Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hinduism: Navarathri (Nine nights)...!!!

Navarathri (Nine nights)
Navarathri (nine nights) is one of the greatest festivals of India. This festival is celebrated for nine days in which God is worshipped in the form of Mother. This is a period of introspection and purification. Navarathri is traditionally an auspicious time for starting new ventures. During this period, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped as three different manifestations of Shakti or Cosmic energy.

Like the other festivals of India, Navarathri is rich in meaning. At one level, Navarathri signifies the progress of a spiritual aspirant. During this spiritual journey, the aspirant has to pass three stages personified by Durga, Lakshmi and saraswati. Then, he or she enters into the realm of the infinite, wherein one realises one's Self. Navarathri, which literally means 'nine nights,' dedicates three days each to worshipping the Divine in the forms of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The tenth day though, is the most important; it is known as Vijayadashami, the 'tenth day of victory.'

Inner Meaning of Navarathri Worship
The reason behind the worshipping of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati lies rooted in the philosophy that the attributeless absolute can only be known through the world of attributes - the journey is from the known to the unknown. Hence it is said that Shiva, who symbolises pure consciousness can only be known through Shakti, who represents divine energy. That is why people worship Shakti, also known as Devi, in Her various manifestations.

The different stages of spiritual progress are reflected in the sequence of celebrations during Navarathri. During the first three days, Durga is worshipped. She personifies that aspect of Shakti which destroys our negative tendencies. The process of trying to control our senses is akin to a war for the mind which resists all attempts at control. So the stories in the Puranas symbolically depict Devi in the form of Durga as waging war and destroying the Asuras.

However, getting temporary relief from the clutches of vasanas does not guarantee permanent liberation from them. The seeds of the vasanas will remain within in latent form. Therefore, we should supplant them with positive qualities. The Bhagavad Gita refers to these qualities as daivi-sampat, literally "Divine wealth." Correspondingly, we worship Lakshmi during the next three days. Lakshmi is not just the giver of gross wealth or prosperity; She is the Mother who gives according to the needs of Her children.

Only one endowed with daivi-sampat is fit to receive the knowledge of the Supreme. Accordingly, the last three days of Navarathri are dedicated to worshipping Saraswati, the embodiment of Knowledge. She is depicted as wearing a pure-white sari, which symbolises the illumination of the Supreme Truth.

Significance of Navarathri for Householders
However, Navarathri is not only significant for spiritual aspirants; it has a message for those who lead a worldly life as well. They should invoke Durga's help to surmount obstacles, pray to Lakshmi to bestow peace and prosperity and contemplate upon Saraswati in order to gain knowledge. These three ingredients are just as necessary for a full and complete worldly life. In reality, when we pray like this, we are invoking the Shakti that is within ourselves. Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are not different entities, but different facets of the singular Divinity.

Some of the spiritual practices associated with Navarathri include fruit and milk fasts, japa (mantra chanting), changing of hymns dedicated to Devi in Her different forms, prayer, meditation and recitation of sacred texts including the Devi Mahatmya, Sri Lalita Sahasranama and the Durga Saptashati.

Ayudha Puja
The ninth day is also the day of the Ayudha Puja. The Ayudha Puja is a worship of whatever implements one may use in one's livelihood. On the preceding evening, it is traditional to place these implements on an altar to the Divine.

If one can make a conscious effort to see the divine in the tools and objects one uses each day, it will help one to see one's work as an offering to God.

Saraswati Puja and Vidyarambham
It will also help one to maintain constant remembrance of the divine. (In India it is customary for one to prostrate before the tools one will use before starting one's work each day; this is an expression of gratitude to God for helping one to fulfil one's duties.)

Children traditionally place their study books and writing implements on the altar. On this day, no work or study is done, that one might spend the day in contemplation of the Divine.

The tenth day is called Vijaya Dashami. Devotees perform a Saraswati Puja (ceremonial worship) to invoke the blessings of Saraswati.

Some devotees also perform pujas dedicated to Durga to mark Her victory over the demon, Mahishasura.

At another level, Navarathri also highlights the principles elucidated by the Ramayana. This is hinted at in the other name by which Vijayadashami is known in India, Dussehra. Some devotees also perform pujas dedicated to Durga to mark Her victory over the demon, Mahishasura.

After the pujas a rite known as Vidyarambham is performed by young and old alike.

The ceremony involves tracing each letter of the alphabet in a plate of rice or even in sand on the ground.

Traditionally, the writing was alternately done on the tongue with a gold dipped in honey. Vidyarambham literally means to begin the acquisition of knowledge and for the very young, it is just that: an initiation into learning.

For those who have already begun to acquire knowledge, it is a reminder that only one who can maintain a beginner's mind will be able to learn. If one thinks that one knows already, one will not be open to new ideas. Whereas one who has the attitude of a beginner will always have an open and receptive mind. With this attitude one can learn a lot. At another level, Navarathri also highlights the principles elucidated by the Ramayana. This is hinted at in the other name by which Vijayadashami is known in India, Dussehra.Courtesy: ANCL Jaladeepam


Nanthy as Emblem of Hindu Flag
S Ratnarajah

Why? There should be a Flag for Hindu festivals and ceremonies is a food for thought. The flag raising ceremony is as important activity in the world. When every school, nation, religions, political parties have a flag of their own. Hindus do not raise a flag. As such it is a must to show the world the philosophy of Hindus to realize the purpose of life by raising a flag. Now "Nanthy Kodi" is issued by Saiva Munnetra Sangam Colombo.

It is also essential to know about Nanthy and its philosophy to be used on the flag as an emblem. Why? "Nanthy", the figure of a Bull a statue in temples and "Lord Siva" with as "Idapam" is worshiped as "Idapa Roopar". This must be understood by every one.

We will see why the saints of yore selected "nanthy" as a visible concrete known to realise the concrete unknown, as omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent supreme. So now, the "nanthy Kodi" is being raised to explain this, Lord Siva the supreme conscious waves are not visible and cannot be seen or described by any one with ones body, mind and senses intellect, only the discriminative knowledge can make one to detach from changing and attach to the changeless substratum of every thing.

The Lord Siva waves of unmanifested energy. But this changing manifested nature is dynamic energy. This is named as "Nanthy" for the people to understand this dynamic energy which changes everything; a Bull was selected by saints by their wisdom achieved and realised for the people to understand this dynamic motion of the supreme.

It is hard for the people to realise that the ground supreme is the same in its kionetic form (Maya). This changing phenomena is "Nanthy" and the static ground of every thing, the cosmic now-menon is Lord "Siva" "Nanthy Kodi" indicate this.

So Lord 'Siva' is 'Nanthy', A Bull in the visible form is a vehicle'. A 'Vehicle' means movement. So the Bull as a vehicle for 'Siva' means the supreme forces motion in the cosmos.

'Idapa rooper' deity clearly indicates this Supreme Motion of cosmic nature. So the flag of "Nanthy' when it flies on temples, will indicate this.

A "Bull' sacrifices itself and helps man in ploughing fields, drawing carts etc. It eats the unwanted hey, poonac and drinks the water of boiled rice or washed rice willingly, whereas others are served with best rice and corns. Its dung is used as manure.

Due to its in born unselfish nature for the betterment of others, the Bull was selected to represent the invisible and partly visible dynamic nature for the people to understand in the visible state.

In the temples the statue of "Nanthy" is there to show the casual region of the cosmos and the casual body they will not allow us to proceed to the higher spiritual regions unless we are free of our immoral and moral activities. Courtesy: Jaladeepam


Selvasanithi Temple festival
Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar

Selvasannithi Temple dedicated to Lord Muruka is situated at Thondaimanaru in Vadamarachchy in the district of Jaffna and the hoisting of the flag ceremony will commence tomorrow (August 10).

The Hindu temples are intended to instruct people in the art of removing the veil of attachment that covers their hearts and minds. Thus, the renowned poet Thiagarajah cried in the temple of Thiruppathi "O! Remove the veil within me, the veil of pride and hate.

In fact, the worship of Selvasannithi Murukan Temple is unique. Further, this temple conducts regular poojas and the priests perform poojas covering this mouths with clothes.

The origin of God Muruga and the story of his veneration are of great interest, Muruga as a valourous youth is said to have performed several brave deeds including the imprisonment of Brahma. God Muruka fought with Asura Leader Surapadman and defeated him. Though Surapadman assumed several monstrous forms and shape he finally sought refuse in the form of a mango tree. Surapadman was ultimately defeated, not slaim, but was commanded to serve God Muruka in the form of a Peacock and was also given a place in his banner as a Rooster Cock. Thereafter the Devas were released and they celebrated the victory.

In fact, the leaf shaped spear VEL is God Muruka's weapon for overcoming evil. Further, Lord Muruka is Gnanasakthi, his consorts Theivaynai is Kiriyasakthi and Valli is Ishasakthi. God Muruka's "VALE" in his hand also signifies that a man's knowledge should be sharp like that of VALE and it should not only be sharp, it should also be broad and deep. This shows that a man may be intellectually superior, but he should be very humble.

It is very often said that the creator of the universe Bramah resides in the Navel of Lord Vishnu. Similarly in the hearts of men reside the creative urge and faith. This is clearly evident from the manner the people of Jaffna pray to God Muruka at Selvasannithi Temple at Thondamanaru.

Muruka means beauty and knowledge and is often represented as the type of a perennial youth, sometimes as a Divine Child and also as Aarumugam. The great scholar and patriot Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam describes that Muruka would thus appear to be a deity who was rich with many legends and tradition, many aspects of religion and modes of worship priorities and advanced. Unlike any other temples in the Jaffna Peninsula, one can see several Madams at this temple where Sanyasis reside and meditate. Even Hinduism considers giving "Anna Danam" also as pooja which is known as Maheswara Pooja.

Divine power in the form of Murukan conquers everyone and He is worshiped as the God of wisdom by those who seek spiritual enlightenment. Further, the spiritual atmosphere at Selvasanmithi Temple heals physical and mental ailments of His devotees. During the festival statue of Lord Muruka is decorated and illuminated and paraded along the streets in a chariot followed by poojas, bhajans and archani offered by devotees.

The journey of the chariot along the streets is an emblem of progress of life and the lesson is that throughout one's life man should control and guide the passions with the help of the soul. These passions are the driving force of life, but if unguided will lead to wreck a man's life. This is the symbolic meaning of the chariot festival.


Swami Shanthanand - a seeker of truth
Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar

The death anniversary of Swami Shantanand fell on July 27, 2010. He was one of the foremost spiritual leaders, besides being a poet, saint, philosopher and social and moral organizer.

Swami Shanthanand

Swami Shantanand belongs to a band of Yogis and seeks - a Brahmin by birth and underwent his spiritual discipleship both in the North and South of India, having come in his early years under the influence of spiritual giants like Sri Gnanandagiri, the 168-year-old sage of South India, Sri Ramana Maha Rishi of Tiruvannamalai and Swami Shivananda of Rishikesh. It was however Swami Shivananda who had the greater influence on young Shantanand in moulding his life.

Swami Shantanand had no fixed abode, the entire world being his domain. He responded to invitations from every part of the world, captivating the hearts of his listeners by his enchanting songs and kirtars, the brilliance of his thinking, the charm of his personality and his penetrating spiritual insight.

In fact, he had visited Sri Lanka several times at the generous invitations of many leading personalities like Mr V Kailasapillai and Mrs Abirami Kailasapillai. Mr & Mrs Kailasapillai arranged numerous dance performances and religious lectures and discourses at BMICH and entertained all the artistes who came from Coimbotar, Kuala Lumpur, Madras, Singapore and several other parts of the world. Indeed Mr & Mrs Kailasapillai and Mr Kandiah Neelakandan should be highly commended for having made elaborate arrangements in regard to the accommodation for all the artistes and hall arrangements for performing their dance programs to the greater success. In this instance I should mention about Mrs Abirami Kailasapillai since she is an exceptional human being with exemplary character. Whenever Swami Shantanand visited Sri Lanka she never failed to invite me to brief all the details about Swami Shantanand and the accompanying artistes to enable me to give wide publicity in the media.

Further, Mr & Mrs Kailasapillai hospitality, generosity and magnanimity are of high nature combined with noble thoughts.

Indeed, Swami Shantanand's message was universal transcending creeds and dogmatic religions and barriers of geographical frontiers.

The core of his teachings lies in these statements:- "God is one though the paths leading to Him are many. Follow any path that appeals to you with steadfast faith and try to experience Him. Religion is living and religion is behaviour and not merely a belief."

Swami Shantanand established the "Temple of Fine Arts" in the early part of 70's when he visited Malaysia with the view to enhance his devotees the understanding of love and religion, philosophy and culture Joyous artistic forms of music and dance.

The Temple of Arts has now grown majestically and conduct numerous musical recitals and dance dramas showcasing their talents and capabilities of students. Alongside this performing Arts Institution Swami Shantanand provided medical attention and aid to the poor.

As a producer of drama and dance he was infinitely sensitive to every phenomenon and for whom every phenomenon is a stimulous capable of providing an infinite series of thoughts. Besides, he always moved with the young and old to action. Further, his ideas are nurtured by the simple, universal truths respected endlessly in all cultures - SERVE, LOVE, GIVE, SELFLESSLY.

After 30 years the Vel Festival of Panadura Kataragama Kovil was held on July 30, 2010 in the presence of a large crowd. Kurukal performing the religious rites is shown in the picture. Panadura group correspondent – Kapila Somaratne

July 22, 2010 – Paalkudam Bavani (Holy Milk procession of Arulmigu Sri Gnana Bhairavar Muniandi Kovil at Galpotta, Colombo 13 took place. The picture shows women carrying milk pots to the Kovil from Paradise Place Maha Kaali Amman temple. Picture by A Maduraiveeran

G Sivaraj Trustee of Wattegama Sri Muththumariamman Hindu Temple, Chief Kurukkal of Puthukkadu – Elkaduwa in Pathadumbara and members of trustees of the Kovil pose after opening a newly built Puthukadu temple recenlty. Picture by H A Shakoor – Pathadumbara special correspondent

The Manikkwasaga Swamigal Thiruvadi Valipadu Ceremony, organized by the Eelattu Thirumurai Tamil Mandram took place at Saraswathi hall Bambalapitiya Colombo – 4. The Secretary Tamil Mantram Sivaguru Ganeshan conducting the pooja with devotees singing hymns. Picture : A. Maduraveeran