Vijaydasami

One of the popular, pan India festivals is Navaratri.

Navaratri is the time when Goddess Durga was victorious against Asura Mahisha. Mahisha Asura is represented as Buffalo demon, Mahisha meaning Buffalo.

The word ‘Mahisha’ has two meanings. While Mahisha means a Buffalo, this word is also used to refer to the Supreme Lord, Maha Esha, Maha meaning great and Esha meaning Lord.

The Buffalo stands for Tamas, meaning inertia, laziness. The Asura Mahisha stands for Tamas.

The Supreme Lord is also said to be inactive, being above Prakriti and is called Mahisha, Mahesha. This is the reason why Shiva who famous epithet is Maheshwara, is said to represent the quality of Tamas in the Puranas.

Devi got the name Mahishasura Mardini, Mardini meaning ‘to destroy’, the destroyer of Mahisha Asura.

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Mahisha Asura Mardini

Devi Durga is worshipped in this form of Mahisha Asura Mardini during Navaratri.

The legend

This story of victory of the Goddess over Mahisha Asura is described in detail in the Text – Devi Mahatmayam.

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Devi Mahatmyam

The story goes that a Asura by name Mahisha Asura who was in the form of a Buffalo grew very powerful and defeated the Deva. The Devas including the Trinity were helpless as the Asura had secured a boon from Brahma that he could be vanquished only by a woman. This made Mahisha Asura almost invincible.

At this time, all the Devas including Brahma Vishnu and Shiva combined their energies into a single ball of light. This light took the form of Devi Durga.

Devi Durga battled with Mahisha Asura for 9 days and on the 10th day, she killed Mahisha Asura.

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An art work depicting the battle between Devi Durga and Mahisha Asura

Stotra by Shankaracharya

There is a famous stotra by name ‘Mahisha Asura Mardani’, composed by Adi Shankaracharya. This stotra is addressed to Durga Devi as Mahisha Asura Mardini.

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Adi Shankaracharya

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Two stanzas from Mahisha Asura Mardani Stotram

Mahisha Asura Mardini form of Durga is much revered across the land. This story is found sculpted in temples through the land.

Sculptures of Mahishasura Mardini

In South India, the two ancient sculptures of Mahisha Asura Mardini can be found at Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu and at Badami in Karnataka.

Mahabalipuram

In the Mahabalipuram Cave at Shore Temple, there is a lion sculpture with a depiction of Mahisha Asura Mardini culled inside.

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Location of Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

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Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram

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Lion Sculpture at Shore Temple depicting Mahisha Asura Mardini

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Mahisha Asura Mardani Cave – Mahabalipuram

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Mahisha Asura Vs Durga Devi Fight – Sculpture – Cave Temple—Mahabalipuram

Badami

Similarly, in Badami too, we have the beautiful sculpture of Mahisha Asura Mardini.

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Mahishasura Mardini Cave Temple at Badami

These sculptures at Mahabalipuram and Badami date back to over 1000 years.

In other places

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Sculpture of Mahishasuramardini, Aihole, Karnataka

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Sculpture of Mahishasuramardini, Elephanta, Mumbai

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Sculpture of Mahishasuramardini, Thirukurangudi village, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu

There are statues and temples of the deity across the land.

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A Statue of Mahisha Asura Mardini at a temple shrine in Assam

Durga Puja, the worship of Mahisha Asura Mardini during Navaratri period is observed across the country, and with extra vigour in the state of Bengal.

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Moving away from Alcohol – The traditional way

In the Veda of Ancient India there is mention of Somapana, an elixir that invigorates. This is understood to be a non-alcoholic drink, much in use in the early Vedic days.

120 verses of Veda deal with the qualities of Soma. The divinity of Soma is also referred to as Soma Deva.

As times evolved, Moon and Shiva were referred to as Soma Deva.

The first day of the week, Monday draws its name from the moon. In the Indian calendar, it is called Somavara, again drawing its name from the moon, Soma. We see a similarity here in the naming of the 7 days of the week based on the astral bodies.

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Soma Deva, Moon Divinity

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Divinity for each day of week, a Medival European expression

The famous Somnath Temple in Saurashtra which is celebrated as one of the 12 Jyothir Linga of Shiva, where Shiva is called as Somnatha.

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Somanath Temple

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Jyothir Linga, Somanatha

Like this we see so many references to Soma. In this Vedic knowledge society, the drink Soma was not looked as an alcoholic drink but more as an invigorating drink that helps to elevate oneself.

The process of making the Soma decoction with various herbs is discussed at length in the Veda.

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Making of Soma

Unavailability of Soma Pana

Some of the later Vedic verse also bemoan the fact that the pure Soma drink was not available to them. This could be because the ingredients to make Soma could well have dwindled with time and the process to make them could have been lost as it was passed onto generations.

Sura Pana – alcoholic drink comes into vogue

This over a period of time led to the making of a new brew, a new drink known as Sura Pana. This turned out to be an alcoholic drink. With the passage of time, because of the alcoholic nature of the Sura Pana, the Soma Pana being a precursor drink got the tag of being an alcoholic drink.

A careful reading of the text show that Soma Pana was an invigorating drink while Sura Pana was alcoholic.

As people migrated over the millennia, they carried with them the making of the Sura Pana.

Patents to Lithuanian brewery

An interesting sidelight story is of a similar drink that is being made for the last few centuries in Lithuania, in North West Europe. They attribute their concoction to have its origins from this Vedic drink.

Lithuanian company holds the patent for Madhu Madya (honey alcohol).

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The India Baltic Chamber of Commerce (IBCC) wants to launch the mead – this old fermented drink made from honey, water, yeast, herbs and vegetable seasoning.

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Logo, India Baltic Chamber of Commerce

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Queen Elizabeth II in 1969

On September 30, 1969, Queen Elizabeth 2 granted Stakliskes factory of Lietuviskas Midus with the patent number 1280830 to make this drink exclusively.

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Lietuviskas Midus

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Lietuviskas Midus logo

This drink with added vitamins is now made from honey, hops, lime flowers, juniper berries and other Vitamin C inputs.

It is indeed interesting to note that a faraway Lithuanian company has holds patent for this ancient drink, though not in the name of Soma Pana or Sura Pana, but as Madhu Madya.

Madhu – Honey

The word ‘Madhu’ means honey not just in Indian language but also in Russian language. The President of Russia is Dimitri Medvedev.

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Dimitri Medvedev

The word “Medvedev” is a conjunction of words, ‘Med’ and ‘Ved’. ‘Med’ means honey and ‘Ved’ is derived from ‘Vidya’, which stands for knowledge”. In the Russian language the word Medvedev signifies, ‘the one who has knowledge to make honey’. It also signifies ‘one who knowledge is as sweet as honey’.

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Traditional ways of making honey

Madhu – Across World, Across Times

From this we gather that the word ‘Madhu’, ‘Med’ as the word for honey spread all across, from ancient India to North West of Europe which leads upto Russia and Lithuania. As the word ‘Madhu’ spread across these lands with the people, the knowledge of making Sura Pana could also have spread to these lands.

Back to Soma Pana

When the world is looking for a new form of beverages, it is time for us to dwell back and see if we can once again make the Brew not of alcoholic Sura Pana but the invigorating Soma Pana. As this civilization moves into a knowledge era in the coming decades, Soma Pana which was the elixir of the Vedic knowledge era could well be the apt complementing drink to move away from alcoholism.

World Heart Day

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Lohini, Loha, Haem, Haemoglobin

The blood is continuously circulated in our body by our heart, hrdayam. Blood is known by the name Raktha in Samskrt. Raktha means nourishment, desire, red and blood. Blood is also called lohini in Samskrt, for, it contains loha, iron. In the Greek language it is referred to as haem for iron. It is from the word “haem” that we get the word “haemoglobin”.

Heart – “Hrdayam

The very word “heart” traces its etymological roots to the Smskrt word “hrdayam”.

The word “hrdayam” itself is a technical word based on the functionality of the heart.

“Hrdayam”-Give, Take, Circulate

Harathi, means “to take” and from which is taken the syllable “Hr”.

Dadathi means “to give” from which is taken the syllable “da”. The word “Dhana”, meaning “donation”, comes from the same root.

Yathi, Yam means to circulate. The activity of circulation is called Yam.

When we join the syllables, Hr+ Da+ Yam, we get the technically coined word “Hrdayam”, which brings to us the functioning aspect of the heart.

‘Heart to donate blood’

But for the continuous circulation of blood in the body, life would come to a halt.

While the heart represents the aspect of circulation of blood in the body for the life to live, we need to have the heart in us to give dhana, to donate our blood and ‘circulate’ it among the needy in the society.

In other words, yathi, yam means “to circulate”, for which, “we get in return” harathi, satisfaction and heartful gratitude.

So, hrdayam, heart circulates the blood in our body to rejuvenate us. Those of us who have a heart, hrdayam need to donate, circulate blood and gain satisfaction, gratitude.

 A beautiful blend of hrdayam, both for oneself and the society at large!

With this thought in mind on this World Heart Day, let us donate blood as frequently as medically permitted, to give life, to rejuvenate our society.

Navaratri – Celebrating Change

Navaratri.jpg

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.

Honouring Feminine Forces

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.

 Navaratri Celebrations across the land

Celebrated with Different names in different ways

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.

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.

4 Navaratri

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

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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 www.bharathgyan.com and email: bharathgyan@gmail.com

World Rivers Day

Rivers – The major source of Water

Rivers are a major source of water for any civilization. Many rivers flow through India, most of them flowing through India alone – rising in its hills and joining the seas around it. This land thus, consists of a large network of rivers and water bodies.

One of the yardsticks of measuring prosperity is how a country or a civilization is able to harness and use its waters.

India – A Prosperous civilization

India had been a prosperous and continuous civilization for over 5000 years, primarily because it knew how to harness its waters.

The records of the British and pre-British days, show India’s play in the world market, in the fields of food grains, mainly rice, sugar and spices, in the field of steel and other metals such as zinc and copper, in the field of textiles and dyes, especially indigo, in silk, in gems, in particular diamonds, in tobacco, in tea, in opium, among others.

A basic need for all these industries to survive and flourish, is water.

Rivers – Nerves of the Country

Until as recent as 150 years ago, our rivers, along with small water bodies, catered to the water requirements of the whole country. These rivers were verily the nerves of the country feeding life sustaining water to all parts of the land.

Water shortage was unknown. Every village in this land got water irrespective of whether it had rained there or not. India used to consistently have three harvests every year. Rivers brought fertility to the land.

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The major hills and rivers of India through times

Rivers – A Punya Tirtha

As the river waters flowed across different lands, connecting the people, they also brought in a sense of harmony among the people. Hence, they became worthy of being venerated. The local people considered every river, every stream as a Punya Tirtha, water that is benevolent and took the effort to keep every river clean.

Bharat – A Punya Bhumi

Further more, the existence of many such Punya Tirtha was facilitated by the land, a Punya Bhumi. For,

  • the Himalayan range in the north of India,
  • Aravali, the hard rock, oldest hills of India, that delineate northwestern parts of India from much of Central India
  • the range of mountains which run north – south, along the sides of India, namely the Western and the Eastern Ghats, as well as
  • the Vindhyas, the range of mountains that runs right across the land,

together give rise to a labyrinth of rivers that course across the length and breadth of the land.

This land has thus evolved into an intricate mesh of rivers, tributaries and distributaries that carry waters, all across the land. While many of these are monsoon fed rivers, many also are perennial in nature.

With all these waters to irrigate it, this land Bharat, was regarded as a Punya Bhumi too, a land where one can reap the fruits of a bountiful Nature.

The last 100 years

In the last 100 years, somehow we have ceased to relate to such a notion of Punya Tirtha and Punya Bhumi, because of which, we ourselves have dirtied our rivers, our streams and our ponds.

Pollution

Pollution is an issue that has been affecting our major rivers like Yamuna and Ganga, leave alone the smaller rivers.

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Polluted Ganga River

The Rise of Concrete Jungles

The rise of concrete jungles in place of natural vegetation cover and the exploitation of natural resources have killed many of these small rivers which have been a primary source of water for many millennia. This has diminished the flow of waters in bigger rivers too.

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The state of our rivers

Need to clean up Rivers – The Benefits

Today, we need to take it upon ourselves to clean and maintain our rivers. The restoring of our rivers will increase fertility, boost industry and production, propel tourism and can even bring us an important medium for internal navigation.

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An Inland Navigation Boat

World Rivers Day

The last Sunday of September is observed as World Rivers Day across the globe. As a civilized society, our focus on this day should be on cleaning our rivers and rejuvenating them. If we can rejuvenate our rivers that Nature has created for us, we can again be prosperous and harmonious for centuries to come.

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

 

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