acclaim the death of the Asura, Naraka.

We see this when effigies of Ravana made with fire crackers are set aflame on Vijaya Dasami day during Dassehra, to mark the death of Ravana and victory of Rama, i.e good over evil.

With the blurring of the history behind traditions over time, since the death of the wicked also means joy, bursting of firecrackers took on the connotation of celebrations and joy instead.

An Act of Proclamation

Bursting of loud crackers besides being a wonderful sight and an expression of merriness, has an effect of infusing a sense of bravery, boldness, courage and achievement. It ushers in a feeling of having won over something. It is like an act of proclamation – a proclamation of siding with the right and righteous.

The firecrackers therefore had been put to a fitting use, to evoke such emotions when celebrating occasions that stand for a victory of good over evil.

Discriminate Use

They can emphasize the cause of celebrations, if only we care to know the cause and care to use the crackers discriminately.

A Thriving Industry Today

In many places though, this tradition has given way to indiscriminate use of long string of crackers that go on endlessly for minutes, as a mere sign of celebration of a few, at the cost of discomfort and distress to other pedestrians, animals and vehicular traffic.

Also, all caution is thrown to the winds, by the youth of present day, as they handle fireworks.

The industries too in present times exploit local and seasonal labour, especially child and women workforce.

Making of fireworks is a thriving industry around Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, in China and other parts of world as well. Manufacture and export of fireworks and the field of pyrotechnics have become an important contributor to the economy of the land.

The pollution that fire crackers give forth is negligible compared to various other sound and air pollutants that we are polluting this earth with, on a daily basis and valuable, considering how they can be effective in emphasizing a good cause.

So, if we can ensure that we can keep under check, the inconsideration and other safety and labour norms that are flouted around the business of firecrackers, then we can make every Deepavali season SOUND FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS. Given this wholistic understanding, let us celebrate Deepavali with care, caution, consideration and cheer – the way Deepavali has been celebrated for hundreds of years in this land. It is the most popular festival of India, celebrated in its own distinctive style.


Karva Chauth

Karva Chauth is the day when married women fast from sunrise to sunset for the protection and longevity of their husbands.

The festival is celebrated on the fourth day after Full Moon of Karthik month.

The festival is observed in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.


Women praying for this husbands


Karva means a pot and Chauth means ‘fourth’ in Samskrt, an obvious reference the ‘fourth day after Full Moon’.

There is also a legend associated with the name Karva Chauth.

The legend

A woman called Karva was deeply in love with her husband. One day while bathing in a river, a crocodile caught hold of her husband. She prayed to Yama, the divinity of death, to release her husband from imminent death. Yama respecting her love and steadfastness, her Vrta, bestowed him back to her.

Such stories are replete in every culture, in every land, through the times.

Commemorating these stories, women observe Karva Chauth, with steadfastness Vrta, for the health, Ayush, life of their loved ones, starting from their husband.

A period of harvest and military campaign

A Jawan, soldier and a Kissan, farmer are the backbone of any civilization.

Karva Chauth falls around the period when the wheat is sown. Karva also means pot in some languages. Wheat is stored in pots. Karva Chauth is the day when women pray for a good harvest for their husbands, the Kissans, farmers, so that the Karvas are full.

In ancient days, the period around Karva Chauth was also the time when soldiers ventured out for military campaigns.  Women used to conduct prayers on Karva Chauth for the protection of their husbands during a battle.

War Window

In ancient times, there was a clear war window. During monsoon it was not possible to go to battle. Soon after the monsoons was the time to go to battle.

The Rama Ravana War was fought after south west monsoon.


The Ramayana battle was fought post south west monsoon

The famous Mahabharata war at Kurukshetra was fought after the monsoons, before winter.


Mahabharata War was fought post monsoons

India’s East Pakistan war of 1971, for liberation of Bangladesh, was also fought after the monsoons.


The Bangladesh Liberation War also took place after the monsoons

Like this through the ages, post monsoon was considered an apt window to go to war.

Why only women observed Karva Chauth?

From those days, to the present days, it is mainly men who went to war and women stayed to look after the families, their farms, their other household activities. So it is natural, that the women prayed for the safe return of men folk, victorious in war. It was given this that Karva Chauth festival was observed by the women in this window.

There is also a legend associated with the name Karva Chauth.

For the sake of battle going men

In ancient days, it was not just the soldiers, the kshatriya who went to war, but also those belonging to other classes of the society. For example, the agriculturists and also went to battle to support their warriors.

This day was mainly observed for those husband folks who took part in a battle. It is this day that has permeated down to all classes of society as the Karva Chauth festival today.

Same festival, other places

Some of the other names, this observance is known by in other parts of the land being,

women festivals1.jpg

Women Deified

In Pre-modern India, women observing Karwa Chauth were deified and worshipped. Paintings depict woman on fast as embodiment of Goddess.

Also, in this land, women are known for their valour and bravery. They don’t play with Barbie dolls, but with swords.


Women as embodiment of Goddess

Selflessness and Steadfastness of Women

The observances such as Karva Chauth also show the selflessness of women, their caring nature and affection they have for their husbands, their family and society.


Such timeless festivals showcase the steadfastness of women to their family and near and dear. They bring out the noble qualities of women wherever they are, whatever language they may speak, whatever they may eat, whatever they may wear and however they may look!

Valmiki Jayanthi

Valmiki –  Author of Ramayana

Valmiki, the man who chronicled the life times of Rama and the values Rama stood for, was born 7150 years ago.



Incident that led to first poem

Krauncha, Heron birds were mating. A hunter shot one of them down with his arrow. Valmiki who happened to observe this incident was moved by pathos and from him naturally comes forth the verse:


Valmiki moved by pathos


Thus came the first poem of humanity through pathos – “Sokah Slokatwam Aagatah”. It is for composing this poem and Valmiki is referred to as Adi Kavi, the first poet.

Valmiki badly shaken by this incident returned to his ashram, unable to compose himself. He then remembered to have said soemthing on that occasion and asked his sishya Bharadwaja if he remembered what he had said. Bharadwaja replied “Maa Nishaada…” They both were surprised at the particular pattern and rhythm in his utterance.


Valmiki and his disciple Bharadwaja

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth, the celebrated English poet expresses poetry as,

 “Poetry is a spontanesous overflow of powerful feelings, takes its origin from emotions, recollected in tranquility” is a poem of

This seems to fit aptly for the incident of Valmiki watching the Krauncha bird and the outcome being the first poem.


William Wordsworth

Valmiki, a forest hunter

Valmiki means “anthill”. Valmiki was a forest hunter, a wayside robber called Ratnakar, who out of remorse went so deep into penance, that he was covered by an anthill and therefore got the name Valmiki.

Valmiki Ramayana

He emerged from this anthill and penance endowed with the gift of writing. His magnum opus is the epic, Valmiki Ramayana.

Many Ramayanas

There have been many Ramayanas written by different authors over centuries. These later day texts cannot be termed as being completely historical, because they are based on the information available at their times.

Hence these later versions are not called Itihasa. They are popularly known as kavya or beautiful poetry.

Valmiki Ramayana, the authentic historical text

In contrast to all this, the Ramayana written by Valmiki alone can be considered as authentic historical text, which is why the text has been classified as Itihasa, meaning ‘it thus happened’.

A Biography of Valmiki

Valmiki Ramayana is a historical biography because Valmiki, the author of the original Ramayana text was a contemporary of Rama.

This has been explicitly stated in the text itself. This story was not penned a few hundred years after the life of Rama. In fact, Valmiki was the guardian to the wife and sons of Rama, Lava and Kusha.


Valmiki teaching Ramayana to Lava and Kusha

This one fact gives it the credibility of being an authentic historical account. If you look at various historical texts world over, we find that the records of the events which happened, have usually been written down as history, about a few hundred or even few thousand years post the events having taken place, leaving room for some gaps.

In the case of Valmiki Ramayana, it is a text written by a person, Valmiki, who was a contemporary to the people and period of event.

Valmiki also plays an integral role in the events of Ramayana.

As the legend continues, Sita delivered twin sons – Luva and Kusha who learnt the Ramayana from Valmiki and narrated it to Rama.


Luva and Kusha narrating Ramayana to Rama

The authenticity of the text

As to the authenticity of the content of Valmiki Ramayana that he had collated, Valmiki himself vouches for it, when he meets Rama for the first time and introduces himself as,

Prachetsoahem dasmey putroh raghavnandany

Ne ismarahmeanritam vakyamimo tu tav putroko ||

Valmiki Ramayana 7.96.19

i.e., Valmiki proudly says to Rama,

“I am the 10th son of Pracheta, and I never remember speaking even one untrue sentence.”

This emphatic statement of Valmiki gives a strong dimension of credibility to his Ramayana.

That the Ramayana is an itihasa and that it was written by Valmiki during the lifetime of Rama, His wife Sita and their sons Lava and Kusha can been seen from the language in the text. Ramayana is not written in the past tense or future tense, it is primarily written in the present tense.

This goes to indicate to us from a different angle, that it is a biography by Valmiki of the happenings during his times.

More on Valmiki and the historicity of Rama in our Book and Film, “Historical Rama”, Book, “Ayodhya – War and Peace” and “Ramayana in Lanka”





Navaratri – Celebrating Change

India is a vast land with an ancient culture. It has a range of colourful festivals. Navaratri is one among these festivals. This festival is not celebrated for a day, but for nine nights as the term Navaratri suggests.

 While the period and date of festival is common across the land, it is celebrated in different ways across the land, but is still the same festival and spans across the same time window. The spirit is the same, that of honouring the feminine forces in Nature in the form of the three Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswathi, which finds expression in the place of honour given to women and girls during this festival.

 In Tamil Nadu and other parts of South India, it is celebrated as Kolu, festival of dolls, ending with Saraswathi Puja. In Mysore, it is celebrated as Dassera with Devi Chamundi as the primary divinity. In Bengal, it is called Durga Puja. In Central India and Northern India, Dassera is celebrated with the Dahana, burning of the effigy of Ravana to symbolize the victory of good over evil.

 Navaratri Celebrations across the land

How is it that the same festival is celebrated in different ways in the same culture, in the same religious milieu and still accepted across the land by the same name, Navaratri and Dassera?

 The connecting bond for all these festivals is the culture, which is called Samskrti. The word Samskrti itself means “that which is well done” as Kriti means “to do well”.

This is said so for, over time, the civilization in India had learnt, understood and perfected the ways of living. It is a way of living which is in sync with Nature as reflected in the timing of the festivals in India which are mainly based on seasons and the scientific principles of Nature.

 Even though most people celebrate just one Navaratri festival during September – October every year, there are actually 4 Navaratri festivals in a year, each lasting for 9 nights and days.

 Why are there 4 Navaratri festivals in a year?

 India has 4 seasons and so Navaratri is celebrated 4 times in a year.

The prime ones are celebrated in the months of March-April, the transition from Winter to Spring and in the months of September-October, the transition from summer to autumn. If you note, these are the windows close to the two equinoxes as well, the period when days and nights are equal and balanced.

Why does each celebration last for nine nights and days?

Navaratri festival celebrates the transitory nature between the four major seasons in Nature, they being summer, winter, spring and autumn. The transition from one to the other season does not take place in just one day but in fact was considered in Indian thought, to be a full span of 9 to 10 days. So this transitional nature of Nature was earmarked as a period of time which is 9 days and 9 nights.

From such practices, it comes out clear to us that, in the traditional Indian thought, while there was a definite calendar with days, hours, minutes and finer divisions of time, equal importance was also given to transitory periods – transition from day to night, from month to month, from season to season and so on.

Change in Season, Change in life pattern

When seasons change, life pattern also changes. The body which is a part of Nature, changes with changing surroundings, change in seasons. There is a change in diet pattern, sleep, metabolism etc. with the change in season. In a society closely in tune with Nature, it also affects occupations, work undertaken, dressing and overall behavior. Navaratri is such a transition from one season to another and is a celebration of this change.

Whenever there is a change, one can either resist it or accept it. With resistance comes hardships.  With acceptance comes mellowness. Celebrating is one way of yielding to and accepting a change wholeheartedly. And where there is wholehearted acceptance, contentment will follow and so will happiness.

Navaratri is the expression of such a celebration where we recognize there is going to be a change, understand the change that is to follow and accept it willingly.

Alignment of Energies

 There is a saying in the Samskrt language, “Yatha Pinde thatha Brahmande” – “As in Microcosm, so in Macrocosm”. This phrase brings forth the relationship between our body, the body of earth and body of cosmos.

The gross world, the Macrocosm, is filled with varieties of astral bodies such as the earth, sun, planets, comets, stars, nebulae and galaxies. All these bodies are in continual motion, which brings about continuous change not only in the huge cosmos but all the way in every tiny living and non living being all the way on earth.

As these bodies keep moving and causing change in the cosmos, they keep aligning and realigning amongst themselves. These alignments bring in an interplay amongst the forces of Nature.

All these alignments have their effects on each of the bodies in space including the body that is us.

 The Trinity of Energies

Our mind too, the Microcosm, is constantly under the interplay, alignment of 3 subtle forces or energies.

  •  Ichcha Shakti – desire or will to act and manifest

  • Kriya Shakti – potential to act and manifest

  • Gnana Shakti – knowledge power for the manifestation

 An alignment of these energies denotes the culmination of their interplay, leading to a balanced state of mind and individual. This knowledge, Gnana Shakti, should lead us, the people, civilizations and human race as a whole, to use our potential and faculties, i.e. Kriya Shakti, for aligning our subconscious desire and will, Ichcha Shakti to be in sync with the Cosmos.

 It is these 3 energies in the form of the three Goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi, that the Indians from time immemorial have been invoking and realigning themselves with, during the seasonal transition festival called Navaratri.

D.K. Hari and D. K. Hema Hari are authors, research collators and founders of Bharath Gyan

 They may be contacted through and email:

Navaratri – A Transitioning Window

There are definite cycles of celestial motion, some short enough for us to see and record in our lifetimes and some others long enough to be unimaginable, as well.

There is a mathematical functioning to the cosmos that we sometimes see.

There is also randomness in the Universe, which cannot be explained but which indicates the presence of subtler forces and dimensions that we have as yet not understood.

The cosmos is not made of black and white. It comes in all shades of colours and all shades of grey.

We have not even scratched the tip of knowledge of all the objects in the Universe, their motions and their phenomenon. Our science and mathematics cannot simulate nature to its exactness.

This is why, among other aspects, the ancients seem to have been wise enough to demarcate time windows for cosmic events, apart from calculating a fixed date for the event. Such time windows were called Sandhi.

A Sandhi

Sandhi is the join between two places, two activities, two periods – Yuga.


When one Yuga period ends and the other Yuga period starts, while there is a very specific, pin pointed time, which is used for calculation purpose, there is also another important feature known as the Sandhi period which indicates the overlaps on either side of this specific, pin pointed time marker by more than a few years. This period is collectively known as the Sandhi period, period of transition.

Effects of a Sandhi

The Kali Yuga, which was an alignment of all the planets in the Solar system, with the Aries, Mesham constellation, has been calculated to have started at 02 hours 30 minutes 23 seconds on Friday 18th February 3102 BCE.

The precise alignment of all the planets of the solar system did take place at the above mentioned precise time and date, but the effect of it was not for that moment alone.

The effect of the alignment was felt, stretched over a period of time, by hundred years on either side.

The tumultuous Mahabharatha period and the life of legendary hero Krishna, took place in the intervening Sandhi period. This tumultuous period has now been dated, using the field of Archaeo-astronomy, to be between 3112 BCE to 3031 BCE.

This period falls on either side of the start of Kali Yuga, which is why the Mahabharatha epic of India, very explicitly states that the tumultuous period of Mahabharatha, happened in the interim, antara of the two Yuga namely –Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga.


The Mahabharatha Wartook place in the Antare- i.e. Antare meaning the interphase or twilight- of Dwapara yuga.

The very word Antara in Samskrt means “between, inside, within”. It bears the root for the English words inter, intra, enter etc.


India across times has thus accorded significance to the Sandhi, the antare period or transitional window between two time periods, cycles or seasons.

Navaratri – A Sandhi in Rthu, seasons

Navaratri is a popular festival in India. It is celebrated, as the name suggests, over nine nights and concludes on the 10th day. This Navratri festival is celebrated every year in the month of September – October.

While most of the popular festivals of India are one day festivals, Navaratri is a nine day festival.

Why is it such a long festival?

A little known fact about Navaratri is that it is not just an annual event. Even though most people celebrate just one Navaratri festival during September – October every year, there are 4 Navaratri festivals in a year, each lasting for 9 nights and days.

The prime ones are the ones in the month of March-April, i.e the transition from winter to spring and the one in the month of September – October, i.e. transition from summer to autumn. These seem close to the equinox periods, a time of balanced days and nights.

Why do we celebrate the same festival four times in a year that too each time for nine nights and days?

This festival celebrates the transitory nature between the four major seasons in Nature, they being summer, winter, spring and rains. The transition from one to the other season does not take place in just one day but is in fact the full span of 9 to10 days. So this transitional nature of Nature was understood as a period of time which is 9 days and nights.

A time to allow one’s body and mind to adjust to the rhythm of Nature and align with the new season.

In the traditional Indian thought, while there was a definite calendar as a time maker, equal importance was also given to the transitory period.

Indian thought also viewed time from a cyclical perspective. i.e. They looked at time as a resultant of the periodic, cyclical motion of celestial objects in space. Hence the word Rthu to denote the periodicity in Nature.

It is this word Rthu, which gives rise to the English word Rhythm for a periodic pattern.

Alignment of Energies

Indian knowledge system also held that something cyclic can only be detected or perceived through an alignment and alignments have a nett result, a result that emerges and settles down over a transitional period.

There is a Samskrt saying “Yatha Pinde thatha Brahmande” – “As in Microcosm, so in macrocosm”

This phrase and its meaning and its relationship to the Creation of the Cosmos and everything within, is discussed in good detail in our book Creation – Srishti Vignana.

In the case of the macrocosmic universe of large celestial bodies, alignments could influence gravitational forces, magnetic forces, other such cosmic forces and the Indian knowledge system realized, recorded and revealed that the nett result, was the notion of Sandhi, the union.

Our mind too, the microcosm, is constantly under the interplay, alignment of 3 subtle forces or energies.

  • Ichcha Shakti – desire, will to manifest

  • Kriya Shakti – potential to act and manifest

  • Gnana Shakti – knowledge power for the manifestation

An alignment of these energies denotes the culmination of their interplay, leading to a balanced state of mind and individual.

Alignments bring in a sense of settlement and equilibrium in the cosmos, in Nature, in people and in civilizations.

This knowledge, Gnana Shakti, should lead us, the people, civilizations and human race as a whole,  to use our potential and faculties, i.e Kriya Shakti, for aligning our sub conscious desire and will, Ichcha Shakti to be in sync with the  Cosmos, which is the manifestation of the Ichcha Shakti, the desire, wish and the way of Nature.

It is these 3 energies that we invoke and align ourselves with, in the form of the three goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi, during the seasonal transition called Navaratri.

Navaratri – A Time to Honour Women

Life on earth is discernable by 3 basic qualities –

  1. to know

  2. to feel

  3. to act.

Knowing gives rise to desire, a want, an impulse, a response. This impulse makes one act in that direction. Acting, doing anything again gives knowledge which further drives wants again and the cycle goes on endlessly.

It can also be seen as there is a want, a desire which drives one to know what to do to get it fulfilled and this knowledge enables one to act in the direction of getting the want fulfilled. Once this want is fulfilled, there arises the next want and the cycle goes on endlessly.

These 3 basic aspects can be seen in living beings in varying degrees depending on their form of existence from micro-organism, plant, insect, birds, animal to human life. Those in which, one of more of these 3 aspects, i.e. free thought, free will, free act, is missing, is considered to be non-living.

It is the power of such free thought, free will and free act, which has been described in Indian thought as Gnana Shakti, Iccha Shakti and Kriya Shakti. Together they form a part of one’s consciousness.

A new born baby, soon as it is born itself, as it struggles for air, subconsciously wants to breathe, knows how to breathe and breathes without anyone teaching it so. The cycle starts from there.

Similar is the case with a seed. When a seed is ready, there is an impulse to germinate, it knows how to germinate and it germinates on its own without anyone teaching it or making it to do so. One can only create a conducive environment. The rest is upto the seed.

These 3 energies form a part of the consciousness of every entity on earth, every entity in the cosmos and of the cosmos itself too as it is also alive.

The cosmos as an entity too is living as it is continuously evolving, goes through its cycles of births and deaths and most of all is driven by a cosmic consciousness – a consciousness that makes it want to get created, know how to create itself and to go through the process of creation.

Thus these 3 energies exist at all levels in the cosmos.

The ancients of this land had well understood consciousness and life. They had also seen a complementary nature in this universe.

Every living being on earth, be it from plant or animal kingdom, bears a predominant male or female characteristic, commonly called gender. In each species, the male and female of the species evolve roles, responsibilities innate to their character so that they complement each other in keeping themselves sustained, creating progeny and safeguarding them for the continued existence, survival of the species as a whole.

Such a complementing nature is at work in the whole of Nature.

The ancients had therefore divined the principles and workings of the cosmos into three primary masculine divinities – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and their feminine counterpart divinities – Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Durga or Shakti respectively.

Each of the pair of masculine and feminine divinities were associated with one aspect of the existence of the cosmos all the way down to the smallest being on it –

1.      Brahma – Sarasvati pair associated with the expansion, growth, evolution of the Universe. They represent the Gnana Shakti, knowledge to create the Universe and everything in it.

2.      Vishnu – Lakshmi pair associated with the purpose, orderly functioning, sustenance of the Universe. They represent the Iccha Shakti, the act of willful, purposeful creation and sustenance.

3.      Shiva – Shakti pair associated with the manifestation and regeneration of the matter of the Universe. They represent the Kriya Shakti, potential, energy and process of manifestation of the Universe.


The cosmos is not a chaos. On the contrary it is well organized with clear distinction of characteristics, roles and responsibilities starting all the way from the divine cosmic principles to the smallest and myriad forms of existence.

Every role needs an actor to play it and the actor needs a character, Guna.

Similarly in the 3 roles played by the 3 pairs of divinities, the masculine divinity denotes the actor while the feminine divinity is the character of that actor.

If Shiva plays the role of the manifestor, Shakti is the energy in Shiva to go through the process of manifestation, Kriya Shakti.

If Vishnu plays the role of maintaining order in the cosmos and sustaining it, Lakshmi within Vishnu is the desire, principle, goal that drives this creation and its sustenance, Iccha Shakti.

If Brahma plays the role of expanding the Universe and consciousness, Sarasvati is the one inside Brahma who knows it all, the Gnana Shakti.

These feminine divinities were perhaps the earliest “Women of Substance”.

Navaratri is the celebration of these earliest “Women of Substance”.

These three divinities, Goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati, who represent power, achievement and knowledge resources respectively, are propitiated during Navaratri to enrich our lives with the above resources, vital to the survival and prosperity of any civilization.

This festival is not celebrated for a day, but for nine nights as the term Navaratri suggests. It is the time window to align the divine feminine forces in each one of us governing the three aspects of our life with that of the cosmos.

This symbolism of the Goddesses denotes the higher understanding in the civilization that the functioning and the resources needed to function, coming together with a purpose, is what ensures successful completion of any activity.

It is the understanding of this complementary nature of Nature, all the way from the divine forces at work throughout the Universe, to the various living forms in this Universe, including man and woman on earth that formed the ethos of the land of India.

This ethos through the ages has given the due position and respect, in all spheres of life, to men and women. Navaratri is the time to honour the women in the cosmos all the way from divine to human.

 Navaratri celebrations


Onam Festival – Part 1, The Story of Onam

Onam commemorates the homecoming of the great Asura king Maha Bali from Patala Loka. Maha Bali, the grandson of Prahalada, was a strong and learned king. The name Bali means strong. Bali was also a person who gave a lot of respect to knowledge. This is evident from the famous episode of his encounter with Vamana.

Maha Bali was performing a Yagna, a focussed and austere act, towards achieving a goal, by sacrificing one’s pleasures and possessions.

 At that time, a short, young, radiant boy entered the yagna shala. He seemed to be the epitome of true knowledge. Maha Bali as is the custom, welcomed this radiant youngster and enquired upon the reason as to why he had come to attend this yagna. The youngster requested for just that much space, as could be measured by three of His footsteps.

Bali and Vamana 

Vamana and Maha Bali

When Maha Bali thinks of this request to be very small for a man of his stature and immediately offers to give the youngster what He desires, Guru Sukracharya, the mentor of Bali and the Asura, intercedes, to restrain the Asura King Bali from granting the requested three measures of space, without giving the request a due thought.

Shukracharya advising Bali 

 Sukracharya advising Bali

Maha Bali does not pause to think, as cautioned by his mentor Sukracharya. Instead, brushing aside the warnings, he goes ahead and grants three measures of space, as asked for, by this radiant youngster Vamana.

As the legend goes, no sooner were the three footsteps granted, the youngster Vamana assumed a gigantic form known as Trivikrama and with the first step of His foot, measured the whole earth. Then with the second step of His foot He measured the whole sky. These two steps had covered the whole of Maha Bali’s kingdom, the earth and the sky. Vamana then asked the King, as to where he should place His third step.



King Maha Bali recognizing the divinity of Vishnu in Vamana, understood his folly, bowed and offered his own head to Vamana, for placing His third step on.

Seeing Maha Bali’s sincerity and reverence, Vishnu forgives him, places his third foot on Maha Bali’s head and sends him “down” to Pathala Loka and offers to stay guard for Maha Bali, Himself.


Vamana’s leg on Bali’s head

Acceding to the request of Maha Bali’s people, Vishnu grants Maha Bali permission to return to his kingdom from Pathala Loka, once every year to be in the midst of his people. This day is celebrated as the Onam festival.

Where is this Pathala Loka?

Read the next part in this Onam Series-