12 RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS

12 RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS
^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ SYMBOLS OF TWELVE MAJOR WORLD RELIGIONS ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

26.4.12

LIFE OF SRI SANKARA

Today is Sri Sankara Jayanthi. A brief life is posted here.
Birth and childhood:
Sankara [also known as Śaṅkara Bhagavatpādācārya and Ādi Śaṅkarācārya (788 CE - 820 CE)] was born

to the nambudiri brahmana couple, Sivaguru and Aryamba, in a little village called Kaladi in Kerala. The couple had remained childless for a long time, and prayed for children at the Vadakkunnathan (vrshacala) temple in nearby Trichur. Lord Siva is said to have appeared to the couple in a dream and promised them a choice of one son who would be short-lived but the most brilliant philosopher of his day, or many sons who would be mediocre at best. The couple opted for a brilliant, but short-lived son, and so Sankara was born.

Sankara lost his father when quite young, and his mother performed his upanayana ceremonies with the help of her relatives. Sankara excelled in all branches of traditional vaidika learning. A few miracles are reported about the young Sankara. As a brahmacarin, he went about collecting alms from families in the village. A lady who was herself extremely poor, but did not want to send away the boy empty-handed, gave him the last piece of Amla fruit she had at home. Sankara, sensing the abject poverty of the lady, composed a hymn (kanakadhara stavam) to Sri Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, right at her doorstep. As a result, a shower of golden Amlas rewarded the lady for her piety. On another occasion, Sankara is said to have re-routed the course of the Purna river, so that his old mother would not have to walk a long distance to the river for her daily ablutions.

Sannyasa:
Sankara was filled with the spirit of renunciation early in his life. Getting married and settling to the life of a householder was never part of his goal in life, though his mother was anxious to see him as a grhastha. Once when he was swimming in the river, a crocodile caught hold of his leg. Sankara sensed that he was destined to die at that moment, and decided to directly enter the fourth Asrama of sannyasa right then. This kind of renunciation is called Apat sannyasa. The crocodile released him when he thus mentally decided to renounce the world, and Sankara decided to regularize his decision by going to an accomplished guru. To comfort his anxious mother, he promised that he would return at the moment of her death, to conduct her funeral rites, notwithstanding the fact that he would be a sannyasi then.

Sri Sankara then traveled far and wide in search of a worthy guru who would initiate him and regularize his vow of sannyasa, till he came to the banks of the river Narmada in central India. Here was the Ashrama of Govinda Bhagavatpada, the disciple of Gaudapada, the famous author of the Mandukya Karikas. Sri Sankara was accepted as a disciple by Govinda, who initiated him into the paramahamsa order of sannyasa, the highest kind of renunciation. Seeing the intellectual acumen of his disciple, Govinda commanded Sri Sankara to expound the philosophy of Vedanta through commentaries on the principal Upanishads, the Brahmasutras and the Gita. Sri Sankara took leave of his guru and traveled to various holy places in India, composing his commentaries in the meantime. At this time he was barely a teenager. He attracted many disciples around him, prominent among whom was Sanandana, who was later to be called Padmapada. In this period, Sri Sankara wrote commentaries on badarayana's brahmasutras, the various upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. These commentaries, called bhashyas, stand at the pinnacle of Indian philosophical writing, and have triggered a long tradition of sub-commentaries known as Varttikas, TIkas and Tippanis. He also commented upon the adhyatma-patala of the Apastamba sutras, and on Vyasa's bhashya to Patanjali's Yogasutras. In addition to these commentarial texts, Sri Sankara wrote independent treatises called prakarana granthas, including the Upadesasahasri, Atmabodha, etc.

In addition to writing his own commentaries, Sri Sankara sought out leaders of other schools, in order to engage them in debate. As per the accepted philosophical tradition in India, such debates helped to establish a new philosopher, and also to win disciples and convert from other schools. It was also traditional for the loser in the debate to become a disciple of the winner. Thus Sri Sankara debated with Buddhist philosophers, with followers of Samkhya and with Purva Mimamsakas, the followers of Vedic ritualism, and proved more than capable in defeating all his opponents in debate.Sri Sankara then sought out Kumarila Bhatta, the foremost proponent of the Purva Mimamsa in his age, but Bhatta was on his deathbed and directed Sri Sankara to Visvarupa, his disciple. Visvarupa is sometimes identified with Mandana Misra.

Sri Sankara's debate with Visvarupa was unique. The referee at the debate was Visvarupa's wife, Bharati, who was herself very well-learned, and regarded as an incarnation of Goddess Sarasvati. At stake was a whole way of life. The agreement was that if Visvarupa won, Sri Sankara would consent to marriage and the life of a householder, whereas if Sri Sankara won, Visvarupa would renounce all his wealth and possessions and become a sannyasi disciple of Sri Sankara. The debate is said to have lasted for whole weeks, till in the end, Visvarupa had to concede defeat and become a sannyasi. Bharati was a fair judge, but before declaring Sri Sankara as the winner, she challenged Sri Sankara with questions about Kamasastra, which he knew nothing about. Sri Sankara therefore requested some time, during which, using the subtle yogic process called parakaya-pravesa, he entered the body of a dying king and experienced the art of love with the queens. Returning to Visvarupa’s home, he answered all of Bharati's questions, after which Visvarupa was ordained as a sannyasi by the name of Suresvara. He was to become the most celebrated disciple of Sri Sankara, writing Varttikas to Sri Sankara's Bhashyas on the Yajurveda Upanishads, in addition to his own independent texts on various subjects.

Establishment of Maths:
Sri Sankara continued to travel with his disciples all over the land, all the while composing philosophical treatises and engaging opponents in debate. It is said that none of his opponents could ever match his intellectual prowess and the debates always ended with Sri Sankara's victory. No doubt this is true, given the unrivaled respect and popularity that Sri Sankara's philosophical system enjoys to this day. In the course of his travels, Sri Sankara stayed for a long time at the site of the old Ashama of the Rishis Vibhandaka and Rshyasrnga, in the place known as Sringeri. Some texts mention that Sri Sankara stayed at Sringeri for twelve years. A hermitage grew around him here, which soon developed into a famous Math (monastery). Suresvara, the disciple whom he had won after long debate, was installed as the head of this new Ashrama. Similar Maths were established in the pilgrim centers of Puri, Dvaraka and Joshimath near Badrinath, and Padmapada, Hastamalaka and Trotaka were placed in charge of them. These are known as the Amnaya Maths, and they continue to function today. Their heads have also come to be known as Sankaracaryas, in honor of their founder, and revered as jagadgurus, or teachers of the world. Sri Sankara also organized the community of Ekadandi monks into the sampradaya of Dasanami sannyasins, and affiliated them with the four Maths that he established.

Meanwhile, Sri Sankara heard that his mother was dying, and decided to visit her. Remembering his promise to her, he performed her funeral rites. His ritualistic relatives would not permit him to do the rites himself, as he was a sannyasi, but Sri Sankara overrode their objections, and built a pyre himself and cremated his mother in her own backyard. After this, he resumed his travels, visiting many holy places, reviving pujas at temples that had fallen into neglect, establishing Sri Yantras at Devi temples as in Kanchipuram, and composing many devotional hymns.

Ascension of the Sarvajnapitha:
In the course of his travels, Sri Sankara reached Kashmir. Here was a temple dedicated to Sri Sarada (Sarasvati), the Goddess of learning, which housed the Sarvajnapitha, the Throne of Omniscience. It was a tradition for philosophers to visit the place and engage in debate. The victorious one would be allowed to ascend the sarvajnapitha. It is said that no philosopher from the southern region had ever ascended the pitha, till Sri Sankara visited Kashmir and defeated all the others there. He then ascended the Sarvajnapitha with the blessings of Goddess Sarada. (A few centuries later, Ramanuja, the teacher of Visishtadvaita, would visit the same Sarvajnapitha in search of the Baudhayana Vrtti. However, a variant tradition places the Sarvajnapitha in the south Indian city of Kanchipuram.)

Sri Sankara was reaching the age of 32 now. He had expounded the Vedanta philosophy through his writings; he had attracted many intelligent disciples to him, who could carry on the Vedantic tradition; and he had established monastic centers for them in the form of Maths. His had been a short, but eventful life. He retired to the Himalayas and disappeared inside a cave near Kedarnath. This cave is traditionally pointed out as the site of his samadhi. Other variant traditions place Sri Sankara's last days at Karavirpitham or at Mahur in Maharashtra, Trichur in Kerala or Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. It is a measure of Sri Sankaracarya's widespread fame that such conflicting traditions have arisen around his name.

True to the traditions of sannyasa, Sri Sankara was a peripatetic monk, who traveled the length and breadth of the country in his short lifetime. His fame spread so far and wide, that various legends are recounted about him from different parts of India. The true sannyasi that he was, he lived completely untouched by the fabric of society. So much so that even the location of Kaladi, his birth-place, remained generally unknown for a long time. The credit of identifying this village in Kerala goes to one of his 19th-century successors at Sringeri, Sri Saccidananda Sivabhinava Narsimha Bharati.

Reference: SrimatSwami Tapasyananda, The Sankara-dig-vijaya of Madhava-Vidyaranya, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai-4. 

Courtesy: sringeri.net

24.4.12

AKSHAYA TRITHIYA

HAPPY AKSHAYA TRITIYA



Akshaya Trithiya is one of the four most auspicious days of the Vedic Calendar, the other three being Ugadi, Vijayadashami and Balipaadyami. On this day, the sun and the moon are simultaneously at their peak of brightness.

Akshaya Trithiya, also known as Akha Teej is a Hindu and Jain holy day, that falls on the third Tithi (Lunar day) of Bright Half (Shukla Paksha) of the pan-Indian month of Vaishakha.

In Sanskrit "Akshaya" means the never diminishing” and the day is believed to bring good luck and success.

LEGEND:
The story originates from the Mahabharata. When the Pandavas were in exile, Lord Krishna gave Draupadi a bowl called the Akshaya Pathram. The word Akshaya means that which never diminishes and this bowl is said to have given infinite food to the Pandavas. Just by turning it upwards a day, the pot will provide unlimited amounts of food for the satisfaction of the Lords. This is why this day is considered to be a good time to bring home Goddess Lakshmi, in any form, platinum, gold or silver.Valuables that are acquired on this day are said to be replenished endlessly.

the birthday of Parshurama:
parshurama
Akshaya Trithiya is celebrated as the birthday of Parshurama (see picture), the sixth incarnation of Vishnu. This marked the beginning of the Golden Age.

Parshuram is considered to be the personification of valour and of devotion. His father’s name was Jamadagni, and his mother’s Renuka. Jamadagni was very hot-tempered and Parshuram inherited this quality from him. One day, Jamadagni got angry with his wife Renuka and commanded Parshuram to kill her. Parshuram, in obedience to his father’s command, killed his mother. Jamadagni was satisfied and told his son to ask him whatever he wanted. Parshuram asked that this mother be brought back to life. Thus Renuka became alive again. In this way Parshuram proved his devotion to his father and mother.His icon is depicted with an axe, to show him in a heroic pose.

Another legend related to Parshurama:
Kartavirya Sahashrarjun was a Kshatriya king who killed Jamadagni. It was because of this, that Parshuram vowed to exterminate all the Kshatriyas on earth to save it from the tyranny of the Kshatriyas. But Parshuram became proud of his power. Terrorised by him, all the Kshatriyas fled, leaving the earth unprotected. Kashyap Muni called all of them back and ordered Parshuram to leave this world. Ever since, Parshuram lived on the mountain Mahendra. As he wrongly used his power, with his “parshu” (axe) in his hand, he caused this bitter fate to befall him.

victory of good over evil:
It was on this day that the Pandavas unearthed weapons that decided their victory over the Goravas. Also, it is also believed that Goddess Vijaya Chamundeshwari killed Asura on this day. It is on this day that Veda Vyasa, along with Lord Ganesha, started writing the Mahabharata. And according to the Puranas, this day marks the beginning of the Treta Yug.

on AKSHAYA TRITHIYA good deeds are blessed multifold:
Many believe that it is on Akshaya Trithiya that our good deeds are rewarded multifold. This is the reason why many people make donations, give alms and guru dakshina on this day, in the hope of earning punya (merit) for life. According to the Dharamashastras, this day is considered sacred for Vishnu Puja and for donating certain items, such as umbrellas, fans or sandals to the Brahmins. People perform special pujas to invoke the blessings of Lord Vishnu. Roadside watersheds are erected and travellers are given neer mor (மோர் [inTamil], diluted butter milk spiced with lime, salt, coriander leaves, etc).

As per Hindus, this day is ruled by Lord Vishnu, the preserver-God in the Hindu Trinity. It is also traditionally celebrated as the birthday of the Hindu sage Parashurama, the sixth Avatar (incarnation) of the god Vishnu.

According to Hindu mythology, on this day the Treta Yuga began and the river Ganges, the most sacred river of India, descended to the earth from the heaven (see picture).

It is believed that if you do charity on this day you will be blessed. On 'Akshay Trithiya' 'Mrutika' also worshipped. The day is considered auspicious for starting new ventures. The legend is that any venture initiated on the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya continues to grow and bring prosperity. Hence, new ventures, like starting a business, construction etc. is initiated on Akshaya Tritiya.

Astrological significance:
As per Hindu electional astrology (Muhurta) three Lunar days (Tithis) are auspicious. These are called Sade-Teen Muhurtas also.

These Tithis are : 1st Tithi of Bright Half of Chaitra (starting of new year), 10th Tithi of Bright Half of Ashvina (Vijay Dashmi), 3rd Tithi of Bright Half of Vaishakha (Akshay Tritiya- Parshu Jyanti) & 1st Tithi of Bright Half of Karttika are called “Sade-Teen (3 ½) Muhurt”. The first three Tithis are counted as full & the last one as half Tithi, and constitute Sade - Teen Muhurt. Sun and Moon are astrologically believed to be at their most exalted equal brightness on this day.

Akshaya Tritiya is also called Navanna Parvam. Akshaya Tritiya falling on a Rohini star Monday is considered more auspicious
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Religious significance:
Ø According to Hinduism, Akshay Trithiya was the day when Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom and obstacle removal, started writing the epic Mahabharata to Ved Vyas's dictation.

Ø It was also on this day that Goddess Annapoorna (see picture) was born.

Ø Kubera received his wealth and position as custodian of wealth and property along with Goddess Lakshmi on this day, by praying to Lord Shiva at Shivapuram.

Ø It is also traditionally observed as the birthday of Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of god Vishnu. The Puranic scriptures speak about how he reclaimed the land from the sea.

Ø In Mahabharata, Yudhistra (son of Dharma) receives the Akshaya pathram from Thirumanthurai temple on Akshaya Trithiya day, which he uses to serve food for all the needy in his Kingdom.

Ø It is on this day that poor Kusela, the best friend of Krishna visits Him (Lord Krishna) to greet him after He became the King. With nothing to offer due to his poverty, Kusela takes with him Poha (puffed rice) and offers it to his friend and never discusses his poverty though he intends to. But on his return he finds his hut changed to a Palace.

Ø It is also on this day that Duchadhana, Duryodana's brother unveils Draupadi at the Royal Court where Krishna protects her providing the 'undiminishing' veil...

Sri  Sankara reciting Kanakadhara Stotram
Ø In most recent history, Adi Shankara recited the Kanaka Dhara Stotra on this day for the sake of the poor couple at whose house he stopped for Bhiksha on the day and was offered the only available gooseberry in the house.

Ø The day is generally observed by fasting and worship Lord Vasudeva with rice grains. A dip in the river Ganges on this day is considered to be very auspicious.

Ø Fasts are kept on this day and pujas are performed. In charity, fan, rice, salt, ghee, sugar, vegetables, tamarind, fruit, clothes, are given. Vishnu is worshipped on this day. Tulsi water is sprinkled in the nearby are of the idol while performing aarti.

Ø It is believed that god Kubera, the treasurer of the gods, is the richest deity. Lakshmi Tantram says that even Kubera will pray to goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and consort of Vishnu, on this day. On this day, a day-long Kubera Lakshmi Puja is performed in which an image of Lakshmi is worshipped along with Sudarsana Kubera Yantra, symbolising Kubera.

akshaya trithiya IN DIFFERENT STATES:

v In Bengal, on the day of the Akshay Trithiya, "HalKhata" - a ceremony to start the new audit book is performed - with the worship of Ganesha and goddess Lakshmi. Bengalis perform many rites and rituals on this day.


v Goa and Konkan regions, even today, are referred to as Parusurama Kshetra. Akshaya Trithiya, the third day of the bright-half of the lunar month of Vaisakha is considered as one of the most sacred days of the year.

v In Orissa on Akshay Trithiya farmers start ploughing their land and construction of chariots for Rath Yatra begins at Puri.

v This day is also most auspicious day for the Jat farming community. Early morning, a male member of Jat family goes to field with shovel. All the animals and birds encountered on the way to the field indicates omen and predictions for rains and crops. Akshay Tritiiya is also an occasion for weddings, which are conducted in mass marriage ceremonies. It is considered an unboojha muhurat.

Importance of worshipping ‘Vaibhav-Lakshmi’ with Sree Vishnu:
On Akshay Trithiya while worshing Sree Lakshmi, if Sree Vishnu is not invited, how can His ‘divine energy’ come here and bless us? Therefore, before worshipping Sree Lakshmi in any of her forms, first invite Sree Vishnu and then invite Sree Lakshmi to get maximum benefit of Lakshmi-tattva (Principle).
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akshiya trithiya In Jainism:
Akshay Trithiya is a holy day in Jain Calendar as well. People who observe the year-long alternative day fasting finish their Tapsaya on this day. The story behind the festival in Jainism is written in Harinvansh Purana and Padam Purana (one of the holy granthas of jains).

STORY:
Lord Rishabh Dev
The Day of Akshay Trithiya is worshipped and said to be auspicious in Jainism because it is said to have established the very first "ahar charya" a methodology to prepare and serve food to Jain Monks. Lord Rishabhdev  denounced the worldly pleasures after dividing his vast kingdom in his 101 sons, prominent of whom are Gommateshwara Bahubali (whose world's tallest monolithic staure stands at shravanbelgola and Chakravarti Bharata, by whose name it is known today as "Bharat". Lord Rishabhdev meditated without any food and water for six months and upon attaining enlightenment (Kevalya Gyana), set out to accept food (Ahar). He was the first monk of this Era. Jain monks do not own anything. They do not even cook food for themselves. When hungry or thirsty, (Maximum Once in day), they set out to accept ahar. They do not even ask for it and accept where it is offered. Tirthankara Rishabhadeva also went to people to accept food. However, the people of that time did not know anything about the lives and disciplines of monks, as he was the first monk of this era. The people of Ayodhya offered him gold, jewellery, gemstones, elephants, horses, expensive garments and even their daughters to honour their beloved king. Rishabhadeva was not in quest of all these. He sought only a morsel of food, but nobody offered it to him. Nobody understood that their king was looking for to receive food to ensure that the monks that would come after him get food and water in the purest form needed to lead a ascetic life. As there was no choice, he had to fast for a long time of one year until his grandson Shreyansha Kumara understood his need due to his "purva-bhava-smaran" Finally Shreyansha Kumara, offered him sugarcane juice and thus Rishabhadeva ended his fast after a year. This was on the day of Akshaya Tritiya. This is considered by the Jains as one of the best offerings. It is believed that religious gifts bestowed on Akshaya Tritiya become inexhaustible. Jains even today, observe a fast to commemorate their first Tirthankara Rishabhadeva on Akshaya Tritiya and end their fast with sugarcane juice. In Shwetambara Jain community it is widely celebrated than digambaras.

In Hastinapur, there is a Mela on Akshay Trithiya and Jains reach there from Maharshtara, Gujrat, Rajsthan​ in large numbers to end their fast (Ekasana Vrats) of 10 or more days. It is called as PARANA.

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Works recommended and prohibited during Akshay Trithiya:
Being Yugadi Tithi, it is most beneficial for performing meritorious (Punya Karma) deeds such as recitations (Japa), penance (Tapa), donations (Dana) ritual bathing (Snaana), sacrifices (Havan), burnt oblations to fire (Hooma). But initiation / conducting of activities like wearing sacred thread (Upnayana), ending of fast, house construction & entering thereof, travailing and plantation is prohibited in certain communities, while most look forward to start/restart relationships, purchases and commitments on this auspicious day. To some, it is beneficial for spiritual activities and not the worldly activities.

Worldly activities can also be initiated during currency of this Tithi however, aspirants must ensure that the said duration is not sullied by concurrence of malefic times observed according to the Hindu electional principles, and the moments are favourable to the doer by transits of the planets and the like. Aspirants are cautioned against using this Tithi blindly for initiating and conducting all types of life-activities. Auspiciousness of the Tithis for specific activity depends upon simultaneous presence of Panchangam Shuddhi, Muhurt Yogas and host of other elements of Hindu electional astrology.

Starting a new activity or buying valuables on this day is considered to bring luck and success. The religious merit that is acquired by giving gifts on this day is considered inexhaustible. Many buy new gold jewelry on this day. Most jewelry stores stock in new jewelry models for this occasion with "Lakshmi-inscribed" gold coins, diamond jewellery and golden dollars with the pictures of many gods and goddesses.

SOURCES: akshayatrithiya.org  &   Wikipedia.org

16.4.12

THE GOSPEL OF SRI RAMAKRISHNA

CHAPTER-IV; PART-2


Thursday, August 24, 1882
Sri Ramakrishna 
Sri Ramakrishna was talking to Hazra on the long northeast verandah of his room, when M. arrived.  He saluted the Master reverently.  

Spiritual disciplines necessary at the beginning:
MASTER: "I should like to visit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar a few times more.  The painter first draws the general outlines and then puts in the details and colours at his leisure.  The moulder first makes the image out of clay, then plasters it, then gives it a coat of whitewash, and last of all paints it with a brush.  All these steps must be taken successively.  Vidyasagar is fully ready, but his inner stuff is covered with a thin layer.  He is now engaged in doing good works; but he doesn't know what is within himself.  Gold is hidden within him.  God dwells within us.  If one knows that, one feels like giving up all activities and praying to God with a yearning soul."
So the Master talked with M. - now standing, now pacing up and down the long verandah. 

MASTER: "A little spiritual discipline is necessary in order to know what lies within."

M: "Is it necessary to practise discipline all through life?"

MASTER: "No.  But one must be up and doing in the beginning.  After that one need not work hard.  The helmsman stands up and clutches the rudder firmly as long as the boat is passing through waves, storms, high wind, or around the curves of a river; but he relaxes after steering through them.  As soon as the boat passes the curves and the helmsman feels a favourable wind, he sits comfortably and just touches the rudder.  Next he prepares to unfurl the sail and gets ready for a smoke.  Likewise, the aspirant enjoys peace and calm after passing the waves and storms of 'woman and gold'.

"Woman and gold" is the obstruction to yoga:
"Some are born with the characteristics of the yogi; but they too should be careful.  It is 'woman and gold' alone that is the obstacle; it makes them deviate from the path of yoga and drags them into worldliness.  Perhaps they have some desire for enjoyment.  After fulfilling their desire, they again direct their minds to God and thus recover their former state of mind, fit for the practise of yoga. 
"Have you ever seen the spring trap for fish, called the 'satka-kal'?"

M: "No, sir, I haven't seen it."

MASTER: "They use it in our part of the country.  One end of a bamboo pole is fastened in the ground, and the other is bent over with a catch.  From this end a line with a hook hangs over the water, with bait tied to the hook.  When the fish swallows the bait, suddenly the bamboo jumps up and regains its upright position. 
"Again, take a pair of scales for example.  If a weight is placed on one side, the lower needle moves away from the upper one.  The lower needle is the mind, and the upper one, God.  The meeting of the two is yoga. 
"Unless the mind becomes steady there cannot be yoga.  It is the wind of worldliness that always disturbs the mind, which may be likened to a candle flame.  If that flame doesn't move at all, then one is said to have attained yoga.
" 'Woman and gold' alone is the obstacle to yoga.  Always analyse what you see.  What is there in the body of a woman? Only such things as blood, flesh, fat, entrails, and the like.  Why should one love such a body?
"Sometimes I used to assume a rajasic mood in order to practise renunciation.  Once I had the desire to put on a gold-embroidered robe, wear a ring on my finger, and smoke a hubble-bubble with a long pipe.  Mathur Babu procured all these things for me.  I wore the gold-embroidered robe and said to myself after a while, 'Mind! This is what is called a gold-embroidered robe.' Then I took it off and threw it away.  I couldn't stand the robe any more.  Again I said to myself, 'Mind! This is called a shawl, and this a ring, and this, smoking a hubble-bubble with a long pipe.' I threw those things away once for all, and the desire to enjoy them never arose in my mind again."
It was almost dusk.  The Master and M. stood talking alone near the  door on the southeast verandah.   

MASTER (to M.): "The mind of the yogi is always fixed on God, always absorbed in the Self.  You can recognize such a man by merely looking at him.  His eyes are wide open, with an aimless look, like the eyes of the mother bird hatching her eggs.  Her entire mind is fixed on the eggs, and there is a vacant look in her eyes.  Can you show me such a picture?"

M: "I shall try to get one."
As evening came on, the temples were lighted up.  Sri Ramakrishna was seated on his small couch, meditating on the Divine Mother.  Then he chanted the names of God.  Incense was burnt in the room, where an oil lamp had been lighted.  Sounds of conch-shells and gongs came floating on the air as the evening worship began in the temple of Kāli.  The light of the moon flooded all the quarters.  The Master again spoke to M.

God and worldly duties:
MASTER: "Perform your duties in an unselfish spirit.  The work that Vidyasagar is engaged in is very good.  Always try to perform your duties without desiring any result."

M: "Yes, sir.  But may I know if one can realize God while performing one's duties? Can 'Rama' and 'desire' coexist? The other day I read in a Hindi couplet: 'Where Rama is, there desire cannot be; where desire is, there Rama cannot be.' "

MASTER: "All, without exception, perform work.  Even to chant the name and glories of God is work, as is the meditation of the non-dualist on 'I am He'.  Breathing is also an activity.  There is no way of renouncing work altogether.  So do your work, but surrender the result to God."

God and worldly duties:
M: "Sir, may I make an effort to earn more money?"

MASTER: "It is permissible to do so to maintain a religious family.  You may try to increase your income, but in an honest way.  The goal of life is not the earning of money, but the service of God.  Money is not harmful if it is devoted to the service of God."

M: "How long should a man feel obliged to do his duty toward his wife and children?"

MASTER: "As long as they feel pinched for food and clothing.  But one need not take the responsibility of a son when he is able to support himself.  When the young fledgling learns to pick its own food, its mother pecks it if it comes to her for food."

M: "How long must one do one's duty?"


MASTER: "The blossom drops off when the fruit appears.  One doesn't have to do one's duty after the attainment of God, nor does one feel like doing it then.
    "If a drunkard takes too much liquor he cannot retain consciousness.  If he takes only two or three glasses, he can go on with his work.  As you advance nearer and nearer to God, He will reduce your activities little by little.  Have no fear. 
"Finish the few duties you have at hand, and then you will have peace.  When the mistress of the house goes to bathe after finishing her cooking and other household duties, she won't come back, however you may shout after her."

Different groups of devotees:
M: "Sir, what is the meaning of the realization of God? What do you mean by God-vision? How does one attain it?"

MASTER: "According to the Vaishnavas the aspirants and the seers of God may be divided into different groups.  These are the pravartaka, the sadhaka, the siddha, and the siddha of the siddha.  He who has just set foot on the path may be called a pravartaka.  He may be called a sadhaka who has for some time been practising spiritual disciplines, such as worship, japa, meditation, and the chanting of God's name and glories.  He may be called a siddha who has known from his inner experience that God exists.  An analogy is given in the Vedanta to explain this.  The master of the house is asleep in a dark room.  Someone is groping in the darkness to find him.  He touches the couch and says, 'No, it is not he.' He touches the window and says, 'No, it is not he.' He touches the door and says, 'No, it is not he.' This is known in the Vedanta as the process of 'Neti, neti', 'Not this, not this'.  At last his hand touches the master's body and he exclaims, 'Here he is!' In other words, he is now conscious of the 'existence' of the master.  He has found him, but he doesn't yet know him intimately. 
"There is another type, known as the siddha of the siddha, the 'supremely perfect'.  It is quite a different thing when one talks to the master intimately, when one knows God very intimately through love and devotion.  A siddha has undoubtedly attained God, but the 'supremely perfect' has known God very intimately. 

Different moods of aspirants:
"But in order to realize God, one must assume one of these attitudes: Śānta, Dāsya, sakhya, Vātsalya, or Madhur.
"Śānta, the serene attitude.  The rishis of olden times had this attitude toward God.  They did not desire any worldly enjoyment.  It is like the single-minded devotion of a wife to her husband.  She knows that her husband is the embodiment of beauty and love, a veritable Madan. 
"Dāsya, the attitude of a servant toward his master.  Hanuman had this attitude toward Rama.  He felt the strength of a lion when he worked for Rama.  A wife feels this mood also.  She serves her husband with all her heart and soul.  A mother also has a little of this attitude, as Yaśoda had toward Krishna. 
"Sakhya, the attitude of friendship.  Friends say to one another, 'Come here and sit near me.' Sridāmā and other friends sometimes fed Krishna with fruit, part of which they had already eaten, and sometimes climbed on His shoulders. 
"Vātsalya, the attitude of a mother toward her child.  This was Yaśoda's attitude toward Krishna.  The wife, too, has a little of this.  She feeds her husband with her very life-blood, as it were.  The mother feels happy only when the child has eaten to his heart's content.  Yaśoda would roam about with butter in her hand, in order to feed Krishna. 
"Madhur, the attitude of a woman toward her paramour.  Radha had this attitude toward Krishna.  The wife also feels it for her husband.  This attitude includes all the other four."

M: "When one sees God does one see Him with these eyes?"

MASTER: "God cannot be seen with these physical eyes.  In the course of spiritual discipline one gets a 'love body', endowed with 'love eyes', 'love ears', and so on.  One sees God with those 'love eyes'.  One hears the voice of God with those 'love ears'.  One even gets a sexual organ made of love."

At these words M. burst out laughing.  The Master continued, unannoyed, "With this 'love body' the soul communes with God."

M. again became serious. 

SOURCE: The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

14.4.12

BELUR MATH TEMPLES AND SHRINES (PHOTOS)

Ramakrishna Image at Belur Math

Ramakrishna Temple at Belur Math

SRI RAMAKRISHNA SHRINE [OLD TEMPLE]
Ramakrishna Old Temple at Belur Math
Sri Sarada Devi Shrine 

Sri Sarada Devi Temple

SWAMI VIVEKANANDA SHRINE
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA TEMPLE
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA ROOM (UPSTAIRS)

SWAMI VIVEKANANDA BED ROOM

SWAMI BRAHMANANDA
SWAMI BRAHMANANDA TEMPLE

RAMAKRISHNA'S DISCIPLES SAMADHI ENCLOSURE

12.4.12

HAPPY NEW YEAR - 2012

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL INDIAN BROTHERS & SISTERS
This post is reproduced from last year posting with some editing.
India being a secular country different State has different New Year tradition and religious festival.
Here India’s various States New Year Celebrations, Traditions, Rituals, information and legends are given:
 i) Assamese New Year, ii) Bengali New Year, iii)Gujarati New Year, iv) Kannada/ Telugu New Year, v) Malayalam New Year, vi) Marathi New ear, vii)Marwari New Year, viii) Oriya New Year, ix) Punjabi / Sikh (Nanakshahi) New Year, x)Tamil New Year and xi) Hindu New Year.

This occasion signifies the Sun's transit to the zodiac - Mesha Raasi (first zodiac sign) as per Indian astrological calculations and astronomically represents the vernal equinox. Going through various traditions and cultures will be very interesting and enriching our knowledge.

 1.  Bohag Bihu- ASSAMESE NEW YEAR:
Bohag Bihu is the national festival of Assamese as it marks the beginning of the New Year. Rituals and customary practices of Bohag Bihu start from April 13. There are three forms of a Bihu festival namely Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu (in the middle of April), Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu (middle of January) and Kaati Bihu or Kongali Bihu (in October/ November). Bohag Bihu is the most important day of all the three Bihu festivals. This day begins with the sowing of seeds, Kaati Bihu marks the complete process of sowing and transplanting of paddies, and the Magh Bihu marks the end of the harvesting period.

Traditions:
Bohag Bihu reflects the coming of spring and usually falls on April 15 every year. It is celebrated with distinctive Bihu dances. People are in full form and dance on various Bihu geets called husuris. This festival lasts for several days. People wear new and traditional clothes like dhoti, gamocha and saadar mekhela.

Celebrations:
The first day of Bohag Bihu is called Goru Bihu or Cow Festival. Cow being the holy Hindu animal is washed, bedecked and worshiped on this day. On the eve of Bohag Bihu, the womenfolk clean clothes and prepare special Bihu delicacies like 'Chira' & 'Pitha' while men collect necessary items like 'Tara Pogha' (ropes for the cattle). This day is followed by Manuh (human) Bihu on April 15, the New Year Day on which homage is paid to elders and relatives. The next day after this is called Gosain Bihu. On this day religious activities take place.

Bohag Bihu is a dance festival. Groups of boys and girls beat drums and perform their traditional dance. Bihu fairs are organised to perform Bihu songs, theatrical performances and dance. Best woman dancer is awarded the title of Bihu Kunwori. Bihu festival has become such a major festival that even books, audio and video cassettes have come up in large numbers narrating the festival events.


2. Shubo Nabo Barsho-BENGALI NEW YEAR:
On New Year Day people in Bengal wish each other saying "Shubo Nabo Barsho".This festival usually falls in the month of April [15th] which is the month of Baisakh, first month of Bengali New Year. The festival of Nabo Barsha was introduced by the great Mughal Emperor, Akbar. This festival is celebrated with great deal of enthusiasm and energy by the people of Bengal and also by the Tribal people in hilly areas. For them, it is the time to say adieu to the past year and welcome New Year by following religious norms.

Traditions and Customs:
Almost all Bengalis decorate their houses with fresh flowers and draw rangolis in front of the entrance door. Rangolis are usually made of colored rice and it is known as "Alpana". An earthen pot bearing the symbol of Swastika is kept in the middle of rangoli. It is believed to bring in wealth and symbolizes a prosperous New Year.

Celebrations:
On this day, women wear traditional Red and White Sari while men wear dhoti kurta to take part in the early morning processions called Prabhat Pheries. Some even go to the nearby river for a holy dip to wash away all the sins.

After this idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Laxmi are worshiped for the well-being and longevity of the family members. Praying to the Clouds for water is another popular ritual of the Bengali New Year. As per the tradition, people are supposed to pay off all the loans and old dues with the customers are to be settled. On this day, Bengali businessmen purchase new accounts books and prepare new accounts called as Haalkhata. At some places, people also perform dances, sing songs or recite Bengali Nabo Barsho poems. Amidst all feasting, food is the main focus.

           
3. GUJARATI NEW YEAR:
Gujarati New Year is celebrated among all the major festivities in the month of October. It is celebrated on the next day of Diwali. Gujarati New Year is synonymous with sudekam of the kartik month – it is the first day of first month of Gujarati calendar.

Traditions:
 Bestu Varas is New Year in Gujarati and Varsha-pratipada or Padwa are other names of the same. According to the legends, Lord Krishna once performed Govardhan Puja along with the people of Vraja for their protection from heavy rains. Since then, it became a tradition to worship Govardhan Parvat and celebrate this day as a New Year.

Celebrations:
Traditional customs and rituals are performed to welcome the New Year and bid farewell to the by gone time. It's a day of blooming desires and zest. Bestu Varas is the time to retire all the pains, sufferings and memories of past year.

New Year in Gujarat is the time to make merry. Since these celebrations are escalated at the time of Diwali, it marks a mirthful experience for all the gujjus. Almost all Gujarati houses are lighted colorfully and decorated with flowers. On this day, people dress up nicely and visit temples with flowers and mithai. Everyone wish each other New Year whilst offering prayers to God. Some temples in Gujarat also conduct a grand Govardhan Puja.

A lavish meal at the end of the day credits the festival spirit. Most of the Gujaratis indulge in heavy eating this day. Thus, New Year in Gujarat reflects the true spirit of Indian tradition. The essence of Gujarati culture and religion can be felt in the New Year Celebrations. Love, unity and togetherness are the intangible assets of these Celebrations.

                  
4. Ugadi/ Yugadi- KANNADA / TELUGU NEW YEAR:
Ugadi/ Yugadi marks the advent of the Kannada / Telugu New Year. The name of the festival derived from "Yuga Aadi" which means New Age. According to the Chandramana system (Shalivahana Shaka), Telugu New Year falls on Chaitra Shuddha Prathipade. It is the first day of the Lunar calendar. Like any other religion, Telugu New Year celebrations also have a legend behind it. Hindu mythology says Lord Brahma, created universe on Chaitra Shuddha Prathipade. Since then, this day is celebrated as a New Year's Day. This year it was celebrated on 3rd April.

Yugadi specifically refers to the start of the age we are living in now, Kali Yuga. Kali Yuga started the moment when Lord Krishna left the world. Maharshi Vedavyasa describes this event with the words "Yesmin Krishno divamvyataha, Tasmat eeva pratipannam Kaliyugam". Kali Yuga began on Feb 17/18 midnight 3102 BC.

Ugadi celebrations are also blessed with Vasanth Ruthu (spring). It symbolizes new life with blooming of fresh flowers, chanting of birds and fruit laden trees. It is considered an auspicious time to venture into new projects.
Celebrations:
People of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka begin New Year preparations a week before the festival. They clean their houses and surrounding areas whilst decorate it with mango leaves. Shopping for Ugadi gifts, new clothes and other items are done with a lot of fervor. Most of the people exchange gifts like silk sari, dhoti, pootarelullu and sweets like kaja, pala kova etc.

On the Ugadi day, people get up early in the morning, apply coconut oil to their bodies, take a head bath and wear new clothes. Then they visit nearby temple to offer prayers to God, chant mantras and listen to Panchanga Sravanam. Priests or experts forecasts new events of the year and make people aware of the coming situations.

Traditional Ugadi Food:
All the family members and friends sit together for the traditional sauce called Ugadi Pachchadi. It is a mixture of the following products:
Ø Neem leaves which is good for patients who have diabetes and skin diseases
ØJaggery increases haemoglobin level and sugarcane juice fights against jaundice.
Ø Raw mango and Tamarind juice are consumed with almost every dish prepared by women of Karnataka and Andhra Pardesh.

Ugadi Pachchadi signifies that life is not a smooth journey. All sorrows, happiness, success and disappointment must be given due importance. All experiences have to be treated equally as it makes us learn something new every time and prepares us for the rest. It makes us develop positive attitude towards life. People also make some resolutions and pray to God for their well-being and prosperity.

In Karnataka a special dish called Obbattu or Holige, is prepared. In Andhra Pradesh, a special dish called Bhakshyalu or Bobbatlu (Polelu) (Puran Poli) are prepared on this occasion. It consists of a filling (Bengal gram and jaggery/sugar boiled and made in to a paste) stuffed in a flat roti like bread. It is usually eaten hot/cold with ghee or milk topping or coconut milk at some places of Karnataka.

         
5.VISHU-  MALAYALAM NEW YEAR:
Vishu festival or Malayalam New Year falls on the first of Malayalam month of Medam (March-April). Vishu generally falls on April 14 of the Gregoran Calendar. A number of rituals and customs are associated with the festival. It's not a pompous festival but more of a homely affair.

"Vishu" in Sanskrit means "equal". Therefore Vishu is more probably denoting one of the equinox days. Although Vishu (first of Medam) is the astrological new year day of Kerala, the official Malayalam new year falls on the first month of Chingam (August - September). However, 1st of Chingam has no significance either astrologically or astronomically. Chingam is the harvest season in Kerala and southern parts of coastal Karnataka.

Traditions and Customs:
Vishukani or Kani Kanal is the most popular tradition followed by people of Kerela. As per the popular belief, year's prosperity depends upon the type of the first object viewed in the morning. There is a list which tells about various auspicious items to be seen on Vishu morning. Ladies keep all the prescribed items ready a night before the Vishu. Normally, the responsibility to put the Kani in order falls on the experienced shoulders of the eldest lady of the house. A Cadian leaf book, gold ornaments, a new white cloth, raw rice, yellow cucumber, betel leaves, flowers of the Konna tree, halved jack fruits, holy grantha and coconut are kept in a bell metal vessel called'uruli'. Behind the vessel is kept a bell metal mirror and a Lord Krishna deity. Two lighted oil lamp called Nilavilakku is also placed alongside. The head of the family is the first person to see the holy things. Children are brought blindfold. Special care is taken that family members do not see any other thing except Vishukani. Later, Vishukani is offered to God and distributed amongst poor. Children and other young members of the family get a small gift on this day and this tradition of gift-giving is called Vishu Kaineetam.

Since the occasion marks the beginning of Malayalam New Year, it is also considered auspicious to read verses from Hindu Holy book Ramayanam after seeing the "Vishukkani". It is also believed that the page of the Ramayanam to which you open up will have a bearing on your life in the coming year. Devotees also throng the well-known temples like Sabarimala Ayyappan  Temple, Guruvayur  Sree Krishna temple to have a "Vishukkani Kazhcha" on the early hours of "Vishu" day.

Celebrations:
Once the custom of Vishukani gets over, people take a dip in the holy water or take bath at their home and visit nearby temples to offer prayers. To celebrate the festival of Pooram Vishu, people of Kerela wear Kodi Vastram. These are new clothes specially worn on auspicious occasions. People of Kerela multiply Vishu celebrations by traditional singing and dancing. They also burst Patassu (firecrackers).

Evening time is for lavish meals. Women prepare sadya (feast). These are special dishes prepared using jackfriuts, mangoes, pumpkins and gourds. To mark Vishu, traditionally people prepare Moru Kutan - a savoury stew made with yoghurt, Payassam (Kheer), Veppampoorasam (a bitter preparation of neem) and Mampazhapachadi (a sour mango soup). Malayalam feast has an equal proportion of all tastes.

Great amount of excitement can also be seen in the villages of Kerela. Men and women dress up like Chozhi by wearing a skirt of dried banana leaves and masks on their faces. They entertain people by various traditional dances and dramas. These entertainers would move house to house collecting money to be spent in Vishuwela which is a New Year Fair in Kerela.   
  
6. Gudi Padwa- KONKANI /MARATHI NEW YEAR:
The festival marks the new year day for people between Vindhyas and Kaveri river who follow the South Indian lunar calendar, pervasively adhered to in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka,Maharashtra and Goa.

This calendar reckons dates based on the Shalivahana era (Shalivahana Shaka), which begins its count from the supposed date of the founding of the Empire by the legendary hero Shalivahana. The Satavahana king Shalivahana (also identified as Gautamiputra Satakarni) is credited with the initiation of this era known as Shalivahana. The Salivahana era begins its count of years from the year corresponding to 78 AD of the Gregorian calendar. Thus, the year 2000 AD corresponds to the year 1922 of the Salivahana Era.

7. MARWARI [RAJASTHAN] NEW YEAR:
Marwaris of Rajasthan consider Diwali as their New Year. They believe Diwali to be an auspicious day to venture into new projects and thus celebrate it as New Year's Day. It usually falls in the month of October - November. The Marwari New Year is celebrated with great charm and exuberance in almost all parts of Rajasthan.

Celebrations:
Diwali celebrations begin almost a month before the festival. Ahoi Ashtami is a women's day celebrated a week before Diwali. On this day, women fast for long lives of their husbands and adorn their house doors with mirror worked hangings. The Bania - Marwari community celebrate this day very religiously. In some houses, age - old tradition of making the sketch of Ahoi Mata with geru (paste of red powder diluted in water) is followed. Sometimes, her picture is hung or made on the wall, which is layered with cow dung and a coat of fresh lime is applied. This is a holy wall of Marwaris and the prosperous Diwali puja is done in front of this wall. They worship Goddess Laxmi (goddess of wealth) and Lord Ganesha on the day of Diwali. Family members do a parikrama around the sanctum and accomplish it with the Satyanarayan Aarti. After the puja, Charnamrit - a mixture of curd, unboiled milk, tulsi leaves and sugar is given to every one present at the puja.

People often buy a silver coin as it seen as a good omen. Diwali is the time when new account books are prepared by all traders after the puja. They believe good luck and prosperity ushers when new books of accounts are opened and a betel leaf is kept in it on the New Year's Day.

Evening festivities include special Marwari meals. They feast upon ' pucca khana' (food cooked in oil or ghee). Puri, halwa and the sweet vermicelli are not to be missed food items of Marwari festival dishes.     
                                     
8. Mahavishuba Sankranti- ORIYA NEW YEAR:
Mahavishuba Sankranti is observed as the Oriya New Year and is also known as Mesha Sankranthi and Pana Sankranti in the eastern state of Orissa in India. The day marks the beginning of the New Year in the traditional Oriya Solar Calendar. The summer season also commences from this period.

There are no major celebrations on the day. Temples conduct special pujas and rituals. The highlight of the day is the preparation of sweet drink called ‘Pana,’ which is made from fruits, milk, curd etc. Cultural programs are organized in some regions including literary meetings.

People visit various temples and offer prayers and special pujas. Mahavishuba Sankranti also marks the end of temple festivals in some regions of Orissa.         
9. PUNJABI / SIKH (NANAKSHAHI) NEW YEAR:
Baisakhi Festival, also called Vaisakhi, holds great importance for the Sikh community and farmers of Punjab. Baisakhi falls on April 13 or 14, the first day of the year according to the Nanakshahi Calendar. Sikhs also celebrate this day in honor of their tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh. Baisakhi commemorates the day when the Sikh Guru eliminated caste differences and founded Khalsa Panth in1689.

For the large farming community of Punjab and Haryana, Baisakhi marks the harvest time. Farmers celebrate it with immense fervor as they are loaded with cash at this time. Men and women run over the fields shouting "Jatta aayi Baisakhi".

Traditions and Rituals:
It is in the blood of every Sikh to follow the tradition of Baisakhi earnestly. They get up early in the morning, visit gurudwaras and offer prayers. Some people prefer to visit Golden Temple or Anandpur Sahib where Khalsa Panth was recognised.

In most of the gurudwaras, the holy books of Sikhs are cleansed with milk and water. The granthi of the gurudwara reads the Sikh Holy Scripture and the gathering of devotees listen to it seriously. Following the tradition from the time of Guru Gobind Singhji, an amrit is prepared in an iron vessel. The gathering of devotees sips this amrit five times. Later on, ragis sing devotional songs and perform a kirtan which is leaded by an ardas in afternoon. After performing all the religious traditions, the Karah Prasad is distributed amongst the congregation. The religious ceremony accomplishes with a Guru - ka - Langar. This is meal consists of Dal Makhani, any vegetarian dish, curd, salad and a sweet dish like semonila.

Celebrations:
Traditional songs and dances boost the spirit of the Baisakhi festival. After performing rituals in gurudwaras, people of Sikh community take out processions. The holy book of Sikhs is taken out in the processions. It is read in the holy book that the Sikh Guru asked five volunteers to sacrifice their lives, then he took each one of them into a tent and every time came out with a bloody sword but he actually sacrificed a goat. Thus, the procession is headed by five men to honor the Panj Pyaras.

Fervor and vigor of the festival can be seen in these hours’ long processions passing through various localities of the city. Sikh men and women wearing gaudy clothes perform the famous bhangra and gidda dance. Mock duels are also performed during Baisakhi processions. People carry forward the procession by chanting various hymns like 'Jo Bole So Nihal', 'Deg Teg Fateh' and 'Satnam Shri Wahe Guru'. Vaisakhi celebrations are escalated by dramatizing sword fight, beating drums and bursting crackers. In some places, early morning Prabhat Pheris also take place. At the end of the day, people express feelings of brotherhood, love, unity and also hope to celebrate the festival with same energy and enthusiasm every year.
        
10. PUTHANDU- TAMIL NEW YEAR:
The month of Chittrai (April - May) embarks the time of festivities in Tamil Nadu. Tamil's New Year Day " Puthandu"  is celebrated on 14 April every year (according to the Gregorian Calendar). People greet each other "Puthandu Vazthukal" which means Happy New Year. This auspicious day is also popular as Varusha Pirappu. As per the Hindu mythical legends, Lord Brahma started creation of the universe.

New Year in  Early Tamil Literature:
This year Tamil NewYear starts on 14 April 2011, Kaliyuga  5113.  Vikrama  and  Shalivahana  Saka eras are also used. There are several references in early Tamil literature to the April new year. Nakkirar, the author of the Nedunalvaadai writes in the 3rd century that the Sun travels from Mesha/Chitterai through 11 successive Raasis or signs of the zodiac. Kūdalūr Kizhaar in the 3rd century refers to Mesha Raasi/Chitterai as the commencement of the year in the Puranaanooru. The Tolkaapiyam is the oldest surviving Tamil grammar that divides the year into six seasons where Chitterai marks the start of the Ilavenil season or summer. The 8th century Silappadikaaram mentions the 12 Raasis or zodiac signs starting with Mesha/Chitterai. The Manimekalai alludes to the Hindu solar calendar as we know it today. Adiyarkunalaar, an early medieval commentator or Urai-asiriyar mentions the 12 months of the Tamil calendar with particular reference to Chitterai. There were subsequent inscriptional references in Pagan, Burma dated to the 11th century CE and in Sukhothai, Thailand dated to the 14th century CE to South Indian, often Vaishnavite, courtiers who were tasked with defining the traditional calendar that began in mid-April.[Source: Wikipedia]

Highlights of the Festival:
New Year's Day is a gala time for all Tamils. The main focus is on the food eaten on the day. 'Maanga Pachadi' is the pulse of the festival. It is a dish made of raw mangoes, jaggery, and neem flowers which tastes sweet, salt, sour and bitter. This entails different colors of life. It depicts that life has to face everything from success to defeat. At the time of New Year festivities, a grand Car Festival also takes place at Tiruvadamarudur near Kumbakonam. At some places, Chitthirai festival is also celebrated. It is said on this day, Goddess Meenakshi got married to Lord Sundareswarar.

Rituals AND TRADITIONS:
In Tamil Nadu, people follow some strict rituals in a belief to ensure well-being and prosperity of their families. The most popular tradition is to view Kanni at dawn with a hope to bring good luck. People start the day by watching some auspicious items like gold and silver jewelry, betel leaves, nuts, fruits and vegetables, flowers, raw rice and coconuts. Following the rituals, Tamils take bath, wear fresh clothes and visit the temples to pray for success in life. After this, Pechanga (almanac) is read.

Many people get their houses painted to mark the renewal of life. Ladies adorn their houses with fresh mango leaves and Kollam (rangoli) designs. Sometimes, a decorated lamp kuthuvillakku is placed in the center of colorful Kollam to bring light to the house.

People in the advent of merrymaking and feasting exchange gifts with each other. Children are highly excited at the time of Puthandu as they receive small gifts or cash from their parents and relatives.


11.HINDU NEW YEAR:
Hindu New Year is celebrated according to the Hindu Lunar Calendar- Panchanga. Hindu New Year is popularly known as Vikram Samvat. Current era of Vikram Samvat began in 57 BC. The New Year begins with the first day of Kartik Month (October), that is, on the festival of lights, Deepawali.

Nav Varsh Samvat is observed in all the major states of North India and is also known as Chaitra Shukladi. It is celebrated on the first day after the No Moon (Amavasi) in Chaitra Month or Chaitra Shukala Pratipada (March – April). The Hindi New Year is based on lunar calendar and therefore the date changes every year. Hindu New year Samvat 2067 will start from 16th March, 2010.

Legend:
The story behind the origin of Hindu New Year is related to the legendary Hindu King Vikramaditya who used to rule in 57 BC. The legend says, once King Gardabhilla, a ruler in 12th century CE seized a nun named Saraswati. She was the sister of the famous Jain monk Kalakacharya. The feeble monk hunted help of the Saka ruler in Sakasthana to conquer Gardabhilla. He was defeated and enthralled by the Saka King. Though he was released later on but Gardabhilla go off to the forest where he was killed by a tiger. When his son, Vikramaditya grew up he invaded Ujjain and thrust out the Sakas. Thus, to celebrate this event, he observed a new epoch called Vikram Samvat.

Celebrations:
Hindu New Year is celebrated with gaiety and pomp throughout India.Though the vim and vigour of the festival is seen everywhere but it more verve in the people of North India and Gujarat. New Year in Southern India also emphasizes the Hindu New Year but the date and New Year traditions vary. People light oil lamps. They decorate the house with pink, red, purple or yellow fresh flowers which are considered auspicious colours. Rangoli design is also made on the floor outside the house; it is indeed very attractive part of New Year decorations.

People get up early in the morning, take bath and wear new clothes. The Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are brought home and people welcome them by singing songs in their praise. Prayers are offered to the deities and prasad is distributed among all the family members and neighbours. People exchange gifts and sweets with each other on this merry occasion of New Year.
 
SOURCE: www.newyearfestival.com