Monthly Archives: April 2013

Jewish festivals

Jewish festivals

Jewish community observes a number of festivals throughout the year. These festivals have their own significance and vary from being a simple rest day to celebrate the harvest.

Shabbat is the weekly rest day. This day, public transport and businesses are closed. Rosh Hashanah is the new year festival of Jewish.  This is a two­ day festival, usually falls on september in the Gregorian calendar. Israel’s new year starts from Rosh Hashanah. Felicitations for the new year are generally tendered before Rosh Hashanah, not in late December.

shabbat candles

shabbat candles

Yom Kippur is celebrated eight days after Rosh Ha-Shana, is the day of atonement, of Divine judgment, and of “self­ denial”, so that the individual may be cleansed of sins. The only fast day decreed in the Bible.  Sukkot happens after five days of Yom Kippur.  Sukkot is the festival which is  celebrated with mass pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. Thus known as the “pilgrimage festivals.”  On Sukkot, Jews commemorate the Exodus from Egypt. Sukkot is also celebrated as Chag Ha’asif (the harvest festival).

Hanukkah

Hanukkah

During the period between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, tens of thousands of householders and businesses erect sukkot — booths for temporary dwelling, similar to the booths in which the Israelites lived in the desert, after their exodus from Egypt. They acquire the palm frond, citron, myrtle sprigs, and willow branches with which the festive prayer rite is augmented. All around the country, sukkot line parking lots, rooftops, lawns, and public spaces. No army base lacks one. Some Israelis spend the festival and the next six days literally living in their sukkot.

sukkot festival of Jewish

sukkot festival of Jewish

In Israel, the “holy day” portion of Sukkot (accompanied by two pilgrimage festivals, Passover and Shavu’ot) is celebrated for one day.

After the festive day, Sukkot continues at a lesser level of sanctity, as mandated by the Torah. During this intermediate week-half festival, half ordinary-schools are closed and many workplaces shut down or shorten their hours. Most secular Israelis spend the interim days of Sukkot and Passover at recreation sites throughout the country.

Sukkot gift basket

Sukkot gift basket

 

Revenges by Pandavas

Revenges in Mahabharata

Revenge has been indeed a common occurence in Mahabharata. We find that all pandavas have some scores to settle. Interestingly, we do not find any incidents of revenge involving Yudhishthira.

Revenge of Draupadi

The incident of Draupadi cheer haran made lot of people opting for revengeful vows. The first and most important is of Draupadi’s, who decided to keep her hairs open until they are washed with blood of Dushashana’s heart. This way, she ensured that this insult is not forgotten with time. Acoordingly, when Bhima kills Dushasana he brings a handful of Dushasana’s blood and colours Draupadi’s hair with it. Bhima killed Dushashana during the battle of Mahabharat and drank his blood. He also brought some of the blood for Draupadi, who finally ties her hair.

Draupadi's untidy hair in Mahabharata

Draupadi’s untidy hair in Mahabharata

Bhima took couple of vows to take revenge from the people who berated Draupadi. His first vow was to drink Dushashana’s blood.

His second vow was to break Duryodhana thighs. Because during the cheer haran, Duryodhana asked to her to sit on his thighs, and Bhima vowed that he would take this revenge by breaking those thighs. This is a fascinating aspect of Mahabharata as this fits perfectly with Duryodhana’s only vulnerability.

Bhima also killed Kichak as he was tormenting Draupadi (Sairandhri).

Duryodhana also made Pandavas to act as his servant. Pandavas took off their upper garments as they have lost their freedom to Duryodhana and became his servant.

Revenge of Sahdev

Sahdev, the youngest of Pandavas, vowed to kill Shakuni after the episode of cheerharan when he cheated them in the game of dice.

Game of dice

Game of dice

He held Shakuni responsible and took his revenge on seventeenth day of Mahabharata war by killing Shakuni.

Sahdev killing Shakuni in Mahabharata

Sahdev killing Shakuni in Mahabharata

Revenge of Arjuna

Following the death of Abhimanyu, Arjuna vowed to kill Jayadratha as he was responsible for holding pandavas back. Kauravas did an excellent job as they protected Jayadrath. This was the sure shot way to victory, as in absence of Arjuna, panadava will be rendered weak. Shri Krishna used his skills to hide the sun and rest is history.

 

Jayadratha killed by Arjuna

Jayadratha killed by Arjuna

Revenge of Shakuni

This may not be a well written fact, but it was true that Shakuni left his kingdom and came to live with his sister for a purpose. Since his sister Gandhari was married to a blind, and she also chose to remain blindfolded, a brother was sure to exact revenge. This was debatable what he wanted, but he surely was instrumental for causing the war of mahabharata.

 

Yudhishthira lost himself and his brothers in the dice game. He also lost Draupadi

Shakuni playing game of dice

 

Mangla gauri temple – Maha Shakti peeth

Mangla Gauri – Maha Shakti Peeth

There are eighteen locations which are treated as Maha Shakti Peeths. This is as per Adi Shankara (Ashtadasa Shakthi Peetha Stotram). Mangla Gauri temple in Gaya is one of them.

The temple faces east, and is built on top of the Mangalagauri hill. A flight of steps lead to the temple. The sanctum houses the symbol of the goddess and it also has some finely carved ancient relief sculptures. A mandap (small hall) is present at the front of the temple. The courtyard also houses a fire pit for the purpose of havans. There are also two minor shrines dedicated to Shiva and images of Mahishasura Mardini, Durga and Dakshina Kali.

Mangla Gauri temple at Gaya

Mangla Gauri temple at Gaya

The present temple dates back to 15th century. The shrine is dedicated to Shakti or the mother Goddess in the predominantly Vaishnavite pilgrimage center of Gaya.

This temple has great religious value and it is mentioned in various puranas. The name of the devi is Sarvamangala devi. Mangala gauri is worshipped as the goddess of benevolence. The Mangla Gauri temple in Gaya, one of the most holy sites has two rounded stones which symbolizes the breasts of the Goddess Sati, who is regarded as the first wife of Lord Shiva.

Mangla Gauri inner courtyard

Mangla Gauri inner courtyard

Some information on Gaya

Gaya is located in Bihar abut 100 kilometers away from the capital city of Patna. Historically, Gaya was the part of the ancient Magadh Empire. The city is located on the bank of Falgu River and is considered among one of the most sacred cities for Hindus. Three hills Mangala-Gauri, Shringa-Sthan, Ram-Shila and Brahmayoni surround it from three sides and make at a safe and beautiful site. Gaya is an ancient place and has great heritage and history. Various modes of transportation connect Gaya with other major cities of Bihar along with rest of India.

Narsingh avatar

The complete story of Narsingh avatar – Vishnu dashavatara

 Narsingh Avatar – fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu

The fourth of incarnation of Vishnu dashavatara is Narsingh avatar (half man-half lion). There was a demon king Hiranyakashyap who did severe penance of Brahma. Brahma became pleased with him and asked for a boon. Hiranyakashyap demanded immortality. Brahma replied that this is not possible as everyone who takes birth has to die, so ask something else.

Narsingh Avatar of Lord Vishnu - Dashavatar of Vishnu

Narsingh Avatar of Lord Vishnu – Dashavatar of Vishnu

 Hiranyakashyap then asks “no one created by you can kill me; I cannot die inside the house or outside, during the day or the night. I cannot be killed by any weapon by any human or beast, living or non living, any demi-god or demon. ” Brahma granted him this boon.

Dashavatara

Dashavatara

Thus Hiranyakashyap became very strong and he started asking people to treat him as god. But his own son, Prahlad was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. He was initiated by Sage Narada and he belived in none other than Narayan.

Knowing this, Hiranyakashyap became very angry and tried to dissuade Prahlad from worshipping Vishnu.

He tried to kill him by burning him in fire, by giving him poison, by crushing him under elephants’ feet, by rolling down from high hills, by snake bites, by many kinds of weapons, but because of his devotion, Prahalad could not be killed by any means.

Hirankashyap’s sister Holika, offered a solution. She sat with Prahalad on a pyre, thinking that the flames would burn Prahalad and she would be saved by a  cloth which was immune from fire.  But by god’s grace, Holika was burnt and Prahalad was saved. This is still celebrated as Holika dahan which is followed by Holi, a prominent Indian festival.

One day, Hiranyakashyap challenged Prahalad that where is his god. Prahalad replied – he is everywhere. Out of rage, Hiranyakashyap asked, is he in the pillar and broke the pillar with his mace.

Duly, Narsingh avatar or fourth dashavatara of lord Vishnu appeared in form of half lion and half man. It was twilight (neither day nor night) and it was the entrance of the palace (neither inside nor outside). At that moment the Narsingh Avatar ( neither man nor beast), killed Hiranyakashyap with his nails. (Not with a weapon).

Note: Hiranyaksha, brother of Hiranyakashyap, was killed by Varaha avatar of Dashavatara and Prahlad grandson Bali was neutralized by another dashavatara (Vamana) of Lord Vishnu.

Hiranyakashyap and Hiranyaksha were actually devotees of Lord Vishnu who were on earth because of a curse.

Read about Vamana Avatar

Read about Kurma Avatar

Maa Chinnamastika temple at Rajrappa

Maa Chinnamastika temple at Rajrappa

There is a famous temple in the state of Jharkhand, India which is at a place called Rajrappa. This temple hosts the idol of Maa Chinnamastika. There is an interesting story of Maa. This temple is situated on a hillock at the confluence of the Damodar and Bhera (Bhairavi) Rivers near the Rajrappa falls. The temple enshrines the Goddess Chinnamastika  (the beheaded Goddess Kali), one of the ten forms of the Goddess Durga. This temple known as Chinnamastika temple finds place in our vedas and puranas and it has been recognized as an ancient and strong source of Shakti.

Rajrappa temple of Maa Chinnamastika

Rajrappa temple of Maa Chinnamastika

Legend of Maa Chinnamastika (Chinnamasta)

Bhagwati Bhawani and her two friends were taking bath in Mandakini river. They felt very hungry while bathing and their color changed to black. They reuested Bhagwati devi  to give them something to eat. She asked them to wait for some time, but, due to hunger, they insisted.

Then they pleaded very softly saying “Mother gives food immediately to her children.”  Out of pity, Goddess had cut her head. The head came in left hand and 3 blood streams stated flowing. Two of them went towards the girls. Their hunger was finished drinking theh blood flow and the third stream was drunk by Goddess itself.  This is the story of Maa Chinnamastika.

The legend of Maa Chinnasmastika

The legend of Maa Chinnasmastika

The Chhinnamastika temple is popular for its Tantrik style of architectural design. In the month of January a special fair is held here on the festival of Makar Sankranti and attended by lakhs of people. A fair is also organized during the festival of  Vijayadashami and attended by large number of people.

Rajrappa is also a tourist attraction. Nearest town is Hazaibagh. Road Distance or driving distance from Hazaribagh to Maa Chhinnamastika Mandir is 88 kms. Nearest airport is Ranchi.

 

Baisakhi – The festival of new year

Baisakhi – The festival of North India

Baisakhi or Vaisakhi, is an important festival of Hindus and Sikhs as it marks the beginning of the new year. In April, this day marks the beginning of the Hindu solar new year. In fact this day is celebrated all over the country as new year day under different names. It is also the time when the harvest is ready to cut and store or sell. People of North India, particularly Punjab thank God for good harvest. Visit to Gurudwaras, Baisakhi processions and traditional performances are the highlights of the day.

Sikhs celebrating Baisakhi

Sikhs celebrating Baisakhi

The festival bears a great significance for the Sikhs due of the fact that on the Vaisakhi Day in the year 1699, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh laid down the foundation of the Panth Khalsa, that is the Order of the Pure Ones. This day is also observed as the thanksgiving day by the farmers whereby the farmers pay their tribute, thanking God for the abundant harvest and also praying for the future prosperity. The main celebration takes place at Talwandi Sabo (where Guru Gobind Singh stayed for nine months and completed the recompilation of the Guru Granth Sahib. Baisakhi is one of the important festivals celebrated with fun and fervor by people of other religions too.

As per Hindu religion, It is believed that the goddess Ganga descended to earth thousands of years ago, and in her honor many Hindus gather along the sacred Ganges River for ritual baths. The action is centered in the holy cities along the Ganges in north India, or in Srinagar’s Mughal Gardens, Jammu’s Nagbani Temple, or anywhere in Tamil Nadu.

Happy Vaisakhi

Happy Vaisakhi

Historical Significance

Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj on Baisakhi.