Diversity of Hindu Gods

By : Bharani Bussari and Surinder Jain.

Introduction

“Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti” is a Sutra from Upanishads meaning,  “That which exists is ONE, sages call it by various names.”  This is the reason why Hindus are tolerant and accept diversity.

Many young Hindus and Indians get confused with the diverse concepts of different Gods in Hinduism. This diversity can be confusing when confronted by other faiths who are equally confused with the diversity of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma. This article is an attempt to explain the vast riches of Sanathana Dharma and help Hindus not get converted to other faiths out of confusion with the diversity of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma. Unfortunately an average Hindus doesn’t have an answer because we are not taught Hinduism properly. We only know to go to temple, ask for wishes, take prasad and may be say a few mantras. There is no connection to the Gods or the Mantras because we understand and follow the rituals but are not taught the philosophy.

We hope  to address the confusion young Indians have about multiple Gods, especially to counter the mockery that non-Hindus make on multiple GODS of Hinduism. Our objective is to prepare young Hindu community to give answers to these conversion machines. Some people claim that many Hindus convert to other religions because they didn’t understand Idol Worship and Concept of many Gods. 

God

The English word God is a poor translation for Hindu concepts of Supreme Being/Ultimate Reality. In English, the word God refers to an Abrahamic God who is the creator and is separate from HIS creation.

Hinduism has many additional concepts which get lumped together into English translation as one word, God. Hinduism has

  • Brahman
  • Ishvar
  • Avatar
  • Deities
  • Murti

each has a distinct and different meaning and many of them can be in manifest or in un-manifest form. But unfortunately, due to poverty of the English language or a lack of appreciation by language experts, all of these spiritual concepts get translated into God thus causing confusion. In western terminology, most often, Hindu Gods are also referred to as Deities.

33 Million Hindus Gods

A 10th century triad – Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma – from Bihar. [Wikipedia]

There is, a popular perception stating that there are 33 million deities (Gods?) in Hinduism.[116] No one has a list of all the goddesses and gods, but scholars state all deities are typically viewed in Hinduism as “emanations or manifestation of genderless principle called Brahman, representing the many facets of Ultimate Reality”.[115][116][117] This concept of Brahman is not the same as the monotheistic God of Abrahamic religions. In those religions God is considered, separate from humans as “creator of the world, above and independent of human existence”. Hinduism accommodates that concept of God as duality as well as a concept of God, the universe, human beings and all else is essentially one thing and everything is connected oneness, the same god is in every human being as Atman, the eternal Self.[117][118]  It is quite likely that when the world’s population was estimated to be only 33 million, each atman being one with Brahman, led to the popular belief of 33 million Gods.

For many young Hindus and Indians who are confused with the diverse concepts of Hinduism, are adviced to seek through choosing one form that they connect most with. Then Surrender, be open and have faith, Seeking will come and path will be shown through perseverance. Hindus are implored to invest more time in understanding the vast rich Sanathana Dharma and not get converted to other faiths because they are confused with the diversity of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma.

Sagun/Nirguna

The concept of Brahman (wrongly translated as God) can be understood as Saguna or as Nirguna. The Formless Pure Consciousness is the unmanifest energy (Nirakar/Nirguna) which can manifest into form (Saakar/ Suguna) of Brahma as the Creator, Vishnu as the Protector and Shiva as the Destroyer. In unmanifest form, this is pure consciousness,  Nirguna – with no Gunas or attributes , Nirvisesha – no special characteristics, Sat-chit-ananda – Eternal truth consciousness. This unmanifest form when manifested, it has form and Suguna – attributes or qualities required for sustenance of the creation. But both the Manifest (Suguna) and UnManifest (Nirguna) forms of this cosmic energy are eternal, non-destructive and non-differential from each other.

Vedas and the Upanishads have said that there is one supreme energy named “’PARABRAMHA” which is formless, infinite, all pervading, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, genderless, eternal and unfathomable or indescribable in Human language. “God” is a Supreme cosmic energy, with infinite potentialities and attributes, which is formless but can manifest into a form when required to run and sustain creation.

In comparison, other religions express God either as a Nirguna (formless, unmanifest) or Saguna (with form, manifest) but it is only Hinduism that understands God in both unmanifest as well as manifest form. Other religions when the explain God as manifest usually insist of one form of God only which sometimes is depicted as an old White Male with a flowing beard.

Deities

 

Deities in Hinduism are referred to as Deva (masculine) and Devi (feminine).[44][45][46] The root of these terms mean “heavenly, divine, anything of excellence”.[47] Manifest Gods in Hinduism are symbolism for spiritual concepts. For example, god Indra (a Deva) and the antigod Virocana (an Asura) question a sage for insights into the knowledge of the self.[71] Deva-Asura dichotomies in Hindu mythology may be seen as “narrative depictions of tendencies within our selves”.[71] Hindu deities in Vedic era, states Mahoney, are those artists with “powerfully inward transformative, effective and creative mental powers”.[72]

Another Hindu term that is sometimes translated as God or deity is Ishvara[77] The term Ishvara has a wide range of meanings that depend on the era and the school of Hinduism.[78][79][80] In ancient texts of Indian philosophy, Ishvara means supreme soul, Brahman (Highest Reality).[78] In medieval era texts, Ishvara means God, Supreme Being, personal god, or special Self depending on the school of Hinduism.[2][80][81]

Avatars

Hindu mythology has nurtured the concept of Avatar, which represents the descent of a deity on earth.[155][156] This concept is commonly translated as “incarnation“,[155] and is an “appearance” or “manifestation”.[157][158]

The concept of Avatar is most developed in Vaishnavism tradition, and associated with Vishnu, particularly with Rama and Krishna.[159][160] Vishnu takes numerous avatars in Hindu mythology. He becomes female, during the Samudra manthan, in the form of Mohini, to resolve a conflict between the Devas and Asuras. His male avatars include Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Kalki.[160] Various texts, particularly the Bhagavad Gita, discuss the idea of Avatar of Vishnu appearing to restore the cosmic balance whenever the power of evil becomes excessive and causes persistent oppression in the world.[156]

In Shaktism traditions, the concept appears in its legends as the various manifestations of Devi, the Divine Mother principal in Hinduism.[161] The avatars of Devi or Parvati include Durga and Kali, who are particularly revered in eastern states of India, as well as Tantra traditions.[162][163][164] Twenty one avatars of Shiva are also described in Shaivism texts, but unlike Vaishnava traditions, Shaiva traditions have focussed directly on Shiva rather than the Avatar concept.[155]

Murti

Hinduism has an ancient and extensive iconography tradition, particularly in the form of Murti (Sanskrit: मूर्ति, IAST: Mūrti), or Vigraha or Pratima.[22] A Murti is itself not the god in Hinduism, but it is an image of god and represents emotional and religious value.[124] A literal translation of Murti as idol is incorrect, states Jeaneane Fowler, when idol is understood as superstitious end in itself.[124] Just like the photograph of a person is not the real person, a Murti is an image in Hinduism but not the real thing, but in both cases the image reminds of something of emotional and real value to the viewer.[124] When a person worships a Murti, it is assumed to be a manifestation of the essence or spirit of the deity, the worshipper’s spiritual ideas and needs are meditated through it, yet the idea of ultimate reality or Brahman is not confined in it.[124]

A Murti is an embodiment of the divine, the Ultimate Reality or Brahman to some Hindus.[21] In religious context, they are found in Hindu temples or homes, where they may be treated as a beloved guest and serve as a participant of Puja rituals in Hinduism.[127] A murti is installed by priests, in Hindu temples, through the Prana Pratishtha ceremony,[128] whereby state Harold Coward and David Goa, the “divine vital energy of the cosmos is infused into the sculpture” and then the divine is welcomed as one would welcome a friend.[129] In other occasions, it serves as the center of attention in annual festive processions and these are called Utsava Murti.[130]

Scriptures

Verses Describing God as Formless (Nirakar)

“Na tasya pratima asti”

“There is no likeness of Him.” [Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:19, Yajurveda 32:3]

There is no Form of Nirguna Brahma or God as Supreme Consciousness.

“His formless form is not to be seen; no one sees Him with the eye.”

[Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:20]

His Formless Form can’t be seen. Though He manifests Himself as Sakar Saguna Brahman, no one can see Him with present eyes or material eyes. To see His Supreme and Original Form one needs spiritual perfection. “No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality, and pastimes of God through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.”(Bhakti-Rasamrta-Sindhu 1.2.234).

God says: “You cannot see me with your present eyes. Therefore I give you divine eyes so that you can behold my mystic opulence” (Bhagavad-Gita 11.8)

“Shudhama papviddham”

“He is body less (Here Body means the physical structure, including the bones, flesh, and organ. Brahman has unique transcendental formless spirit body which is infinite like space) & pure.” (Yajurveda 40:8)

“He (Brahman/Paramatma) does not possess bodily form like that of an ordinary living entity. There is no difference between His body and His soul. He has a unique transcendental spiritual/spirit body which is infinite and omnipresent like space. Brahman is omnipresent soul and Soul “itself” is his spiritual body. He is absolute. All His senses are transcendental. Any of His senses can perform the action of any other sense. Therefore, no one is greater than Him or equal to Him. His potencies are multifarious, and thus His deeds are automatically performed as a natural sequence.” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 6.7-8)

God as Nirakar Nirguna Brahman or Supreme Consciousness is body less and pure. That doesn’t mean His Sakar Saguna form is impure, it is pure too.

Verses Describing God with Form (Sakar Saguna)

“Ekam Sat Vipraha Bahula Vadanti”

“The Lord of the universe, Lives inside the universe, And without being born, Appears in many forms, And only the wise realize his real form” – (Rig Veda Purusha Suktam 2.3)

Although I (Supreme transcendental Brahman) am unborn, imperishable, unchangeable and God of all living entities I do incarnate (Sambhavami –cause to be born or produced) by using my Maya/Illusive energy. (Maya:- the combination of material and mental elements e.g. five elements, five internal senses, five organs of action, five external sense base also called sense objects, One vital breath, mind, intelligence ) – (Bhagavad Gita 4:6)

Meaning – Even though I am unborn I appear (unreal appearance different from original) to be born & embodied because of my Prakriti/Maya/Illusive energy of which I am the controller. I never get influenced by three modes of nature. My transcendental infinite/formless space like form never cease to exist when I incarnate. My birth & death in personal form are just empirical reality similar to the mirage in desert or reflection of an object in the water.

Whenever & wherever there is a decline in Dharma/righteousness & religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend (Sruja-send myself forth/Descend/take visible form) myself (aham-I/Me, atmanam-self). (Bhagavad Gita 4:7)

Though unborn, it appears to be born in diverse ways. (Yajurveda 31.19)

The Lord takes on the manifold form. (It) transformed Himself in accordance with each form; that form of His was for the sake of making Him known. (e.g.:- just like the presence of unmanifest electric energy can be recognized by lightened bulb) (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.5.19)

“God appears in both ways as the formless Brahman and as the personal God”. They are both dimensions of his personality. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.3.1)

He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and he is the prime cause of all causes.”(Brahma Samhita 5.1)

There are two forms of Brahman, the material & the immaterial, the mortal and the immortal, the solid and the fluid, sat (being) and tya (that), (i.e. sat-tya, true). (The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.3.1)

How does Manifestation happen?

Lord Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita says, “All material nature is ever existent in the form of energy of the unmanifest. Seated in Prakriti, Purusha manifests the worlds and beings.”

Purusha is the conscious seed when impregnated into Prakriti, form is manifested.

Prakriti gives Tattvas and Gunas to the form, the variations of which represent the attributes of each manifested form.

Few Tattvas are –

  1. Intelligence (Buddhi)
  2. Mind (Manas)
  3. Ego (Aham)
  4. Five subtle senses (Tanmatras)
  5. Five organs of perception (Jnanendriyas)
  6. Five organs of action (Karmendriyas)
  7. Five great elements (Mahabutas), namely earth, water, fire, air, and space.

Gunas are –

  1. Sattva: Represents light, pleasure, preservation, selflessness, divinity.
  2. Rajas: Represents light and darkness, pride, creation, self-centeredness, humanity.
  3. Tamas: Represents darkness, cruelty, destruction, selfishness, and sexuality.

The gunas contribute to the movement or behavior in creation, while the tattvas contribute to the diversity.

Another important concept is Vikriti  which is the  modified Prakriti. It is the perceptual world, we experience through our senses, which is distorted by our perceptions, desires and expectations which is why you see so much of disagreement, varying understanding and misunderstanding, fuelled by ego causing fights, wars and what not.

Number of Gods (Deities)

Yāska, the earliest known language scholar of India (~ 500 BC), mentions that there are three deities (Devas) according to the Vedas, “Agni (fire), whose place is on the earth; Vayu (wind), whose place is the air; and Surya (sun), whose place is in the sky”.[107] This principle of three worlds (or zones), and its multiples is found thereafter in many ancient texts. The Samhitas, which are the oldest layer of text in Vedas enumerate 33 devas,[note 3] either 11 each for the three worlds, or as 12 Adityas, 11 Rudras, 8 Vasus and 2 Ashvins in the Brahmanas layer of Vedic texts.[7][47]

The Rigveda states in hymn 1.139.11,

ये देवासो दिव्येकादश स्थ पृथिव्यामध्येकादश स्थ ।
अप्सुक्षितो महिनैकादश स्थ ते देवासो यज्ञमिमं जुषध्वम् ॥११॥[111]

O ye eleven gods whose home is heaven, O ye eleven who make earth your dwelling,
Ye who with might, eleven, live in waters, accept this sacrifice, O gods, with pleasure.
– Translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith[112]

Gods who are eleven in heaven; who are eleven on earth;
and who are eleven dwelling with glory in mid-air; may ye be pleased with this our sacrifice.
– Translated by HH Wilson[113]

— Rigveda 1.139.11

 

 

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The Division of Vedic Literature

By : Pandit Rami.

Charts of Sanskrit Literature.

The Vedas, vedangas, dharam shastras and puranas.

 
 
 

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Menstruation is Far From Taboo in Hinduism

By: Sunila Goray Raj

(edited by : Surinder Jain)

Menstruation is Far From Taboo in Hinduism.
 
There is so much to be said about it all – but here I only want to focus on the leftist’s latest favorite topic : Menstruation.
 
A survey conducted in USA in 1981 showed that a substantial majority of U.S. adults and adolescents believed that it is socially unacceptable to discuss menstruation, especially in mixed company. Many believed that it is unacceptable to discuss menstruation even within the family.[66] Studies in the early 1980s showed that nearly all girls in the United States believed that girls should not talk about menstruation with boys, while more than one-third of girls did not believe it appropriate to discuss menstruation with their father.[67]
 
In Hindu culture, a girl who achieved menarche, or her first period, was feted, and pampered at a ceremony where family and close friends gathered and lavished gifts on her. The girl would be bathed in fragrant water after applying oil, turmeric etc. she would be bedecked in fine clothes, flowers and ornaments – and her feet would be washed. This is because Hinduism celebrates, and does not abhor menstruation. The Shakti philosophy upholds it as a gift which is responsible for creation of life.
 
 

Devotees singing in front of Kamakhya temple

 
The Kamakhya Temple in Assam celebrates the annual menstruation of the Goddess – and there is no idol there, just a structure that resembles the yoni, or the female symbol of creation.The Chengannur Temple in Kerala has a tradition of bathing the idol in a grand ceremony after her ‘period’ is over. According to the Kalika Purana, Kamakhya Temple denotes the spot where Sati used to retire in secret to satisfy her amour with Shiva, and it was also the place where her yoni (genital) fell after Shiva danced with the corpse of Sati.[41] It mentions Kamakhya as one of four primary shakti peethas: the others being the Vimala Temple within the Jagannath Temple complex in Puri, Odisha; Tara Tarini) Sthana Khanda (Breasts), near Brahmapur, Odisha, and Dakhina Kalika in Kalighat, Kolkata, in the state of West Bengal, originated from the limbs of the Corpse of Mata Sati. 
 
The temple remains closed for three days during the Ambubachi mela[2][3] for it is believed that mother earth becomes unclean for three days like the traditional women’s menstrual seclusion. During these three days some restrictions are observed by the devotees like not cooking, not performing puja or reading holy books, no farming etc.[2] After three days devi Kamakhya is bathed and other rituals are performed to ensure that the devi retrieves her purity.[3] Then the doors of the temple are reopened[2][3][4] and prasad is distributed.[2][4] On the fourth day the devotees are allowed to enter the temple and worship devi Kamakhya.
 
Many religions have menstruation-related traditions, for example: Islam prohibits sexual contact with women during menstruation in the 2nd chapter of the Quran. In Judaism, a woman during menstruation is called Niddah and may be banned from certain actions. Western civilization, which has been predominantly Christian, has a history of menstrual taboos. [source: wikipedia] Some Christian denominations, including many authorities of the Eastern Orthodox Church and some parts of the Oriental Orthodox Church advise women not to receive communion during their menstrual period.[34] In certain branches of Japanese Buddhism, menstruating women are banned from attending temples.[37] In Japan, the religion of Shinto, the Kami, the spirits they worship, would not grant wishes if you had traces of blood, dirt, or death on you. In some portions of South Asia, there is a menstrual taboo, with it frequently being considered impure. Restrictions on movement, behaviour and eating are frequently placed.[57] The Yurok in North America practiced menstrual seclusion. Yurok women used a small hut near the main house.[65]
 
BONUS FACT: Hinduism is the only mainstream religion which worships God in the female form – for wealth (Lakshmi), education (saraswati), and courage too (Durga) – we worship Goddesses. What greater women empowerment can there be? To accuse Hinduism of gender disparity is beyond ridiculous!
 
An orchestrated effort is being made, or should I say, has been made for several years now, to denigrate Hindu customs and culture. In the whole uproar over Sabarimala, the issue being tom-tommed by pseudo liberals is Women’s rights – gender equality, and especially the whole taboo surrounding menstruation – and all of it is nothing but a distortion, and concoction, where the narrative is being twisted to suit the agenda of certain vested interests.
 
In the West, media houses like the BBC and CNN are upholding Kanakadurga and Bindu, who pretended to be transgenders, and were whisked into Sabarimala in ambulances with the support of plains clothes cops, as ‘defenders of women’s rights’.
I do not know if I should shake my head, or tear my hair out in frustration.
 
With the advent of western education, especially missionary education, Hindus were made to feel that this whole ceremony is horrendous – how can you announce that your daughter has now started menstruating, what an embarrassment, how orthodox, what a shameful ritual, how backward – these were the things we were told. And instead of trying to resist, and make others understand what this ceremony meant, and its deep significance – we (me included) hung our heads in shame, relented, and agreed with them.
 
Today hardly anybody performs this ceremony for their daughters, because we were taught by those who came from outside that it is taboo, and shameful. We also joined the bandwagon which proclaimed menstruation to be ‘filthy’.
 
Irony is that today, those very people who first advocated the stopping of ‘shameful and orthodox’ rituals of celebrating menstruation, are mocking Hindus about women entering Sabarimala and turning it into a ‘menstruation taboo’ issue, whereas clearly, it is not that at all.
Today, those very same people are trying to prove themselves as modern and as the harbinger of women’s rights and equality by conducting a festival dedicated to menstruation – styled ‘Aarpo Aarthavam’. It is laughable! The hypocrisy is just unbelievable.
 
So please stop trying to fool gullible people, because there are still many of us who know the truth.

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Religious freedom collides with anti-discrimination laws in Australia

By: Surinder Jain.

Religious freedom is fundamental to Australian identity said the Australian Prime minister Scott Morrison. And Australians voted in favor of anti-discrimination laws to protect the rights of LGBT only recently. One would think that both are laudable achievements for Australia, but the future of religious freedom does not look so rosy.

A clash between Religious Freedom and Human Rights is brewing up.

Religious freedom right to propagate one’s belief permits Christians, Jews, Muslims and all other religions to run their own schools. Does this freedom means that these schools can admit gay students and have gay teachers imparting religious teachings to children when many believe admitting gay in their schools is against their faith.

This debate is heating up in Australia.

Religious freedom rights for an individual come in various parts. Right to belief is a right to believe in a certain religion and some/all the tenants that come with it. Right to practice a religion is a right to practice your religious rituals and actions coming from the belief. It also includes a right to propagate your beliefs either to your own constituency or to other non-believers.

Human rights on the other hand are also a set of rights for an individual and includes Right to Live, a Right to Freedom, a Right to Express and a number of other rights like anti-discrimination and so on.

Australia and most secular and theocratic countries permit Right to Belief. Australia also permits Right to Practice and a Right to Propagate religion without any state interference. Some theocratic countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia place restrictions on Right to Practice in public and thus not allowing any temple or church unless it has been sanctioned by the government. Many countries in the middle east ban propagation of any religion other than the state sanctioned one.

Communist countries like China place restrictions on all religions. They frown upon all religious beliefs and control them by total control over appointment of clergy and allow only state permitted rituals to be practiced. Communist ideology and whims of the party are given far higher priority than either religious freedom or human rights.

A clash between the rights of one individual to protect their faith and institutions and the right of other individuals to a fair go requires a balancing act. While the Liberal party PM has vowed to protect religious freedom as integral to Australian identity, the opposition Labor party is considering an “appropriate” balance between the two.

When Right to Life clashes with Right to Practice, the human Right to live wins hands down. Thus I can not take away life or liberty of an individual even if I believe that my religious belief requires me to do so. My Right to Propagate my religion by imposing it on others will be OK in ISIS ruled countries but will be rejected in most other countries including Australia.

In a progressive country like Australia, Right to Propagate once religion has been well balanced with the Right to Practice one’s religion. Thus each religion is prohibited from imposing its belief on another religion. If I believe in a religion that does not have a personal God then I can not ask another religion to permit me to enforce my belief as part of their propagation. Thus if a religion does not believe in God, then s/he has no right to join a christian church/school and expect to teach his/her belief to the christian congregation or to students in a christian school. Religious practitioners can not invoke courts of law to enforce their Right to Propagate through the propagation machinery (churches, schools, congregations, Sunday mass, sermons, communications etc.) of other religions except in their own.

This is tampered both ways. No religion can frown upon the beliefs and practices of others as long as they are valid in law. No religion should propagate a belief that belittles the belief of another religion.

We can find the appropriate balance between right to propagation and anti-discrimination using the above well accepted principal. Thus all religions will respect the rights of LGBT and will not frown upon their practices in their religious propagation. At the same time, LGBT do not have an automatic right to use another religions propagation machinery to propagate their beliefs. Thus LGBT should not expect that they will be able to teach their belief in a religious school as much as a Hindu does not expect to have an automatic right give a Hindu sermon in a Christian church.

Number of Religious schools and number of students studying in religious schools is such a minority that it does not restrict the right of LGBT children to study or LGBT teachers to employment. These children have a very wide choice as to which school they go to study.  Teachers of LGBT persuasion are not constrained in applying for jobs to most schools and have a meaningful employment. And off course, there is nothing stopping people passionate about their gender beliefs to start their own special LGBT friendly schools.

Each new religion in Australia has to do the hard effort to establish their own schools, churches, temples and congregations. A newly arrived religion like Hinduism does not expect Christians or Jews to be forced to give up their resources like church or school for the propagation of Hinduism. Similarly, LGBT have to do their own hard yakka in establishing their own schools etc and not expect to get an easy ride on the resources of other religions in the name of anti-discrimination. And the Religions should not frown upon LGBT efforts to establish their own special LGBT friendly schools either.

By : Surinder Jain

 

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Book Review – Hinduism and Nature

By : www.arc.org.

Penguin India publishes important new book on Hinduism and Nature

 

We have just received our copy of Penguin India on Hinduism and Nature by historian, environmentalist (and good friend of ARC) Dr Nanditha Krishna.

The book, published by Penguin India, is about the mythical stories and religious significance of many forests and mountains, lakes, rivers (and a few flat bits) of India’s varied landscapes. And how those stories and significances are one of the things that can and might protect India’s animals and places from the bulldozers of progress.

The basis of Hinduism is righteousness, or dharma, she argues, and the great epic texts of Hinduism show a clear appreciation of the natural world by people in India 5,000 years go. Even then, writers and thinkers wanted to urge people to manage natural resources and protect animals.

“I fell in love with sacred groves attached to Hindu temples,” Dr Krishna said to explain how she came to write the book. They were places “where not a twig may be broken and which are the remnants of ancient forests where sages lived in harmony with nature.”

She also was inspired by “rivers that gush from the hills and meander through the land; with the sacred tanks attached to each temple, the sacred plants and the animals respected by my religion; with the awe-inspiring mountains which reach up to the skies and where the Gods live.”.

In her long career as an environmentalist, the Chennai-based author of Sacred Plants of India and Sacred Animals of India has explored the divine relationship between human beings, plants and animals, “which are an essential part of every Hindu prayer.”

In her long career as an environmentalist, the author of Sacred Plants of India and Sacred Animals of India Dr Krishna has explored the divine relationship between human beings, plants and animals, “which are an essential part of every Hindu prayer.”

“The Earth is my mother and I am her child,” says the hymn to the Earth in the Atharva Veda. The human ability to merge with nature was the measure of cultural evolution. Hinduism believes that the earth and all life forms – human, animal and plant – are a part of Divinity, each dependant on the other for sustenance and survival. All of nature must be treated with reverence and respect. If the forests, clean water and fresh air disappear, so will all life as we know it on earth.

An Excerpt

“Forests have always been central to Indian civilization, representing the feminine principle in prakriti. They are the primary source of life and fertility, a refuge for the wanderer and a home for the seeker, and have always been viewed as a model for societal and civilizational evolution.

“Forests were places of retreat, a source of inspiration, for all Vedic literature was revealed to the sages here. Rama’s entire journey from Ayodhya to Lanka was through forests. In the Mahabharata, the big war is for urbanization and to capture the cities of Mathura, Hastinapur and Indraprastha. Yet the Pandavas spent their years of exile in the forest and made marriage alliances with forest tribes, a move that would help them later in the Kurukshetra war. They also learnt several important lessons from living in the forest, which became a source of knowledge and a place for learning higher truths. There were several classifications of the forest.

“The ancient forests have survived as the sacred groves of modern India. The seals of the Indus civilization contain figures of wild animals such as the elephant, water buffalo, rhinoceros, deer, gazelle, antelope, wild sheep and goat and ibex and tiger, which means that the area was once covered with dense forests. Rhino habitat ranges from open savannah to dense forest, while tigers live in swamps, grasslands and among trees, bushes and tall grass which camouflage them. Elephants are found in savannah and forests, where they can find fresh water to cool their thick dark skins. The large number of such seals suggests that the Indus–Sarasvati region was once a thick forest, not the agricultural fields or deserts we see today.

 

Hindu Environment week is one of the eco initiatives by Hindus today, inspired by the insights of their faith

The Vedas were composed in the Indus–Sarasvati region. In these texts, there is a fundamental sense of harmony with nature, which, in turn, nurtured a civilizational value. Forests were the primary source of life and inspiration, not a wilderness to be feared or conquered. The Vedas were written by sages living in the forest who saw it as a home and a source of revelation, exaltation and creativity. Some of the greatest verses of philosophy were written in forests. People drew intellectual, emotional and spiritual sustenance from the twin concepts of srishti and prakriti.

‘So may the mountains, the waters, the liberal (wives of the gods), the plants, also heaven and earth, consentient with the Forest Lord (Vanaspati) and both the heaven and earth preserve for us those riches’

One of the most beautiful hymns of the Rig Veda is dedicated to Aranyani, the goddess of the forest. She is an elusive spirit, fond of solitude, and fearless. The poet asks her to explain how she can wander so far from civilization without fear or loneliness. He creates a beautiful image of the village at sunset, with the sounds of the grasshopper and the cicada and the cowherd calling his cattle. She is a mysterious sprite, never seen, but her presence is felt by the tinkling of her anklets and her generosity in feeding both man and animal:

Aranyani Aranyani, who are, as it were, perishing there, why
do you not ask of the village? Does not fear assail you?
When the chichchika (bird) replies to the crying grasshopper,
Aranyani is exalted, resonant, as with cymbals.
It is as if cows were grazing, and it looks like a dwelling, and
Aranyani, at eventide, as it were, dismissed the wagons.
This man calls his cow, another cuts down the timber,
tarrying in the forest at eventide, one thinks there is a cry.
But Aranyani injures no one unless some other assails;
feeding upon the sweet fruit, she penetrates at will.
I praise the musk-scented, fragrant, fertile, uncultivated
Aranyani, the mother of wild animals
(Rig Veda, X.146. 1–6)

LINKS

Find Hinduism and Nature on Good Reads.

Penguin India on Hinduism and Nature

The Hindu Newspaper features vital work on green pilgrimage by ARC’s partner organisation in India

ARC’s partner organisation in India, ATREE

Building Stewardship in the buffer zone to protect biodiversity – Clean KMTR Campaign

(Source : www.arc.org)

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Bioethics – a Hindu Perspective

By : Dr Raj Maheshwari.

(The following is an abstract of the talk delivered by the author at the conference on “Core Ethical Teachings” at NSW Parliament House on 4 March 2011).

Dr Raj Maheshwari
Forensic Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist at St John of God Health Care
Sydney, Australia

Bioethics addresses specific ethical issues relating to science and medicine. With the advancement in technology, we are constantly faced with new scientific scenarios where ethical decisions need to be made. The principals of ethical decision making in Hinduism is informed by some of the ancient texts, namely Vedas, Upanishads, and two main epics: Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Core Philosophy

Cycle of rebirth is one of the core concepts in Hinduism, based on the belief that the body is just a carrier for the soul, which passes on through the repeated cycles of birth-life-death-rebirth until the soul has been purified and can ultimately join the divine cosmic consciousness, also called as Moksha.

Hindu View of Life and Suffering

Contrary to the western view of health, Hinduism doesn’t view health as mere absence of disability; instead it is assessed as a product of sound mind and body, which off course is one of the goals of a Dharmic life. Likewise illness is accepted as part of ordinary life experience, which is instigated as a consequence of a bad past karma or a test from god to assess your commitment to a dharmic life.

Hindu views death as not opposite to life, rather, it is opposite to birth, and life is a journey between birth and death. Hinduism accepts suffering as inevitable even in death, so discomfort is accepted over drugs, while a conscious dying process is seen as a good death that would determine the properties of your rebirth. Thus death is seen as just another step in this cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

Hindu View on Organ Transplant

Cremation in Hinduism is considered as both a destructive process and a course of creation; physical body and mind reunites with the earth, while atman wanders for about 12 days before continuing again the cycle of rebirth. Although in short no religious law prohibits organ transplant or donation in Hinduism, however there are contrary views. Some argue it to be a charitable act which is likely to attract karmic benefits; while others argue that if the body is incomplete during reuniting with the earth, the atman of the dead is suspended in a “state of animation” risking a karmic burden for family members. However, it is commonly insisted that the permission should be explicit.

Hindu view on contraception and abortion

Hindu bioethics agrees that there are two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning that brings husband and wife together, and the procreative meaning that capacitates them for the generation of new lives; and each and every sexual act need not be valued for its procreativity.

On abortion, the Hindu ethical decision making is based on the belief that the foetus is not just a foetus but a complete soul advancing into the next cycle of rebirth, so abortion is akin to murder; however, if mother’s welfare is in danger then the dharmic principle of duty to oneself takes precedence and abortion is permissible.

Hindu View on Biotechnology

Hinduism supports the idea of somatic cell genetic engineering which can address issues like sickle cell anaemia, haemophilia, or AIDS, on the principle of obligation to ensure survival of the present and future generations. However, it does not supports the idea of using genetic engineering for mere achieving perfection in body or bodily functions, again because Hinduism’s focus is on perfection of the soul rather the carrier body.

Regarding Cloning there are complex arguments in absence of any direct scriptural reference. The decision-making is guided by the principles of nonmaleficence (anyone’s well-being must not be sacrificed on some high altar of promoting a greater social and scientific good), beneficence (someone with leukaemia needing a compatible source of bone marrow), and autonomy (procreative or recreative rights along with rights to self-replicate).

Hindu View on Fertility Related Matters  

In ordinary cases, Hindu bioethics would want to limit IVF to married couples, using their own gametes in order to maximize the chance of both physical and emotional success for the child. However, there is provision for use of other person’s sperm in exceptional circumstances. One of the UpanishadsNiyoga, supports it if its purpose was the impregnation of a wife of an impotent or dead man so that his family may be preserved, and he may have sons to offer oblations for the welfare of his soul in the next world.

In summary, Hindu bioethics is philosophically pluralistic and ethically contextual, giving it the conceptual flexibility demanded by today’s complex moral problems. It is based on a multi-legged ethical decision making model involving the laws of Karma (good and bad actions), Dharma (righteousness), life after death, and Moksha (eternal freedom).

References and Advanced Readings

– Crawford, S. C. Hindu bioethics for the Twenty-first Century 2003; Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

– Lakhan, S. E. Hinduism: life and death. Student BMJ2008;16:294-336

– Coward, H. and Sidhu, T. Bioethics for clinicians: Hinduism and Sikhism. CMAJ, October 31, 2000; 163 (9)

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Santana Sikh of Potohar Pakistan

Baba Khem Singh Bedi Mahal Kallar Syedan Pakistan

 

Baba Khem Singh Bedi (1832-1905) of Bedi Mahal, Kallar Syedan was the influential Sikh leader of the traditional “Santana” order in Potohar region, Pakistan.( Sangini fort at Kallar Sayedan is also worth seeing).bedi mahalBeing 13th in line after great Guru Nanak Bedi (1469-1539) in the family tree, Baba Khem Singh always had one eye on political power. His influence was concentrated in the West Punjab — Sahiwal (Montgomery) and Kallar Syedan areas.bedi mahalBeing a traditional Sikh, that is an offshoot from a merchant class of Hindus (Kshatriya or Bedi), Khem Singh believed that there is very little difference between the two religions.bedi mahalKhalsa (pure) Sikh followers of the 10th Guru Gobind, insisted on separating Hindu and Sikh religions, but Baba Khem Singh would have none of that. This limited Baba Khem’s influence to the western half of Punjab.bedi mahalWhile the influence of Mughals’ had reduced considerable in the Punjab region in the last part of 1700s, the Sikh had risen to prominence. Baba Khem Singh during this time, being a spiritual leader, was very useful to the Colonials in preaching secularism, keeping dissent under check and sending recruits for the British.

Baba Khem Singh fitted perfectly with the colonials’ plans like a Tee. He participated in suppressing native rebellion in Gujera (Sahiwal) in 1857, personally leading cavalry charge and clearing routes.bedi mahal

For his loyalty to the crown as a ‘friendly native’, he was awarded the whole gamut of titles, powers and lands in Western Punjab, now part of Pakistan. The privileges included magisterial powers, knighthood, and an invitation to King Edward VII’s coronation etc. He was gifted vast agricultural lands appropriated by the British from the Muslim notables and distributed to their ‘loyalists’.

Baba Khem Singh’s descendants also sent soldiers to fight British battles including the 1st world war.

Baba Khem Singh was a huge philanthropist as well. Naturally, Sikhs’ being a minority (3%) anointed to rule by the British, had to be generous, in order to stay influential in a majority Muslim population. He was known to have organized the construction of 50 schools and paid seed money for a college in Rawalpindi.bedi mahalDespite his generosity, he still had money to splurge on a castle in the center of impoverished Kallar Syedan. The four storey castle had its own stables, dog kennels, a zoo and servant quarters. The bottom floor was the basement, probably to hide in, in case barbarians ran them over. Only the Muslim servants were allowed inside the premises.bedi mahalOne octogenarian described in his memoir the first time at his teen age that he saw the inside of the Bedi Mahal after the Sikhs’ left in 1947. All the 5000 Sikhs’ of the surrounding area had gathered at the Bedi Mahal compound during the religious riots and were driven in army convoys to safety. No one was killed here.bedi mahalThe Bedi Mahal we saw was dilapidated, but was still grand. I loved the mehmankhana (guest room), the carved wooden doors with brass knobs, the jharokas’, galleries, walkways, open central courtyard and dome shaped corner posts.bedi mahalThe best thing in Bedi Mahal was the frescoes and murals on the walls. The figures were of Muslim conquerors, Hindu deities, Sikh religious people, saints, all lined up around the courtyard into one streaming image of perfect religious harmony.bedi mahalThe top deck of the Bedi Mahal still overlooks Kallar Syedan like a king. I could see the town’s Hindu temple and agricultural well in the distance.bedi mahalWe then went up to the zanankhana at the forehead of the Mahal and it had images of Golden temple, Amritsar and several religious gatherings, mostly depicting Guru Nanak and some Hindu lady deity.  There was a wood carved separation as well. I wish someone could decipher the frescoes for me.

Oh in case I forget, Amitabh Bachan’s mother was a Bedi too, and her grandfather belonged to Kallar Syedan.bedi mahalIn the courtyard of the castle is the gaddi (grave) of a Muslim Sufi saint, kept there by the Bedi as a testament to their secular outlook. Besides the grave is the Sikh symbol erected on top of a metal pole.bedi mahalFifteen years in the making (ending 1855), Bedi Mahal (Castle) was abandoned in 1947. It was converted to a primary school and General Tikka Khan is one of its alumni. Now know why I keep searching through haunted houses while others make it to generals — it was the school building!

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Clean and Healthy Planet, the Hindu way

By : Vijai Singhal.

Īśāvāsyam idaṁsarvaṁyatkiñcajagatyāṁjagat;

Tena tyaktenabhuñjīthā,

mā gdha kasya svid dhanam.

 – (Isa Upanishad, Verse 1)

“Everything animate or inanimate in this universe is pervaded by God. Take whatever you need for your sustenance without the sense of ownership. Do not covet the wealth of anyone.”

Consumerism is the basic cause of climate change. Our economic model is demand based. We are constantly pushed to buy more as we have a system of planned obsolescence which results in excesswaste. We can see in our Hindu literature that the emphasis is on need and not on demand. Mahatma Gandhi said: “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”Greed is the root cause of all our problems – environmental or economic.

Gross domestic product (GDP) is a common measure of economic growth. However, GDP fails to account fully for the ecological damage that growth causes. By prioritizing economic growth, societies based on capitalism permit excessive consumption and with it comes excess waste. In 2012, the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan adopted the Gross National Happiness Index as their main development indicator.  This index measured‘Well-being and Happiness’ as a new economic paradigm. The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network which contains rankings of national happiness and analysis of the data from various perspectives, publishes an annual World Happiness Report. In their report, Finland ranks 1st, Australia ranks 10th, whereas India ranks 133rd. New Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world. The Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi had launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) on 2nd Oct 2014, with the aim to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India. The objectives of Swachh Bharat include eliminating open defecation through the construction of nearly 73 million household and community toilets since the launch of the plan. The Indian government is also pushing the use of renewable energy, particularly solar energy.

Indian government is actively pushing the use of renewable energy. The International Solar Alliance, an alliance of over 121 countries with an aim to reducing dependence on fossil fuels and to promote use of solar energy was launched by the Indian Prime Minister Mr Modi at the India Africa Summit, ahead of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. India has built the World’s largest solar farm of 2GW capacity in Karnataka State and the Energy Minister, Mr PiyushGoel has declared that there will be no new coal-fired power stations planned in India beyond 2018. In Australia also the rooftop solar installations is edging to 2 million households mark but unfortunately the Australian government is dragging its feet in support of the coal-fired power stations.

There is a proposal that has been put forward to the United Nations for declaring 2018InternationalYear of Clean and Healthy Planetaiming to mobilize millions of people worldwide in a single day event to clean up illegal waste on World Clean-up Day on 8th of September, 2018.  Last year, ABC TV produced a three-part series – War on Waste, highlighting the amount of waste we are producing in Australia. We are wasting a massive 40% of food items. With persuasion by the program producer and public reaction to waste, both Woolworths and Coles have declared that they would be cutting down on the use of throw away plastic and reducing the food wastage. This is a positive development.

Healthy living and a healthy planet go hand-in-hand. Choosing a plant-based diet is the single most important thing one can do for the environment and for our own health. There is a strong push for using vegan or plant-based diet in countries like Australia, United Kingdom and the USA, where meat consumption has traditionally been very high. Australia has become the third fastest growing vegan market in the world witha recent survey showing there are 2.1 million vegan/ nearly vegetarian people in Australia. This is another positive development for the health of our planet.

The world’s poor people are the worst sufferers of the environmental pollution. As responsible members of the society it is our duty to live a simple and ecologically sustainable life style. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The rich must live more simply so the poor may simply live.”

  • Vijai Singhal

References:

 

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Diwali Tradition – by French Association of Singapore

By: Fayrouz Yataghane.

Deepavali illuminates us from September 29th to
November 6th


Deepavali also named Divali or Diwali is one of the most
important cele-bration for the Hindu community. It is
celebrated for three consecutive days with the main day
being on November 6th this year. In Singapore preparations
have started end of September in Little India but not only
there…
Deepavali is celebrating the successful fight of Rama,
considered in Hinduism an avatar of Vishnu God, against
Ravana, the demon king. Deepavali refers to the light of
the “dip”, a traditional oil lamp, that people who were
living in Ayodhya town would have placed “in rows”
for welcoming Rama’s return. That is the reason why,
according to the tradition, Indian families illuminate their
houses and streets for Deepavali.

Deepavali all over the world

Deepavali is celebrated by many generations in India and
by Hindu peo-ple all over the world, as confirms Snehal
Thaker, president of the Hindu Council of Australia – HCA.
This organization, which was established in 1998, aims to
unite the Hindu community in Australia and to promote
its culture and tradition. “The HCA has organized the
Deepavali Festival in Australia each year for the last twenty
years. In 2017, over 6000 people from different ethnic
background and ages gathered to attend the celebration.
A success due to the joined efforts of the Hindu
representatives of eight countries: India, Nepal, Bhutan,
Fiji, Bangladesh, Tibet, Indonesia and of course, Australia.”
“This year again, the HCA will organise the Festival. Due
to the large success of the Festival in the past, this year it
will take place at the Adelaide Show Grounds, to respond
to the at-tendees’ expectations in terms of space and
comfort. All is planned to welcome them, and to protect
them against the rain!” says Snehal Thak-er.

Deepavali through the generations

 

Shaheen Sivji

Shaheen Shivji is an Indian woman. She has a fifteenmonth-
old daughter and she is currently working part time
at the French Alliance of Singa-pore. She studied French at
University, back in India, and she continues to learn French
here in Singapore, where she moved to, with her husband
two years ago.
Shaheen doesn’t celebrate Deepavali for religious reasons
because she is not Hindu but Muslim. However, she
explains that this celebration is gathering Indians from all
religions. “Above the myth and the religion, Deepavali
symbolizes the Light. Lights from many different sources
and colour are flashing happily in our streets during the
Festival. For children, this period is really very exciting and
synonym of holidays and sweets! During those three days,
we prepare both savoury and sweet food to of-fer them to
our guests, family and friends. After the prayers, we launch
the fireworks, and everybody can try to make Rangoli, a
drawing de-signed with coloured powders. The women
are wearing a special Sari, particularly well decorated,
and for the men, trousers with a tunic, that depending of
its style, providing some information about the social position
of the person.”
During this period, respect and goodwill are the values
that are highlight-ed: “This moment is a large gathering for
all people, not only family”, says Shaheen.

Sujatha Sundaram is Indian and Hindu. She has been living
in Singapore since 2010. She was born in South India and
lived in North India.

Sujatha Sundram

Sujatha celebrates Deepavali each year as she was doing
back in India. According to her, it is the most important
Festival for Hindus: “We cele-brate it in every place in India,
each region in its own way: in the South, we celebrate it
in the morning, in the North, it is usually in the evening. But
there are also common points: we decorate the house, we
buy new clothes and gold jewellery. We draw Rangoli on
the floor at the entrance of our house, we make cakes for
friends and family, who are invited or visited. And in the
evening, we switch on the lights around the house and
fireworks are launched everywhere! In the past, in India,
we were a big family, living very close to each other. Now
that we are a bit more dis-persed, that event is more social
than religious. The children are still waiting for Deepavali
with great anticipation. They appreciate the conviv-iality
and the festive ambiance and of course the gifts!”

Deepavali through the flavours

Manjunath Mural

La Gazette pushed the doors of the Michelin Star Restaurant
“The Song of In-dia” to meet its famous chef, Manjunath
Mural. He offers to share the Deepavali delights through a
special menu, as a trip across India…

What do you propose for Deepavali celebration?

I’ve prepared a 4-course set menu specially for the
occasion. As per our mis-sion “Journey Through India”, the
menu highlights the specialities of each region all over India –
from North, South, East to West. Of course, no cel-ebration
is complete without enjoying the traditional Indian Mithai
sweets which are a symbol of goodwill and friendship.
Where does the celebration of Deepavali come from?
The origin of the Deepavali festival most likely started out as
a fusion of har-vest festivals across ancient India.

How does the Indian/Hindu community usually celebrate
Deepavali?

Deepavali, or Diwali symbolises light triumphing over
darkness. We Indians of-ten celebrate by decorating our
homes and offices with bright lights and can-dles and
setting off fireworks displays. Of course, we also have our
Mithai sweets that we will give to our friends and family.

What do you aim to share with people through your
cooking?

My philosophy has always been to present a Journey
Through India, that is why the food served at The Song of
India is inspired by traditional recipes from North, South,
East and West India.

Could you tell us about your personal experience as a
chef? And the way that has lead you to the cooking?

During my training in India, I had the chance to meet and
learn from these two chefs both women were originally
from Thailand. While observing them, I was so impressed
with their passion for food and the respect they earned
from the guests and team. It made me realise that this
profession is full of respect and passion and it was at

that moment that I decided to become a chef. My guests are
my motivation. I’m always inspired to create new exciting
dishes that will keep them coming back for more.
Restaurant: The Song of India: 33 Scotts Road 228226
www.thesongofindia.com
Special Deepavali menu available from 3rd to 10th of
November 2018

Deepavali in Singapore

Deepavali Festival in Singapore will mainly take place
in Little India from September 29th to November 6th with
many highlights that should not be missed!
Find more information on the website https://www.littleindia.
com.sg, in-viting you to live the Deepavali experience.
“Head to Little India where the streets are transformed
into a fantasyland of colourful arches and stunning lights.
Wander through the bazaars with their glittering gold and
gems, exquisitely embroidered saris and gleam-ing golden
oil lamps. Inhale the scent of marigolds, roses and jasmine,
thickly braided into lush floral garlands mingling with the
perfume of sweet incense and the fragrance of Indian
spices and Ayurvedic mas-sage oils …”
Let’s just admit it: we are tempted!

Fayrouz Yataghane

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Significance of Sri Sitarama Bhadrachalam

रामो रामो राम इति प्रजनामभवन् कथााः | रामभूिं जिभूद्रमे राज्यं प्रशासति ।
तनत्यपश्ु पा तनत्यफलास्िरवस्र तनर्व्नर ााः | कामवशी च पजन्र याः सखु स्पशश्र च मारुिाः ।
Sri Vaalmeeki Ramayana – Yuddha Kanda – CXXVIII. 103, 104

Under Sri Rama’s rule, people rejoiced everywhere hailing Rama ! Rama! Rama! in jubilation
and recounting his deeds; it looked as if the entire universe was infused with Sri Rama naama;
nature was always in full blossom; rains were plenty and timely; weather was pleasant with
soothing wind breeze .
***
It is of great joy and delight to let everyone know that the utsava moortis Lord Sri Rama along
with Sita Devi, and Lakshamana are, for the first time, coming to Sydney from the ancient and
famous Sri SitaRama temple of Sri Bhadrachalam which is on the banks of mighty Godavari
river. On this festive occasion two significant events are planned – SitaRama Kalyanam and
SriRama Pattabhishekam. While Sri SitaRama Kalyanam is a blessing for every household, Sri
Rama Pattatbhishekam is a blessing for entire world. Please do participate in large numbers
along with your family and your friends, praise, pray, sing and dance in the name of Sri
SitaRama and get filled with joy and happiness.

To better appreciate the significance of the event we bring you a brief blurb on the temple
town of Bhadrachalam,rom where the moortis are coming, and the significance of utsava
moortis.

About Bhadrachalam

Bhadrachalam has a unique history. The mountain Bhadra-Adri or Bhadra-achalam, from
which the place derives its name, is part of India’s gigantic mountain range popularly eastern
ghats. In treta yuga Sri Sita Rama along with Lakshmana stayed in the jungles of Dandakranya
( part of eastern ghats) as part of their eleven year vanavaasa. The mighty Godavari river and
the beautiful and bountiful dandakaranya served as his abode during the period. The
parnashala where Sita was abducted is also on the same hills. The mountains were also home
of Rishi Bhadra who worshipped Lord Rama and conducted an intense penance. Rama pleased
with Bhadra promised he would visit on the way back to Ayodhya. However this visit was not
materialized in Rama avatara’s time. However, Rishi Bhadra continued his tapas and his prayers
reminded Lord Vishnu of his promise to Rishi Bhadra. True to his nature, Lord Vishnu rushed
to his devotee in the form of Vaikuntha Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana and blessed Rishi
Bhadra and manifested themselves as moortis on the mountain. The mountain got to be known
as Bhadraachalam after the Rishi Bhadra since.

These moortis, per legend, were revealed themselves to a tribal woman named Pokala
Dammakka who was an ardent devotee of Rama. She preserved the idols and waited for the
blessed one to construct a proper temple.

That blessed was Kancharla Gopanna(1621-1680) popularly known as Bhakta Ramadasu. When
Ramadasu, an ardent devotee of Lord Rama, found out about the Sri Rama moortis in the
remote tribal lands he moved heaven and earth to build temple at the Bhadrachalam temple
in 1674 AD. His devotion on Lord Rama was outpoured in 300 odd exquisite devotional songs
set in Carnatic style. Later in the century these compositions inspired in Sri Thyagaraja and
improvised on the krithi form introduced by Ramadasu.

Thus the Bhadrachalam was home to three spiritual gaints – Rishi Bhadra, Pokala Dammakka,
and Bhakta Ramadaasu. It is from this sacred site that the utsava moortis are coming to Sydney.
Significance of Utsava Moortis

According to the Shilpa Shastra ( the engineering principles of sculptures ) the moorthis in
temples are broadly classified into two – achala ( immoveable) and chala (movable). The moorti
of the principal diety is usually acahala (immovable) and is called Dhruva bera. Dhruva bera
resides in the sanctum ( garbha gruha) and is the recipient of the main worship. The chala –
bera ( movable moorthis) are of five types hence the name pancha bera. These five chala-beras
moortis are used in various ceremonial forms of worship in and around the temple.

These are:
• Kautuka (कौिकु ) bera is a miniature replica of the dhruva bera and is used in nitya (
daily) pooja
• Snapana (स्नपन) bera receives the naimittika (special occasion) poojas and
adbhishekams
• Shayana (शायन) bera receives the resting upacharas
• Utsava (उत्सव) bera receives the pooja when taken out in procession
• Bali (बतल) bera is taken out when offerings are made to gods and to the pancha bhoota
( elements)

All the above pancha bera are considered as an integral part of the main moorti – dhruva bera
and are deemed as emanating from it. These chala bera moortis in the temple that are
worshipped each day during the ritual sequences are but the variations of the adi murti. As
per shashtras each of the pancha bera map to five types of sacred vedic agnis and also
correspond to the five primordial elements – aakasha, vaayu, agni, aapah, pruthivi.

Therefore these different moortis represent unique aspects of the dhruva moorti, in various forms. The tejas of the main moorti steps into each of the chala moorti during various stages of worship. Though When worship sequences are conducted the tejas moves into kautuka and snapana and so on. The tejas takes a symbolic stride into utsava moorti and reaches us all when they are taken out in procession. On a lighter note it is said, because we are so mired in our daily vocations and have no time to time to go the temple, Lord himself comes out in procession and enquires about our well being.

All of us may not be fortune enough visit Lord Rama at Bhardrachalam, therefore make use of this splendid opportunity to pray, rejoice and submit ourselves at the feet of Sri Bhadrachala Rama who is coming for us all the way from Bharata Varsha. His mere presence is ‘jagadananda karaka’.

JAI SREE RAM

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