Festival

DATTATREYA JAYANTI

Symbolically Lord Dattatreya is depicted with three heads, six hands, four dogs, standing in front of a cow and tree. In his hands He holds a drum (damaru), discus like weapon (chakra), conch shell (sankh), rosary (japa mala), water vessel (kamandala) and a trident (trisula).
Three heads represent Brahma Tatwa, Vishnu Tatwa and Shiva Tatwa. All powerful creative cause is Brahma, sustaining energy is Vishnu and annihilating energy is Shiva (Srishti, Sthithi and Laya energies) are the three heads.
Dattatreya is considered as the Grand Teacher or “Guru principle” in the universe

Dattatreya Jayanti or Datta Jayanti is the celebration of the birth of Dattatreya, who is revered as the highest of yogis and of monastic life.
The Jayanti falls on the full moon day of the month of Margashirsha.

Dattatreya, also known as Avadhut (one who is free from worldly feelings and obligations) and Digambar, is a form of Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

When Anasuya, wife of Atri maharshi performed severe penance to have a son with the qualities of Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the lords decide to test Anasuya’s virtuousness. They appeared before her as ascetics and asked her to give them alms in a naked state.

Since guests are believed to be a form of God, Anasuya is unable to refuse them. She sprinkles water on them and chants a mantra, turning them into babies at which time, she breastfeeds them naked.
On his return, Atri maharshi transforms the three babies into one with three heads and six arms. The trinity revert to their forms and offer their blessings to the couple.

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The maharshi and Anasuya make a wish for the baby and their wish is fulfilled in the form of Dattatreya.
Although he carries the qualities of the three Lords, Dattatreya is considered an avatar of Vishnu and his brothers Chandra and sage Durvasa are believed to be forms of Lords Brahma and Shiva.

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The cow standing with Dattatreya is the kamadhenu and stands for creation and the earth. The four dogs stand for the four Vedas. Holding the Sudarshan chakra, Dattatreya controls time and is beyond time.
The conch stands for the eternal Aum and his japa mala with its beads contains all the mantras, the damaru contains all shastras and the kamandal offers food and water. The trishul indicates that he has transcended the sattva, rajas and tamas gunas.

WORSHIP
Dattatreya Jayanti is celebrated with fervour in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and parts of Gujarat. Dattatreya is worshipped in the form of his footwear, the padukas, particularly in the datta kshetras.
People have an early bath and undertake a fast. After worshipping Dattatreya, they meditate and sing bhajans. Some read the Avadhuta Gita and Jivanmukta Gita, others also read the Datta Prabodh and Datta Mahatmya. Avadhuta Gita contains the secrets of Vedanta which Dattatreya revealed to Lord Subrahmanya.
Devotees recite Shri Gurucharitra seven days prior to Datta Jayanti. Before beginning the worship, devotees apply two vertical lines on the forehead, symbolic of Vishnu worship. The ring finger of the right hand is used to apply the tilak. This is meant to awaken the spiritual side and bring concentration to the devotee.
Sandalwood paste is applied to the deity, again using the ring finger of the right hand. Turmeric and vermilion are applied to Dattatreya’s feet. This is done using the ring finger and thumb and is believed to activate the anahat chakra which enhances the feeling of devotion.
Jasmine and tuberose flowers are offered at the feet of the deity. The flowers should be in multiples of seven and it is beneficial if they are in diamond pattern. Circumambulation around the deity is done in multiples of seven.
Agarbatti is lit, particularly with fragrance of sandal, kewda or ketaki and amber. Beginners of spiritual practice can light two incense sticks for greater benefit. The incense stick must be held by the right index finger and thumb and must be moved three times in clockwise direction in front of the deity.
Chanting the mantra ‘Shree Gurudev Datta’ on the day of Datta Jayanti is believed to carry great potency. It is recommended that devotees chant the mantra as long as they can throughout the day.

AVATARS OF DATTATREYA
1. Shripada Shri Vallabha who lived during the 14th century is believed to be Dattatreya’s first incarnation during the Kali Yuga. He lived in Pithapuram of Andhra Pradesh.
2. Narasimha Saraswati who had lived during the 14th-15th centuries is said to be the second avatar of Dattatreya, according to Shri Guru Charitra.
3. Shri Manikya Prabhu is said to be the next avatar and had lived during the 19th century.
4. Shri Swami Samarth Maharaj of Akkalkota in Maharashtra is the next avatar and lived during the 19th century.
5. Some believe that Shirdi Sai Baba who lived during the 19th-20th centuries is the fifth avatar.
6. Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati ‘Tembe Swami’ Maharaj of Maangaon who lived during the 19th-20th centuries and Shri Gajanan Maharaj of Shegaon of the 19th-20th centuries are also believed to be his avatars.
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DATTATREYA TEMPLES
MAHARASHTRA
 Mahur in Nanded
 Panchaleshwar in Beed district near Rakshasbhuvan Shani mandir
 Karanja in Washim which is the birthplace of Shri Narasimha Saraswati Swami Maharaj
 Audumbar in Kolhapur
 Narsobawadi in Kolhapur in which Dattatreya temple is at the confluence of Krishna and Panchaganga rivers
 Akkalkot in Solapur in which Shri Swami Samarth Maharaj stayed for many years
 Shirdi in Ahmednagar
 Maangaon in Sindhudurg, birthplace of Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati Tembe Swami Maharaj
 Shegaon in Buldhana
ANDHRA PRADESH
 Pithapuram in East Godavari which is the birthplace of Shripada Shri Vallabha Swami Maharaj
 Srisailam in Kurnool with temples of Mallikarjunaswamy and Bhramaramba. Shri Guru Narasimha Saraswati completed his avatar nearby
KARNATAKA
 Gokarna in Uttara Kannada in which Shripada Vallabha Swami stayed for three years.
 Kurwapur in Raichur where Shripada Vallabha Swami completed his avatar
 Gangapur in Gulbarga
 Maniknagar in Bidar in which Shri Manikya Prabhu Maharaj stayed.
GUJARAT
 Atop Girnar in Junagadh is Guru Dattatreya temple to which one must climb 10,000 steps
 Garudeshwar in Narmada with its Dattatreya temple and samadhi of Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati Tembe Swami Maharaj.
NEPAL
 Bhaktapur in Nepal

LOSAR Tibetan New Year

From being a farmer’s festival to a Buddhist festival it now represents a time of cleansing and evaluation

WORDS: MADHURI. Y

Known as the Tibetan new year, Losar is also celebrated in Bhutan and by certain ethnic groups in other nations as the new year. The word translates to new year or fresh age. It is also known in Tibet as BalGyal Lo with Bal standing for Tibet, Gyal for king and, Lo for year. As such the Tibetan new year has been celebrated since the time when the first Tibetan king ascended the throne.
The Himalayan tribes of Yolmo, Sherpa, Tamang, Gurung, Bhutia, Monpa, Sherdukpen among others celebrate Losar. In India, regions with a concentration of Buddhist population, states like Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh, celebrate the festival.

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ORIGIN & EVOLUTION
Some celebrate it for three days and others for 15 days. In earlier times, it had occurred on the winter solstice. The Bon religion is said to have risen in the 11th century in Tibet and it was during this period that Losar rose in significance. According to belief, a woman named Belma gave the measurement of time based on moon phases and this measurement gave rise to Losar.
It is believed that during the ninth Tibetan emperor, PudeGungyal’s reign, it evolved from being a regional
festival into a Buddhist festival.

CELEBRATIONS IN MONASTERIES

The Tibetan calendar has 12 lunar months. In monasteries, celebrations begin on the 29th day of the twelfth month, which is the Tibetan new year’s eve.A ritual is performed to the protector deities and celebrations for Losar begin.

A special noodle soup called Guthuk is made. After a thorough cleaning, monasteries are decorated and elaborate offerings known as Lama Losar are made.

When it is early dawn, monks at the Namgyal monastery offer a sacrificial cake atop the Potala temple in Tibet to PaldenLhamo, the goddess protector of Dharma and invoke her. The Dalai Lama would lead the abbots of three great monasteries, lamas, monks, officials and dignitaries in prayers. At the end of it they would assemble in the hall of the Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana and exchange the traditional greeting – TashiDelek.

Representatives of three great monasteriesand others offer sacred pills made of roasted barley dough to the Dalai Lama to wish him good luck for the new year. Entertainers perform a dance of good wishes. Two senior monks conduct a debate on Buddhist philosophy after which a specially composed recitation takes place in which the entire Buddhist teaching is reviewed in brief. The Dalai Lama would retire to his palace after the ceremonial farewell.

The second day is the King’s Losar, in which the Dalai Lama and the government exchange greetings with monastic and lay dignitaries, including foreign visitors. The celebrations are open to the public from the third day.

SIGNIFICANCE OF GUTHUK

Guthuk, a noodle soup with nine ingredients, including Asian radish, mushrooms, celery, cilantro, dried cheese, green peas among other ingredients, is made on the eve of Losar. The noodles are small, shell-shaped and hand-made. A large dough ball is added to each bowl of soup, large enough that it is not mistaken for the normal noodles. It has one of the following ingredients hidden in the centre, each symbolising a certain trait which is meant to refer to the person’s character:

festival-3Wool – kind-hearted
Thread rolled inward – the person attracts luck and money
Thread rolled outward – the person spends luck and money
Sun –goodness of light
Moon – goodness of light
Chilli – sharp tongue or talkative
Salt – lazy
Glass –person is happy during fun times, but disappears when work is to be done
Coal – black-hearted
Prickly ball – prickly person

You can find the recipe on https://www.yowangdu.com/tibetan-food/ guthuk-recipe.html.

It occurs on or near the Chinese New Year since the Mongols and Tibetans adopted the Uyghur calendar and the Uyghurs themselves had adopted the Chinese calendar.
For the farming community it holds a special significance. Apricot trees flowered in autumn and Losar may have been the beginning of what later became the farmers’ festival. Cultivation and irrigation was undertaken at the time, iron ore was refined and bridges were built for the first time in Tibet. Thus when Losar evolved it became a festival for farmers signifying the panchamahabhutas or the five elements – wind, water, air, space, fire.
SonamLosar which is the Tamang New Year falls on the Chinese New Year while Tamu Losar, the Gurung New Year falls in December. In 2017, Losar is said to fall on February 27. In 2018, it falls on February 16.

CELEBRATIONS
On the last two days of the old year, which is called Gutor, preparations for the new year begin. On the first Gutor, houses are cleaned, particularly the kitchens. Since food is prepared here, kitchens are considered an important part of the house. At night, straw torches are burnt at crossroads and firecrackers are burnt to drive away ghosts and evil spirits. On the second day of Gutor, people undertake religious ceremonies and visit the monastery to worship and to give donations to monks.
Windows are covered with fragrant curtains. Barley shoots, fried dough balls and dried fruits are placed in shrines within houses.
On the new year day, people wake up early, have a bath, dress in new clothes and place offerings of animals and demons made of dough in front of the household shrines and pray as a family. The first water of the year is drawn very early in the morning and meals are prepared with this water, which is considered auspicious. Families have a reunion meal and
give gifts.

On the second day, they visit friends and relatives, carrying gemar which is filled with fried barley, barley powder, tsampa – roasted flour, usually of barley – strawof barley and flowers made of yak butter.
On the third day, people visit local monasteries and make their offerings. Pine tree branches, cypress and other herbs are burnt as an offering. People hang new prayer flags on housetops or on top of the mountain. At the same time, they splash tsampa in the air to bring peace and happiness during
the year.

Rama Navami

Lord Rama is recognised as the ideal human being. Chanting his name is believed to destroy sins leading to emancipation.

Words: Madhuri. Y

The day of Rama’s birth is celebrated as Rama Navami which falls on the ninth day of the bright half (Shukla Paksha) in the Hindu calendar month of Chaitra. Lord Rama is considered the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. People celebrate Rama Navami as the day on which Rama married Sita.
Known as maryada purushottam, Lord Rama is seen as perfect example of a man who espoused moral virtues and exhibited compassion and respect to elders. He is suryavanshi or belonging to the solar dynasty. Rama Navami celebrations are organised when the Sun is overhead and at its peak. Some devotees begin their prayers on the day with invocation to Surya.

LEARNING FROM LORD RAMA
Ramayana is a story of compassion and righteousness; victory over pride and greed. In leaving the palace despite being the crown prince to honour his father King Dasaratha’s promise given to wife Kaikeyi, Rama teaches us dharma is not only superior to worldly pleasures it must strictly be adhered to.
Even though Kaikeyi had asked for an unfair boon (for banishment of Rama to the forest), he continues to treat her with respect. As a devoted husband, he goes to great lengths to rescue Sita. Yet, when her presence conflicts with his duties as a king, he sends her away, giving greater importance to his duties as a king than as a loyal husband. In doing so, his people and kingdom came first ahead of his personal likes. Despite his victory over Ravana, he remains humble.

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RAMA MANTRA
Sri Rama Rameti
Rame Raame Manorame
Sahasra Nama Tat Tulyam
Rama Nama Varaanane
Sri Rama Nama Varaanana Om Nama Iti
Reciting the Vishnu Sahasranama Stotra during Brahma muhurtha (one hour 36 minutes before sunrise) is considered auspicious. Chanting the Rama Mantra, which is part of the Vishnu Sahasranama, is believed to offer the same effect as chanting the entire Sahasranama. In fact, reciting Rama mantra as above thrice is considered equal to reciting the entire Vishnu Sahasranama.

CELEBRATING RAMA NAVAMI
Fasting during Rama Navami is believed to destroy one’s sins leading to liberation from birth and death cycles. The fast begins the previous night and continues through the day of Rama Navami. One can fast until noon, eat once during the day, fast until midnight or fast for nine days, starting the fast with the new year, which is celebrated in some regions, and ending it on the day of Rama Navami. Fasting devotees can also take fruits or milk.
Ram bhajans are held at home, in temples and in pandals. Some recite Rama Mantra and Sri Rama Ashtottara Shatanamavali (the 108 names of Sri Rama).

It is believed that repeating Rama’s name − Rama Nama − brings peace, wisdom, joy and liberation. Often, Rama Katha, or story of Lord Rama is narrated. Many undertake Akhanda Ramayana reciting the entire Ramayana which can take up to 24 hours. Others read just the Sundar Kand.
Homes are washed clean and pictures of Lord Rama, Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman are placed for the puja. Flowers, lighting lamps and incense sticks, offerings and puja items like rice, water, flowers, bell and conch are placed.
The youngest female member of the family applies tilak to males and red bindi to females. After puja and aarti, waters of the Ganga are sprinkled on everyone.
In many places, Rama’s wedding is re-enacted in pandals and temples. Couples take turns sitting for the puja.

TEMPLES OF LORD RAMA

SITA RAMACHANDRASWAMY TEMPLE
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This temple at Bhadrachalam in Telangana is known for the deity, Vaikuntha Rama, the only one of its kind. The deity is Lord Vishnu who descended in the form of Lord Rama to keep the latter’s promise to a devotee. Vishnu forgets that in Rama’s form, he was a human and descends with four hands.

SITA RAMACHANDRASWAMY TEMPLE
This temple at Bhadrachalam in Telangana is known for the deity, Vaikuntha Rama, the only one of its kind. The deity is Lord Vishnu who descended in the form of Lord Rama to keep the latter’s promise to a devotee. Vishnu forgets that in Rama’s form, he was a human and descends with four hands.

KODANDA RAMASWAMY TEMPLE
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The temple in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh, is said to have been built by two robbers who had turned into Lord Rama’s devotees. They are then believed to have turned to stone.

SREE RAMASWAMY TEMPLE
Also known as Thiruvangad temple, it is situated in Thalassery, Kerala. During the 18th century, part of the temple was damaged by Tipu Sultan’s army, although the main temple remained intact.

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festival3RAMASWAMY TEMPLE
Built by the Nayakkar kings during the 16th century in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, the temple walls depict the Ramayana in pictures. When taking the three parikramas, devotees can go through the Ramayana.

KALARAM MANDIR
This temple in Nasik is named after the black statue of Lord Rama. The statue of Lord Hanuman too is in black. Sardar Rangarao Odhekar is said to have dreamt of Lord Rama’s statue in the river Godavari from which he retrieved it and had the temple built.

RAM MANDIR
Ram Mandir in Odisha is known for the tall spire of the main temple. The spire can be seen from many parts of Bhubaneswar.

festival4RAM CHAURA MANDIR
Lord Rama is believed to have got his first mundan, head shaving, done here in Hajipur, Odisha. The temple is said to have been built on his footprints.

PATTABHIRAMA TEMPLE
Well-known during the period of the Vijayanagara Empire, today the temple does not have an idol. Yet, it is one of the most beautiful temples in Hampi and is as large as the renowned Vittala temple.

RAM RAJA TEMPLE
In this temple in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh, Lord Rama is in an unusual posture, holding a sword in his right hand and a shield in the other. He sits in padmasan with his left leg across the right thigh. It is believed that devotees’ wishes are fulfilled if they get a glimpse of the left toe.

RAMTEK RAM TEMPLE
Lord Rama is believed to have rested here in Nagpur. When demons were disturbing the rites of the sages, Rama is said to have taken a ‘tek’ – a vow – to rid the world of demons.

festival5RAGHUNATH TEMPLE
A complex of seven shrines, each with a shikhara, this temple in Jammu was built by the order of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. While the main shrine follows Sikh architecture, the others follow the Mughal architecture.

festival6RAMANATHASWAMY TEMPLE
Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu is actually a Shiva temple. Lord Rama is believed to have worshipped the Shivalingam here to atone for his sin of having killed Ravana who was a Brahmin.

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Parshvanatha Jayanti

Parshvanatha, the Jain Tirthankara, preached the four vows of non-violence, truthfulness, not stealing and not owning things.

Words: Madhuri Y

Parshvanatha is the twenty-third Jain Tirthankara and is said to have lived during the seventh century which was 250 years before Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Jain Tirthankara.

Parshvanatha was born on the tenth day of Krishna Paksha, that is the dark half of the month of Paush, to the ruler of Varanasi, King Asvasena and Queen Vamadevi. They belonged to the Ikshvaku dynasty.

. A Jain adult householder follows twelve basic vows which Parshvanatha began following as an eight-year old. When he was thirty years old, he renounced the world. Meditating for 84 days, he attained kevala jnana that is, complete knowledge.

When he was a hundred years old, he attained enlightenment atop today’s Parasnath Hills, on which Shikharji is located.

Earlier Incarnations

Parshvanatha was believed to have taken many incarnations. As Marubhuti, he had been the son of a Prime Minister. When his brother Kamath set fire to a log, Marubhuti saved two snakes which were trapped in the log. These snakes were later born as Dharnendra and Padmavati and gave shelter to Parshvanatha in his later life when his brother sent a storm to disturb his meditation.

Marubhuti was later killed by his brother. Reborn as the elephant, Vajraghosha, he roamed the forests of Vindhyachal. Once again, his brother from the previous birth, who was now born as a snake, attacked and killed him. After a life as Sasi Prabha in the twelfth heaven, he took birth as prince Agnivega. He went on to rule the kingdom, but later turned into an ascetic. Once again, his brother from the previous births, killed him while he was meditating in the Himalayas.

Parshvanatha preached four of the five Jain principles, that of non-violence, truthfulness, not stealing, not owning things. The principle of chastity was added by Mahavira. Parshvanatha is known to be compassionate. He had eight chief monks, more than a hundred thousand male followers and over three hundred thousand female followers. In addition, 16,000 monks and 38,000 nuns were believed to have followed him.

Parshvanatha Jayanti

Parshvanatha Jayanti is celebrated with reverence with worship. Devout jains undertake attham, that is, they undertake a three-day fast. Some undertake a hard fast, eating and drinking nothing. Some drink boiled water. Some have one meal during the day. They recite their holy scriptures and meditate for their own spiritual welfare. They decorate their houses and give donations to the poor. Grand fairs take place, particularly in Shankheshwar.

over 900 temples on the mountain

Parshvanatha temple in Khajuraho is believed to have been built during the 10th century. Originally, the idol seems to have been of Adinatha, the first tirthankara. Parshvanatha’s idol was installed in 1860.

With over 900 temples on the mountain, Palitana near Bhavnagar in Gujarat is an important Jain pilgrimage centre. Devout Jains hope to climb to the top of the mountain at least once in their lifetime. They must neither eat food nor carry it with them. No one can remain atop the mountain during the night. Adinatha is said to have meditated on the Shatrunjaya hill on which more than 3000 temples are located today. Of these, the main shrine of the Digamber Jain temple holds the idol of Bhagwan Shantinatha. Apart from this, it also holds two idols of Parshvanatha.

Palitana is the world’s first vegetarian city by law. It is illegal to engage in the business of non-vegetarian food, including eggs, or to undertake fishing or hold animals for the purpose of food.

Shikharji in Jharkhand is located in the Parasnath Hills. It is believed that twenty jain tirthankaras, including Parshvanatha gained moksha here.

The Jain Narayana temple in Pattadakal was built by the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta. The principal deity is Parshvanatha.

The Parshvanatha Basadi, that is temple, in Halebidu was built by Boppana, son of a minister in King Vishnuvardhana’s court in 1133 AD.

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The 18-foot tall Parshvanatha idol is made of black granite. Statues of Dharnendra and Padmavati too are present.

Parshvanatha Basadi in Shravanabelagola holds an 18-foot tall statue of Parshvanatha in standing posture.

Parshvanatha temple in Calcutta was built by Rai Badridas Bahadoor Mookim in 1867. The ghee lamp in the sanctum sanctorum has been burning since the temple initiation.

Akkana Basadi, that is, temple of the elder sister, was built by Hoysala king Veera Ballala II in 1181 AD. Construction was undertaken by Achala Devi, the wife of a minister.

The Nakoda Parshvanatha temple is near Mewar in Rajasthan. The tirthankara’s idol is in black and in padmasana position.

Shankheshwar in Patan of Gujarat is home to the Parshvanatha temple. The original temple was built in 1099 AD by Sajjan Shah.

Muslim invaders destroyed it in the 14th century and a new temple was built in the 16th century of the Vikram era.

In 1704 AD, a six-foot high statue of Parshvanatha in padmasana posture was reinstalled.

Lodrawa in Jaisalmer of Rajasthan was the capital of the Bhatti dynasty. Lord Parshvanatha’s temple was destroyed in 1152 AD by Mohammed Ghori and was reconstructed in 1615.

The 61-foot tall statue of Parshvanatha is in the Navagraha Jain Temple at Varur near Hubli in Karnataka. The idol is in standing (kayotsarga) posture.

Shree Shankheshwar Parshvanatha Jain temple is in East Godavari of Andhra Pradesh. During construction of the national highway in 1977, statues of Parshvanatha and other tirthankaras were found in the ardha padmasana position. It was ascertained that they belonged to the Mauryan era and were 2000 years old.

A 47-foot statue of the tirthankara in padmasana posture is found in the Gopachal hill which is home to rock-cut statues.

A 31-foot statue is found in the Vahelna temple.

The Naugaza Digambar Jain temple holds a smaller statue of Parshvanatha.

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RATHA SAPTAMI

Ratha Saptami is the day to worship Surya, the Sun God, who infuses life into creation. This auspicious day brings wealth, long life and prosperity.

Words: Madhuri. Y

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Ratha Saptami, the festival of Surya, the Sun god, is also known as Achala Saptami or Magha Saptami. As the name indicates, Ratha Saptami marks the seventh day following the Sun’s northerly movement (Uttarayana) of vernal equinox starting from Capricorn (Makara).

It is represented in the form of the Sun God Surya turning his Ratha (Chariot) drawn by seven horses, with Aruna as the charioteer, in a north-easterly direction. Symbolic significance of the ratha and the seven horses represents seven colours of the rainbow.

The seven horses also said to represent seven days of the week starting Sunday, the day of Sun god Surya.

With the day signifying Surya’s birth was recognised in ancient times that the Sun played a critical role ensuring our health, hence the day is also known as Arogya Saptami.

Ratha Saptami marks arrival of spring and beginning of harvest season. Temperatures rise as spring is in offing.
Ratha Saptami is auspicious for good deeds such as giving alms or helping others. Worshipping Surya and fasting is believed to get rid a person of seven types of sins committed by way of thought, word or deed.

Celebrating Ratha Saptami

Devotees fast on evening of the sixth day. On seventh, that is, on Saptami, a lamp made of gold, silver, copper or clay is lit.

After taking the name of Surya, the lamp is left to float in a lake, river or sea. Devotees take bath and with water cupped in palm or a small vessel is offered as argyam to the Sun god.

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Ratha Saptami is auspicious for good deeds such as giving alms or helping others. Worshipping Surya and fasting is believed to get rid a person of seven types of sins committed by way of thought, word or deed.

A LIST OF SOME FAMOUS SUN TEMPLES IN INDIA

The Bhramanya Dev Temple
Unao Mp
Sun Temple
At Surya Prahar Assam
Suryanar Temple
Kumbakonam Tamilnadu
Suryanarayan Temple
Arsavilli Andhra Pradesh
The Dakshinaarka Temple
Gaya
Konark Sun Temple
Orissa
Modhera Sun Temple
Gujarat

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This involves pouring the water slowly while chanting mantras. Sun worship is performed within an hour from sunrise. Devotees take a bath during the time of arunoday, that is, the dawn before sunrise.

This period is for four ghatis, about one and a half hours, since each ghati is of 24 minutes. Taking bath at this time of the day is said to keep a person healthy.

Rangoli of a chariot drawn by seven horses adds beauty to the festival.

Chariot and horses are made from beans which are strung together with small sticks, most often match sticks. Traditionally, cow dung cakes were used to cook the offering. The stove is placed towards the east in sun light.

Milk is boiled in a bronze vessel and rice is added to it. The milk boils over and the cooked rice is placed in seven pairs of bean leaves and offered to the Sun god. It is believed that heat from the cooked rice makes the chemicals from the leaves seep into the rice, making it healthy.

A lamp is lit with pure ghee and camphor. Fruits and red flowers are offered during worship while chanting the Aditya Hridaya mantra, Gayathri mantra, Surya Ashtakam and Surya Sahasranama.

MYTHOLOGY

Once the King of Kambhoj, Yashovarma’s son became ill and the king asked the learned men for the cause of the illness.

They told him that his son’s miserliness in his previous birth resulted in the sickness. They also told him that he had performed the ritual of the Ratha Saptami and hence was born as the king’s son.

On their advice, the prince performed the Ratha Saptami worship. The worship rid him of his sins and thereafter he became healthy.

Combining symbolism with reality, it is understood that the Sun, being the bedrock of Creation, is endowed with the power of granting health which is the source of all wealth and happiness thanks to its energy and light.

CELEBRATIONS IN TEMPLES

The Sun god is a form of Lord Vishnu. Hence, Ratha Saptami is celebrated in Tirumala, Srirangam, Srirangapatnam, Mangalore and Melukote. On the day, Brahmotsavam is held in Tirumala with Lord Malayappa Swamy taken in procession along with his consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi.

SUN AND SYMBOLISM

Surya’s chariot drawn by seven horses represents seven colours of the rainbow that comprises the light ray. It also refers to seven days of the week which begins with ravi vaar or Sunday, the day of Surya.

The horses are named – Gayatri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtubha, Anushtubha, Pankti – after the seven meters of Sanskrit chandas or prosody.

The Wheel represents the year and is said to be part of the chariot called universe and with horses as the chandas. Aruna, the charioteer, means dawn and heralds the Sun’s entry. The six seasons make up six spokes of the wheel and 12 wheels of chariot − six to each wheel − signify 12 signs of zodiac and the full wheel comprising 360 degrees make up a year.

The Sun is a lord of Leo, that is, Simha raasi and it takes the Sun a month to transit from one zodiac sign to next. It enters the next raasi about 15th of the English calendar month. The Sun is also one of the nine planets that mark Hindu astrology.

GODDESS SARASWATI

Goddess Saraswati symbolises learning, wisdom, discrimination and harmony, enabling one to attain enlightenment

Words: Madhuri. Y

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Navarātri is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durgā. According to vedic scriptures, Goddess Durgā, a symbol of power, is worshipped in nine different forms and is therefore termed Nava-durgā. Each goddess has a different form and a special significance. In Hinduism, Mother Durgā represents the embodiment of shakti, who killed the demon Mahishāsura, who could not be defeated by any god or man. She is the epitome of divine feminism.

The nine-day festival is also a time for personal introspection. Many keep fast for nine days, which helps in mind and body purification. It is also believed that this is the time to kill the demon within us and let the divine stay. All of us have Mahishāsurs within, which need to be removed to give way to the divine. Keeping fast and concentrating on MāDurgā helps remove toxins and purify our body as well as mind.

NAVRATRI

The three goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped during Navratri with Saraswati being worshipped on the last three days. Once Durga removes the negative aspects within us, Lakshmi brings balance to our external lives and our mind is capable of turning towards Goddess Saraswati and her learning.

Like in any other part of the country, the Navarātri (Navratri) is celebrated with much devotion in south India too. Down south the festival is celebrated in a little different way. Friends and relatives are invited to look at the kolu – exhibition of various dolls. With lot of enthusiasm young girls create kolus.

Goddesses Lakshmi, Durgā and Saraswati are worshipped for three days each. The first three days of the festival are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the next three days to Durgā, and the last three days to Saraswati. Gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets are exchanged between relatives, friends and neighbours.

Goddess Saraswati means the essence of the self, sara meaning essence and swa meaning self. Clad in white, she sits on a white lotus and rides a white swan. She is the symbol of learning and her four hands represent the four heads of Brahma, manas (mind), buddhi (intellect), chitta (thought) and ahankara (ego).

The book in her hand stands for the Vedas, which represent knowledge and learning. The rosary stands for meditation and reflection. The pot of water stands for the ability to purify and discriminate. The Veena stands for the harmony that emerges from wisdom and knowledge.

Saraswati is the goddess of wisdom and in this capacity, she is the consort of Brahma, the creator of the universe. Clad in white, she symbolises purity and clarity. It is believed that a swan has the ability to separate milk from water and drink only the milk.

Hence, the white swan is symbolic of the ability to discriminate. The goddess is seated on a white lotus in full blossom which stands for pure consciousness, that is god consciousness. All knowledge is said to lie in this space.

Goddess Saraswati’s depiction implies that wisdom lies within us. Once we learn to discriminate and separate the important things from the smaller ones, greater clarity emerges and we can become part of the pure consciousness and hence, live in joy and harmony.

When we make children write their first letters on the day of Saraswati Puja and pray to the goddess, it is simply the outward manifestation of our prayer. The real prayer is invoking her blessings in reaching the state of pure consciousness that is enlightenment.

NAMES OF GODDESS SARASWATI
Goddess Saraswati is known by many names. The most important one is Brahmajnanaikasadhana since she is believed to be the medium through which one can attain enlightenment. Her names which relate to learning and wisdom include:

Name and Meaning:

Jnanamudra – For being in a meditative pose
Mahavidya – Goddess of higher learning
Vagdevi – Goddess of speech
Bharadi – Goddess of history
Brahmi – Goddess of science
Varnesvari – Goddess of alphabet
Kavijihvagravasini – Who resides on a poet’s tongue
Vedamata – Mother of the vedas
Swaratmika – Goddess of sound
Trikalajna – One who knows the past, present and the future

Shastrarupini Goddess of learning and scriptures
Vidyarupa Embodiment of knowledge