Sunday, September 24, 2017

Navratri | Devi Navratri - 9 Forms of Durga

Navratri celebrations are one of the most important and popular festive occasion for Hindus living all over the world. It is also known as Devi Navratri.

It is a festival of worshipping Goddess Durga in her nine forms during the nine days of this festive occasion which generally occurs during the last week of September or the first half of the October month (at the beginning of the Autumn season).

According to the Hindu calendar, it is the first nine days of the month known as Ashwin or Ashwayuja when they celebrate this festival.

Navratri or Navaratri means nine nights.

Even though people perform worship during the morning time also, both at homes and the temples, the most important type of worshipping takes place during the evenings hours in all these nine days.

The tenth day is celebrated as Dussehra.

It is also known as Vijaya Dashami as it is celebrated to enjoy the victory of Good over Evil. 

The festival is celebrated to worship the Goddess who destroyed evil and protected people always in her different forms of appearance. She is mainly worshipped in three most popular forms as the embodiment of Power/ Force, Wealth/ Prosperity, and Wisdom/ Education.

9 Forms of Durga

Chronologically these are the nine forms of Goddess (or Devi as referred to in Hindu scripts) as per citations found in many scriptures.

1) Devi Adi Parashakti or Siddhidhatri:
This is a pure form of energy with no shape whom Lord Shiva worshipped before starting the creation. She appeared on the left side of Shiva. She sits on a lotus and rides on a lion holding Shank, Chakra, Gada, and a Lotus in each of her four hands.

2) Devi Kushmanda:
After taking the form of Siddhidhatri, the Goddess lived inside the Sun so as to release some of the Sun's energy to the Universe and provide life to the living beings. She has eight hands holding a Kamandalu, Bow, Arrow, and Kamal with her right hands and Chakra, Gada, Japa Mala, Pot of Nectar with her left hands. She also rides on a lion.

3) Devi Brahmacharini:
After Kushmanda's form, the Goddess took the form of a Brahmacharin born to Daksha Prajapati. She was supposed to marry Lord Shiva. But Daksha insults Shiva and she gets self-immolated herself vowing to marry Shiva in her next birth. She holds a Kamandalu and a Japa Mala in her hands and walks bare-footed.

4) Devi Shailaputri:
After self-immolation, she takes birth as Shailaputri (Daughter of a Mountain named Himalaya) to marry Shiva. She rides on a Bull, carrying a Trishul and Lotus in her hands.

5) Devi Maha Gauri:
Shailaputri, after reaching her age of sixteen years, is believed to be of extremely beautiful with a splendid and sparkling glow. So, she is called as MahaGauri meaning extremely beautiful. She also rides on a Bull with her four hands holding a Trishul in the right hand, A Damaru in the left hand, and making the Blessing sign with the other right hand and a gifting sign with the other left hand.

6) Devi Chandraghanta:
On marrying Lord Shiva, she begins wearing the half-moon sign on her forehead shaped in the form of a bell. So, she is known as Chandraghanta. She mounts on a tigress with her ten hands. She holds the Arrow, Bow, Lotus, and Mala of her neck with four right hands, keeping the fifth hand in Abhayamudra (a blessing sign). She holds the Trishul, Gada, Sword, and Kamandalu in her four left hands, posting the fifth hand in a gifting sign (Varadamudra).

7) Devi Skanda Mata:
Skanda is the other name for Lord Kartikeya, the son of Shiva, Parvati. So, she is called as Skanda Mata meaning mother of Skanda. Skanda Mata rides on a fierce lion. She has four hands. She holds Lotus in her upper two hands and holds her son Skanda (who is a six-headed child) with her right hand. She keeps the other left hand in a blessing mode.

8) Devi Katyayani:
Katyayani Mata was formed from the waves of anger exuded of all Gods who have been angry with the atrocities of the demons. She was entrusted with the task of killing Mahishasura and other demons. She is red in color and rides on a majestic lion. She holds a Lotus and Sword in her left hands and keeps her both right hands in blessing and bestowing modes.

9) Devi Kali:
This is the most fierce form of Mother Goddess.
She is black in color and rides on a donkey killing the deadly demons named Sumbha and Nisumbha in a very frightening manner. She holds her both right hands in Varada (gifting) and Abhaya (protecting) mudras and carries a huge Sword and fierce Iron hook in her left hands.

The Worshipping Sequence of the 9 Forms of Goddess Durga:

Day One: Shailaputri
Day Two: Brahmacharini
Day Three: Chandra Ghanta
Day Four: Kusmanda
Day Five: Skandamata
Day Six: Katyayani
Day Seven: Kali Mata
Day Eight: MahaGauri
Day Nine: Sidhidhatri

For more comprehensive details of Dussehra celebrations like Ram Leela and Vijaya Dashami, you may like to visit this article with full details at this link.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Brahmin Rituals | Pancha Samskara for Brahmin Boy - Chakrankitam/ Samashrayanam

Samskara Meaning

SamskAra refers to the character of a human being. If a person is referred to as possessing Samskaram it means that he is wise and possesses exemplary qualities. He is supposed to be very good charactered and full of great knowledge/ virtues- both worldly and spiritual. This knowledge is attained from his teachers and through his own activities while leading a pious life with a pure mind and honest conscience. It doesn't mean that he should completely renounce worldly engagements and enjoyments. It is a controlled way of living the morally enlightened life.

Five Rituals - Pancha Samskaram ( A Brahmin Boy's Samashrayanam)
There are five components of SamskAram. So, it is referred to as Panch (meaning five) + SamskAram (qualities or elements) = Pancha SamskAram.

These five components are bestowed upon the Bachelor step-by-step after his Upanayanam in a ceremony held that is known as SamAshrAyaNam.

SamAshrAyaNam is a way of leading a humble (submissive) life in the shelter of a simple, holy atmosphere with no unwarranted desires or ego. This ceremony is known as SamAshrayaNam as it is bestowed to the person through the chanting of Vedic mantras by a Guru in a ceremonial way. And, the five elements of SamskAram are known as Pancha sanskaras.

Components of the Five Rituals or SamAshrAyaNam
  1. ChakrAmkanam or ChakrAmkitam (Making marks of Chakra and Conch on the shoulders)
  2. Pundra DhaaraNam (Wearing of two vertical white stripes with a red line in the middle on the forehead like a Trishul with base) 
  3. MantrOpadEsham (Receiving the Thiru Mantra from the teacher)
  4. Daasa Naama Sweekaaram (Accepting the name as a servant of God)
  5. Bhagavad AshrayaNam (Taking the refuge of God)

Now, let me explain each one of this SamskAram with more stress on ChakrAmkitam as it is the major part for a Brahmin/Vaishnava to get purified.

1) Chakraamkitam / చక్రాంకితము 
ChakrAmkitam is an advanced ceremony performed after the Upanayanam to a married person. It is performed both to either male or female. It is a ceremony that confers the right and entitlement to the person undergoing this ritual to perform all the holistic rituals and duties of any kind that require a pure and holistic body and mind.

You must be aware that God Vishnu holds the Sudarshan Chakram and the Shankham or Conch in His hands. Both these weapons are most important for the Vaishnava community. They both signify one's status and identity as a great valorous person and enlightened being.

ChakrAmkitam is the ritual through which one is branded with these two auspicious symbols on his or her shoulders. It is done by heating the metal shapes representing these symbols  (which are normally kept at God's altar) and branding them on the shoulders- the right shoulder with Chakram and the left shoulder with the Conch. It is done by a family Guru, Priest or even by the father. Some medicines are applied later to heal the burns caused in this process.

A person is deemed to be fit for cooking the food required which gets offered to the departed souls during their death rites or at their annual death ceremonies ( which is known as Pinda PradAnam) only when he undergoes this ceremony of getting branded by these auspicious symbols on his or her shoulders.

So, ChakrAmkitam is a must for all Vaishnavas to be able to prepare the death rites for their deceased parents and ancestors.

2) Pundra DhAraNam / పుండ్ర ధారణము 

(This image is created By Padmavasantha - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, taken from

Pundram means to the auspicious Tilak with three stripes that people wear on their forehead especially when they are performing some religious duties like worship at home or at temples and during ceremonies and festive occasions, etc. When you are in the company of your elders, it is deemed as a good gesture to your elders if you wear these stripes.

The Pundra DhAraNam is also known as Urdhwa Pundra DhAraNam in case of Vaishnavas because the Vaishnava community people wear the stripes vertically whereas the Brahmin people wear it with horizontal stripes.

Two vertical white stripes are made in the shape of the letter "Y" with a white chalk known as ThirumaNi as shown in the above image at center. After drawing this Y shape, in the middle of these two white stripes, one red stripe is created with a red powder or chalk known as Sri ChoorNam or Thiru ChoorNam.

The white shape of Y is known as ThirumAn and it represents the feet of Vishnu. The red mark is known as Sri CharaNam associated with feet of Goddess Lakshmi. It is considered that Vishnu and Lakshmi are inseparable and the devotees often need to obtain the blessings of Goddess Laksmi first to seek Moksha from God Vishnu.

3) Mantropadesham / మంత్రోపదేశం 

This step refers to the imparting of the auspicious Tirumantram by the teacher to the disciple after his Upanayanam, ChakrAmkitam, and the application of the tilak on his forehead.

The MantrOpadesham consists of three mantras that are imparted one after the other along with their significance and complete knowledge. They are known as the AshtAkshari Mantra imparted by NArAyaN to Nara (both are incarnations of God) in the Badari Dham, Dvaya Mantra imparted by God to his consort Lakshmi in Vaikunt, and the Charam Sloka (last stanza of Bhagavad Gita) imparted by Sri Krishna to Arjun in Kurukshetra.

I may provide more detailed information about these three mantras in my subsequent posts.

4) Daasanaama Sweekaaram / దాసనామ స్వీకారము 

Through this ritual, the disciple accepts himself as a servant of his teacher and the God. This is not to be considered as any disgrace or degradation of his status. It is a state of submitting himself in full confidence and faith to the supremacy of his teacher's unlimited virtues and the Supreme Powers of God for the purpose of increasing his knowledge and thereby attain self-realization.

5) Bhagavad AashrayaNam / భగవదాశ్రయణం 
Bhagavad or Bhagavat refers to that pertaining to God. It can also be referred to pertaining to the seekers of God and enlightened people. Aashraya means refuge or shelter. Aashrayanam means taking to or seeking the refuge of God.

So, through this process of Bhagavad AashrayaNam, the person seeks and pursues the shelter and refuge of God and of those people nearer to God's grace. This is done through selfless service to those pious people and through continuous meditation. It is also done through voluntary services to helpless and poor people in their troubles and ailments. It should be a selfless service with no desire for any favors or benefits in return.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Eating Prayer | Bhojana Vidhi or Parishechana - Eating Procedure With Sanskrit Prayer

The 'Eating Prayer' is a traditional religious practice that is rendered combined with some spiritual rituals as per the Hindu customs of the Brahmin and Vaishnava communities while eating meals both the times of a day.  

Actually, it is a procedure wherein we utter some Sanskrit prayer before eating food while performing some rituals involving the water.

It is also known as Bhojana Vidhi by some of those people and as Parishechanam also by many others.
Parisheshanam is spelled as parishEchana in Sanskrit (పరిషేచనము in Telugu).

This practice is widely seen in Southern India where they recite some mantra before eating food even at public places.

The significance of this practice is that it establishes the respect, sanctity, and value that we attach to the food which is a divine gift to us.

Further, by practicing this custom, we are offering the first grains of the food to the heavenly Gods before we ourselves eat it.

Please note that this ritual is to be performed only by those who have undergone the Upanayanam ceremony and are wearing the sacred thread daily.

Three parts of Parishechanam or Bhojana Vidhi

This custom of doing Pariseshanam is divided into three parts to have a better understanding of the procedure. They are:
  1. Aabhojanam (before starting to eat) - ఆభోజనము 
  2. PrANAhuti (offering food to the Supreme Soul) - ప్రాణాహుతి 
  3. UttarAbhojanam (after completion of eating food) - ఉత్తరాభోజనం 

The below video presents this ritual of doing the parishechana or the eating prayer:

1) Aabhojanam

This is a ritual done before taking the meal. Aa + BhOjanam refers to the procedure to be followed prior to eating.

When we sit for the meals, we will be served with the food in a leaf or plate along with water in a glass.

After the food is served, before starting the meal, you need to sprinkle some drops of water around your plate twice chanting some slokas and then drink some drops of water to start the meal.

It is done in the following manner.

i) Take some drops of water into your right hand, chant the Gayatri mantra of "Om bhoor bhuva........" while circumambulating the water around your plate.

ii) Again take some drops of water and chant "Sathyam Twarthena Parishinchaami" while sprinkling the water again around the food. (It is a combination of the words "Satyam + thva + Ruthena). The meaning of it is that "I am sprinkling water around Sathyam and Righteousness". (Both Sathyam and Right mean the same thing and they refer to the "Food" which is the Eternal Truth in this context. You may also refer to "Annam Parabrahmam" which means Food is equal to the Supreme God. So, by sprinkling water around it, you are paying your respects to the Supreme Being.)

While performing this ritual at dinner time, you need to chant "Rutham thva satyena Parishinchaami".

iii) Now, again take some drops of water in the right hand and drink it chanting this mantra.
"AmruthOpastharaNamasi". Here, "Amrutham" refers to the heavenly nectar. "Apastharanam" refers to the spreading nature of water or liquid. "Asi" is uttered to proclaim some Omen. It means "Let it Be". So, the meaning of "AmruthOpastharaNamasi" is that "Let You Be the Spreading Nectar".
But, in this context, the meaning of this mantra must be that "Let You (God) Be the Receiver of this Food".

2) PrANAhuti or Praanaahuthi

This is the step of offering food to God before eating it oneself. It is a kind of Thanksgiving to God for providing you with the Food and the Life that you are able to enjoy daily with His grace.

You need to take some grains of the cooked, ghee-mixed rice by picking it from the plate with your three auspicious fingers of the thumb, the middle finger and the ring finger and swallow it without using the teeth. Because you are offering it to God, you are not supposed to chew it and enjoy the food while doing so. Repeat this procedure for six times, each time chanting one mantra each of the following six mantras in the given sequence.

These mantras refer to the most important element of your life which is the breath and its related controlling activities in your body.

i) Om PrANAya Swahaaha (This is the principal breath providing you the life)
ii) Om ApAnAya Swaahaaha (This controls the excretion process)
iii) Om VyAnAya Swaahaaha (This is responsible for the circulation activities)
iv) Om UdhaanAya Swaahaaha (This controls the respiratory process)
v) Om SamaanAya Swaahaaha (This is the center and controls the digestion process)
vi) Om BrahmaNE Swaahaaha (This function links your soul with God and refers to immortality also)

So, by offering the food to all these processes of your life, you are improving your health conditions and, in the end, are able to associate yourself with self-realization.

3) Uttaraabhojanam

This is the last step of Parishechanam to be performed after completely eating your food.

After finishing the meals, take some drops of water again into your palm and drink half of it and circumambulate the rest around the meal plate chanting this mantra of "AmruthOpastaraNamasi".

The meaning of this mantra is that " Let you be the abode of immortality". You are praising the value of the food and water consumed by you and at the same time wishing for a long blessed life from God. It is also a kind of Thanksgiving to God for blessing you with this tasty, energetic food.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Noise Pollution - Please Be More Humane - Tips for Noise Prevention

Don't you think it is time to speak out?

How can we bear all this nonsense when it is affecting our day to day life? Are we free to enjoy our lives peacefully and happily amidst such a deafening noise? It makes your heart beat violently being held up imprisoned in such an inescapable situation of pounding noise. All those marriage processions, processions of Gods during dispersal after worship ( carried for nimajjanam). The people beating drums and playing tens of violent musical instruments, dancing in a very rude and uncivilized manner. I think you will definitely visualize the scenario of Hell if you are present nearby.

Why such unnecessary processions and wastage of money?

It is very silly and meaningless practice to take the procession of the bridegroom along the whole streets for such a lengthy period of time trapping him in such violent atmosphere. 

Experience how tired he will get on completion of that procession looking for some respite. He could not even enjoy his marriage happily in such a mood.

What about those Gods who are taken on processions. Do you feel they will be happy?
They will also be restlessly waiting for their freedom from your clutches. He will only need your love from the heart and not this kind of deafening noise and vulgar dances.

The People

Please celebrate all your celebrations more sensibly and humanely.

Be aware that the celebration is only for you and your family circles. It is not for the people around you.

Nobody likes disturbance to his private life and happiness.

You have no right to deprive the people of their basic rights of peace and happiness. They like a good sleep and good atmosphere.

It is absurd if you are taking processions in the entire colony and create chaos in lives.

Limit it to your own smallest area with no deafening noises.

Do not spend millions of wasteful money on irrational celebrations and activities.

You can use that money in feeding deprived people.

The Government/ Police

It is the duty of our government and the Police Department to ensure a peaceful, happy environment for its citizens.

The Government should make necessary prudent laws to prevent people from encroaching upon others' lives so that they can live in a peaceful atmosphere.

The Police should enforce the laws sincerely without any exceptions to ascertain peaceful atmosphere in the colonies of their jurisdiction.

Fix certain sound levels that are bearable and also the hours of all such celebrations. No night time loud-speakers should be allowed. Not even at the cost of paying some penalty.

Come, Let us Make it a Beautiful World to Live in!