Vaikuntha Ekadasi is a festival popular among the Vaishnavites, the group of people who pray to Vishnu. This festival occurs in Dhanur Masa, the month period which is between December 16th and January 14th in the English calendar.
The term ‘Vaikuntha’ means ‘that which is free from all miseries’. Ekadasi is the 11th day of the cycle of the moon. Vaikuntha Ekadasi is celebrated on the 11th day of the Shukla Paksha, the waxing cycle of the moon in the month of Dhanur Masa. Dhanur Masa is one of the coldest months, as it is the peak of winter.
What is the importance of this Vaikuntha Ekadasi festival? Why is it celebrated in the Vishnu temples across the land?
The story behind Vaikuntha Ekadasi is that Vishnu overcomes two Asura, Madhu and Kaitabha. Before slaying them, Vishnu asks Madhu and Kaitabha, if they have any last wish. The two Asura realize their folly and wanting to atone for their misdeed ask Vishnu to liberate such people who think of Him on this auspicious day and liberate, give them Moksha for those who enter his doors. Vishnu is pleased and accedes to the request. For this noble thought, Vishnu also grants Moksha to Madhu and Kaitabha.
Meaning of Madhu and Kaitabha
Madhu was born out of Rajoguna, which epitomises passion. Kaitaba is born out of Tamoguna, which epitomises darkness, ignorance. For us to lead a life of Satwa – of goodness, knowledge, we need to overcome ignorance and excessive passion.
These two inimical forces are very much residing in us. It is only when we realize that these two forces are not some gruesome looking Asura who live in the past in Puranic stories, but are living in our own body that we would be able to overcome these debilitating forces. This annual festival of Vaikuntha Ekadasi is to bring this to our notice, so that every year we can re-pledge our path of Satwa. It is only then that we can liberate ourselves from the miseries. The Vaikuntha is very much on this earth-Bhooloka Vaikuntha, that is our selves. It need not be a geographical place alone; it is our own body, the self.
Madhu Kaitabh fighting with Lord Vishnu
In the bodily form, how much ever we try, the interplay of the three Guna is bound to be there. It is only at the level of the soul where there are no miseries. For the soul, to reach out beyond this earth, which is the best time of the year? Which is the best time of the year, the nature is conducive for such liberation of the soul? To answer this, we need to see a bit of astronomy.
Science behind the story
The earth is revolving around the sun. This revolution path, though circular in nature, is slightly elliptical, which means at one point the earth is closer to the Sun. This is called Aphelion. At one point, it is further away from the Sun. This point is called Perihelion. The forces, the gravitational forces, the magnetic forces, would slightly vary between the Perihelion and Aphelion.
Earth’s revolution path around the sun, Perihelion and Aphelion points
Similarly, the moon also is revolving around the earth. In its elliptic revolution path, there is a point where the moon is further away from the earth. It is called Apogee and when the moon is closest to earth it is called Perigee.
Moon’s revolution path around the Earth, Apogee and Perigee points
It is at a particular point of this twin revolution of the moon around the earth and earth around the sun, there is a point where the angular velocity is best suited to escape the gravitational pull of the moon and the earth, to reach the sun. The sun is the Purusha, the parent body of our solar system. The soul on its path in this universe travels to the sun and thereon in its journey across the universe. While the soul may not have any physical body, shape, weight or mass, as we understand it now, it still has certain attributes yet not understood by us. The soul is subtle, Sukshma. Does the soul has a mass for it to need these ideal astronomical positions to travel better to the sun and beyond?
To try to answer this question, let us look at the measurements given on the microscale. If we take one strand of human hair, which is negligible in width, just a hair-breadth and if we split that hair by hundred, and take one by 1/100th of the split hair width and divide it again by 100, then the measure that we get therein, is now in modern science known as Angstrom, is about the measure of an atom. This in Indian term is similar term is Anu. About one-tenth of this is paramanu, the inner core of Anu. One-tenth of that is Mahath. A further one by tenth of that is Ahankara. A further sub-division of that in multiples of 10 can lead us to the subtle dimension of Atma, the soul.
At these levels, the matter is sub-microscopic in dimensions, where matter necessarily does not exist in the matter form, but more probably in the field of wave. Here also as it is one of the subtlest forms of matter, the five basic elements viz., Akasha, Vaayu, Agni, Apaha, Prithvi exist not in their physical form, but in their Guna, characteristics. Even for the subtlest of the subtle to survive and move across space, a conducive position is desirable is what our wise seers have divined and established and expressed to us thorough the se festivals such as Vaikuntha Ekadasi.
While this angular relative position of the earth, moon and the sun seems to be the ideal exit/entry point for the soul to transcend to the doors, Dwar of Vaikuntha, further research needs to be done on the subject which we encourage the youth of the land to take up.
It is this understanding that we carry out as a ritual every year of entering the Swarga Dwar, which has been decorated and opened only on this day of Vaikuntha Ekadasi in the Vishnu temples.
A subtle, scientific, sublime concept brought forth to the common man in the form of a story,a legend in the form of Madhu and Kaitabha and the practice of going through the Swarga Dwar, helps one at least pause for this one day and recollect this knowledge – that we need to overcome the ignorance and passion to liberate ourselves and live in harmony in this life and the afterlife, attaining Moksha.
This Madhu and Kaitabha are present not only in humans but in all forms of life. It is present at the state of Hiranyagarbha itself, the cosmic egg, in the process of Big bang. More of this can be read in our book, Creation-Srishti Vigyana, which is part of the Bharath Gyan series.
After the first ‘War of Independence” in 1857, wherein Indians put on a brave front, but lost to the British, the control of India was taken over by the British Raj from East India Company. There was much bitterness against the British in India, after this rebellion. The British administration sought to change Indian minds, and get support for its governance through English educated Indians. It wanted to form an organization of such Indians, who would be friendly to its policies and governance.
The Forming of Indian National Congress
With this goal in mind, A O Hume, a British Civil Servant embarked on the task of creating an organization by reaching out to the alumni of the Calcutta University. On 28th December 1885, Hume along with 72 Indians founded the Indian National Congress, to form a platform for Indian Public opinion. Hume assumed the office as the general secretary, and Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee was elected President.
The first session of the Indian National Congress, December 28th, 1885
The Initial years
In its Initial years, British hegemony was very much apparent in the activities of Indian National Congress, as it was not concerned by the real problems faced by Indians, such as poverty, and merely echoed the British position. The members of the Indian National Congress, failed to influence the Indian public opinion, and the ordinary people of India, were hardly impressed by its functioning.
Slowly and steadily, Indian National Congress became one of the principal opposition forces against the British Raj, as it took part in India’s Freedom struggle. Their main principles were the 3 Ps – Petition, Prayer and Protest.
With the passage of time, there was much unrest in India due to the misrule and plunder by the British administration. The general public opinion began to slowly reflect in the minds of the congress members, as a wave of nationalism swept the whole country. Now there arose a desire in the congressmen to play an active role in governing their country, even though as a part of the British Government. Many prominent freedom fighters, like Dadabhai Naoroji, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Gopala Krishna Gokhale and Mahatma Gandhi found their way to its ranks.
“Lal Pal Bal”
The Trio of “Lal Pal Bal” were forerunners of the freedom struggle much before the times of Mahatma Gandhi. Lal was Lala Lajpat Rai from Punjab, Bal was Bala Gangadhar Tilak from Maharahstra, and Pal was Bipin Chandra Pal from East Bengal. They came from different corners of India and asked for Swaraj in united voice.
Lal Bal Pal
Congress and Gandhi
After the First World War, Gandhi became the primary face of the Congress. Many leaders who were committed to the Gandhian principles of Ahimsa and Satyagraha, came to fore, in their struggle against the British, which soon became a movement for independence, under the leadership of Gandhi. Some of these leaders of the Congress were Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Jawahar lal Nehru and C Rajagopalachari, among many others.
Some of the prominent Congress leaders who fought for India’s freedom
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was another leader from the ranks of Congress, whose achievements stood apart from the rest.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose
In 1943, Bose regrouped the Indian National Army with the help of the Indian soldiers from among the defeated British Indian Army in Singapore and marched through South East Asia reaching Moirang in Manipur.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose inspecting Troops of Indian National Army, Singapore
In Manipur, he hoisted the Indian Army flag – the Azad Hind Fauz for the first time on Indian Soil on April 14, 1944, defeating the local British Army.
While British could not but respect Mahatma for his non-violent struggle, the British feared the Indian National Army of Netaji.
This twin approach of Gandhiji and Netaji led to the dismantling of the British Empire not only in India, but in other parts of world.
Independence and Post-Independence
This country eventually attained freedom in 1947, and Congressmen played a vital role for the same, as India became an independent nation. After independence, Gandhi called for the disbanding of the Indian National Congress, as he felt that its purpose had been served. However, the legacy of Congress continued, and it became a national ruling party with Jawahar Lal Nehru as the first prime minister.
Indian National Congress was the principal opposition party opposing the British, before independence. After independence, it became the principal ruling party, and is one of the two national parties in India today.
There have been many scientists who have revolutionized science, and have taken man’s understanding of his own origin to a completely new level. Charles Darwin was one of those great scientists, who through his ‘evolution theory’, opened a new vista in the scientific world.
Voyage in Beagle
Charles Darwin began his exploration at a young age of 22, when he undertook a land mark Voyage on the research vessel H M S Beagle, on 27th December 1931. This was a chanced opportunity that Darwin fervently took, as one of the research scholars opted out at the last moment. It was during this trip that he formulated his theory of evolution.
The Vessel, H M S Beagle
Until then, the prevalent view in Europe was that which was dictated by the Christian Theology which states that God created the earth, man and animals in 7 days, in a set sequence.
In the course of his voyage, Darwin studied various forms of life, right from butterflies, insects, to tortoises, including the famous long living tortoise of Galapagos. At every port of call, he collected samples and studied them. The ship route covered southern hemisphere, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Brazil, lasting for 5 long years.
The Voyage of the Beagle
On the Origin of Species
After he came back to England from the Voyage, he settled down to write his master piece book, “On the Origin of Species”. Initially, the publisher was hesitant to print and publish his book. But, Darwin was so sure about his theory being accepted that he offered to buy back the 1250 printed copies of the book if they did not sell.
This book soon shook the very foundations of science and Christian theology.
Charles Darwin’s Book, The Origin of Species
Charles Darwin & the Indian Connect
There are some aspects of Darwin’s theory that are in sync with the Indian story of evolution.
According to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, aquatic creatures were the first to come into existence, followed by amphibians and then land creature.
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.
Indians knew it all
While Charles Darwin’s theories challenged the idea of Divinity in the west by propounding an evolutionary origin of humans, the same theory was in line with the Indian concept of Avatars, incarnations of the Divinity Vishnu. The people of this land had understood the concept of evolution even before Darwin.
King Solomon is revered as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church and is honoured with the title “Righteous Prophet and King”. He was the King of the United Kingdom of Israel and reigned from 970 BCE to 931 BCE. Known for his wealth and wisdom, King Solomon is fondly remembered for the Temple that he built in Jerusalem, the ‘Holy Temple’, famously known as the ‘First Temple’.
King Solomon Feast
On the completion of the temple, King Solomon arranged a grand feast, with citizens from all across Israel. This feast is recorded in the Bible, and is celebrated every year on 26th December, a day after Christmas, as “King Solomon Feast Day”.
Apart from the temple, King Solomon also built his palace and other structures in Jerusalem. This grand palace of Solomon today only survives in the Bibilical texts, as no part of the original structure remains, being destroyed by the ravages of time.
The India connect
The city and palace that he built used a lot of teak wood and ivory from the east, over the seas. This region to the east, where both teak and ivory are available in plenty, is the Malabar Coast, in the land of India.
City Built by King Solomon, Jerusalem
Malabar Coast, India
Archaeological Survey of India through their excavations have been able to identify that the coast near Kollam, Kerala was a major trading center of yore. This region was abounding in teak. The Kannimara Thekku Teak Tree, which is said to be Asia’s largest living teak tree, is located at Thoonakkadavu, in Kerala.
Kannimara Teak at Thoonakkadavu
A Thriving Connect
These archaeological findings state that teak, ivory, indigo and spices was exported from the Malabar Coast ports near Kollam to Arabian and European ports.
This indicates a thriving trade connect over 3000 years ago, between the Indian civilization and the Middle East civilization, in the pre Christian era.
The Indo-Middle East Connect in Pre Christian times
It is from these shipments, that the wood, ivory and indigo for the palace of King Solomon, could well have been supplied, in those ancient days.
Teak, Ivory, Indigo and Spices were regularly exported from Malabar
Tsunami is a term that entered the Indian vocabulary with a big bang after a tsunami struck the south coast of India and South East Asia, on 26th December 2004, leaving behind a wide scale of destruction. Until then, in recent memory, tidal floods of a massive scale were not associated with coastal India.
Tsunami is a Japanese word for these giant tidal waves emanating from the ocean after a massive earthquake.
In ancient India, there are references and descriptions in our scriptures, of a Tsunami like event, which left behind massive destructions.
The classic case is that of Dwaraka, the city built by Lord Krishna.
The destruction of Dwaraka is ascribed to a major ecological upheaval that occurred after the departure of Krishna. After the departure of Krishna and the Yadava civil war, the city of Dwaraka was swallowed by the sea. This is mentioned in the Mahabharata.
The Bhagavata Purana says that Krishna in His wisdom had recognized the signs of an impending geological upheaval and had warned His people of this foreboding calamity. He calls his people and advises them to move to other lands, saying Dwaraka was in danger. He Himself then moved down south to Prabhas Patan, near present day Somnath, where He shed His mortal coils.
There were however some people in His kingdom, who were complacent and did not pay heed to Krishna’s warning.
An internecine war for broke out amongst them.
Arjuna heard about the departure of Krishna from this world and the ensuing war, and rushed to Dwaraka. He was pained to see the loss of lives and destruction to property all over Dwaraka, due to the war. He rescued the wives and other women of Dwaraka and headed back towards Hastinapura. As soon as he left the city of Dwaraka, he saw the coastal city of Dwaraka being engulfed by a major tidal wave, like a tsunami, in which the whole city of Dwaraka was washed away.
Arjuna gives an eye witness report in the Mausala Parva of what he saw from a distance.
Arjuna viewing the Tsunami from a tree top
– a Southeast Asian representation
This poetic but precise, heart-rending, eyewitness account of Arjuna can be easily understood by us now as that of a Tsunami, as we have come to read of many similar tragic, eyewitness accounts by the survivors of the Tsunami of 26th December, 2004.
Evidence from Marine Archaeology
Archaeological evidences that corroborate this Tsunami has been identified by Dr. S. R Rao, the father of Marine Archaeology in India. He discovered the sunken city of Dwaraka, which is a veritable under water museum, off the coast.
Dwaraka underwater excavation photos
The general layout of this sunken city tallies well with the graphical description of the city as given in the Mahabharata text. The findings of these expeditions suggest that the city had submerged about 5000 years ago.
Dwaraka City Model
Not a local event
While the record in Mahabharata talks of a local event, there are many pointers all over the world, which when strung together, show that this sea rise which swallowed Dwaraka, a Tsunami of those times of 3000 BCE, was not limited to Dwaraka alone.
We all know how the tidal wave which started in Indonesia in December 2004 after a massive earthquake, travelled all the way upto the coasts of India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and east coast of Africa etc. and caused major destruction to life and property in all these places.
Spread of the 2004 Tsunami
This Tsunami from ancient times that struck Dwaraka, had a major ecological impact on the whole geographical arc from Southern India all the way through Persia, Mesopotamia, Sumeria, Babylonia and to the West Asian regions.
Historical sites affected by the Epic floods around 3000 BCE, in a geographical arc
It is interesting that, if we look at the arc of the coastline from Arabia to India, we find different descriptions of floods having occurred in these areas. All the local legends of the floods, in these different parts of civilization, seem to converge around the period 3000 BCE.
The Epic of Atrahasis describes a great flood that submerged the Sumerian civilization around 3000 BCE.
Epic of Atrahasis flood
The Biblical flood in which Noah’s ark rescued various species for the continuity of life is said to have occurred around 3000 BCE.
Mesopotamia had the famous legend called the epic of Gilgamesh. Most of the epic of Gilgamesh is lost to mankind due to widespread destruction which happened to their civilization because of a massive tidal wave.
Many scholars independently have arrived at a date of around 2800 BCE for when this civilization was washed out by a massive tidal wave. Some stone inscriptions have also been deciphered which speak of an extensive flooding which annihilated civilizations. They have been dated to 3123 BCE.
Gilgamesh and stone inscription
In South India, in the Sangamliterature, we have mention of a Kadalkol, a sea rising, swallowing the land of Kumari Kandam.
Kumari Kandam is the lost submerged land, south of the southern coast of India. Description of the sea engulfing the land of Kumari Kandam is described in detail, in the ancient Tamil texts.
Tamil texts such as Silappadigaram, Manimeghalai, PuraNanooru, Aga Nanooru, Ain Thinai and Ettu Thogai, describe the submergence of Kumari Kandam as having occurred many thousand years ago.
Poompuhar was a prosperous port which also finds mention in early Sangam Tamil literature. Today Poompuhar is a small coastal town in Tamil Nadu.
Marine archaeologists, Dr.S.Badrinarayan, former Director General of the Geological Survey of India and Graham Hancock, author of the book, “Underworld”, have photographed the old Poompuhar submerged in the sea, a few miles off the coast of the present day Poompuhar. They estimate this submergence to have taken place about 5000 years ago i.e. around 3000 BCE.
The same Tsunami?
The massive tidal wave at Dwaraka and the other similar tidal waves in the Gilgamesh epic, the Bibilical flood, the tidal wave in Sumeria and Mesopotamia as well as Kumari Kandam and Poompuhar, all occurred around the 3000 BCE period. The same Tsunami had perhaps struck other civilizations too in this geographical arc.
More on this in our book “Historical Krishna” and “Triple Eclipse”.
The last week of December to the first week of January is a time of festivity. It is when the people worldover are celebrating the Birth of Christ as Christmas and the arrival of a New Year.
Christmas is popularly celebrated on 25th December. The Christian Calendar which is also linked to the birth of Jesus starts from 1st January. The Greek orthodoxy, the Armenians, East Europeans and Russians celebrate Christmas on 6th January. It is intriguing, as to why we celebrate these different days as the birthday of Jesus Christ.
How did these 3 days come about?
To understand this, we need to look at the times of Jesus Christ’s birth.
Herod, The Great
The king who ruled when Jesus was born was ‘Herod, The Great’. Herod died in 4 BCE. This is uniformly accepted by both Jewish and Christian historians.
Herod, The Great
This implies that Jesus was probably not born in year 1 but was born before 4 BCE, when ‘Herod, the Great’ was alive.
This brings into question not only the date of December 25th, but also the year of birth.
Was Jesus Christ born in the year 0?
The number 0 was not known to the Romans until 1500 CE. In their calendar, -1 BCE transitioned into +1 CE.
Infact, the term Anno Domini (A.D., “in the year of our Lord”) as a universal reference point was coined by Christian historian, Dionysius Exiguous, a Roman monk in the year 532 CE.
Before Dionysius Exiguous, the terms BC and AD did not exist.
Council of Nicaea
Which year and date was Jesus born then?
When we dwell into this, we come across an interesting episode.
A council was formed, now popularly known as the Council of Nicaea, in 325 AD to arrive at Jesus Christ’s date of birth.
Council of Nicaea
A few dates were put up for consideration at the Council
- 25th December was suggested by the Romans
- 20th May was given by the Clement of Alexandria
- 28th March was given by De Pascha Computes
- 6th January was given by the Greeks as it was the birthday of their God Dionysus
- Egyptians suggested the birthday of their God Osiris
The Urn Method
To choose a day, as the story goes, they put the names into an urn and picked one of them. The date that was picked is not known, but it is better known that the date was not accepted by all.
An ancient Urn
This probably led to having multiple days for the birth of Jesus Christ.
Since then, the Greek orthodoxy celebrate January 6th as Christmas which is essentially the birthday of Greek God Dionysus who was the most popular divinity of the Greek then.
Greek God Dionysus
The Romans thought it fit to celebrate December 25th as the birthday of Jesus, for, their biggest festival then in Rome was ‘Natalis Solis Invicti’ , ‘Nativity of the unconquered Sun’, to celebrate the return of the sun, the beginning of the northward journey of the sun from the Tropic of Capricorn.
‘Natalis Solis Invicti’, the then biggest festival
Winter Solstice occurred on 25th December then. Now it occurs on 21st December.
This day, 25th December was a day of feasting for the Romans as the warmth of the sun was set to return. This popular festival day of the Romans was adopted by the Christians for the birthday of Jesus Christ.
Mario Righethi, a Roman Catholic writer, writes in his book, ‘Manual of Liturgical History’ 1955, Vol 2, p 67,
‘Manual of Liturgical History’
The Earliest Christ Mass
The earliest celebration of Christ Mass, which has now come to be called Christmas was first observed on 25th December 336 AD, in the Phliocalion Calendar.
The Phliocalion Calendar
The first Pope to address the Christ Mass – Christmas was Pope Liberius in the year 354 AD.
New Year on January 1st
If the date of birth of Jesus Christ is a tossup between December 25th and January 6th, then how did January 1st come to be celebrated as the first day of the Christian Calendar.
Should not December 25th have been the first day of the Roman Christian Calendar?
Should not January 6th have been the first day of Greek Christian Calendar?
Was January 1st then a compromise date between the two?
Issac Asimov, the famous scientist in his book, ‘Book of Facts’ says,
“In 534 AD, the first man who calculated the year of Jesus’ birth made a mistake and we’ve been stuck with it forever.”
Issac Asimov and his ‘Book of Facts’
All in all, we now have 3 dates, December 25th, January 1st and January 6th, celebrated in different parts of the world as the birth date of Jesus Christ.
Not arrived at from Bethlehem
It is interesting to note that all these 3 dates have not been arrived at in Bethlehem where Jesus Christ was born, but have been arrived at in other places from Niceae, to Rome to Greece.
Birth of Jesus at Bethlehem
What does modern science say?
Various scholars have tried to come out with a correct date for the birth of Jesus Christ using modern scientific tools.
One of these tools is Archaeo-Astronomy.
An Australian Astronomer, Dave Reneke, using sky charts, arrived at 17th June, 2 BCE, as the date of Jesus Christ’s birth.
Based on the sky chart, the researcher opined that there could have been “a beacon of light” visible across the eastern sky at dawn, as the planets Jupiter and Venus moved across the Leo constellation.
“While these two are planets, they could have been called the Star of Bethlehem” says Dave Reneke in support of his date.
Further researches however cast doubts on this date.
There have been other researchers like this who have looked at the date of birth of Jesus Christ in 5 BCE.
As science evolves, it would be wonderful, if we could find the exact date of Jesus Christ’s birth. Until then, let us celebrate all 3 days as the birthday of Jesus Christ.