5128th Birthday of Lord Krishna

janmashtamii

The people of this country never had any doubts about the historicity of Krishna until the colonial invaders projected Krishna as a mythical figure cooked up by wonderful stories.

The story of Krishna is deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of India and the people of this land revere Him as a Divinity. The colonial hangover has however left a doubt on the historicity of this highly adored Divinity.

The science of Archaeo-Astronomy has enabled us to go beyond the boundaries of conventional archaeology in tracing the historicity of some well known personages of this land, such as Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Mahavira and Shankara. Planetary configurations mentioned in the ancient scriptures pertaining to major events and personages connected, help us date events that happened around these personages, centuries and millenia ago, either manually or with more ease and accuracy, using Planetarium software.

As per the scriptures, Lord Krishna was born around midnight. That night was the eight phase of the moon known as Ashtami Tithi. The moon was near Vrshabha, the bull, i.e the Taurus constellation that houses the star Rohini. The star Rohini is known as Aldeberan in modern astronomy. The month was Shravana, one of the 12 months in the Indian calendar.

Krishna's birth in prison

Krishna’s Birth in Prison

 These details are clearly mentioned in the 10thSkanda, 3rd chapter of the Bhagavata Purana. The relevant sloka is,

Shravana vada ashtami, Rohini Nakshtra, uditam Lagnam

 This detail combined with details of sky configurations for events that happened around Krishna’s lifetimes, namely the Mahabharata, leads us to the exact birth date for Krishna.

Sky Chart of Krishna's birth

Krishna’s Birth Chart

 Courtesy Prof.Narahari Achar, Memphis University, USA

Such a search leads us to 27th July, 3112 BCE as Krishna’s date of birth in the Gregorian Calendar.

In Indian tradition, Krishna’s birth is also called as “Sri Jayanthi”. The word “Jayanthi” has an interesting connotation in Indian Astronomy. Indian astronomers have accorded special names to lunar phases occurring at certain stars.

The lunar phase occurring at Punarvasu star in Gemini constellation is called Jaya. The lunar phase occurring at Pushya star in the Gemini constellation is called Nasini. The lunar phase seen at Shravana star in the Capricorn zodiac is called Vijaya. Similarly, the phase of the moon occurring at Rohini star is called Jayanthi.

Krishna’s birth which happened when the moon was at Rohini star is called Sri Jayanthi.

Jayanthi also means celebrations and the word has thus come to be used to indicate birthday celebrations. Thus, the word “Jayanthi, over time, has also come to be used for the birthday celebrations of other great personages and we today celebrate Buddha Jayanthi, Mahaveer Jayanthi, Shankara Jayanthi, Shivaji Jayanthi, Gandhi Jayanthi, Ambedkar Jayanthi etc.

 “Jayanthi” became popular because of association with Krishna.

Every year, for millennia, Indians have been celebrating Krishna’s birthday in the Shravana month, on Rohini Nakshatra, Krishna Paksha Ashtami (8th phase of the waning moon) based on these details in scriptures.

It is the year of birth however, which has been the missing piece in common knowledge.

Not only from Archaeo-astronomy, but also from a wholistic analysis of data across various disciplines, today we can conclude that Lord Krishna was born in 3112 BCE.

So, this year, 2016 CE, makes it the 5128th year since His birth, Sri Jayanthi. Let us celebrate this 5128th birthday of Lord Krishna, keeping in mind that India’s most beloved Divinity was indeed also a historical figure who had walked this planet about 5000 years ago.

While Divinity is a matter of faith, historicity is a matter of existence. With the unravelling of the dates for Krishna, what comes out for all to see is the beautiful blend of Divinity and Historicity in Krishna.  One does not preclude the other.

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Lakshmi, Lakshya, God Particle

Indian thought since eons ago has delved deep into what causes Creation of the Universe and drawn out far reaching insights. These indescribable understandings were scaled down to a common level using metaphors and symbolic personages / divinities.

One such is the feminine divinity, Lakshmi.

Lakshmi, is the embodiment of wealth, prosperity and has her origins in the primordial waters from which came the Universe.

Lakshmi

Lakshmi coming forth from primordial Waters

Lakshmi, the Lakshya – Goal, Purpose

The etymological root for Lakshmi is Laksh meaning goal, target. From Laksh comes lakshya. Lakshmi is the goal that people chase continuously in their life for their basics as well as comforts.

The purpose of Creation, Srishti, the Big Bang, Brahmanda Visphotak, is to create this Universe. It is to create all the astral bodies, the galaxies, the sun, the earth and the planets dotting all over the universe.

Creation of all this, is the very purpose of the creation of the universe. This is the Lakshya, the goal of the Big Bang. In a way, creation of matter is not a by-product of the Big Bang, but is the very goal, the purpose of the Big Bang.

Life in the Universe is a continuous cycle driven by the goal to incessantly construct, destroy and reconstruct. Be it at the scale of wealth or sub-atomic particles, cells, all living beings, stars and the very cosmos itself.

 Contrary to the oft expressed statement that the cosmos is chaotic, the cosmos is driven by an order. It has a purpose. It has a Lakshya.

 This Lakshya of the cosmos, is embodied by Lakshmi.

Lakshmi as the Lakshya of the cosmos is also regarded as the consort of the divinity Vishnu overseeing the sustenance and order in the cosmos.

 Life is driven by Lakshmi, the goal, the will to live, live well.

This goal, this will, forces the cosmos to go from a state of being inert and quiescent to a state of liveliness and activity.

In the Indian pantheon of divinities, Goddess Lakshmi represents prosperity and wealth as it is the will, the intent, the goal that incites and forces things to act to create and multiply. The essence of wealth and prosperity is denoted by plentitude, the ability to multiply.

So, at a gross level, Lakshmi stands for all forms of movable and immovable assets, be it in the form of gold, silver, currency, property etc. Lakshmi denotes not just wealth but material that sustains life on earth such as food grains, cattle, water etc.. She represents that material which sustains the cosmos itself.

The basic nature of Lakshmi though, is impermanence.

Impermanence of Lakshmi

In Indian tradition, Lakshmi is shown seated or standing on a lotus in a pond. The lotus is typically shown with large leaves and droplets of water rolling on them.

lakshmi2 Lakshmi standing on Lotus

 When you put droplets of water on a lotus leaf, the water keeps on rolling. The water globules do not show an attachment to the lotus leaves.

Banyan leaf

 Similarly, wealth, matter has no attachment to people, time. It is constantly rolling.

 Lakshmi never stays in one place. She moves along, in the process distributing wealth as she moves.

This role of Lakshmi is exemplified by the proposal and discovery of the God Particle.

 The God Particle

The Higgs-Boson particle commonly referred to as the God Particle, is expressed as that which enables matter to get created by enabling mass based particles, i.e. matter, to come into being. The presence of the God Particle, forces massless sub atomic particles called quarks, gluons to come together and form a stable particle with mass.

  God Particle

God Particle – A Representation

 Impermanence of God Particle

Having achieved the purpose for which it came into existence, its goal, the Higgs-Boson, self-destructs itself to appear again at another place to create fresh matter.

 The God Particle thus seems like a catalyst, inciting the creation of matter in the Universe. There is a purpose, a goal, a Lakshya to the God Particle.

 We see a similarity between the God Particle and the role being discharged by the impermanent, constantly on the move, Lakshmi with Her Lakshya too.

 Lakshmi shows the way

Will this understanding of Lakshmi, act as a catalyst to induce us to learn more about our cosmos and its Creation, from the metaphoric expressions of our ancients?

Where there is a will, a Lakshya, there is a way.

 Lakshmi

Guru Poornima

Guru Poornima festival is celebrated every year around July-August.

It is the Poornima, full moon day, on which we pay our obeisance to our Guru and through him to our Guru Parampara of this land, this civilization. This civilization has its ethos coming down to us over the last five thousand years or more, not because of the kings who ruled or administered this land, but primarily because of the various Gurus who came generation after generation, in different parts of this land. Gurus who have nurtured the civilization, given solace to the troubled minds and who given a continuity to the ethos of this land.

Why do we celebrate Guru Poornima, in the monsoon months of July – August?

The answer to this question, is embedded in the question itself, as is, in many of the questions of this land. India is a monsoon fed land and in the four months from June to September, the rain spreads all over the land. This heavy rain during these four months makes it difficult for people to travel from one place to another. This aspect of the annual rains, perforce makes one stay put in one place. This feature of nature was used by the various Gurus, through the ages, through the land to observe their Chaturmasya vrata.

What is this Chaturmasya vrata?

The word Guru comes from the Samskrit root meaning “to attract”, “to draw.” It shares the root with the word Gurutva meaning Gravity or the attraction force of any body.

A Guru draws people with his radiant knowledge and soothing words of wisdom.

rishi with student

  Guru with disciples

 A Guru by his Dharma, radiates light and knowledge, to the people he meets.

A Guru’s Dharma in the Indian civilization is also to travel regularly from one place to another, sharing his knowledge regularly with the common folk of the land. This work of the Guru entails that he travels continuously. During the monsoon season, as we have already discussed, because of the heavy rains it becomes very difficult for them to travel from one place to another.

Given this, our Guru Parampara has been designed such that, for these four months, the Gurus stay in one place. During this lengthy stay at one place, they read from the voluminous literature of the land, meet the locals and enhance their own knowledge. It’s an annual, compulsory sit-down and upgradation of one’s knowledge.

After this annual study period, the Gurus are rejuvenated to travel once again through the land, to share their knowledge for the remaining 8 months. This study period is known as Chaturmasya period.

With the passage of time, this 4 month study period came to be reduced to a 4 Paksha study period. A Paksha is a 14 day period between a full moon and a new moon. With the passage of time it thus settled down to a 2 month period.

The land of India has been very fortunate to have a continuous series of prominent, well educated and noble Gurus.

Of all the Gurus, who can be called as the primary one? A very difficult question indeed!

If we look back at our civilization, the one Guru who has probably contributed the most, by far, isVeda Vyasa. Veda Vyasa as the name itself suggests compiled the knowledge available then, 5000 years ago, into 4 VedaRig, Sama, Yajur, Atharva. As if this one task is not enough achievement for a person’s lifetime, Veda Vyasa also went on to compile the 18 voluminous Purana, so that the legends of the land, along with the associated morals of right living, could come down to us, generation after generation. After having accomplished these two colossal tasks, he then went on to write the autobiography of his family, called “Jaya”, which over the years has come down to us as the Mahabharata epic.

 veda

                                                                      Veda Vyasa

For a person whose contribution is truly gigantic, he is considered as one of the great Gurus of this land and Veda Vyasa is propitiated to, in the Guru Poornima prayers. As, Veda Vyasa has given us the Veda, Purana and Mahabharata ,which between them, form the major portion of the Indian literature, he is  but naturally, revered as one of the greatest Gurus of this land. Given this fact, when we conduct our Guru Pooja, while we pray to all the Gurus of the land, the place of importance, primacy, is given to Veda Vyasa.

With this understanding of the concept, the purpose, the reason, for celebrating Guru Pooja, Guru Poornima, Chaturmasya, let us all read some aspects from the Indian knowledge system, understand a bit from the vast reservoir of knowledge and see how it can be applied in our lives.

This could be our fitting tribute to our Guru and through him to the Guru Parampara of this glorious land.

Yoga-The Union

The Roots

Yoga, the latest rave across the world, comes from the root Yug, Jug which means to align.

It is the same root as for the word “Yoke” which is used to align bullocks to pull a cart.

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YogaYug/Jug – Yoke – Join

The root of the word Yoga and its practice, lies in India.

The Practice

Yoga is not just exercise or postures.

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Yoga, as the name suggests, is the practice by way of which mind, body and breath are aligned to achieve a state of harmony with each other and to become homogeneous with the cosmic consciousness – a state that brings with it a sense of freshness, energy and calm, a sense of balance of the various senses and emotions.

The extent of harmony and balance maintained, defines the depth of insight the Yogi has gained.

In a simplistic form, it is a structured combination of

  • Asana – exercise postures for the body,
  • Pranayama – regulating energy through control of the breath and
  • Dhyana – meditation for the mind,

along with maintaining physiological, psychological and sociological hygiene through Yama (control / abstinence), Niyama (adherence) and other guidelines.

Daily activities as Yoga

In our life, the various activities that we perform are also various aspects of Yoga. For example,

  1. When we greet each other with Namaste, it is Anjali Mudra.
  2. When we sit down on the floor to eat, the sitting position is called Suhasan, one of the asana, postures of Yoga
  3. After eating, the asana, posture that is  suggested for easy digestion is Vajrasana
  4. The sleeping posture is Shavasana. The act of sleeping with awareness is known as Yoga Nidra

The common punishment asana is called Palikarsha. In Hindi it is called Baski and in Tamil Topukaranam. It is the act of crossing one’s arms and holding the opposite side ear lobes and performing situps.

Mistakes usually happen due to lack of knowledge and awareness. The Palikarsha posture stimulates the nadi, nerve which helps enhance neuron cells, their perfect connectivity and thus improves knowledge acquisition and transfer process within the body. It also helps to internalize whatever is learnt and to become more aware.

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Palikarsha

Like this, every simple activity is linked to one of the yogic postures or the other.

Child – An Expert in Yoga

Yoga comes to us naturally right from our childhood.

Many of the different poses that a child does in its antics are yogic poses. As we grow from childhood into youth, we need to continue our practice of Yoga.

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Children bending their bodies in play like Yoga Asanas

Yoga as a structured practice by the adults can be traced to India to beyond 7100 years ago at the very least.

A 7100 Year Old Structured Practice

The general opinion is that Yoga is 5000 years old. But we can see the trace of Yoga even during Ramayana times, 7100 years ago. Yoga was a specialized practice then too and hence must date to times before Rama as well.

Yoga Vasishta

The antiquity of Yoga can be ascertained from the fact that Rama’s Spiritual Guru, Vasishta, counselled and groomed Rama’s mind through the treatise Yoga Vasishta. One of the longest texts in Samskrt after Mahabharata, Yoga Vasishta forms an important text for Yoga and Advaita Vedanta (Non duality).

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Vasishta imparting Yoga Vasishta to Rama – An Illustration on Art of Living CD Cover

Rama’s birth datable to 5114 BCE, makes Yoga Vasishta and the concept of Yoga, atleast 7100 years old.

Continuous practice

From the timeless Veda, we can see that Indians have been in the habit of this continuous practice to keep both mind and body fit. Antiquity can be seen both in art and text.

In art, we can see a continuity of Yoga practice right from Mohenjodaro and Harappan times in the form of terracota Yogic posture figurines.

146 Yoga Poses Fig.jpg

As far as texts go, across the times, illumined minds have given structure to this practice, through a large body of texts, thereby giving Yoga practice, a breath of fresh air every few generations.

Rishi Patanjali and Yoga

Rishi Patanjali, one of the earliest pioneers of Yoga was born in the land known today as Afghanistan.

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An idol of Patanjali

When Rishi Gonika was praying to Surya, Sun with cupped hands – an Anjali Mudra, a yogic posture, a baby fell into it. The child was thus named Patanjali, meaning one who fell into cupped hands.

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Anjali to Surya

Rishi Patanjali had his education at Takshashila University, the premier centre of advanced learning then, which is near present day Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Takshashila was a sought after centre for higher studies in Yoga, Ayurveda among many other subjects.

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Takshashila Ruins of today

Patanjali Rameshwaram Connect

Rishi Patanjali attained his Samadhi in Rameshwaram in South India.

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Rameshwaram Temple

Rama installs Rameshwaram Lingam

Rameshwaram is one of the hallowed places of India, where Rama installed and worshipped a Shiva Lingam, before his battle with Ravana.

More on Rama installing the Lingam at Rameshwarm in our book ‘Historical Rama’.

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Rama praying to Shiva Linga                  Rameshwaram Temple                             Historical Rama

Rameshwaram – A Jyothir Linga

The Lingam at Rameshwaram is one of the 12 Jyothir Lingas. We discuss the significance of Jyothir Linga and Rameshwaram in our book ‘Understanding Shiva’.

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Understanding Shiva

It is in such a holy place that Patanjali lived, practised and propagated Yoga and eventually attained samadhi.

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Rishi Patanjali Samadhi, Rameshwaram

Patanjali Yoga Sutra

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra composed by Rishi Patanjali, which goes back by many millennia, has been a forerunner and guide for the practice of Yoga in all these years.

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Patanjali Yoga Sutra being explained by H.H.Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Founder, Art of Living

Rishi Patanjali recorded, systematized and expounded Yoga through the entire stretch of land from north-west Afghanistan, where He was born, to Rameshwaram in south-east India, where He attained Samadhi.

Thus the structured practice of Yoga was not limited to north India alone, but has stretched from north-west India to south-east India, covering the whole civilization of India.

Shiva-Adi Yogi

Shiva is referred to as Adi Yogi, represented as a bodily form, Shankara.

Indus Valley Pashupathi Seal

Probably one of the earliest representations, can be found in the Harappa – Mohenjodaro seal of Pashupathi, where Shiva or Pashupathi is shown seated in a Padamasana pose with all the animals surrounding Him.

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Pashupathi seal from Harappa

Gundestrup Cauldron

A very interesting archaeological find in Denmark, of a very ancient bowl, at a place called Gundestrup, throws new light on Pashupathi and His following. This bowl, now called the Gundestrup Cauldron, bears in one of its panels, an image very similar to the Pashupathi seal unearthed from the Harappa – Mohenjodaro sites.

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Gundestrup cauldron, Denmark, Unearthed in 1891 Dating back to 150 BCE & Pashupathi

Indo-Euro Yogic connect

This shows that this yogic form was prevalent not only to the Indus Valley sites but even to far away Denmark in North Western Europe.

Krishna – Yogeshwara

Sri Krishna was an exemplary Jnana Yogi. Krishna also speaks about other Yoga such as Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.

The Gita Upadesha was given on 22nd November, 3067 BCE. How we have conclusively arrived at this date, is discussed in our book, “Historical Krishna”.

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                  Gita Upadesha                                 Historical Krishna

This implies that Krishna and His Upadesha, counsel on Yoga are historical and real.

This means that Yoga and it benefits are also real.

This positions Yoga as not just exercise postures, Asana, but as knowledge, action, devotion, all coming together, to verily become a harmonious way of life.   

Yogasana and Namaz Postures

There are interesting similarities between Yogasana Postures and the Muslim practice of Namaz.

Namaz Postures have their equivalent names and poses in Yogasana as can been in this chart.

Yogasana Namaz Postures
Namaste Qiyam
Ardha Uttanasana Ruk’u
Vajrasana Julus
Balasana Sujud

yoga

Similarities of Yogasana and Namaz Postures

The similarity of Yogasana and Namaz Postures shows unison. For, Yoga itself means to unite, to come together.

Yoga Travels World Over

This structured practice of Yoga has now travelled and become popular world over as one of the preferred forms of keeping body and mind fit with one move.

Yoga to Near West

A look into the past shows that even Sufi saints from the Near West, Sultans and Mughal kings have interacted with Yogis, with an open mind inorder to learn of the good aspects of Yoga from its master practitioners.

Yoga to Far West

The visit of Swami Vivekananda to US in 1893 was a kick off point for Yoga in the modern international arena. Yoga kicked off and spread as a big  in the US and worldwide.

Yoga to the East

Yoga went to the East from India along with Buddhism more than 2000 years ago, for Dhyan, meditation lies at the heart of Buddhism.

A sitting example is at the west entrance of Wat Phra Kew, the main temple attached to the Grand Palace at Bangkok, Thailand, in the form of a bronze statue popularly called “The Hermit Doctor”.

The locals refer to this statue as their patron of medicine, an Indian hermit Jivaka, who gave them Yoga and herbal medicine and hence offer prayers and other offerings here, to get cured of illnesses.  This Jivaka was none other than the personal physician of the Buddha.

This statue at the front of the temple is placed on a stone pedestal, with another pedestal in front, bearing a stone mortar and pestle – an indication of how he practiced medicine with herbs, he used to grind.

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Jivaka, Patron Hermit of Yoga and Medicine, Wat Phra Kew, Grand Palace, Bangkok

Further more, many Yoga postures can be seen displayed by statues in the gardens of Wat Pho, the temple adjacent to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, which houses the Reclining Buddha and is home to the original Thai massage. Housing many plaques with inscriptions on the pressure points in the human body, this temple from a long time has been renowned as a study centre for Ayurveda including Thai style of massages and Yoga.

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Statues depicting Yoga Postures at Wat Pho Temple in Thailand, Bangkok

The statue, 2nd from left in the 2nd row, just under the large leafed plant can be seen

doing Pranayama, breathing exercise, with his hands on his waist

Yoga, Now a Global Brand

It was Paramahamsa Yogananda and then Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Sri. Krishnamacharya, Sri B.K.S.Iyengar, their disciples and Gurus such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Baba Ramdev, who have literally taken Yoga to the world.

World Yoga Day

His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gave a clarion call to have an World Yoga Day declared, to raise awareness of keeping mind and body fit through Yoga.

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi in his address to UN Assembly in September 2014, made a request to formalize a World Yoga day. The UN body adopted this resolution and passed it with a overwhelming majority in December 2014.

The world now has a new day to observe and celebrate – A World Yoga Day!

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June 21st of every year, which is the day of Summer Solstice, i.e. the day when the Sun is seen longest in the sky, the day when daylight is maximum, was declared by UN on 12th December 2014, as World Yoga Day.

It is an apt day to be chosen as a World Yoga Day for every Yoga session typically starts with Surya Namaskar, the reverence to the Sun. What could be a better day than a Summer Solstice, the day when the Sun is in its peak to revere and celebrate the connection between our body and the Sun. It is the connection which drives the very metabolism clock in our bodies.

What is even more amazing is that, the proposal from India to the UN, to declare June 21st as World Yoga Day was seconded and co-sponsored by an unprecedented number of 175 nations out of 193.

This is indeed a remarkable feat. Normally, so many countries coming together in the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution for a commemorating day is rare.

For the 1st time so many nations have unanimously voted for a declaration in the history of UN General Assembly and that too within a record 3 months of the proposal having been put up in September 2014.

This in itself is proof of the universal acceptance of Yoga.

The popularity of Yoga and universality of Yoga, is what led so many countries to come together to jointly announce a World Yoga Day.

“Yoga embodies

  • unity of mind and body;
  • thought and action;
  • restraint and fulfilment;
  • harmony between man and nature;
  • a holistic approach to health and well being.” ,

were the words with which India described Yoga and garnered this support.

No wonder then that people across the globe, across times have therefore held and continue to hold Yoga in high respect and demand. The need for Yoga and the benefits of Yoga are as universal, as is our breath and our desire to be in union with the divine.

Yoga is a universal offering from India which has the potential to align all bodies and minds, across the world, towards the common goal of self realization, oneness, unity and peace.

Celebrating Ganesha with Knowledge

The festival Ganesha Chathurthi has arrived, the festival to invite the divinity Ganesha to our homes and bless our homes with prosperity and happiness.

Ganesha is a fun loving, dancing, frolicking divinity from the Indian pantheon. Ganesha has been symbolically and graphically illustrated and modelled in different forms, from riding on His vahana, vehicle, the mouse Mooshika, to the modern day figurines, showing Him speaking on the phone, typing on the computer etc. Interestingly, all these caricatures seem to suit Him well and only go to make Him dearer and more loveable.

Ganesha

Who is this Ganesha?

His name Ganesha, has two components, Gana plus Esha.

Esha means “the lord of”.

Gana stands for count, numbers, multitude. Which is why, the subject mathematics in the Indian knowledge system is known as “Ganitham”. The name Ganesha denotes Him to be the lord of multitudes and numbers and the faculty that is needed to count, deal with multitudes, is knowledge, intellect.

It is this intellect which can help man overcome obstacles as man’s obstacles primarily stem from his mind.

Ganesha is therefore also called Vigneshwara, the one who removes obstacles. And to channelize our mind, our thoughts and energies in the right direction to ensure successful completion of any task, we pray to Vigneshwara before we embark on any important activity, before all beginnings.

With this intellect to discern good from bad, knowledge and strength to overcome obstacles and act wisely and purposefully, it is but natural man will be endowed with prosperity. Hence Ganesha is also considered to usher in prosperity and good luck. And to embody the humility that should go with all these wealth and wisdom, He is also called Vinayaka or the humble, approachable one.

Such a concept of praying for mental strength, wisdom, prosperity and to ward off all obstacles before embarking on any important activity, is not unique to the Indian culture alone.

Janus and Ganesha

In ancient Rome too, the pre-Christian era had a divinity known as “Janus.

This Janus was a divinity who was propitiated to, during all beginnings. Images of Janus were also installed on doorways as a guardian. This  Janus had 2 faces, one to look at the past and one to look at the future.

Janus

 The God Janus

Janus and Ganesha both seem to be associated with two faces.

Ganesha had a human face before He got an elephant face. There are many interesting similarities between Janus and Ganesha including the aspect that phonetically their names are also similar. Janus is also a divinity associated with numbers, which is why, the first month of the calendar is named January after Janus.

Ganesha, Ganesha Everywhere

It is not only in Rome, but in different other parts of the world, that we find the knowledge, appreciation and reverence to the concept denoted by Ganesha.

We have sculptures of Ganesha in Central America, Persia, Afganisthan, China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia and in many other South-Eastern Asian islands.

Kangiten Ganesha

Kangiten Ganesha, Japan                                                

Ganesha as warrior

Depiction of Ganesha as Warrior in Persia               

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world and forms the major part of the south eastern archipelago. The currency, the Rupiah note of Indonesia too, has an image of Ganesha, depicting him as a divinity for numbers and knowledge.

Indonesian currency

From this example, we can see that the concept of Ganesha was prevalent far and wide from faraway Central America to Europe to Asia, more than 2500 years back itself.

This commonality and the prevalence of the concept of Ganesha across the world, brings to our attention that Ganesha is not just a Hindu divinity in the limited sense, but a divinity of knowledge and numbers, not just of India but of the multitudes across the world.

On this Ganesh Chathurthi, let us repledge ourselves to bring forth this knowledge so that, we can unite all the people of this world so that this world can once again grow as a knowledgeable society,  apart from just counting its monies, its luxuries and its several goodies.

Ganesha with all His multitude of forms, symbols and stories, is a concept, Tattva, epitomising the winning formula for a good mind, intellect, knowledge, strength and prosperity, which is the direction we all need to progress in.

Vata Purnima

“Vata Purnima” is a festival that is celebrated in GujaratMaharashtra and Karnataka on a Full Moon day in the month of Jyeshta-June. Purnima refers to the Full Moon in this month.

Vata Vriksha – The Banyan Tree

Vata Vriksha, the Banyan tree is intertwined with the traditions of India from time immemorial. The botanical name for this tree is “Ficus Benghalensis”. It is a tree that grows all over India.

Vat Vriksha

Vata Vriksha, Banyan tree

Vata Purima and Savitri -Satyavan

The legend of Vata Purnima is connected with the story of Savitri and Satyavan.

Savitri and Satyavan were a young married couple. One day while resting, with his head on Savitri’s lap, under a Banyan tree, Satyavan breathed his last. Savitri, a devout wife could feel the presence of Yama, the Lord of death at this moment. When Yama turned to leave with Satyavan’s soul, Savitri with determination, started following Yama, to ask him to return Satyavan’s life.

Savithri Sathyavan story

Savitri debating with Yama

Savitri’s dogged pursuit of Yama and her winning debate with him, made Yama restore Satyavan’s life as a boon to her.

Savitri returned to the Banyan tree, Vata Vriksha and found Satyavan stirring back to life. This Banyan tree, which was a witness to the death defying devoutness of Savitri, came to be associated with the power of faith and perseverance and with longevity.

This event gained popularity through the ages and came to be observed as Vata Purnima festival. For, it was under the Banyan tree, that Satyavan’s life was plucked and later restored. The perseverance of Savitri in a trying circumstance, her overcoming the odds and winning over Yama with wit and thereby getting back her husband to life, is a story that finds resonance with every devout married woman.

Vata Purnima – The Fasting Festival

Praying for a long life for their spouses and a timeless togetherness, women observe a fast and tie a string around a Vata Vriksha on Vata Purnima.

The tying of the string around the girth of the Vata Vriksha is a gesture to symbolize that the bond between the husband and the wife should be as strong as that between Savitri and Satyavan. That their progeny should grow as the roots and shoots of the Banyan too.

Women celebrating Vata Purnima

Vata Purnima celebration by women in India

While the Vata Purnima festival is celebrated in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat to commemorate Savitri-Satyavan legend, similar festivals are also celebrated in other parts of India on other days. For example, the Karadaiyan Nombu is celebrated in Tamil Nadu around March where married women and girls tie a yellow thread around their neck to symbolize a strong, immortal bond between husband and wife.

Vata Patra Sayi

The Vata leaf is found in art forms as a leaf floating on waters with the divine child, Balakrishna sucking His toe in the classic pose of a baby. This depiction of Krishna is called Vata Patra Sayi. Patra means leaf and Sayi, is one who is resting. It comes from Sayana meaning to repose, recline.

Vata Patra Sayi

Vata Patra Sayi

Vata Vriksha, the Tree of Knowledge

The Vata tree also symbolizes knowledge, the timeless knowledge of the land. For, it is under this tree that Dakshinamurthi, the divinity associated with knowledge, imparts knowledge in silence to his four Sishya, disciples.

Vata and Gita

Lord Krishna gave the Gita Upadesa beside a Banyan Tree, Vata Vriskha, in Kurukshetra. Portions of this Banyan tree are believed to have survived to this day. The Vata Vriksha in Jyotisar, Kurukshetra, is believed to be a part of the original tree that was a witness to the Gita Upadesa.

Banyan tree Gita

Banyan Tree at Jyotisar, Kurukshetra

Vata and Nothing

An interesting point to note is that, the seed of such a mighty tree like Banyan is so small and when you break open that small seed, what you see inside is a hollow space. Indeed it is hollow and empty!

Similarly the vast Universe that we see around us too has come from such nothingness, Shunya. Shunya is not literally nothing. It is referred to as there is no point of reference to this tattva, concept in Creation. In reality, this nothing is everything, the source of whole Creation. This nothingness is also referred to as Chit. The sublime consciousness.

The Shunya Vada discussion, takes us there.

This timeless truth was revealed to Shweta Ketu by his father Rishi Uddalaka. This incident is recorded in the Chandogya Upanishad.

Vata Vriksha – A Meeting place

It is under a banyan tree that travellers rest. For, this tree is wide enough to accommodate even a caravan full of travellers and provide shade from the heat that beats down most parts of India. It is during this rest that people are regaled with stories and legends are told and retold across generations, across time.

The Vata Vriksha has been a focal point for the culture of the land.

It has been one of the favoured spots for trading. Traders in India are called baniya. The common name “Banyan” for this tree, originated from the fact that this tree was the meeting center of the baniya.

Vata Vriksha – Tree of Life, Fertility

Banyan tree is a tree that sprouts roots, also from its branches. They grow downwards from the branches, go into the ground, to give rise to an extension of the tree. The Banyan tree is hence also called Nyagrodha meaning that which is growing downwards too. The Banyan tree is considered timeless, for, its aerial shoots spread wide and develop roots that support the spreading branches, enabling the tree to spread far and wide.

This is how the Banyan tree, over time, spreads wide over many acres.

Due to this felicity to propagate far and wide, across time, across generations of trees, the Banyan tree has connotations with life, longevity, fertility and timelessness. In many parts of India, the placenta of a newborn child is buried at the foot of a Banyan praying for its longevity.

With the legend of Savitri-Satyavan, the Banyan came to be connected with timeless bonding between a couple.

In common parlance, fertility which gives rise to a new life, is synonymous with the biological functions in the female gender, a woman. It points to the progeny arising from the union of a man and woman alone.

Fertility concept however, extends beyond, to encompass everything that creates and sustains life such as

  • the land resource which acts as the womb from which grows our food

  • the water resource which helps germinate anything on the land,

  • the seeds that germinate life every season and

  • the cows and other organisms that nourish the soil – in short fertilize the soil.

It is this encompassing nature in Nature that is also to be venerated as fertility – fertility in Mother Nature. The Banyan tree, as the Tree of Life reminds us of this aspect in Nature.

Significance of Vata Purnima

The Vata Purnima fast, not only signifies an everlasting, timeless, strong bonding between a husband and wife, but the association of this fast with the Vata Vriksha ascribes a deeper significance to it.

A message that, the timeless association between the husband and wife, is for the creation of progeny who will take the roots of the family, civilization and mankind far into future.

A message that, fertility that gives rise to life is not limited to that which springs from the womb of a woman alone but encompasses everything in Mother Nature too, which sustain life on earth.

Vata Purnima is the occasion to pray that the thread that binds man and woman as well as the fertility chain, stays timeless, sustained year after year, generation after generation, century after century, millennia after millennia.

Happy Birthday to Guruji Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Guru is one who attracts. Guru is one who is heavy, filled with knowledge. The attraction is for knowledge, culture, ethos, practices and so forth.

Gurutva Akarshana is attraction to a heavy body-Gravity. Jupiter, the largest, heaviest planet attracts all other bodies, is also referred Guru.

A true Guru is rare. A true Guru comes by, once in a way.

It is for us to realize, come within the sphere of a true Guru, not just be attracted, but relish in the love and knowledge emanating.

For all that we do in our life, the aim is to relish, realize the self, be happy and be grounded.

May 13, birthday of  one such Guru, whose grace draws us to the path of love and self realization.

Fortunate indeed we are.

Happy Birthday to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar!