Friday, February 24, 2012

IN HINDU CULTURE, WHY DO WE DO.........



In Hindu  Culture,    Why do we Do……….

(Compilation for a Discourse by N. R. Srinivasan ,May 2002)


Young and old have questions as to why certain rituals are performed and certain traditions followed at the temple.  Much of what we do at the temples to-day, has been passed down to us by our parents, whom we never questioned.  The present generation's thirst for knowledge has not left our practices unquestioned.

Every Hindu tradition has either a scientific, logical, social or spiritual significance. Therefore it is necessary to understand them which lend  a meaning to the otherwise mechanical repetition of customs, which is often misunderstood to be mere superstition.  Superstitions fade with times. Hindu traditions which are not superstitious have withstood the test of times. It is therefore important to bring home the meaning and significance of the currently practiced traditions, to our young Hindu population, who are growing up in an atmosphere that is completely foreign and materialistic

A unique feature of the Hindu culture is itself rejuvenating capacity.  Customs which are obsolete and anachronistic have either been dropped or have faded away for example human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, severe penance,  sati customs have their origin in the puranic period, or the Muslim invasion period, and do not have any Vedic origins, like wearing marks on the forehead, ringing the bell, or aarathi etc.  Hindu culture tailors itself constantly to take the best of the modern technological age without losing its roots.  The customs and traditions whose meanings are explained in this compilation are simple and enduring ones, that are an integral part of Hindu homes wherever they may be and are practiced in the day to day life. Modern youth have a mind of scientific and logistic enquiry and customs based on superstitions will not convince these inquiring minds.  Hence an attempt has been made to give logistic and scientific meaning to some of the traditions as it is practiced today.



REMOVING FOOTWEAR

It is the Hindu custom to remove footwear before entering THE LORDS HOUSE, or any house for that matter.  It is believed that footwear carries germs dust and dirt from the streets.  It is also customary for people to wash their hands and legs before they enter any temple.  This is an example of how the Hindus maintained sanitation and cleanliness of their surroundings.  
 


WHY DO PRIESTS CHANT SO MANY PRAYERS?

Prayer is the ultimate way for one to communicate with the almighty. The priests are a medium through whom one can communicate with the Almighty.  Prayer with devotion brings about inner peace and invokes thea Aatman (God) within you. When slokas are chanted with correct pronunciation and intonation, a divine atmosphere is created with holy vibrations all around.


AARATI   

Aarati is a ritual performed in the worship of Hindu Gods, whereby a lighted lamp or lighted camphor is moved circularly (clockwise) around the idol. The sanctum sanctorum is usually dark, the idol is carved usually out of black stone,  Aarathi removes darkness and reveals the form of the Lord to you when the priest moves the lamp all around the idol.   Before electricity was invented, the only way devotees could see the actual idol was when the priest performed aarathi.  This also reminds us that God can lead us from darkness to light and from ignorance to knowledge "Tamaso-ma Jyotir-gamaya ".  When the priests bring the flame to the devotees, it is customary to  run both the palms of ones hand over the flame and then  pat the  palms over ones eyes as a mark of absorbing the Almighty's light into ones body. It should also be remembered that fire is a purifying agent and what is pure is what is offered to The Lord.


THEERTH--HOW DOES ONE RECEIVE THE HOLY WATER?

It is the Hindu belief that all prayers chanted will invoke the Lord,  in fire, water and air.  Spiced water is offered to the Lord during the chanting of hymns. When the priests chant the mantras they imbibe the water with good spirits, example the holy rivers, protecting elements (5 life controlling elements) praana, apaana, vyaana, udaana, samaana and God himself.  Water is thus turned to "THEERTHA" (holy water) during pooja.  At the end of a pooja after distribution of the aarathi the priest hands out only half a spoon of this holy water to the devotee, in order that this holy water may be absorbed by the body and never desecrated, excreted or spilt on the floor.  It is a practice among orthodox south Indian seniors, to visit their neighboring temples after morning rituals and receive this holy water before eating any solid food each day.  Theertha should be received by placing a cup shaped form of the right hand over the left and sipped in, so that the theertha does not run off to the floor and what is left over may be sprinkled on top of ones head. It is also a practice in South India for people to place the end of their sari or dhothi under the cup shaped right hand as a means to absorb the excess water spill, if any. Theertha should be received with reverence and devotion.  Theertha usually contains water, tulsi (mint like herb), flavoring agent--lilac, cardamom, saffron, nutmeg, cooking camphor.


PRASAADAM-- WHAT IS PRASAADAM AND HOW DO YOU RECEIVE IT?

Food offerings to the Almighty is called prasaad, it may be tulsi leaves (plant) flowers, nuts, raisins, coconut fruits etc.  These become sanctified as they are offered to the Lord by the priests by chanting the proper mantraas (prayers) invoking the vital airs (the Pancha praanaas). Anything offered to the Lord must be given with devotion and a pure heart and he is said to accept it.  As Sri Krishna says in the Gita:
          
Patram Pushpam Phalam Toyam Yo me Bhaktya Prayacchati
Tadaham bhaktya-upahratama- snaami prayaattmanah
      
 I will accept a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water offered to me with devotion and a pure heart.

The prasaad is only an expression which states that whatever product of nature one obtains, or food which one has prepared, is actually HIS GGrace and one should consume it only after it is offered to the Lord.  After the pooja is over, the priests distribute a small serving of prasaad to each devotee which is to be consumed. When a meal is offered to the Lord, it is usually partaken by the offerer, his family and friends. It should not be treated carelessly or discarded.   It is not a practice to eat regular meals in front of the sanctum sanctorum.  In Indian temples there are special places designated for this purpose.  It is also a time to remember your creator and thank him for all the blessing of food that you receive.


SHATHAARI OR BLESSING FROM THE CROWN:

Shataari is the SriVaishnava practice of placing a silver crown on the devotee's head by the priest.  Sataari comes from the word removal or emancipation from wickedness and evil (Shata means wickedness and ari means removal) which you seek at the feet of the Lord.  Shataari is synonymous with "Paduka" (footwear) of Sri Rama. When Rama was exiled to the forest,  Bharatha his brother was distraught and wanted Rama to come back to reign the kingdom of Ayodhya,  Rama  removed his "paduka" and gave it to his brother.  Bharata placed it on the throne and mythology says that the footwear protected the world, in Rama's absence. If one closely observes the crown, one will see 2 feet impressions of Lord Vishnu on top.   Shataari should be received with both hands covering the nose and a bowed head by women and with folded hands and the head bent down by men.  Receiving the Shataari signifies the surrendering to the feet of the Lord and asking him for mercy to relieve you from all wickedness.




PRADAKSHINA
Pradakshina (Sanskrit), meaning circumambulation, consists of walking around in a ‘circle’ as a form of worship in Hindu ceremonies in India. The devotees walk around the garbha griha, the innermost chamber of the shrine housing the temple deity. It is done around sacred fire (Agni), trees and plants as well. Thus Pradakshina is done around Tulsi plant and Peepal tree. Pradakshina or Parikrama is done in pilgrimage centers also.
Pradakshina literally means: to the right (Dakshina means right).  So in Pradakshina, one goes to the left hand direction to keep the deity around the Sanctum Sanctorum on one’s right side. Pradakshina is one of the customary aspects of going to a temple. Typically, Pradakshina is done after the completion of traditional worship (pooja) and after paying homage to the deity. Pradakshina is supposed to be done with a meditative mood.
From the Rig Vedic verses Rig: 2.42.3 and 2.43.1 – “Pra as an adjective means very much. Pra can also come as a prefix to verbs and take on the meaning of onward, forward. Onward to Dakshinam or south is pradakshina.   When one does that, one’s right side is facing the deity inside the garbhagraham and the circumambulation is Dakshinacharam or auspicous as recommended by the Veda.”
Skanda Purana Ch.9 v.68 – “In the word Pra-Da-Kshi-Na the syllable Pra dispels sin, the syllable Da bestows what is desired, the syllable Kshi causes the destruction of Karman and the syllable Na is the bestower of salvation.”
Why is pradakshina done only in a clockwise manner?
Hindus go round the sanctum sanctorum in the temples and sometimes the deities in the pujas or yajnas at home in a clockwise direction. We always assume God is the center of our existence. He also exists everywhere. So when we do Pradakshina or circumambulation, we accept that our actions and thoughts are always centered on God. The center point is always fixed and remains the same at whatever distance we do the pradakshina. So we are reminded of the eternal truth that God is the center of gravity and the main focus of our existence. This is the main principle of Pradakshinam.
The world is always rotating around itself on its own axis as well as around the sun. All the planets also rotate on their own axes. This is called rotation and their rotation on their orbits is called revolution. Just like in solar system, the sun is at the center around which the planets rotate; our pradakshinams should be done with god at the center. The Pradakshinam should be done slowly and never in a hurry.  Our thoughts and actions must dwell on God.
It is normal to do Pradakshinam always in a clockwise direction. This is because we assume that Lord is always on our right side. This reminds that we must always lead a righteous life, in the right path called Dharma.
“The sins committed by the mind are destroyed by the first step (of pradakshina), the sins committed in speech by the second and the sins perpetrated by the body by the third step.” (Skanda Purana Ch.9 v.28)
Accordingly the numbe of pradakshinas are one for Ganapathi, two for Soorya (Sun), three for Siva, four for Devi and Vishnu and seven for Arayaal (sacred fig), generally three padakshinas are done in a temple in Kerala. Accordingly the first pradakshina destroys all sins including brahmahathya papa (sin due to slaying of Vedic scholar), the second makes the worshipper an adhikaari (qualified person for material and spiritual pursuits) and the third helps the person in obtaining naindra-sampaada (pleasures of life which lead to final liberation). A number of twenty one pradakshinas in a day is considered most beneficial as per Swayambhoo aagama.
Further he makes pradakshinas (devotional rounds) slowly with folded hands and visualizing the deity in his mind all the time. All these actions knowingly or unknowingly have salutary effect to ward off the ego from the mind of the devotee. It is noteworthy that the purpose of temple worship is never achieved unless one understands that visits to temples are temples are meant to help the devotee to shed his ego. The purpose of visits to temples is one’s own cultural emancipation which functions on   fundamental values known as dharma.
Significance of doing Pradakshina
We cannot draw a circle without a center point. The Lord is the center, source and essence of our lives. We acknowledge this by performing Pradakshina.  Recognizing Him as the focal point in our lives, we go about doing our daily chores. This is the significance of Pradakshina.
Also every point on the circumference of a circle is equidistant from the center.  This means that wherever we may be or whoever we may be, we are equally close to the Lord. His grace flows towards us without partiality.
According to Adi Sankaracharya, real Pradakshina is the meditation that thousands of universes are revolving around the Great Lord, the unmoving center of all forms.
There is a popular legend about the significance of Pradakshina. Once Lord Shiva wanted his two sons, Ganesha and Subrahmanya, to get “worldly experience” and asked them take a “tour of the universe”. While Subrahmanya spent decades traveling the world on his peacock, Ganesha just walked a full circle around his mother and father and is believed to have explained “since the world is contained within you, I have already encircled the world”!
Shayana Pradakshinam or Anga Pradakshina
Shayana Pradakshinam is done in a lying posture. It starts with a Sashtanga Namaskara in front of the sanctum sanctorum. In Sashtanga Namaskara, the devotees have eight parts of their bodies touching the ground. Thus forehead, chest, shoulders, hands and knees touch the ground. The folded hands will be directed always towards the deity.
In this pose, the devotees circumambulate on the Pradakshina path. The relatives and friends of the devotees help them to roll around. This is a tedious ritual.
The pradakshinam of the Supreme Lord with different Veda manthrams (in different meters) and circumambulating Him in Aathma Pradakshinam and Bhahya Pradakshinams in a clockwise manner is indicated here.
Why do we do Atma Pradakshina?
At the end of the pujas, it is a custom to do pradakshinam around ourselves three times & this is called “Atma Pradakshinam”. The proper pradakshina is going round the Self (Atma Pradakshina) or more accurately, to realize that we are the Self and that within us all the countless spheres revolve, going round and round. We bow to the supreme divinity within us, chanting
yaani kaani cha paapaani janmanthara kruthaani cha
taani taani vinashyanthi pradakshina pade pade
May those omissions and commissions done in this life and also in the previous births and the resulting afflictions perish with every pradakshina.
Somasooktha (Soma-moon) Pradakshinam
Pradosha pooja is one of the most sacred and important among the poojas performed by Shivites to the Graceful Lord Shiva. In Shukla Paksha (15 moon days from new moon to full moon) and Krishna Paksha (15 moon days from full moon to new moon) the evening of the Trayodasi (thirteenth moon day) between 4.30 pm to 6.00 p.m. is called Pradosham. It comes once in fifteen moon days. Pradosha time is to pray Lord Shiva and invoke His Blessings. Praying in this time will free us from sins and gives Moksha (hence the name Pradosha). During Pradosha time, a special type of circumambulating called “Somasooktha Pradakshinam”
The highlight of every pradosha is the Soma Sooktha Pradakshinam. The Pradosha Nayakar is a small statue of Shiva and Parvathi, standing on Nandi. He comes out only during the pradosha and hence the name. The Pradosha Nayakar is carried in a procession around the temple three times, followed dutifully by all the devotees in what is called the Somasooktha pradakshinam. But the order of the pradakshinam is the weirdest ever. The pradakshinam starts at the Kodimaram, behind Nandi. Having a darshan of the linga through Nandi’s horns, the procession goes around the temple anti-clockwise until it reaches the Gomukhi (the spout from which the abhisheka waters come out). There the procession turns back and comes back to the Kodimaram and continues its clockwise rotation until it reaches the Chandikeswara shrine. Once again the direction of travel is reversed and the procession ends up at the kodi maram. This bizzare circumambulation is repeated three times with the Pradosha Nayakar in the lead. This is called the Somasooktha pradakshinam because while doing it, the lord and the devotees describe the shape of a crescent moon (Soma-moon). And if you have been thick enough not to unravel the reason behind this odd form of pradakshinam, then here it is. It is done to commemorate the circumambulation of the Devas around Mount Kailash when they came for help. They kept running between Nandidevar and the poison, denoted respectively by the Nandi mandapam and the gomukhi, in a similar fashion until Shiva decided to sort things out. The Somasooktha pradakshinam is infact a re-enactment of the devas pleading to Shiva for help.

THE PURPOSE OF VARIOUS ADORNMENTS (MARKS) ON THE FOREHEAD:

Applying whatever it may be Vibhuthi, Kumkum, Chandan or Naamam on the forehead and other parts of one's body is a form of decoration of the Lord within (Paramatman, Atman) and it is also considered a blessed gift (prasaadam) from the Almighty.


VIBHUTHI OR SACRED ASH

The word Vibhuthi means excellence, dignity, majesty, glory, and some more.  Bhasma means ‘that which shines’, ‘that which destroys all sins’, ‘that which produces auspiciousness’ and ashes.   Vibhuthi or bhasma is the holy ash collected from burnt organic matter from the homa or sacrificial fire, this is called BHASMA. The word bhasma means "that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered".  BHA implies "bhartsanam" which means to destroy and the "SMA" implies "smaranam" which means to remember in Sanskrit.  Shiva, the ascetic is visualized as covered with ash which is fragrant as mentioned in the commonly chanted "MRUTUNJAYA JAPA MANTRA, (for him) "sugandham" (sweet smelling). Vibhuthi also signifies one of the pancha-bhootaas he carries with him, besides the Earth which he carries on his body, Agni, Vayu, Water and Space. Vibhuthi, constantly reminds one that everything else of the body is perishable except the Aatman within us. After all, isn't the ultimate destination of the human body ash!  Vibhuthi is also said to have medicinal value and is used in the mantric type of healing.  As the story goes, not only did Saint Thirugnana Sambandhar had to cure the stomach disease of the Jain king Koonapandian, of Madurai (7th century), but also had to prove to the king that it had medicinal value. The saint while composing the poem "Mandiram-aavathu Neeru" took a hand-full of Vibhuthi and applied it on the king’s body. This gave the king immediate relief and he converted himself to a Hindu. History also records that people of Tamilnadu were converted from Jainism to Hinduism after this.  Vibhuthi should be taken with the right hand and applied on the forehead as three horizontal lines.  The first line stands for removal of Ahankar (pride) the next stands for removal of Ignorance and the third stands for removal of Dushkarma (bad actions).  The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with the body and become free of the limitations of birth and death.  Ardent Saivites apply the vibhuthi on nine parts of the upper body, the forehead, on both the upper arms, elbows, wrists, neck and chest.  Vibhuthi applied with faith is said to increase intellectual power and prosperity.  Siva devotees apply bhasma as a tripundra (3 horizontal lines). When applied together with a red dot in the centre the mark symbolizes Siva-Shakthi, the unity of energy and matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe. Sivapuranam and Tirumandiram extol the use of Vibhuthi in great detail. Tirumalar,   poetry says "Gangaalan Poosum Kavacha Tiruneetrai", glorifying the use of Vibhuthi. Vibhuti on the forehead is also called Tiryakpundra.

Saivite Brahmins in Tamilnadu are clled Aiyyars (Iyers). Aiyyar comes from the word Arya or Ajja. Ending a Tamil word in “ar” is to denote respectable form of addressing like Tamil words Dikshitar, Vadhyar Periyar etc. Orthodox Saivites wear Tiryakpundram at several designated parts of the body like what Srivaishnavites do with Naamam chanting the sacred names of Siva. The word Aiyar or Iyer is loosely used in Tamilnadu to all Brahmins who are seen with their holy marks and holy thread, applicable to Vaishnavites, Saivites and Saktas. In olden days this was used as a respectable term used to address Tamil Brahmins.

It may be of interest to know the Tamil version of the Holy Bible addresses Jesus Christ as Iyer. A woman suffering from leprosy considered to be the deadliest disease in those days cries to Jesus “Aiyare! Enmeedu Irangum”, meaning Oh Lord! Have mercy on me! This shows that the word Iyer derived from Arya was used as a respectable form of addressing high dignitaries and holy people.


NAAMAM (URDHVA PUNDRAM )

The U or Y shaped marking, adorning the forehead of Vaishnavites is called Urdhvapundra.  The followers of Vishnu adorn their foreheads with Naamam.  It consists of either a U or Y shaped outer white marking and either a red or yellow straight line in the middle.  Those Brahmins who wear U shaped naamam are called Vadagalai Iyengars; those that wear Y shaped naamam are called Tengalai Iyengars. Vadagalai Iyengars give importance to Sanskrit Vedas first and then to the Tamil Vedas called Naalaayira Divya Prabhandams. They are called men of Northern culture.  Tengalais who are known by their Southern culture give first preference to Tamil Vedas. The white paste is from china clay paste and the red vermillion paste is made from turmeric which is yellow but can be dyed red.  The white lines represent Vishnu (Shukla-ambaradaram Vishnum) and the red Lakshmi (taam-agni-varnaam).  White stands for purity, while the red indicates brilliance, symbolizing wealth and riches from Lakshmi.  Some wear a yellow line amidst the 2 white lines which signifies the person comes from a very spiritual and pious background, as they identify the red color with blood of Durga.  The naamam with sri charanam is usually worn by the men, while the sri charanam (single red line) is worn by women in the Sri Vaishnava sect.  Naamam gives a cooling effect when exposed to scorching sun (china clay and sandal paste are antidotes). Ardent Vaishnavites  apply the namam on the top of the head, forehead, both the upper arms and forearms, neck and chest.  The entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves, especially the forehead and the subtle spot between the eyebrows.  This is why worry causes headaches.  Naamam cools the forehead protects and prevents energy loss. So also does kumkum, chandan, and bhasmam, (this does not include the plastic bindhis!).

Since it has been ordained by the Vaishnava scriptures while marking the various parts of the body with the Urdhvapundra, names of Lord Vishnu (like Kesava, Madhava) are to be repeated and that the respective mark represents the respective aspect of the deity indicated by their particular name, the word Naama (Name) has become synonym with the Urdhvapundra itself.

When marked on the forehead of a deity in a temple, it may signify the power of the deity to uplift the worshippers. When marked on the forehead of the worshipper it may remind him of the need to take a spiritually upward path. It is sometimes interpreted that the two lines on the outside represent the Idaa and Pingalaa (the two passages for the flow of praanic energy, intertwining the backbone) and the middle line (marked in yellow or red color) represents Sushumna passage (through which the Kundalini power flows after awakening). The three together represent the yogic path of spiritual ascent.   

Some people think it uncivilized to wear any sacred mark on the forehead. It is also given a bad name as a “caste mark”. As a matter of fact the sacred ashes are worn by all castes from the Brahmins to Harijans. So is the case with the Vaishnava Naamam (made of Tiruman or the sacred earth): it stands for the truth that everything is of the earth and mingles with the earth; that is all is Vishnu.  The ashes are symbol of Paramaatman. When the body is cremated all that remains is the ashes which are the symbol of the eternal Brahman. Wearing of sacred marks seems to be to bring into one’s mind, various religious-spiritual concepts so as to feel pure and elevated.

Srivaishnava followers in Tamilnadu are called Iyengars.  The word Iyengar is composed of two words Ayya+gar. Ayya comes from the word ‘Arya’ (the respected) and ‘gar’ is a respectable ending like the Tamil words Ammangar, Annangar etc. You also notice Telugu words end with “Garu’ to express respect. Another school of thinking feels Iyengar word is derived from Aingaran are five attributes that Srivaishnava’s practice in everyday life. This is indicative of their philosophical pursuit and not their caste identity as is believed to be.  The word Iyer or Ayyar also comes from the word Ayya or Ajja derived originally from Arya. Christian tamil Bible uses the word Ayyar to address Jesus Christ. So, in the ancient tradition high dignitaries and noble souls were addressed as Arya.

Every Srivaishnava follower of Ramanuja believes in practicing 1) Abhigamanam 2) Upaadhaanam 3) Ijyam 4) Svaadhyaayanam and 5) Yogam. Vaishnava Brahmins in Tamilnadu practiced it for a long time and orthodox amongst them still continue with that practice wherever they are settled. Strangely during the period of E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker, leader of Dravida Kazhagam Movement, the Tamil word “Parppanan” (meaning men who see the Truth) was identified with Iyengars who were distinct in Tamil Society with their Urdhvapundram, tuft of hair, and holy thread, and the once respected word Parppanan began to be used in derogatory sense due to hatred towards this class and their tradition. Truth could be realized by any who is spiritually oriented like what happened with Azhwars. Out of 12 Azhwars (Vaishnava saints) only three were Brahmins and the rest were drawn from those who are designated as Non-Brahmins and among them one was from scheduled caste. All these Azhwars are venerated, their idols are consecrated, and worshipped in Srivaishnava Temples including by the religious heads belonging to various Maths and Institutions belonging to Srivaishnava tradition. Saint Ramanuja’s Guru was Nammazhwar, who was not a Brahmin. All the Azhwars are revered as Paarpaanans as they realized Truth by their spiritual pursuits. Parppanan as some think is the corrupt form Brahmanan is not correct. Jagadguru Chandrasekahrendra Saraswati says Kashyapa rishi got his name from Pasyaka meaning one who saw the Truth (one who was liberated). Paarppaan is Tamil translation for  Pasyaka.

Orthodox Srivaishnavites who have undergone the sacrament of Samasrayanam (Branding their arms with the holy symbols of discus and conch of Lord Narayana) wear 12 Naamams, in designated areas of their body chanting the names of Vishnu at least on special ritual days if can’t wear daily:

1)      Om Kesavaaya Namah—face (Om Sriyai Namh)
2)      Om Narayanaya Namah— central stomach region(Om Amritodbhavaayai Namh)
3)      Om Madhavaya Namh—chest region ((Om Kamalaayai Namh)
4)      Om Govindaya Namah—central inner neck region (Om Chndarasodaryai Namah)
5)      Om Vishnave Namah—right side of stomach region (Om Vishnupatnyai Namh)
6)      Om Madhusoodanaya Namah—right arm (Om Vaishnavyai Namah)
7)      Om Trivikramaya Namah—right side of the  inner neck (Om Varaarohayai Namah)
8)      Om Vaamanaaya Namah—left side of the stomach (Om Harivallbhayai Namah)
9)      Om Sridharaya Namah—left arm (Om Sarnginyai Namah)
10)  Om Hrisheekesaya Namah—left side of the inner neck (Om Devadevikayai Namah)
11)  Om Padmanabhaya Namah—bottom portion of back (Om Mahalakshmyai Namah)
12)  Om Damodaraya Namah—back of the neck (Om Sura Sundaryai Namah)

The Mantras within the brackets are to be chanted with reverence to the consort of Vishnu Mahalakshmi while applying Sri charanam.

The left-out white paste is smeared on to the head chanting “Om NamohVaasudevaaya” Nand red paste chanting “Om Sarvaabheeshta balapradaayai Namah”, being considered holy.

Naamama is symbolic of mother earth since it is china clay dug out from earth. Red paste again is an earth root (Turmeric) product and symbolizes Mother Earth.

KUMKUMA: RED VERMILLION POWDER

Kumkum is made by combining turmeric with limestone which changes its color from yellow to red.  It is applied to the center of the forehead as a circle or tilak.  Many non Indians question the purpose of the kumkum and many of us do not have an answer. Here is how it can be answered: the kumkum or any mark on the forehead signifies that the person belongs to the Hindu religion. Of course people of other faiths also adorn it as a mark of beauty.  With the Muslim occupation, usage of kumkum, gained momentum and then in the last century has more so evolved into a cosmetic representation, assuming different shapes and colors. Kumkum is attributed to the worship of female deities-- Lakshmi, Parvathi and Saraswathi.  It is considered auspicious, an indication of good fortune and prosperity and is considered particularly fortunate for a long happy married life. The red color of the kumkum is associated with fire.  Fire is considered energy, so another interpretation is kumkum represents energy (shakthi). It is customary among   South Indian families to offer kumkum to women visitors as a way of honoring them.  In North Indian practice, kumkum applied on the parting of a womans's hair symbolizes marriage. Adoring the forehead with kumkum between the eyes is also a way to honor Lord Shiva's third eye which was supposed to be powerful and distructive.  

In Sumangali Kriya, meaning auspicious ceremony during wedding, the groom puts sindoor   (kumkum) in the wife’s hair parting, in North Indian practice. Wife then prays for the long life of her husband.  Then on she puts vermilion in her hair parting throughout her life, living with her husband. The tradition of using vermilion in the hair parting by married women finds favor with Hindu religious writers because this point is just above the suture in the scalp and a little above the point where the soul resides. This point is more delicate in women than in Men. The application of vermilion helps avoid wrinkles and skin problems and also protects one from evil influences. It also deters the spread of lice.


GOPI  USE OF SANDALWOOD PASTE SAFFRON.

Lord Krishna is usually seen with a yellow U on his forehead which is sandalwood paste mixed with saffron.  This is called kasturi tilakam.  Sandalwood paste is also used in poojas and at the end of the services some of it is distributed to the devotees. In temples like Guruvayoor the idol is fully smeared with sandal paste during abhishekam and at the end of the pooja the same paste is distributed as prasadam to all.  The use of Sandalwood paste is more common among   Madhvacharya followers. This fragrant paste is used by men on their own bodies while performing Sandhya-vandanam, the personal ritual worship that one is inducted into after the sacred thread ceremony among Brahamins (Upanayanam). The paste is applied moist on vital parts of the body and the ritualistic mark of the discus (chakra) and conch (shanka) are made on the shoulders for invoking the divine energy. Pious, orthodox Vaishnavites smear it on their chest too.  Chandan is customarily received with the middle finger and worn on the forehead and the neck.

NAMASKARAM--SALUTATION BY PROSTRATING IN FRONT OF GOD AND ELDERS:

It is the Hindu tradition to bow down to the Supreme and to the elders by kneeling and bowing ones head to the floor. There are 2 postures which are practiced by Hindus.  The Astaanga posture is when all 8 limbs of the body touch the floor (face down sleeping posture).  This is also called Sashtaanga Namaskaaram.  This is recommended to be done by men only.  The Panchaanga pranaamam or 5 parts of the body touching the floor (head, shoulders and hands, knees, feet) is done by men and women.  This is a kneeling posture with the head bowed down to the floor.   In temples prostrations of these types are done only to the Gods. Outside temples they are done to elders.  Prostrations should not be done to those who are sleeping or still in wet clothes.  One should not also bow down to those who are younger in age.   In the Vaishnava practice the men in the family prostrate and then announce their name, ancestry and school of thought (abihivaadanam) after they have had their upanayanam (thread ceremony).  Usually one announces his gotra, the three or five sages one is descendent from, the sutra one follows, the Vedas one follows and then ones name to receive blessing from elders. These announcements are not made before God,   Sages, Sanyasis, or women  other than ones mother. Abhivaadanam is an interesting practice handed down from generation to generation without any documentation.  It was unique way of maintaining a record of the family background, school of thought, Vedic study and background of the individual.

The Flag-staff (dvaja-stambha) indicates the starting point of the consecrated area of the shrines in Hindu Temples as one walks towards Garbhagriha. Strict observers of Temple rules ((niyama) therefore  prostrate only with Ashtaanga Pranaama or Panchaanga Pranaama  before the flag post so that their feet do  not point towards any consecrated deity in the consecrated areas. As you all know that several deities are installed as per Vastusaastra in all areas around the sanctum and also several Balipithas. Within the consecrated area only circumambulation and prostration in standing position with folded hands across the chest or raised above the head are done. Ardent devotees also do Atma-pradakshina as you see being done for Lord Jagannatha three times (going round self three times). However for Lord Ganesha Dhobikarana is done squeezing both the ears with crossed arms, with crossed legs and bending up and down several times. This is done even in the sanctum sanctorum, because this is a modified standing posture.

Charana Spurs or touching of the feet of the elders, as is in vogue in North India as a mark of respect, is an age long Hindu tradition. Since the human body is releasing vibrations and also receiving them from people who come close, touching the feet encourages flow of energy.  When elders touch the head of the person for blessing him, energy is again exchanged between them. This exchange of energy gives one vigor, self-confidence and contentment. One experiences an inner glow and thrill. The blessings received after Charana Spurs are like invisible armor. They motivate and give strength.

Orthodox Vaishanvites prostate before the flag-post with their eight body parts touching the soil and with folded hands called  Sastaanaga Namaskaaram. This is in veneration of Mother Earth (Prithvee), one of the elements.  As he watches the Lord he receives the Aarati with respect and touches his eyes.  This is second obeisance to the element Fire (Agni) which he receives into his eyes. Then when the holy water is offered by the priest he first sprinkles a bit on his head; the next three little servings are consumed. This is his third obeisance to the element of water (Aapah). Then he circum-ambulates himself three times with folded hands. This is for paying obeisance to   the Self within (Aaatma Pradkshina). No prostration is done body touching the floor near the sanctum qwhich is divine charged atmosphere to avoid pointing  his feet towards some of the deities installed during Vaastu pooja. He then leaves the premises and takes a bigger circum-ambulation with folded   palms (Namaskara Posture). He then feels the air (Vaayu) around  and in that posture pays obeisance to the fourth element. He then sits at the Northern end gazing at the cupola of the temple tower rising to great heights.  Here he pays his obeisance to the last element space (Aakaasa). He then leaves the temple premises chanting Om Namoh Naaraayana! This is his final obeisance to the Supreme Principle irrespective of whatever deity he might have worshiped. Thus his focus is on Brahman and the five great elements in all his worship.

RINGING THE BELL

Invariably in almost all Hindu temples there are one or more bells hung from the top near the entrance to the sanctum sanctorum.  Hindus go to the temple to have "Darshan" (vision) of the Lord first before starting the worship or prayer.  The purpose of Darshan is to establish communication between ones own "Aatman" (the divinity within you) and   "Paramaatman" visualized through the idol (the Supreme Divinity). Darshan of the Lord is an essential and primary part of the Hindu faith, even before any form of worship starts.   The devotee rings the bell as soon as he enters, thereafter proceeds to have Darshan of the Lord, following it with prayer or worship.  The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound.  It produces the sound of "OM" the Universal name of the Lord (Pranava).  Most Mantras (prayers) and Vedic chants start with OM. All auspicious actions begin with OM. It fills the mind with peace, makes it focused and replete with subtle sounds. The ringing of the bell drowns any irrelevant or inauspicious sound, and pervades the whole atmosphere. This reminds us of all pervasive nature of the supreme (Sarva-vyaapi). Even while doing the ritualistic "Aarathi" the bell is rung.  It is sometimes accompanied by conch blowing, beating drums, clashing of cymbals and other musical instruments. Hindus chant the following prayer while ringing the bell to start their daily worship.

 Aaga-maartham tu devaa-naam | Gama-naartham tu raakshasaam || Kurve ghantaa-ravam tatra | devataahvvana lancchanam ||

 I ring the bell indicating the invocation of divinity, so that virtuous and noble forces enter (my home and heart) and the demonic and evil forces from within and without depart.

Bells are rung in big temples at the commencement and conclusion of services.  In the olden days, people lived around the temple, and thus this would alert them of the services at the temple. They would then rush to the Temple to have the Darshan of the Lord, receive the Aaarati and also receive the Prasadam. Many senior citizens in villages would wait for these bells to cease ringing before they ate their meals as a mark of respect to their creator.


LIGHTING OF OIL LAMP

Lighting an oil lamp at the altar at dawn and at dusk at the temple and in homes is a laudable custom among the Hindus.  Light is a manifestation of Goddess Lakshmi, symbolizing knowledge, brilliance, health and wealth. The oil lamp is adorned with sandal paste, vermillion and fragrant flowers.  Hindus believe that by lighting lamps, they are inviting their favorite Gods and Goddesses into their hearts and dwellings.  Light symbolizes knowledge and darkness ignorance.  The Lord is the knowledge Principle (Chaitanya) who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge.  Hence the light is worshipped as the Lord himself. 

Subham  karoeti kalyaanam aaroegyam dhanasampadah /
Satrubuddhi vinaasaaya deepajyoeti namoestu te//

I prostrate to the light of the lamp which brings brilliance, the auspiciousness, the health, the wealth possessions and for the destruction of bad thoughts of my enemy.



Why Bilva leaves are sacred?

One tree about which Rishis of the Ayurveda had a very deep knowledge was the Bilva tree. The science of Ayurveda values the Bilva or Bel highly for the medicinal properties contained in its root, fruit and leaves. According to Swami Sivananda, it is a healing tree which cures all diseases caused by vata (wind) and gives strength to the body.

This is a sacred tree   the leaves of which are generally trifoliage. This trifoliage leaf is symbolic of Trikaal or the Hindu Trinity of Devas known as Brahma Vishnu and Mahesh. The other names of this tree are Wood apple and its botanical name is Aegle Marisol. The Bilva leaf or Patra as it is known, represents the Trinetra or three eyes of Lord Shiva, the main aspects like Trishaktis--Ichchaa Sakti, Kriyaa Sakti and Jnaana Sakti (volition, action and knowledge), the three Siva lingams and the three syllables of AUM or Omkar and are most favorite of Lord Siva.

There are also five foliage Bilva leaves known as PanchaDal patra found on some Bilva trees and these too are held as sacred for the worship of Lord Siva. Bilva tree grows to a height of 8 meters with thorns. The leaves are alternate, ovate, tri-foliate and aromatic. The tender leaves and shoots are consumed as salad greens. The flowers bloom in the month of May and will have a sweet fragrance.

Bilva trees are very ancient like Tulasi plant and have been glorified in many Puranas.   Siva Purana in a particular narration says how the usage of Bilva due to its scientific as well as medicinal properties is of great advantage to Mankind. Those who meditate upon Lord Mahadeva in His form of Linga at the root of Bilva obtain Moksha & become purified souls by attaining Shiva (Please refer to Mahasivaratri discourse)

The famous Shri Bilvashtakam (v. 6–7) mentions :

Lakshmyaascha stana utpannam Mahaadeva sadaa priyam,
Bilva vriksham prayachchhaami eka bilvam Shivaarpanam.
Darshanam bilva vrikshasya sparshanam paapanaashanam,
Aghorapaapasamhaaram eka bilvam shivarpanam.

Born from the heart of Goddess Lakshmi, the Bilva tree is ever dear to Mahadeva. So I ask this tree to offer one Bilva leaf to Lord Siva.  Anyone who takes a   (view) of the Bilva tree, and touches it, is freed from all sins. The most heinous   sin is destroyed when a Bilva leaf is offered to Lord Siva.

It is also believed that Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, also lives in the Bel tree. Those who perform the puja of Siva and Parvati devoutly, using the leaves, will be endowed with spiritual powers.

Medicinal uses: The roots, skin, fruits and the leaves of the Bilva tree are used for medicinal purpose. Bilva has astringent, edema lessening, anti-diarrhea, laxative and appetizer properties hence, can be used to cure both internal and external diseases.



THE PURIFICATION RITUAL--AACHAMANA



All karmaas done without Achamanam are doomed to failure and would be futile, warns the Smriti. There are many Smritis, which prescribe different types of Achamanam, some mutually conflicting. The first and foremost function in the Sandhya upasana is Achamanam. They are of three types of Achamana—Sruti,  Smrithi and  Purana. Sruti achamanam is mentioned in the Taittareeya Aranyaka where it is said that the following mantra “Vidhyudasi vidhyamay papmanam ritaat sathya mupaimi” is chanted and water is touched. Meaning of this Rik mantra is as follows:  You are lightening. Remove my sins. Through truth I attain unto Truth.

The Achamanam in practice during Sandhyavandanam etc. is described in the Smritis. There is one more prescribed by the Shruti and which is done at the time of Brahma Yajna (done after praatah sandhyaavandanam, in which one prasna from the Veda is recited daily in sequential order, along with the Purusha Sukta). This Achamanam is described in the TaittirIya Aranyaka  (2nd Prasna, 15th panchati) thus: “Trih aachaaet dvih parimrijya, sakrit aupasprisya shirah chakshushee nasike shrotre hridayam aalabhya”.”. As in the ordinary Achamanam, here too, water is sipped thrice, the lips wiped twice. Then one should touch the head, eyes, two nostrils, two ears and the heart. This constitutes the Shrouta Achamanam.  The important difference in this type of Aachamanam is that it is done without any mantra being uttered- the intake of water is without the accompaniment of  Achuta  Ananta Govinda names. Further, the body parts to be touched are only eight, against twelve in the Smaarta Aachamanam. Additionally, even while touching these parts, no mantra is to be recited (i.e., without the Kesavadi names ). Perhaps due its peculiarities, and the absence of accompanying Bhagavan names, this Achamanam is prescribed only during Brahma Yajnya and nowhere else. 

When no water is available at the time then  Smriti prescribes an easy method of purification- -that of touching the tip of one’s nose and then the right ear, uttering the Pranava mantra. This is based on the Scriptural texts, which say that Agni resides in the Brahmana’s nose tip and holy rivers like the Ganga in his right ear. Hence touching these two purifies a person immediately. 

 Smrithi Achamanam is of two types--Srauta and Smartha.  Srauta, achamanam is followed by recitation of three paada (steps) Gayathri and then 21 parts of the body are touched. While performing mantras   recited are:  apohista mantra; seven vyahritis; three paada Gayathri and ending with Om apo jyotheerasah amrutam Brahma…. In Smartha achamanam laid down by Manu/Yajnavalkya and others achamanam is performed two times then lips are washed twice and then cleaning palm, mouth and other sensory organs are touched. In Purana achamanam water is sipped thrice and 12 parts of the body are touched chanting 12 names of Vishnu (dwaadasa naama).Purana aachmana  is most popular. In spite of sectarian followings of rituals in general aachamana mantras are confined to names of Vishnu only. The three sips are taken chanting the mantras—Achyutaaya Namah, Anantaaya Namah and Govindaaya Namah.  Achuyuta signifies Lord’s  attachment to the devotee. Ananta signifies his all-pervasiveness. Govinda signifies easy accessibility to the Lord.  The purpose behind this Achamana ritual is vividly explained by  Manoj Tiwary as given below:


Achamana--The Purification Ritual
Posted by Manoj Tiwary | Oct 27, 2015 |  IndiaDivine,Org
Achamana begins with praising God as the Illumination of All. In this, we thank Him not only for the wonderful gift of light which makes it possible for us to see the objects of this manifold universe but also for the even more wondrous gift of intelligence, the ‘light of the soul’, by means of which we comprehend our existence. Without this light, our lives would be bereft of meaning. We therefore thank God for this most wonderful gift by acknowledging His Infinite Beneficence in bestowing it upon us.
The proper end of man is the realization of the four Purusharthas, namely:
. Righteousness (Dharma)
. Wealth (Artha)
. Pleasure (Kaama)
. Salvation (Moksha)
The attainment of these four virtues constitutes the purpose of our existence on this earth. Yet, these virtues can only be had through the knowledge of God’s Omnipresence. This is the prerequisite for true virtue, and once we have thoroughly integrated this knowledge into our personality, virtue will flow to us unhindered.
Therefore, when we pray that God may grace us with the fulfillment of our proper end, we are ultimately praying for a more perfect knowledge of His Omnipresence. And, in fact, this is the true purpose of the entire process of Sandhya leading up to Upaasanaa: to make one acutely aware the all-pervading and ubiquitous presence of God.
ओं शन्नो देवीरभिष्टये
आपो भवन्तु पीतये
शंयोरभि स्रवन्तु नः
OM shanno deviirabhistaye
aapo bhavantu piitaye
shañyorabhi sravantu naha
O God! O Illuminator of All! Grace us with the fulfillment of our proper end. May we drink the life-giving waters! May they always flow to us in peace!
After reciting the Achamana mantra, the devotee sips water from his right hand three times. Sipping water serves three primary functions in the performance of Achamana.
The first is to cool the throat and clear it of any physical impurities such as dust or phlegm. This helps prepare the vocal mechanism for the work of reciting the Sandhya mantras clearly.
The second function is to awaken the vital powers of the human organism, driving away lethargy and drowsiness. This is important as the mantras must be recited with vitality to ensure that the vibratory energy they represent is properly manifested.
The third function is to remind us of our dependence upon the Grace of God for our survival. Without water, which is His Gift to us, we would surely perish and thus be unable to attain our proper end in life. We are here reminded of this fact, and this helps to put us in the proper state of mind conducive to successful meditation.
Therefore, the act of sipping water serves to initiate the preparatory work of uniting and harmonizing the physical, vital and mental aspects of man as undertaken through Sandhya, preparing him for the supremely spiritual experience of Upaasanaa.


 
MOUNA VRATHA

Mauna Vratha literally means a vow to keep silent. For spiritual growth it is essential that one’s speech must be pure. To acquire purity of speech the practice of silence is important. Hindu religious texts commend mauna-vratha for this purpose.
In Bhadra, sixth month of the Hindu calendar, 16 days of mauna-vratha are said to be useful. It is believed that through silence one is able to achieve one’s desire. One attains the abode of Lord Shiva. Along with mauna-vratha it is essential that some time must be spent in offering prayers.
In Bhagavad Gita, 17/16, it is said:
manaḥ-prasādaḥ saumyatvaḿmaunam ātma-vinigrahaḥ
bh
āva-saḿśuddhir ity etat tapo mānasam ucyate
Contentment of the mind, amiable temperament, silence, religious meditation and good thoughts reflect austerity of the mind.
Silence is placed mid-way between other qualities. It begins with control of the mind. Once the mind is controlled, one becomes friendly. One begins to look kindly towards others. One cuts down on useless speech and thinks more of God. One begins to generate good thoughts.
In Chanakya Niti, 11/9, it is said:
Whoever can remain silent every day for a full year becomes worthy of thousands of years of praise in heaven.
Silence can change the personality of an individual. Through silence a person controls anger and speech. One grows stronger through greater determination and self-confidence. One is more at peace and free of tension. There is conservation of energy and a person experiences greater inner strength, helping one develop into a better person.
You May Ask Why is There an Emphasis on Silence?
We all know that if speech is silver, silence is golden. Silence helps to conserve energy, to concentrate and introspect. It helps one in the search of divinity. By observing silence one gains goals easily.
In Mahabharata, there is a story pertaining to silence. After Maharishi Vedavyasa had dictated the last shloka and Lord Ganesh had noted it down on the bhojapatra, Maharishi Vedavyasa said:
“Vighneshwar! Blessed is your writing! The Supreme Spirit has created the Mahabharata and you have written it. What is more amazing is your silence. During dictation I must have spoken almost twenty hundred thousand words, but all along I did not hear a single word from you.”
Lord Ganesh thoughtfully responded, “Badarayana! Some lamps have a lot of oil; others have only a little. No lamp has a continuous supply of oil. In the same way, gods, mankind and demons have a limited life. Only those who have self-control and use their powers with patience and understanding can fully benefit from their life. The first step to self-control is to control one’s speech. Whoever cannot control his speech loses energy unnecessarily. Through control of speech one avoids such a loss. I have always believed in the power of silence.”



Importance of Prayer Rosary in Hinduism
Posted by Prem Bhalla | Sep 18, 2015 | 1  

A rosary – a string of beads put together – to keep count of the number of times a person has repeated a mantra is an important prayer item in most Hindu homes. Commonly referred to as a mala, it typically has 108 beads. The source of beads could be rudraksh (seeds of the tree Elaeocarpus ganitrus), tulsi, vajyanti (the garden of Lord Vishnu), colored glass, pearls or even precious or semi-precious gems. A rosary made of Rudraksh is considered best. Rudraksh possesses germicidal and magnetic qualities.
विना दमैश्चय्क्रत्य: सच्चदान: विनोदक्म् |
असन्ख्यता तु यजप्त: तत्सर्व: निश्फ़ल्: भवेत् ||
Just as no religious ceremony is complete without kush, no charity is complete unless one gives it with one’s hand, praying without a rosary has no count and will bring no results.
Why Are There 108 Beads in a Rosary?
In the Yogchudamani Upanishad it is said:
षट्शतानि दिवारात्रो सःस्त्रानयेक: विन्षति |
एतत् संख्यान्तित: मन्त्र जीवोजपति सर्वदा ||
108 beads are stringed together to make a rosary because it is related to the frequency of our breath. In 24 hours, one breathes 21,600 times. 12 hours are spent in the daily routine.
That leaves us 12 hours for devotion to God. This means that each day 10,800 times breathing should be utilized for devotion to God. However, since this is not practical, the two zeroes have been removed. Therefore, breathing 108 times is appropriate during prayers.
Another explanation pertains to the sun. In relation to the earth, in one year the movement between the sun and the earth is 216,000 degrees. Since for six months the northern part of the earth faces the sun, and for the other six months the southern part of the earth faces the sun, the number is reduced to half, that is, 108,000 degrees. When three zeroes are omitted, the remainder is 108. Each of the 108 beads in the rosary is symbolic of each degree of change. The third explanation is based upon astrology. The entire universe is divided into 12 segments. Each represents a sign of the zodiac. In Hindu religious texts, there are principally Navgrah (nine planets) that affect us. With 12 segments and 9 planets, when the two are multiplied we get the figure 108. Therefore, the number 108 represents the universe and controls our success.
As per another explanation, Hindu sages located 27 constellations, each of 27 stars. Since each constellation has four steps, 27 multiplied by 4 is 108. This number exudes purity. Hindus use the prefix Sri followed by 108 (i.e., Sri 108) with the name of a religious head or a teacher who has wide influence, or those who have contributed to promote the knowledge and understanding of Hindu religious texts. Since these religious leaders are referred to as Sant, Mahant, Mandaleshwar or Mahamandaleshwar, depending upon their stature, they are addressed as Sri 108 Mahant… (name).
What is the Best Way to Use the Rosary?
The use of a rosary enables one to keep count of the number of times a mantra or prayer has been repeated. Each rosary denotes 108 times. On the top of each rosary there is a bigger bead called Someru — a name derived from a mountain of the same name that allegorically represents being composed of gold and gems. This mountain is accorded a coveted position in the universe. The same coveted position is accorded to the Someru in a rosary. One begins using the rosary from the Someru, and when one reaches it again on completing one round of the rosary, crossing it is not recommended. Instead, one reverses the rosary and continues praying, moving one bead at a time. Irrespective of the number of times the rosary is rotated, one does not cross the Someru. Each time one reaches the Someru after completing one round of the rosary, one must think reverently of the god to whom prayers are being offered. At this point, the Someru is brought in contact with the forehead with the same reverence offered to God.
In the Shivpuran, Panchakshar Mantra, shloka 28, it is said that when using a rosary if one uses the thumb one achieves salvation. If one uses the forefinger it enables conquer of foes. When one uses the middle finger, prosperity is achieved. By using the ring finger one finds peace.
In the Shivpuran, Panchakshar Mantra, shloka 29, it is said:
A rosary with 108 beads is the best. One with 100 beads is good. One with 50 beads is moderate.
Why Do Many Hindus Wear a Rosary Around the Neck?
Besides being acknowledged as an important accessory in prayer, a rosary made of beads of Rudraksh, tulsi and other divine gifts of nature is useful when worn around the neck or other parts of the body. During prayer, the use of the tongue, the vocal cords and the larynx are under greater stress than in normal everyday use. Their continued use can cause problems pertaining to the throat and the adjoining glands. Use of a rosary around the neck helps prevent the occurrence of these problems.
Rudraksh beads come in many forms. They could be anything from one to fourteen faced. Their effectiveness varies with quality. It is customary to use a 26-bead rosary around the head, one with 50 beads near the heart, and one with 16 beads around the arm. One with 12 beads can be used as a wristband. It is believed that wearing a 108-bead rosary around the neck ensures fulfilment and success. It has been equated with the ashwamedh yagya — a celebrated sacrifice performed only by an emperor. The Shivmahapuran, Padampuran and other religious texts say that the virtuous wear a 108-bead rosary and find a place in heaven.
In the Shivpuran it is said:
A rosary made of no other item can be as blessed and fruitful as that of Rudraksh.
In the Shrimad Devi Bhagavata it is said:
Nothing could be nobler than wearing Rudraksh on one’s body.
In shlokas 65 to 66, describing the qualities of a 108-bead rudraksh rosary, it is mentioned that benefits of the ashwamedh yagya accrue every moment to one who adorns the rosary around his neck and one finds a place in heaven. This benefits 21 generations.
One should wear a Rudraksh rosary with devotion as directed in religious texts. This helps one grow spiritually, become free of worldly obstacles and problems, benefits the mind and heart, keeps blood pressure within control, banishes imaginary fears, ensures mental peace, calms and balances the flow of bile, and protects the wearer from sudden death. Whoever uses it to pray benefits ten-fold.
Hindu scriptures accord great religious importance to Tulsi. It protects against disease, promotes longevity and has special magnetic qualities. Using it imparts its qualities to the person who wears it around his neck. One develops greater confidence and a magnetic personality. Fame and popularity grow and one feels blessed and content.
When wearing a Tulsi rosary around the neck, contact with the skin helps prevent cough and cold, headache, skin disease and blood disorders.
In the Shaligrama Purana, it is said:
Wearing a Tulsi rosary is very beneficial during mealtimes. A bath with Tulsi rosary around the neck is equivalent to a bath in the holy Ganga and other holy rivers and streams.
While Praying, I find it Hard to Concentrate Upon God. What can I do?
Just as a child does not start running soon after birth, do not expect to be able to concentrate for long periods in prayer. You will learn concentration gradually. Many begin by participating in group prayers. In reality, God has no form. He is present in all things at all times. Until you reach the stage where you can perceive God everywhere, concentrate on whatever you find convenient. Concentrate on one who is kind and benevolent to you. To you he is God. Do it for whatever time that suits you. Your concentration will improve as you begin to enjoy these short experiences.



Importance of Camphor in Rituals
Posted by The Editor | Dec 23, 2015 
Aarti is one of the most important aspects  of prayers in Hinduism which symbolizes the removal of darkness by true spiritual enlightenment. It is performed by lighting a ghee lamp in front of the deity while praying.
On many occasions, Hindus light a camphor or kapoor as an offering to God at the end of the aarti.  Although we have probably all seen this act, many of us are not aware of the importance of this gesture.
When the camphor is lit, it burns itself out, fully evaporating until there is no residue left in the prayer utensil, leaving behind a sweet fragrance in the air instead. In the same manner, it symbolizes union with God and the promise of the devotee to burn their ego completely without leaving any residue while spreading the light of knowledge to other lives that touches theirs, no matter how brief a time. Just like the scent emanating from the camphor, the devotee, devoid of his ego and arrogance, spreads goodness around themselves.
 The flame of the camphor also signifies the flame of consciousness of Lord Shiva where we can surrender all our egos to be burned under the influence of God, no longer to be seen within us. We close our eyes while performing the aarti as if to look within, to our very self or Atman. Self- realization can be achieved by realizing ourselves with the flame of knowledge.
At the end of the prayer, the devotee places cupped hands over the flame and touches the eyes and top of the head, symbolizing the illumination of vision and purity of thought.
Camphor is made through an ancient Ayurvedic method by distilling the bark and wood of a coniferous tree called Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphor) that is largely found in Asia, particularly in India, Sumatra, Indonesia and Borneo. White camphor is a crystalline substance with the chemical formula C10H16O, which is a fantastic anti-oxidant.
As an excellent germicide, camphor is burned to purify the atmosphere, it is also believed to remove negativity from the environment.
Absorbed through the skin, camphor produces a feeling of cooling similar to that of menthol and acts as a slight local anesthetic and anti-microbial substance. It is a decongestant and can be used as an essential oil for aromatherapy or topical application.
Used properly with medicinal understanding, it can decrease the harshness of nervous disorder as well as convulsions, epileptic episodes, nervousness, mental tension as well as chronic anxiety. It is believed to be toxic to insects and is sometimes used as a repellent and also to deter snakes and other reptiles due to its strong odor.

In this manner, camphor not only has a highly spiritual value in Hindu customs but can also be beneficial to the environment in which it is burned. Again, just like anything else, the use of camphor should be in moderation to avoid any side effects it may cause.


Special thanks go to contributors:
        Dr. M. Rajagopalan
        Dr. Ramesh Pai
        Dr. Panchanan Satpathy
        Mr. N. R. Srinivasan
         Bharat K., IndiaDivine.org

Collected and compiled by Kamala Raghunathan   and N.R.Srinivasan

Considerable assistance has been drawn from the Central Chinmaya Mission Trust Publication, “Indian Culture--Why do we Do?”


APPENDIX


Why is Ghee Preferred to Oil for Puja Lamp?
Posted by Hindu Jagruti | Sep 23, 2015 | 
Worship of a deity is a subject of faith for all of us. We build a temple room in our house and decorate it well. We also keep the images or idols of the deities we like and perform daily puja (ritualistic worship).We purchase the articles of puja according to our capacity.
We are also quite familiar with such articles like kalash (a water vessel generally of metal), shankh(conch ), a copper plate, a copper vessel, a small spoon, a lamp etc. Every article of puja has its own significance. Let us understand the significance of an important article of puja that is lamp.
1. Importance of lamp in Hindu Dharma
The lamp has its own special place in Sanatan Vaidik Hindu Dharma. It is a form and a symbol of Tej (Absolute fire principle). The lamp is invoked as  तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ’ meaning the lamp leads us from darkness towards light. It burns only to give message of peace and light to the man. This is its greatness. In this Satsang we shall try to understand what the scriptures have to say about the lamp. Amongst the articles of puja the lamp is an important article. The following mantra which is recited during the ritual of puja explains its significance.
भोदीपब्रह्मरूपस्त्वं ज्योतिषांप्रभुरव्यय: ।।
आरोग्यंदेहिपुत्रांश्चमत:शांतिं प्रयच्छमे ।।
Meaning: O Deity of lamp, you are of the form of Bramhan (the absolute truth). You are full of radiance. You never wither. Please bestow me health and good progeny and please fulfill my wishes.
2. Characteristics of Oil and Ghee lamps
Agni Puran clearly states that only oil or Ghee (clarified butter) be used in the lamp meant for puja and no other combustible substance. According to the Science of spirituality the lamp with clarified butter is more sattvik (spiritually pure) as compared to lamp in which oil is used. This is an important aspect which we will try to understand in details. So let us see the difference between the the lamp in which Ghee is used and the one with oil.
Generally the use of oil is more prevalent than that of Ghee. The oil containing lamp kindles longer while the ghee containing lamp kindles for a short period. Now let us see the difference from the spiritual view point.
Ghee lamp has more capacity to attract the sattvik vibrations present in the surrounding atmosphere as compared to oil lamp.
The oil lamp can attract the sattvik vibrations spread over a maximum distance of 1 meter while the ghee lamp can attractsattvik vibrations spread over till Swarga Lok (heaven)
When the oil lamp stops burning the predominance of raja particles in the atmosphere is enhanced and lasts for half an hour. On the other hand when the ghee lamp stops burning the impact of sattvikta (the quality of being sattvik) on the atmosphere is experienced even after four hours.
Effects of Both Types of Lamp on the Worshiper.
The oil lamp generates a subtle armor of inferior quality around the worshipper while ghee lamp generates a subtle armor of superior quality.
The subtle frequencies emitted from the oil lamp activate the Mind-energy (Manashakti) of the worshipper whereas the subtle frequencies emanating from the ghee lamp activates soul energy of the worshipper.
According to yogic path of Kundalini Yoga there are seven principle chakras or energy centers in the human being. These chakras influence practically every aspect of human being including physical body, mind and intellect. The oil lamp is effective in purification of Muladhar and Swadhishthan Chakra only to certain extent but the ghee lamp purifies Manipur and Anahat chakrasto a significant extent.
Just as there are seven chakras in the human body, there are paths for the flow of vital energy (chetana). These are called asNadis or channels. The three principle nadis are Chandra nadi (Moon channel), Surya nadi (Sun channel) and Sushumna nadi. When Chandra nadi is active the person perceives coolness. The activation of Surya nadi imparts energy to the person. TheSushumna nadi is activated when the person starts progressing spiritually. The oil lamp activates the Surya nadi of the person while ghee lamp activates only that nadi which is essential to the worshipper in a particular action.
2.2 Effect on the Subtle Sheaths of the Worshiper
According to the science of spirituality the body which is visible to our eyes is called Annamaya Kosha or food sheath. Besides this there are four other Koshas namely Pranmaya Kosha or vital air sheath, Manomaya Kosha or the mental sheath, Vidnyanmaya Kosha or sheath of intellect and Anandmaya Kosha or bliss sheath. The Pranmaya kosha is a seat for the Pancha pranas (five vital air elements) which provides energy to the gross body. The second Manomaya kosha is the seat of emotions.
The thirdVidnyanmaya Kosha is the seat of intellect and the fourth Anandamaya Kosha is the seat of Soul which is of the nature of existence, consciousness and bliss (satchidananda). Even these subtle sheaths or koshas are affected by the oil or ghee lamps. The oil lamp imparts power to the raja paricles in the Pranamaya kosha which makes the individual rstless. The ghee lamp strengthens the sattva particles of Pranamaya kosha and Manomaya Kosha and as a result of this the jiva (individual, embodied soul) becomes peaceful,stable and happy.
2.3 Spiritual Experience Imparted by Oil and Ghee Lamps
We are used to appreciating this world through the media of five sense organs namely nose, ears, eyes, tongue, skin , mind and intellect. This is known as experience. But when we experience something without the participation of all these then it is known as spiritual experience. Now let us compare the spiritual experiences obtained due to oil and ghee lamps. The oil lamp gives us spiritual experience of Pruthvi tattva (absolute earth element) and Aap tattva (absolute water element). For example if we get an experience of fragrance without the actual presence of an object which can impart such fragrance then it is a spiritual experience of Subtle fragrance or gandha. The fragrance is related to Pruthvi tattva. The example of spiritual experience of Aap tattva is dwelling sweet taste in the mouth.
When we see subtle light or vision of a deity then it is an example of spiritual experience related to Tej tattva or absolute fire element. When we experience a feeling of touch without any external reason then it is a spiritual experience related to Vayu tattvaor absolute air element. The ghee lamp gives spiritual experience of Tej tatva and Vayu tattva to the worshipper.
2.4 Why Only Ghee Prepared From Cow’s Milk Should Be Used?
Generally any oil lamp emits frequencies consisting of raja particles but the sesame oil emits some sattva frequencies also. Therefore the lamp with sesame oil is comparatively more sattvik. However the ghee lamp emits the sattvik frequencies in maximum amount compared to any oil lamp. Here we have to remember one thing that it is useful use ghee prepared only from the cow’s milk in the lamp lit in front of Deity. This is because in such ghee the Deites’ principles are already existent. Such a ghee which is dominant in sattva component emits luminous figures in the atmosphere. Such luminous figures are forms of Tej tattva or absolute fire element. Thus, even though the use of ghee is recommended because of its capacity to emit maximum sattva frequencies, we can use sesame oil lamp if the use of ghee is not possible because of financial restraints or otherwise.
2.5 Points to be Considered While Using a Lamp
Do not kindle an oil lamp with a ghee lamp and vice versa. Do not kindle one lamp with another similar lamp. For example if there are two niranjans (a type of lamp) in an arti platter then do not light one niranjan with another niranjan. Similarly do not light one pillar of lamps with another.
Sometimes while performing puja we unknowingly touch the lamp. We should immediately wash our hands then. This is because when we worship a deity the sattva component of the lamp increases. When we touch the lamp the raja-tamaparticles from our body enter the lamp by way of touch. This reduces the purity of the lamp. The water has the property of encompassing everything. Anything which is offered to a deity through the medium of water reaches Him/Her faster.
When we wash our hands we are one way dissolving our sins in the water. The spiritual practice of water is to assimilate in itself sins done by all. The extremely merciful Deities absolve us from our defects when we offer them at their feet through the medium of water.
3. Should Electric Bulbs Be Used Instead of Ghee Lamps?
Now a days we see electric bulbs in use during the puja ritual instead of ghee lamp. What is the difference between two from the point of view of Spiritual science?
Some people may be finding it funny to worship a lamp of oil or ghee when the modern scientific era has offered us so much glitter by way of electrical bulbs. But our ancestors have given priority to the worship of lamp after profound experience and through the attitude of gratitude. Let us now compare the electrical bulb and the lamp with ghee. The light emitted from the electrical bulb blinds our eyes while the gentle flame of ghee lamp reminds us of Atma-Jyoti or flame of soul. The electrical bulb makes us extroverted and then the mind runs towards external objects. The ghee lamp makes us to look inwards. Thus we have seen the difference between the electrical bulb and ghee lamp.
4. Five Wicks and Single Wick Lamp
There are other varieties of the lamps also such as lamp with a single wick and lamp called niranjan wherein five wicks are used. The Niranjan with five wicks is symbolic of duality that is the manifest energy of a deity, whereas the lamp with a single wick attracts sattvik frequencies the lamp with five wicks attracts waves with destroyer property and dominant in raja component. The niranjan with five wicks denotes the relation of Panchpran (five vital air principles) with the Atmajyoti (flame of soul). Niranjan is used for waving Pancharati. Every single flame of niranjan is symbolic of Atmajyoti. Pancharti means invocation of God with the help of panchparanas. While performing Pancharti we should have such a spiritual emotion that the Atmajyoti is kindled in me with the help of five panchaprans present in the body and I am performing the arti with such flame.
5. Why Should a Straight Wick be Used as Compared to Puffed Up Wick?
During puja ritual a lamp is offered at various steps of the ritual according to purpose. For  example, performance of arti. Two types of wicks are used in the lamp namely Puffed wick and straight wick. Nowadays a puffed wick is used in a ghee lamp or niranjan and used as lamp of worship. The wick is puffed up from below to offer it stability to stand in the center of niranjan. The puffed wick is used in a ghee lamp. This type of wick is relatively of recent origin.  The second type of wick which we all are familiar with is straight wick. Two straight wicks are joined together like a thread and used in a lamp. Not only there is difference between the two on a gross form but also on spiritual level.
The lower portion of the float is puffed up while the straight wick is whole like a thread.
Thefloat  is representative of various raja thoughts in the mind while straight wick is symbolic of detachment and also represents the thread which joins Panchaprans with Atamjyoti.
When afloat is kindled the inferior deities are attracted to it while the straight wick when kindled attracts principles of higher deities.
The frequencies emitted by the float are of circular form while those emitted by straight wick are in the form of waves.
The colour of the divine consciousness emitted by the fulwat is redish yellow while that emitted by straight wick is of yellow colour.
Sattvik earth frequencies get attracted towards fulwat while more sattvik frequencies moving in the upward direction are attracted towards straight wick.
The atmospheric frequencies get momentum due to fulwat while their momentum is slowed down by the use of straight wick.
An armour of Pruthvi (absolute earth element) and Aap tattva (absolute water element) is generated around the worshipper by use of fulwat while straight wick generates an armour of Tej tatva (absolute fire element) around the worshipper.
According to science of spirituality Tej tattva is more powerful than either Pruthvi tatva or Aap tattva. As a result the use of fulwatimparts heaviness to the physical body while the use of straight imparts cheerfulness to mind.



Importance of Using Coconut in Temples
Posted by Ramesh Powar | Dec 17, 2015 |  India Divine.Org
  
Known as “Tengai” (literally “honey fruit”) in Tamil, and as “Nariyal” in Hindi (literally “fruit containing wate=”,   rom the root word “nari” meaning “water”).
The coconut is a resilient fruit whose shell can withstand the pressure of sea water, so it is not impossible for it to have made the transit across the water without human assistance. A hardy plant, the coconut would have been able to survive in relatively inhospitable weather without much upkeep. It grows in sandy soil, requires little water, and requires virtually no maintenance.
 In Indian culture ‘Nariyal’ or ‘Copra’ is a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Every auspicious work begins with the breaking of the coconut and the offering of ‘Nariyal’ is a traditional ritual. For success and prosperity at all occasions, the launch is done with the breaking of a sanctified coconut.
All religious functions and rituals start with the offering of the coconut since it is regarded as the symbolic Ganesh, the deity who helps in the successful completion of any work undertaken.
Sage Vishwamitra is said to be the creator of the coconut. Its hard kernel inspires one to do hard work for attaining success. People get strength and improved eyesight by eating the kernel. The sick and the elderly find its water nourishing and ladies apply its oil for luxurious hair.
Germs can’t penetrate its hard kernel so it remains intact for months together. Coconut is used both as a food item and as a medicine. It is a rich source of vitamin E, B, C and calcium, iron, phosphorus and other minerals. It has high quality alkaline oil and is a rich source of fat. The protein found in coconut is also of high quality. Coconut is easily digestible, nutritious, blood enhancer, urinary tract purifier, strength giving and remover of the three doshas.
In Indian culture one of the most common offerings in a temple is a coconut. It is also offered at occasions like weddings, festivals, the use of a new vehicle, bridge, house, etc. It is offered in the sacrificial fire while performing hawan. The coconut is broken and placed before the Lord.
It is later distributed as prasad (a holy gift). At the beginning of any religious occasion, a coconut is turned around the person or deity and broken at the entrance; this is to remove negativity and bring out the goodness. The whiteness inside the coconut denotes purity.
The fiber covering of the dried coconut is removed except for a tuft on the top. The marks on the coconut make it look like the head of a human being. The coconut is broken, symbolizing the breaking of the ego. The juice within, representing the inner tendencies (vasanas), is offered along with the white kernel – the mind, to the Lord.
A mind thus purified by the touch of the Lord is used as prasad. In the traditional abhishekha ritual done in all temples and many homes, several materials are poured over the deity like milk, curd, honey, tender coconut water, sandal paste, holy ash, etc. Each material has a specific significance of bestowing certain benefits on the worshipers.
Tender coconut water is used in abhisheka rituals since it is believed to bestow spiritual growth on the seeker. The marks on the coconut are even thought to represent the three-eyed Lord Shiva and therefore it is considered to be a means to fulfill our desires.
The coconut also symbolizes selfless service. Every part of the tree -the trunk, leaves, fruit, coir, etc. are used in innumerable ways like thatches, mats, tasty dishes, oil, soap, etc. It takes in even salty water from the earth and converts it into sweet nutritious water that is especially beneficial to sick people. It is used in the preparation of many Ayurveda medicines and in other alternative medicinal systems.
Ancient Indian doctors used to burn its outer shell to prepare tooth powder, creams and ointments for burns. Every inch of the coconut plant is very beneficial to humans hence Indians consider it a good omen to receive or give coconut as gifts. It is also called ‘Shreephal’ because it denotes prosperity.
Coconut is a crop with unique features. Owing to its versatile uses, the demand for coconut and its products has been on the increase having already attained the premier position in the world. Moreover coconut is an eco-friendly crop which permits co-existence of multi-species of plants.
It enriches soil fertility in association with other crops and is quite amenable to organic farming if appropriate intercrops are grown in the inter-spaces. Due to multifarious uses, the future of the crop is very bright irrespective of the location where it is grown in the world.



The Science behind Bells in Hindu Temples
Posted by The Editor | Sep 07, 2015 | IndiaDivine.Org
Have you ever wondered why bells are there in temples. Also these are  large bells, with higher circumference. These are not just hanging there for you to ring. It is an age old tradition to ring the bell of the temple upon entering its premises. Bell ringing is an ancient Vedic ritual and one can see multiple bells hanging over the domes in many Indian shrines.
It is said that the devotees knock God’s entrance to ask permission upon entering his holy sanctum. Making temple bells is a whole science. The bell is made up of a mixture of five metals – lead, copper, zinc, iron, and tin – to which it is measured based on ratio and specification.
The proportion at which each one of them mixed is the real science behind making a bell. Each of these bells is made to produce such a distinct sound that it can create a harmony between your left and right brains. The moment you ring that bell, it produces sharp but lasting sound vibration which lasts for minimum of seven seconds in echo mode — long enough to touch your seven healing centers (or chakras) in your body.
The moment bell sound happens your brain is emptied of all thoughts. Invariably, you will enter a state of trance where you are very receptive. This trance state is the one with inner awareness. Normally, you are so occupied in mind that the only way to awaken you is with a shock!
The bell works as antidote to the chaos of your mind. Before you enter a temple it prepares you for the calming taste of spiritual awareness you are going to experience.
Bells had other reasons also, as most of the old temples never had doors and were located near hills and forest there would have been distinct possibilities for animals, Insects, birds to take shelter. But bell sound doesn’t allow any of the living creatures to sustain inside for a long time. Don’t be surprised if you find old temples still brimming with energy inside with less dust, no sign of insects or animals.
Bell worship is called as Ghanta Puja (Ghanta is bell in Sanskrit). The sound that comes out of the sacred bell is called Jaya Dwani (Victorious Sound). This sound helps to drive away the demonic forces and brings in the auspicious and positive forces. This has a deeper and inner meaning as well. This will drive away the evil thoughts from us. The bell will ring from inside us giving us positive energy.
Cultural Beliefs:
As per the Agama Sastra, ringing a bell in temples will prevent evil spirits. The evil spirits namely Yaksha, Paisasa, Rakshasa and Brahmarakshasa will not enter the temple.

Why do we adore and worship Lotus?
(N.R. Srinivasn, E-Mail to Participants)

Recently I forwarded a spiritual message on Lotus with a quote from Bhagavad Gita from FOWAI of Swami Chidananda Ashram.  I thought many of you might know the spiritual background of this famous water plant with its smile to greet us in the morning and kindle our thought as we walk around the lake. So I did not react.  One of my philosopher poet participant sent me the following comments.
“Sometimes I wonder how something so obvious becomes oblivious for the eyes not to recognize, for the soul not to realize, the significance, the reverence, the deference, of God's creation, which is all-around us without the recognition like the divine Lotus Flower! Thank you for sending the message about Lotus flower. I have attached two poems I have written about Lotus flower, I hope it signifies the essence of your discourse” This in turn   inspired me to write to you on the subject from my compilations:
Padmapurana says that   the world was born through a "Golden Lotus" and  also mentions of Padmakalpa, the Lotus Age. Lotus is India’s National flower. It is the symbol of Truth, Auspiciousness and Beauty (Satyam Sivam Sundaram). The Lord is also of that nature and therefore he is often described  as possessing  lotus eye , lotus feet, lotus hands, and often addressed as the lotus of the heart (spiritual heart)  or Self. Almost all Hindu scriptures   extol the beauty of the lotus.  Hindus names are often drawn from lotus—Padma, Pankaj, Kamala,  Padmakshi,  Padmapriya, Kamlakshi, Padmalochan  etc. The lotus blooms with the rising sun and closes with the setting sun. Our minds too, open up and expand   with the light of knowledge. Its leaves and petals remain  beautiful and untainted despite the muddy and dirty surroundings. It reminds us that we too should strive to remain pure and beautiful within, under all circumstances. It symbolizes a Man of Wisdom (Jnaani) who remains ever happy unaffected by the world of sorrow and change as described in Bhagavad Gita: “Brahmanyadhaaya   karmaani sangam tyaktvaa karoti yah | lipyate na sa paapena padmapatrmivaambhasa”
He who does actions, offering them to Supreme Being (Brahman) abandoning all attachments is not tainted by sin, just as a lotus leaf remains y unaffected in muddy water on it. Please go through my detailed discourse on the subject “Padmapatramivaambhasa”
From this we learn that what is natural to the man of wisdom becomes a discipline to be practiced by all spiritual seekers and devotees.  Our bodies  have certain energy centers described as   Kundalinee power and Chakras  about  which I talked about. For example Sahasraara chakra at the top of the head, that opens when the Yogi  attains Godhood or Realization, is represented by a lotus with one thousand petals.  Also, the lotus  posture  (Padmaasana) is recommended when one meditates.
The lotus   emerged from the navel of Vishnu and from it Brahma was born. Hence the lotus symbolizes the link between the creator and the Supreme cause. It also symbolizes Brahmaloka, the abode of Brahma. The auspicious sign of swastika is said to have evolved from the  lotus.
Upanishads repeatedly say that the Atman dwells in the lotus within the heart.   Within the center of the lotus, see a small light.   Atman within the heart looks like a brilliant light about the size of your thumb, just a small light. This light is an emanation of your radiant being. It is dwelling right within. The Self God is deeper than that. The lotus is within the heart, and the Self God dwells deep within that lotus of light. Within each human is the spirit of the sacred lotus. It represents eternity, purity, divinity, and is widely used as a symbol of life, fertility, ever-  renewing youth.     Upanishads   describe that water represents the procreative aspect of the Absolute, and the cosmic lotus, the generative. Trilok Chandra Majupuria of Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu  says: The Taittiriya Brahmana describes how Prajapati, desiring to evolve the universe, which was then fluid, saw a lotus-leaf, pushkara parna, coming out of water. It is described that when divine life-substance was about to put forth the universe, the cosmic waters grew a thousand-petal   lotus flower of pure gold, radiant like the sun. This was considered to be a doorway, or an opening of the mouth of the womb of the universe.    Lotus is the first product of the creative principle.  The role of Lord Brahma was to re-create the universe after the great flood on this planet. In order to create the universe, He used the different parts of the lotus plant. Lotus stem based food delicacy in North India. Orthodox Vaishanvites in South India  do not use lotus stem in cooking as   this  plant  is part and parcel of Vishnu.
Mahabharata says Lakshmi emerged from a lotus which grew from the forehead of Lord Vishnu. That is why a garland of 108 lotus seeds is used for the worship of Lakshmi. The Goddess of Power Durga was created by Lord Siva to fight demons and was adorned with a garland of lotus flowers by Varuna.  Goddess of Wisdom, Saraswati is associated with the white Lotus. Virtually every God and Goddess of Hinduism; Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, Agni, Ganesha, Rama and Surya; are typically shown sitting on the lotus, often holding a lotus flower in their hand. The lotus which serves thus as the seat of the Deity, signifying their divinity and purity, is called Padmasana or Kamalasana.
Spiritual focus on Lotus has also taken root in Chinese cultures with a famous statement made by the 11th century Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi: "I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained." In Buddhist philosophy the lotus is symbolic of purity of the body, mind and speech, as while rooted in the mud, its flowers blossom on long stalks as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. It is also symbolic of detachment as drops of water easily slide off its petals. According to mythology Gautama Buddha was born with the ability to walk and everywhere he stepped, lotus flowers bloomed. For Buddhists, the lotus flower symbolizes the most exalted state of human; head held high, pure and undefiled in the sun, feet rooted in the world of experience.

My participant inspired by my communication burst so forth with his poetic ecstasy  to write this poem  on the glory of Lotus and send it to me:

Lotus, Lovely to look at as the morning sunrises
Lovely to look at like the morning sunrise
Oracle of beauty with serene smiling eyes
Beautiful to beholders eyes like morning sunrise
Toast of the nature its creation of grandeur
Unique is its floral appearance of splendor
Singular are its pretty petals flower of wonder
Lotus the magnificent flower is the symbol of bliss
Overture of its charm is of every flower's secret wish
Tremendous facade of profound poetic imagination
Universal praise for its looks has brought coronation
Sumptuous fragrance has attracted acclaimed adoration
Lustrous is its allure beyond beholders sentimental claims
Opulent is its blooms, blossoms joyfully in rain or shine
Twines its magic on every heart capturing the emotion
Ubiquitous is its glory it commands everyone’s devotion
Shimmers with colors it puts hearts and souls into motion
Religious is Lotus
Spiritual and sentimental
Pious is Lotus
Pleasant and elegant
Precious is Lotus
Wonder with splendor
Joyous is Lotus
Petals blooms with smiles
Lustrous is Lotus
Shimmers and glimmers
Lovely is Lotus
Glorious and illustrious
Amorous is Lotus
Radiant and opulent
Gorgeous is Lotus
Laughing and smiling
Glorious is Lotus
Glitters and shimmers
Arduous is Lotus
Sparkles and twinkles