The festival of Saraswati Puja

Sarawati Puja festival

The festival of Saraswati Puja

Saraswati Puja or Vasant Panchami is the festival of scholars. On this day, goddess Saraswati is worshipped. She is considered to be the goddess of knowledge, art and music.

Sarawati Puja festival
Sarawati Puja festival

She holds the veena ( a musical instrument) and also referred as Veena Vadini. This festival in india follows the another important festival – Makar Sankranti.

 

Goddess Saraswati with Veena
Veena Vadini

Vasant Panchami marks the onset of spring season. It is celebrated every year on the fifth day of the Indian month of Magh. In southern part of India, this festival falls on navaratri. This festival is followed by another major festival – Holi.

It is believed that on this day goddess Saraswati was born on this day. Saraswati is the hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science. She is the companion of Brahma, also revered as his Shakti (power). It was with her knowledge, that Brahma created the universe.This festival is celebrated in temples, homes schools, colleges and educational institutions. Goddess Sarawati’s favourite colour is white. She is seen as the serene Goddess wearing a crescent moon on her brow riding a swan or seated on a lotus flower.

Vasant Panchami is the most auspicious day to begin study. Educational institutions conduct special prayer for Saraswati on this day. It is a great day to inaugurate educational institutes and new schools. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya who founded the Banaras hindu university on the auspicious occasion of Vasant Panchami.

There is also a custom of ancestor worship, known as ‘Pitri-Tarpan’ in many parts of India during Vasant Panchami.

Regional influences on Saraswati Puja

Saraswati Puja in Eastern India

In the eastern part of India—Tripura, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihār and Assam,—Saraswati Puja is celebrated in the Magha month (January–February). It coincides with Vasant Panchami or Shree Panchami, i.e., the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Magha. People place books near the goddess’ statue or picture and worship the goddess. Book reading is not allowed on this day.

Saraswati Puja in South India

In the southern states of India, Saraswati Puja is conducted during the Navaratri. Navaratri literally means “nine nights”, but the actual celebrations continue during the 10th day, which is considered as Vijaya Dashami or the Victorious Tenth Day. Navaratri starts with the new-moon day of the bright fortnight of the Sharad Ritu (Sharad Season of the six seasons of India) during September–October. The festival celebrates the power of the feminine aspect of divinity or shakti. The last two or three days are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati in South India.

 

Recommended Reading:

Seven unknown facts about Karna

Unknown fact about Draupadi – Why she had five husbands

When incarnation of Lord Vishnu could not defeat his bhakta

The legend of Narada muni or Sage Narada

Narada Muni

Narada muni is the person who is almost available everywhere in mythological texts. Who is he exactly and what is his role? He is the son of Lord Brahma and great devotee of Lord Vishnu.

Narada - The omnipresent sage
Narada – The omnipresent sage

Sage Narada had blessings that he could show up anywhere, anytime and anyplace. He used these blessings and appeared in all yugas (satya, treta and dwapara) from time to time to spread the good word and help the needy. He traversed distant worlds (or planets) but never went anywhere without a purpose. He used to make his purposeful entry by chanting the name of the lord Vishnu (Narayana) and playing a veena (a musical instrument).

It is said that he could not keep any secrets and thus fuelled a lot of controversies as he would reveal secrets a bad time or spreading gossip. Therefore he was often mistaken as a quarrel-monger and a talebearer. His deeds often brought a trouble and friction among gods, demons and men.

Narada had knowledge of all vedas and puranas and he strived for welfare of human being.

Deeds of Narada

Valmiki and Narada

Narada was behind the writing of the Ramayana by sage Valmiki. Apparently he told Valmiki about Lord Rama. Valmiki was looking for a person who was perfect. After Narada told him about Rama, Valmiki saw a hunter killing krounch birds. He wanted to curse the hunter, but a shloka came out of his mouth which became the first lines of the Ramayana.

Parahlada

Prahlada was taught by Narada when he was in his mother, Kudayu’s womb. Thus, he was a devotee of Lord Vishnu even before he was born. Later, Lord Vishnu took Narsingh avatar to kill prahalada’s father, Hiranyakashyap.

Monkeyfaced Sage

Once, Narada became proud and started boasting that he had conquered Kama. Lord Vishnu taught him a lesson. The whole story is available here.

Proud Narada
Proud Narada

Lord Vishnu’s challenge

Narada boasted that he was the most dedicated follower of lord. Vishnu asked him to carry a pot on his head and ensure that not a single drop is wasted. He obediently carried out the task. After this, Lord Vishnu asked what he was thinking when carrying the pot? He replied – of course, I was thinking that pot should be carried carefully. Lord Vishnu smiled and said, then how can you claim that you are the best devotee when you were not thinking about me? Narada learnt his lesson.

Narada and Lord Vishnu's challenge
Narada and Lord Vishnu’s challenge

Inspiration to Dhruva

Dhruva, son of king Uttanpada, was determined to carve out his own place after he was scolded by his stepmother, Suruchi. His mother, Sunita consoled him and asked him not to get distraught, but Dhruva was determined. Sage Narada was pleased with Dhruva and he given him a mantra “Om Namoh Bhagwate Vasudevay” to chant. Lord Vishnu, happy with Dhruva, awarded him a special place.

Dhruva, Narada and Lord Vishnu
Dhruva, Narada and Lord Vishnu

 

 

The story and boon of Tripurasura

Shiva destroying Tripurasura

Tripurasura – The three sons of Tarakasura

Tripurasura were three sons of  Tarakasura. There names were Vidyunmali, Tarakaksha and Viryavana. Tarakasura was killed by Devtas and he instructed his family to ensure that his death was avenged.

The boon of Lord Brahma

With the advise of Shuracharya, the three sons started doing severe penance. Eventually, Lord Brahma got pleased of there penance and asked for a boon. Expectantly, they asked for immortality. Lord Brahma replied that this is against the rules of the nature. So ask me something else. They said – “Grant us the following: Let three forts be made. The first will be of gold, the second of silver and the third of iron. We will live in these forts for a thousand years. These forts built in different worlds shall align once in every 1000 years. This combined fort will be called Tripura. And if anyone can then destroy Tripura with only a single arrow that shall be the death destined for us”.

Tripurasura
Tripurasura

Three forts of Gold, Silver and Iron

Brahma granted this boon to them. There was a demon named Maya who was very entrusted to build the three forts. The golden fort was built in heaven, the silver one in the sky and the iron one on earth. Tarakaksha got the golden fort, Viryavana the silver and Vidyunmali the iron fort. All forts were as large as a city and had many palaces and vimanas (space vehicles) inside. The demons started living in the three forts and began to flourish.  They were following the things written in scriptures. As usual, Devas did not like this. They went to Lord Shiva for help but returned empty handed as demons were doing nothing wrong. God then reached out to Lord Vishnu.

Lord Vishnu and Arihant

Lord Vishnu knew that the Tripurasuras could not be killed till they remain Virtuous and religious.  He then created an entity from his body who had no hairs on his head. He had worn dirty clothes and a bag was hanging down his shoulder. He also had a broom in his head. The entity asked lord Vishnu about the purpose of his existence and his name. Lord Vishnu told him that his name was Arihan. He also instructed him to create a scripture which stresses upon the importance of action (Karmavad) and which is different from the rituals explained in the Vedas. Lord Vishnu specifically instructed him to keep the language of that scripture as simple and degenerated as possible. Lord Vishnu then preached Arihan on the science of illusion which stressed that the heaven or the hell does not exist anywhere else, but on this earth itself.

Sage Narada accepts new religion

Lord Vishnu instructed Arihan to get Tripurasuras initiated into with this philosophy so that the demon-brothers become irreligious. Vishnu ordered Arihan to make his residence in a desert with his disciples. The being did as he had been asked to. He and four of his disciples went to a forest that was near Tripura and began to preach. They were trained by Vishnu himself.  Therefore, their teachings were convincing and they had many converts. Even the sage Narada got confused and was converted. In fact, it was Narada who carried news of this wonderful new religion to king Vidyunmati. King, he said, there is a wonderful new teacher with a wonderful new religion. I have never heard before. I have got converted.

Narada and Lord Vishnu
Narada and Lord Vishnu

Since the great sage Narada had been converted. Vidyunmati also accepted the new religiqon, and in due course, so did Tarakaksha and Viryavana. The demons gave up revering the Vedas, they stopped worshipping Shiva’s linga.

Lord Shiva and killing of Tripurasura

Now the time was ripe of killing of Tripurasura, since they have now deviated from the good path. Once again, devas requested Mahadev to kill these demons. Lord Shiva acceded to this request. Lord Shiva called Vishvakarma and asked him to make a suitable chariot, bow and arrow. The chariot was made entirely out of gold. Brahma himself became the charioteer and the chariot was speedly driven towards Tripura. The gods accompanied Shiva with diverse weapons.

  1. Prithvi(Earth) was the chariot
  2. Sun and Moon was the wheels
  3. Bramha was the charioteer
  4. Meru was the bow and
  5. Vishnu was the arrow.
Shiva destroying Tripurasura
Shiva destroying Tripurasura

By then a thousand years had passed so that the three forts had become a single Tripura. Shiva installed a divine weapon known as pashupatastra (the arrow of pashupati- another name given to Lord Shiva ) into his arrow and shot it at Tripura. The arrow burnt up Tripura into ashes in a split second. So, all gods of the trinity were involved with Tripurasura. Lord Brahma gave a boon, Lord Vishnu thought of a way to neutralize them and finally, Lord Shiva destroyed them.

The Monkey faced sage – Narada

Sage Narada – how he became monkey faced

Once Sage Narada observed a severe penance to please gods. As usual, Lord Indra became restless thinking that Narada had plans to take Indra’s kingdom. He requested  Kaam deva to go and obstruct Narada’s penance.

Duly Kaam reached there alongwith Rati and Spring and tried to break his penance. They were unsuccessful because of the fact that Lord Shiva once burned Kaam’s body and that place was had no effect of Kaam deva and his antics.

When Indra came to know that Kaam has failed, he was impressed and personally met Sage Narada and congratulated him. Narada became very happy and he started boasting that he had conquered Kaam.

Proud Narada
Proud Narada

He told this to Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma and advised by both gods to keep this to himself. But Narada was not satisfied. He wanted to give the news of his achievement to Lord Vishnu. So, he went to Lord Vishnu’s abode and boasted about his feat of defeating Kaam deva.

Lord Vishnu decided to teach him a lesson.

While returning from Lord Vishnu’s abode, he saw that a beautiful princess was looking for a groom and swayamvar was being organized. As advised by gods, Kaam deva entered Narada’s heart and he was completely in Kaam Deva’s control. Narada was fascinated by the beauty of the princess and he requested Lord Vishnu to make him beautiful like the lord himself.

Narada and Lord Vishnu
Narada and Lord Vishnu

Lord Vishnu made Narada’s whole body very beautiful except his face, which he made like a monkey. This caused amusement amongst the courtiers and the girl herself. When Sage Narada saw his reflection in the water, he realized what happened.

Out of rage, he cursed Lord Vishnu that he would suffer from separation of his wife and he will need help of monkeys. Lord Vishnu accepted this without hesitation. This curse became true in Vishnu’s incarnation as Lord Rama.

Meanwhile the illusionary powers were removed after which the sage realized his mistake and learn his lesson.

51 curses and boons (Indian mythology)

Curses and Boons in Indian Mythology

Curses

Curses and boons are an integral part of mythological stories. Some popular and not so well known curses and boons are detailed. When it comes to curses, Karna from Mahabharata immediately comes to our mind. Similarly Sage Durvasa is also known to be a person, who cursed freely. But do we know, that Lord Rama and Shri Krishna were also cursed and Lakshman has to die as a consequence of a curse.  This article attempts to catalogue some famous and some unknown curses.

1. Curse on Lord Rama

Perhaps the most amazing unknown fact from The Ramayana. Tara (wife of Vali) cursed Rama so that he will soon lose Sita after he regains her. She also declared that Sita will return to the earth. This happened after Rama killed Vali when he was having a duel with Sugriva. Tara additionally cursed Rama that in his next birth, he will be killed by Vali. (Shri Krishna and the hunter).

Tara curses Lord Rama

 

2. Curse on Jaya and Vijaya by Sanath Kumaras

This can be regarded as the most defining curse in Hindu mythology, which resulted in birth of Ravana, Kumbhkarna, Hiranyakashyap and Hiranyaksha. Lord Vishnu took four avatars to relieve them of their curse. [complete story]

3. Curse on King Dashrath by parents of  Shravan Kumar

Parents of Shravan Kumar cursed Dashrath to suffer for his son, which came true due to boons given to Kaikeyi.

Shravan Kumar killed by Dashrath
Shravan Kumar killed by Dashrath

 

4. Sage Gautam’s curse to Ahilya

Gautam discovered an affair between Indra and his wife. He cursed ahilya to turn into a stone. She was later liberated by Lord Rama. This story is available in Balkand of ramayana.

Rama and Ahalya
Rama and Ahalya

 

5. Sage Gautam’s curse to Indra

Indra was cursed with one thousand female genitals (Sahasrayoni). Later she reverted this curse into a boon and Indra got thousand eyes. Indra is also known as Sahasraaksha.

6. Curse on Hanuman

Hanuman has been very mischievous in his childhood. Some sages, irritated by Hanuman’s exploits, placed a mild curse on him by which he became unable to remember his own ability unless reminded by another person. The curse is highlighted in Kishkindha Kand and Sunder Kand, when Jambavantha reminds Hanuman of his abilities and encourages him to go and find Sita.

Hanuman departing for Lanka in search of Sita when Ravana abducted her from Dandaka forests.
Hanuman departing for Lanka in search of Sita

 

7. Curse on Anjana – mother of Hanuman

She was an apsara but took birth as a vanar. Once she threw some fruits on a meditating vanar, who was a sage doing penance. The sage cursed her to born become a vanar the moment she fells in love. She was absolved of this curse later through Brahma’s boon.

8. Curse of Narada on Vishnu

Narada cursed Lord Vshnu to become dependent on Vanara. This was fulfilled when Hanuman helped Lord Rama in the Ramayana.

9. Gandhari to Shri Krishna

Gandhari held Krishna responsible for Mahabharat war and cursed that his end will be ordinary. She also cursed that his clan will also destroyed by infighting. Accordingly, her curse came true after 36 years of Mahabharata war.

10. The curse of sages (Vishwamitra, Durvasa, Vashista, and Narada) to Samba

Samba, Lord Krishna’s son and his friends once have joked with sages. They cursed him to give birth to a iron lump of mass which will bring the destruction of the entire Yadava race.

11. Shri Krishna’s curse to Samba

Shri Krishna curse to Samba (his own son) to be affected by leprosy.

12 Shri Krishna to Ashwaththama

After he tried to kill Abhimanyu’s son (Parikshit) with a deadly weapon brahmastra, Krishna cursed him to live forever.

13. Urvashi’s curse to Arjuna

To become a eunuch when he refused an alliance with her. Later, she diluted this for a year which he used in agyaatvaas. [related link]

14. Yudhisthira to womankind

That they could not hide anything from anyone. This was done after he came to know from Kunti that Karna was his elder brother who was slain in the war of Mahabharata. Kunti tried the mantra given by Sage Durvasa to test its effectiveness. This would have caused embarassment to her, so she had to let Karna go.

15. Parshuram to Karna

This is quite famous incident of a teacher and the student. Parshuram cursed Karna that he would forget the mantra when he would need most. There is a whole article on curses on Karna.

Parshurama sleeping in Karna's lap
Parshurama sleeping in Karna’s lap

 

16 Bhoomi devi to Karna

Owing to an incident where Karna cause distress to Bhoomi devi, She cursed him. In the battle of Mahabharat, the wheel of his chariot got stuck.

17 Brahmin curse to Karna

To die as a helpless as he has killed a cow. Karna had his more than share of curses. Details can be read on this article which is all about curses on Karna.

18 Curse of Vasishtha on Vasus

 Vasishtha cursed vasus to be born on earth as mortals since they have abducted his cow, Nandini. This curse is also related with birth of Bhishma.

19. Rishi Kindam’s curse to Pandu

Pandu accidentally killed Sage Kindam alongwith his wife. He cursed Pandu to die a similar death. Pandu died alongwith Madri, his second wife.

20. The curse on King Yayati by Shukracharya

Sage & Guru Shukracarya cursed King yayati to go as a Old man as Yayati secretly wedded Sharmishtha. (She was Devayani’s sister.) He was allowed to exchange his state from someone who was willing to do. Yayati’s all sons refused, but Puru agreed and he later became his successor.

Shukracharya curse to Yayati

 

21 Shiva’s curse to Brahma

Shiva decided that Brahma would not be worshipped as he had lied to him [complete story]. Another associated curse is on ketaki flower that it would not be used in worship.

22 Saraswati’s curse to Brahma

Brahma not being worshipped is associated with Saraswati’s curse too. He was cursed after being irritated with undue advances from Brahma.

23 Brahma’s curse to Shiva

Originally Brahma has five heads. Once Parvati mistook him for Shiva and when she realized she told this to Shiva. Shiva removed Brahma’s fifth head as Kal Bhairav. Brahma cursed Shiva that the fifth head will be attached to Shiva and will cause him hunger. The  fifth head must be attached to his hand itself and hereafter Shiva must be affected having hunger, having no sleep. Parvati sought Vishnu’s advise and got rid of the fifth head ‘Kabala’.

Shiva as Bhairava
Shiva as Bhairava

 

24 Ganesha’s curse to Moon

Ganesha cursed moon for him being impolite. The whole story is available here.

25 Narada’s curse to sons of Kuber

Narada cursed Kuber’s sons to become trees. They were liberated by Shri Krishna.  Nalakuvara and Maṇigriva were Kubera’s sons. Once they were taking bath in water with their wives naked. Sage Narada came that way. The ladies took their garments after seeing the sage. But the sons of Kubera ignored him. Narada gave a lecture on the false prestige and madness after drinking liquor by the rich and influenced. Then Narada cursed them to become twin trees to be released later by Lord Krishna.

Sage Narada
Sage Narada

 

26 Vasishtha’s curse to Satyavrata

He is popularly known as Trishanku and cursed with a debilitating disease. He was cursed because he stole the cow of Sage Vasishtha and killed it. He then ate it later. But he took care of Sage Vishwamitra’s family, Vishwamitra wanted to send him to heaven.

27 Curse of Radha to Sridhama

To be born as in a low family. Sridhama also cursed Radha that she will be separated from Krishna for 100 years.

28 Curse on Shantanu and Ganga by Brahma

Shantanu and Ganga were celestial beings who had also been cursed to be born on earth as human beings.  Shantanu was King Mahabhishak and he and Ganga were cursed by Brahma for their indecencies in their past lives.

29  Saraswati’s curse to Laxmi

To be born as a tree. Saraswati as a result of Ganga’s curse would become the wife of Brahma. Ganga due to Saraswati’s curse would become a holy River to demolish the sins of those who take baths on her waters.

30 Curse of Kabandha

Rama meets the rakshasa Kabandha and kills him, freeing him from a curse. The freed Kabandha advises Rama to seek the help of Sugriva to find Sita.

Boons

Similar to curses, there are interesting boons which are closely related to curses. I am sure you will enjoy some of the known and unknown boons.

31 Meghnaad’s boon

He was granted boon by Brahma that he would never be won over in any battle, until his Yagna (fire-worship) of his native goddess Nikumbala was disturbed and destroyed. Lakshman disturbed his yagna and finally killed him in the battle.

32 Jayadrath father’s boon

Whosoever causes the head of his son to fall on the earth, his head would blow into thousand pieces.One day Jayadratha met his father Vridhakshtra who was a sage. He asked his father to grant him a boon by which he could choose the time of his death just like Shantanu who gave a similar boon to Devavrata (i.e. Bhishma). He said that who ever caused the head of Jayadrath to fall on the ground, will be killed immediately by having his own head burst into hundred pieces. When Arjuna beheaded Jayadrath, he ensure that his head falls in the lap of his meditating father.

Jayadratha killed by Arjuna
Jayadratha killed by Arjuna

 

33 Lord Shiva’s boon to Jayadrath

Jayadrath had another boon that he could hold all the Pandavas for a day in battle, except for Arjuna. This proved to be undoing of Abhimanyu when Arjuna was not around in the battle and Drona formed a chakravyuha.

34 Bhishma from Shantanu

Shantanu blessed his son that he would chose his own time of death. This was following the Bhishma pratigya taken by Devvrata.

Bhishma_pratigya_nishaadraaj_mahabharat-indian-mythology
Bhishma taking oath for being unmarried – Bhishma Pratigya

 

35 Gandhari’s boon to Duryodhana

The whole story is narrated here.

36 Durvasa to Kunti

Birth of Pandavas. Kunti served sage Durvasa for a year and he became very pleased with her. He has given her a mantra. Using this, she could call any god at anytime who would assist her in begetting a son. Kunti used this mantra four times and Madri couple of times.

37 Sage Parashar’s boon to Satyavati

The boon of fragrance.

38 Boon of Vali

Ram has to kill him in disguise because of a boon. While in fight, opponents half strength would be transferred to him. This story is also available in the link given above.

39 Parshuram’s boon to Karna

Parshuram cursed Karna which resulted in him being defeated in the Mahabharata. But Parshuram also blessed Karna to have everlasting fame.

40 Boon to Hiranyaksha by Brahma

 Once Hiranyaksha did a lot of austerities so that Lord Brahma would give him a boon. He asked and received a boon that no god, demon, beast or human could ever kill him. He was killed by Varaha avatar of Lord Vishnu.

41 Hiranyakashyap’s boon

Hiranyakashyap had a similar boon. And his boon also included that he would not be killed in day or night, inside or outside a house, nor by a human or beast. He was killed by Narsingh avatar – a Vishnu dashavatar. His son Prahlad was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and he summoned his lord after Hiranyakashyap challenged him that where is his lord?

42 Shri Krishna granted boon to Shishupal’s mother Shrutishrava

Shri Krishna promised to his aunt to forgive hundred misdeeds of Shishupala before killing him.

43 Shiva’s boon to Arjuna

The boon which Arjuna is said to have received was called Pashupata, Shiva’s most powerful weapon.

Lord Shiva giving Pashupata astra to Arjuna - Mahabharat
Lord Shiva giving Pashupata astra to Arjuna – Mahabharat

 

44 Shiva’s boon to Ganesha

Shiva granted Ganesha a boon that before beginning of any undertaking or task people would worship Lord Ganesh. Thus the reason for worship of ganesha before start of any work.

45 Boon of Madhu and Kaitabh

These demons had a boon that they would only die when they want it. Lord Vishnu killed them eventually.

46 Brahma’s boon to Anjana

Anjana was initially cursed to live as a vanaar, Brahma told her that she would be absolved of the curse if she gives birth to a incarnation of Lord Shiva.

47  Boons to Hanuman

Hanuman was blessed with two boons which were useful in Sunder Kand.

First was given to him by Brahma that no weapon could harm him. When Brahmastra was used on him, he let himself captured to honour the greatest weapon brahmastra.

Second was given to him by Surya. He was given Laghima and Garima (to be able to attain the smallest or to attain the biggest form). With the helo of these, he went past Sursa.

48 Karna’s boon to Kunti

Karna assured Kunti that  will not use a weapon twice against Arjuna. He later did not use the Naga astra. He also promised Kunti that she will have five sons, so he did not killed Pandavas other than Arjuna, though he could do so.

49. Kaikeyi’s boon by Dashrath

Dashrath granted couple of boons to Kaikeyi during Dev Asur sangram. Dashrath was deeply wounded and he was tended by Kaikeyi. She claimed two boons that Dasharatha had long ago granted her, which resulted in Lord Rama’s vanvaas.

50 Shiva’s boon to Draupadi for desired husband(s)

Draupadi wanted to have a husband with fourteen qualities. Shiva said this is difficult. Upon insistence, he said that she will get five husbands. He gave another boon to her.

51 Draupadi’s boon to remain as a virgin

Shiva granted a boon that she would regain virginity as soon as she takes a bath in the morning. Thus she was able to become the wife of five pandavas at the same time.