Matsya Jayanthi

The story of Matsya Avatar is popular in puranic lore of this land.

Avatar of Lord Vishnu

Matsya is the first Avatar of Lord Vishnu in the form of a fish. The Matsya Avatar rescued King Satyavrath from a Pralaya, dissolution, when the whole world faced deluge.

King Satyavrath and the Fish

As per the Purana, one day while bathing, King Satyavrath came across a tiny fish in his hands. The fish requested him to protect it. The King agreed to give shelter to the fish and kept it in a water jug.

Fish grows in size

The King had not realized that the fish was none other than the Divinity Vishnu. The Divine Fish now wanted to reveal its Divinity to the the King. Immediately, the fish grew in size so that it had to be removed from the jug and placed in a larger body of water. The King then placed the fish in a well. Again the fish grew to occupy the whole well. The King now placed it in a lake, but the lake soon proved to be small. The King transferred the fish to the Sea as a last resort. The Divine Fish expanded to occupy the whole Sea.

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Matsya Avatar,

Image : Courtesy Iskcon

King Satyavarath now understood that this was not an ordinary fish, but a manifestation of Divinity.

Vishnu reveals Himself

The Lord Vishnu revealed Himself to the King. He told him that there would be a deluge in the coming week and that, he would protect the King and rishi from pralaya in the form of a fish.

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Vishnu’s revelation to King Satyavratha

The Lord requested the King to collect samples of herbs, seeds and other living creatures to be placed in a boat. The boat is to be attached to the fish’s horns. The Lord said, that He in the form of a fish would lead them during the deluge. Saying this, Lord Vishnu disappeared.

Lord Appears as Matsya Avatar

The King made ready a boat and carried out all the instructions of the Lord. As promised, there was a deluge in the coming week. The King got into the boat along with the rishis and other creatures. Lord Vishnu appeared in His Matsya Avatar and guided the boat during the floods.

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Matsya Avatar rescuing the King, Rishi and other Life Forms

Similar to Noah’s Ark

The above Puranic story is similar to the story of Noah’s Ark in which God saves Noah. The story of Matsya Avatar predates Noah’s Ark which is dated to be around 3000 BCE.

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Noah’s Ark

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Matsya Avatar – The First form of Life

Matsya Avatar is the first Avatar of Divinity Vishnu. Matsya means a fish and Avatar means to descend.

How did life descend on earth?

Matsya, Fish, The first to Descend

Evolution is known by the word Parinama in Samskrt, which means change. In India, the concept of evolution has been discussed in the sequence of Dasavatara of Vishnu, starting from the fish and evolving all the way to the intellectual human. Thus according to the Indian Theory of Evolution from the Dasavatara concept, Aquatic creatures, The Fish, Matsya was the first to emerge.

In Sync with Darwins’s Theory

It is interesting to note that, some aspects of Indian story of evolution is in sync with Charles Darwin’s story of evolution.

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Charles Darwin in his theory of evolution also states that aquatic creatures were the first to come into existence, followed by amphibians and then land creatures as depicted in the Dasavatar Theory.

There is thus a similarity in the Indian thought of Evolution and the Modern Evolution theory.

Gangaur

Gangaur is a festival that is celebrated with fervour and devotion in the region of Rajasthan and its adjoining erstwhile kingdoms of Rajasthan.

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Gangaur celebration

The name Gangaur comes from 2 components, Gana and Gauri.

Gana

Gana means “numbers” and also “heavy”. We have the Gana dhootha as the followers of Shiva. Here, in this word, Gana indicates Shiva. For, the Gana dhootha pay their obeisance to Shiva.

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Gana dhootha

Gauri

Gauri stands for Shiva’s wife. The word Gauri has also the component Ghora meaning “white, fair”. Which is why, the deity of Gauri is depicted as being white and not pale in colour. This festival is celebrated at the end of spring, post-harvest, when the women have more time to handle marital matters. So, it is celebrated as a marital festival where the girls pray for a good marriage, seek a good husband and the married women pray for the heath of their husband and well-being of their whole family.

Different facets of Parvati

For each festival, different aspects of Parvati are highlighted. For Navaratri, it is the Shakti or Durga component that is highlighted, for some other festival, Parvati facet is highlighted. For this festival, it the facet of Parvati as Gauri, being fair that is venerated. Post the colourful Holi festival for 18 days, the women observe vrath to Gauri and on the 3rd day of the Shukla Paksha, the waxing, brightening phase of the moon, the colourful festival of Gangaur is celebrated.

Ghudlia

On the seventh day of the festival, women carry lamps in their pots, on their head after dusk, in procession. The lighted pots on the head are a beautiful sight to behold. These lighted pots are called Ghudlia.

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Women carrying Ghudlia

 The Bridal procession

This Gangauri procession is looked at by the women as Gauri leaving her parental home and going in a bridal procession to her husband, Shiva’s house. Every women uses this procession for her to connect, reminiscence of her bridal procession.

Timing of festival

Here again we see that the festival is designed in tune with nature. After the winter harvest is over and the food grains are stocked up for the coming months, after Holi, the community colour festival has been celebrated and the attention of the women folk who have been involved in harvesting, stocking the food grains, harvest, the preparation and mirth, feasting of Holi is passed, then it is the time for sobriety.

They observe the vrath, eating only one meal a day. It is at this time that the family is together, before the onset of the heat of the impeding summer. Rajasthan being a desert area, the summer temperatures rise to a scorching 40 degree Celsius every day of summer. It is in this seasonal background that the festivities have been designed through the ages and celebrated.

Cheti Chand

Cheti Chand Joan, lakh lakh, Wadaiyoun, Athava’.

Cheti Chand is a day of feast, happiness and hope where people greet each other with lakhs and lakhs of good wishes. The divinity being Jhula Lal, the divinity of water. Water has played a key role for any civilization. So is the case with Sindhis also. They are called Sindhis, for, they live by the river Sindhu. In English language we now call this river, Indus. In the national anthem of India – Jana Gana Mana, the river is mentioned as Sindhu.

It is Sindhu, Sindhi from which the name Hindu is derived. The ancient Persians could not pronounce the letter ‘S’ correctly in their native language. They instead pronounced ‘S’ as ‘H’ in the word Sindhu. Thus the ancient Persians pronounced Sindhu as Hindu.

From the days of Harappa Mohenjo-Daro period, people living by the Sindhu River had travelled by boats along the Sindhu River and by large ocean going ships into the seas to the coast of South India, to the coast of Persia, Arabia and Africa.

What we called Arabian Sea today was earlier called Sindhu Sagar, for, Sindhu River drained into it. The whole Arabian Sea, Sindhu Sagar was the trading domain of the Sindhis.

The Sindhis were a navigational giant. With the arrival of the colonial powers, the Sindhu Sagar Sea was renamed as Arabian Sea. Not only was the name Sindhu Sagar confined to history and slowly removed from memory. The role of the Sindhis as master traders was continuously restricted over the last few hundred years.

The partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 dealt a severe blow to the Sindhi community, a community that had to migrate in mass to India and different parts of the world from their homeland to retain their identity.

With hope and trading skills ingrained in their DNA, the Sindhis have now reached worldwide, from Hong Kong in the East to California in the West and have excelled in trading and today lakhs and lakhs of Sindhis in the last 60 years since independence have climbed back to the levels of prominence in different fields of their choosing, not just in trading. A community that has withstood testing times.

Let us every Cheti Chand recognize the glorious days of the Sindhi community, their contributions to the development of Indian civilization by giving their name for this land of India and all such other contributions of the Sindhi people.

Image result for cheti chand

Four Navaratri

The connecting bond for all Indian 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.

Ugadi

Ugadi-Banner-for-Bg-1

Ugadi is the New Year in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. In Maharashtra it is also known as Gudi Padva. This is celebrated on the first day after the New Moon, which occurs closest to the vernal equinox. Since it is based on the moon it marks the New Year in a Chandramana calendar. Chandra is for moon and mana for measure.

Close on heels to this, is the observance of the New Year by the other communities of the land following the Sauramana calendar, the calendar that measures the movement of the sun.

In Kerala it is celebrated as Vishu, where first thing in the morning the family members are taken by the mother, to view VishuKani, an arrangement of flowers, fruits and a mirror – the first set of objects to be viewed on the start of a New Year.

In Tamil Nadu it is celebrated as Puththandu, New Year or Varuda Pirappu, birthof a new year. In Sri Lanka, the same day is celebrated as the Sinhala New Year, Aluth Avurudda.

In Orissa, it is celebrated as Bisuba, again coming from the root word Bisu or Vishu. In Nepal it is celebrated as Biska. In Bengal it is celebrated as Nabo Barsho.

In Assam it is Bohag, Rangali Bihu.

In Punjab, the New Year is welcomed as Baisakhi.

Vishu, Bisuba, Biska, Bihu, all come from the same root word Vishu which stands for equinoxAn equinox is when the Sun is exactly over the equator and the day and night are equal.

The Indian word for equator is VisvadruttaRekha, meaning that which splits the world into two halves.

The word Vishu thus denotes equal and a sense of balance.

This point of balance of the sun, in its annual transit, served as an ideal point to start a New Year. It was an ideal time to take a reckoning of the skies and balance oneself, one’s accounts, one’s life, one’s relations and one’s goals before embarking on the next year.

Across the land of India and also in most ancient civilizations this period, window of balanced time, came to be celebrated as the start of the new calendar year.

It was the equinox, the sun being on the equator and crossing over to the northern hemisphere.  So this was the right time for the start of a New Year across the world in the Northern Hemisphere.

This New Year celebration was based on the movement of the sun.

It was celebrated not only in different parts of India, but in Persia too, as Nowroz and also in different parts of Europe in the pre-medieval days.

This shows that the people then lived in consonance with nature.

What is interesting to note here is the use of the term Ugadi for this New Year.

Adi is start, beginning. So Yuga Adi or Ugadi, denotes start of a Yuga.

Even though it denotes the start of a New Year it is not called Varsha Adi but is instead called Yuga Adi. How does one come to terms with this term, since Yuga is usually correlated with a large span of time, whereas we are only moving into the next year?

Yuga is just not a long period of time as is generally thought to be.

The word Yuga means alignment, like in Yoga which aligns body, mind and breath. Yuga is an alignment of astral bodies.

There are many such conjunctions, alignments that keep happening in the sky as the earth, moon and planets keep revolving around the sun, day in and day out.

Each of these alignments occur at varying frequencies ranging from 1 year to 5 years to 60 years to 360 years to 26000 years to 4,32,000 years.

Each of these alignments occur periodically and unfailingly.

Each of these alignments serve as a means to track time at different scales.

Each of these alignments is called a Yuga.

Yuga thus is a generic time unit. Depending on the scale, it denotes different alignments and different periods of time.

In the case of the New Year, a conjunction of the earth, sun and moon coming in alignment near the vernal equinox every year – a perfectly balanced point in the earth-sun-moon system, was deemed by our ancient, knowledgeable people as an apt milestone to usher in a New Day, a New Year and new hopes.

yugadi

Earth, Moon and Sun in alignment near vernal Equinox – Ugadi

This day has come to stay and be celebrated as Yuga Adi or Ugadi.

Avvaiyar

Avvaiyar is a prominent female poet of Tamil literature. She found great happiness in the life of children.

  1 Avvaiyar

Her works, Aathichudi and Konrai Venthan, written for children, are even now read and enjoyed by them.

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                                         Aathichudi                                        

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Konrai Venthan

These works, even after a millennium, are often among the very first literature that children are exposed to in Tamil schools.

Aathichudi

In the method of teaching the children, she composed very short single line verse, in the exact sequence of the alphabets. Each verse of the poem was not only alphabetically sequential but also had a simple life message that the children could learn as their first lessons and inculcate their import in their lives.

This idea of inculcating value as the first lessons to young child was intriguing to Dr. G.U. Pope a British educationist and Christian missionary who settled in India. He was in India in 1840’s in Tirunalveli, Madras and Bangalore.

In his quote he says

“It is Peculiar that Indians teach Philosophy to their Children”.

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            Dr. G.U. Pope

Probably he misread inculcating good values to the young children as philosophy. For then back in England moral values and philosophy was start only in Theological Institutions.

Let us here see the alphabetical sequence of a simple beautiful value laden Aathichudi.

Aathichudi

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Avvaiyar also interacted with Lord Muruga, Skanda on the beauty of the Tamil language.

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                                                        Lord Murugan interacting with Avvaiyar

Avvai Vizha, the day for this grand old lady Avvaiyar, is celebrated every year in the month of Panguni (mid-March to mid-April) on Sadhayam star day.

One of her most popular verse on what we know, what we learnt is:

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The popularity of this poignant quote of Avvaiyar is not only limited to the Tamil land but have spread far, in the west to USA and in the east to Singapore.

Nasa quotes Avvaiyar

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NASA on “Cosmic Questions Exhibited” Avvaiyar’s quote

“கற்றது கைமண் அளவு,

கல்லாதது உலகளவு”

“What we have learned is like a handful of earth,

 What we have yet to learn is like the whole world” 

                                                                                                    – Avvaiyar

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                                                                            Cosmic Questions

Avvaiyar quoted in Singapore Parliament

In Singapore Parliamentary debates on 17th October 2011, Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang) Member of Singapore Parliament, quotes

“There is an old Tamil proverb by a wise old lady named Avvaiyar that goes like this (in Tamil): •••••• •••••• •••••••• ••••••. Now, that translates into saying that the sum of

your knowledge can be captured in the palm of a hand,

whereas the things you do not know is the size of the world”.

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Singapore Parliament

Let us celebrate the first granny of the world who gave nursery rhymes with life messages in each one of the verse.