Many news stories about prehistoric finds and their possible meaning in terms of archaeology and social history have reached the world in recent decades. One of them, found in South Germany, put scientists around the world in a state of amazement some years back. The centerpiece is the “lion man”, an idol that is made from the tusk of a mammoth in the form of a human body with a lion head. Amazingly it is dated to be 32,000 years old. This discovery generated a lot of attention in the archaeological circles of Europe. In excavations around 1930-35 at the Lonetal area near Ulm, Germany, scientist discovered an immense jurassic cave system with lots of prehistoric artifacts in it. At first, only representations of birds, horses, turtles and single lions where found, but no morphological combinations of men and animal, so the “lion man” was quite outstanding and unique. It also became clear during later examinations that the “lion-men”, the biggest and most spectacular of the ivory figures excavated, was used for ritual purposes, unlike the other items. The pieces of “Löwenmensch” were found in 1939 in a cave named Stadel-Höhle im Hohlenstein (Stadel cave in Hohlenstein Mountain, also called Hohlenstein-Stadel cave), in the Lonetal (Lone Valley) of the Swabian Alps, Germany. With the start of the Second World War demanding world attention, the artifact was forgotten, and only...Read More
Byline: Sampradaya Sun
Shankaracharya of Puri, Swami Nischalananda Saraswati came down heavily on Sri Jagannath Temple administration and the Odisha government for not giving due respect to him. Addressing media persons at Puri on Saturday, the top religious leader said he was saddened that the temple administration did not consult him for Nabakalebara rituals. “In 1996, nobody from the temple administration or government had approached me to seek my advice for Nabakalebara. They repeated the same mistake this year as well. It is an insult to me and to the holy seat of Puri Shankaracharya,” the seer said. “The temple record of rights has clear mention about my role. The temple should seek my advice for major rituals in the shrine. But the government and temple administration sidelined me,” the Shankaracharya said. The Shankaracharya sounded a warning to the temple administration. “By humiliating me, the state government and temple administration insulted Lord Jagannath. It will have serious consequences in future. Nature and divine power would not spare those who hatched conspiracy against me,” the Shankaracharya said. During last year’s Rath Yatra, the seer had spewed venom against the government and temple body. In a serious break of age-old tradition, he boycotted the ritual on the chariots at the June 29th car festival. He refrained from visiting the chariots as the temple administration barred his disciples from accompanying him to the chariots. “Rath...Read More
The eight guardian deities who preside over the eight points of the compass each sits on an elephant vahana. They are: Kubera (north), Yama (south), Indra (east), Varuna (west), Isana (northeast), Agni (southeast), Vayu (northwest), and Nirrti/raksasa (southwest). Each of these elephant take part in the defense and protection of its respective quarter. Chief among them is Airavata of Indra. Airavata also stands at the entrance to Svarga, Indra’s palace. Airavata is also known as ‘Ardha-Matanga’, meaning “elephant of the clouds”, and ‘Naga-malla’, meaning “the fighting elephant”. He is also called ‘Arkasodara’, meaning “brother of the sun”, and yet another of his names means “the one who knits or binds the clouds”. Elephants are known to be capable of producing clouds. The connection of elephants with water and rain is emphasized in the pastimes of Indra, who rides Airavata when he defeats Vritra. The mighty elephant reaches down his trunk into the watery underworld, sucks up water, then sprays it into the clouds, which Indra then causes to rain forth cool water. Therefore, Airavata is linking the waters of the sky with those of the underworld. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna says, “Of horses, know Me to be the nectar-born Ucchaisravas; of lordly elephants, Airavata and of men, the monarch.” (10.27) Airavatesvara Temple At Darasuram near Kumbakonam, in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is a temple where...Read More
Invocation harih om. apyayantu mamang ani vak pranas cakshuh srotram atho balam indriyani ca sarvani. sarvam brahmopanishadam maham brahma nirakuryam. ma ma brahma nirakarot. anirakaranam astu. anirakaranam me ‘stu. tad-atmani nirate ya upanishatsu dharmas te mayi santu. te mayi santu. om santih santih santih. Hari Om. O Lord Hari, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, I pray that by Your mercy my limbs, words, life-breath, eyes, ears, bodily strength, and all my senses may become strengthened and enlivened. I pray that I may never abandon the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is described in the Upanishads, and who is the source of everything that exists. I pray that the Supreme Personality of Godhead may never abandon me. I pray that I may never abandon Him. I pray that He may never abandon me. I pray that the truths of the Upanishads may always be present within me, who am faithfully devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I pray that the truths of the Upanishads may always be present within me. Om. Peace. Peace. Peace. Text 1 vajra-sucim pravakshyami sastram ajnana-bhedanam dushanam jnana-hinanam bhushanam jnana-cakshusham Now I will speak the Vajra-sucika Upanishad, which destroys ignorance, refutes the fallacies of the foolish, and decorates the wise whose eyes are filled with knowledge. Text 2 brahma-kshatriya-vaisya-sudra iti catvaro varnas tesham varnanam brahmana eva pradhana iti veda-vacananurupam smritibhir apy uktam. tatra codyam asti...Read More
Today we begin an eight-part series of the second section of Garuda Purana, translated by S.V. Subrahmanyam and E. Wood in 1911. Garuda Purana is one of the Vishnu Puranas, being comprised of a dialog between Lord Vishnu and Garuda, the King of Birds and Visnu’s vahana (transcendental carrier). Much of the Garuda Purana deals with issues connected with death, particularly funeral rites and the metaphysics of reincarnation. Portions of the Garuda Purana are typically as funeral liturgy, and some adherents will only read this text as part of funeral rites. For the devotee, however, the workings of death and the administration of Yamaraja is of relevance to the living, as well. Table of Contents 1. The Miseries of the Sinful in this World and the Other 2. The Way of Yama 3. The Torments of Yama 4. The Kinds of Sins which lead to Hell 5. The Signs of Sins 6. The Miseries of Birth of the Sinful 7. Babhruvâhana’s Sacrament for the Departed One 8. The Gifts for the Dying 9. The Rites for the Dying 10. The Collecting of the Bones from the Fire 11. The Ten-Days’ Ceremonies 12. The Eleventh-Day Rite 13. The Ceremony for all the Ancestors 14. The City of the King of Justice 15 The Coming to Birth of People who have done Good 16. The Law for Liberation Introduction This Garuda...Read More
Invocation om bhadram karnebhih srinuyama deva bhadram pasyemakshibhir yajatrah. sthirair angais tushtuvams tanubhir vyasema deva-hitam yadayuh. om svasti na indro vriddha-sravah svasti nah pusha visvadevah. svasti nas tarkshyo arishtanemih svasti no brihaspatir dadhatu. om santih santih santih. Om. O Supreme Personality of Godhead, may we hear auspiciousness with our ears. May we see auspiciousness with our eyes. May we perform yajnas with steady limbs. May we offer prayers. May we spend our lives employing these bodies in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Om. May the glorious Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supreme monarch, grant auspiciousness to us. May the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the glorious Deity of all the worlds grant auspiciousness to us. May the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who holds the Sudarsana-cakra and rides on Garuda, grant auspiciousness to us. May the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supreme master, grant auspiciousness to us. Om. Peace. Peace. Peace. Text 1 om brahma devanam prathamam sambabhuva visvasya karta bhuvanasya gopta. sa brahma-vidyam sarva-vidya-pratishtham atharvaya jyeshtha-putraya praha. Brahma, who is the first demigod, the creator of the universe, and the protector of the worlds, spoke knowledge of the Supreme, the first of all kinds of knowledge, to his eldest son, Atharva. Text 2 atharvane yam pravadeta brahmatharva tam purovacangire brahma-vidyam. sa bharadvajaya satyavahaya praha. bharadvajo ‘ngirase paravaram. The same knowledge of the Supreme that Brahma told Atharva...Read More
In Bhagavad-gita 9.25, Lord Krsna instructs: yanti deva-vrata devan pitrn yanti pitr-vratah bhutani yanti bhutejya yanti mad-yajino api mam “Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; and those who worship Me will live with Me.” Those who worship the Devatas will go to the Devatas, those who worship the Pitrs go to the Pitrs, and those who worship the Bhutas will go to them. Given that the Sanskrit term bhuta literally means “being”, in a sense all the fallen conditioned souls are Bhutas, and may be said to inhabit Pita-loka. Srila Prabhupada, in his purport on Gita 9.25, explains the following: “If one has any desire to go to the moon, the sun or any other planet, one can attain the desired destination by following specific Vedic principles recommended for that purpose, such as the process technically known as darsa-paurnamasi. These are vividly described in the fruitive activities portion of the Vedas, which recommends a specific worship of demigods situated on different heavenly planets. Similarly, one can attain the Pita planets by performing a specific yajna. Similarly, one can go to many ghostly planets and become a Yaksha, Raksha or Pishaca. Pishaca worship is called “black arts” or “black magic.” There are many men...Read More
Abhimanyu is a key personality featured in the epic Mahabharata. The son of Arjuna and Subhadra, half-sister of Lord Krishna, Abhimanyu is a partial incarnation of Chandra. An unparalleled archer, he was considered equal to his father in prowess with the bow and arrow. As an unborn child in his mother’s womb, Abhimanyu learned the knowledge of entering the deadly and virtually impenetrable Chakravyuha from Arjuna. The Mahabharata explains that from the womb, Abhimanyu overheard Arjuna talking about this with his mother Subhadra. Arjuna explained to Subhadra in detail the technique of attacking and escaping from various vyoohs (an array of army formation) such as Makaravyoha, Kurmavyooha, Sarpavyuha, etc. After explaining all the vyoohs, he explained about the technique of cracking Chakravyuha, and entering it. When he was about to explain how to exit from the Chakravyuha, he realises that Subadra was asleep and stopped explaining about the Chakravyuha further. In return, the baby Abhimanyu in the womb did not get a chance to learn how to come out of it. Abhimanyu spent his childhood in Dwaraka, his mother’s city. He was trained by Pradyumna, the son of Sri Krishna, and by his great warrior father Arjuna, and brought up under the guidance of Lord Krishna. His father arranged his marriage to Uttara, daughter of King Virata, to seal an alliance between the Pandavas and the royal family of...Read More
The astras are transcendental, supernatural weapons created by the Lord, and presided over by a specific Deity. In order to summon or use an astra, one must have the required knowledge, i.e., the specific mantra that will arm, direct, and disarm the astra. The presiding deity, once properly invoked, endows the weapon, making it essentially impossible for foes to counter its potency through regular means. As described in sastra, specific conditions existed involving the usage of various astras, and the violation of proper protocol could be fatal. Because of the power involved, the knowledge involving use of an astra was passed from guru to disciple by word of mouth alone, and only the most qualified students were made privy to the information. Certain astras had to be handed down directly from the presiding deity himself, as having knowledge of the mantras alone was insufficient. The importance of astras is described in particular detail in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, which describes their use in epic battles. Various pastimes describe the use of astras by archers such as Rama, Arjuna, and Bhisma. They generally invoked the astras into arrows, although they could potentially be used with anything. For example, Ashwatthama invoked an astra using a blade of grass as his weapon. One of the most famous astras is Pashupatastra, being the inconceivably potent and highly destructive personal weapon of Lord Siva....Read More
This beautiful painting of Lord Nrsimhadev being pacified by Sarabha-Shiva depicts Lord Shiva in his winged form as Sarabha. Images of the Devi’s are iconographically depicted on his body. Lord Nrsimha sits nearby, the destroyed demon Hiranyakasipu on His lap, with Prahlad and Laksmi nearby. The Puranas describe Lord Nrsimhadev’s pastime of killing the demon, saying that the Lord consumed every drop of Hiranyakasipu’s blood, then wore the demon’s mangled body as a garland to make sure that none of the demon’s physical remains made contact with the universe. After the destruction, Prahlad, Laksmi and various demigods attempted to soothe the Lord’s anger, but without success. Coming at the request of the rishis and demigods, Lord Shiva, along with Sri Soolini and Prathyankira Devis and Their respective entourages, manifested His supremely aggressive Sarabesvara form. He embraced Sri Nrsimha, cooled Him down and made Him accessible to all beings. This Sri Sarabesvara is Lord Shiva’s universal omkara form. As mentioned in yesterday’s opening segment of this series, Lord Nrsimhadev’s post-destruction and Disappearance pastimes were not discussed in any detail by our Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya Acaryas. While numerous temple deities, painted images and sastric references are found to Lord Shiva’s Sarabha form, the major Puranas like Srimad Bhagavatam do not mention the Sarabha forms of Lord Nrsimha and Lord Shiva. Likewise, no mention appears to have been made in the Upa...Read More
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