Mother’s Day--A Day for Veneration and Worship
(Compilation for a discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA, May 2014)
Manusmriti glorifies mother as “maataa prthivyaa moortih” Mother is like Goddess Earth. Mother’s Day is a Day for venerating all Mothers and a Day for Worshiping Goddess Mother Earth. Second Sunday in May every year is celebrated as Mother’ Day all over America. May 11, 2014 will mark 100 Years of Mother’s Day celebration. Mother’s Day is an American invention though called International Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day should have been singular possessive, for each family to honor their mother, not plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world as per the intentions of Anna Jervis who worked hard for establishing Mother’s Day--A Day of Veneration to individual mothers and worked hard for National recognition as a day of celebration. But today it is a day of celebration honoring mothers, motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. In due course this has also been given a religious importance in America as special masses are held in all churches honoring mothers.
Mother’s Day is not directly descended from the many Western celebrations of mothers and motherhood that have occurred throughout the world over thousands of years, such as Greek cult of Cybele, the Roman festival of Hillarie, the Christian Mothering Sunday celebration etc., as well as celebration of Mother Goddess in many traditions in the ancient cultures of the world.
On September 2, 2014 Prime Minister Modi while addressing a gathering in Japan said: If the Hindu female pantheon was likened with a Ministry, then education was with Goddess Saraswati, Finance with Lakshmi, Security with Mahaakali, Defense with Durga and Food Security with the Goddess Annapoorna! This is the greatest tribute to woman intended for Mother's Day in 2015 as her role in household management. Probably you now agree with "Matu Devo Bhava"? In English Language the word woman was created with vengeance to mean "woe for men means woman"; after all the Holy Bible says Eve was created from the rib of Adam pushing her to a second position; Jesus surprisingly had all 12 male disciples and no female disciple!
In 1868, Ann Jervis, mother of Anna Jarvis – created a committee to establish a "Mother's Friendship Day” to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War. Jarvis – who had previously organized "Mother's Day Work Clubs" to improve sanitation and health for both Union and Confederate encampments undergoing a typhoid outbreak – wanted to expand this into an annual memorial for mothers, but she died in 1905 before the celebration became popular. Her daughter continued her mother's efforts and also worked hard to make it a day of remembrance of her mother and her struggles. On May 10, 1913, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on all Federal Government officials (from the President down) to wear a white carnation the following day in observance of Mother's Day. On May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day and requesting a proclamation. The next day, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first National Mother's Day. The Grafton church, where the first celebration was held, is now the International Mother’s Day Shrine and is a National Historic landmark.
The modern Mother's Day has been assimilated into Indian culture and it is celebrated every year on the second Sunday of May. In India, mothers are always considered as goddess to their children by Hindus. Taittareeya Upanishad in its Sikshavallee instructs the student graduated out of Vedic school to worship the Mother as the first God, “Matru devo bhava”. India does not celebrate the occasion as a religious one, but do their best to thank their mothers on this day for all the care and love showered upon them. Traditionally, mothers are given great importance in Indian culture whatever may be there religious following. The day is celebrated mostly in urban centers, by performing special acts to honor mothers and their contributions to the family following American culture. As per Hindu religious tradition, mothers are paid homage on Saraswati pooja day during Devi Navaratri, with "Maatru Pooja" (worship of mother). In Hindu tradition outside India Mother's Day is called "Mata Tirtha Aunshi" or "Mother Pilgrimage fortnight", and is celebrated especially in Nepal. The holiday is observed on the new moon day in the month of Baisakh, i.e., April/May. These celebrations were in vogue long before the invention of the US-inspired celebration.
In the United States, Mother's Day remains one of the biggest days for sale of flowers, greeting cards, and the like. Moreover church going is also popular on Mother's Day, bringing the highest church attendance after Christmas Eve and Easter. Many worshipers celebrate the day with carnations, colored if the mother is living and white if she is dead. Hindu Americans do not lag behind. The temple is kept open for long hours on Mother’s Day and treated as special religious events day unlike in India. Mothers are also honored with special worship to Goddess Parvati if it is a Saivite main deity based temple or Lakshmi if it is a Vishnu presiding deity based temple or the presiding Goddess if the temple is any other Devi temple.
Many Hindus touch the ground and then touch their fore head stepping out of bed as a mark of respect and veneration to Mother Earth. To all Hindus Earth is their spiritual mother. It provides all the needs of mankind just as mother provides the needs of a child. Our body is constituted of minerals that come from within the earth and the environment that surrounds. The water we drink and the medicines (oshadhayah) we consume also come from the earth. All of us are indebted to Mother Earth for her bounty. Hindus feel guilty that they are forced to trample upon her and so apologize to her in all their prayers at the same time expressing their gratitude: Samudra vasane devi parvatasthanamandite | vishnupatni namsthubhyam paadasparsam kshamasva maam—One who is covered with the great oceans as clothes, one who cares for all the living beings in the universe, one who gives life through the streams of milk that flows in the form of rivers, one whose breasts are in the form of great mountains, O Mother Earth! Consort of Vishnu, forgive me for placing my feet upon you!
When we sleep on bed covered with a sheet or blanket, the temperature of our covered feet rises. Under such circumstances one should not place one’s feet on the ground. The feet are particularly sensitive to varying temperature and transmit it immediately to the body. To avoid sudden change in temperature that can affect health, it is appropriate that one should uncover the body, permit the temperature to stabilize, and rise gradually after offering prayers to Mother earth. Hindu tradition is so designed you can always find scientific or healthy explanations for many of them as I have enumerated in many of my earlier discourses at appropriate context.
Mother’s day is the ideal and most suited day to honor Goddess Mother Earth. No Hindu Worship ever takes place without honoring Mother Earth. Hindu temple visit starts with paying respect to Mother Earth at the flag-post. As a devotee gets the vision of the temple he or she prostrates at the flag-post, takes a little dust from the ground and applies it on the forehead as a mark of respect to element earth whom he worships as Mother Earth. Brahman in his omnipresent aspect is worshiped as Vishnu. He pervades the entire Earth and is the sovereign ruler of Earth. Perhaps the concept of worshiping female deity in Hinduism started with Bhoodevi when she was lifted out from Paataala (Netherworlds) by the second incarnation of Vishnu, Varaaha. Sakta concept of worship came much later.
Mother Earth pervaded by Vishnu is considered as his consort and called Bhoodevi. Vishnu is always worshiped with Bhoodevi along with Sridevi. It is strange that while there are many days earmarked for special worship for Sridevi and other Hindu Goddesses there is not a single day earmarked for special worship of Mother Earth in Hindu Temple Tradition. But processional deity of any incarnation of Vishnu is invariably accompanied by Sridevi and Bhoodevi. No worship starts without praying for Bhoodevi in the form of Sthala Suddhi (purification of the ground) and asking for her permission to conduct the ritual. It is also not understandable why there are no exclusive temples to Bhoodevi though Parvati is worshiped as Bhuvanesvari and Lakshmi as Jaganmata in temples where they are presiding deities. There is a lone temple for Bharatmata in Hardwar which has been inspired by the patriotic song of Bankim Chandra Chatterji to kindle National spirit in Hindus to fight for freedom. Bharatmata refers to the land of independent India today plus the land it lost to Pakistan and Bangladesh if not Burma and Afghanistan which was donated away earlier by the British during their sovereignty. Bharatmata does not represent the whole world and so does not go well with the Vedic concept of vasudhaiva kutumbkam whole world is one family. Vasudhaa represents the entire world with all its oceans while Bharat refers to India only. Often reference to Bhoodevi in Vedas is to the three worlds—Bhoo, Bhuvah and Suvah—Earth, Mid-region and Svarga.
Normally one’s country of origin or birth is addressed more often as Motherland than Fatherland. But Mahaanaraayana Upanishad glorifies Earth as the Universal Mother in its Mantra as follows: “Mother Earth is mother of all beings such as gods, Gandharvas, human beings, pitrus or manes, asuras and she is signified by names such as Medhini, Mahati, Mahee, Saavitri, Gaayatri, Jagati, Urvee, Prithvee, Bahulaa, Viswaa, Bhootaa, Katamaa, Kaa, Yaa, Satyaa, Saa, and Amritaa. Her greatness is so great that it can’t be adequately described; thus did sage Vasishtha praise Mother Earth”. Mother Earth is the most celebrated deity in Vedas and Upanishads. Mantras glorifying Bhoodevi are contained in Mrittikaasooktam and Bhoosooktam. A mantra in MNU glorifies Bhoodevi thus: “The Earth is the giver of happiness like the milk cow (Dhenu), the sustainer of life and support for all living beings”. Representing as such the earth is addressed: “Thou wert raised up by Krishna in His incarnation of the boar having hundred hands”. Vedas hail her as Bhoomi, Dhenu and Dharanee. All things are produced on earth. So she is called Bhoomi. She is called cow because all desires are showered by her like the mythical cow Kamadhenu. As she is stationed with stability for us to build houses and live on she is called Dharanee.
Puranas have glorified Mother Earth based on Vedic Mantras as follows: Mother Earth floated on the sea warmed by the sun, and cooled by the rain. She was dragged down to Netherworlds (paataala) by Hiranyaaksha denying all benefits to humans for whose sake she was created. Varaaha gored Hiranyaksha to death, placed her on his mighty tusks, brought her up and thus won her hand; Bhoodevi accepted Vishnu as her consort. Trees and plants became her children. Humans found food, clothing and shelter in the bountiful arms of Bhoodevi and expressed their gratitude through rituals, yajnas, vratas and worships. But Vena did not feel obliged to thank Bhoodevi, Vishnu being the benefactor in his opinion. Under his leadership people stopped all worships and rituals to her and began looting the wealth of Earth-goddess. Afflicted and pained sages rose in revolt and killed Vena. Exploitation still continued and Mother Earth was furious and the earth became barren. Merciful Lord took the incarnation of Prithu and begged Bhoodevi to restore fertility and past glory. Bhoodevi did not give in and took the form cow and ran away. Prithu agreed to be cowherd and assured to protect her from the wicked. Prithu made her his consort and so she was called Prithvee. Prithu taught people art of agriculture, cattle rearing, mining and trade. He instituted principles of prudent economics Artha that supports human society without harming nature. Bhoodevi satisfied every one’s needs. She was worshiped and adored by all as Prithvee, the beloved of Prithu. All thanked Vishnu for bringing prosperity appeasing Bhoodevi. But Bhoodevi was skeptical. She still had the fear that another Venu may reappear in the future. Vishnu then instituted Dharma--Laws that will guarantee well-being on earth. He also assured whenever the laws were broken he will descend upon earth to punish the transgressor.
Today the world is decaying, degenerating and drifting towards destruction. The earth is being polluted, plundered, heritage is being ignored and culture is being eroded making true the fear of Mother Earth. Therefore let us seriously think and respect Mother Earth, save the environment and protect the world until the next cataclysm as per schedule and not hasten it. What better day is there than Mother’s Day to think of her, worship her and take steps to protect her and restore her pristine beauty to share her customary bounty which she is ever willing to share with us as a loving mother and as per the laws of Dharma established by her benefactor?
Bhoomir_dhenur-dharanee lokadhaarinee |
Mrittike hana paapam yanmaya dushkkritam kritam |
Mrittike brahmadattaci kaasyapena abhimantritaa |
Tvayaa hatena paapena jeevaami saradah satam |
Mrittike dehi me pushtim tvayi sarvam pratishthitam ||
The Earth is the giver of happiness like milk cow (Dhenu), the sustainer of life (Bhoomi) and support for all living beings (Dharanee). Oh Goddess Earth! Please destroy my sins; destroy whatever bad deeds done by me. Oh excellent Earth! Thou art a gift from God to all Creatures. Thou art prayed over by Kaasyapa. May I live a hundred winters (hundred years) after my sins have been destroyed by your blessings! Please bestow on me nourishment—everything depends on you!
Prithvee vaa Annam | Annam bahu kurveeta ||
Earth is verily food. Make food in plenty meaning keep the earth fertile and plentiful.
Maatru devo Bhava | Esha aadesah | Esha upadesah ||
Be one for who Mother is a Goddess. This is the command; this is the instruction
--Guru to the disciple in Taittareeya Upanishad
1) Ananta Rangacharaya, Principal Upanishads, Bengaluru, India.
2) Vimalaananda, Mahanarayana Upanishad, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
3) Devdutt Pattanaik, Vishnu, Vakil, Feffer and Simons Pvt., Ltd., Mumbai, India.
4) Srinivasan N.R., Hindu American Perception of Mother Day’s Celebration, Hindu Reflections <nrsrini.blogspot.com>
5) Swami Harshananda, Hindu gods and Goddesses, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
6) Wikipedia, Internet.
7) Nashville Christian Family, The Celebration of Mother’s day, May 2014.
8) Prem P Bhalla, Hindu Rites, Rituals, Customs & Traditions.
8) Prof. Srikant Prasoon, Indian Scriptures, Pustak Mahal, New Delhi, India.
[This is a prepared lecture compiled from above references and others for a discourse at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville to benefit those who are not able to attend the same in person. You are free to download and use it for your reading and reference as well as circulate to others to spread the wisdom of Vedas and Hindu values which good act will be appreciated.]