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.
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.
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.
Navaratri Celebrations across the land
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.
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are definite cycles of celestial motion, some short enough for us to see and record in our lifetimes and some others long enough to be unimaginable, as well.
There is a mathematical functioning to the cosmos that we sometimes see.
There is also randomness in the Universe, which cannot be explained but which indicates the presence of subtler forces and dimensions that we have as yet not understood.
The cosmos is not made of black and white. It comes in all shades of colours and all shades of grey.
We have not even scratched the tip of knowledge of all the objects in the Universe, their motions and their phenomenon. Our science and mathematics cannot simulate nature to its exactness.
This is why, among other aspects, the ancients seem to have been wise enough to demarcate time windows for cosmic events, apart from calculating a fixed date for the event. Such time windows were called Sandhi.
Sandhi is the join between two places, two activities, two periods – Yuga.
When one Yuga period ends and the other Yuga period starts, while there is a very specific, pin pointed time, which is used for calculation purpose, there is also another important feature known as the Sandhi period which indicates the overlaps on either side of this specific, pin pointed time marker by more than a few years. This period is collectively known as the Sandhi period, period of transition.
Effects of a Sandhi
The Kali Yuga, which was an alignment of all the planets in the Solar system, with the Aries, Mesham constellation, has been calculated to have started at 02 hours 30 minutes 23 seconds on Friday 18th February 3102 BCE.
The precise alignment of all the planets of the solar system did take place at the above mentioned precise time and date, but the effect of it was not for that moment alone.
The effect of the alignment was felt, stretched over a period of time, by hundred years on either side.
The tumultuous Mahabharatha period and the life of legendary hero Krishna, took place in the intervening Sandhi period. This tumultuous period has now been dated, using the field of Archaeo-astronomy, to be between 3112 BCE to 3031 BCE.
This period falls on either side of the start of Kali Yuga, which is why the Mahabharatha epic of India, very explicitly states that the tumultuous period of Mahabharatha, happened in the interim, antara of the two Yuga namely –Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga.
The Mahabharatha Wartook place in the Antare- i.e. Antare meaning the interphase or twilight- of Dwapara yuga.
The very word Antara in Samskrt means “between, inside, within”. It bears the root for the English words inter, intra, enter etc.
India across times has thus accorded significance to the Sandhi, the antare period or transitional window between two time periods, cycles or seasons.
Navaratri – A Sandhi in Rthu, seasons
Navaratri is a popular festival in India. It is celebrated, as the name suggests, over nine nights and concludes on the 10th day. This Navratri festival is celebrated every year in the month of September – October.
While most of the popular festivals of India are one day festivals, Navaratri is a nine day festival.
Why is it such a long festival?
A little known fact about Navaratri is that it is not just an annual event. Even though most people celebrate just one Navaratri festival during September – October every year, there are 4 Navaratri festivals in a year, each lasting for 9 nights and days.
The prime ones are the ones in the month of March-April, i.e the transition from winter to spring and the one in the month of September – October, i.e. transition from summer to autumn. These seem close to the equinox periods, a time of balanced days and nights.
Why do we celebrate the same festival four times in a year that too each time for nine nights and days?
This festival celebrates the transitory nature between the four major seasons in Nature, they being summer, winter, spring and rains. The transition from one to the other season does not take place in just one day but is in fact the full span of 9 to10 days. So this transitional nature of Nature was understood as a period of time which is 9 days and nights.
A time to allow one’s body and mind to adjust to the rhythm of Nature and align with the new season.
In the traditional Indian thought, while there was a definite calendar as a time maker, equal importance was also given to the transitory period.
Indian thought also viewed time from a cyclical perspective. i.e. They looked at time as a resultant of the periodic, cyclical motion of celestial objects in space. Hence the word Rthu to denote the periodicity in Nature.
It is this word Rthu, which gives rise to the English word Rhythm for a periodic pattern.
Alignment of Energies
Indian knowledge system also held that something cyclic can only be detected or perceived through an alignment and alignments have a nett result, a result that emerges and settles down over a transitional period.
There is a Samskrt saying “Yatha Pinde thatha Brahmande” – “As in Microcosm, so in macrocosm”
This phrase and its meaning and its relationship to the Creation of the Cosmos and everything within, is discussed in good detail in our book Creation – Srishti Vignana.
In the case of the macrocosmic universe of large celestial bodies, alignments could influence gravitational forces, magnetic forces, other such cosmic forces and the Indian knowledge system realized, recorded and revealed that the nett result, was the notion of Sandhi, the union.
Our mind too, the microcosm, is constantly under the interplay, alignment of 3 subtle forces or energies.
Ichcha Shakti – desire, will to 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.
Alignments bring in a sense of settlement and equilibrium in the cosmos, in Nature, in people and in civilizations.
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 sub conscious desire and will, Ichcha Shakti to be in sync with the Cosmos, which is the manifestation of the Ichcha Shakti, the desire, wish and the way of Nature.
It is these 3 energies that we invoke and align ourselves with, in the form of the three goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi, during the seasonal transition called Navaratri.
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.
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.
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, Japan
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 Veda– Rig, 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.
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.
During this month of May we will be celebrating the festival of Akshaya Trithiya or Akha Teej, a highly auspicious day which falls on the third day after Amavasya (no moon) in the Hindu calendar month of Vaishakha.
This traditional festival seems insignificant in comparison to some of the more glamorous festivals of the land.
For whatever reason this festival came into being, today Akshaya Trithiya day is being marketed as a day for buying gold, even better platinum now. Advertisements are being splashed all over urging one and all to buy gold.
Gold and Platinum
Is this festival Akshaya Trithiya, a festival for buying gold or better platinum? We have also heard our parents telling us to start things on this day because anything started on this day is expected to grow.
So, what is this Akshaya Trithiya all about?
Let us examine the word Akshaya first.
We would have heard of the phrase Akshaya Pathra, for the vessel that provided unending supply of food, during the Mahabaratha period. Draupadi has this vessel with her to feed her husbands the Pandavas, while they were in exile. It was given to her on this day by Lord Krishna.
Kshaya is something that diminishes. Akshaya is one that never diminishes.
Draupadi with Akshaya Pathra
So the word Akshaya denotes endless limitless provision of food, prosperity and wealth, wealth that never diminishes.
Why is this festival celebrated as that of limitless prosperity, Akshaya?
What is the event which gave this land this limitless prosperity, that is being commemorated as this festival?
There are quite a few reasons why this festival is celebrated, some of them being:
The day the Treta Yuga started.
Birthday of Parasurama the 6th avatara fo Vishnu.
The sun and moon are seen at their brightest best from the west coast of India.
The day Krishna gave the Akshaya Pathra to the Pandavas and Draupadi.
The day Sudama, the poor childhood friend of Krishna met Krishna with just a handful of puffed rice and received a lot of wealth in exchange without asking.
The day Krishna Dwaipayana, whom we reverentially call as Veda Vyasa, started dictating his family biography called Jaya, which is now known to us popularly as the Mahabharata.