Panchkanya

Panchkanya – five reverred ladies in Indian mythology

[quote]Daily remembering the five maidens great,Ahalya, Draupadhi, Kunti,Thara and Mandodari will destroy the greatest sins[/quote]

In Hindu mythology, panchkanyas have been given special importance. These are Ahilya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari. One unknown fact here is that all these ladies have been subjected to indecent behaviours from men or some of have been married twice, but we still give them their due. This is in contrast to today’s societies when faults of others are conferred on them. Read on, you will appreciate the fact.

 

Ahilya

Ahilya was the consort of Sage Gautam. She was made by Brahma and was surreal beautiful. Indra, the king of natural forces, had lecherous dreams about her. Once sun and moon assisted Indra in confusing Gautam that it is morning (while it was night). While Gautam was away for morning ablutions, Indra, disguised as Gautam, approached Ahilya and proposed sexual desires in front of her. By her penance powers, Ahilya realized that it is Indra himself who came down for her. Filled with pride, she got subdued by the lust. Finally, Gautam, on return, caught them and cursed. He cursed Ahilya to become a stone for an indefinite period of time. She was later rescued[read here] by Lord Rama.
Liberating Ahilya by Rama
Liberating Ahilya by Rama

Draupadi

 

Draupadi was born from the sacrificial fire with the objective of being the cause of the destruction of the Kauravas. Her bold step was that she agreed to be the wife of five husbands at a time when polygamy was rampant. She became the cause when the Kauravas tried to have her disrobed in full court. Thereafter she exhorted her husbands to war till finally her mission was accomplished. Though all her five sons were killed in the war. Read more on Draupadi.

Draupadi could have fourteen husbands

Draupadi cheer haran by Dushashan
Draupadi cheer haran by Dushashan

Kunti

Kunti was the classical unwed mother. As a girl she was taught an unusual mantra by Durvasa and immediately summoned Surya and bore his son Karna, whom she discarded in the river to avoid ostracism. Married to an impotent husband she, with his consent, summoned Dharma, Pawan and Indra and had sons, Yuddhishthir, Bhim and Arjun, through them. She had to go through the trauma of Arjun killing Karna only after which she revealed the secret of her eldest son.

Birth of Karna and Kunti letting him go away
Birth of Karna and Kunti letting him go away

Mandodari

Mandodari was the wife of the most powerful king Ravana. She was the only person who had the courage to speak out against her husband when he abducted Sita. Because of her intervention Sita’s stay in captivity was comfortable. An obscure version of the Ramayana states that she was Sita’s mother. She gave birth to Sita after she drank the blood of some sages that Ravana had killed. After the death of her sons and husband in battle she married her brother-in-law Vibhishan who had been crowned the new king.

Mandodari persuades Ravana to release Sita
Mandodari persuades Ravana to release Sita

Tara

Tara was the wife of one of the strongest personages of his time, the Vanara king Vali. She was known for her diplomacy and was the counterweight to Vali’s hotheadedness. Unfortunately Vali rarely heeded her and this resulted in his death at the hands of Rama. Quick to realize the gravity of the situation she maneuvered things so that she became the wife of Vali’s brother Sugriva on the condition that her son Angad becomes heir to the throne.

Tara curses Lord Rama
Tara curses Lord Rama

Tara is also said to have cursed Lord Rama, which was fulfilled in his next incarnation, Shri Krishna.

Clever Ganesha and Sage Gautam

Ganesha – The Rescuer

When Bhagiratha brought Ganga from Lord Shiva’s hair, some part of Ganga remained with him. Parvati, being the consort of Shiva, didn’t like this. Parvati resolved that a way had to be found to remove Ganga from Shiva’s hair. She tried persuasion, but Shiva refused to listen.

 There was a drought on earth at this time which lasted for fourteen years. Sage Goutam hermitage was spared with this drought. Other people also gathered in the hermitage to save themselves from the drought and Gautam welcomed them all. Ganesha thought that he might be able to devise a way to please his mother Parvati and Ganga may leave Shiva.

Lord Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha
Lord Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha

 Ganesha started to live in Sage Gautam’s hermitage and became friendly with everyone. One of the Parvati’s companion, Jaya was also with him. Ganesha told Jaya that she was to adopt the form of a cow and eat up the grain in Gautam’s fields. And the moment she was struck,

she was to lie down on the ground and pretend to be dead.

 Soon, Sage Gautam noticed that a cow was eating the grain. He struck the cow with a blade of grass and the cow fell down. Everyone thought that the cow was killed and it was a capital sin. Nobody wanted to stay in the hermitage. Lord Ganesha proposed a solution to the sage. “You will have to bring down Ganga from Shiva’s hair,” replied Ganesh. When Ganga water touches the body of the cow, then you are free of your sin.

 Ganesha was so friendly with the other sages that they all accepted his solution. Gautam also agreed to do the needful. Sage Gautam went to Mount Kailash and began to pray to Shiva. Shiva was pleased at Gautam’s penance and offered to grant a boon.

Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva

 Gautam wished that Ganga might be brought down to earth. Shiva agreed. It was thus that Ganga was brought down to earth by the sage Gautam. Ganga has four tributaries in heaven, seven on earth and four in the underworld. Since it was Gautam who brought Ganga down to earth, the river is also known as Gautami Ganga.

 Thus, wise Ganesha found a solution to the problem of his mother. This story is from the Brahma Purana.

A tale of two brothers – Bali and Sugriva (The Ramayana)

Bali and Sugriva in the Ramayana

In the Ramayana, two monkey brothers are mentioned with importance. In fact, a complete chapter is devoted with the name of Kishkindha kand on them. The interesting story of these two brothers is as following.

Birth of Sugriva and Bali 

Once Brahma threw smear from his eyes and a monkey Riksharaj appeared from the smear. He was instructed to wander in the forests and kill demons. Soon he got into a well and transformed into a beautiful lady. When Lord Indra and Lord Surya saw the lady, they became attracted to her and thus Bali and Sugriva were born. These two brothers were very powerful and were asked to live in Kishkindha mountain by Lord Brahma.

Curse on Bali

Soon, in course of time, Bali killed Dundubhi. Sage Matang had his hermitage at Rishiyamooka Mountain. When the stream of blood fell on his hermitage which resulted from killing of Dundabhi, he wondered about the reason. Suddenly a Yaksha came and revealed the secret behind the stream of blood. Indignant, sage Matang cursed Baali that he would die if he ever ventured on Rishiyamooka Mountain. That is the reason Bali could not visit Rishiyamooka mountain.

Bali and Dundubhi - Monkey and Demoin
Bali and Dundubhi – Monkey and Demoin

Boon on Bali

Brahma had given a boon to Bali which made him virtually impossible to defeat and kill. Whenever facing an enemy in a combat, Bali would get half of the strength of his opponent. He was killed when he was involved in a fight with his brother, Sugriva. (This episode is detailed in Kishkindha kand – The Ramayana)

 Bali defeats Ravana

The might of Bali was such that he defeated and moved around while holding Ravana under his armpit. Ravana, the demon king of lanka and the main antagonist of the Ramayana, was a mighty ruler, but even he was helpless before Bali. So Ravana was weak before monkey ( Bali) and Rama (human).

Bali ties Ravana in his tail
Bali ties Ravana in his tail

Bali’s end

Once, Bali chased a demon Mayavi after killing his brother Dundabhi. Mayavi entered into a cave where Bali followed him. Bali too followed him into the cave. But before entering he cave, he instructed Sugriva to wait outside for a fortnight. He also said that if he did not come out of the cave after fifteen days, Sugriva would understand that Bali had been killed. After a month, He saw blood coming out of the cave and assumed that Bali was dead. Sugriva returned to the kingdom as  a king. But Bali was alive. When he came back and saw Sugriva running the kingdom of Pampapuri,

he became furious. He drove Sugriva out and enslaved his wife as well.  Sugriva was hiding in Rishiyamooka mountain, because of curse of Sage Matang, this place was safe.

Lord Rama assured Sugriva that he will help him here. He also cut the seven palm trees with one shot of his arrow convincing Sugriva of his strength. He believed that Bali’s crime was unpardonable as he has taken his brother’s wife. He asked Sugriva to invite Bali for a duel. Bali beat him badly as Rama could not differentiate one from another as both brothers looked alike.

Rama asks Sugriva again to invite Bali for a duel and this time to wear a garland. During the battle, Rama kills Bali with an arrow passing through his heart.

Death of Bali (Vali)
Death of Bali (Vali)

Post Bali’ death

After the death of Bali, Sugriva became the ruler of Kishkindha. Bali’s son Angad, given important duties in the war against Ravana. Sugriva married Tara. Initially Sugriva forgot his promise made to Rama, but Laxman came as a messenger and asked him for help. Tara, one of the panchkanyas, coaxed Sugriva to help Rama.

Sankat Mochan temple (mandir)

Sankat Mochan Temple

The Sankat Mochan mandir is situated in the holy city of Varanasi. The legend is that this temple was established by Tulsidas, the great poet, who wrote Ramcharitramanas.

This temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman, whose other name is Sankar Mochak, which means reliever of troubles. As per the Vedic Astrology, Lord Hanuman defends and liberates human being from the wicked effects of ‘Shani’ (Planet Saturn). All those, who have ill-placed Saturn in their horoscope, should offer homage at this temple to get relief from the distress. In the earlier times, the temple was very small in its size. Later, the temple complex was extended attributable to the kind donations made by the devotees.

Sankat Mochan mandir
Sankat Mochan mandir

Every Tuesday and Saturday, thousands of devotees queue up in front of the Sankat Mochan temple to offer prayers to Lord Hanuman. According to Vedic Astrology, Hanuman protects human beings from the anger of planet Saturn and those who have ill placed Saturn in their horoscope visit the Sankat Mochan temple to get remedy. People put “Sindoor” on the statue and offer “laddoos” to Lord Hanuman. The “Sindoor” or Vermilion, from the statue of Lord Hanuman is put on the foreheads of devotees.

Festivals celebrated at Sankat Mochan Temple

On the day of  Kartik Krishna Chaturdashi, special prayers are made to the Lord Hanuman. An annual festival is also observed on the full moon night of the month of ‘Chaitra’, which is also known as Hanuman or Mahavir Jayanti. At this juncture, a procession is taken out in the streets of Varanasi. The festival too, attracts plenty of visitors to Sankat Mochan Temple.
Lord Hanuman
Lord Hanuman

Durga temple is very close to this temple and on the day of Mahavir Jayanti, a special procession which starts from the Sankat Mochan mandir ends at Durga mandir.

The current temple structure was built in early 1900s by the educationist and freedom fighter, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya.

 

Kedarnath – Jyotirlinga

Kedarnath Temple

Kedarnath temple

One of the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to the Lord Shiva and is located on the near Mandakini river. Here, Shiva lingam is pyramid shaped and hence is unique among Shiva temples. Pandavas are believed to have built this temple.

Due to harsh weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April (Akshay tritya) to Kartik Purnima (the autumn full moon, usually November) every year. During winters, the vigrahas (deities) from Kedarnath temple are brought to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six months.

Kedarnath is located on a ridge which juts out at right angles from below the 23000 feet high snowy peak of Mahapanth. Kedarnath is located on the Rudra Himalaya range. The Rudra Himalaya range is also known as the Pancha Parvata; its five peaks are Rudra Himalaya, Vishnupuri, Bhramapuri, Udgari-Kanth and Swargarohini. It is believed that four of the Pandavas died on the last of these peaks.

 

Kedarnath Temple
Kedarnath Temple

Legend behind Kedarnath Jyotirlinga

Two incarnations of Lord Vishnu by the names of Nara and Vishnu did penance at Badrikasharama. Both of them used to worship the idol of Shiva daily. Lord Shiva used to arrive in his subtle form and accept their offerings without being noticed by them.
One day Lord Shiva appeared before them. Nara and Narayana eulogized him and requested to remain at that place forever. Lord Shiva accepted their request and established himself as ‘Kedareshwar jyotirlinga’.

There is another legend related to Pandavas. After the culmination of Mahabharata war, Pandavas wanted to be absolved of their sins which was due to killing of their own relatives in the war of Mahabharata.

Giving up all their belongings and ties, the Pandavas and Draupadi , accompanied by a dog, made their final journey of pilgrimage to the Himalayas in search of Lord Shiva .
Meanwhile at Kedarnath a very healthy and good looking bull joined them.  Shiva has taken the form of the bull, as he was unhappy with the Pandavas for their deceit during the war, and hence loathe to give them darshan.
The Pandavas sort of had the gut feeling that the buffalo was Shiva in disguise.  Bhima as usual jumped the gun and tried to catch the buffalo by its tail.  Lord Shiva just disappeared into the ground.

Then Bhima went after the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo was clever and Bheema could not catch it. But Bheema managed to hit the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo had its face hidden in a crevice-in the earth. Bheema started to pull it by its tail. In this tug-of war, the face of the buffalo went straight to Nepal, leaving its hind part in Kedar, a  hump above the ground as a Lingam,  and a blazing fiery column of light sprouted. This is why only the Kedarnath Shiva Lingam is a sort of a  hump.

The face of the buffalo is Doleshwar Mahadev located in Sipatol, Bhaktapur, Nepal.

It is also believed that Arjuna, one of the Pandavas worshipped Lord Shiva to attain the divine weapon, Pashupatastra.

Some important and famous places close to Kedarnath mandir

Badrinath – Badrinath which is near the Kedarnath is also a significant pilgrimage spot for the devotees of Lord shiva. The Neelkant peak behind the Badrinath temple is an abode of Lord shiva – like how the Mount Kailash is. It is called Indra Neel Parvat.

Gaurikund – Base for a trek to Kedarnath & serves as a roadhead, the village has hot springs & a temple dedicated to Gauri.

Gandhi Sarovar – A small lake from where Yudhishthir, the eldest of the Pandavas, is said to have departed to heaven. A km trek from Kedarnath, floating ice on the crystal clear waters.

Vasuki Tal – 6 km. At 4135 mtr. above sea level, this lake is extraordinary, surrounded by high mountains and offering an excellent view of the Chaukhamba peaks.

Gauri Kund – 15 km. The trekking base to Kedarnath and the road head, this village has a temple dedicated to Gauri and also thermal springs of medicinal value.

Gupt Kashi – 49 km. Famous for the temples of Ardhnarishwar and Vishwanathji.

Ukhimath – 60 km. Winter home of Lord Kedarnath temple, and the seat of the Rawal of Kedarnath during winter months.

Agastmuni – 73 km., Has a temple dedicated to the sage Agastya.

How to reach

By Air : The nearest convenient Air port is Jolly grant at Dehradun (121 Kms).

By Road : Kedarnath is connected by road with Badrinath (242 KM), Dehradun (268 KM), Delhi (450 KM), Haridwar (250 KM), Kotdwar (256 KM), and Rishikesh (226 KM).

Route : Rishikesh to Kedarnath vai Rudraprayag :- Rishikesh -> Rudraprayaga -> Agastamuni -> Kund -> Gupta kashi -> Phata -> Soneprayag -> Gauri Kund.

Gauri Kund to Kedarnath is 14 KM. This distance has to be covered by foot, ponies, palkies.

By Rail : The nearest convenient railway station are Dehradun and Haridwar. These are well connected with Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and rest of India through Rail network.

La Tomatina – The tomato festival in Bunol (Spain)

La Tomatina

The History

Bunol, Valencia is famous for Tomatina festival, which is held in every year in the month of August. Its start dates back to 1945, when during a brawl, some people used the tomatoes available nearby as weapons to throw on each other. Soon police intervened and brawl was broken.

La Tomatina
La Tomatina

People remembered the date and next year, same thing was repeated with people brought potatoes from their home. The same events repeated year on year till it was The festival gained popularity with more and more participants getting involved every year till the tradition was established.

The most important landmark in the history of this festival is the year 1975. From this year onwards, “Los Clavarios de San Luis Bertrán” (San Luis Bertrán is the patron of the town of Buñol ) organised the whole festival and brought in tomatoes which had previously been brought by the local people. Soon after this, in 1980, the town hall took the responsibility of organizing the festival.

The event

The main event lasts for about an hour after a loud shot is fired. The tomatoes come from Extremadura, where they are less expensive and are grown specifically for the holidays, being of inferior taste. After exactly one hour, the fight ends with the firing of the second shot, announcing the end. The whole town square is colored red and rivers of tomato juice flow freely.

Tomato supply
Tomato supply

 

Rules of this festival

Despite the wild and free-for-all nature of the event, there are some rules that those taking part have to adhere to:

  • Tomatoes must be squashed before they are throwing as this avoids injuries.
  • Apart from tomatoes, no other projectiles must be thrown.
  • With trucks and lorries passing through carrying more tomatoes, participants must allow these vehicles through.
  • Once the second signal shot is heard, the fight has ended and no more tomotoes should be thrown.
What a scene?
What a scene?

Similar festivals are held in Colombian town of Sutamarchán, San José de Trojas (Costa rica),  Reno (Nevada- United States)

This festival was specifically recreated for a hindi movie – Zindagi na milegi dubara.

This festival was recreated for Zindagi na milegi dubara - a Hindi movie
This festival was recreated for Zindagi na milegi dubara – a Hindi movie