Tuesday, April 11, 2017

DARBHA--THE SACRED GRASS IN HINDU WORSHIPS, RITUALS AND SACRAMENTS



DARBHA-- THE SACRED GRASS IN HINDU WORSHIPS, RITUALS AND SACRAMENTS
(Compilation for a Discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, in Nashville, TN, USA, April 2017)

Use of Kusa grass in Hindu rituals began in Vedic times, more than an estimated 3,500 years ago. The grass is variously known as Kusa, Dharbha, Durva etc.  Darbha also called Kusa   popularly is considered perhaps the second most sacred herb in the Vedas after Soma.  Scholars and priests are not clear if they refer these as   separate species of grass or the same grass. Some of the species of grass identified as sacred grass include Cynodon dactylon, Desmostachya bipinnata, Imperata cylindrica and Panicun dactylon varying in their effectiveness. The unique feature of Kusa grass is that it has sharp edges and that of Dharba that it is a hardy plant and, therefore, is a great survivor; its roots go deep in search of water. Pluck a blade of grass and it sprouts back, and this attribute makes it a powerful symbol of regeneration, renewal, rebirth, fertility, and hence prosperity. Some Pundits say if Darbha is not available, other grasses, especially those in the Desmostachya Eragrostis genera, or lemon-grass and its relatives can be substituted.  These grasses will have lesser but adequate effects. A Hindu performing any religious function or ritual needs to wear a ring made of this.  But, many do not know  the reason of why it is to be used. This grass absorbs about 60% of the radiation when exposed to X-rays. If the so powerful X-ray radiation can be absorbed by the Holy Grass, why can it not absorb the ill-radiations (ill effective and harmful sounds) spread over the atmosphere?  While chanting and reciting some Vedic phrases and versus, while performing homa (fire sacrifice), worships, rituals and sacrament—in short  in  all nitya (daily) karmas and naimittika (specific) Karmas, one needs to wear a ring made of this grass on his right hand ring finger.

Whenever any  religious function is held our priests start the function with  “Sthala Suddhi”  or   site-cleansing act known as "Sudhhi Punyaahavachanam“ (vachanam means reciting) reciting the selective versus  holding the Dharbha  bunch in their hand and placing the tip point of it over the vessel containing water. This is to transfer the vibration recital sounds   and get them   absorbed by water in the vessel through the Dharbha. That is how the ordinary water gets sanctified. Dharba grass with its sharp tip has the highest value in conducting the phonetic vibrations through its tip according to Vedic scholars. That is why you find our priests running around sprinkling Kalasa puja sanctified water with the Dharba tip (Kucha) to magnetize and to purify the place filling with Sanskrit phonetic sound and vibration of mantras dampening all ill effective   and   harmful sounds.
Sanskrit phonetic sound and vibration when pronounced with correct intonations (like Ghanapaatha or Kramapaatha) increases its effectiveness in filling the atmosphere.   The usage varies according to the functions. We cannot doubt this high scientific knowledge of acoustics of our sages and saints controlling the magnetic path disturbance just by simply using Dharba grass who were known for their astronomical knowledge without the use of Hebel Telescope.  We hear a lot about the influence of music in crop growth today by modern scientists!

When we perform the Kumbabhishekam in a temple, a predetermined number of  learned Vedic scholars would stand near the "kumbha jalam" ( holy water kept in the copper or brass vessel) and holding a "Dharba" at one end in their hand and other end in the water would recite all the  mantras  needed and  contemplate, called "Japam".   I believe   "Dharba" is a very good conductor of acoustic vibrations.   When this Japa is   completed one should be able to find the difference in the state of water before and after such a Japam.  I say this because modern scientists too say there is a great influence on crops by employing music or acoustics to improve the yield. That should come from the energized water by acoustics.  The reason why I believe in this is because Vedic chanting in Sanskrit   with proper intonations has great effect on mind and Sanskrit is a phonetically influencing language which pundits think is divine. I have talked about its scientific investigation in my discourse on OM. I have seen personally some priests get psychologically influenced and act strangely carrying the sacred pot to towers which is interpreted as temporary divine possession or divine charging!

Here I recall rthe last scene in Ramayana portrayed by Valmiki. Sri Rama enters Sarayu River with Dharba in his hands.  Why did Sri Rama do so? I presume Sri Rama wanted to transfer his divine powers to Sarayu water with Dharba   when he left Ayodhya barren.  For him the whole Sarayu was Jala Kumbha. Valmiki also predicted that Ayodhya will be revive soon-after and made lively again when King Rishaba takes over charge of Ayodhya.  His task was made easy because Sri Rama left Sarayu water divine by the Dharba he carried for the use of coming citizens of Ayodhya.  It is also interesting to state here that it is not commonly known to many, that one can use the same Dharba again and again for seven times, provided, it is washed and dried properly before reuse. This is permitted only when/where no fresh Kusa Grass or Dharbha is available for regular usage. However, the Dharba used in any inauspicious ceremonies viz. Death and Karma rituals, is never used again! Probably King Rishaba would have properly dried the Dharbha left behind by Sri Rama to be passed on to future generations. This narration by Valmiki of Sri Rama entering Sarayu with Darbha in his hands baffled me at one time but I am glad that I could now find a logical answer to it!

 Our Sages, Rishis were indeed very scientifically advanced. They were experts in electricity and magnetism.  According to the opinion of a Vedic scholar who is also a scientist “Pavithram is nothing but a modern day Mobius coil. When a Mobius coil is pulsed with an electrical current, the forward and reverse electro-magnetic fields cancel out each other resulting in a scalar wave. When we chant mantras, the reverberation of Aksharas cause a vibration / pranic current to flow in the body. When this passes through our ring finger, the Pavithram (Mobius coil) releases the scalar wave. This scalar wave is absorbed by the body. When we do Pranayamam (breath control the ring finger (with the Pavithram on it) is close to our nose / forehead area, then the scalar wave is released and it is absorbed by the  Ajna Chakra. The Ajna   Chakra / the third Eye is related to our Pineal Gland. When we provide small doses of scalar wave energy to our Pineal gland, we nourish it. This helps it to be very active and increase the intelligence of the human. The Brain / Pineal gland growth is maximum till the age of 11. That is also the reason why perform Upanayana sacrament before this age. This will help the young boy attain a very great brain development and have a very high intelligence. In olden days, the Rishis and Yogis used to have a very highly developed Pineal Gland. This helped them to perform complicated astrological / astronomical calculations etc. It is a known fact that Pranayama when done properly keeps aging process at bay.”  During Sandhyavandana ritual we electrify 12 or 24 parts of the body touching with fingers specific spots.  Body is believed to be abode for the divine within us. When we have to perform Aachamaneeyam ritual (purification by rinsing), we remove the Pavithram and place it over the right ear for convenience because it should not get wet. If it is wet the Mobius coil will get short circuited and will not serve its desired purpose.

The number of blades of grass used in any religious performance depends upon the function that is held viz., for some functions related to death only single blade of Dharbha grass is used; for Auspicious and daily routine a ring made of two blades of Dharbagrass is used; for inauspicious but not death related functions, (i.e. Amavasya Tharppanam, Pithru Pooja etc) a  three blades of grass Dharbha ring is used. And for the Temple Prayer and Pooja, a Four Dharbha blades of grass ring is used. Also, when a fire ritual known as Agni Santhana is performed, these Dharbha blades of grass are spread on all the four sides of the Agni Kundam.  I have not been able to find out the reason for such a difference. It would indeed be interesting to dive deeper to find out why we have different types of Pavithram for different occasions (out of single, 2, 3, 4 blades of Dharbha grass) on scientific lines!!!

Kusa also called Munja grass in its dry form as Darbha is used in all Hindu ceremonies, rituals and worships. Its sacredness is indicated in all scriptures. In Ramayana  in Uttara Kanda Chapter 109  Sri Rama entered Sarayu River holding sacred Kusa grass in his hands:   Tatah sukshma-ambaradharo brahmaavartyan param; Kusaan griheetvaa paanibhyaam sarayum Prayayaavatha”—Then  donning  fine clothes Srirama entered Sarayu taking Kusa grass in his hands and chanting mantras on Supreme  Brahman. In BhagavadGita In DhaanaYoga Chapter 6, Sloka 11 Bhagawan says: “Suchau dese pratishthaaya sthiram aasanam-aatmanah; Naatyuchchritam naatineecham Chailaajina-Kusottaram” – In clean spot fixing his seat firm, neither too high nor too low, made of Kusa grass, (deer) skin and cloth one on the top of other—sitting on that, with the activities of the mind and the senses controlled, concentrating his mind, Yogi should practice Yoga for the purification of the mind. Devi Bhagavatam says: “naasya kesaan pravapanti norasi taadamaaghnate”--By using mats of Kusha grass one does   not lose hair. It also helps in preventing a heart attack. We come across the words in scriptures “pavitram Vaidarbha”, “yaddarbhaah” “oshadheenaa(ga)m rasah”  glorifying the sacred Darbha grass. Smriti Chandrika says: “Kusamoole sthito Brahma kusamadhyetu Kesavah kusaagre Sankaro vidyaat sarvadevaassamam tatah” –At the root of the Kusa grass dwells Brahma, in the middle Kesava and at the tip Siva thus all the three Gods reside in it.  In Tiruppullani Sri Rama icon is seen reclining on Kusa grass the pose in which he prayed to Lord Jagannatha. Here we find abundant growth of Kusa grass. Darbha is worshipped here on Darbhashtami in the month of Bhadrapada (August-September).

Dharbha grass cannot be planted and grown anywhere and everywhere.  It only grows naturally at selective places and available almost in every State in India as in Pullani   as narrated above.    Several persons at many occasions tried to cultivate this plant but failed to see its growth.  It has its potential soil selection, magnetic path locations and soil conditions that add value to its growth only in selective places! Some learned scholars name it after Saint Vishwaamitra - hence Dharbham is known and also called as "Vishwaamitra".

Dharbha grass cannot just be plucked straight or cut on any day; Aagamas specify specific sacred  hymn  that is to be recited before cutting it;  also  it can be cut only on the day next to Full Moon - known as Krishna Paksha Prathama. A Dharbha without its tip portion is not to be used for making a ring like item known as "Pavithram".

In its dried form Kusa grass is called Darbha grass. But some religious scholars think these are two different kinds. But present day pundits make no difference and use them in dried from after wetting them and using them in different forms like rings (pavitra),  Kurcha for Kalasa or  sacred water-pots  for sprinkling holy water for purification and munja belt or girdle form used on deities and boys who have entered into bachelorhood in Upanayana ceremony. They are also used as such in Paristarana in ritual Homa encircling the fire altar with sixteen dharbas all around. The word darbha is derived from:  drinaati karaadikamiti darbhah dri-vidaarane” -- meaning the word darbha comes from its nature to cut hands and objects coming in contact with it. Hindus know how darbha was used as a powerful piercing weapon invoked by a mantra. We are all familiar with the term “blade of grass” in English.  According to   Hindu scriptures there are 7 types of darbhas: Kusa; Kaachi; Yava; Rice grass; Jambu; White lotus and a fine needle shaped grass to make symbolic Ganesha deity with cow dung (called Garikehullu in Kannada).

If Darbha is kept for a longer time, say for more than six months, (except the one cut during Masi & Avani Amavasya days.) then it loses its value and the power of absorbing the radiation or magnetic path control values. However, the same can be used even after six month according to Pundits only if it is re-energized with specific counts of Gayatri Mantra and when the Gayatri Japa mantra water is sprinkled on it. There are codes and rituals to revibrate/renergize the Dharba after its lapse of six month! .  Only when it is wet, you can twist it to the form you need to make the so called Pavithram (ring) koorcham or Bugnams, but must be used after it has dried! Usually Pavithram should not be prepared by  the person who has to use it because the electro-magnetic fields in the grass gets lost if it is prepared and worn by the same person!

There are many legends connected with this grass found in various Puranas:
1. Said to have been produced from the churning of the ocean of milk.

2. Said to have fallen to Earth from the pot of Amrita (which was produced from the churning of the ocean of milk.)

3. Equated with the hairs on the body of Lord Varaha (the Boar) avatara of Vishnu. ( Bhagavata Purana 3.13.35)

4. Hair fallen off from Koorma avatar due to friction of the churning rod Mandara Mountain during churning of the Ocean of Milk (Samudra mathana)

5. Snakes, the children of Kadru got their tongues split into two halves licking the blades of grass   with the mistaken notion that   Garuda, son of Vinita spilt some of it while carrying the Amrita pot away  from them and  deprived them of it.

Ramayana has lot of references to Dharbha and Kusa grass and there are many folk lore built around it. In one folk variant of the Ramayana, it is the hair of Sita — as Sita entered the earth, a distraught Rama tried to hold on to her but could only catch a few strands of her hair and these turned into Kusa grass whose sharp edges cut his fingers. In Ramayana Sita is said to have placed the sacred grass between herself and Ravana during the period of her confinement in Lanka, and she warned him never to cross the grass. If he did, his head would burst into a thousand pieces, she told him. This makes the grass the Sita-Rekha like Lakshman-Rekha that prevents Ravana from crossing the line of propriety with the faithful wife of another man.  Probably Lakshmana might have placed a dharba at the gate invoking Vedic mantra even though there is no mention of it: “Dhru̱vante̱ raajaa varuuṇo dhru̱vaṁ de̱vo bṛiha̱spati̍ḥ |dhruvanta̱a indraaschaagnischa raastram dhaarayataam dhruvam” --Firm is the King (the Lord)! May the eternal and immovable Gods Varuna,  Brhaspati, Indra, and Agni bless the land, people, and creatures with stability. This mantra from Rigveda recited now-a-days to sanctify darbha for use while strewing it, or while putting on pavitram (ring) etc., that might have been used by Lakshmana.  (This prayer, it is believed, gives stability, consistency, and firmness in our practice, and makes us impervious to distractions or disturbances.  It is suitable to empower darbha for all purposes).    Another folk narrative says that Sita gave birth to only one son called Luva. One day, she left the child in the care of sage Valmiki and went to the forest to collect firewood. While she was away, the child wandered off. Valmiki, not finding the child, became tense. He fashioned a doll out of some Kusa grass and using his magical powers, created another like Luva, and that's how Luva came to have a twin brother, Kusa.

Blades of the razor-sharp grass have been converted by rishis into potent missiles to kill demons and errant kings. Rishis created a missile using Kusa grass to kill the wicked king Vena.

Some say that the Kusa grass became sacred when drops of amrita or nectar fell on it during the churning of the cosmic ocean. Another story tells us that the pot containing amrita was placed on Kusa grass and that's how it came to be considered immortal.

The religious Kusa and other sacred grasses called Darbha in India are commonly known in English in many countries as Haifa grass, big cordgrass and salt grass is botanically identified as Desmostachya bipinnata.  In the Old World It is well-known as    perennial grass, long known and used in human history.   In arid regions it has been used a feeder for live- stock. In agriculture it is a weed found in wheat crop.
Since Kusha grass has good insulation properties devotees retain the energy generated in the ceremony in communion with God sitting on Kusa mat. It can protect you from electrical shocks. It is believed that mantras chanted sitting on a Kusa mat always brings good results. Wearing of Kusa rings (pavitram) in ceremonies and rituals in addition insulate ring finger in the hand and prevent energy leak into adjacent fingers. It is believed that Surya from whom we get life energy brilliance and fame resides in the ring finger and that should not be wasted.  
Various scriptures describe the merits of wearing pavitra and sitting on the dharba mat. Harita vachana says if one drinks water soaked with dharba he will have the same benefits as drinking Soma juice.   Kurcha is also defined as a seating with Dharba filling.

Kusahastena yajjaptam danam chaiva kusaissaha |
Kusa hastastu yo bhinkte tasya sankhya na vidyate||

He who meditates with Pavitra on his fingers, gives charity and eats sitting on Kusa mat will be blessed with meritorious acts.

Angushthetu piturnaasah tarjanyaam maranam bhavet |
Madhyame putranasascha kanuishthe sarvadoshakrit ||

One gets his father killed by wearing pavitra on the thumb, gets his own destruction with the middle finger, gets his children killed with index finger and all these by the little finger (implying wear it always on ring finger).

Kurchena va pavitrena yena karmaani kaarayet |
tasya granti visrijjaiva karmaante tat parityajet ||

One should discard Dharba  assembly  that was used   as pavitra or as seating after untying the knot when the Karma is done. Otherwise he commits a sin.

From Atharva Veda:
Pancha raajyaaniveerudhaam somasreshthaani broomah |
Dharbi bhango yavah saha te noe   munjatva amhasah ||
"There are five sacred plants including Darbha, Bhang, Barley, and Saha and Soma among which Soma reigns supreme.  These sacred herbs deliver us from all woes."  

ayaṁ darbho vimannyukaḥ svaaya charaṇaaya cha |
manyorvimanyukasyaayaṁ manyuśamana uchyate ||

"The sacred Darbha grass quells the anger of friends and foes.  It is called "Soother of Anger" because it brings calm in the mind of angry men."
Dhritaadullupto madhumaanpayasvaanbhoomiṁdṛho-achyutaschyaavayisnuḥ |
nudantsapatnaanadharaaṁscha krinvandarbhaa roha mahataamindrena ||

Drive away my foes, O sacred Dharbha grass! Cast them beneath me; help me to ascend with the strength of Indra.
Imam badhnaami te maṇiṁ deerghaayutvaaya tejase |
darbha sa̍patnadambhanaṁ dvishatastapanam hridaḥ ||

I bind this amulet on you with prayers for a vigorous, long life; the sacred Darbha grass which quells enemies and destroys the opposition.    
Kusa grass is a ground up and the essence used for Kusa oil (to be used in summer for its cooling effects) and Kusha flavored juice also drunk for its cooling effects.   In tribal medicine it has been used variously to treat dysentery and menorrhagia and as diuretic.  In Ayurveda,    it has been used to treat urinary dis-eases, diabetes, epilepsy, piles, dysentery, and heavy and prolonged menstruation.  It is used to treat repeated abortion and spiritual disorders of all types.  It is used to improve the complexion and to treat internal and external wounds.  It also has tonic effects to help in emaciation, severe debility or after serious illnesses.    
Darbha   is   considered a sacred material in Vedic scriptures and is said to purify the offerings during such rituals.  Center for Natural Technology and Advanced Biomaterials (CeNTAB) and the Centre for Advanced Research in Indian System of Medicine (CARISM) of the SASTRA University, Thanjavur, under the supervision of Dr. P. Meera and Dr. P. Brindha respectively made a detailed study on Darbha grass.

Ghee and such other items used in Homa cannot be washed. So there is a common practice to place a Dharba in such materials hoping Vishnu in Dharba form will purify them.  At the time of eclipse, people place the grass in food items that could ferment and once the eclipse ends the grass is removed and used after taking bath.
During eclipse, the wavelength and intensity of light radiations available on the earth’s surface is altered. Especially, the blue and ultraviolet radiations, which are known for their natural disinfecting property, are not available in sufficient quantities during eclipse. This leads to uncontrolled growth of micro-organisms in food products during eclipse and the food products are not suitable for consumption. Darbha was thus used as a natural disinfectant on eclipse days on food that will be affected by bacteria.  Electron microscopy of different grasses revealed stunning Nano-patterns and hierarchical Nano or micro structures in Darbha grass while they were absent in other grasses. On studying the effect of various grasses on the microbial community of the curd responsible for the fermentation, Darbha grass alone was found to attract enormous number of bacteria into the hierarchical surface features. The scientists concluded that darbha could be used as a natural food preservative in place of harmful chemical preservatives and the artificial surfaces mimicking the hierarchical Nano patterns on the surface of darbha grass could find applications in health care where sterile conditions were required.  
When the amrita (nectar) was obtained and distributed among the gods, some drops fell on the grass which further sanctified it imbuing it with healing properties. You know the story how the snakes started licking the grass for amrita and in the act got their tongues split.  But they got healed. Therefore, in the tradition hair-cutting of Vaishnava toddlers, the hair is touched with kusha grass before it is cut. 
The significance of Darbha grass is also found in Buddhist culture. It is believed that Sankhyamuni Buddha sat on a Darbha mat to meditate and got enlightened under the Bodhi tree with Kusa grass   roots facing upwards. The capital city of Malla kingdom of Buddhist is named Kusanagara, just to honor Kusha grass. It was in this city Lord Buddha was cremated.
The longer Kusa grass is to be placed under the mattress and the shorter under the pillow. These two pieces of Kusa grass should be received with folded hands. Since Kusa grass is a purifying substance, through the power of mantras and seed syllables said over it, it purifies inauspicious dreams, performs the activity of removing distorted conceptions, brings clarity to the minds of disciples and has the potential to induce clear dreams indicating whether or not someone has the propensity to receive the initiation.
Dharba is sharper than a blade! The edges are so sharp, it might even hurt and cut one’s palm if handled carelessly, that you'll notice only the blood oozing from the palm!  One will not feel the pain while injuring, but later feels it.

REFERENCES:
1)    Gita Press, Gorakhpur, Valmiki Ramayana, U.P. India
2)   Swami Vireswarananda, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
3)   Varada Raja Tirumale, Veda Marga,  Sri Lakshmi Hayagriva Seva Trust, Bengaluru, India.
4)   Prem P Bhalla, Hindu Rites, Rituals, Customs & Traditions, Pustak Mahal, Delhi, India.
5)   Wikipedia and various other Internet sources.
6)   Kalachkra.com, Internet on Buddhism
7)   Devdutt Pattanaik, The Sacred Druva Grass, Times of India.



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