Monday, September 30, 2013

Sodasha Upachara of Maa Durga

In Odisha, Durga Puja is celebrated in two different ways, one is in Pandals that is Sarodiya Durga Puja which is started from the new moon day of Sukla Paksha and lasts till the Navami or ninth day of bright fortnight or Sukla Paksha. The other is in Shakti Peethas or temples dedicated to Shakti which starts from Ashtami tithi of Krishna Paksha and ends on Navami tithi of Sukla Paksha that is it starts from eighth day of dark fortnight and ends on ninth day of bright fortnight. This is also known as Sodasha Dinatmak ( 16 days festival).

There are many famous shrines of Mata, where she worshiped in various forms of Nava Durga or Dasha Mahavidya. Below, is picture of Suna Besha of Maa Chandi, Cuttack.

Below, is a list of shrines devoted to Maa Durga in Odisha.

1- Goddess Vimala, Puri Jagannath Temple
2- Goddess Tara Tarini , Berhampur
3- Goddess Mangala, Kaktapur
4- Goddess Sarala, Jhankada, Jagatsinghpur
5- Goddess Biraja, Jajpur town
6- Goddess Hingula, Talacher
7- Goddess Samalei, Sambalpur
8- Goddess Chandi, Cuttack
9- Goddess Tarini, Keojhar
10- Goddess Kichakeswari, Khinching
11- Goddess Ambika, Baripada
12- Goddess Bhadrakali, Aharpada,Bhadrak
13- Goddess Ramachandi, Konark
14 - Goddess Bata Mangala, Balasore
15- Goddess Bhagabati, Banapur
16-Goddess Chamunda, Baitala Deula , Bhubaneswar
17- Goddess Bhattarika, Atagarh
18- Goddess Charchika, Banki
19- Goddess Chausathi Jogini, Outskirt of Bhubaneswar
20- Goddess Kali, Kalijai, Chillika
21- Goddess Ghanteswari, Sambalpur
22- Goddess Kanakdurga, Berhampur
23- Goddess Lankeswari, Sonepur
24- Goddess Ugra Tara, Khorda
25 - Goddess Maheswari, Atthamallik
26- Goddess Majhighariani, Rayagada
27- Goddess Manikeswari, Kalahandi
28- Goddess Saptamatruka, Jajpur
29- Goddess Siddha Bhairabi, Ganjam
30- Goddess Sureswari, Sonepur

Below is a picture of Maa Mangala, Kakatpur.

After from these temples, there are many other ancient temples that is dedicated to Maa Durga. All these temples, celebrate Durga Puja and Sodasha Upachara is done in most of these temples. Maa Durga is decorated with many ornaments, clothes to form many Besha out of which Suna Besha is quiet famous. Devotees visit the temple on these days and pray to Maa Durga and seek her blessings.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bhisma Pitamah - True Khashtriya

Hi Readers,

Today, I am going to put across my thoughts on Bhisma Pitamah and would describe him and his role in Mahabharat. It is not easy to describe Bhisma, his role in Mahabharat and his character in just a post. But, yes one who knows more or less about Mahabharat would definitely fall in love with the righteous and the mightiest King. There are many characters that I personally adore in Mahabharat, and I place Bhisma at the top of the list. He is regarded as true Khstriya because he always thinks and does the thing that favors well being of an entire Kingdom. He protects and nurtures Hastinapur for years, till he thinks he can now live it in good hands to be taken care of. Lets me now, go into the story of Bhisma.

Once, the eight Vasus (attendants of Indra) or Astavasu namely Anala, Anila, Aha, Pratyusha, Prabhash, Dhara, Soma, Dhruva visited Sage Vashista with their wife. Vashista had the possession of Kamadhenu, the mother cow who had ability to fulfill all the desires of its owner. She could produce warriors to protect the sage and give milk and milk products for everyday use. Prabhas's wife wanted Kamadhenu and persuaded Prabhash to steal her from Vashista. Prabhash persuaded all the Vasus and they planned to steal Kamadhenu. However, they were caught red handed by Vashista. And Vashista cursed them for this action. His curse was that they all have to take Human birth and lead a painful long human life. Open hearing Vashista's curse, all the Vasus pleaded for mercy. Since, a curse cannot be taken back, Vashita reduced the curse. He reduced all the seven Vasus who assisted Prabhash in this activity in such a way that they have to take up birth as human, but they will be liberated of this human birth soon after. However, since Prabhash was the mastermind behind this act, he have to lead a long painful human life. But, he will be illustrious man of his time. All the vasus then prayed to river goddess Ganga to be their Mother.

Goddess Ganga then incarnated herself  to a beautiful lady. One day, she was roaming near Ganga basin, when Santanu (king of Hastinapur) saw her and instantly fell in love. Santanu persuaded Ganga to marry him. She asked him to promise her that whatever she will do, he will not complain. Santanu agreed and they both got married. When Ganga gave birth to her first seven sons, she would take them with her and drown in river Ganga. Santanu kept watching her silently. When the eighth son was born, Santanu, could not keep himself restrained and pleaded Ganga to let the child live. This eighth child was Prabhash, who was suppose to lead a long human life. So, Ganga agreed and promised Prabhash to return her son when he attains his youth. He was named Devavrata. 

Ganga got Devavrata trained in all the subjects from political science to martial arts from various Sages like Vashista, Markendeya, Brihaspati, Sukracharya and Parsurama. When he attained youth, he had mastered all the knowledges that is required to be righteous King. Ganga now retured him to Santanu.

Santanu, wanted Devavrata to rule and be crowned as the Prince of  Hastinapur. After, the crowning ceremony, Devavrata came to know of his father's wish to marry  Satyavati,the daughter of fisherman. But, her father did not wish to give her hand to Santanu. Bhisma/Devavrata on hearing the terms and conditions of the king of Fisherman, took the oath to remain unmarried and would not be king, so that the sons of Satyavati could be crowned as King of Hastinapur. Bhisma took oath to lead a life of celibacy so that it will be Satyavati's offspring that would always reign on Hastinapur. Devavrata's vow touched his father's heart and he granted a boon that gave control over his own death( Swechha mrityu). From then on Devavrata was known as Bhisma because of the Bhisan Pratigya ( Strong vow) that he took. 

After his father Santanu's death, Bhisma's half brother Chitragad also died and Vichitravira was crowned as Prince. Bhisma went to Kashi on Swayambar of Amba, Ambika and Ambalika (daughter's of King of Kashi) , to get these Princess to marry his half brother Vichitravira. With his strength and intelligence, he convinced King of Kashi to send in his daughter's to marry Vichitravira. However, the eldest princess Amba was in love with another king Salva whom she would have married in Swayambar had Bhisma not been there. When Bhisma came to know about this, he allowed Amba to get married to Salva, but Salva didn't accept Amba as his wife. Amba was furious with Bhisma and wanted to marry him as Bhisma's won all of them in their Swayambar. Since, Bhisma was Bhramachari he could not do so. Furious with Bhisma, Amba went to Bhisma's Guru Parshuram to provide her justice.  Parshuram fought with Bhisma for 23 days and he was able to please his Guru Parshuram. Amba did great penance to please Lord Shiva and got a boon that in her next life, she will be born as a man who would be instrumental in Bhisma's death. She was born was Shikandi in next birth.

As Bhisma had vowed, he always remained as a true adviser and protector of the King of Hastinapur. When Kauravs and Pandav's fought for the crown, Bhisma was the only person who wanted always to bring to an end to this war. Even though he was general from Kaurav side, he always tried to minimize confrontation between both groups. He tried to persuade Kaurav and Pandav to come up with a mutual agreement. 

He is regarded as a true Khastiya because he always fulfilled his duty towards kingdom, never showed anger and passion. He was a symbol of truth and duty. He saw five generations, and kept himself alive till the power was transffered to Yudhistira. He knew Yudhistira would keep Dharma on front and would fulfill all his duty towards Hastinapur so he accepted death on Kurushetra. He was also true devotee of Krishna. On his death bed, he gave meaningful lessons on Political science and duties of a King to Yudhistira. He was the beloved and most adored of all to both Pandav and Kaurav as their great grand father. Thus, he is known as Bhisma Pitamah , Pitamah meaning great grand father. Below, is a list of his lessons that he gave to Yudhistira on death bed.

Bhismadeva advised for all human beings nine qualifications:

Not to become angry
Not to lie
To equally distribute wealth
To forgive
To beget children only by one's legitimate wife
To be pure in mind and hygienic in body
Not to be inimical toward anyone
To be simple
To support servants or subordinates.
Bhisma also advises this:

1. To get freedom from anger, one should learn how to forgive.
2. To be free from unlawful desires one should not make plans.
3. By spiritual culture one is able to conquer sleep.
4. By tolerance only can one conquer desires and avarice.
5. Disturbances from various diseases can be avoided by regulated diets.
6. By self-control one can be free from false hopes.
7. Money can be saved by avoiding undesirable association.
8. By practice of yoga one can control hunger.
9. Worldliness can be avoided by culturing the knowledge of impermanence.
10. Dizziness can be conquered by rising up.
11. False arguments can be conquered by factual ascertainment.
12. Talkativeness can be avoided by gravity and silence.
13. By prowess one can avoid fearfulness.
14. Perfect knowledge can be obtained by self-cultivation.

In Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.9.27) Bhishma instructs King Yudhishthira in the following dharma:

dana-dharma, or public acts of charity, 
raja-dharma, or the duties of a king, 
moksha-dharma, or duties for salvation, 
stri-dharma, or duties for women, and ultimately 
bhagavata-dharma, or pure devotional service to the Lord.

He said to Yudhistira about Dharma as 

Tadrisho ayam anuprashno yatra dharmaha sudurlabaha
Dushkamha pralisankhyatum tatkenatra vysvasyathi
Prabhavarthaya bhutanam dharmapravachanam kritam
Yasyat prabhavasamyuktaha sa dharma iti nischayaha.

It is most difficult to define Dharma. Dharma has been explained to be that which helps the upliftment of living beings. Therefore, that which ensures the welfare of living beings is surely Dharma. The learned rishis have declared that that which sustains is Dharma.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sage Uddalak and Shwetaketu - Chandogya Upanisad

Hi Readers,

This story is a brief of the story in Chandogya Upanisad, on Sage Uddalak's teaching on oneness of the soul.
Have you ever wondered who and where is God? Why can we not see Him? How did he create the world? Here is a story from the Chandogya Upanishad which answers your doubts.

Long, long ago, there lived a sage named Uddalaka. He had a son named Swetaketu. When Swetaketu was seven years old, Uddalaka invested him with the sacred thread and sent him to a gurukul to continue his studies under a suitable guru.

Swetaketu was a bright and diligent student, and learnt all he could from his guru, pleasing everyone at the gurukul. Finally, his studies complete, he returned home, bursting with pride at his achievement.

Uddalaka saw his son approaching the ashram, and realized at once that his son had returned filled with pride and ego. He was saddened, for true learning and knowledge brings not pride, but humility. A true scholar is one who has subdued his ego and humbly bows before the Supreme.

Uddalaka decided that he would have to complete his son’s education himself, and called Swetaketu. The boy arrived with a smile, ready to tell his father about all that he had learnt and all the praises he had received.

Swetaketu was received by his father with a question. “My son,” said Uddalaka “I am sure you have learnt all there is to learn at the gurukul. Do you now have the knowledge by which one can hear what can not be heard, by which one can see what can not be seen, and by which one can know what can not be known?”

Swetaketu was not only stunned, but also confused by his father’s question. How could one hear that which could not be heard, see what could not be seen, or know what could not be known? His father was a great rishi. Surely he had some knowledge that he hadn’t learnt so far. Part of his pride fell away as he asked his father respectfully, “Father, I do not have the knowledge of what you speak. Can you please explain this to me, since I do not understand?”

Uddalaka replied, “My son, I am talking about that which is inherent in all things. For example, once you have seen a lump of clay, you can recognize all objects made of clay. Similarly, once you have seen a nugget of gold, you can identify all items made of gold. In the same way, once you have seen a piece of iron, you can recognize all objects made of iron, no matter how different they may seem. For, it is not the shape, size or use of the object, but what they are made up of, which is important. Similarly, everything in the universe has different names and forms, but there is something inherent in all of them. Do you know what that is?”

Swetaketu bowed before his father and said, “Father, I do not know of these things. Perhaps my gurus too did not know of this, for if they had, they would surely have taught it to me. Please teach me this knowledge of which you speak.”

Pleased with his son’s humble request, Uddalaka said, “Listen, my son, I shall tell you how this world was created. In the beginning, there was only the ‘Sat’ or the One True Being. Having decided to create other beings, he first created Tejas (Fire), Apas (Water) and Annam (Food). Entering them as the Jivatma (Soul), he brought them to life and gave them name and form. He then decided to multiply further, and made them merge in different ratios to create more beings. These are what we know by various names today as Indra, Surya, and others.”

The rishi continued, “The three basic forms had merged to create more forms, but the basic nature of the three constituents were retained. Agni or fire showed itself as the red colour, while water showed itself as white and food as black. Even in their new forms, they showed themselves, for example, in the sun, what we call Surya or Aditya, the red colour is due to the fire, the white due to water and black due to food or earth.”

The sage explained further, “The basic forms of all beings are only the first three forms to be created – Tejas, Apas and Annam. Even in these three forms, it is the Sat, the True Being, who is the one form within all these three. Thus, the Sat alone is all, for all are different names for Him!”

Uddalaka concluded, “My son, the Sat is all powerful, for all beings are just His reflections. We call Him by many names, the True Being, the Supreme, and the Brahman. But they are all just different names for the all powerful One who is the essence of all life. Once we know Him, we know everything else. It is from Him that we all are born, and it is into Him that we merge when we die. We come into contact with Him within ourselves when we meditate. He pervades all and destroys all. He is the only perfect One. My dear son, you are not Him!”

Swetaketu was humbled by his father’s words, for he realized how little he knew. He said, with folded hands, “Father, please tell me more about the Supreme Being, for I want to know more about Him.”

Uddalaka was happy to see that his son was showing the signs of humility and a desire for knowing the real truth. He said, “My son, observe how the bees collect nectar from different flowers and make honey in their hive. Is it possible to distinguish the nectar of the different flowers from the honey? So also, we are all different, but in essence, it is the one true being that unites us all!”

He continued, “My son, see the rivers which merge into the sea. The waters of the different rivers appear different. But the sea into which the merge does not change. So also, we are all different forms of the true being. We appear different due to our forms, but we arise from the same source, and merge into the same – which is the Supreme!”

The sage then asked Swetaketu to bring a fruit and cut it into two. Uddalaka asked, “What do you see?” Swetaketu replied, “I can see seeds.” Uddalaka said, “Cut a seed into two and tell me what you see.” Swetaketu replied, “Father, there is nothing inside the seed.” Uddalaka smiled and replied, “Son, you can not see anything inside this seed, but from this tiny seed sprouts a huge tree. So also from the One True Being sprouts the entire universe!”

Next, Uddalaka asked Swetaketu to bring a glass of water and some salt. He asked Swetaketu to put the salt in the water and asked, “Can you see the salt now? Can you take it out?” Swetaketu replied, “Father, I can not see the salt, for it has dissolved in the water, and I can not take it out.” Uddalaka now asked Swetaketu to take a sip from the glass. Swetaketu replied, “The water is salty.” Uddalaka asked Swetaketu to taste the water from all portions of the glass, and Swetaketu replied that the water tasted salty everywhere. Uddalaka explained, “My son, you can not see the salt, but you can taste it. Similarly, the Supreme being pervades every atom of this universe, even though we can not see Him.”

Swetaketu understood at last the significance of Sat, and felt humble as he realized the magnitude of the One True Being. In course of time, he became a great rishi himself.

Thus, we too should understand that the only perfect one is the Lord, and all we see around us are His forms. We are, but tiny specks of his creation, and must remember this and learn to be humble. Humility is indeed the greatest of all virtues, for only then can we realize the truth.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sage Mudgalasya

Hi Readers,

I also searched for Sage Mudgalasya after whom my pre-marital Gotra was named. I got one interesting story, that speaks about equanimity of mind. Here, is the story for you.

Sage Mudgal was a very pious soul. He had taken a vow and accordingly would pick up for support grains left on field by men after had gathered and carried away the sheaves. In a fortnight he would collect about 32kg of grains. Thereafter he used to perform sacred Yajna, give food to Brahmins and himself take the food that remained after the deities and the guests had eaten. On Amavasya (No moon day) and poornima (full moon day this was a usual practice. For fifteen days he would toil hard to earn his living and that earning was judiciously used in the yajna. In serving the guests and savoring the same as Prasad. Even the gods extolled him greatly. Insult and pangs of hunger agitate even great persons. But sage Mudgal always remained calm and peaceful. Not only he himself was so worthy but his wife also assisted him greatly in performing the virtuous deeds. Even his children had adapted to the mode of their father’s life the lustrous eyes of the sage verily reflected the virtues of fortitude, patience, peace, straightforwardness, generosity and austerity. He would conquer the heart of any one simply by casting a loving glance. Sage Mudgal had almost reached the stage of Self-realized jnani whose glances radiate spiritual magnetism, mysterious love and compassion through divine aura. Sage Durvasa heard of the virtuous Mudgal, observant of vows. The self-realized sage Durvasa, a sage and an examiner, would foam around in the disguise of a livid man, a woman or a woman or a half-woman in order to test and thereby elevate the will power of devotees, the power of austerities obtained by the men of penance, and the renunciation of ascetics etc.. Sage Durvasa took up another disguised form and visited Sage Mudgalasya to test him.

Disguised as an eccentric, sage Durvasa came to Mudgal and spoke in a harsh and bitter language, "O Mudgal! You should be aware of the fact that I’ve come to you for having food."

Mudgal: ‘’You’re Holiness! Highly obliged by your visit. Please take seat.

Durvasa had taken form of a very dirty and ugly man. Rishi Mudgal at first bathed himwith his own hand. Then made him sit and offered him food. Incidentally Rishi Mudgal had just completed the yajna. With great reverence and affection he offered to Rishi Durvasa the Prasad of Yajna meant for himself, his wife and his child. The Rishi relished the food greatly because firstly the food was earned through great toil; secondly it was the left-over of sacred yajna thirdly it was offered with reverence; fourthly it was offered with serenity and fifthly it was given with a lot of affection. Rishi Durvasa practically consumed the entire food. Still the little bit that was left, he smeared on his body. Thereafter he looked at Mudgal but his face depicted no irritation, or resentment for anything.

"The Lord tests only those, whom He wants to bless."

"This is the way He showers His mercies His on devotees.”

Now let’s imagine how we would have reacted had we been in this situation. If we had not taken any food for as long as a fortnight and on the fifteenth day offering the yajna oblations and feeding guests and then this happens, ! Thereupon if he had ingested the whole amount of food meant for the entire family. Not only this still the residual food would have been smeared by him to his body imagine what would be the plight of our mind. Wouldn't we like to hit the person with a wand or to give him a tight slap?

Mudgal Rishi had no irritation, unhappiness or astonishment. ‘It is fine! What the saint liked to do, he has done. Rishi Durvasa perceived no reaction from him. As soon as the food was over, he expressed his desire to depart. Now when will the meal be prepared next?

“Your Holiness! The self-ordained rule I follow is to take food after offering yajna oblations every full moon day and every no moon day.”

Do not worry. I’ll come on that day.’’ Rishi Durvasa came six times Six times every fortnight amounts to full three month’s duration for full three months the whole family had to remain without food. Still there was not an iota of resentment in their minds. Food is not the only thing that nurtures this physical body. Possess the key to remain well-nourished, healthy and cheerful, main well-nourished, healthy and cheerful, you can stay healthy and happy even in adverse circumstances. And above all as the mind perceives, the physical body behaves accordingly. Selfless service they rendered generated a kind of vital energy to keep hunger and thirst away.

Rishi Durvasa was pleased and asked him, “my dear child! Ask me for a boon!”

“Your Holiness! Your pleasure is all that we would have asked for.”

In spite of rendering such an exemplary service, Mudgal did not ask for anything from the sage just imagine the great selflessness in his pure intellect. The contentment of Rishi Durvasa heightened the bliss of gods also. A messenger from heaven alighted on earth and said, “Gracious sage! The effect of your meritorious deeds has become so great that we wish you to come to paradise along with the physical body. Those who perform yajnas do get to heavens after death, but your patience, equanimity, endurance and contentedness are so great that you are being invited to heavens in the physical body itself. Upon this Mudgal rishi enquired, "what does one get in the paradise?"

“There is a range of boughs and gardens to roam about, gorgeous damsels to dally with, elixir to drink, an extensive range of sumptuous food to relish and many other thongs to enjoy. Paradise is paradise; there is nothing equal to it.’’ Thus the divine messenger praised the charms of heaven.”

“Virtue and vice, pleasure and pain, good and bad go hand in hand. So better you describe both positive and negative aspects.”

“The divine messenger said, “The luxuries and good points I have already described. Now listen to the bad ones. People there have attachment and malice towards one another. Fear from more powerful ones, jealousy and conflict with equals and hatred towards the less privileged is widely prevalent in the paradise. Above all, what to talk of the luxuries of paradise even the opulence of Brahamloka is not perennial. Ultimately one has to descend here on this earth after enjoying the pleasures of these worlds.

Then Sage Mudgal says;
I will only attain that harmless Supreme State reaching where every agony, pain or affliction gets absolutely relieved and the Supreme Bliss is verily attained

I do not want to dwell in paradise, Brahamloka or Vaikuntha. I want to attain Self-realization, I don’t want a seat or position attained by going somewhere from where I’ ll be made to descend again on earth; I don’ t want happiness that will be lost. Rather I’ ll dive in that perennial sea of bliss:

‘The Lord dwells in my heart I just need to peep within to meet Him.’

I want to attain the state of Supreme Bliss Where there is absolutely no room for sorrow. Pray I want to repose in my True Self from where there is no reversion. I am grateful to you for your coming and to Lord Indra for his cordial invitation. But I don’t want heaven as reward for my actions. You may please return to your abode.’’ With this sage reverently bade them goodbye.

Maharishi Mudgal refused the luxuries of paradise but there arose no pride in his mind on having done so. The true devotees of the Lord bear all trials and tribulations but never complain because the more is the selflessness in a heart the more is upsurge of the nectar of Self -Bliss within.

 Therefore keep on filling your mind with firm determination and pious thoughts like, ‘I’ ll accomplish all my duties only for the Lord’s pleasure not for the sake of appreciation and fame, for worldly gains or to denigrate someone someday. Whatever I do, I’ll do for the sake of divine love, for making myself entitled to the God’s grace . In this way I’ll associate myself with the divine Endeavors of God and God Realized saints will make myself pious thereby.

The journey-from a drop of water to a handful of ash!

Your life begins with a drop of water and ends in a handful of ash.

Childhood was not yours, youth is not yours and old age will not be yours. You are the changeless Atman;

Not ever changing body. Ego you are not; nor are you the mind that is unstable like mercury. Your marks are bliss, spontaneity;

Coolness and purity. Your life begins with a you spend the day eating; will you spend the night in sleep?

When death can strike any time. Why do you delay?

Come O mind! Let us go and take refuge at the feet of  Almighty;

When the Lord Himself says that we are akin to Him, What do we lose in accepting Lord as our kin? 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sage Uddalaka and Astavakra

Hi Readers,

Post marriage, I came to know of the Sage named Uddalaka as my Gotra changed to Uddalaka named after him. I tried to search who he was, what he did and interesting facts that I could remember and re-tell others.

Interestingly, I got few facts and stories about him. As per Mahabharat, Uddalak is the title given to Rishi Aruni. He was a disciple of Rishi Dhaumya, and one rainy night Dhaumya asked Aruni to supervise the rain water flowing through the paddy fields. When Aruni went to fields he found, water was overflowing, so it has breached the designated canal made for it and is destroying the crop. He tried to channelize the water, but it was unstoppable and it was constantly raining. Left to no other option, Aruni lay down himself and with help of his body protected the crop. When he did not return to the Ashram, Rishi Dhaumya came to check for him. He was so pleased with Aruni that he gave him the title Uddalaka and from then on he was known by this name.

Uddalak grew up to become one of the best known scholar and he authored Chandogya Upanisad where he has given knowledge of enlightenment to his son Swetaketu. In Chandogya Upanisad it is also mentioned that Uddalak was the Guru of Kahola. He had married his daughter Sujata with Kahola.  She was mother of Astavakra. Sujata had the desire of wanting her child to imbibe spirituality and intelligence. She began to sit in the classes taught by Uddalaka and Kahola, listening to their chanting of the Vedic Mantras. In India, there is a belief that when expectant mothers expose themselves to spiritual teachings, the child in the womb hears it and gathers that knowledge and become a genius in that spiritual area after its birth.

One day, as Kahola was reciting the Vedas within the hearing distance of the child growing in the womb. The embryo was aware of the correct pronunciation of every syllable since its mother used to attend classes with rapt attention. The embryo heard the recitation of Kahola, but whenever Kahola pronounced a syllable wrong, it squirmed in distress. The embryo informed Kahola that he had pronounced the syllable wrongly as indicated by the child in the womb. This happened on eight occasions. Kahola perceived this as arrogance on the part of something, yet to manifest itself in the world. He cursed the fetus with eight deformities of the body. When the baby was born, it was crooked in eight places - the two feet, the two knees, the two hands, the chest and the head). He was named Astavakra, which means "one having eight bends".

Around the time Astavakra was born, Kahola was persuaded by Sujata to go to the court of Janaka to earn some money. In Janaka's court, Kahola was challenged to a scriptural debate by the philosopher, Vandin (also spelled Bandin). In that time, the best philosophers were invited to argue in the presence of the monarch Janaka. Vandin easily defeated Kahola and immersed the vanquished Kahola in under water. Astavakra was now raised by Uddalaka. Astavakra and Shwetaketu grew up together. Uddalaka, Sujata and the disciples ensured that Astavakra was never informed of his real father, Astavakra thought that Uddalaka was his father and Shwetaketu his brother. When he was twelve years old, Astavakra was seated on Uddalaka's lap. Shwetaketu pulled him down and informed him that it was not the lap of his father. Astavakra came to know the truth about his father Kahola from Sujata, He decided to confront Vandin and defeat him in an argument.

Astavakra and Shwetaketu made his way to Janaka's palace. Astavakra first faced the gatekeeper who tried to keep the young boy out. On convincing the gatekeeper that he was well versed in the scriptures and hence old, he was let in. Then Janaka tested Astavakra with cryptic questions which Aṣṭavakra answered with ease. Janaka decided to let Aṣṭavakra face Vandin. Vandin and Astavakra began the debate, with Vandin starting. They alternately composed six extempore verses on the numbers one to twelve. Then Vandin could only compose the first half of a verse on the number thirteen. Astavakra completed the verse by composing the second half and thus won the argument against Vandin. This unique debate is full of enigmas and latent meanings which lie under the simple counts of the numbers one to thirteen.

The condition of the contest was that if Vandin were to lose he would grant any wish of his vanquisher. Aṣṭavakra demanded that Vandin be drowned in water just as he forced his vanquished opponents to do. Vandin then revealed that he was the son of Varuṇa (the Lord of all water bodies), and was sent incognito to land to get Rishi's to conduct a ritual that Varuṇa wanted to perform. By this time, Varuṇa's ritual was also complete. On Vandin's request, Varuṇa bade the sages and Brahmaṇas farewell and brought them to surface. Aṣṭavakra worshipped his father and was in turn praised by all the freed sages. Kahola was extremely pleased with his son. Kahola returned to his ashram with Aṣṭavakra and Shwetaketu. In the presence of Sujata, Kahola asked Aṣṭavakra to bathe in the river Samanga. When Astavakra entered the river, all his crooked limbs became straight.

Astavakra authored Astavakra Samhita or Astavakra Gita on spiritual enlightenment.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Hi Readers,

Today, is Vishwakarma Puja in short , today is the day of Lord Vishwakarma, the engineer God who made the kingdom of Dwarka for Lord Krishna .He has built Indraprasta the capital of Pandavas. He had made many buildings, weapons according to Indian mythology. I do not know how this day came into existence and from where it was derived that September 17 every year would be celebrated in his remembrance. According to Hinduism we celebrate all the festivals, birthday of all our beloved lords according to the Lunar calendar.

Why we celebrate according to Lunar calendar? Just, because during those time when we suppose our God to have taken human birth, Indian followed Lunar calendar, that determines Tithi(date) according to the movement of Moon. Be it birth of Krishna on Krishna Janmastami that is Krishna Pakshya Astami tithi in Shraavan Masha meaning eighth day of dark fortnight in month of Shraavan ( Aug-sept) . Or the birth of Radha on Radha Aastami ( eighth day of bright fortnight) that falls 15 days after Krishna Janmastami. Similarly, we have Guru Purnima that is birth of Buddha which falls on full moon day of Ashaadh mash (july-aug).

All the festivals for example Vijaya Dashami is on tenth day of Aswin Month (sept-oct). We start the Dussehra puja from first day of Sukla Pakhsya in Aswin month.  Deepavali starts from 13th day of Krishna Pakshya and is celebrated till 2nd day of Sukla Pakhsya. All over India Diwali is celebrated on the Amabasya(no moon day).

However, Vishwakarma Puja in few states including Odisha and Bengal on 17th of September. And this remains constant. Why? If you have faith you can celebrate or worship any god on any day. But, this does not answer the concept how we celebrate other festivals. 17th September in 2013 is on tryodashi (13th day of bright fortnight) and same 17th September 1982 was on Krishna Pakshya Amavasya (no moon day).

Vishwakarma was one of fourteen divine outcome of Samudra Manthan between the Devata's and Aasura's.  In few other state, they celebrate and worship Vishwakarma on Diwali day. So, there is no clear knowledge how this worship came into being and how it was decided that September 17 would be the day when he will be worshiped.

Let however this would have come into existence, today this day is celebrated among the mechanics, craftsmen, factory worker, etcs. Paradip port of Odisha celebrates this in much wider way, setting up beautiful Pandals, Vishwakarma idol and Mela's for public entertainment.

I have posted few pictures of Vishwakarma Puja in Odisha especially Paradip. 

Monday, September 16, 2013


Hi Readers,

With continuation to my previous post, today, I am going to give you little knowledge of Jamalpur, dist Munger, Bihar.

Jamalpur means beautiful city. Jamal in Urdu means beautiful. This city was set up during British Era. British East India company had established Railway Workshop , which then employed near about 30,000 people to start this workshop. Today, the Indian Railways have their Indian Railway Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. This city gained its popularity with Jamalpur Locomotive Workshop setup during British Raj. The Railway Institute was huge, had its own movie theatre, Swimming pool, billiards room, bowling lawn. People from East India Railway visited this.

Jamalpur is a place where the legacy of the RAJ still lives on, albeit in a more moderate form. Roads still bear names like Albert road, Warwickshire road, golf marg, club road; bearers of the officers club wear white and red turbans. Wednesdays & Saturdays are still tie days'. 
The grave of the British officer who was killed while fighting a tiger in (what is now) the Golf course is symbolic of the days that used to be - adventure, elitism, royalty, power, domination.)

Famous throughout India is the 'Sholay tunnel' , a tunnel where , you guessed it, a scene in the megabuster SHOLAY was shot . Immortal also are actor Sanjeev Kumar's words- "jab main Jamalpur main inspector tha..."

Jamalpur, has many beautiful places, the Kalipahad and Kali Mata temple at top of it. The death valley just near the valley foot hill are really beautiful. Then you can see the grave of Englishmen who died there fighting with Tiger, famously called Tiger grave.

My school, Notre Dame Academy is the oldest school set up at this place by christian Catholic sisters from Cleveland,Ohio, USA in year 1949 ,to help improve the general condition of women and girl of this region. Though later, my school was converted to co-education.  Our school had the tallest building at the place when I used to stay there. We could see over the Kali Pahar and railway over bridge from our class room. 

Friday, September 13, 2013


Hi Readers,

Today, I finally I am going to write about Munger. Many a times, I wanted to pen down this. But, where should I make a start? Should I start up with my experiences in Munger and Jamalpur in the year 1994-1997 or should I make a start with the rich history of this place which dates back to time of Mahabharat. Sometimes, I felt I can't do justice to it, or may be my post would be too long and run into pages. After, watching few old photos today, I have finally thought of to start with it. Let me make several posts that narrate about this places. So, lets start.

Munger finds its name in Mahabharat as Mod-Giri and was ruled by King Karna. The famous Karna Chaura where after taking bath Karna used to do charity is present in Munger. However, the first historical account of Munger appears with the manuscripts from Huen-Sang, the famous Chinese traveler. Munger was in prominence when Mir Kasim shifted his capital from Mursheedabad in Bengal to Munger. From those time, Munger gained popularity over its gun manufacturing units.  Guns produced at Munger were in demand during First world war. The Gun manufacturing then took shape of cottage industry and became a popular profession of this region.

I am going to post some beautiful and incredible pictures below, that shows the rich history of then India. Below, is old picture of Karna Chaura(the place where Karna after taking bath and worshiping sun God used to perform charity).

Presently, the Bihar School of Yoga( the first Yoga university of India) stands at this place. It has a place where an Akhanda Deepa( forever lighted lamp) is placed. This was the exact place where the mighty King Karna sat and performed charity daily. Below, is few pictures of Bihar School of Yoga.

This is the highest building from where you get a birds eye view of Munger. This Yoga school attracts many foreign students, who dedicate their life to Yogic Shadhana. It is located inside the Munger fort.

Now, coming to Munger fort, it is belived to be build during the reign of Slave dynasty. Mohammad bin Tughlaq ruled over it. The fort has a succession of Muslim followed by Mughal rulers. 
Below, are few pictures of its various gates.

The fort has same structure as any other fort with abyss(Khai) that disconnects the fort from main land. When required the gates would open and form a bridge over the abyss and at the time of war would act as a barrier protecting the King and people inside. 

Few pictures of the abyss (khai).

The Fort houses many significant places. Like the Tomb of Pir Shah Nufa. He was sufi saint who was siant to Munger by his guru Khwaja Mouinuddin Chisti of Ajmer. Below, are few pictures of this Pir which is located adjacent to the south gate.

It has Famous Kastaharni Ghat , where it is believed that if you take bath in Ganges in this ghat, Ganga will take away the sufferings. It has Jagannath Mandir near it. One can see the tunnel made below river Ganga , that was used by the ruling dynasty to shift from Munger to another city across Ganga if they fear being defeated by enemy. The architecture of this tunnel is amazing. Though, when I saw it, it was already broken and river water had filled it. Ganges river is vast, At Kastharni ghat, she is much wider and just looks like a silent ocean. One can not view the other bank of river Ganga with naked eye. It would have taken great effort and skill to make a tunnel under such a mighty river. Below are few pictures of River Ganga at Kastaharni Ghat.

Below, is a picture of Kastharni Ghat from river Ganga.

Below is a picture of Chhat festival at banks of Ganga.

Below, are few pictures of the gate that opens to the underwater tunnel across river Ganga. These tunnels are known as Mir Kasim Tunnel and is presently located in Sri Krishna vatika. 

The fort also houses Gurgin Khan palace which was later used by collector of Munger.

The Fort also has Machli talab, a Shivalaya (Shiva temple) that is made inside a pond which has fishes. 

The fort has Chandi Asthan a famous Shakti Peetha.

The fort also houses Shuja palace now this is being used as a Prison. Below is picture of it.

In Munger, Sita Kund is also vary famous.This place is 4 miles from Munger. This is a natural hot water well. The specialty is that near Sita Kund, Ram kund, lakshman Kund, Bharat kund and Satrughan kund are also located but  they have cold water. You can view the water bubbles only in Sita kund. Below, are few pictures of it.

Below, is a picture of water bubbles in Sita Kund.

Below are pictures of Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Satrughan Kund resepctively.

I do not know if ever I can visit Munger again but definitely it has many things that will never allow one to forget this place. 


May the kingdom of Bali be established.

Hi Readers,

I just read a few articles on Mahabali and Vamana Avatar and I am being curious to find answers to my questions.So, just posting all I know about this and posting my controversial questions too. Mahabali the demon king was a very righteous person. There are many infact who are referred to as demons in our Hindu mythology, demon or Asura but they were very good human beings. Why it is referred to as Asura, is because their origin was from Dravida or from Diti. They are not the Aryans, popularly Aryan Bhramin clan which migrated to India from Iran. This story of Aryan starts with King Yajati as the first Aryan King. You can refer to my previous article " Have you ever wondered what is the meaning of your name?" So, King Mahabali was from this clan and he ruled over present Indian state Kerala.

He was a righteous ruler, in his kingdom there was no poverty. There was no suffering, there was no discrimination on basis of caste or class. Everyone in his kingdom was happy and they all loved their King Bali. Bali was son of Devamba and Virochana. He was the grandson of Prahlad, the well known devotee of Lord Vishnu. Prahlad had nurtured Bali and had instilled on him, strong sense of righteousness, peace and devotion.

He later wanted to expand his kingdom and wanted all the three loks (Martya or Patala lok, Prithivi and Swargalok) under him. He performed Aswamedha Yanjna to enable him power to maintain his rule over all the three worlds.

At this point, Devas being humilated by the defeat from Bali approached their protector Vishnu to get back their kingdom. Vishnu as a dwarf Bhramin boy (Vamana Vishnu Avatar) approached Bali during this Aswamedha Yajna and asked him to give in charity three foot step long land. Bali even though warned by Sukhracharya, promised the disguished Vamana to give him land. Vamana then expanded his body to such an extend that his one step covered both Martya and Prithvi lok ( earth and underworld) together. In his second step Vamana covered heaven or Swargalok. Admitting his defeat, Bali then offered his own head as a stepping stone. Vamana put his third step on Bali's head and forced him to enter Patala lok (underworld).
At this time, Asuras protested and Bali said, all the creation living or dead belongs to the supreme, so he can call anyone anytime. Vishnu was pleased by the devotion of Bali, so he raised him immediately from Patalalok to Suthala (the supreme position in heaven). Also, gave him permission to visit his people and kingdom yearly.

Thus, Balipratipada ( the day after no-moon day or Deepavali Ambasya) is dedicated as the day when Bali visits his kingdom. People of Kerala and Malyali clan celebrate Onam ( welcome ceremony for their beloved King Mahabali). People clean and decorate house, they dress well and preapare all the best dishes at home, as mark of time and reign of King Mahabali. People pray that once this Kaliyug comes to an end and Satya yug starts, the Kingdom of Bali would return. All their grief, sorrow would vanish and they would live happily as in times of King Mahabali.

This story actually attracts controversy. Why was Bali killed by the Supreme God Vishnu when he was righteous, religious and had great devotion and dedication for his fellow men? According to north Indian tradition, where the Arya rules, it is said to be as Bali had become too proud. Anything in excess is not acceptable by the almighty and he wants to make a balance, so he killed Asura King Mahabali. Just to show that being proud of oneself is also not acceptable under being right. But, yes when everyone is imperfect in the Kaliyug, why did King Mahabali had to be taken just because he had grown the sense of proud. It is true being proud is not correct, but why this hard penance for a righteous King like Mahabali. Was it that Indra was afraid of Bali, so being a god it was Vishnu's first duty to protect his fellow Devata but not let the mighty King Mahabali rule? If so then was Vishnu not partial? If God can be partial then what should be expected of others. Why was it afterall that the kingdom Bali was not allwoed to expand. Would not it be a boon to everyone?

I have several questions in my mind. I know all this can be said as going against the religion. But, no I am not against anything, I am just being curious to get the answers. May be someone who has deeper knowledge on this could provide me the right answers. But, where do I search them... Ha Ha.. In the world of fake Gurus, I have no trust left to believe any of them.
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