Equinox

When Sun is over Equator

The equinox is when the Sun is exactly over the equator. The sun is constantly transiting northwards and southwards, alternating every six months between the 2 hemispheres of this earth. In this path, it transits the equator twice, once when going southwards and the other time when it goes up northwards.

When Days and Nights are Equal

As the earth keeps going around the sun, there are certain points in the orbit, when due to the angle of the earth’s tilt, the days and nights become equal. These days are called Equinox. This occurs due to the tilt of the earth’s axis by 23 ½ degree.

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Equal, Equator, Equinox, Ecuador

Equinox

Equinox is the term used to refer to the days being split into two halves.

Ecuador

Ecuador is a country in South America, located on the equator and due to which it has equal day and night through the year. Infact, the country derives its name, Ecuador, for being located on the equator.

Same Root

Interestingly, the Words Equal, Equator, Equinox and Ecuador have the same root Equa, meaning ‘two halves’.

Visvadrutta Rekha 

The Indian word for equator is Visvadrutta Rekha meaning ‘that which splits the world into 2 halves’.

Vernal and Autumnal Equinox

These 2 points of transit of the sun on the equator of the earth, are called equinoxes, the vernal or spring equinox and autumnal equinox. Vernal Equinox happens every year on March 21st during the Sun’s Northward and Autumnal Equinox on September 22nd during Southward journey.

Alignments bring Equilibrium

Alignments bring in a sense of settlement and equilibrium in the cosmos, in Nature, in people and in civilizations. That is why, in various civilizations of the world, anything new, especially the New Year starts from the position of an equilibrium, the vernal equinox.

New Year across civilizations

All civilizations of the world had this vernal equinox of the sun moving north from the southern hemisphere as the equilibrium point for the start of the New Year in their calendars. Be it the various Indian calendars, the traditional South East Asian calendars of Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka etc., the ancient Persian Calendar – Navroze and the ancient Julian Calendar of ancient Europe, they all started their New Year in early April or end March.

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New Year Celebrations across the world around Equinox

This was because all these civilizations were in sync with Nature and the movement of the sun and had aligned themselves with the cycles in Nature.

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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.

Three-Powers

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

 

International Peace Day

Peace is one of the core human values that our nation has stood for, and is one of main reasons why this civilization has been a continuous one, and stood the tests of time for many millennia, inspite of facing invasions and plunders.

In our present day war torn world, Peace assumes great significance, and is often seen in the context of “War and Peace”. International Peace Day which is observed on 21st September every year is therefore also observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence.

Peace however need not be just seen as ‘absence of war’, but stands for a host of other qualities like equanimity, amity, harmony, tranquility, calmness, accord, friendship, silence, non-violence and innumerable other synonyms.

Shanti

The most common and often used word for Peace in this land is Shanti. There exist many mantras that are chanted for one’s well-being and the well-being of the world.

Shanti Mantra

There is a common Shanti mantra that is recited namely,

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Mantras ending with Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

We also often hear many chants ending with Shanti being chanted three times, in the sequence.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

There are a plethora of such mantras in our scriptures. Few of them being,

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2.

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3.

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Shanti Path Mantra

There is also another category of Mantra, known as Shanti Path Mantra, which is a mantra prayer to lead us on a path to Peace. This mantra being,

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In Bali, Indonesia

The people of Bali island, Indonesia, greet each other with words, “Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om”.

Why should Shanti be chanted 3 times?

The Indian ethos speaks of three levels of peace, and the three times we chant, is for each of these levels.

  1. Inner Peace
  2. Peace in the Society
  3. Peace in the World

Inner Peace

This level of peace pertains to the mind. We are often plagued by worries, desires, and innumerable other thoughts, which disturbs our inner peace, even though we may be apparently peaceful outside. There are inner battles raging on within us all the time. Many times these inner wars spill over, and is reflected in our actions and words in our immediate environment.

We often hear the cries, “I want Peace, I want Peace……”  On a lighter note, it is advised, “Remove I, Remove Want and what will remain is Peace”. Here “I” stands for ego and “Want” for desires, the twin enemies of Peace.

In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna speaks of nishkama karma, i.e “actions performed without desire for fruits”, in this context of inner peace. The relevant sloka being,

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Bhagavad Gita Upadesha

Krishna also explains that, highest state of Inner Peace is one of the marks of an enlightened, in whom all the activities of mind has ceased, and who rests in a perpetual state of Shanti. Hence, Aman, meaning “mindless”, is another word used to refer to Peace, Shanti.

More on Krishna and Bhagavad Gita in our trilogy Historical Krishna.

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Inner peace is important and is directly linked to the next level of peace.

Peace in the Society

Peace in our society encompasses Peace in our family, friends and workplace. When a society lives in Peace with one another and also Nature, then the prosperity of a nation is guaranteed. The efforts made to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all are also ways to ensure Peace in the society and the nation.

Peace in the World

The third level is Peace between nations, and in the whole world, which is most important.

Today, the World is One Global Family. The world is flat – so say some. The earth is physically round as we know.

And by relationships it is deep.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – one world family”, has been an oft used Indian phrase, through the ages, and which can be only realized in its true sense, only when there is Peace in the whole world.

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Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – a Global Family

Vishva Shanti or World Peace is another Indian concept which aims for Peace in the whole world. If any part of the world is affected, then in a way Peace in other parts suffer. If something is going to affect India, it will affect the world too.

Off late, relationships between the countries have been mired by wars, conflicts, terrorism, global warming, economic meltdown and natural calamities which has affected World Peace.

The different nations of the world need to live harmoniously with each other and also with Nature, so that we can have World Peace, Vishva Shanti.

In Buddhism

Vishva Shanti is also one of the pillars of Buddhism, which the Buddha propounded. The Buddhist built symbols of World Peace are the different Peace Pagodas that have been established throughout the world. A pagoda is a type of Stupa which symbolizes a common cause and provides a place for gathering and worship towards this common cause.

A few Japanese Buddhist monks in 20th century undertook a mission to set an example for world peace by establishing Peace Pagodas throughout the world.

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The Japanese World Peace Pagoda at Rumassala, Sri Lanka

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The World Peace Pagoda at Pokhara, Nepal

One such Peace Pagoda is the Vishva Shanti Stupa at Rajgir, in Bihar, built by Japanese Buddhist monks. Vishwa Shanti Stupa is the tallest peace Pagoda in the world, standing 400 meters tall.

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Vishwa Shanti Stupa built by the Japanese at Rajgir, Bihar

We have been fortunate enough to visit the World Peace Pagodas in southern Sri Lanka, at Rumassala and at Pokhara in Nepal.

More on Peace Pagodas in our book – Indo-Japan A Connect Over Millennia.

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International Peace Day

21st September has been declared as International Peace Day by the United Nations. The logo of Peace day has a dove carrying an olive branch, which are symbols of Peace that have been derived from the story of Noah’s ark.  A dove was released by Noah after the flood in order to find land; it came back carrying a freshly plucked olive leaf a sign of life after the Flood.

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In the present day world however, it is manmade calamities that threaten World Peace, more that natural calamities.

International Peace Day is devoted to promoting Vishva Shanti, World Peace, by strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among nations and peoples.

Bharath Gyan Book Launch

Today is Mahalaya Amavasya, the day when people all over India pay respects to all their ancestors put together thus far. This day marks the end of the waning fortnight called Mahalaya Paksha, and marks the start of Navaratri, the window of change in season surrounding the autumnal equinox.

We are fortunate to be releasing our Autobiography of India books on an important day such as today. For, these series of books are but a way of paying homage to our ancestors, and passing on our legacy to our future generations.

This Mahalaya Amavasya day is marked by rituals and offerings made by the men folk, called Tarpan, across India. Many use this custom to cite how Indian society has given a higher privilege to men than women.

Is that really so?

Did this ancient and knowledge based civilization limit the role of women knowingly? Why so?

The answers to these questions can be found in the Volume-2 of Breaking The Myths – About Society, in the section about Women, being launched today by Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, at Art of Living Bangalore.

You will be surprised at why our ancestors had deliberately designed such a custom, which seems biased towards men.

[Bharath Gyan to release Brand Bharat and Breaking The Myths on 19th September 2017, in the Presence of H H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.]

 

All books

Brand Bharat series

Breaking the Mythst series

Brand Bharat Series – English

Made in India

Roots in India

Unique to India

Leads from India

Future from India

Breaking The Myths Series – English

About Identity

About Society

About Prosperity

About Ability

Indo Japan – A Connect Over Millennia – Hindi

Indo Japan - Hindi

Creation – Padaippu – Tamil

Creation - Tamil

Understanding Shiva – Shivana Arivu – Kannada

Understanding Shiva - Kannada

Wonders of Indian Astronomy – English Film DVD

Wonders of Astronomy

Vanara Army March to Lanka – 19th September, 5076 BCE

Having identified the place where Sita had been held captive, Hanuman returns to his capital Kishkinda and informs Rama and Sugreeva, of how Ravana was holding Sita in captivity. Sugreeva garners his Vanara army to march southwards from his capital Kishkinda, towards Lanka.

Before embarking on their journey for the battle, they look for the right omens, for the army to start their march. The discussions around these omens are useful for us today, to clearly date the start of the army march.

Rama says-

“Today the sun has already risen to the middle of the sky and this is the famous Vijay Mahurath. In my opinion we must start our journey towards Lanka in this Vijay Mahurath, to win the battle against Ravana.”

 Ramayana 6.4.3

“Today is Uttara – Phalguni Nakshatra and tomorrow the moon would meet the Hasta Nakshatra. O Sugreeva! We must start our journey immediately along with the army of Vanara.”

– Ramayana 6.4.6

Vanara Army March to Lanka

Start of the Army March to Lanka – 19th September 5076 BCE

The start date of the Vanara Army march as calculated from skychart is 19th September, 5076 BCE.

Mahalaya Amavasya

Honouring Ancestors

Indians follow the practice of honouring their ancestors. Notable is the practice of setting aside a few days in a year as the period most auspicious for propitiating the ancestors.

Mahalaya Paksha

In India, this period is the fortnight called Mahalaya Paksha, which is the lunar, dark fortnight in September – October.

Mahalaya, Meaning

Mahalaya means the abode of the great souls. Mahan means great soul and alaya is abode, residence.

Sun and Moon Alignments

During Mahalaya Paksha, the Sun is aligned with the Libra zodiac, which means the Moon when full, lies aligned with the star in Aries Zodiac called Bharani in Indian astronomy.

Mahalaya Amavasya.jpg

Mahalaya Amavasya: Fortnight from Full Moon

This star in Indian astronomy is associated with the Lord of Death, Yama. So, the fortnight starting from this Full Moon is observed as the time to pay respects to ancestors so that these prayers and offerings will reach the abode of Yama who can facilitate their reaching the souls of the ancestors.

Kerala Vyasa – Birthday

Kunhikkuttan Thampuran banner (1).jpg

Kodengallur Kunhikuttam Thampuran is one of the leading stalwarts of Indian Literature, Malayalam and Samskrt language.

He was born on September 18th, 1864.

His foremost contribution is that of translating Mahabharatha from Samskrt to Malayalam.

Kerala Vyasa

Kunhikuttam Thampuran

Literary achievements

His long list of achievements include 130 books, 18 works in Malayalam and 14 works in Samskrt, 16 gathas, 11 Rupakams, 38 Khanda Kaavyas with innumerable works on grammar and health.

Family

Kunhikuttam Thampuran’s came from a family with literary and poetic abilities. His father Venmani Achan Namboodthirippad was also a famous poet.

First book

Kunhikuttam Thampuran wrote his first book called Kavibharatham as a teenager.

His Oeuvre

His body of works include Dhanasastrakarika, Aryasatakam, Srisankagurucharitham, Subhadraharanam in Samskrt and a poetic treatise in Malayalam called Keralam.

Translating Mahabharatha

Over and above all his works, Kunhikuttam Thampuran is remembered for his epic work of translating the Mahabharatha from Samskrt to Malayalam, a task considered impossible by his contemporaries due to the mammoth size of the epic. He did the translation, verse by verse, metre by metre, in just 874 days.

Kerala Vyasa

He got the honorific title ‘Kerala Vyasa’ for this translation.

A Connect Between Divine Language and Regional Language

This work paved the way for a creative connect between the ‘Divine Language’, Samskrt and the ‘Regional Language’, Malayalam. A narrative of pan Indian literary tradition!

This work went on to inspire other Malayalam works like P K Balakrishnan’s Ini Njan Urangatte – ‘Let Me Sleep Now’ and M T Vasudevan Nair’s Randamoozham – ‘The Second Turn’, both based on the Malayalam Mahabharatha.

Other Translations

His other translations include Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Othello.

Pakiri

Kunhikuttam Thampuran was a poet who brought into play his rich imagination to bring out his ideas. He was always seen wandering, moved by ideas and was nicknamed Pakiri.

Kunhikuttam Thampuran passed away in 1913.