Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Open Source Community for Vedic Audio Resources

Wisdomspeak Audio Resources
Wisdomspeak is an open source community collection of audio resources on Vedic culture. You can listen to mantras, bhajans, spiritual discources etc 24x7 via online radio. If you are a shoutcast radio user, you can easily find the streams by searching for the word "hindu". Shoutcast player is included in Winamp, Songbird and the playlist can be played by most media players like VLC. It is inspired by open-source technology and the emerging mobile internet media, it was thought to utilize audio streaming, wordpress CMS and various useful plugins for spiritual progress of seekers. The community aspires to engender more communication and collaboration between vedic/hindu organizations and spiritual-minded people.

Link: http://wisdomspeak.org/

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Goddess Saraswati - Legends

The Goddess of learning and speech is Saraswati, also known as Sarada, Bharati, Brahmi etc. I've always been confused about the origins of this white complexioned goddess dressed in white or yellow and accompanied by a swan as her vahana. Even though most people consider her as Brahma's consort, there are many who worship her as Vishnu's consort and some consider her as Brahma's daughter! Her origin is also connected to the lost vedic river, Saraswati. She is the manifestation of wisdom, intelligence, speech, thought etc. It is only after I read the article at Vishwarupa.com, I got a more clear picture of the myths and legends about the origin of the Goddess of Learning, who revealed language and writing to mankind.

Link: http://www.vishvarupa.com/print-information-about-saraswati.html

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kerala's Carnatic Music Learning Programme in Malayalam

In today's hectic world, it is very difficult for a common man to find enough time to master the fine arts like carnatic music. Also it is not possible everywhere to find a suitable guru to learn it from. It is in this scenario the electronic media is of a great boon to satisfy the yearning to learn the art of classical music.

Pen Books in association with Music Zone has bought out a set of 7 instructional audio CDs along with a 200 page book for those craving to learn the basics of Carnatic music. The gurus offering music lessons in the CDs include Prof. Mavelikkara Prabhakara Varma, Prof. Thripunithura K. Lalitha, Prof. Mavelikkara Subrahmaniam, Dr. Malini Hariharan and M. K. Shankaran Namboothiri.

I'm not sure about the extent to which the CDs will help a person to become a singer. But it is sure to help one to understand and appreciate the beauty of carnatic music. I wish they bring out video CDs instead of audio CDs and make classes more realistic.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sacred Saligramam ( Saligrama )

If you ever happened to have a look inside a Vaishnavite's Pooja room, you might have had a glimpse of a black stone called Saligramam being worshipped. It is usually black in color with the symbol of sudarshana chakra. The chakras can be seen both outside and inside. The Saligrama stone is not believed to be just another stone found in the nature. It is found only at Gandaki River situated high in the Himalayas in Nepal. It is believed that the chakra symbols are formed by river worms called Vajra Keeta. It is believed that these worms drill the stones, get inside and use the stones a dwelling place.
There is a legend behind the origin of Saligramam. Once upon a time, Lord Siva was waging a war with an asura called Jallundhara. The war seemed to be between two equals and not just another war of a God with a demon. It was in fact a test of chastity of their consorts. (It is a Hindu belief that chastity of the wife protects her husband even from death) Lord Siva knew that unless the chastity of Vrinda, Jallundhara's wife is spoiled, he cannot be killed as he will be protected by the power of her chastity. But it was against the nature of Gods to indulge in a heinous act like spoiling a woman's chastity.

But there was no such taboo for the demon Jallundhara. He thought that by spoiling the chastity of Goddess Parvati he could defeat Lord Siva. But Goddess Parvati could see through Jallundhara's trick and ended his guise. She signaled Lord Krishna (Avatara of Lord Vishnu) that it was now just to spoil the chastity of Jallundhara's wife and it will not be a sin. Lord Krishna approached Vrinda in the guise of Jallundhana. She could not understand that it is not her husband and lost her chastity.

Later when she came to know about this, she cursed Lord Vishnu to turn into grass, stone, tree and plant. It is believed that Kusha-grass, Saligram-stone, Pipal-tree and Tulsi-plant are incarnations of Lord Vishnu and worshipped henceforth. (There is another version of the story for the origin of Tulsi and Saligrama shila which will be posted later.)

Padma purana states that resident of a salagrama is Lord Kesava himself and along with him reside all the devatas, asuaras, yaksas and the fourteen worlds. Hence, giving a salagrama, is the best form of charity. It also states that Lord Siva himself stays in the salagrama sila and hence worshipping it is of importance to both Vaishnavites and Saivites. Even if a salagrama is cracked, split, or broken it will have no harmful effect if it is worshiped with attention and love by a devotee. Gautamiya Tantra states that merely by touching a shalagrama one becomes freed from the sins of millions of births. In Skanda purana, it is said that that any person who has seen salagrama stone, paid obeisances to it, bathed and worshipped it, has achieved the results of performing ten million sacrifices and giving ten million cows in charity. According to Garuda Purana, The Lord resides in many places in which he may be worshipped, but of all the places Salagrama is the best.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Namakarana - Naming ceremony

Naming a baby is a religious ceremony for the Hindus. In Kerala, usually a baby boy is named on the 27th day after birth and a girl is named on the 28th day after birth. The right day for the ceremony is defined by Gruhyasutras and there are different opinions for the same. Even these dates were to be postponed if there is any lack of religious propriety as in events like a Sankranti, Sraddha ceremony etc. On that day, the baby is given a bath and a black thread is tied around the waist. There will be a feast and distribution of sweets like "payasam". Later, either the father, uncle, grandma or the most senior person of a household whispers thrice into the right ear of the baby, his or her name for the first time.

But according to Sastras, the naming ceremony is supposed to be conducted on the 11th day or 101the day. Different kinds of pujas and homams are conducted on that day. After whispering the name three times into the ear of the baby, the person who conducts the naming ceremony explains the meaning of the name to the assembled people. He also tells the baby that from that day he/she will be called by that name and may the Gods bless to bring glory to that name. After the name is announced, each of the assembled people calls the baby by that name and offers blessings.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

East - the most sacred direction

Of the four directions, east is the most sacred for orthodox Hindus. The ancient Indians believed that one magnetic field passes from the south to north and another one in east to west directions. The latter force field is considered essential for the sustainance of life on earth. They are analogous to the modern day longitude and lattitude. Based on this, Hindus give a lot of importance to the directions while doing day to day activities.
Earth's magnetic field
While sleeping, it is okay to keep the head towards east. After waking up, turn towards the east and bow to our parents, teachers, look at both palms of the hand (and chant the Karagre vasate lakshmi.. mantra). Touch the ground and touch the forehead as a symbol of paying respect to mother earth.
It is while facing the east that one should light the sacred diya (deepam / oil lamp). The sacred plants like tulsi, neem, jasmine etc should be planted facing the east. The entrance and the front side of a house should be ideally facing the east. If you have idols in your courtyard, they should be ideally facing the east. Most of the sacred deeds are done facing the east. The bride garlands the groom facing the direction of east. If the well or pond faces the east, it will get lots of sunshine and the water will get purified by the sun's rays. The ideal place for cowshed is considered to be south-east.
It is not good to have toilets in the east direction of one's house. Also because of the sanctity of the east, it is not good to dump garbage and left overs in the direction of east. We need not think a lot to infer that it is not good to do excretory functions like defecation and urination facing the sacred east. It is said that even if one faces the east while brushing one's teeth, it is better to spit in the direction of north avoiding the east.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Harivarasanam - A nostalgic and divine lullaby

Harivarasanam was written by Kumbakudi Kulathur Iyer in 1950. Swami Vimochanananda recited this song for the first time at Sabarimala in 1955. This beautiful song originally has 16 padas of which only the first 7 are sung at Sabarimala. This song is in the language of Sanskrit and is sung in Madhyamaavati raagam.

It is said that the then Mel Santhi of Sannidhanam, Thirumeni Easwaran Nampoothiri had a companion called VR Gopala Menon of Alappuzha. Mr. Menon used to stay on in a shack at the Sannidhanam even when the temple is closed. Wild animals never used to trouble him and he used to feed them. Revered Menon used to recite Harivarasanam with great devotion. Later when Devaswom Board was formed, he was asked to move out. He died as an orphan in a tea estate at Vandiperiyar. It was with immense grief that the Mel Santhi heard about the demise of Revered Menon. At that end of the pooja that day, when he was about to close the doors of the Sanctum Sanctorum, he remembered Revered Menon and recited 'Harivarasanam' starting a nostalgic tradition that remains unbroken to this day.

But according to some other sources, the tradition was started for the first time after the Punah Prathishta ceremony in the Sabarimala temple. The ceremony had to be conducted after a major fire that consumed the temple in the year of 1955. It was Swami Vimochananda's (Krishnan Nair) efforts to popularize Ayyappa bhakti by travelling the whole of South India that made the chief priest accept the song as a lullaby to Lord Ayyappa.

Harivarasanam is recited just prior to closing of the temple doors at night. As the final verses are being sung, all the assistant Santhis leave the Sanctum Sanctorum one by one. As the song ends, only the Mel Santhi is inside the Sreekoil. He extinguishes the lamps one by one and closes the doors for the night after the last lamp is extinguished.

You can read the lyrics by clicking the link below, watch the youtube video and listen to Sri K.J. Yesudas' rendition of the divine lullaby.

Click here for the lyrics.
Click here to Watch the video.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

28 Hindu temples to be relocated

In Malaysia, Hindu activists have protested severe repression, including forcible conversions and the destruction of scores of temples. Frustrations among the country’s Indian minority has been bubbling under the surface for decades. Adding to the woes of Malaysian Indians, the Malaysian government has said that 28 Hindu temples, which are currently situated on disputed land around the national capital, will be relocated by next month.

Read the news article at http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/003200904211451.htm

The Technique of Transcendental Meditation

Since I have already given an Introduction to Transcendental Meditation in my previous blog post, I would like to discuss the steps involved in the technique in this post.

The technique of TM is taught in seven systematic steps.
Step 1 – Introductory lecture – a vision of possiblilities through the technique of TM (about 90 min)
Step 2 – Preparatory lecture – the origin and mechanics of TM (about 90 min)
Step 3 – Personal interview with the teacher (about 15 min)
Step 4 – Personal instruction – learning the technique (about 20 min)
Step 5, 6 and 7 – Verification and validation of experiences of the previous days.

I attended the TM course by Acharya Mr. Sasidharan at Maharishi Ved Vigyan Bhavan, Mithranandapuram, in Thiruvananthapuram. The following 7 steps is the way I would interpret the technique.
1) Sit comfortably
2) Close your eyes
3) Wait for about 30 seconds
4) Meditation proper
5) Stop meditation
6) Wait for about 2 min with eyes closed
7) Open your eyes slowly to end meditation

The meditation proper consists of repeating the sacred mantra in a progressively decreasing tone and amplitude in a non rhythmic manner. The mantra must be learned from a qualified TM instructor to maintain the purity of the TM technique. The mantra should be chanted in the mind for sometime after which it becomes feeble and gradually disappears. The chanting should be restarted only when thoughts appear in your mind.

• TM must be practiced for at least 15 minutes twice daily for obtaining full benefits of the technique.
• Ideal time is at the times of sunrise and sunset while sitting facing the sun.
• Sit comfortably in whichever position you want, but avoid supporting the head (else you might begin to sleep!)
• TM should be avoided 1 hour after breakfast and 3 hours after a major meal (for obvious medical reasons!)
• Allow all natural events to occur without attempting to suppress them in between a session of TM. E.g. yawning, coughing, scratching, adjusting position, sneezing and even sleeping! After all, the aim is to release our stress; not to increase it.
• Thoughts might disturb a session of TM. But it should not be considered as a disturbance as it is just a part of relieving stress accumulated in the mind.
• Wait for about 2 min after meditation to open your eyes to avoid a jolt by the sudden transition from deep rest to activity.

Where to learn the technique of TM?
Visit TM.org for your nearest TM training center. If you are in India, you can visit your nearest Maharishi Ved Vigyan Bhavan or Maharishi Vidya Mandir School.

RELATED : An Introduction to Transcendental Meditation

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Introduction to Transcendental Meditation

In today’s hectic world with extreme day to day stress, the ways to alleviate stress is vital for a peaceful life. Meditation has always been practiced in India in many different ways and is a proven means to ease the stress. His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced the simple, natural and effortless technique of Transcendental Meditation in 1957. It is a simple, natural, effort-less and effective technique which one can practice by sitting comfortably anywhere.

Transcendental Meditation or TM is a technique as old as Rig Veda. But unfortunately meditation is misinterpreted in different ways by people and mysticism and religious experiences have been added to it. Maharshi Mahesh Yogi has revived and purified this technique to its basic form and re introduced to the world in a scientific manner.

His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

TM is an experience of the mind similar to other experiences like happiness, joy and love. Transcendental Consciousness is an infinite source of energy, intelligence and creativity. The nature of human mind is to create many different thoughts by firing millions of neurons each and every second. This is called Background Noise. The essence of TM is to systematically bring down the noise level and go to a state of silence. When the mind experiences silence state, because of the intimate connection of the mind with body, both experience a profound rest due to the de excitation of the neurons. This state is called the state of Restful Alertness.

Maharshi Mahesh Yogi has explained that the Transcendental Meditation programme is systematic, repeatable with verifiable results and hence is scientific in character. In Maharshi’s words
“Transcendent Divine is omnipresent. Its nature is bliss. We miss the experience of the omnipresence because we engage ourselves in experiencing only its expressions rather than itself. The technique of TM is a gift of nature and when nature has provided such infinite energy, creativity and intelligence to human being, why should they suffer? They suffer because they fail to explore the latent energy within themselves and utilize it in their life. Life is bliss. There is no reason for anybody to suffer in this world.”

You can read about “The Technique of TM” in the next blog post.

Aarti - Om Jai Jagadeesh Hare

The word Aarti brings to our mind the very familiar song – Om Jai Jagadeesh Hare. It can be even said that it is the most popular prayer sung in most Hindu households. Ever wondered who created this popular prayer.

It is the work of Pt. Shardha Ram Phillauri who was a powerful literary figure of the 19th century. You can read more about him at http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050317/aplus.htm#1Even during his lifetime, the popularity of this prayer tempted many persons to appropriate it. Click on the link below to hear a unique rendering of a modified version of this bhajan.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chadayamangalam - Here fell the great Jatayu

After all the mega serials on the television, almost everyone knows the story of Jatayu from Ramayana. For those who don't, I'll brief the story to give an idea.

Jatayu is the son of Aruna and nephew of Garuda who has the form of a vulture. When Ravana was on his way to Lanka on his flying chariot after abducting Sita, he encountered Jatayu. This noble souled bird could not bear to hear poor Sita's cry for help and got into a fight with the mighty Ravana. Ravana cut off Jatayu's wings and he collapsed.

Raja Ravi Varma's Painting

According to legend, Chadayamangalam, as it is called in the present day, was known as Jatayu mangalam in olden days was the place where Jatayu fell after losing to Ravana. It is believed that when Lord Shri Rama was on exile he passed through this place and met Jatayu who informed him about Sita's adduction and died.It is a beautiful place lying between Kilimanoor and Kottarakara in Kollam district of Kerala, India.

There is a small pond at the top of the hill in the shape of a bird's beak and it is believed to be where Jatayu fall down in the up hills. When he was thirsty, hit the rocks with its beak and hence this pond was formed. Though it is in peak of the hill, it never dries up even in summer.

A huge rock in this place is named after Jatayu as Jatayu Para (Jatayu Rock). Devotees of the village as well as from the neighboring villages come here and offer worship every day. Jadayu Para is well known as a tourist destination and a place of pilgrimage. Right on top the rock the building of a huge functional sculpture of the Great Bird Jatayu is under way. An 18ft high Statue of Lord Shri Rama Chandra is been constructed at the top of Jadayu Mountain.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Indo - American Faith Support

A unique marriage of Indian culture with that of the west – That is what Jennifer Kumar’s "Alaivani" is. She is the first American to earn a Master’s degree in Social Work from Madras Christian College. She has been an indophile since 1994. Her social work and interaction with different segments of the Indian society made her adopt the magnificent culture of India and Hinduism. If you are the kind of person who has got to do with both India and US, you will find her blog helpful to find a unique identity for yourself and get in touch with similar people stuck in both the worlds. If you are a westerner, you will find the site helpful to know more about Indian culture from a westerner's perspective. You can stay updated by joining their Facebook group. The interfaith calendar on the website is very useful to get notified about all the important dates of most world religions.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The legend behind Vastu Sastra

Vastu Sastra is nowadays a very common term heard whenever a building is being built. This ancient science has gained more popularity nowadays as learned men have realized the scientific rationale behind it. The ancient Indian text Mayamata, describes Vastu Sastra - the science of ancient Indian architecture. There is an interesting legend behind the origin of this science.

It is said that Siva fought with Andhakasura and during the fight Siva’s sweat drops fell on the ground. From those drops of sweat arose a huge monster called Vastu Purusha. According to some sources, this monster was created by Lord Brahma himself while experimenting with his creations.

This monster devoured everything in his path and his appetite seemed insatiable. The demon was so huge that he cast an eclipse over the earth. Siva and Vishnu prayed to Brahma to do something to save the worlds. Brahma sought the help of Devas. The Devas could not control him. But they managed to push him to the earth. But his strength was too much for the earth that it started rotating at very high speeds. The Ashtadikpalakas who are the guardians of the eight directions, overpowered the monster and held him against the earth. Brahma himself joined this melee and took a position in the middle of the body of the demon. Another forty four Gods joined him and pinned the demon down to earth.

The demon complained to Lord Brahma that it was he who created all the creations. So why is he being punished by the Devas for being what he was created as. Brahma’s heart melted at the plight of the demon and he blessed him with immortality. He gave him the boon he would be worshipped by people who build a structure on earth. Those who don’t do the worship and offering to him will be his food. He was named Vastu Purusha.

The positions taken by the Devas and Brahma can be seen on the classic mandala of the Vastu Grid. The faith that Earth is a living organism called Vastu Purusha, throbbing with life and energy; is the fundamental principle of Vastu Sastra. Vasthu Sastra is about pleasing Vastu Purusha. Vastu Purusha has to be worshipped before the beginning of construction of a building, before starting to live in a new house etc. Vastu Shanti pooja is routinely performed before Grihapravesha by devout Hindus according to vedic tradition.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Worship of Serpent Gods in Kerala

Snakes have been worshipped since olden times especially in the state of Kerala. In olden times, the shikha of men were worn in such a way that it resembled the hood and tail of a snake. The Naga Phana Thaali of Nair ladies is a reminiscent of such snake worship.

There is an interesting legend behind the origin of worship of serpent gods in Kerala.

After the creation of Kerala, Parasurama wanted it to be populated. But the brahmins who tried to live there soon returned back as the land was quite uninhabitable due to the excess prevalence of snakes and hardness of water. Parasurama sought the advise of Lord Siva and accordingly pleased the serpent gods Vasuki and Anantha. The serpent gods informed him that if they are worshipped as guardians and protectors of the land, the problem will be solved. The serpent gods instructed the snakes to soften the water with their breaths.

It was according to Parasurama’s instruction; Sarpa Kavu was built in each courtyard of ancient households called Tharavadu and serpent gods were worshipped. The eight most important serpent gods called Ashta Nagas are Anantha, Vasuki, Thakshaka, Karkkotaka, Shankha, Gulika, Padma and Mahapadma.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How to do Pradakshinam (circumambulation) in a temple

All the heavenly bodies rotate on its axis as well as circumambulates around other objects like earth around the sun. It is symbolized in the Hindu custom of doing Pradakshinam around the deities in a temple or during a pooja.

Circumambulation around sanctum sanctorium in the temple or deities is called Pradakshinam (Pradakshina). It has to be done always in a clockwise manner with the deity on our right side during circumambulation.

The number of Pradakshinam that has to be done in a temple depends on the deity to whom we are offering it. According to some sources it is as follows.

1 – Ganapathy
2 – Aditya, BhadraKali
3 – Shiva
4 – Vishnu, Devi
5 – DharmaShastha
6 - Subrahmanya
7 – Durga, Banyan Tree
21 - Swayambhu

There are four different parts in a Pradakshinam. Walk one step at a time slowly, like measuring the length with our foot. Keep the hands folded like a lotus bud holding it close to the chest. Chant the names of the respective deity. Keep the thoughts fixed on God. During a Pradaskshinam one must walk as slowly as a full term pregnant woman walking with a vessel full of oil, taking care that not a drop of oil spills.

The manthra that is chanted during a Pradakshinam is

“Yaani kaani cha paapaani janmanthara kruthaani cha
Thaani thaani vinashyanthi pradakshina pade pade”

It means “Let the omissions and commissions done in this life and also in the previous births and the resulting afflictions perish with each and every step of a pradakshina.”

After the Pradakshinam, Namaskaram follows. If we do namaskaram to a deity inside the temple, we might inadvertently show our back to yet another deity. So in temples, it is safe to do namaskaram near the Dvajasthambam. It is believed that the divine chaitanya flows from the deity towards us in a serpentine fashion. Hence offer the namaskaram at about 30 degrees angle and not facing the sanctum sanctorum. It is better to do the namaskaram facing the north.

The mantra that is chanted just before the namaskaram after a pradakshinam is

“Thava thvam na jaanaami keedhrushosi mahaeshvara
Yaadhrushoasi mahaadaeva thaadhrushaaya namo namah”

It means “I don’t know your nature, Oh Maheswara. Whatever be your nature, I offer salutations to you who are of that nature.”

Then we offer salutations, chanting

“Pradakshina namaskaaraan samarpayaami”

It means “I offer you circumambulation and prostration.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quotes from Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Sai BabaBhagavan in his twenties.
Image by Wolfiewolf via Flickr
"God is neither distant nor distinct from you."

"Whoever you are, you are mine.
I will not give you up.
Wherever you are, you are near me.
You cannot go beyond my reach."

"Love is my form, Truth is my breath
Bliss is my food, my life is my message
Expansion is my life, No reason for love
No season for love, no birth, no death"

"At first, name and form are essential. That is the reason why Avatars come, so that God can be loved, adored, worshipped, listened to and followed, and finally realized as nameless and formless.

This Sai has come in order to achieve the supreme task of uniting the entire mankind as one family through the bond of brotherhood; of affirming and illuming the inner reality of each being in order to reveal the divine which is the basis on which the entire cosmos rests; and of instructing all to recognize the common divine heritage that binds man to man, so that man can rid himself of the animal and rise to the divine which is his goal."

--- Quotes by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Monday, March 16, 2009

Agastyakoodam (also known as Agastya Mala, Agastyarkoodam or Agasthyakoodam)

This is a hill in the Trivandrum District, south east to Nedumangad Thaluk in the Sahya mountain range. Agastya Mala is a pilgrimage centre for devotees of the Hindu sage Agastya. There is an idol of Agasthya Muni at the top of the hill where sage Agastya used to do penance.

Indian mythology has a number of references to the divinity of sage Agastya. He is the one who taught the famous Adityahrudayam mantra to Lord Rama. He could drink the entire oceans using his divine powers. He is considered to be one of the seven rishis (Saptarishi) of Hindu Puranas. The grammar of Tamil language is supposed to be a boon from this sage. Agastya rasayana is an ayurvedic medicine usually given to people who are asthmatics with constipation, sneezing, blocking of nostrils and congestion of throat.

The Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve harbours rare herbs and medicinal plants. Tourists are permitted to the area only with permission from the forest department of Kerala. Annual trekking passes to the peak are issued from the forest department during January-February only. It is from this 1890 metre high hill ranges originates the Neyyar, Karamana and Kuzhithur rivers. Thousands of devotees and tourists flock to this spiritual and scenic hill every year.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Vettakkorumakan - Son of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi

There is a misconception among many people that Vettakkorumakan is Lord Ayyappa. Actually, Lord Ayyappa was born to Mohini and Lord Siva.

Arjuna was doing a penance to please Lord Siva to get boon which would help him during the war of Kurukshetra. Arjuna had in fact become too proud of his archery abilities and Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi wanted to teach him a lesson. Vettakkorumakan was born from the union of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi when they took the form of hunters to test Arjuna.

This boy born to Siva and Parvathi becomes extremely naughty and was a menace to the people including saints. Based on their request, Maha Vishnu disguises as a hunter and invites him for a duel. During the duel Vettakkorumakan sensing a divinity in his opponent, asked, "Daivathil aar?" To which he received the reply "Daivathar". Vettakkorumakan soon became interested in a novel weapon which he observed in the waist band of his opponent. Sensing his desire to possess the weapon, Daivathar put forth a condition. Vettakkorumakan can have the churika on his right hand provided he will never put it down on the earth. Vettakkorumakan soon realized that the churika is increasingly becoming heavier. His pride soon vanished and entered a truce with Daivathar.

This is a legend associated with Sree Oorpazhachi Kavu. It is a temple in the Edakkad grama panchayat in Kannur District of Kerala, India. Vettakkorumakan has a fierce form carrying bow, arrows, swords etc. This war Lord is easily pleased with offerings of coconut.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thoppukaranam (alias) Super Brain Yoga

I found a very interesting blog article which I couldn't resist to reblog. Hinduism - The Scientific Religion: Thoppukaranam (alias) Super Brain Yoga: "As you can understand, this exercise, called 'Super Brain Yoga' by the Americans, is nothing but the simple 'Thoppukaranam', the reverential practice done by Hindus in front of Lord Ganesha's temple."

Conches in Indian tradition

The conch ( chank shell or Shankha) has special significance in the Hindu tradition. The conch represents the sky and the sound it produces represents the pranava i.e. Om. When a person blows a conch, it gives him the effect of doing a pranayama. Lord Vishnu carries a conch called Panchajanya in his left hand. Goddess Durga also carries a conch as a decoration and also as a tool in war. The warriors of ancient India blew conch shells to announce battle. According to some legends, Lord Vishnu touched the right cheek of Dhruva by his divine conch and that sparked off a beautiful poem of praise of the Lord called Dhruva-stuti.

The water from a conch is supposed to be as sacred as water from Ganges and other sacred sources. If the conch is shaped in such a way that it opens towards the left side, it is called Vaamavarti Shankhas and is considered as fit for regular use during prayers to blow through it. It is considered as Devi swaroopa. In fact, most of the conches are Vaamvarti, that is, their bulge opens towards left side. But if it is right sided, it is more sacred and is called Dakshinavarti Shankhas considered fit for worship as Vishnu swaroopa and is not used to blow.

The glory of Rudraksha

The ancient Hindu texts refer to the glory Rudraksha and the beneficial effects of wearing it. It is believed that the Rudraksha trees arose from the teardrops of Lord Shiva. It is also said that twelve different types of Rudraksha arose from his “Sun” eye, sixteen types from his“Moon” eye and ten different types arose from his “Fire” eye. The beneficialeffects of Rudraksha depend on the number of faces it has got. A Rudraksha can have any number of faces. Each type is described as a swaroopa (Symbol of) of differentHindu Gods. The effect of wearing each different kind of Rudraksha is different depending on the number of faces.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Quotes from Mahabharata

"To save a family, abandon a man; to save the village, abandon a family; to save the country, abandon a village; to save the soul, abandon the earth."
-Vidura quoting Kavya

Janaka said: Unlimited is my wealth. At the same time I have nothing. If the whole of Mithila (his kingdom) be consumed in a conflagration, I shall incur no loss of wealth.

He is a fool that practises truth without knowing the difference between truth and falsehood.
-Krishna to Arjuna

The intoxication with power is worse than drunkeness with liquor and such, for who is drunk with power does not come to his senses before he falls.

A man should avoid these six like a leaking boat in the ocean: a teacher who does not teach, a priest who has not studied, a king who fails to protect, a wife who is abusive, a cowherd who wants a village, and a barber who wants a forest.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bharatasavitri - Essence of Mahabharata

matapitrasahsrani putradarasatanica
samsaresvanubhutani yanti yasyanti capare
harshasthanasahasrani bhayasthanasatani ca
divase divase mudham avisanti na panditam
urdhvabahur viraumyesa na ca kascicchrnoti me
dharmadarthasca kamasca sa dharma kim na sevyate
na jatu kaman na bhayanna lobbhad
dharmam tyajejjivitsyapi heto
nityo dharmah sukhadukhe tvanitye
jivo nityo heturasya tvanityah

It is translated as following by Sri. Kisari Mohan Ganguli.

Thousands of mothers and fathers, and hundreds of sons and wives arise in the world and depart from it. Others will (arise and) similarly depart. There are thousands of occasions for joy and hundreds of occasions for fear. These affect only him that is ignorant but never him that is wise. With uplifted arms I am crying aloud but nobody hears me. From Righteousness is Wealth as also Pleasure. Why should not Righteousness, therefore, be courted? For the sake neither of pleasure, nor of fear, nor of cupidity should anyone cast off Righteousness. Righteousness is eternal. Pleasure and Pain are not eternal. Jiva is eternal. The cause, however, of Jiva's being invested with a body is not so.

To read the 100 sloka version of Bharata savitri and to know more about it, visit the following link.
Link: http://www.geocities.com/giirvaani/bs/bs.htm

Raksha Bandhan (Rakhi) and King Maha Bali

King Maha Bali is known to all the Keralites through their most important festival of the year called Onam. But not everyone knows that Maha Bali is behind the origin of Rakhi a.k.a. Raksha Bandhan which is a predominantly North Indian festival.

It is a well known story that Lord Maha Vishnu sent Maha Bali to Patala during his incarnation as Vamana. Maha Bali was a great and a favorite devotee of Lord Vishnu. The Lord has granted a boon that Bali will be the next - that is, the eighth Indra (King of Devas) during the time of the eighth Manu, Savarni Manu. Till that time, the Lord Himself decided to protect him in person. The Lord transformed himself into Bali's doorkeeper!

Goddess Lakshmi wanted her husband back in Vaikuntha. She disguised herself as a brahmin woman and went to Patala. She informed King Bali that her husband is away, she has no relatives there and she needs shelter. The generous king offered her shelter and treated her as his sister. He noticed that after the arrival of the brahmin lady his prosperity has multiplied many times.

One day, during the purnima festivals, the brahmin lady tied a knot around the king's wrist with a colored piece of cotton and prayed for the protection of the king. King Bali was touched and asked her to make a wish. She asked the king to send her husband back with her to their home. Perplexed, King Bali asked how he can make this happen. Goddess Lakshmi and Maha Vishnu revealed their original divine form to the king. The virtuous king's joy knew no bounds to see his Lord's love towards his devotees and willingness to forsake Vaikuntha and even Goddess Lakshmi for their sake.

Maha Bali requested Lord Vishnu to return to Vaikuntha with Goddess Lakshmi. But every year Lord spends about 4 months of the monsoon season in the Patala with Bali, from Vaikuntha Ekadashi to Prabodhini Ekadashi.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Purandara Dasa - "Sangeeta Pitamaha" (grandfather) of Carnatic music.

Purandara Dasa is aptly called the "Sangeeta Pitamaha" (grandfather) of Carnatic music. He systematized the method of teaching Carnatic music which is followed to the present day. It was a miraculous incident in his life which changed him from a greedy merchant to an ardent devotee and devotional music composer.

Inscriptional evidence suggests Purandara Dasa was born in 1484 AD in Kshemapura, near Tirthahalli, Shivamogga district in Karnataka state. He was the only son of Varadappa Nayaka, a wealthy merchant, and Leelavati and was named Srinivasa Nayaka, after Lord Venkatachalapathy (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu). He married Leelavathi when he was 16 years old and inherited the family business of jewellery at the age of 20 when his father died. He was immensely rich and was called "navakoti narayana" (abundantly rich man). His wife was extremely God fearing and pious lady and in contrast to her, he was extremely greedy and miserly.

One day a brahmin came to their house begging for money to perform the sacred thread ceremony (upanayanam) for his son. He was at his work and his wife was in a dilemma. Finally she decided to give him her nose ring to sell. But unfortunately the brahmin went to Srinivasa himself to sell the jewellery. He immediately recognized his wife's nose ring and was boiling with temper when he came back to his home to enquire his wife about her nose ring. But to his astonishment, he found the same ring on his wife's nose! She told him what happened and they knew that God played a miracle on her because of her devotion and to teach him a lesson in life. He was moved and realized his folly in sticking to a life of attatchment to worldly posessions. At his age of 30, he gave away all his belongings and dedicated his life in devotional service to God.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sruti and Smriti

The entire body of scriptures in Hinduism is divided into Śruti and Smṛti which means heard and remembered in Sanskrit respectively.

Sruthi denotes a category of texts that is divine in origin. They were traditionally transmitted orally by Brahmins and learned people which preserved the purity of the tradition. Because of it's divine origin, the importance is given to the preservation of the text in the original form by recitation with emphasis on intonation and preservation of its divine attributes. The Sruthis include the four Vedas and supplemented by Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads.

The Smritis are based on the teachings of the Vedas. The Smriti stands next in authority to the Sruti. Smrtis consist of non-Vedic literatures that portray the rules of dharma e.g. the Dharmasastras, Itihasas, and Puranas. There are eighteen main Smritis or Dharma Sastras.

There is a very engaging article on this by Sri Swami Sivananda, the founder of Divine Life Society.
Link: http://www.bharatadesam.com/scriptures/smrithis.php

Even atheists can be religious - answer to a blogger

PhD Musings: From Hinduism to Atheism: One person at a time
I would say that I was a believer initially, then became an atheist and now back to Hindu beliefs. If you had studies Hinduism carefully, you would have realized that even if you don't believe in all the Gods in Hindu mythology, you can still be a Hindu. Advaita, Bhakti and even Arya Samaj like thoughts are all different forms of Hinduism. The faith in God is a waxing and waning phenomenon for many. The true reason could be just as simple as lack of in depth knowledge in their religious faith. In times of doubt, only a realized guru can clear all the doubts in mind and guide the soul towards divinity.

I remember a friend of mine who was a practising Hindu. I asked him if he believed in God. He said no. Then why do you go to temple and follow customs; I asked. The reply he gave me made me think about faith in religion. Hinduism is a way of life and he found it comfortable to live that way. He could not think about living without going to temples, rituals and all the traditions. He himself believes that one day he might get his faith in God back. You don't have to be a christian to celebrate christmas. People of all faith celebrate Hindu festivals like Onam in Kerala.

It is natural for people to have less faith or no faith to God in times of happiness and prosperity. It is for the same reason, there are instances in Hindu mythology where devotees have prayed to God to give them misery and sadness so that they can always live in the remembrance of God.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Holi - the origin of the festival's name

According to Narada purana, the demon kind Hiranyakashipu constantly tried to kill his son Prahlada by various tactics but failed every time. One of the tactic was to ask his sister Holika to sit with Prahlada in a bonfire. She had a boon that no fire can harm her. But this time the devotion of Prahlada towards Lord Narayana worked wonders and Holika was burned alive in the fire, while Prahlada was untouched. The Holi festival derives its name from Holika.

According to some scholars, the festival derives it's name from the parched grains called Holka in Sanskrit. It is used for some rituals like Hawana. The sacred ashes (vibhuti) obtained from this offering is called Bhumi Hari and is smeared on the forehead.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Basic Puja - A how-to video for the very beginners

I happened to come across this video on Howcast. It is focussed on those with little or no idea about how to worship in a Hindu way.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Love Guru vs Hinduism

Mike Myers is the Canadian entertainer known for characters as Austin Powers, Shrek and Wayne Campbell. The Love Guru, his latest film, was nominated for seven dishonours. It took home trophies for worst picture, worst actor and worst screenplay. Sri. Rajan Zed said that The Love Guru "appears to be lampooning Hinduism and Hindus" and uses sacred terms frivolously. He also said that "If Myers visited a Hindu temple, paid his obeisance, expressed remorse, and promised not to denigrate Hinduism in his future movies, Hindus would not only absolve him but might also pray for his success in his future ventures."

It is not that the movie is meant for the purpose of denigrating Hinduism, but the fact that for most Westerners, movies like this might be the introduction to the great culture of India. Hence the movies have a responsibility to portray the Indian culture appropriately. There should be a balance between artistic freedom and responsibility to convey the truth.

Link: http://www.contactmusic.com/news.nsf/article/hindus%20offer%20myers%20the%20chance%20top%20redeem%20himself_1096327

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The True History and the Religion of India

The True History and the Religion of India is a concise encyclopedia of authentic Hinduism. It reveals the true theme of Indian scriptures and describes the history of India and the religion of India of more than 155 trillion years. This online book aims to reveal the hidden evidences of the workings of the British regime and how the Indian history and culture was misinterpreted. All the issues of all the scriptures and the Puranas have been precisely described and concisely incorporated in this book with scriptural, logical and scientific evidences.

The author, His Divinity Swami Prakashanand Saraswati (Shree Swamiji) is a teacher of Raganuga Bhakti (divine-love-consciousness) since 1972. He is the founder of the “International Society of Divine Love” and “Barsana Dham” in the USA, and the “International Society of Divine Love” and “Rangeeli Mahal Pratishthan” in India.

Link: http://www.thetruehistoryandthereligionofindia.org/

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sri Krishna Karnamrutham - a nectar to the ears

The author of Sri Krishna Karnamrutham is Bilva Mangala. He belonged to a place called Mukkutalai, originally mukti-sthalam, in kerala. He came to be known as Leela Shuka. Leelasuka belonged to a saivite family by tradition. But he became a devotee of Krishna. Hence he refers to his traditional background by saying that he wears the feet of Lord Siva on his head. He belongs to the tradition of great devotees of Krishna of Kerala such as Narayana Bhattatiri, the author of Sri NarayaNeeyam, Poonthaanam and Vasudeva Namboodiri and other great scholars of Dasama skhandham of Srimad Bhagavatham.

In his early life, he was very fond of a Deva Daasi by the name Chintamani. She teased him once about his scholarship in Vyaakaranam, Naatakam and Alankaara Saastram and told him that if he had one thousandth of the affection for Bhagavaan, he would easily save his life. That was the turning point for Bilva Mangala. He thanked Lord Krishna for showing the true destiny of his life.

You can download the ebook in PDF format or read online.
Links: Download PDF ebook
Read Online

You may also consider editing the article in wikipedia appropriately. Search for keyword Sri Krishna Karnamrutham.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Akshardham experience

The sprawling Rs.200-crore pink sandstone cultural complex in New Delhi is spread over 100 acres and showcases the grandeur of Indian history, art, culture and values. It was built in only five years through the blessings of HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) and the efforts of 11,000 artisans and BAPS volunteers and was inaugurated on 6 November, 2005. Dr. Prasanth R Krishna who is a scientist at a renowned S.Korean Institute has posted an elaborate experience of the Akshardham complex in his blog.
Link: http://prrasanth.blogspot.com/2007/08/garden-of-india-bharat-upvan-through.html

Giirvaani - Word-for-word transliterations of Sanskrit classics

To bring word-for-word transliterations of Sanskrit classics is the motto of Giirvaani. This website attempts to bring long-forgotten lane of Sanskrit Classics to the modern audience. It is an ongoing work and some of the translations are yet to be completed. The contents include the following works.
  • Valmiki Ramayanam - One of the 2 greatest epic poems of India
  • Gita Govindam - A beautiful romantic poem by Jayadeva
  • Raghuvamsham - An epic poem by Kalidasa
  • Harivamsham - A sequel of Mahabharata
  • Bharatasavitri - Mahabharata in a nutshell
  • Ritusamharam - A medley of seasons by poet Kalidasa
  • Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnayam - Elucidation of Mahabharata by Madhvacharya
  • Sri Krishna Karnamrutham - A beautiful and delectable praises of Lord Krishna by Sri Leela Shuka of Kerala a.k.a Bilwa Mangala Swami 

Monday, February 23, 2009

Download Hindu tithi calendar in ics format

The Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is a socio-spiritual organization. The organization's website offers Hindu tithi calendar to your calendar program - Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Sunbird and Google Calendar. You can select and download the Calendar with Nom, Ekadashi, Punam, Festivals and Tithis. Any calendar programs that support .ics files will be able to use this calendar.

Link: http://www.swaminarayan.org/calendar/export_calendar.php

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ramayana of Valmiki in Sanskrit(abridged)with English translation

laghuvaalmIkIyam is Valmiki's Ramayana abridged in Sanskrit by Sri. G.S.S.Murthy. He studied Sanskrit during his student days under Vidwan H. V. Narayana Sastry and Vidwan N. Ramaswamy Iyengar. After retirement from service he has devoted most of his time to studies in Sanskrit classics and literature.

This abridged version is long enough to preserve most of the beauty of the original but is short enough to attract the modern day reader. The author describes the technique he used to abridge the original Ramayana as "the cut and paste technique", in which portions of continuous text of the original are removed and the remaining re-pasted to form a seamless narration as true to the original. At some places, where this technique was not found to be suitable a few bridging words, phrases, and stanzas have been added which are not in the original.

Link: http://www.geocities.com/goruratreya/

Friday, February 20, 2009

Types of Hinduism

In the Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion (ISBN 0195170210 ), June McDaniel, Professor of Religious Studies at the College of Charleston classifies Hinduism into 6 generic types. This kind of classification makes more sense to the diverse variety in which Hinduism is practised.

  1. Folk Hinduism - Hinduism according to local customs spanning thousands of years; even beyond vedic era.
  2. Vedic Hinduism - Traditional Hinduism practised by Brahmins, especially Shrautins.
  3. Vedantic Hinduism - One of the modern types of Hinduism; practised by Smartins based on Upanishads
  4. Yogic Hinduism - Based on Patanjali's Yoga sutras
  5. Dharmic Hinduism - Based on the concept of Karma, societal rituals etc
  6. Bhakti (Devotional) type - Based on pure devotion to God; eg: Vaishnavism, Saivism etc.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Vedas and Puranas in Sanskrit with Hindi translation

The Vedas are the four ancient Indian collection of knowledge from the vedic period. The four vedas are Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda.

The Purāṇas are vedic Hindu texts containing myths and legends and is even considered as the fifth veda. The Puranas are often attributed to the sage Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata. The concept of devotion (bhakti) is the most important theme in the puranas. The puranas are sometimes referred to as the fifth veda.

You can read the puranas in Sanskrit with their translation in Hindi at the following link.
Link: http://vedpuran.com/

Sivaratri Fast

I observed that a couple of users have searched about the food that can be taken on Sivaratri (Shivaratri or Shivratri). It is believed that if a devotee observes a Sivaratri Vrata, he will be cleansed from all sins and will attain the abode of Siva after his death. Generally the Sivaratri fast is observed in the following manner.

A Sivaratri fast continues all through the day and night. Most people observing fast consume a mid-day meal consisting of non-cereal food. The items that are an absolute no-no are non-vegetarian food, onion, garlic, turmeric and ginger. Many people stick to a fruits only diet. No meal is eaten at night (i.e. after sunset). It is only in the following morning that a devotee breaks the fast by consuming the food offered to Lord Shankar.(prasadam or prasad)

Related posts:
Maha Sivaratri / Maha Shivaratri a.k.a Great night of Lord Siva

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hindu Dharma by Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji

Learn Hinduism from one of the most revered Hindu spiritual leaders of the twentieth century. "Hindu Dharma" is a book published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan which contains English translation of two volumes of the Tamil Book "Deivatthin Kural"; which is a collection of invaluable and engrossing speeches of Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji who was the 68th head of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.

The work was compiled by R. Ganapathi, a devotee of Periyava. It contains English translation of certain invaluable and engrossing speeches of Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji (at various times during the years 1907 to 1994). The Mahaswami presents the Sanatana Dharma in a lucid manner. Readers are left in no doubt about any aspect of out eternal Dharma. You may also choose to receive pages from Hindu Dharma in your email everyday.

Link: http://www.kamakoti.org/newlayout/template/hindudharma.html

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sanskrit mantras to open Colorado House of Representatives

Rajan Zed, acclaimed Hindu statesman, will be reciting opening prayer from Rigveda before Colorado House of Representatives on February 17, 2009. You can read the news article at http://www.baltische-rundschau.eu/2009/02/16/sanskrit-mantras-to-open-colorado-house-of-representatives-in-usa/

About Vedanta

It is a system of Hindu philosophy that forms the basis of modern schools of Hinduism. The foundation of this system is the principle of Brahman - Essence of all reality i.e. absolute. It also stresses on the fact that the aim of human life is to transcend the limitations of self identity and realize one's unity with Brahman. The three pillars of this school of thought are the Upanishads, Bhagavadgita and the Brahma sutras.

Several sub-schools of Vedanta have evolved based on their concept of the relationship between the self (atman) and the absolute (Brahman). Some of the sub-schools are Advaita, Vishisthadvaita, Dvaita, Dvaitadvaita, Shuddhadvaita, Achintya Bhedabheda and Purnadvaita. The term "modern Vedanta" is sometimes used to describe the interpretation of Advaita Vedanta given by Swami Vivekananda.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The ten principles of Arya Samaj

The Arya Samaj is one of the most important revolutionary Hindu reform movements in the Indian history. It was founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswati. Arya Samaj had very practical ideologies based on pure common sense and the vedas. It opposes idol worship, animal sacrifice, ancestor worship, temple offerings and pilgrimages. The founding principles were simplified into ten rules. Nothing beyond these 10 Principles has any binding force on the members of the Arya Samaj. The ten binding principles are the following.

1. God is the original source of all true knowledge and all that is known by the . physical sciences.
2. God is existent, intelligent and blissful. He is formless, almighty, just, merciful,unborn, endless, unchangeable, incomparable, the support and master of all. He is omnipresent, immortal, fearless, eternal, holy and the maker of the universe. He alone is worthy of worship.
3. The Vedas are the scriptures of all true knowledge. It is the duty of all Aryas to read them, hear them being read and teach them to others.
4. One should always be ready to accept truth and give up untruth.
5. All acts should be performed in accordance with Dharma, after deliberating what is right and wrong.
6. The primary object of Arya Samaj is to do good to the world, by promoting physical, spiritual and social good of everyone
7. Our conduct towards all should be guided by love, righteousness and justice.
8. We should dispel ignorance and promote knowledge.
9. One should see one’s own greatest welfare as residing in the welfare of others.
10. One should regard oneself under restriction to follow the rules of society calculated to promote the well being of all, while one should be free in matters of individual welfare.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Download Yoga ebooks for free

Thanks to sfauthor for giving me the link to Yogavidya website. You can download the original Yoga books in PDF format for free. You can choose to buy printed version if you wish.

The available ebooks are the following.
Bhagavad Gita
Gheranda Samhita
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Shiva Samhita

Link: http://www.yogavidya.com/

Tracing the path of Lord Rama from Ramayana

Wikimedia hosts an image of the map tracing the route of Lord Rama in his epic journey to Sri Lanka. It is very interesting to see the different names of places in ancient India correlating with the modern day names in the map. Locations are based on the Indian epics and the Buddhist texts. 100% accuracy is not claimed. You can see the map at the following link.
Link: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/97/PlacesRelatedToRama.JPG

Tourslanka hosts a page for places of interests connected to Ramayana in Sri Lanka. You can read the description and watch a video at the following link.
Link: http://www.tourslanka.com/ramayana-sri-lanka.php

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mahabharata Online

The Mahabharata is one of the two most important epics of ancient India. The title may be translated as the great tale of the Bharata dynasty. Authored by sage Veda Vyasa, The Mahabharata, comprising more than 90,000 couplets, usually of 32 syllables, is the longest single poem in world literature. The epic is an important part of the Hindu history and is supposed to be all inclusive. In other words; what is found in Mahabharata may be found elsewhere, but what is not found there will not be found elsewhere. Bhagavad Gita, which is the single most sacred text of Hindu culture is itself a part of Mahabharata.

You can read the original sanskrit version in Devanagiri and Western scripts along with its english translation at internet sacred texts archive (link given below). The Ganguli English translation is cross-linked on a book-by-book basis with the Sanskrit text.

Link: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/index.htm


Sanskrit Documents Compilation

Sanskrit Documents website (link given at the bottom) is a compilation of Sanskrit Documents in Devanagari display and transliteration format. In addition to the sanskrit texts, you will find here various tools for learning Sanskrit such as the Online Sanskrit Dictionary, Sanskrit Tutorials, Sanskrit Pronunciation guides, and software for learning Sanskrit and producing documents in Devanagari and Roman formats, and much more. I could even find an archive of Sanskrit news in All India Radio which you can listen to sharpen your sanskrit listening and understanding skills. You can generate display in Devanagari or other scripts using the web-interface. There is even a resource for sanskrit tattoos!

For the sanskrit scholars, there is a long list of Sanskrit documents available elsewhere, hundreds of scanned books, and audio files on the internet which you can access from the site. If you have time to spare, please consider volunteering to proofread the texts. You may join the email-based lively discussions or just leave a note in the guest book to mark your presence.

Monday, February 9, 2009

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Slumdog Millionaire raises controversies

If you have already watched the movie Slumdog Millionaire, you might already know what the issue is. It tells the story of a young man named Jamal Malik from the slums of Mumbai who appears on a game show. The name of the movie itself raised a controversy as many people felt offended by the usage of the word dog to refer poor people. In this movie, Lord Rama and Indian culture are shown in a controversial manner. The Hindu Janajagruthi Samithi is conducting a signature drive to protest against the movie. You can read the details of the protest from the HJS website.

Link: http://www.hindujagruti.org/denigrations/protestslumdog

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bhageeratha - Epitome of perseverance

Bhageeratha is an epic character from Ramayana. His name is an epitome for great perseverance in any good cause.

King Sagara was waiting in vain for his sixty thousand sons who had gone in search of the sacrificial horse who went to Paatala. After some days he called his grandson, Amsumaan and asked his help to find them. At the nether world he found the sacrificial horse grazing but could not find the princes. But he found heaps of ashes all around. He was informed by Garuda, the bird-king, brother of Sumati, Sagara's second wife, that the princes were consumed by the wrathful glance of Sage Kapila and that if these ashes are to be watered according to custom so that the souls of the princes may rest in peace, Ganga should be brought down here from the land of the Devas.

Amsumaan returned back with the horse and informed the king all that he had found and learnt. According to the Ramayana, Sagara lived for 30,000 years. Amsumaan succeeded Sagara as King of Ayodhya and was, in turn, succeeded by Dileepa. Bhageeratha succeeded Dileepa. Bhageeratha was a childless King. He left his kingdom at the care of his ministers and went to Gokarna to perform a penance to obtain progeny and to bring Ganga to the earth". Bhageeratha went through severe austerities like eating only once in a month, standing in the sun with fire surrounding etc. Finally Lord Brahma appeared to grant him his wishes. But he informed him that the earth cannot withstand the force of Ganga landing on it and only Lord Siva can help. Bhageeratha had to perform another penance and severe austerities to please Lord Siva. Pleased by his penance, Lord Siva appeared in front of him and granted his wish. But when Ganga started her descent to earth, in her arrogance she thought she can sweep Lord Siva to the nether worlds (Paatala). Lord Siva became angry and wanted to teach Ganga a lesson. Ganga tried her best but not a drop could emerge from the tangled maze of Siva’s matted locks. This was an obvious disappointment for Bhageeratha who wanted Ganga to be bought to the earth. He had no choice but to perform another penance to please Lord Siva again who took pity on him and gently let out the waters of Ganga in Bindu Saras from where they flowed down in seven small separate streams. Three of them flowed west and three east; and the seventh river followed Bhageeratha. But on her course, Ganga damaged the yaga platform of a sage called Jahnu. The sage took the entire flood in his palm and sipped it off. The Devas and other rishis approached Jahnu and begged him to forgive Ganga and allow Bhageeratha to reap the fruit of his great austerities and perseverance. Finally, Ganga reached Paataala and with the holy waters, Bhageeratha performed the funeral rites for his arcestors and secured for them their entry to heaven.

I have submitted the same article on wikipedia. Please edit as needed in wikipedia.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Origin of Goddess Mariamman

Mariamman is a South Indian mother Goddess predominantly worshipped in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. She is worshipped mainly by the tamil speaking population in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.

The origin of Goddess Mariamman is unclear. Mari in Tamil means rain. Mariamman is an ancient village goddess related to fertility and rain. Mari also means change. Thus, the name Maria Amman would mean goddess who has changed. According to some, Mariamman is the sister of Lord Ranganatha (Maha Vishnu) and called Mahamaya. The Samayapuram Mariamman is worshipped on the first day of the Tamil month of Vaikasi by the Iyengar/Srivaishna Brahmins of Srirangam. Another version suggests that she is the mother of Parasurama, Renukadevi who is appeased for rains. Mariamman was the smallpox goddess before this disease was eradicated and is similar to Sitala Devi in this respect.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sree Janardana Swami Temple - Varkala

Wikipedia, as you know is the largest source of online reference and is edited by common people. Wikipedia is written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world; anyone can edit it. I have written an article about Sree Janardana Swami Temple in Varkala, Kerala. Please go through it and feel free to edit and add more information.

Some important festival dates for year 2009

I am sorry that I had to delete the original blog post. I had to delete it as many of the words used were Sanskrit which made the publication of podcast difficult. I am working on a google calendar which will be embedded into a page in this blog soon. Thank you for your patience.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thaipusam / Thaipooyam / Thaipoosam

Thaipooyam is celebrated on the pooyam day of Makaram (January-February) in the Tamil month of Thai. The festival commemorates when Parvati gave Murugan a vel (lance) so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. The most important part of the celebration is the devotees carrying different types of Kavadi to the Murugan temple.
In 2009, the date of Thaipusam is February 8.
Read more about Palani and Lord Murugan

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chalisas - texts and videos

A chaupai is one verse of Indian poetry that uses a metre of four syllables. An example of a chaupai includes the Hanuman Chalisa about which I have mentioned in my previous post. There are other chalisas in praise of other Gods. 

Some of them are Durga Chalisa, Ganga Chalisa , Hanuman Chalisa, Santoshi Chalisa, Saraswati Chalisa, Shani Chalisa, Shitala Chalisa, Shirdi Sai Chalisa, Shiv Chalisa, Ganesh Chalisa, Gayatri Chalisa, Krishna Chalisa, Lakshmi (Laxmi) Chalisa , Ram Chalisa, Vindhyeshwari Chalisa, Vishnu Chalisa, Bhairav Chalisa and Navagraha Chalisa. You can read all these chalisas at the following link. Some of them have their English translations included.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Maha Sivaratri / Maha Shivaratri a.k.a Great night of Lord Siva

Maha Sivaratri or Maha Sivaratri (Great night of Lord Siva) is a Hindu festival celebrated every year on the the night before and day of the new moon of the month of Maagha or Phalguna in the Hindu Calendar. Shivaratri 2009 is on February 23, Monday. There are many legends surrounding the origin of Sivaratri. According to Hindu mythology, Shivaratri symbolizes the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati.

For some believers, Shivaratri is the night when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava dance. During the churning of the ocean of milk, a terrible poison called Haalaa-hala arose. It was so poisonous that it could destroy all the worlds. The gods approached Mahadev and prayed to him to protect the entire life forms. Lord Siva drank the poison to save the worlds and held it in his throat by binding it with his snake. Because of the effect of the poison, his neck turned blue and since then Mahadeva is worshipped by the name Neelakantha (blue neck).

According to another version, Lord told his consort Parvathi that the 13th night of the new moon, during the month of Maagha, is his most favourite day. Goddess Parvathi in turn spread this word all over the world.

According to Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata epic and Garuda Purana, refers to the observance of Maha Shivaratri by King Chitrabhanu. In his previous birth he was a hunter called Suswara and lived in Varanasi. He was hunting and saw a deer. But he could not kill the deer as he was filled with sadness when he saw the family of deer on its impending death. It was soon night and he had to climb up a tree to seek shelter from wild animals. It was infact a Bilva tree. His water bottle was leaking and he ran out of water. He was hungry, thirsty and could not sleep. He engaged himself in plucking the Bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground the whole night. The next day he returned home and bought with him some food for himself and his family. But before he could start eating, a person came to his door begging for some food and he shared his food with the guest. At the time of his death, messengers of Lord Siva appeared in front of him and informed him that his soul is bound to the sacred abode of Lord Siva. He was puzzled as what meritorious deed made him eligible for that. The messengers informed him that there was a Siva Linga under the Bilva tree and the leaking water bottle washed it as in an abhishekam (a sacred ritual). Also he was plucking the Bilva leaves and the leaves fell on top of the Linga which constituted archana (another sacred ritual). He was hungry and observed a fast. Thus the hunter was observing the rituals of a Mahasivaratri without knowing that he was actually doing it.

On Shivaratri, only cold water and Bilwa leaves are offered to the Lingam. It is accompanied by all day fasting and an all night long prayers on Lord Siva. It is not sufficient to just avoid sleeping whole night and spend the time in enjoyments like watching late night movies or playing cards.

Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India (SCFI) is maintaining a website dedicated for Mahasivaratri with links to prayers, greeting cards and other useful resources concerning the Mahasivaratri.
Link:  http://www.mahashivratri.org/

Hanuman Chalisa

Hanuman Chalisa is a beautiful work in poetry in praise of Lord Hanuman. It is written by Tulsidas whose another famous work is Ramcharitamanasa. It is widely read poem of 40 verses written in Hindi. Many devotees recite it as a prayer on a regular basis especially on Tuesdays and / or Saturdays. You can read, listen and download Hanuman chalisa from the following link. The website also provides an email address to which you can request a free  audio CD.
Link: http://www.hanuman.com/

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Artistic freedom vs popular sentiments

Maqbool Fida Husain, popularly known as M F Husain, was born in 1915 in Pandharpur, Maharashtra.He was called the "Picasso of India" by the Forbes magazine. He was awarded the Padma Shree, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan and is undoubtedly one of the most famous and highly paid artists of the modern India.

His works have become objects of controversy after some nude depictions of Hindu deities were exhibited. India is a secular and democratic country and artists must have freedom of expression. But it is when artistic freedom hurts the religious sentiments of a segment of the population, controversies arise. In response to the controversy, Husain's admirers have petitioned the government to grant Husain the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award. The Hindu Janajagruthi Samiti hosts a page in their website in protest against Mr. Husain's controversial paintings.
Link: http://www.hindujagruti.org/activities/campaigns/national/mfhussain-campaign/

Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy outlined by the Sage Patanjali in his Yoga sutras. Raja yoga is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind using meditation (dhyana) to finally attain moksha. Raja Yoga is sometimes called Aṣṭānga (eight-limbed) yoga because there are eight aspects to the path to which one must attend and is referred to as the king among yogas. The eight limbs are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. The first four limbs being parallel to the lower limbs of Hatha Yoga and the rest of the four are more specific to Raja Yoga. The first three limbs practiced simultaneously constitute the Samyama.  

There are different variations to the original Raja Yoga and is practised with some modifications by different schools of thoughts. The Brahmakumaris and the Shri Ram Chandra Mission are examples of such schools of thoughts. The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU) is an international non-governmental organisation headquartered at Mt. Abu, Rajasthan, India with over 8,500 centres in 100 countries, territories and islands. The Sahaj Marg system is freely offered to seekers worldwide through the Shri Ram Chandra Mission (SRCM) under the guidance of current living Master, Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari (also known as "Chariji").

Monday, January 26, 2009

Templenet - Temple Encylopedia

India is a land of temples and they dot the entire subcontinent. Each and every temple is sacred, associated with a unique legend of its own and has many stories from its devotees. Templenet presents to the world a world of temples, reflecting the grandeur and the stunning diversity of temple styles across the nation. The site deserves the title it boasts of i.e. The Ultimate Source of Information on Indian Temples. Ranging from history, legend, architecture, festivals, travel and tourism; it is a complete reference for the temples of India. 
The site has won several accolades and has been in the cyberspace for more than a decade. Templenet is an ongoing selective presentation on an extensive research project on Indian temples by Mr. Kanniks Kannikeswaran. He is a visionary musician, composer, music educator and writer with several recordings, productions and scores to his credit.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Devi: The Great Goddess

Devi in Hinduism refers to the mother Goddess. She has many guises and a range of different manifestations. She is worshipped in many forms like Durga, Kali, Parvathi, Bhairavi etc. In Devīmāhātmya the origin of the goddess is described.

Devi: The Great Goddess is a website that offers additional information on the contemporary and historical worship of Devi. This web site has been developed in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name conducted at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery from March 29, 1999 through September 6, 1999. The web site looks at the six aspects of the Indian goddess Devi. The contents are presented in a very artistic manner and is a pleasure to read. It would appeal to both westerners and to Indians alike.
Link: http://www.asia.si.edu/devi/


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gurus of 19th and 20th century

Saint Kabir once said -
"Guru and God both appear before me. To whom should I prostrate? I bow before Guru who introduced God to me."
The word guru takes its origin from gu, darkness and ru, light. Thus guru in the spiritual sense shows others knowledge (light) and destroys ignorance (darkness). Some of the spiritual leaders of the 19th and 2oth centuries are Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ramana Maharshi, Paramahamsa Yogananda, Anandamayi Ma, Prahlad Chandra Brahmachari and Gopi Krishna. Interestingly, there are some western spiritual leaders who have embraced the Hindu spirituality and have earned the status of a guru. They include Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Paul Twitchell etc to name a few. You can read their biographies at the following link.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tantras (Tantrika, Tantricism or Tantrism)

Tantra ,tantricism or tantrism is a religious philosophy according to which Shakti is usually the main deity worshipped, and the universe is regarded as the divine play of shakti and shiva.Contrary to the western association to sex, Tantra deals primarily with spiritual practices and ritual forms of worship, which aim at liberation from ignorance and rebirth.Tantras deal with popular aspects of the religion, such as spells, rituals, and symbols.

Usually, Tantras are dialogues between Śiva and the Goddess. Those scriptures where Shiva answers the questions are called agama and where Parvati answers, it is a nigama. The object of the rituals is to awaken kundalini energy and to attain liberation in the spiritual sense. The purpose of tantra is to integrate all aspects of life and is a realm where numerous varieties of ancient scinces blend. You can find the well known art of pranayama, mantra, yantra, yoga, astrology, ayurveda etc in a nice blend.

At Shiva Shakti Mandalam website you can find yantra, mantra, tantra and other material relating to some of the different traditions; texts on the siddhas, gurus and yogis. You can also read about the inner meaning of different kind of chakras, an extensive bibliography, and original English translations as well as links to other sites.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Learn Sanskrit Online

The oldest literature of the world, the Vedas, the Puranas and the Ithihasas which relate to the Indian subcontinent, are all written in the Sanskrit language. They are still available in the same form as they were known from the very beginning. This is only because of the scholars who are well versed in Sanskrit. There is sufficient evidence available today to claim that Sanskrit is one of the oldest language of the world. Learning Sanskrit is very important for students who have sanskrit as one of the second languages in the school, Indologists, Linguistic scholars, Sanskrit scholars, scientists or just anyone interested in learning and assimilating India's ancient scriptures. The study of languages is always fascinating. For this reason alone, one can study or learn Sanskrit. The word Sanskrit means well refined and is aptly called so as it has maintained its structure and vocabulary even today as it was in the past.
The Samskritapriyah group and the Samskrit Education Society with the help of IIT Madras have set up an online resource to learn Sanskrit. Click the link below to start learning or to just refresh your knowledge.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Stories from a Grandpa

Almost gone are those good old days when Grandpa and Grandma used to tell stories to kids and fuelled their imagination and inculcated moral values. Today everyone is glued to the television set and the kids addicted to computer games.Inspite of all the technical gizmos, millions of toys they are missing out on this wonderful tresaure which we were lucky to get from our thatha/patti(grand parents).

Sri. P R Ramachander a famous retired scientist, is already introduced in this blog item about Stothra Rathnas is a grandpa of 3 little darlings. Thatha in Tamil language means Grandpa. Raja Thatha is how Mr. Ramachander is called by his grandchildren, all of whom enjoy Raja thatha's titbits, favourites of course are the stories. He reaches out to all those little ones and not so little ones out there who would love to hear them. You can read those stories in his website and can share it with your little ones. Infact they are all very interesting stories, rich with India's wisdom and morals in each one of them and can be enjoyed by young and old alike.

Link: http://rajathathacorner.awardspace.com/

Friday, January 16, 2009

Origin of Universe

It is amazing to notice how the ancient Hindu theory on origin of universe matches closely to that of the modern versions. The universe is created, destroyed, and re-created in an eternally repetitive series of cycles. This is a metaphorical parallel to the theory of Big Bang - Expansion - Contraction - Big Crunch. ven String Theory finds a place in the Hindu texts. The first thing that ever was and will be is 'Shabda' or sound which is the first sound of Lord Brahma i.e. Om, the origin of all creation.

You can read an article by Dr. R.K. Lahiri on cosmogony from a Hindu perspective at http://www.boloji.com/hinduism/112.htm