Monday, November 26, 2012

Significance of the Lord Ganesha .....


                                   Ganesha

Ganah in sanskrit means “multitude”. Isa means ‘Lord’. Ganesha therefore literally means the Lord of all Beings .Ganesha is the first son of Lord Siva. Siva represents the supreme reality, the son of Siva symbolises one who has realized the reality, one who has discovered the Godhood in him, such a man is said to be the Lord of all beings.

Ganesha is known by other names as well, Ganapati, Gajanana, Vinayaka, Vighneswara, etc,.. Ganapati has the same literal meaning as Ganesha, Gajanana means elephant-faced,  Gaja=elephant, anana=face, . Vinayaka means the supreme leader, Vigneshwara is the Lord of all Obstacles, worshipped in the initiation of Hindu rituals & ceremonies. As the name suggest Vighneswara removes all the Obstacles, overcomes all challenges of life.

In Hindu litreature Ganesha is described as having a human form with an elephant’s head. One of the tusks in his head is broken,. He has a conspicuously Large stomach, He sits with one leg folded in, at His feet a variety of food is spread,. A rat sits near the food & looks up at Him as if it were asking Him for the sanction to eat the food! This Mystical form of Lord Ganesha represents not only the Supreme state of Human perception but the practical path to reach that state,. The details of his description suggest deep Philosophical significances which can guide you to reach that ultimate state,.

The first step of spiritual education is Sravana which means listening to the eternal truths of Vedanta. The second step is Manana which is independent reflection upon those truths,. The Large ears and the head of Ganesha indicates that he has gained previous Wisdom through Sravana and Manana, An elephant’s Head on a human body in Ganesha is menat to represent Supreme Wisdom.

The Trunk which springs from his head represents the intellect, the faculty of discrimination which necessarily arises out of Wisdom.

Intellect is the discriminating faculty, the discerning ability or the judging capacity in man. Man’s intellect is of two distinct types, namely the Gross and the Subtle,. Gross intellect is that aspect of his discrimination which is applicable to the realm of the terrestrial world, the part of the intellect which distinguishes between the pairs of opposite existing in this world,. 

Distinguishes day & night, black & white, joy & sorrow etc,. Subtle intellect  is the other aspect of his discrimination which distinguishes between Infinite & the Finite, the Real & the Unreal, the Transcendental & the Terrestrial etc,.   A Man of realization like Ganesha is one who has fully developed both his Gross and Subtle intellects,. He has perfect understanding & knowledge of the terrestrial as well as transcendental .

The Trunk of an elephant has the unique capacity of performing both gross and subtle activities,. A trunk can uproot a tree, it can pick up a needle from the ground. One rarely finds gross and subtle operations being performed by a single instrument! A spanner which is used for fitting a locomotive is useless for repairing a wrist-watch.. The elephant’s trunk is an exception to this rule.. It serves both the ways, so does Ganesha’s Intellect penetrate the realms of the material & spiritual worlds,. That is the state which man must aspire to reach..

A man of perfection is thus rooted in the supreme wisdom,. He is not victimized by likes ( raga) and dislikes ( dwesha). He is not swayed by agreeable and the disagreeable circumstances, pleasant and unpleasant happenings, good and bad environment. In other words, he is not victimized by the pairs of opposites existing in the world,. Heat & cold, joy& sorrow, honor & dishonor, do not affect him, influence him or harras him. He has transcended the limitations of the opposites in the world. He isdwanda-ateetha, beyond opposites. This idea is well represented I Ganesha by having one of his tusks broken. The common man is tossed between the two opposites (tusks),. He should endeavor to overcome the influence of the pairs of opposites in him. Man ought not to act merely by his likes & dislikes, these are his worst enemies he has to control and conquer. When he has completely mastered the influence of these pairs in him he becomes a Ganesha.
Ganesha’s large belly is meant to convey that a man of perfection can consume and digest whatever experiences he undergoes. Heat or Cold, War or Peace, Birth or Death, and other such trials and tribulations do not toss him up and down. He Maintains an unaffected grace in and through all these fluctuations of the world. Figuratively , he is represented as being able to stomach and digest all types of Experiences..

Kubera, the God of Wealth offered a dinner to Ganesha in his palace, Ganesha ate all the food that was prepared for the entire gathering of guests, thereafter still dissatisfied, he started eating the festive decorations that were used for the occasion. At this juncture his father Lord Siva approached him and offered him handful of roasted rice , Ganesha consumed the roasted rice and his hunger was satisfied immediately . This story is a directive to mankind that man can never be satisfied with the joy’s provided by the world of oblects represented by Kubera’s  feast,. Material pursuits can never give peace, contentment, or happiness to mankind. The only way to attain absolute fulfillment or Peace is by consuming your own Vasanas, which are the unmanifest desires in you,. The destruction of Vasanas is represented by the consumption of roasted rice,. When rice is roasted it loses its capacity to germinate,. The consumption of roasted rice indicates the destruction of Vasanas or desires in you. Thereafter you remain in a state of absolute peace and bliss..

Ganesha sits with one leg folded up and the other leg resting on the ground, the leg on the ground indicates that one aspect of his personality is dealing with the world while the other is evr rooted in single-pointed concentration upon Supreme Reality . Such a man lives in the world like anyone else, but his concentration and meditation are ever-rooted in the Atman within himself. This idea is symbolized in the above posture.

At the feet of the Lord is spread abundance of food , food represents material wealth, power & prosperity, when a man follows the high principles of living indicated above he achieves these material gains, he has them always at his command though he has an attitude of indifference towards them.
Besides the food is a tiny Rat looking up towards Ganesha, the rat does not touch the food but waits for the master’s sanction as it were for consuming it, the rat represents desire, a rat has a small mouth and tiny sharp teeth, but it is the greediest of all animals , it’s greed & acquisitiveness are so great that it steals more than it can eat and hoards more than it can remember, often abandoning burrows full of hoarded grains through forgetfulness. This predominant trait in a rat justifies amply its symbolism as desire,. One little desire entering man’s mind can destroy all his material & spiritual wealth earned for many long years, The rat looking up therefore denotes that the desires in a perfect man are absolutely under control, the activities of such a man are motivated by his clear discrimination &  judgement rather than by an emotional craving to enjoy the variety of sense objects of the world.
There is a belief amongst Hindus that it is inauspicious to see the Moon on the Vinayaka Chathurthi day, that is the birthday of Ganesha, the puranic story says that the moon saw Ganesha riding on his tiny rat and laughed at the ludicrous scene, for this reason the moon is condemned & people are forbidden to see it on this day,.


Ganesha riding on his rat indicates a man of perfection trying to use his limited body, mind & intellect to convey the illimitable Truth. The body, mind & intellect are finite, they cannot express the infinite Atman,. A man of Realization finds it almost impossible to convey his infinite experience through his finite equipments, hence we find the words & deeds of all spiritual masters are peculiar & incomprehensible, the common man’s intellect cannot comprehend the Truth. The Moon is the presiding deity of the mind, the moon laughing at Ganapati riding on  the rat indicates the ignorant scoffing at the man of realization’s  attempt to convey the truth, this attitude of scoffing at the spiritual preceptors is detrimental to humanity, the generations are therefore warned not to laugh or scoff at the spiritual messages, if they do they meet with degradation and disaster.


Ganesha has four arms ,the four arms represnts the inner equipments of the subtle body, namely Mind(manas), Intellect(buddi),Ego(ahamkara), and conditioned consciousness(chitta),Ganesha reresents the Pure Consciousness,the Atman which enables these four equipments to function in you,.


In one hand he holds an axe and in another a rope, the axe symbolises the destruction of all desires and attachments and their consequent agitations & sorrows. The rope is meant to pull the seeker out of his wordly entanglements and bind him to the everlasting and enduring bliss of his own self. In the third hand he holds a rice ball –Modhaka, which represents the joyous rewards of spiritual seeking. A seeker gains the joy of satisfaction and contenment as he progress on the path of spiritual evolution. In the fourth hand he holds a Lotus-padma, which represents the Supreme goal of human evolution, by holding the Lotus in his hand he draws the attention of all  seekers to that supreme state that each one of them can aspire for and reach through proper spiritual practices . He blesses all his devotees to reach the Supreme State of Reality.


Thus by indicating to mankind the goal of Human evolution and the path to reach the same, Lord Ganesha occupies a place of distinction in the Heart of all the seekers. May he give us all the strength & courage to pursue the path which he has led and may we gain that Supreme Goal.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Diwali and its importance


Diwali, also called Deepavali (Sanskrit: दीपावली, Tamil: தீபாவளி Kannada:ದೀಪಾವಳೀ) is a major Hindu festival. Known as the “Festival of Lights,” it symbolises the victory of good over evil, and lamps are lit as a sign of celebration and hope for mankind. The festival of Diwali is rooted in the mythological epic Ramayana, and is a celebration of the return of Lord Ram after killing Ravan the Demon during his exile for 14 years. The day of killing Ravan is celebrated as Dussehra (19 to 21 days before Diwali). Celebrations focus on lights and lamps, particularly traditional diyas (as illustrated). Fireworks are associated with the festival in many regions of India.
Diwali is celebrated for five consecutive days in the Hindu month of Ashwayuja. It usually occurs in October/November, and is one of the most popular and eagerly awaited festivals of India. Hindus, Jains and Sikhs alike regard it as a celebration of life and use the occasion to strengthen family and social relationships. For Jains it is one of the most important festivals, and beginning of the Jain year. Jains celebrate Diwali because Lord Mahaveera has gone to Moksha. It is also a significant festival for the Sikh faith.

Etymology

Word Diwali is derived from Sanskrit word Deepawali. This is a compund of two words Deepa and Avali. Deepa means light and Avali means row or line. Thus the literal meaning of the word is ‘line of lights’.

Dates in various calendars
During this festival one must fast for three days. The festival is worshipped on exactly the same set of days across India, it falls in different months depending on the version of the Hindu calendar being used in the given region.
The Amantnm (“ending on the no-moon”) version of the Hindu Calendar has been adopted as the Indian national calendar. According to this calendar, which is prevalent in southern India and Maharashtra, deepavali falls in the middle of the month of Ashwayuja. According to the Purnimanta (“ending on the full-moon”) version prevalent in northern India, the 5-day celebration is spread over the last three days of the month of Ashwayuja and the first two days of the new month of Kartika. According to this calendar, the festival of Deepavali marks the new year’s day of this calendar and is therefore an especially significant festival.
The festival marks the victory of good over evil. The Sanskrit word Deepavali means array of lights that stands for victory of brightness over darkness. As the knowledge of Sanskrit diminished, the name was popularly modified to Diwali, especially in northern India.
On the day of Diwali, many wear new clothes, share sweets and light firecrackers. The North Indian business community usually starts their financial new year on Diwali and new account books are opened on this day.

Hindus find cause to celebrate this festival for different reasons:
* As per sacred texts, according to Skanda Purana, the goddess Shakti observed 21 days of austerity starting from ashtami of shukla paksha (waxing period of moon) to get half part of the body of Lord Shiva. This vrata is known as kedhara vrata. Deepavali is the completion day of this austerity. This is the day Lord Shiva accepted Shakti into the left half of the form and appeared as Ardhanarishvara. The ardent devotees observe this 21 days vrata by making a kalasha with 21 threads on it and 21 types of offerings for 35 days. The final day is celebrated as kedhara gauri vrata.
* Diwali also celebrates the return of Lord Rama, King of Ayodhya, with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana to Ayodhya from a war in which he killed the demon king Ravana. It is believed that the people lit oil lamps along the way to light their path in the darkness. In North India, the festival is held on the final day of the Vikram calendar. The following day marks the beginning of the North Indian new year, and is called Annakut.
* It commemorates the killing of Narakasura, an evil demon who created havoc, by Lord Krishna’s wife Sathyabhama. This happened in the Dwapara Yuga during this time of Lord Krishna’s avatar. In another version, the demon was killed by Lord Krishna himself. In South India, Diwali does not coincide with the beginning of a new year as South Indians follow a different calendar, the Shalivahana calendar.
* In Bhavishyottara and Bramhavaivarta Purana, Diwali is associated with the Daitya king Bali, who is allowed to return to earth once a year.

The Five days of Diwali
Diwali is celebrated over five days in most of North India. All the days except Diwali are named using the designation in the Indian calendar. A lunar half-month is 15 days. Diwali as a new-moon day, marks the last day of a 15-day period.

1. Dhan-trayodashi or Dhan teras: Dhan means “wealth” and Trayodashi means “13th day”. Thus, as the name implies, this day falls on the 13th day of the first half of the lunar month. It is an auspicious day for shopping. (Gujarati: Dhan Teras)
2. Naraka Chaturdasi: Narak means ‘of a new era of Light and Knowledge’. Chaturdasi implies fourteenth day. (Gujarati: Kali Chaudas)
3. Diwali: the actual day of Diwali, is celebrated on the third day of the festival, when the moon completely wanes and total darkness sets in the night sky.
4. Varsha-pratipada or Padwa: Beginning of the New Year (Kartikadi Vikram). Pratipada means the first. (Gujarati: Bestu Varas)
5. Bhayiduj (also Bhayyaduj, Bhaubeej or Bhayitika) — on this day, brothers and sisters meet to express their love and affection for each other. (Gujarati: Bhai Bij, Bengali: Bhai Phota)
The celebrations vary in different regions:

* In Southern India, naraka chaturdashii is the main day, with firecrackers at dawn.
* The main festival is on Amavasya evening with Lakshmi Puja which is followed by lighting of oil lamps around the house.
Laxmi Pujan
As per spiritual references, on this day ‘Laxmi-panchayatan’ enters the Universe. Sri Vishnu, Sri Indra, Sri Kuber, Sri Gajendra and Sri Laxmi are elements of this ‘panchayatan’ (a group of five).

The tasks of these elements are:
Vishnu: Happiness (happiness and satisfaction)
Indra: Opulence (satisfaction due to wealth)
Kuber: Wealth (one who gives away wealth)
Gajendra: Carries the wealth
Laxmi: Divine Energy (Shakti) which provides energy to all the above activities.
Importance of Laxmi Pujan

A. Destruction of distressing energies On this particular day, Goddess Laxmi’s destroyer (marak) form is active, since it is the new moon day. The spiritual emotion of the person doing ritualistic worship, activates Goddess Laxmi’s marak form and destroys the distressing frequencies in the environment.

B. Arrival of other Gods (Devtas): Lord Indra and other male deities also get drawn to the place of ritualistic worship and follow Goddess Laxmi. Thus happiness, opulence, prosperity, stability and wealth is maintained in the premise (Vastu) by worshiping the 5 elements or Deities

People in Bharata every year celebrate famous “Dipalikaya”, to reverently worship the Jinendra on the occasion of his nirvana on the amavasya of Kartika month.

To add to the festival of Diwali, fairs called Melas are held throughout India. [2] Melas are to be found in many towns and villages. A mela generally becomes a market day in the countryside when farmers buy and sell produce. Girls and women dress attractively during the festival. They wear colourful clothing, new jewelry and their hands are decorated with henna designs.
There are plenty of activities that take place at a mela. These activities include performances from jugglers, acrobats, snake charmers and fortune tellers. Food stalls are set up, selling sweet and spicy foods. A variety of rides are present during the fair, which include Ferris wheels and rides on animals such as elephants and camels. Another attraction are the puppet shows that are shown throughout the day.
Diwali in other parts of the world
Diwali is celebrated in various parts of the world, in countries such as Britain, The Netherlands, Suriname, Canada, Guyana, Mauritius, Fiji, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Australia, much of Africa, and the United States.[3] With more and more Indians now migrating to various parts of the world, the number of countries where Diwali is celebrated has been gradually increasing. While in some countries it is celebrated mainly by Indian expatriates, in others it has become part of the general local culture. In most of these countries Diwali is celebrated on the same lines as described in this article with some minor variations. Some important variations are worth mentioning.
In Malaysia, Diwali is known as “Hari Deepavali,” and is celebrated during the seventh month of the Hindu solar calendar. It is a federal public holiday throughout Malaysia. In many respects it resembles the traditions followed in the Indian subcontinent.
In Nepal, Diwali is known as Tihar and celebrated during the October/November period. Here, though the festival is celebrated for five days, the traditions vary from those followed in India. On the first day, cows are given offerings, in appreciation of the food they have given and agricultural work they have performed. On the second day, dogs and all living animals are revered and offered special food. On the third day, celebrations follow the same pattern as in India, with lights and lamps and much social activity. On the fourth day Yama, the Lord of Death, is worshipped and appeased. On the fifth and final day, brothers and sisters meet and exchange pleasantries.
In Singapore, the festival is called “Deepavali”, and is a gazetted public holiday. Observed primarily by the minority Indian community, it is typically marked by a light-up in the Little India district and is most known for the fire-walking ceremonies not practised as part of the festival in other countries. Hindu Endownment Board of Singapore along with Singapore Government organises lot of cultural events around Diwali time.
In Sri Lanka, This festival is called as Deepavali and is celebrated by the Tamil community. On this day people wear new clothes and exchange pleasantries.
Diwali is celebrated in the Caribbean Islands as well. Especially in Trinidad and Tobago, Diwali is marked as a special occasion and celebrated with much fanfare. It is observed as a national holiday in this part of the world and some Ministers of the Government also take part in the celebrations publicly. Diwali is also celebrated in the South American country of Guyana.

Economics of Diwali
Diwali is an annual stimulus for the Indian economy. Indians purchase gold, gifts, decorations, crackers (fireworks) and household appliances during this festival and many Indian films (Bollywood, Kollywood, etc.) are released during this period. Companies offer huge discounts during the Diwali season to attract customers, which helps the economy and also helps the poor. Food distributed as acts of charity during community festivities also helps the underprivileged . Diwali also brings tourists to the country.Also, schools in India are closed during this festival, and many young people have the free time and the money to spend on luxury items.