Saturday, August 1, 2015

KUMBHAMELA, THE LARGEST RELIGIOUS CONGREGATION ON EARTH

Kumbhamela , the   Largest   Religious  Congregation  on Earth
(Compilation for a Discourse by  N.R.Srinivasan, Nashville TN,  August 2015)

Kumbha means pitcher and Mela means Fair. Vedas too speak of Kumbha –Satam kumbah asinchitam sooryah. (Thousands of pots cannot wet the Sun).  When the Asuras and the Devas churned the milky ocean, Lord Vishnu appeared bearing the pot of nectar which blessed all with ever- lasting life. Thus the Kumbha or Kalasa also symbolizes immortality. Before Brahma the Creator and the creation came into being, Lord Vishnu was reclining on Adisesha on the Milky Ocean. From his navel emerged a lotus from which appeared Brahma and started his creation.  The water in Khumba   in Hindu Worships symbolizes the primordial water from which the entire creation emerged. Hindus start all worship establishing a Kumbha filled with water and invoking Sapata Sindhus or Seven Holy river spirits. We need each pot for each step to Vaikuntha. We have to ascend seven steps to reach Vaikuntha.  When egoistic four sages climbed six steps and cursed Madhu Kaitabhas Lord did not want them to climb the seven steps and reach Vaikuntha and Him. He came down and appeased them. Thus even for such great rishis it was not easy to reach Vaikuntha till they wiped out their traces of ego.  Kumbha worship in our rituals is microform of worship. Kumbhamela is the Macroform of that worship with the participation of all humanity on an auspicious day and time, the Greatest Show on Earth of Devotion and Dedication.

Kumbha Mela is the biggest religious festival in the world which attracted more than 80 million people in 2013   in which Hindus gathered to bathe in   sacred rivers during the Mahaa Kumbha Mela held once in in 144 years in Prayag (allhabad).  Kumbhamela  is held every third year at one of the four places by rotation: Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayaga), Nashik and Ujjain. Thus the Kumbamela is held at each of these four places every twelfth year. Ardha ("Half") Kumbhmela is held at only two places, Haridwar and Allahabad, every sixth year. The five  sacred rivers of Kumbhamela are : 1) the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar 2) the confluence  of the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati at Allahabad 3)  the Godavari at Nashik, and 4)  the Kshipra at Ujjain.    

The Ardha Kumbhamela is celebrated on the   most auspicious day of the festival of Makar Sankranti, every six years at Haridwar and Allahabad, while the Purna (complete) Kumbhamela  always takes place at Allahabad every twelve years.    

The Maha Kumbhamela ('Great' Kumbhamela) which comes after twelve “Purna Kumbhamelas” that is after every 144 years is also held at Prayag (Allahabad).  The 2013   Maha Kumbhamela was attended by around 80 million people, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world.

Kumbhamela is one of the hallowed festivals of India and is organized on a grand scale with all pomp and show with Bhajans and Kirtans attracting sadhus and half naked Fakirs.  According to the scholars, it is believed that when Gods and demons were having fight over the nectar then Lord Vishnu flew away with the pot of nectar spilling drops of nectar at four different places; where we celebrate Kumbhamelas; those places were Hardwar, Nashik, Ujjain and Prayag.
The celebration of Kumbhmela depends on the position of Jupiter (Brihaspati) and the sun. When the Sun is in Aries (Mesh Rashi) and Jupiter in Aquarius, it is celebrated in Haridwar. When Jupiter is in Taurus (Vrishabha Rashi) and the Sun is in Capricorn (Makar Rashi), then Kumbhmela is celebrated at Prayag.  Kumbhamela is celebrated in Ujjain when Jupiter and the Sun are in Scorpio (Vrishchik Rashi).  When the Jupiter and the sun fall on the zodiac sign, Leo; then Kumbh Mela is celebrated at Tryambakeshwar in Nashik.
I often wonder why this Kumbhamela should be observed on different dates if it is based on same mythological significance! Our Panchangams (almanacs) always differ in the celebration of festivals causing dispute and doubt in believers. Kumbhamela at various places is no exception. However celebrating Kumbhamela at different places on different days and time   seems to be logical   because it took Mohini time to travel to these places and she had to oblige people who were wonder stuck with her voluptuous beauty.  I wonder why she forgot Kerala where Mohini ultimately got settled with Siva and had Hariharputra (Aiyappan) as her son who settled the Siva-Vishnu conflict. Was her pot empty as she entered Kerala or she had to wait for Parasurama to retrieve the land from sea?  Kerala does not celebrate Kumbhamela!

The pilgrimage is held for about one and a half months at each of these four places: it is believed in Hinduism that drops of nectar fell from the pitcher carried by Vishnu after the sea was churned with the help of mountain Manthara and the rope Vasuki, the cosmic serpent.  Bathing in these rivers is thought to cleanse a person of all sins.  The festival is identified as the "world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrimages". There is no precise method of ascertaining the number of pilgrims, and the estimates of the number of pilgrims bathing on the most auspicious day may vary. Approximately 80 million people were estimated to attend on 14 February 2013.
The rivers are the life-line of a country.  Vedic people in India always looked upon its rivers not as just physical or natural resource but as divinities, goddess of prosperity.  They often expressed their devotion and gratitude to these life-sustaining and purifying rivers by proper invocation. They prayed meditating on the mantra aapo vaa idam sarvam; tad Brahma – Verily it is all water and that is Brahman. Their descendants even when they emigrated from the banks of those rivers prayed to the river goddesses present in any water which they used for their daily needs and worship. With the simplicity of a guileless child they prayed to those liquid divinities to be present in their own bodies through the connection of water they used. Their thoughts were focused on merger of the Self with the Supreme. No Hindu religious act can be ceremonially complete without invoking seven water spirits called Sapta Sindhus in some form or other. Sindhu (Nadi in Sanskrit) is a generic name meaning river in Sanskrit.  For many a Hindu a bath in Ganges is life time’s ambition. A few drops of its water poured into a dying person will remove all sins. Immersion of the ashes of a dead person’s body in it will give him liberation.  A religious Hindu always keeps a sealed pitcher (Kumbha) of Ganges water wherever he lives and in any part of the globe to administer the sacred water to the dying person.

The major event of the festival is   the holy  dip at the auspicious time on the Kumbhamela day in the river or rivers, in whichever town Kumbhmela is  being held: Ganga in Haridwar, Godavari in Nashik, Kshipra in Ujjain and Sangam (confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Sarasvati) in Prayag.   Nashik on the banks of River Godavari attracts also   maximum crowd as in Prayag.
We are all familiar with the story of Ganges descending from heaven due to the efforts of Bhagiratha.  Ganges is also called Bhaagirathi, the daughter of Bahgiratha. In Bhagavadgita Lord Krishna identifies himself with Ganga amongst all rivers.  

Godavari has not been mentioned in Vedic literature. Gautami and Vriddhaangana are two other names for it. Brahmapurana says Godavari is Ganga to the south of the Vindhya Mountains and is called Gautami.  The legend goes that the sage Gautma brought this river from the Ganga resting on the matted locks of Siva to this Earth, near Brahmagiri.  At his request Siva also agreed to stay near his hermitage.  He became the famous Tryambakesvara. Rama lived in Panchavati on the bank of the   River Godavari from where Sita was abducted.  It is here Lakshmana cut the nose of Surpanaka the sister of Ravana. Nashik inherits its name based on this Puranic incidence.
Ujjain is located on the banks of the sacred River Kshipra or  Sipra. It is famous for Mahaakaala Temple—one of the Jyotirlingas and as the fourth place where the Kumbhamela festival is   held once in twelve years. Lord Siva emerged out of earth here, killed the demon Dushana and agreed to stay    there   itself.
Yamuna is the most celebrated river after Ganga in Rigveda.  Yamuna is the presiding Goddess of this river. She is the daughter of Soorya and Sanjanaa devi. Yama the God of death is her twin brother. Thus she is glorified in Puranas. It is the famous river associated with Lord Krishna   where he spent his boyhood days with milkmaids (Gopis).
Sarasvati was the mighty river celebrated in Rigveda that flowed from the Himalayas into the ocean almost parallel to  later called Sindhu or the Indus River. It might have been the life-line of the people up to 3000 B.C.E.  Severe tectonic disturbances might have contributed to its gradual disappearance by 2200 B.C.E.,   into a desert.  The modern Rivers Sarasavati and Ghaggar   in Himachal Pradesh may be the remnants of the ancient Sarasvati.   It is believed that the Sarasvati exists only on the ethereal or spiritual plane and is not visible to the human eye. This holy river is mentioned many times in Puranas also such as the Mahabharata and is said to be present at Allahabad where it joins the Yamuna and the Ganges.

Ganges, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Godavari and Kshipra are the celebrated rivers of Kumbhamela considered holy for taking a dip on the prescribed day and time to wash off all sins and attain salvation. According to Hindu belief even their seeing [Vesyaastreee (Ganga) darsanam  punyam—Kalidasa] brings merits (punya) to one’s life. Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies where doctrines are debated and standardized.  
Kumbhamela is the most sacred of all the pilgrimages. Thousands of holy men and women attend, and the auspiciousness of the festival is in part attributable to this. The sadhus are seen   clad in saffron sheets and smeared with Vibhuti ashes (holy ash) all over the skin in the body as per the requirements of ancient traditions. Some, called Naga (probably comes from Hindi word nanga) saints may not wear any clothes even in severe winter. The right to be Naga, or naked, is considered a sign of separation from the material world with the belief Spiritual world does not care about physical body.  Digambara Jain philosophy also supports this.

We do not know when Kumbhamela celebration started in India.  The earliest evidence of the Kumbhamela celebration can be found in the accounts of Chinese traveler, Hiuen Tsang or Xuanzang (602--664 A.D.) who visited India in 629 -645 CE, during the reign of King Harshavardhana. During the 1954 Kumbhamela stampede at Allahabad, around 500 people were killed, and scores were injured.    Mass stampede and loss of several lives is a regular feature in all these Kumbhamelas as all people rush at the same sacred time to take a dip.  People who die are believed to reach heaven earlier than others! The confluence of India's three most sacred rivers at Allahabad is called   Triveni Sangam. The combined sanctity of the three holy rivers, coupled with the spiritual powers obtained from the pot of nectar of immortality, has earned Allahabad the title of Tirtharaja (king of Pilgrim center) among all Tirthayatra places or pilgrim centers. Every Pilgrim  Center in India  is associated with  a Tirtha or sacred water source and holy pilgrimage is called Tirthayatra.

According to Paramahansa Yogananda in his work the Autobiography of a Yogi, it was during the Kumbh Mela in January 1894 at Prayag that his Guru Sri Yukteswar met Mahavatar Babaji for the first time.    Sankara, the prominent Indian saint-philosopher, popularized the Kumbha- mela among the common people, and boosted the attendance which grew to great proportions. Sankara promoted the concept of special importance to the opportunity of associating with saintly persons (satsang) while at Kumbha Mela. Paying obeisance (Pranam) to saints, hearing to their Harikathaa Kalakshepams (holy story rendering of scriptures) from saints (sravanam) is considered as sacred as bathing (Snanam) during these celebrations.

Kumbhamela is celebrated at Tryambakeshwarin Nasik which is in Maharashtra. Tryambakeshwar is a holy town of Nashik where Tryambakeshwar Jyotirlinga temple is situated, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas    and is known as Sinhasta. According to mythological stories and verses of epics the drops of Amrita or nectar fell at the Godavari River in Nashik when Lord Vishnu flew from    Earth to Heaven after Samudra Mathana.  That is the reason why the place is considered sacred and is of great importance among Hindus. Thousands of sadhus, holy men and Millions of pilgrims   take dips in the holy River Godavari on the specific date and at specific time in the two bathing Ghats of Ramkund and Kushavarta.  It is customary to chant Nadisthuti during bath as given in MNU and the later introduced sloka  directing them to Sapta Sindhus whose names are not clearly mentioned  in Vedas.   This sloka is chanted by those who take dip in the river seeking salvation: 
Gange cha yamune chaiva Godaavari Saraswatee | Narmade Sindhu Kaveree jale-asmin sannidhim kuru ||
[Oh waters of Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada and River Cauvery please make your holy   presence in these waters!]  Evidently this is not a Vedic Mantra but a prayer introduced by Aagamas or religious authorities.]    Sastras say one can take a dip in Godavari sitting at home without a visit to Nashik with this Mantra. You have to find out right date and time. 
Nadisthuti in Rigveda contains following mantra in which unfortunately the River Sindhu as mentioned in the hymn above.

Imam may Gange  Yamune Saraswati Sutudri Stoma(ga)m sachataa Parushniyaa |
Asakniyaa Marudvridhe Vitastaya-Arjakeeye srinuhyaa Sushomayaa ||

Oh Ganga, Oh Yamuna, oh Sarasvati, Oh  Sutudri, Oh Marudvridhaa, Oh Aarjakeeyaa come together and listen to this hymn of mine along with Parusni, Asakni, Vitasta and Sushoma. [With simplicity of a guileless child they prayed to these liquid divinities to be present in their own bodies through their daily needs of worship.]

Students of Indian history   find in Vedas (MNU) ten names of these sacred rivers on the banks of which Rigvedic period people settled at a very remote period.  Evidently they seemed to have just crossed present day Indus which they called just a male river but moved away from it to the banks of its tributaries to settle down.   Scholars identify Sushomaa with Sohan, Vitastaa with Jhelum, Asakni with Chinab, Marudvridhaa with Maruwaardwaan, Parusni with Rabi and Sutudri with Sutlej. This Sarasvati may be the namesake river near Badrinath which is called even today so. It is strange there is no mention of Sindhu or Indus River as such in the Mantra.   The modern namesake Sarasavati and Ghaggar Rivers in Himachal Pradesh may be the remnants of the ancient Sarasvati.   It is however strongly believed that the Sarasvati exists only on the ethereal or spiritual plane and is not visible to the human eye. This holy river is mentioned many times in Puranas also such as the Mahabharata and is said to be present at Allahabad where it joins the Yamuna and the Ganges. It was there in the minds of Rishis of the Sarasvati Valley even before they had discovered them.

Nashik Kumbh Mela Dates: As Kumbhamela is celebrated in every twelve years in Nashik; last time it was celebrated in 2003, which resulted into an incredible festive season for the people of Maharashtra in particular and people of India in general.  People get away from their routine schedules and experience spiritual ecstasy during Kumbhamela days.  This year Kumbhamela will be held in Nashik from July 14 to September 25 in 2015.

Nashik Kumbhmela Schedule of Events in 2015
·        14th July 2015 (Tuesday): Flag hoisting of the main ceremony at Ram Kunda
·         14th August 2015 (Friday): Flag hoisting of the Akhara at Sadhugram
·        26th August 2015 (Wednesday): Shravan Shudha- First  Holy Dip
·        29th August 2015 (Saturday): Shravan Purnima - First Shahi  Snaanam at Ram Kund
·        13th September 2015 (Sunday): Bhadrapad Amavasya - Second Shahi Snaanam / Main bathing date
·        18th September 2015 (Friday): Bhadrapad Shukla Panchmi (Rushipanchami) - Third Shahi Snana
·        25th September 2015 (Friday): Bhadrapad Shukla Dwadashi - Vaman Dwadashi Snana
Is Kumbhamela purely a North Indian  River Festival ? Kumbhamela ritual is not peculiar to North Indian Rivers alone.  Sayana traslates Sindhu as   not only rivers but any water source like ponds, wells, tanks and lakes. Vedas are called saras or lakes.  Maasimaham is an annual event that occurs in the Tamil month of Maasi (February–March) during the star (Nakshatram) of Magam. Once in twelve years, when the planet Guru (Jupiter) enters Simha  (Leo) sign, the Kumbhamela festival of South India is celebrated at Mahaamaham tank.   Vast crowds gather at Kumbakonam to have a dip in the tank, along with saints and philosophers. All the rivers of India (particularly Sapta Sindhus) are believed to meet at the tank on this day and a purification bath at this tank on this day is considered equal to the combined dips in all the holy rivers of India.  Processional mobile deities from all the temples in Kumbakonam arrive at the tank and at noon, all the deities bathe along with the devotees - it is called "Theerthavari".  The purification bath after that of deities is believed to remove all sins and after the dip, pilgrims offer charitable gifts in the hope of being rewarded in the current life and subsequent lives.  The temple cars of major temples in Kumbakonam come around the city on the festival night.  During the Mahamaham of 1992, the number of devotees reached 1 million.
Vishnu appeared before the River Sarasvati who went on a long and hard penance and wanted to be considered as the most sacred. He told her that it was not possible for her to be regarded more sacred than Ganga as Ganga was already firmly established in the matted lock of hairs of Siva. However he advised her to come to Tirupati and reside in   Venkatadri in the Swami Pushkarani. Once a year all the sacred rivers led by Ganga merge with the Swami Pushkarni (Temple Tank) to wash off devotees’ sins.  The sacred Mukkoti or Parva day of Swami Pushkarani takes place on Dvadasi (12th day) in the month of Dhanur when Sudarsana Chakra is taken in  procession and immersed in the Swami Pushkarani, when all the Gods bathe in the tank. A bath at the same time, it is believed washes away all sins of people who take bath. This is an annual event of Kumbhamela in Tirumala-Tirupati. Could it be the reason we don’t see River Sarasvati near Indus or in Prayag today?
After visiting Kumbhmela in 1895 Mark Twain  wrote: “It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites.
O
ver centuries, Vedic sacrifices gradually found their way out due to their inherent difficulties in performing them including animal sacrifices. Their place was soon taken up by ritualistic worship, simple Homas by way of oblation into consecrated fires associated with popular puranic deities, religious vows called Vratas and Teerthayaatras, visit to pilgrim centers located on sacred river banks.  These were eulogized as easy to perform, but, giving equally good and quick results.  Kumbhamela celebration was an outcome of this development.

The Global Mother Earth  (Prithvee Kumbha) holding water (Aapah) in her pitcher containing life sustaining Praana (Vaayu) releases the same through  the heat (Agni) generated by Tapas to the atmosphere (Aakasa) to make its journey further or  return back if unsuccessful.  This is the philosophy of Kumbhamela,  and  the purpose behind this great ritual and worship.  Water is the ruling deity in the body  around  70%, keeping the life’s flow with Praana (vayu)  contained in it  and the heat of the body (Agni) which when stops its flow  within  flowing through millions of channels contained within we cease to exist.  It   is this   that leads us to the philosophy “aapah idam sarvam tad Brahma”—water is everything and that is Brahman which makes us venerate ever-flowing and life-sustaining rivers guided by the wisdom of Vedas.  Why so many Kumbhamelas?  We know definitely the pitcher we live in called Mother Earth and the solar system. Science has just discovered its cousin recently.  There may be many such Kumbhas to match  at least  12 Aadityas (Suns)  mentioned in Vedas if not more satellite systems to be steered by billions of stars. 

The new Prithvee Kumbha is described as follows: “Called Kepler 452b, the planet orbits a 6 billion-year-old sun-like star about 1,400 light-years away. Kepler 452b is about 60 percent larger than Earth, and perhaps five times as massive. With a year lasting 385 days, it sits in the region around its star where temperatures are just right for maintaining liquid water on a world’s surface”—National Geography
                                                                  



                                                                   APPENDIX

 
Mahakumbhamela - Sri Godavari Stotras from Brahma Puranam
(By courtesy Muralidharan Iyengar from Singapore)

 [Our friend from Singapore, Muralidhara Iyengar has found out a Mantra on Godavari In his research engine which will lead one to the Highway to Heaven.  But to reach Vaikunta, see the Lord and submit oneself by Saranagati to attain Moksha needs more Sadhanas—Prayaschitta, Pavitrata, Dhyana and Saranagati. The first Sadhana of physical and mental purification takes place in Godavari particularly on this auspicious day if our Astrologers have not betrayed us as to Dakshinayana Punyakala. Please enjoy and get the benefit of Godavari Mata.]  

Here are 3 short hymns on river Godavari taken from Godavari MahatmyaBrahma Purana. Godavari Mahatmya in Brahma Purana consists of 106 chapters (Chapters 70 to 175 of Brahma Purana) and provides details of origin of Godavari until its Sangama (merger) with ocean. It provides description of hundreds (and perhaps thousands) of Tirthas available along the path of Godavari as told by Lord Brahma to Sage Narada. This Mahatmya also provides some interesting snippets and historical facts along the way. Some excerpts below, as it will be difficult to cover all in a short email.

Origin of Godavari - The Ganga that originated from Vishnu Pada and received at the Jathajuta  (knotted hairs) of Shiva takes two forms - as Ganga to King Bhagiratha of Surya Vamsha and as Gautami (aka Godavari and Dakshina Ganga) to Sage Gautama. The hymns address Godavari as Ganga itself.

·  Gautami's Sanctity - Lord Brahma as well as Lord Shiva mention that Godavari is the most sacred of all rivers. There are hundreds of Tirthas along its path which are capable of destroying one's accumulated Karma and bestow health, wealth and emancipation.

·  Pitru Worship - Pitrus declare that there is none more potent in satisfying than offering shraddha at the banks of Godavari. There is also a story of King Dasharatha's soul conversing with Lord Rama where Dasharatha mentions that he is in hell because   of his three Brahma Hatya (slaying of Brahmins), for which there is no redemption. While Lord Rama and Sita became very sad and were wondering what to do, King Dasharatha himself mentions that the only way he could escape from hell is by Lord Rama offering Shraddha at river Godavari which he completes and King Dasharatha escapes hell. Lord Rama's another hymn on Godavari (addressed as Ganga) was shared by me a few years ago.

·  Sage Agastya's Advise to Sage Apastamba on Equality of Trinity - I had shared this before. Sage Apastamba asks who among the trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva) is the greatest and therefore worthy of praise. Sage Agastya corroborates that there is no difference among the Trinity and they appear different due to Guna/Karma for the benefit of mankind. There is no redemption (prAyashchittam) for those who try to infuse confusion among the Trinity:
BrahmA viShNuH shivashceti eka eva tridhocyate |
trayANAM api devAnAM vedyaM ekaM paraM hi tat || 130-10 ||
Ekasya bahudhA vyAptir guNa karma vibhedataH |
lokAnAM upakArArthaM AkRRiti tritayaM bhavet || 130-11 ||
OdhbedI sa ucyate || 130-12 ||
PrAyashcittaM na tasyA .asti yashcaiShAM vyAharedbhidam ||
trayANAM api devAnAM mUrti-bhedaH pRRithak pRRithak ||
vedAH pramANaM sarvatra sAkAreShu pRRithak pRRithak |
nirAkAraM ca yattvekaM tat tebhyaH paramaM matam || 130-14 ||
(Meaning: One who is unmanifested (amUrta) appears in three forms (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva) for the benefit of mankind arising out of Guna and Karma. One who really understands this ultimate truth (para tattva) is the real learned (vidvAn) one - not others. One who develops and retains bheda-buddhi among the three is known as Linga bhedi - there is no prayaschitta (remedy) for one who harbors difference among the three ...) (Do we need to say more? In today's world, there is abundance of educated illiterates who don't imbibe anything what they read or learn. All of us are guilty of selective reading/listening, unauthorized bias and a heavy dose of self-inflicted illiteracy regardless of our paper qualifications. No prize for guessing who is the pathetic loser - we ourselves are).

·  Lord Vishnu's Upadesha to Sage Mudgala on Karmaphala - As you sow, so you reap:
(yAdRRishaM copyate bIjaM phalaM bhavati tAdRRisham |
rasAlaH syAn na nimbasya bIjAj jAtvapi kutracit || 136-20 ||
na kRRitA gautamI sevA nArcitau hari sha~Nkarau |
na dattaM yaishca viprebhyas te kathaM bhAjanaM shriyaH || 136-21  
(Meaning : As you sow, so you reap. Never you can sow a seed of neem tree and expect a mango fruit from it. One who does not worship Gautami (Godavari) and perform Archana to Hari and Shankara, he does not get any adhikara for any kind of wealth).

Again, it is an introspection point - how many of us are willing to really adhere to Lord's Upadesha direct - we find it more convenient to divide ourselves and fight among ourselves which have no sanction from the very texts we claim allegiance to. It is as if we think the Lord's Upadeshas are for others - not us.

·  Jyeshta's abuse of Lakshmi and Gautami's curse on JyeShta - Jyestha Devi     (elder sister of Lakshmi and also a consort of Vishnu) scolds Lakshmi, "You leave Bhagavan Vishnu and his true devotees and you reside with greatest sinners. Whereas I reside with greatest Yogis and Dharmikas... ". Later Gautami scolds JyeshTa and mentions that everything in this world is shri-rUpa. Therefore for those who are attracted by you will never qualify for Ganga snana to get rid of the sins".

·  Enemies of GYana - Sage Pailusha mentions that krodha as the first and foremost enemy of GYAna followed by Asakti, suspicion, desire/lust, etc.

May we pray to Mata Gautami during this Mahakumbhamela. May Her Grace Wash Away our sins and lead us to light! It will be wonderful if any reference to the tirthas mentioned in the purana with their current locations so that it will facilitate devotees to undertake pilgrimage according to their tastes and needs.



The following is a set of short hymns on Goddess Godavari (River) taken from various
chatpers of Gautami Mahatmya in Brahma Puranam (Chapters 75-175).
kaṇva uvāca -
namo'stu gaṅge paramārti-hāriṇī namaḥ kṣudhe sarva-janārti-kāriṇī |
namo maheśānjaṭodbhave śubhe mahāmṛtyu-mukhād-viniḥsṛte || 85-08 ||
Kaṇva uvāca -
sarva-maṅgala-māṅgalye brahmī māheśvarī śubhe |
vaiṣṇavī tryambake devī godāvarī namo'stu te || 85-12 |
tryambakasya jaṭodbhūte gautamasyā 'gha-nāśinī |
saptadhā sāgaraṁ yānti godāvarī namo'stu te || 85-13 ||
sarva-pāpa-kṛtāṁ pāpe dharma- -nāśinī |
duḥkha-lobha-mayi devī kṣudhe tubhyaṁ namo namaḥ || 85-14 ||
oṣadhya ūcuḥ -
kiṁ vā 'kariṣyan bhavavartino janā nānā'gha-saṅghābhibhavācca duḥkhitāḥ |
na cā ''gamiṣyad bhavatī bhuvaṁ cet puṇyodake gautamī śambhukānte ||119-09 ||
ko vetti bhāgyaṁ nara-deha-bhājāṁ mahīgatānāṁ saritāṁ-adhīśe |
eṣāṁ mahāpātaka-saṅgh-hantrī tvaṁ amba gaṅge sulabhā sadaiva || 119-10 ||
na te vibhūtiṁ nanu vetti ko'pi trailokya-vandye jagadamba gaṅge |
gaurī samāliṅgita vigraho'pi dhatte smarāriḥ śirasā'pi yat tvām || 119-11 ||
namo'stu te mātar abhīṣṭa-dāyinī namo'stu te brahmamaye 'ghanāśinī |
namo'stu te viṣṇu-padābja-niḥsṛte namo'stu te śambhu-jaṭā-viniḥsṛte || 119-12 ||
śrīrāma uvāca -
asyāḥ prabhāvāddharayo yā'sau mama pitā prabhuḥ |
sarva-pāpa-vinirmuktas tato yātas triviṣṭapam || 157-09 ||
iyaṁ janitrī sakalasya jantor bhukti-pradā muktiṁ athā'pi dadyāt |
pāpāni hanyādapi dāruṇāni kā 'nyā 'nayā 'styatra nadī samānā || 157-10 ||
hatāni śaśvad duritāni caiva asyāḥ prabhāvādarayaḥ sakhāyaḥ |
vibhīṣaṇo maitramupaiti nityaṁ sītā ca labdhā hanumāṁśca bandhuḥ || 157-11 ||
laṅkā ca bhagnā sagaṇaṁ hi rakṣo hataṁ hi yasyāḥ parisevanena |
yāṁ gautamo devavaraṁ prapūjya śivaṁ śaraṇyaṁ sajaṭāmavāpa || 157-12 ||
seyaṁ janitrī sakalepsitānāṁ amaṅgalānāṁ api sannihantrī |
jagat-pavitrīkaraṇaikadakṣā dṛṣṭā'dya sākṣāt saritāṁ savitrī || 157-13 ||
kāyena vācā manasā sadaināṁ vrajāmi gaṅgāṁ śaraṇaṁ śaraṇyām || 157-14 ||
|| iti brāhme mahāpurāṇe gautamī-māhātmye śrīgodāvarī stotrāṇi sampūrṇam ||


 APPENDIX  II



Holy Men of India: Sadhus, Nagas and Babas
Posted by The Editor | Feb 20, 2012 |  India.Divine.org

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Spiritual adventurers, ascetic warriors, devout mystics, occult rebels or philosophic monks, the sadhus are revered by Hindus as representatives of the gods, sometimes even worshipped as gods themselves.
Holiness is still common in India. In most Hindu households, shops and businesses you will find altars and shrines, and the day is routinely started with worship of gods and gurus. Many mountains, rivers, stones and trees are sacred. Dozens of cities are holy and, of course, the millions of temples and idols. Quite a few animals are holy — the cow, of course, but also the bull, the monkey, the elephant, the peacock, the snake, the rat…. So it may come as no surprise that people can be holy too, though they have to become holy.
To Hindus, spiritual enlightenment has always represented the highest goal in life, the one thing that gives it meaning and purpose. Moreover, enlightenment is a state of being that is in principle attainable by everybody. The average individual, however, would need many incarnations to become enlightened, to see God, to become one with the Absolute, to merge one’s mind with Cosmic Consciousness — in short, to become holy. But since time immemorial shortcuts have been available for people wanting to become enlightened in this life rather than the next. Those who follow the fast track, mostly men, are the sadhus, the ‘holy men’ of India.
For thousands of years they have been around. Once they must have been more numerous, but even today there are still four to five million sadhus, constituting about half a percent of the total population. Organized in various sects, they passed on the wisdom of old, the method of yoga  that is ‘yoking’ soul and Super-soul together. The sadhus radically renounce ‘the world’ in order to focus entirely on the Higher Reality beyond. They abstain from sex, cut all family ties, have no possessions, no house, wear little or no clothing and eat little and simple food. Usually they live by themselves, on the fringes of society, and spend their days in devotion to their chosen deity.
Some perform magical rituals to make contact with the gods, others practice intense forms of yoga and meditation to increase their spiritual powers and acquire mystical knowledge.
For an ordinary human being these ‘basic’ self-abnegations are already hard to comprehend. But almost unimaginable are the extreme self-mortifications by which a number of sadhus intend to speed up their enlightenment. There are those who keep their right arm straight up until it degenerates into a kind of stick. Some do not sit and lay down for years on end, or keep silence for many years, or wear a ‘chastity-belt’ forever, or fast for a long time…
Most sadhus, however, take it a lot easier. And for many the main ‘self-mortification’ seems to be the smoking of hashish. According to age-old tradition they follow the example of Shiva in this respect. To them Shiva is not only the Lord of Yogis, but also the Lord of Hash, the hash smoking god, forever High. Shiva is the god of Destruction as well as Creation, which in a perpetual cyclical movement follow one another. His body is covered with ashes, symbolic of death and regeneration.
Shiva is always naked, which symbolizes his primal condition, his non-attachment to the world. His body shows feminine characteristics, like soft rounded contours and no beard, which is symbolic of his transcendence of opposites, the primal unity of polarities.
With half-closed eyes he is immersed in meditation, in divine bliss. The Ganges springs from his long hair, his Jatha, as a fountain, splashing in the Himalayan Mountains in the distance. The crescent — the new moon, ‘Shiva’s moon’ — on his forehead, the cobra around his neck, the white bull Nandi, the river Ganges, and the full moon form a symbolic cluster which indicates Shiva’s function as a fertility deity, a moon god.
On his forehead are three horizontal lines, painted with ashes, representing the three main gods, the three ‘worlds’, etc. Around his neck is a garland of 108 beads, the 108 elements of material creation, and in his hand a rosary of 50 beads, the 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. The two large rings through his ears are indicative of his extra-sensory perception. He is seated on a tiger skin, a symbol of power, showing his mastery over the animal world.
In appearance sadhus try to resemble the gods as they are known through ancient stories and popular legends, especially Shiva. Though Shiva is popularly known as the God of Destruction, for sadhus he is foremost the Master of Yogis.
Many sadhus wear extremely long hair (jatha), again in emulation of Lord Shiva, whose long strands of hair are regarded as the ‘seat’ of his supernatural powers.
Other deities besides Shiva are worshipped too, such as Rama or Krishna, who are both incarnations of Vishnu, a god who rivals with Shiva for the supreme position in the Hindu pantheon. Or one of the many goddesses, like Kali or Durga. The allegiance of sadhus can be recognized by differences in the marks on their forehead, and the color of their clothes.
In the past, there have been intense rivalries between the various sects, even leading to battle. But in essence all sadhus have the same roots.
Certainly, not all sadhus are enlightened. But believers regard them all as holy anyway, if only because of their radical commitment. And successful sadhus are even worshiped as ‘gods on earth’.
Believers only have to ‘behold’ a sadhu — as a kind of living idol — to receive a spark of his spiritual energy. They give donations to the sadhus — regarded as offerings to the gods — and get their blessing in return. Thus, since time immemorial, has Indian society been organised to support the holy men, for they are not supposed to work.
Sadhus belong to many different sects or orders. Upon joining a sect, an apprentice-sadhu must undergo an initiation-rite, which is regarded as a symbolic death — and a rebirth. He dies from his former, earthly life and is reborn into the divine life. The visible symbol of this rebirth is the shaven head of the novice, bald as a baby’s.
After initiation, any talk or thought about the former life is discouraged; it is irrelevant now and age is reckoned from the new birthday. The bond with the guru is now all important. He is the ‘dispeller of darkness’, the guide for piercing the Veil of Illusion. The guru is father, mother and teacher — and the disciple worships his guru as god incarnate; he will please him any way he can (in the ideal case, anyway). Most sects are rather moderate in their practices, but some can be quite extreme.
  
 Nagas, The Warrior Ascetics
One large and prominent Shaiva sect consists of the ‘warrior ascetics’, or Nagas (the ‘naked’), who have existed since the prehistoric past.
Though sadhus in general can decharacterized as peace-loving, the Nagas used to be extremely militant, fighting with rivalling sects, the Muslims and later even the British. They were excellent fighters for they had no fear of death.
Traces of this ‘macho’ attitude are still discernible today. The Naga sect is subdivided into Akharas, i.e. ‘regiments’, like an army.
Their bellicose past is visible in their display of weaponry — sticks, spears, swords and especially the trident — but nowadays these have a mostly symbolic function.
Among the Nagas — as this name would lead us to expect — we still find many sadhus who walk about naked. In other respects as well they represent the ideal image of the sadhu as it was created thousands of years ago.
The Gorakhnathis or Jogis
The Gorakhnathis are commonly referred to as Yogis or Jogis. Although in outlook very similar to the sannyasis, the Jogis do not follow the Vedantic teachings of Shankara, but adhere to the Tantric way taught by their Guru-founder Gorakhnath. Still, they are devotees of Shiva, albeit in his manifestation as Bhairava, and they worship Hanuman and Dattatreya.
Gorakhnath, being an incarnation of Shiva, is worshipped as a deity by the Jogis, and has a number of temples dedicated to him. The Jogis are therefore often designated as ‘Gorakhnathis’, or more simply ‘Nath-Babas’.

The Udasin
The major sect of Udasin ascetics was originally not Shaiva — nor even Hindu — but belonged to the Sikh religion. It was founded in the sixteenth century by a son of Guru Nanak — himself the founder of Sikhism — called Shrichandra. The Udasin are therefore also known as Nanakputras, the ‘sons of Nanak’, and they revere the Grantha Saheb, the sacred book of the Sikhs.
They were excommunicated by the successor of Guru Nanak and gradually turned to Hinduism. The Udasin worship panchayatana, a combination of five deities, namely Shiva, Vishnu, the Sun, goddess Durga, and Ganesh; moreover they worship their founder-Guru Shrichandra.
Their philosophy is basically the monistic Vedanta as set forth by Shankara, and in other respects as well they closely resemble the Shaiva sannyasis.
The Aghoris
Holiness cannot only be macho, but even ‘crazy’, god-possessed, as it is shown by the members of a rather obscure and small sect, the Aghoris.
They emulate the most extreme characteristics of Lord Shiva as the Conqueror of Death: his favorite haunt is the cremation-grounds; he bathes in cremation-ashes; he wears a garland of skulls and bones; he keeps spirits and ghosts for company; he is continuously intoxicated; and he acts like a madman.
The Aghoris willingly transgress all ascetic (and Hindu) taboos, convinced as they are that by ‘reversing all values’ they will speed up enlightenment. While all sadhus are supposed to be vegetarian and teetotalers (like all ordinary Hindus for that matter), Aghoris eat meat and drink alcohol.
Even more horrid habits are attributed to Aghoris: they eat the putrid flesh of corpses; they eat excrement and drink urine, even of a dog; and they meditate while sitting on a corpse. It is questionable whether all this is regularly done, but it seems quite certain that at least occasionally, and then in a ritual context, as a kind of ‘eucharist’, these cannibalistic and other ‘inhuman’ acts are still taking place.
Aghoris preferably live on cremation grounds and surround themselves with artifacts of death, like human skulls out of which they drink and with which they perform magical rituals. Nonetheless, the Aghoris represent a tradition that is thousands of years old, and there have been times that the sect was quite numerous.


The Ramanandis
In the beginning of the fourteenth century, a very successful ascetic sect was founded by Ramananda: the Ramananda Sampradaya, more popularly known as the Ramanandis.
Nowadays, because of its dominant position, it is regarded as a separate organization, but officially it is still part of the Shri Sampradaya, for Ramananda started his ascetic career as a member of this sect. He remained loyal to the philosophy of its founder Ramanuja, but he choe Rama and Sita as personal gods, and made devotion to them the central feature of the sect’s religious practices.

  • War Cry in the Holy Cities: Naga Sadhus Told to Assemble to Battle Sai Baba Followers



REFERENCES:
1)  Swami Vimalananda, Maha Narayanarayana Upanishad, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
2) Swami Harshananda,  Hindu Pilgrim Centers, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
3) Nandita Krishnan, Balaji-Venkateshwara,  Vakils, Feffer and Simons Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Indi.
4) Dev dutt Pattanaik, Vishnu, Vakils, Feffer and Sin mons Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India.
5) Swami Shivanananda, Hindu Fasts and Festivals, Divine Life Society, Shivanandanagar, India.
6) Wikipedia, Various Internet sources and Pamphlets on Kumbhamela and Maasimaham.
7) Muralidharan Iyengar, Singapore, Contributions through personal E-mail.
8) Swami Vimalannda, Why do we do?  Ramakrishna  Math, Chennai, India.




[This discourse material is a compilation from the reference above    as well as other sources for a prepared lecture for delivering at Vedanta Class of Sri Ganesha Temple which is gratefully acknowledged. I do not claim anything as original though I have included my explanations and comments elaborately suitably editing. Anybody is free to download partly or fully this discourse, modify and redistribute this as well as other  discourses from the blog Hindu Reflections <nrsrini.blogspot.com> for spreading the wisdom of Vedas and scriptures further.  These  lectures are  posted on the blog for the benefit of those who are not able to attend my lectures personally due to personal reasons or due to not living in Nashville or able to go through the various sources as I have done.]