JANUARY FIRST--THE HINDU-AMERICAN WAY OF MASS WORSHIP IN TEMPLES
(TELEPATHY DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN, DECEMBER 30, 2011)
Gregorian New Year is yet another Holiday that makes its appearance in Hindu
of Hindu Temples in USA. This New Year Celebration focuses on Western calendar also known as Christian Calendar. Pope Gregory XII is the author of this calendar, brought into force on February 24, 1582 which was forced on all in the world progressively by the Western Powers on all their subjects. In fact Pope Gregory was following Julian calendar for religious observances in churches which he revised later. Gregorian calendar is a legacy left by the British for universal commercial and official understanding for Indians. British being diplomatic left the various Hindu Calendars to various States of India making them Regional Holidays. It is also the calendar adopted in all schools for imparting education of the History of the Land. In real sens Gregorian calendar is also a Christian religious calendar. Though Salivaahana Saka Era was in force for long time, it is no longer in use which is now confined to some revenue records, religious records and individual horoscopes. In India
Hindus celebrate January 1 as the beginning of Official New Year which is a Secular Holiday. No religious mass worships are conducted in temples in India to sanctify this holiday.
Despite its world wide spread use GregorianCalendar has number of weaknesses. It cannot be divided into equal halves or quarters. The number of days per month is haphazard and even months and even years may begin on any day of the week. A temple of Janus is said have been constructed by the Consul Gaius Duellos in 260 B.C.E. after the Battle of Magee in the Forum Holilorium. It contains a statue of the God with right hand showing number 300 and the left one number 65 that is the dimension of solar year and twelve alters one for each month. That is how the month is called January after the Roman God Janus. Janus is a God with two faces looking into the past and the future. Thus this as well its predecessor Julian Calendar are also religious biased if we think that all Hindu New years Day celebrations are religious biased.
We all know the names of the days in a week are named after Planets. I wonder why Pope Gregory did not think of Soura Maana Hindu calendar which names its months on Zodiacal signs which the Western culture is familiar with from days of yore. In this Calendar a year commences from the time the Sun enters the zodiac sign Niraayan Mesha(Aries) and runs through until the Sun complete thirtieth degree of Meena (Pices) and is about to enter the sign Mesha again. This is about 365.25 days which for all practical purposes would be 365 days for each year and once in four years this would also be 366 days as in Gregorian leap year. This would have been a purely astronomical designated calendar unlike the Gregorian which has the names of Gods and Emperors and Popes. Pope Augustus was either not aware of it not knowing Sanskrit like Max Mueller and others or indifferent to it thinking it to be unscientific coming from a mass of pagan religions. Each Year January First falls on a different day of the week and the entire following year shifts accordingly. There is a new proposal by Richard Conn Henry, Professor physics at John Hopkins, to keep calendar the same every year. In it March, June, September and December would have 31 days, all the rest 30. Christmas would always fall on a Sunday. The extra day created by the Earth's inconvenient 365.242 days orbit around the Sun would be dealt with not by adding Feb. 29 for leap years, but by a leap week tacked onto the calendar at the end of December every five to six years. But this would destroy the count, meaning people could end up working on a day they should devote to spiritual matters thus not making the Sabbath holy in reality. That would be unacceptable to millions of Christian believers. It is in practicality the religious calendar of millions of Christians and not a secular calendar as many a think. I wonder whether Pope Gregory had any knowledge of the famous Sun Temple at Konarak (1238-1250 C.E.) which deals with Hindu Sun Calendar?
Hindus have several New Year Day Celebrations of their own which are celebrated as religious celebrations with prayers to pay their gratitude to the Supreme Principle depending on individual Sampradyas (traditions), for example, Yugadi, Chitra Vishu, Baisakhi, Divali, etc. New Years Days are considered as sacred and rituals are conducted at homes and temples as per saastric injunctions. Karunanidhi, erstwhile Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu tried to shift the sacred Tamil New Year's Day from Chittirai to Thai to coincide with Tiruvalluvar Birthday and to make it somewhat secular but failed. Jayalalitha the present Chief Minister changed it back to Chittirai or Chaitra, the most venerated New Year's Day from time immemorial for Tamilians and Malayaalees. I wonder why Government of India did not adopt Souramana Calendar as the National Calendar instead of Gregarian?
Hindu Temple Worship is Puranic tradition evolved out of a synthesis of Sanskritization, a process of acculturation through the interaction of Brahminical forms of worship and the local and regional Vernacular forms of belief and practices of folk traditions which may be called Vernacularization. To this Hindu-Americans are adding Westren culture oriented festivities like Mother's day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving and New Years day as well as trying to earmark one day during Western "Festival of Light's Season" between Thanksgiving and Christmas avoiding the day of Christmas but calling it Christmas Week End. These days are shown in the Hindu Religious Calendars of Hindu Temples in America. This may be called Americanization or even Druidization as you all know British History connects Dravidians to Druids, the fore-fathers of the British. This is in their struggle to show their spirit of loyalty to the country of adoption, national integration and to preserve their culture somewhat amidst a American born kids and to attract back their kids married to Western culture partners. Whether orthodox Hindu relatives and friends coming from India on a visit like it or not such worships are already taking place in Hindu Temples to the liking of migrant Hindu populace who also use the opportunity for social meets and exchange of greetings. Hindu temples in America or Siva-Vishnu-Devi-Unconventional Deities Complexes unlike in India, catering to the religious hunger of Hindu-Americans drawn from different traditions.
The Hindu genius has the peculiar virtue of reconciling the irreconcilables. Having migrated to a country which has a Christian majority and forced to live amidst multiple cultures and their own different Sampradayas they have admirably readjusted themselves to these changes. They not only try to follow their tradition of their mother land while living here but are also trying to promote the same among their children born and brought up here, influenced by these cultures and also to their children who walked out are married into different races who are opposed to Hindu way of worship. In America Hindu-Americans rush to the temples on January 1 to celebrate it with religious prayers seeking prosperity and happiness for the whole official year and to make New Year Resolution in the presence of God. Unlike Western cultured Americans they are very serious about it and that is why they rush to the temples. "New Year's resolution is a harmless annual resolution of no particular use to anybody, save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunker and humbug resolutions" wrote Mark Twain in one of his books. Hindu temples in America serve also as cultural and socializing centers unlike in India. If we have to celebrate this day as mass worship we should make it more meaningful within the scope of our religious worship. When in doubt dial Siva or Ganesha say the Saivites; Vaishnavites ask, why not Narayana or Srinivasa? Bengalis say why not Kali Maa? If we calmly and dispassionately think we could make it a nice Hindu life-style
mass worship day. Hindu temples also get visiting devotees from the satellite as well as distant town ships on this day, which attract good crowds. Mother's Day, Father's Day and Thanksgiving Day Week Friday, and Birthday of Bill of Rights (December 15) if not Christmas and independence Day may also be celebrated with mass participation for Hindu-Americans in their traditional style.
We chant invariably the following Vedic Mantra praising Lord Kubera whatever may be our Sampradaya--Saiva, Vaishnava or Sakta: "Raajaadi raajaaya prasaya saahine namo vayam vaisravannaya kurmahe | same kaamaan kaama kaamaaya mahyam | kaamesvaro vaisravano dadaatu|kuberaaya vaisravanaaya mahaaraajaaya namah || [Oh King of Kings! We praise thee as the giver of all prosperity; who is the one who fulfils all our desires. Please bless us with wealth. To fulfill all our desires Oh Kubera! We praise thee! Oh Kubera! Our obeisance to the king of kings who is the God of Wealth.] Even though we worship Ganesha or other principal deities on this day we ultimately plead for prosperity and wealth to Kubera only. Lord Ganesha removes all obstacles so that the wish could be fulfilled through the grace of Lord Kubera. You may all know Lord Kubera is worshiped along with Badrinathjee who is seated on his right side with two Nidhis (Treasure) Padma and Shankha to bless the devotees in Badrinath the holiest of all holy places in India. Invariably Kubera is also worshipped along with Lakshmi and Ganesha during Divali, particularly on Dhan Teras day.
Kubera, the king of Yakshas (a kind of devas) is famous as the Lord of Wealth. He is often depicted as riding on the shoulders of man or in a carriage drawn by men (Nara Vaahana). He also rides the elephant Saarvabhauma. His consort is Riddhi or Kuberi or Charvi. He is the Lokapala (guardian of Direction) like Agni, of North Direction. He is called by many names; Rajadiraja; Dhanaadipati; Rakshsaadhipati; Guhyadipati; Guhyakaadipati; Nararaja, Mayuraja, Yakshadhipati and so on. Rajarajesvari is also quoted as his consort. He is the son of Vaisravas who is the son of Brahma and half brother of Ravana. He was the first possessor of the magnificent flying machine Pushpaka Vimaana given to him by Brahma, his grand-father. He is the money-lender to Lord Venkatesawara. Kings who built great temples in the past looked upon Kubera as their presiding deity and he in turn attended on God as his attendant as depicted in Badrinath. Though wealthy he is humble and merciful. Krishna says in Geetaa among Yakshas and Rakshasas, I am Kubera. Who else will be the fitting deity to worship on January First, when we go to temple praying for happiness and prosperity throughout the year and also want to wish the same to all our friends and relatives?
We have to respect the protocol the Supreme Being has set up to govern the Universe as mentioned in Vedas. Kubera is a Vedic deity. He is our guardian angel, Dikpaala. It will be fitting and proper to allot this day exclusively for his worship as we have done for other deities like Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Ganesha etc. on special occasions. Worship of Kubera will suit all Sampradayas--North, East, South, West, Saiva, Vaishnava, Sakta etc. Kubera is in charge of wealth of all Gods say the scriptures; then why not ours too?
We are free to make our own decision to worship or not Kubera at homes on that day. We go all the way on pilgrimage to Badrinath to do Kubera Pooja. Let us therefore ear-mark a day to express our gratitude to Lord Kubera and seek his grace for happiness and prosperity in the coming year.
We always remember him and pay our obeisance during Shodasa Upachaara Pooja (16 step worship) throughout the year. So he is our most venerated popular deity. Vedic Mantras on Kubera are there for this pooja to fit into Aagama or Taantric forms worship.
Hindu population within USA is of migrant nature in pursuit of better fortunes or stability. It will be therefore a better idea to have a common worship to suit the purpose if we are to celebrate American Holidays in Hindu life-style tradition and worship. Fortunately there are organizations like The Council of Hindu Temples of North America who publish an integrated Hindu-American Panchangam (almanac). We already have an amicable system of celebration of Hindu festivals and rituals where all Sampradayas (traditions) participate. Here we are careful to see that the scriptural sanctions of Aagamas and Tantras are not overlooked. These have been kept in mind while focusing more on Vedic Gods while celebrating American Holidays keeping an eye on spiritual progress for the future. Probably Nashville Sri Ganesha Temple which holds the secretariat currently for The Hindu Temple Society of North America can take a lead. It is up to the local spiritual seeking Hindus and the wisdom of founding fathers of temples and learned priests to adopt such mass worship pattern to suit all. Lord Kubera is invoked by Vedic mantras which are chanted almost every day in Hindu Temple worship.
Wish You All A Happy and Prosperous New Year! May Lord Kubera Bless You All With Wealth and Prosperity!
NEW YEAR DAYS IN DIFFERENT HINDU TRADITIONS
Hindus celebrate their Traditional New Years Day with reverence and worship of their chosen deities (Kula Devatas) on different days and based on different calendars. All celebrate January 1 as the official New Years Day as it is a National Holiday in India too. Apart from January 1 all states have their own Regional New Year's Day. These Regional New Year's Days are listed below:
Rongali Bihu also known as Bohag Bihu marks the first day of Hindu Sola Calendar.
YUGAADI OR UGAADI
Ugaadi is celebrated in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh on the Hindu month of Chaitra. Yuga means age and Aadi means beginning. So Yugaadi means beginning of new age. It falls on March 23rd this year.
Gudi Paadva is celebrated in Maharashtra same day as Yugaadi in Chaitra
PUTTHANDU OR VARUSHA PIRAPPU
Tamil New Years Day is celebrated in Tamil Nadu in the Tamil month of Chittirai which falls on 13th of April this year.
Malayaalees celebrate their New Year as Vishu in the Malayaalam month of Medam which falls on 13th of April this year.
Cheiraoba is celebrated as New Year in Manipur on the same day as Ugaadi. Chai means year and laoba means declaration.
Navreh is the lunar New Year celebrated in Kashmir. This coincides with the first day of Chaitra. It is also their first f day of spring festival called Navratras.
MAHA VISHUVA SANKRANTI
This Sankranti falls on 13th or 14th of April each year on the same day as Tamil New Years Day. This is the Oriyan New Year. In some traditions Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated on this day.
Bestu Varas is the New Years day for Gujaratis. This falls on the day next to Divali. Traditional Gujratis follow Vikram Samvatsara or Bikram Samwat. (Oct-Nov)
This is the first day of Bengali Calendar (Oct—Nov). Assam and Tripura also follow Bengal. This is celebrated on April 15th every year.
BAISAKHI OR VAISHAKHI
Baishakhi is important to Sikhs and farmers of Punjab. This festival falls on 13 or 14th of April on the day of Tamil New Years day. Sikhs celebrate this day in honor of their tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
This festival is celebrated to herald the New Year in Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh as Hindu New Year. This also more or less coincides with Tamil New Years Day.
This New Year's Day for Sindhis is celebrated on the second day of Chaitra month known as Chet in Sindhi language (Chet-I-Chad) after Yugaadi or Gudi Padva.
CHAITTI OR BASOA
The festivals of Chaitti or Basoa are celebrated as New Years Day festivals in Himachal Pradesh on the same day as Yugadi.
[Gregorian Year 2012 is equivalent Vikram Samvatsara 2068-2069; Salivahan Saka Samvatsara 1934-1935; Kali Yuga 5113-5114. Hindu starting months for the New Year are not January and are different though they too have twelve months in a year. For details visit my discourse on Hindu
Calendar on BLOG: <nrsrini.blogspot.com>]