Mantras – Sound vibrations that permeate every cell of your being and allow your mind to dissolve and repose. But what are they? What do they mean? Where did they come from? There are so many questions surrounding these ancient syllables. Speaking about Mantras is the revelation of ancient secrets that have been kept sacred from several ages, secrets that continue to benefit humanity irrespective of its circumstances. What are Mantras? Mantras are impulses or rhythms of the consciousness. They create vibrations in the spirit. Their effects, influence, method and mode of working are all a mystery. In Sanskrit,...Read More
Author: Ravi Shankar
Most people are familiar with the story of Atlantis, the legendary sunken city as described by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. Till this day, opinion is still divided as to whether this story should be understood literally or taken merely as a morality tale. Further east in the subcontinent of India is a similar tale, though it probably is less well known compared to that of Atlantis. This is the ‘lost continent’ of Lemuria, frequently connected to the legend of Kumari Kandam by speakers of the Tamil language. The term Lemuria has its origins in the latter part of...Read More
According to the Puranas, during the great churning of the ocean called Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. The gods and the demons were terrified as it could destroy the entire world. When they ran to Shiva for help, he in order to protect the world, drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This turned his throat blue, and since then he came to be known as ‘Nilkantha’, the blue-throated one. Shivratri celebrates this event by which Shiva saved the world. A Festival Significant for Women: Shivratri is...Read More
The word samadhi literally means sama and dhi – Sama means equanimous and dhi means the buddhi or intellect. If you reach that kind of equanimous state of intellect, it is known as samadhi. The word samadhi has been largely misunderstood. People think samadhi means some death-like situation. The word samadhi literally means sama and dhi – sama means equanimous and dhi means the buddhi or intellect. If you reach that kind of equanimous state of intellect, it is known as samadhi. The basic functioning of the intellect is always to set things apart. It is because intellect is...Read More
Atha yoganushasanam – The disciplines of Yoga mentioned in Patanjali Yoga Sutra are Shasana and Anushasana. Shasana means rules someone imposes on you. Anushasana is the rule you impose upon yourself. Now, why is yoga called a discipline? Where is the need for discipline? When does the need for discipline arise? When you are thirsty and want to drink water, you do not say “Oh! This is a rule, I must drink water”. When you are hungry, you just eat. When it comes to the question of enjoying oneself, no discipline is necessary. Where does discipline come into the...Read More
Arjuna’s Penance is a massive open-air bas-relief monolith, which dates back to the 7th century. It is situated in the town of Mahabalipuram, at a distance of 58 km from Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu. Standing tall at a height of 43 feet, the Mamallapuram monolith was carved on the face of two huge adjoining boulders, somewhere around the mid-7th century. The length of Arjuna’s Penance is around 96 feet and the monolith is also known by the name of ‘The Descent of Ganga’. Arjuna’s Penance is known by two names as experts disagree on the stories depicted by it. As per one view, the massive rock sculpture has been named after one of the heroes of the great Indian Epic, Mahabharata. It is believed to illustrate an instance from Mahabharata when Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, performed rigorous austerities to get Shiva’s weapon and destroy his enemies. The second view is that Arjuna’s Penance is a depiction of the incident when King Bhagiratha of India did penance to bring the River Ganges down, from heaven to earth, so as to purify the souls of his ancestors. Lord Shiva answered his prayers and sent the Ganges down to earth. However, the lord decided to break her fall to earth so as to lessen the impact, by allowing the water to trickle through His hair. It is said...Read More
Maha Shivratri, the night of the worship of Lord Shiva, occurs on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna. It falls on a moonless February night, when Hindus offer special prayer to the lord of destruction. Shivratri (Sanskrit ‘ratri’ = night) is the night when he is said to have performed the Tandava Nritya or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. The festival is observed for one day and one night only. Three Reasons to Celebrate Shivratri Origin of Shivratri: According to the Puranas, during the great mythical churning of the ocean called Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. The gods and the demons were terrified as it could destroy the entire world. When they ran to Shiva for help, he in order to protect the world, drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This turned his throat blue, and since then he came to be known as ‘Nilkantha’, the blue-throated one. Shivratri celebrates this event by which Shiva saved the world. A Festival Significant for Women: Shivratri is considered especially auspicious for women. Married women pray for the well being of their husbands and sons, while unmarried women pray for an ideal husband like Shiva, who is the spouse of Kali, Parvati and Durga. But generally it...Read More
The remnant of the dead body after burning is left behind in the form of ashes. Hindus respectfully call these ashes “phool” – literally flowers – to express devotion and respect for the departed soul. When children are symbolically referred to as “fruit”, it is appropriate to refer to the ashes of forefathers as “flowers”. It is customary to gather the ashes on the fouth day after death. They are then immersed in sacred rivers like the Ganga. If it is not possible to immerse them immediately, they are kept in a locker in the crematorium and immersed as soon as possible. In Shankhsmriti, page 7, the consigning of ashes to the Ganga is explained: As long as the ashes of the deceased person remain in the Ganga, the person continues to enjoy happiness in worthy places for thousands of years. In the Kurmpuran, 35/31-34, it is said: Whatever number of years the ashes remain in the Ganga, the departed soul is held in reverence in heaven for thousand times the number. Of all the pilgrimages and of all the rivers, Ganga is considered most holy. It grants salvation to all, including those that have committed gross sins. Although accessible everywhere to the common man, Ganga is unique at Hardwar, Prayag and Gangasagar. Those who desire salvation, including emotionally downtrodden sinners, there is no better place than the Ganga....Read More
Srimad Bhagavatham, one of the 18 puranas of Hinduism, expounds the many gunas of Lord Sriman Narayana through many stories of His devotees. It has an interesting story of a person named Ajamila. Ajamila was a pious and religious Brahmin. One day, when he was collecting wood from the forest for his ritual purposes, he came across a beautiful woman and immediately fell for her beauty. His lust for the lady, who was a prostitute, distracted him completely from his earlier pious life. He abandoned his family, his rituals and practices, and started living with her. Many years later, when it was time for him to leave this mortal world, the messengers of Yama came to him and told him that his time was up and that they were going to tie their noose around him and take him to Naraka (hell) for all his sins. Hearing this, Ajamila was very scared. Sensing his end is near, he wanted to see his son one last time as he had immense affection for him. Fortunately, he had named his son as Narayana. At this sorrowful time, he called out aloud to his son. Suddenly there appeared 4 divine beings, whose face was as bright as the sun, whose very presence with their divine smile, soothed the mind of Ajamila. These 4 divine beings stopped Yama dhootas (Yama’s messengers) from tying...Read More
Azhwars (or Alvar) are the Vaishnavite saints who had composed a collection of 4000 hymns, called Nalayira Divya Prabhandham (4000 divine verses) in praise of Lord Vishnu and His many avatars. These verses are called “Dravida Veda” that is Vedas in the Tamil language! The word Azhwar, in Tamil, means “one who is immersed”. Since the azhwars were immersed in their devotion and love for the Lord, they were called so.The azhwars are twelve in number: 11 men and 1 woman, and they belonged to various castes, by birth. The only common thread amongst them all was their unwavering devotion to Lord Vishnu. The traditional view of the beginning of the timeline for the azhwars has been from the end of Dvapara yuga. The first three azhwars are said to have been born at the end of Dvapara yuga, just after Krishna departed from this earth. 1. Poigai Azhwar: Considered as the first of the 12 azhwars, poigai azhwar was found in a pond (Poigai in Tamil) in the Yadhothakaari temple in Kanchipuram (near Chennai), hence he is called Poigai Azhwar. He is believed to have been born as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu’s conch, Panchajanya. He composed 100 songs in praise of the Lord. 2. Bhoothath Azhwar: Bhoothathazhwar was found in a liquorice flower (Athimathuram in Tamil) in a pond at the Kadalmallai temple (at present Mahabalipuram...Read More
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