Forgotten Festivals: Hindu Religious Year

PUBLISHED ON: INDICTODAY

Hinduism is a religion of festivals. A festival is all about happiness, social interaction, tradition, and faiths. Nothing brings people unitedly and together as festivals do. Festivals always bring enthusiasm, celebrations, happiness, and when it is a Hindu festival, it is always engrossing and eventful. There are more festivals celebrated in Hinduism than any other religion in the world. A festival is a belief which not only makes us who we are but it binds us together, and most important its responsibility is to pass it on from one generation to another.

How Many Festivals?

Present-day Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world. A survey reveals that 95 percent of Hindus believe in God. However, the number of festivities celebrated by Hindus is a complicated theology. Hinduism has many traditions, philosophies, heritage, saints, and scriptures. Hindus worship many gods, deities, demigods, and legends and so are the festivals in Hinduism. Together it creates a complex structure. The Hindu religious year covers festivals for all of its gods, goddesses, elements of life and nature around us. Although, many of these festivals we do not recognize and are hardly remembered. Some of the major Hindu festivals celebrated are Deepavali, Holika, Navratri, Durga Puja, Dasara, Dhanteras, Ganesha Chaturthi, Janmashtami, Pongal, Shivaratri, Baisakhi, Chhath Puja, Makar Sankranti, Karvachauth, Ram Navami, etc.

The list of festivals is fairly long and complicated.

When we try to understand and segregate the festivals, one of the most obvious divisions might be something like:

Solar and Lunar Festivals: Festivals like Makar Sankranti, Ratha Saptami, Pana Sankranti, Nav Varsha (Gurdi Pardwa), Itu puja, Svastika Vrata, Holika, Kojagari, Mitra Saptami, Yugadi, Shravani Purnima, Somvati Amavasya, Rishi Panchami, Chhath Puja, and many more…the list continues.

Puranic God Festivals: Festivities such as Ganesha Chaturthi, Deepavali, Holika, Navratri, Durga Puja, Gowri Habba, Hanuman Jayanti, Jagadhatri Puja, Saraswati Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Annakuta, Ananta Chaturdashi, Dhantrayodashi, Vinayaka Chavithi, Janmashtami, Pushpadola, Govidadvadasi, Govardhana Pratipada, Govinda Dwadashi, Rasayatra, Bali Pratipada, Kartika Purnima, Ram Navami Kartikeya, Tripuri Purnima, Sharad Purnima, Jagannath Yatra, Champa Shashti, Maunya Vrata, Ghantakarna Puja, Kala Bhairava, Twelve Lingam festivals, Mahashivaratri, Sita Navami, Shasthi Devi, Radhaastami, Ratha Yatra, and many more.

Tutelary Deities Festivals:Similarly like Annapurna Ashtami, Shashthi festival, Mahanisha Puja, Rambha Tritiya, Pithori Amavasya, Bhavani Utpatti, Bhaidooj, Narak Chaturdashi, Savatri Vrath, Vishwakarma puja, Vyasa Puja, Manasa Panchami, Sravani Purnima and many more.

Plants, Animals, and Others: These include some prominent festivals like Raksha Bandhan, Nag Panchami, Bargada Amavasya, Ganga Utsav, Govatsa Dwadashi, Bendur Festival, Vat Purnima, Tulsi Vivah, Pitrapakshya, Ancestors festivals, and many more.

The Forgotten Festivals

Most of the festivals mentioned are celebrated dating from the second century BCE. Despite all the effort made for thousands of years and ages, to preserve numerous religious festivals, still many have been forgotten, especially in the last century. There were many more festivals and fairs celebrated in Hinduism in the ancient and medieval periods of which we find no trace at present. And mostly in the last century, they have almost ended. These were the popular and important festivals of Hinduism. Some of them had great significance and were celebrated across India in many regions and we can find proof of them till the last century. But we cannot find these festivals today and people are not even aware of such events or rituals. Some of the essential forgotten festivals from ancient India are as follows. 

Madana-Trayodashi was also known as Kama Trayodasi. This festival was celebrated on Chaitra Sukla Paksha on the thirteenth day. This was the festival of Love. Madana and Rati were considered as the god and goddess of love. Madana is the son of Krishna and Rukmini. In this festival, the pair of love god and goddess was worshipped with flowers, songs, and dances in ancient times. This festival was mostly celebrated in the whole of northern India and some parts of South India in the medieval period.

In some parts of India, it was the day dedicated to Lord Shiva. There is an interesting story of how Lord Shiva was awakened from meditation with the help of God Madana to save the world. Madana Utasava is also celebrated in honor of God Madana. This ancient festival was performed annually with an enormous celebration as a love festival between husband and wife. The husbands were supposed to make their wives happy on this auspicious day. This festival is no longer celebrated. It was slowly overtaken by Holi which occurs one month earlier before this festival and as a rival festival.

Alakshmi Puja (meaning “not Lakshmi”): Alakshmi puja is mentioned in connection with the Rig Vedic goddess as Nirrti in Padma Purana. Alaksmi puja used to be done on the day of the new moon in the Kartik month at dusk specifically. She is represented as an elder sister to Goddess Lakshmi. Similar to Goddess Lakshmi, Alaskhmi emerged from the ocean at its churning by the gods and asuras, but no one was prepared to accept her.

Alakshmi Goddess

Finally, she was given a place where bones and ashes were cremated, where men lie and husbands and wives always fight. God Alakshmi was worshipped with black flowers and brooms. In ancient times people used to worship Alakshmi with devotion so she spared them from visiting her. This worship was done before the Lakshmi puja on Diwali with dedication and commitment. It was considered before Goddess Lakshmi came, Alakshmi should be sent away from the house. After the whole house is cleaned on Diwali this Alakshmi puja was to be performed. It is still important to purchase brooms on Diwali in some parts of India. But this puja is missed now on Diwali throughout India.

Shashthi: Goddess Shashthi is considered as the female deity who takes care of newborn babies, children’s health, and from all infantile mishaps. She is also the deity of vegetation and reproduction and is widely regarded as the benefactor and protector of children and deity of every household. In different parts of India, this festival was celebrated with different names and in different months but all on the sixth day of the Hindu month. Ashoka Shashthi was celebrated on Chaitra Shukla paksha, the sixth day in northern India. On this day women drink water from six flower-buds of the Ashoka tree to secure the well-being of their children.

Goddess Shashthi

References to this goddess appear in Hindu scriptures as early as the eighth and ninth century BCE, in which she is associated with children as well as the Hindu war-god Skanda. In Bengal and South India, it was known as Aranya Shashthi that falls on Jyeshtha Shukla paksha again on the sixth day. Women used to walk in natural forests, collect and eat only fruit and offer prayers to the Shashthi goddess for strong and beautiful children. Then Khas Shashthi was celebrated on Paush Shukla paksha, the sixth day. A fast was observed on this day and the goddess was worshipped for long life and preserving their children. This was an important festival celebrated with great zeal similar to Karva Chauth and Chhath.

Bhishma Ashtami: This festival was celebrated on Magha Shukla paksha on the eighth day, It was considered as the anniversary of the death of Bhishma, who was one of the exceptional heroes of the Mahabharata and played a pivotal role in the war between the Pandavas and Kauravas.

Bhishma did not marry to have any rival for his stepmother’s children. This festival was recognized by the whole nation and by all castes. Many rituals were performed during noon in memory of Bhishma. On this day in the evening, boiled rice was offered in water. It was considered that by performing this ritual the sins men committed in that year would be diminished and it purified their souls. This was a major festival in India, but it is not an important event anymore and has been lost completely.

Svastika Vrata: This was another significant devotion performed during the Shravan period for four consecutive months in the rainy season, every evening. Women from the house used to draw Svastikas for good luck. This Swastika was worshipped daily for four months. At the end of the season, a Brahman(from the upper caste) was presented with a gold or silver plate of the swastika symbol. This worship was connected with the worship of the sun and was performed from the ancient period in Bharatvarsh. This was also an essential festival and was celebrated with great fervor but not anymore.

India is and was always a land of festivals, but in the twenty-first century we are not aware of various religious festivals and we now celebrate limited ones. The festivals we celebrate are just for comfort and posting pictures on social media. We tend to neglect many of our festivals. And the reason for neglecting them is that the present generation has stopped believing in ancient festivals and the older generation has stopped discussing their significance. Gradually more and more such festivals are vanishing every day. And if it outlasts the same way, then in the next few decades we will forget many more festivals of our chronicle…

Deciphering the Deities of Hinduism

Published on: ancient-origins

There are no ancient civilizations that have not practiced some kind of religion. When we study the history of the oldest and the earliest civilizations, we do not find exact dates or traces of events with much accuracy. With the help of preserved manuscripts, stone inscriptions, artifacts, and archaeological findings, we find many traces of civilization and its religions. When we explore the origin of Hinduism, it appears very different from other religions.

In Hinduism, we do not find a specific founder or events as might be recognized in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. The sacred texts of Hinduism were not discovered in written form, such as carved stones or recorded on papyrus. What we discover about Hinduism is a vast amount of scriptures and texts that were preserved by great seers for many centuries over millennia. These seers safeguarded the sacred heritage and comprehensive knowledge from century to century in their memories. This knowledge was transferred over the ages by the teachers and their disciples, without ever writing them down, and was later organized by the sage Veda Vyasa as “Vedas”.

Hinduism has survived for thousands of years despite many invasions and influences. Dating back more than 5000 years, Hinduism has embraced ideas from all parts of the globe. One of the oldest sacred scriptures of Hinduism, known as Rigveda says: “Let the noble thoughts come to us from all the directions”.

How Many Gods?

Present day Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world. A survey reveals that 95% of Hindus believe in god, however, the number of gods worshiped in Hinduism is a complicated theology. Hinduism has many traditions, philosophies, heritage, saints, and scriptures. In Hinduism, idols are worshiped everywhere. Idols can be found all over India made of stone, wood, and metal and can be found in all sizes. Each idol is bright, gleaming, and mostly covered with red vermilion. Hindus worship many gods, deities, demigods, and legends.

Hinduism views worship as anything to do with the nine planets, mother earth, gods, goddesses, family ancestors, saints, legends, the cow, the monkey, the river Ganga, and many, many more. The roots of Hindu gods are embraced and closely knit to its source of ancient Vedas and Upanishads. Together, they create a complex structure. When we try to understand and segregate the deities of Hinduism, one of the most obvious divisions might be:

● The Vedic Deities

● The Puranic Deities

● The Inferior Deities and Demigods

Vedic Deities

Vedas is one of the oldest sacred scriptures available in Hinduism, and the most authoritative. Many of the Rigveda manuscripts are included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register . It is noted for being among the first literary documents in the history of humankind. Vedas are also known as Shruti literature, one “which is heard and should be remembered”. Vedas are represented as Anaadi in Sanskrit, as something which has no beginning or end and hence, are eternal. The Vedic gods are the principal foundation of Hinduism. The primary objective of human life during the Vedic period was the fulfilment of four duties, including Dharma, Karma, Artha, and Moksha. The sacrifices (Yajna) and worships mentioned in Vedas are directed towards these duties. Vedic hymns mostly speak about Nature Gods.

Due to the limited number of Vedic scriptures available today, we do not know the exact number of ancient gods worshiped during this period. There are approximately 33 major deities identified in Vedas today, each with their own unique story and symbolism. Vedas generally refers to them as Devas (devatas) and are not meant to represent supreme gods. Some Devas manifest the glory of the supreme god and are divided into eight Vasus, 11 Rudras, and 12 Aditya, including Indra and Prajapati. The Vedic Deities can be further divided into major and minor Deities.

Major Deities worshiped were Indra (god of thunder and storm), Surya (sun god), Agni (god of fire), Varuna (god of sky), Yama (god of death), and Soma ( god of drink ). Some of the Minor Deities focused on were Ushas (goddess of dawn), Ashvins (twin Vedic god), Vishwakarma (god of architecture), and Dyaus (god of father sky).

While some of the gods from the Vedic period have lost their popularity or become forgotten, some are still worshiped in modern Hinduism. The gods still worshiped in Hinduism are Surya (sun god), Agni (god of fire), and Yama, along with a few others. Yajna is an important ritual described more than 1184 times in Vedas and remains a common practice to this day. There is no major ceremony in Hinduism that is completed without inviting the Agni or god of fire for the offering.

In the later or post-Vedic period, most of the gods mentioned in Vedas were set to inferior positions, as compared to the god of Puranas. One such example is Indra, the most prominent deity of the early Vedic period and also the king of heaven. Indra is the god of thunder, rain, and storms. He resides in the celestial city of Amravati in his palace. Indra is similar to Zeus, the king of the ancient Greek god. Indra is also mentioned for governing the eastern quarter of the world and often found with many Apsaras, the celestial girls. Lord Indra rides the Airavata elephant, which evolved during the churning of the ocean.

Puranic Deities

The Puranas are anonymous texts and were utilized by many seers and authors over the centuries. There are 18 Maha Puranas (including main Puranas) and 14 Upa Puranas (the minor Puranas) and include more than 400,000 verses. The Puranas did not enjoy the authority of scripture in Hinduism. They are considered Smritis. Puranic gods are currently known as Hindu gods and goddesses, which are very popular in modern society. Most of the present-day gods and goddesses of Hinduism come from the stories of Puranas, along with a description of their significance during the Puranic period. Another important source of gods in modern Hinduism are the two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Mahabharata, which contains 220,000 verses, states that “what is not in the Mahabharata is not in Bharata (India)” . Similarly, Ramayana contains more than 50,000 verses which are the narrative by the seer Valmiki and greatly admired. The Puranic period in India evolved soon after the Vedic period.

The Puranas narrate most of the stories of Vishnu, Siva, and Lord Brahma. Lord Vishnu was the minor Vedic deity who was identified with Vasudeva in Vedas. Later on in the Puranic period, Lord Vishnu is mentioned as having ten incarnations (avatars). Lord Krishna and Lord Rama emerged as the most powerful incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Lord Shiva is another Puranic god who was an ancient minor Vedic god. In Puranas, Lord Shiva is one of the main gods of Trinity and is worshiped in various forms, such as Nataraja, Lingam, and the five headed Ardhanarishvara.

The female ensemble of Siva, Shakti, and Durga are also regarded to be among the Puranic deities, as is Lord Ganesh . Altogether, there are eighteen Puranas, two great epics, and many tantras that are the main source of knowledge of the gods of modern Hinduism. The most powerful gods of the Hindu Trinity include Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwara, which stands for Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer from the Puranas period. The most powerful goddesses are the consorts of Hindu Trimurtis; goddess Saraswathi, goddess Lakshmi, goddess Parvati, or Shakti, and the goddess known as Trivedi.

Puranic stories are illustrated as Indra (major god of Vedas), seen riding the white elephant and worshiping Siva, Parvati, and Lord Ganesh (son of Lord Shiva), on the sacred bull Nandi. It is noticed that these gods of Vedas are degraded in the Brahmanas (a part of Vedas) and further up the lower levels in Puranas.

Hindu dharma is further divided into more sects based on the gods of Puranas. Sects include Vaishnavism (Vishnu), Shaivism (Shiva), Shaktism (Devi), and Smartism (five deities treated as the same) in Hinduism today.

The Inferior Gods and Demigods

There is a third classification of deities in Hinduism, including demigods, which are mostly worshiped by local or specific communities. Gods from this period are similar to inferior gods, which are worshiped by fewer people from specific sects or villages or a particular region. Sometimes, evil demigods were also added to the lists of deities and mostly worshiped in small villages in India.

Generally, these gods have a specific purpose and serve a specific object with a cause, such as the Goddess of Cholera, still worshiped in many villages of India. Another example is the worship of sage Naarad, who is the messenger of the gods and has a reputation as a gossiping and meddling person. As Hinduism has always been close to nature, many of these minor gods originate directly or indirectly from nature, and result in the worshiping of trees, rivers, and mountains.
Worship of some of the planets or heavenly bodies can also be added to the list of inferior gods. Two of these planets are mentioned in Vedas as Vedic God, Surya the Sun, and the Moon, as Soma. The other five planets are Mercury (Budha), Venus (Sukra), Mars (Mangala), Jupiter (Brihaspati), and Saturn (Sani). Even in modern Hinduism, during all great festivals, a small offering is presented to the planets. Some of the planets are not worshiped together and some are always worshiped in groups. Even the planets are assigned names to align with the days of the week and have a great influence on Hindu life. Two additional connections include Rahu and Ketu, the eclipse demons, who are also worshiped in Hinduism. In Vishnu Purana, there are stories in which Rahu and Ketu cover the sun and moon with their hands and swallow them.

Hinduism Today

All three categories of god play an important part in strengthening the great Hindu society and give inspiration to millions of Hindu devotees across the world.

It would be not wrong to consider Hinduism as polytheistic in its worshiping of many deities. At the same time, Hinduism also supports the monotheistic belief of one supreme god called Brahman, also referred to as Parmataman. The supreme god has three forms; Brahma-the creator, Vishnu-the sustainer, and Shiva-the destroyer. The Hindu concept also supports the henotheistic belief, which suggests the worship of a single god while not denying the existence or possible existence of other deities and demigods. Henotheism was first used by western scholar, Max Müller, to describe the theology of Vedic religion during pre-ancient Aryan culture. Collectively, the complex structure of gods in Hinduism indicate a liberal and committed religious freedom for its devotees.

Nothing is more wonderful in today’s world than the sight of the countless crowds at the Banaras Ghat, swarming into the sacred river of Ganga for cleansing the soul or watching vibrant Aarti with the serene beauty of the calm sacred river, at one of the 4000-year-old ancient heritages mentioned in Vedas and Puranas.

The Last Ritual

Published On: Sivanaspirit

Antyeṣṭi Sanskara (अन्त्येष्टि)– The Last Ritual, is to pay tribute to the departed soul following to sacred tradition in Hindu Scriptures. There are altogether sixteen samskara (rituals) performed in Hinduism. Starting from the Garbhadhan which is performed at the conception for the purpose of conceiving a child as the first samskara, to the last which is called as Antyeshti samskara. After Antyeshti is completed, it is considered that Atma is permanently separated from the deceased body and has left the physical world. There is a close bonding between the Atma (soul) and the body all over the life. Once the physical body has served its purpose and is unable to sustain life further, the Jiva (soul) has to give up the current form of the body and has to move to the next form of life. The next form is as per his Karma.

Cremation is the most common method of funeral ceremony performed in Hinduism. However, certain groups and castes do not cremate in Hinduism. They bury the physical body. Ascetics and children are also generally buried or floated in the running water.

In Hinduism the body and soul are two separate entities. The ancient scriptures says- the soul once it is separated from the deceased body it is reluctant to leave the body, since it has desire and is attached with the corpse. The soul is very broken to see all his family and friends in pain and agony. Soul do not want to leave the physical body. It has a connection with the world through the body it has known so long. Once the cremation of the deceased body is fulfilled, in which Agni Sanskara is performed it cuts off atma feeling and attachment with the physical body.

In Hinduism, everything in the universe including the human body is made of basic five elements. These five elements (called as Panchtatva) connotes the elements i.e. Sky (Akash), Wind (Vayu), Fire (Agni), Water (Jal) and Earth (Prithvi). The Agni (Fire) which is the last rite is the passage of returning the body back to the five elements to its origin.

In cremation, the family and friends take the deceased body to the cremation ground. The cremation ground, which should be purified and the fire is lit with 100 kgs of wood, ghee(cow clarified butter) and body. Mantras are recited and the body is offered to fire. This is the final purification rite of the physical body. And the body is reduced to its five elements. Also post death rituals, the surviving family makes donations to charity on the deceased’s behalf, which also helps to give peace to the soul.

The roots of this sanskara are also found in Vedas. Rigveda says-

Burn him not up, nor quite consume him, Agni: let not his body or his skin be scattered,
O all possessing Fire, when thou hast matured him, then send him on his way unto the Fathers.
When thou hast made him ready, all possessing Fire, then do thou give him over to the Fathers,
When he attains unto the life that waits him, he shall become subject to the will of gods.
The Sun receives thine eye, the Wind thy Prana (life-principle, breathe); go, to earth or heaven.
Go, if it be thy lot, unto the waters; go, make thine home in plants with all thy members. 

— Rigveda 10.16[11]

Funeral ceremonies are also described in detail in other scriptures, like Atharvaveda, In the Arnayaka of Krishna Yajurveda and later Sutras as well.

After the soul leaves the body it maintains some connection with the existing physical world. This period is around 13 days. The family also maintained a very close connection with the deceased during this period and recalls the person. All the final ceremonies related with cremation and mourning are performed during this period. The ceremonies help to maintain the separation of both deceased between the family and the deceased.

For these 13 days, Hindus recite the Garuda Purana with the other prayers to help the soul get departed and reach its final destination. It is believed when the Aatma leaves the body it adopts another spiritual form which is a subtle body and grows slowly day by day. The tenth day after the death, the interim spiritual soul grows completely and the family of the deceased offers the Pindas (food balls made of rice and water) for the development of Jivas for the next life. During this period the soul is called as pret on which one is departed from the physical world and not reached to next.

On the eleventh day the prayers are performed for the soul to reach in witness of God Vishnu and Yama(God Of death). On twelve and thirteen day the soul reaches to the next world and resides with the forefather called Pitra (ancestors). And the Antyeṣṭi is considered as completed. Every year the family performs the ritual in a specific month called Sharaad as the symbol of remembrance and respect of ancestors for the deceased.

In the end the truth is- anyone who is born will die and only karma goes with the soul..

Yajna: Ancient Purification Practice

Published On: Sivanaspirit

Yajna (यज्ञ) is one of the oldest rituals practiced in Hinduism for thousands of years. There is no major ceremony in Hinduism that is completed without inviting the Agni or God of Fire for the offering. Yajna is described more than “1184″ times in Vedas and “580” times in Rigveda alone. They are also prevalent in current-day Buddhism and Jainism. Yajna is a medium to establish an appendage with your inner self, soul, and peace of mind. It is believed that any offering done with gratitude and belief is reached to God through the fire, during Yajna. There are different terms used for Yajna like Hawan, Hotrah, Yajnah, Meghah, Agnihotra, etc.

The process of Yagna is also considered the most important Karma in the karmakand of the Vēdas. It is mentioned in Shatpath Brahman that:

यज्ञो वै श्रेष्ठतमं कर्म (यज्ञ सबसे श्रेष्ठ कर्म है।)
“Yagyo Vai Shreshtam Karmah”
“Which means the Yajna is the best Karma”

As it is said, “Heal the atmosphere and the healed atmosphere will heal you” After the Yajna is fulfilled, there is a complete purification of the environment, Yajna is the ancient science of healing. Yajna brings all types of rewards including material, environmental, psychological, and spiritual. Yajna purifies the surrounding in many ways.

When a Yajna is performed it removes the foul odors from the environment. Soon after the Yajna, a smoky aroma can be experienced. As the substances used in aahuti(sacrifice) during Yajna like Ghee(Cow clarified butter), Sandalwood, clove, camphor, etc.. It creates a natural, organic pleasing fragrance.

Yajana

Yajna removes plenty of bacteria, viruses, insects from the atmosphere. The smoke also disinfects indoor air. The antiseptic and antibiotic effects of the yajna are like the ancient disinfectants of the atmosphere. One can feel the disinfectant is sprayed all around. After yajna is performed it also restricts the growth or spread of pathogenic bacteria from the environment. Many scientific experiments were conducted in the past to check the impact of yajna on mother nature like seed germination, growth of plants, and water purification. The results were truly amazing which showed the reduction of contaminating microorganisms in the environment. Although smoke has a bad impact on your health and that is why yajna is suggested to be performed in the open space and direct smoke should be always avoided. After the Yajna is performed it reduces the noxious level of the surrounding air due to the combustion of substance used in Yajna. Evidence suggested that Yagya reduces air pollution generated Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and other secondary Air Quality levels along with biological air pollutants such as microorganisms from the environment up to substantial level. Yajna also reduces the negativity from the mind, body, and the surrounding. Yajna reduces stress and over addiction.

Embrace the Power of Yajna

There are almost more than 400 types of Yajnas mentioned in Vedas. Before performing any Yajna the one needs to understand the purpose of performing the Yajna. There can be hundreds of reasons for Yajnas: like to worship the Devas/Deities. Yajna is also performed to achieve divine calmness, satisfaction, ensure health, cleanse sinful karma, improve relationships. Sometimes Yajnas are also performed for overcoming obstacles and difficulties in life. Yajnas are also performed to achieve goals like Dharma, Artha, Moksha. Yajna is also performed on specific occasions like birthday, house warming, anniversaries, etc. In some parts of India, Yajnas are also performed for good rains, better crop harvesting, evil spirits, natural disasters, the sin of the ancestors, and many such reasons.

Yajna can be classified in multiple ways. Some Yajnas are performed every day, some are performed weekly, monthly, yearly. Some are performed on specific situation, occasions. And some yajna is performed once in a lifetime. There are almost more than 400 types of Yajnas mentioned in Vedas. Yajna which is performed at the home, office, or in the family is generally called Havan. Yajnas are mostly performed in the morning or during daylight and in open space. There are different types of mantras to chant while performing Yajna. Without chanting Mantras it will not be possible to get benefits that are expected from Yajna.

Anyone can perform a Yagna. To start with one can always perform his small ritual of Yajna at home or when you’re about to begin a new venture or to give a more emphatic direction in your current journey. There are unlimited benefits of Yajna which can not be explained in full length. Altogether from Yajna one can use the power of fire to drive into our inner consciousness and self-delight.

Published Date : 19 May 2020   

Forgotten scriptures – The Vedas

Published on:  Opindia

There is no culture or civilization in the world history which has not practiced any religion. When we study the ancient history of the oldest and the earliest civilizations or culture of the world, we do not find exact dates or the traces of the events with accuracy. But with the help of preserved manuscripts, stone inscriptions, artifacts, objects, and archaeological findings, we can find high-level traces of the civilization and its religion. Few of such examples of the very oldest religions of the world are like Taoism in Chinese, Sumerian religion, Zoroastrianism of Iran, etc. Similarly for most of the religions, we find a lot of information about the founders of religion, beginning period, whereabouts, background, etc. And all this has a major role in the religious beliefs, prophecies, transcendental or spiritual elements,  practice, its core values, etc.

Taking all this into consideration, if we check the oldest records of Hinduism, it is very different to equate it with all other religions.  

In the Indian subcontinent the oldest scriptures, sacred texts of Hinduism were not found in any written form or carved on stones. The scriptures of Hinduism was not recorded in any papyrus material. In Hinduism, we do not find any founder or any beginning dates unlike Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. We do not find any whereabouts of beginning of Hinduism.

Capture

What we find about Hinduism is a vast amount of scriptures and texts that were preserved by great seers for many-many centuries and millenniums. These seers/Rishis safeguarded the sacred heritage and vast amount of knowledge from century to century in their memory and heart. It was passed through many generations by the Gurus (teachers) to their pupils without even writing them. Which is almost impossible if we think in the present day, keeping in a notice about the amount of text and the complexity of the language. And it was passed from generation to generation without any slightest alteration and modification in it. This knowledge was later organized by the great seers and scholars and known as Vedas (वेद).

The Vedas are the oldest sacred text available not only in Hinduism but to mankind, as far as known till date. That can be a reason, it is said

‘Anantha vai Vedaah’ (अनंता वै वेदा:)

Means, Vedas are infinite. Vedas are endless and Infinite. The knowledge in Vedas has neither the beginning nor the ending. As this sacred knowledge was deep-rooted thousands of years back. There are no great scriptures than Vedas. There could more interpretations varying on the degree of the scholarly person who must be translating or interpreting it but it is the text of divine knowledge. All other scriptures are derived from the Vedas. Vedas are also called as Anādi (अनादि). Anadi means the thing which always existed even before the time started and will remain forever. Which means it is having no beginning or end. It is eternal.

‘Veda apaurusheya’  (वेद अपौरुषेय)

The Vedas are ultimate truths and not created or composed by a person. They are created by Brahman (Supreme Being). So the origin of Vedas cannot be traced. Since there are some Mantras that are associated with the names of sages, we may inference that they may have been composed of them. But it is not so as a matter of fact. “apaurusheya” means not the work of any man.

 

Vedas are the most authoritative of all the text in Hinduism. In all other Hinduism texts like Puranas, Bhagwat Gita and epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana also talks about the greatness and essence of Vedas. Bhagwat Gita is one of the most popular texts in Hinduism and also most translated, published scripture in Hinduism. Bhagwat Gita is composed in Sanskrit and it means Song of God. In Bhagwat Geta, Lord Krishna himself says

that:

वेदानां सामवेदोऽस्मि देवानामस्मि वासव: |

इन्द्रियाणां मनश्चास्मि भूतानामस्मि चेतना ||

Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 10, Verse 22                                  

I am the Sāma Veda amongst all the Vedas available, I am Indra amongst all the celestial gods.

What really sad is, we are not much aware of our Vedas. How many among us know Vedas? Most of us do not know anything more than- names of the four Vedas; what else…. it is the oldest scriptures known to mankind; it is written around 1500 BC by Aryans; it is written in Vedic Sanskrit. We know about Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata thanks to all the available sources like- our daily soap televisions, mythology books, stories from our grandparents.

There are some Myths around why people not studying Vedas, few common answers are:

1.) Vedas and Upanishads are difficult to understand and the only great guru, teacher, Sanskrit scholars can only understand it.

2.) Vedas and Upanishads are boring. Mostly it talks about how to praise God, nature or answer of questions like who am I, what is the purpose of my life, etc.

But the question comes, have we ever tried to understand the essence of Vedas/Upanishads, the most important fundamental and the authoritative scriptures/element of Hinduism?

Published Date : 9 April 2020                                                         

     

What does the Vedas teach us, in this Pandemic

Published On: Opindia 

Our newly emerged worst enemy from China has brought the whole world to its knees. More than 2.5 million people have been infected worldwide, in this pandemic so far. Almost one-third of the human population is living under lockdown currently. A new type of psychosomatic experimentation is being conducted on humankind in this pandemic. No one knows the aftermath of this pandemic and when it is going to end. But one question is arising certainly,

Where is God in this Pandemic?

In some religions, they are saying, the coronavirus itself is an act of God, some are saying it is a deed of human punishment. Honestly, we do not know, but undoubtedly many customs followed in Hinduism, is beneficial to fight with this novel Coronavirus and the western world is supporting it wholeheartedly. The practices which were mentioned in the oldest scriptures of Hinduism in Vedas are scientifically proven in reducing the spreading of the deadly virus. The whole world is following Hinduism practices more than ever before this pandemic.

One such precaution to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 is ‘Namaste’ (Namaskaram), and it is becoming a global salutation trend now. More and more people, especially global leaders are doing namaste rather than a handshake, kissing, or bowing. Recently some of the top world leaders like Prince Charles, Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, French President Emmanuel Macron, and others were spotted doing namaste. Namaste is derived from Sanskrit and is a combination of the word ‘namas’ and ‘te’ which means “I bow to the divine in you”. Namaskritya and other such related terms appeared in Rigveda especially in ‘Vivaha Sukta’. It is a traditional way of greeting in India for thousands of years. Recently U.S. President Donald Trump said ‘India ahead of the curve’, after greeting Irish PM with namaste..

Hygiene and quarantine were always important in Hinduism for health, mental, and social reasons. Even during the Vedic age, many of the hygiene practices were followed and are mentioned in Vedas. These hygiene practices are part of Hinduism and followed from many centuries in India. These practices are very much required in the present day during this Pandemic. Some of these practices are like washing hands with antiseptics/germicides after urination or defecation. Though these antiseptics were made from turmeric, neem, and replaced now by sanitizers, handwash in the present day. Washing our hands before and after having food. Putting down sleepers outsides of house and many more such small traditions where followed. Similarly, if someone dies, the entire family is like quarantine for the rest of the village was another way hygiene which is followed. Also during the menstruation cycle, women were something like social distancing. similarly in many such scenarios families or person was in quarantine or at least social distancing was followed. These practices were followed to keep our self-safe and hygienic. Albeit our enemies slightly change, but still in the world of technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, IoT we are following similar practices which were laid down thousands of years earlier.

Well, we all are trying their best to stay calm and relax, but still, stress levels are reaching an all-time high in lockdown. Even now, we have a long way to go. The whole world is worried, how this all will impact our lives, business, jobs, health, and finances. People are trying more and more ways to place stress under control. One of the easiest and effective ways that the world is doing –Meditation. Harvard Medical School recently published that the easiest way to reduce stress, anxiety is meditation. More and more apps, smartwatches are offering modern technology these days that can guide you to meditate, reduce stress and stay focused. New Articles, blogs are published and shared every day on Mediation and yoga all across the Internet. The word meditation itself means dhyanam, which factors self-learning, conciliation with self. The word dhyanam has appeared many times in Vedas starting Rigveda like appearance is in Verse 10.11.1 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka. Similarly appeared in Kauhitaki Upanishads 3.2 where it talks about mind and meditation in prayer.

Corona virus Is also changing the rituals followed after the demise. The majority of governments are choosing cremation over burial, irrespective of their religion. Sri Lanka, Philippines, and other countries or states have made cremations compulsory in coronavirus deaths. Even western countries like in the USA, cremations have surpassed burials as the most popular end of life option. WHO says to conduct a safe and dignified burial of a patient who has died from a suspected virus like ebola. Cremation is a major practice that is followed in Hinduism from the early period. And a standard practice in cremation is that dead bodies are not ethical to touch. People need to take a bath after coming from cremations. Antyeṣṭi or Antima Sanskara is a Sanskrit word for cremations in Hinduism. Word antya and iṣṭi respectively mean “last” and “sacrifice”. And “Antima Sanskara” means “last sacred ceremony”. In Hinduism, it is considered that the human body and the whole universe consists of five elements – air, water, fire, earth, and space. The last rite of ritual is to return the body to its five elements of the origin. The roots of these beliefs are very old and can be found in the Vedas, in the hymns of Rigveda section 10.16.

Now more and more health organizations are warning about the health-related risks associated with eating meat after these pandemics. Raising animals for food was always a breeding ground for diseases that can be easily transmitted to humans. Health experts believe COVID-19 originated at a “wet market” in China, where shops sell both live and dead animals for human consumption. It is still not proved that the meat industry is entirely responsible for the corona virus, but yes corona virus and similarly many other Pandemics in the past have always been linked with animals. It is found that 6 out of 10 most Infectious diseases come from Animals like H1N1 swine flu, H5N1 bird flu, Ebola, SARS, and many more.

The WHO says 70% of global disease-causing pathogens discovered in the past 50 years came from animals. More and more news is emerging these days from all parts of the world after this deadly virus is to stop eating meat and to go vegan strictly which is a known practice in Hinduism from centuries. As we all know that prevention is always better than cure. Although there are no vaccines for this pandemic until now, the best step is to take measures to elevate the immunity, so there will be fewer chances of getting infected by this disease. Despite there is no such unique food, fruits, or medicine that can be a guarantee to boost the immune system and protect us against coronavirus immediately.

Still, vegetables and fruits are the best examples of immune-boosting vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some of the key nutrients that are important in immunity are mentioned in Ayurveda. Some examples of such immunity-boosting herbs are turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garlic which are commonly used in an Indian family.

Published Date: 23 April 2020                     

Some quotes from great person for Vedas

Published in Book: “Beyond the Credence”

“After the conversations about Indian philosophy, some of the ideas of Quantum Physics that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense.” W. Heisenberg, German Physicist

“India—The land of Vedas, the remarkable works contain not only religious ideas for a perfect life but also facts which science has proved true. Electricity, radium, electronics, airship, all were known to the seers who founded the Vedas.”– Wheeler Wilcox

“We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.”– Albert Einstein, scientist

“They were very advanced Hindu astronomers in 6000 BC. Vedas contain an account of the dimension of Earth, Sun, Moon, Planets, and Galaxies.”-Emmelin Plunret in ‘Calendars and Constellations’

“An examination of Indian Vedic doctrines shows that it is in tune with the most advanced scientific and philosophical thought of the West.”-Sir John Woodroffe

“One Billion-Year-Old fossil prove life began in India: AFP Washington reports in Science Magazine that German Scientist Adolf Seilachar and Indian Scientist P.K. Bose have unearthed fossil in Churhat a town in Madhya Pradesh, India which is 1.1 billion years old and has rolled back the evolutionary clock by more than 500 million years.”-Adolf Seilachar & P.K. Bose, scientists

“Our present knowledge of the nervous system fits in so accurately with the internal description of the human body given in the Vedas (5000 years ago). Then the question arises whether the Vedas are really religious books or books on anatomy of the nervous system and medicine.”– B.G. Rele in ‘The Vedic Gods

“The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of wonderful structure, more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin and more exquisitely refined than either.”-Sir William Jones, British Orientalist

“Vedas are the most rewarding and the most elevating book which can be possible in the world.”-Schopenhauer

“From the Vedas, we learn a practical art of surgery, medicine, music, house building, under which mechanized art is included. They are encyclopedia of every aspect of life, culture, religion, science, ethics, law, cosmology and meteorology”.-William James, American Philosopher and Physician.

“I go to the Upanishads to ask questions.”-Niels Bohr.