Ennapadam Bhagavati

Bhagavathi at Ennapadam Temple at Kerala

Tuesday, August 31, 2010



Tomorrow (1-9-2010) is JANMASHTAMI DAY – the Birthday of Bhagwan Krishna.

Sri Krishna is the Darling of Humanity. Hindu men, women and children in India and in all parts of the world are fascinated by His life, and teachings and soul-stirring stories of marvellous depth and sublime beauty have grown around him.

KRISHNA in HIS cosmic form watching baby Krishna and mother Yashoda.

MATHURA and VRINDAVAN are closely associated with the birth and childhood of Bhagwan Krishna, the guide, philosopher, lover and spiritual Being Supreme. Also known as BRAJ BHUMI, Mathura and Vrindavan are still alive—agleam with the light and aglow with the fire – of the time-defying splendour and glory of timeless Krishna legends. Mathura, a small village on the bank of the River Yamuna, was transformed into a place of light and pilgrimage after Krishna was born there.

Keshav Dev Temple at Mathura (Krishna Janma Bhoomi Temple)

Vrindavan, some 15 km away from Mathura, is the sacred place where Krishna spent most of his childhood, serenading Gopis and showing miracles one moment, and killing demons the next.


The divine Incarnation of Lord Krishna as the child of Devaki and Vasudeva is one of the most important events in the whole of Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. According to Melpattur Narayana Bhattatiri(1559-1632), the auspicious occurrences prior to and at the time of, the birth of Lord Krishna augured well for the grandeur of the occasion. Even nature rejoiced. In Dasakam 38, he sang as follows:

The meaning of the above verse is: “When the time of Your incarnation as Lord Krishna with a form comprising of Suddha Sattvam (Pure Sattva-Guna with out any admixture of Rajas and Tamas) approached, dark clouds covered the entire sky and the rainy season set in. The bright clouds looked as though they were rays of brilliance emanating from Your Divine Body embedded in Devaki’s womb.

Lord Krishna incarnated at midnight of the holy day on which were conjoined the Star Rohini and the Ashtami Tithi of the Krishna Paksha (on the Eighth day of the waning moon), in the month of Sravana. Virtuous people, who were eagerly awaiting the happy occasion of Lord Krishna’s incarnation on the Earth, to destroy all evil and to re-establish Righteousness, were overjoyed at the Fulfilment of their wishes. As a result, their minds had also cooled down. This message is given in Dasakam 39 of Narayaneeyam below.

Krishna  is a deity worshiped in many traditions of Hinduism, marked by a vast spectrum of differing perspectives. And yet, no one can fail to notice the underlying spirit of cultural unity — the abiding message of Krishna Consciousness — that pervades the whole of India from Kashmir in the North to Kanya Kumari in the South, from Rann of Kuchch in the West to Lushai Hills bordering Burma in the East. While many Vaishnava groups recognize Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu, other traditions within Vaishnavism consider Krishna to be svayam bhagavan, or the Supreme Being.

Krishna is often depicted as an infant, as a young boy playing a flute as in the Bhagavata Purana, or as a youthful prince giving direction and guidance as in the Bhagavad Gita. The stories of Krishna appear across a broad spectrum of Hindu philosophical and theological traditions. They portray HIM in various dimensions: as a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero and above all as the Supreme Being. The principal scriptures discussing Krishna’s story are the Mahâbhârata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana. Naraneeyam by Melpattur Narayana Bhattiri, of Kerala also belongs to this class.


The various traditions dedicated to different manifestations of Krishna, such as Vaasudeva, Bala Krishna and Gopala, existed as early as 4th century BC. The Krishna-bhakti Movement spread to southern India by the 9th century AD, while in northern India Krishna-bhakti schools were well established by 11th century AD. From the 10th century AD, with the growing Bhakti movement, Krishna became a favorite subject in performing arts and regional traditions of devotion for forms of Krishna developed such as Jagannatha in Orissa, Vithoba in Maharashtra and Shrinathji in Rajasthan. Devotion to Krishna is widely diffused and extends to Jains, Buddhists, and beyond India.





Since 1966, the Krishna-Bhakti Movement has spread extensively in the West, with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), commonly known as the “Hare Krishna Movement”, growing into a global spiritual movement. The great Vaishnava Maharishi in the line of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who created this ISKON Movement was A. C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896–1977). His mission was to propagate the Gaudiya Vaishnavism form of Hinduism, that had been taught to him by his guru, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, throughout the world.Draupadi cried out in despair: “Oh! Lord Krishna! I have no other Saviour but YOU! Will you not rush and intervene like a heavenly lightning!” Her prayer was immediately answered. To the total astonishment of all present at the Royal Court, yards and yards of silk clothes appeared on the distraught Draupadi as if from no where. Each sari removed from her body was replaced by another, miraculously in an instant. Dushasana, overcome by fatigue arising from pulling the mysterious and seemingly endless stream of flowing saris appearing on Draupadi, fell back and collapsed. A tumult of joy and praise burst forth from the assemblage. A hundred throats cried out “GOVINDA! GOVINDA!” Govinda is the Protector of those in distress, the Aapat Baandava!

The Sanskrit word k[cGa has the literal meaning of “black”, “dark” or “dark hued” and is used as a name to describe someone with dark skin. Krishna is often depicted in moortis (images) as black, and is generally shown in paintings with a blue skin.

Krishna is also known by various other names, epithets and titles, which reflect his many associations and attributes. Among the most common names are Govinda, “finder of cows”, or Gopala, “protector of cows”, which refer to Krishna’s childhood in Vraja. Some of the distinct names may be regionally important; for instance, Jagannatha (literally “Lord of the Universe”), a popular deity of Puri in eastern India.

Krishna is easily recognized by his representations. Though his skin colour may be depicted as black or dark in some representations, particularly in murtis, in other images such as modern pictorial representations, Krishna is usually shown with blue skin. He is often shown wearing a yellow silk dhoti and peacock feather headgear. Common depictions show him as a little boy or as a young man in a characteristic relaxed pose, playing the flute. In this form, he usually stands with one leg bent in front of the other and raises a flute to his lips, accompanied by cows, emphasising his position as the divine herdsman, Govinda, or with the gopis (milkmaids).

The scene on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, notably where he addresses Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, is another common subject for representation. In these depictions, he is shown as a man, often shown with typical god-like characteristics of Hindu religious art, such as multiple arms or heads, denoting power, and with attributes of Vishnu, such as the chakra or in his two-armed form as a charioteer.


Often, Krishna is pictured with his gopi-consort Radha. Manipuri Vaishnavas do not worship Krishna alone, but as Radha Krishna, a combined image of Krishna and Radha. This Radha-Krishna tradition is also a characteristic of the schools of Rudra and Nimbarka sampradaya, as well as that of Swaminarayan faith.


Justice A.S.P Iyer I.C.S (1899-1963) in his book, ‘Sri Krishna – The Darling of Humanity’, says: “Alexander the Great once asked a Brahmin scholar in the 4th century BC. “How can we know a man to be God?” and the scholar replied “When he does what no man can ever do.” To illustrate this divine point, I would refer to how Krishna saved the chastity, dignity and honour of Draupadi at the Royal Court of Hastinapura.

At that Court, Prince Duryodhana, egged on by Karna, ordered his younger brother Prince Dushasana to bring Draupadi, the Empress of Indraprasta and to disrobe her in front of all the assembled dignitaries. Dushasana dragged Draupadi by her hair and proceeded to remove her clothes. Humiliated, Draupadi wailed loudly appealing to the Pandavas and the Kuru elders to save her from dishonour. Draupadi, seeing no help forthcoming from the assembled dignitaries, now raised her fair dainty hands in complete surrender to Lord Krishna and implored HIM to save her from the clutches of the wicked Dushasana.


The Bhagawat Gita of Lord Krishna is one of the noblest scriptures of India, indeed one of the greatest scriptures of the world. It would be a tragic irony of fate if India were to throw away her spiritual heritage, at the altar of ‘Development’, at the very moment when in the rest of the world, there is more and more turning, towards her for spiritual help and a saving light.

Sage Maitreya, Bhishma, the Terrible, Grandsire of the rival clans, Pandavas as well as the Kauravas, and Guru Dronacharya, the military leader of the Kauravas, were united in their opinion:

“Yato Krishna, tato Dharma. Yato Dharma, tato Jaya.”

To conclude in the words of Sri Praveen Pillai, a great devotee of Lord Krishna: ‘Lord Krishna is the hope for the despairing, the teacher for the seekers of truth, protector of the righteous, the support in old age, the cure for terminal diseases, the journey as well as the destination, the greatest wealth, the object of desire for those who have renounced all desires. HE is the darling child for the childless couples. HE hears the quiet sobs and sees the tears of his true devotees being shed in solitude. HE is the Daridra-Naaraayan, the Lord of the destitute, the helpless and the defenceless. HE is LOVE Personified. HE is the Darling of the masses.’


Wednesday, August 11, 2010


'It is my belief that the philosophy and knowledge of the Upanishads would become the cherished faith of the people in the West.' --Arthur Schopenhauer

State SecularTerrorism--Destroyers of Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma

The UPA II Government under the stranglehold of firangi memsahib de facto Prime Minister Sonia Gandhi is earnestly attempting to destroy Hindu Dharma, Hindu Religion, Hindu Culture and Hindu Civilisation through its two-pronged policies of Hindu Religion Destruction (HRD I) and Hindu Resources Destruction (HRD II). Minority votes at any cost. Muslim votes in spite of all terror. Christian votes in spite of all forced conversions in different parts of India and more particularly the remote tribal areas in the land. Watching this lurid drama is our ever-serene, ever-silent, ever-neutral and ever-impotent de jure Prime Minister committed only to the supremely private cause of saving his coveted job from the deathly jaws of other known sharks in the degenerate Congress party, ever in combat readiness to replace him through the Catholic benediction and secular machinations of Sonia Gandhi.

Lord Macaulay (1800-1859)

Amidst this enveloping, entangling and encircling gloom, and confirming my forebodings, I came across the text of a speech given by Lord Macaulay in the House of Commons on February 2, 1835: 'I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.' The anti-Hindu track record of Lord Macaulay is being put to shame, by the secular sinister duo of Sonia Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh today!

The UPA government today is trying to complete the work of destruction of Hindu India announced by Lord Macaulay in the British Parliament in 1835. Even while Lord Macaulay was blowing hot and cold against Hindu India in the 1830s, a very great German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) in his native country happened to read the Latin translation of the Upanishads done by a French Indologist Anquetil du Perron (1731-1805). Perron's translation was based on the Persian translation of 50 Upanishads done by DARA SHIKOH (1615-1659), son of Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. DARA SHIKOH was of the view that there are as many roads to God as there are seekers of him. He found in the Upanishads, the essence of the doctrine of the unity of God and believed that the reference in the QURAN to the 'Hidden Book' Unmul Kitab was to the Upanishads, because 'they contain the essence of unity and they are secrets which have to be kept hidden.' Dara Shikoh also wrote a book on the mingling of the two oceans Majinaul-Baharain, the two oceans being Hinduism and Islam.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Arthur Schopenhauer was completely overwhelmed by the majesty of thought and beauty and loftiness of expression in the Upanishads. He was so impressed by their philosophy that he declared with passion, "The Upanishads are the production of the highest human wisdom and I consider them almost superhuman in conception. The study of the Upanishads has been a source of great inspiration and means of comfort to my soul. From every sentence of the Upanishads deep, original and sublime thoughts arise, and the whole is pervaded by a high and holy and earnest spirit. In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. The Upanishads have been the solace of my life and will be the solace of my death."

Schopenhauer always kept a copy of the book Oupnekhat (Upanishad) open on his table and he invariably studied it before retiring to rest every day. He hailed and welcomed the glorious era of the opening up of Sanskrit literature in Germany beginning from 1800 "as the greatest gift of our century."

The first Chair in Sanskrit in Europe was created in the University of Bonn in 1818 when August Wilhelm von Schlegal (1767- 1845) was appointed as first professor. His younger brother Friedrich von Schlegal (1772-1829) wrote a work called "Upon the Languages and Wisdom of the Hindus."

Another great German Sanskritist was Hern Wilhelm Von Humbolt (1767-1835) who translated the Bhagavad Gita into German. Schopenhauer was so greatly influenced by the writings of these great German Indologists and Sanskritists that he came out with a prophetic declaration: "The philosophy and knowledge of the Upanishads would become the cherished faith of the people in the West."

What could have influenced a great German philosopher like Schopenhauer to wholeheartedly accept and adopt the letter and spirit of the Upanishads in the 19th century? The world today is full of racial, cultural and religious misunderstandings. We are groping in a tenuous, timid and tentative way for some device which would save us from our global suicidal conflicts. Perhaps the Hindu way of approach to the problem of religious conflicts may not be without its lessons for us. The Hindu attitude to religion is free, tolerant, accommodating and interesting. The rigidly fixed beliefs of one monotheistic religion go against the equally rigid beliefs of another monotheistic faith. This has been the sad story of conflict between Christianity and Islam during the last thousand years.

Hinduism sets itself no such limits. In Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma, intellect is subordinated to intuition, dogma to experience, outer expression to inward realisation. Religion is not the acceptance of academic abstractions or the celebration of ceremonies, but a kind of life or experience. It is an insight into the nature of reality (Darshana) or experience of reality (Anubhava). This experience is not an emotional thrill of subjective fancy, but is the response of the whole personality, the integrated self to the central reality. Religion is the specific attitude of the self, itself and no other, though it is mixed up generally with the intellectual views, aesthetic forms and moral valuation. Religious experience is of a self-certifying character. It is Svatassiddha. It carries its own credentials. Religion rests on faith in this sense of the term. The known and monotheistic mechanical faiths, which depend upon authority and wish to enjoy the consolations of religion without the labour of being religious, is quiet different from the Hindu religious faith which has its roots in experience.

In the depths of his nature, every man craves for an awakening to the fuller consciousness of Reality in which he lives and moves. As Dr Radhakrishnan brilliantly puts it: "Above the sorrows, perplexities and frustrations, besetting man in the world shines the spiritual power, which, as in all things created, dwells in the soul of man. This presence lights his way to the true life. The object of all faiths is to awaken the individual to the awareness of the Kingdom of Light within him. To see the Light, to be born again in the spirit, is the high calling to which we are all called. When religion is understood as inward change, self-purification, its triumphs will be distinctive. It will shine with a new radiance and become charged with a new power. If we mean by religion personal encounter with the Supreme, we will be humbled about describing the nature of the Real. The sages and the seers of the Upanishads extended hospitality to all faiths and proclaimed that 'He alone sees who sees all beings in himself.' The different faiths are like the different fingers of the loving hand of the Supreme extended to all, offering completeness of being to all."

The dominating characteristic of the Upanishads is the dependence on truth. In every Upanishad we get this message: "Truth wins over, not falsehood. With truth is paved the road to the Divine." What gives to the Upanishads their unique quality and unfailing human appeal is an earnest sincerity of tone, as of friends conferring upon matters of deep concern.

One of the most dramatic of the Upanishads, the Katha Upanishad, tells the story of Nachiketa, a daring teenager who goes to Yama, the King of Death, to learn the secret of immortality. In 'Perennial Joy' (part I, Canto 2) Yama begins his teaching with the secret of what endures and what is merely fleeting. In 'The Tree of Eternity', the conclusion of this Upanishad, Yama completes the teaching and Nachiketa fulfills his quest, attaining immortality. I have spent some of my happiest hours in reading this Upanishad. This great Upanishad to me is like the light of the morning, like the pure air of the mountains, so simple, so true, if once understood. In the 'Aitereya Brahmana' there is a hymn about the long endless journey towards self-realisation which each one of us must undertake, and every verse ends with the refrain: 'Charaiveti, Charaiveti'. Hence, oh traveller, march along, march along!'

Rajaji said: "The spacious imagination, the majestic sweep of thought, and the almost reckless spirit of exploration with which, urged by the compelling thirst for truth, the Upanishad teachers and pupils dig into the 'open secret' of the universe, make this most ancient of the world's holy books still the most modern and most satisfying".

The most amusing and no less abominable aspect of the Euro-centric mind or the Western mind is the smug racial conviction that everything profound, everything sublime, everything beautiful, everything lofty and everything perennial and everlasting in human culture and civilisation can be traced back only to Athens in Greece and Rome in Italy. The rest of the world never existed; it can never exist; it must never be allowed to exist. For such venerable, profound and irrepressible non-minds, I would like to present the inspiring and time-defying story of NACHIKETA from the KATHA UPANISHAD.
The Upanishads are the concluding portions of the Vedas and constitute the basis for the Vedanta Philosophy, a system in which human speculation in 800 BC seems to have reached its very acme. The Upanishads have dominated Indian philosophy, religion and life for more than 3000 years. Though remote from time from us, they are not remote in thought. What was the ideal that haunted the bold thinkers of the Upanishads? What were the sacred idols and icons that they installed and consecrated in their minds and hearts? Those idols and icons were : The ideal of man's ultimate beatitude, the sublime perfection of knowledge, the lofty vision of the real in which the religious hunger of the mystic for the direct vision of the Almighty and the philosopher's ceaseless passion and quest for immortal truth were both satisfied.

Nachiketa questioning the conqueror of death.

The word 'Upanishad' is derived from Sanskrit word 'Upa' (Near), 'Ni' (Down), and 'Shad' (to sit). Groups of people sat neat the teacher in ancient India to learn from him the truth by which ignorance is destroyed. There are over 200 Upanishads, although the traditional number is 108. Of these the principal Upanishads are 10: Isa Upanishad, Kena Upanishad, Katha Upanishad, Prashna Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad, Mandulya Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad, Aitereya Upnishad, Chandogya Upanishad and Brahadaranyaka Upanishad.

Adi Shankara, the great Vedantic philosopher of the 8th century AD, wrote commentaries on 11 of the Upanishads, these 10 and the Svetasvatara Upanishad. He also made extensive references to the Kausitaki Upanishad and Mahanarayana Upanishad. These, together with Maitri Upanishad, constitute the 14 well-known principal Upanishads. The dates of these Upanishads are difficult to determine. One thing is very clear. All of them are very definitely pre-Buddistic, long before 500 BC. All of them are vehicles of spiritual ilumination than of systematic reflection. Their main objective is practical rather than speculative. They give us knowledge as a means to spiritual freedom.

To come to the inspiring story of Nachiketa from the Katha Upanishad. The Katha Upanishad gets its name from a school of the Krishna Yajur Veda. It is perhaps the most philosophical of the Upanishads. The most interesting feature in this Upanishad is the dialogue between Nachiketa and Yama, the God of Death on the question of immortality of the self, in which Nachiketa chooses knowledge above all worldly blessings.

During the course of this dialogue between two mighty minds and spirits, the following truths are proclaimed: The theory of the superiority of the good (SREYAS) over the pleasant (PREYAS); the view that Atman cannot be known by the senses, by reason, or by much learning, but only by intuitive insight or direct realisation; and the doctrine of the human body as the chariot of the self. Yama, the God of Death gives his final and definite answers to the two major questions put by Nachiketa to him: 'What is that which, being known, everything else becomes known?' and 'Who is that Lord or Being for fear of whom fire burns, for fear of whom the sun shines, for fear of whom the winds, clouds, and Death perform their offices?'

It has been the Hindu way through the ages to weave sublime truths into a story presented as a tapestry of eternal concepts unsurpassed in meaning and grandeur. In poetic language, grand philosophical truths are conveyed.

The Nachiketa story can be summarised as follows. In the 135th Sukta of the tenth mandala of the Rig Veda mention is made of a boy about whom SAYANA, the Vedic commentator, says that he was no other than the NACHIKETA, who went to Yama, the God of Death under the command of his father, Sage Gautama Vajasravas. He was a poor Brahmin, well-versed in the sacred lore and he performed a fire sacrifice 'Viswajit'. As a part of this ritual, he had to offer gifts to the priests. As he was very poor, he offered a few old cows, decrepit, without teeth, without eyes and flesh, past the age of calving.

His son Nachiketa who was observing the details of the sacrifice being made by his father could see that his father was feeling dejected on account of the fact that he was offering useless gifts to the priests. Nachiketa, dutiful son as he was, decided that he should bring happiness to his father at any cost. So he said to his father, 'To whom do you give me?' The father neglected the question once, twice but on the son repeating the question a third time, he lost his temper and said, 'Unto Yama I give thee.' Nachiketa replied with dignity, poise and understanding: 'Men die like corn, they are born like corn. What is the use of not acting up to what you say; for heaven's sake send me soon to Yama, the God of Death.' Seeing no way out, the Sage Gautama Vajasravas , gave his permission to Nachiketa to go to the God of Death (Yama). Accordingly, the boy went to the abode of Death; Yama was not there then. The boy stayed at Yama's place; Yama returned after three days. Yama offered the boy three boons. The first boon that Nachiketa chose was that his father should be pacified as he was having sleepless nights and sorrowful days, with no peace of mind and he wanted that all his anxieties should cease. Yama granted this boon most willingly.

For the second boon Nachiketa wanted Yama to teach him the fire that led to heaven. He wanted to know the path by which man goes to heaven. Yama had become a God through fire sacrifice. He was thus the best fitted to teach him fire knowledge 'Agni Vidya'. Appreciating the earnestness of Nachiketa, Yama described the nature of fire, the altar, and the way the rite was to be performed. Nachiketa showed an uncommon power of understanding and Yama was so much pleased that he declared that thenceforward the fire would be known by the boy's name as - Nachiketa Agni.

For the third boon, Nachiketa asked Yama to teach him the Atma Vidya ---the Science of Self. He said to Yama, 'Some say that man survives Death, others that he does not. Which of these is true?' Yama had granted the first two boons, but was reluctant to grant the third. Yama said: 'The knowledge of the Self is not for all. The Self is most difficult to comprehend. Even the Gods are not clear about the nature of the self. So subtle is it that it cannot be easily comprehended.'

Yama made it clear to Nachiketa that one had to qualify oneself before one can enter on Self-enquiry. One of the conditions for it is complete aversion to the pleasures of this world and of the next. Yama wished to know if the boy was so averse to the earthly pleasures as to make him fit for the boon of Self-knowledge. To test Nachiketa, Yama offered many enticing gifts in lieu of the boon asked for 'long life, long-lived sons and grandsons, sovereignty of the universe, the choicest plums of earthly existence, hundreds of heavenly nymphs and beautiful damsels in dance and music. He offered even the power of granting boons to others. Nachiketa was not tempted and he refused to change his mind. Said he, 'O Yama, ephemeral are these; they wear out the vigor that is in all the senses of man. Life is brief, however long it may seem to be. Let thy chariots, damsels, dances and songs be with thee alone. I find no use for them. Man does not become happy with pelf and progeny. One who knows that life is limited and fleeting cannot revel in pleasures of song and love. Hence teach me that knowledge which will lead to everlasting bliss. Naught else will Nachiketa choose'.

Yama was very much pleased with the sincerity and strength shown by the boy. Then Yama instructed him in the supreme knowledge of the Self (Atma Vidya ).

How can I know that blissful Self, supreme,
Inexpressible, realised by the wise?
Is he the light, or does he reflect light?'

'There shines not the sun, neither moon nor star,
No flash of lightening, nor fire lit on earth
The self is the light reflected by all,
He shining, everything shines after him'

Teach me of THAT you see as beyond right
And wrong, cause and effect, past and future

'Abiding, I see the gates of joy
Are opening for you Nachiketa!
The self cannot be known through the study
Of the scriptures, not through the intellect,
The Self cannot be known by anyone
Who desists not from unrighteous ways,
Controls not the senses, stills not the mind,
And practices not meditation
None else can know the omnipresent Self,
Whose glory sweeps away the rituals of
The priest and the prowess of the warrior
And puts death itself to death.

Monday, August 9, 2010



In early 2007, Prof Dr Thyagarajan, the then Head of the Deptartment of Sanskrit, Presidency College, invited me to participate in a Viva Voce Examination Session in which a candidate by name Mrs Kamakshi Ramaswamy was appearing for an oral examination before a Board of Examiners nominated by the University of Madras. She had submitted a thesis under the title SIVASAHASRANAMA A STUDY to the University of Madras to qualify herself for the award of a PhD Degree in Sanskrit. When I went inside the Viva Voce Examination hall, I was pleasantly surprised to note that Kamakshi Ramaswamy was approaching her 60th year! I saw her perform with great dignity, reserve, humility backed by self-assurance when the examiners put their difficult questions to her on various aspects and dimensions of her thesis on SIVASAHASRANAMA. Not only the official examiners, but also many of the private scholars in Sanskrit and general members of the public interested in Sanskrit who were present in the audience also posed several intricate questions to Kamakshi Ramaswamy and she gave a suitable reply to each one of them which left a lasting impression on me.

Dr Kamakshi Ramaswamy receiving her Phd degree from Dr S Ramachandran Vice-Chancellor of Madras University

I was not mistaken either in my response or in my assessment of Kamakshi Ramaswamy. Nearly two months later, the University of Madras awarded the PhD Degree in Sanskrit to her. Born in May 1947 in Bombay, she had her school education in National Girls High School, in Triplicane, Chennai. She graduated from SIET College, Chennai with a BSc Degree in Chemistry in 1966. What is interesting to note is that Tamil was her second language in SIET College and at no point of time Kamakshi Ramaswamy studied Sanskrit as a language throughout her school and college career. Her great interest in Sanskrit began in Calcutta in 1979 when she started learning the recitation of great Sanskrit hymns like Narayananeeyam, Soundaryalahari, Shivanandalahari, etc from her teacher Savithri Balasubramaniyan.

Kamakshi Ramaswamy recalls with pride and humility that Savithri Balasubramaniyan was a great teacher in the true tradition of guru kula system of ancient India. She told me: "To begin with, I learnt to recite great Sanskrit sloakas with the help of Tamil script without even knowing the meaning of any Sanskrit word. Though I did not know the Sanskrit script, yet I found that the Sanskrit language held a strange fascination for me. I particularly enjoyed listening to its sound and resonance. I am of the view that no one can dispute the fact that even if one does not understand Sanskrit, yet it compels one to pay attention to it and often brings an inexplicable joy. I have often asked the question as to why it is so and how Sanskrit has come to acquire such a power through the ages? Does that power lie in its Mantric lure? I am passionately of the view that if one truly wants to understand India, its culture and ethos, a knowledge of Sanskrit is not only essential but indispensable. Indeed Sanskrit is one of the oldest and richest languages of the world. Sanskrit has indeed been the soul of Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma, Hindu Society, Hindu Culture, Hindu Literature, Hindu Art and Hindu Civilization from the dawn of history'.

Kamakshi Ramaswamy started learning Sanskrit as a language in the academic sense in a systematic and serious manner only from 1996. Between 1996 and 1998, she took and passed Pravisha, Parichaya, Siksha and Kovidha examinations in Sanskrit conducted by 'Samskritha Bharathi', a great institution in Bangalore which has been doing outstanding work in reviving, propagating and popularizing the study of Sanskrit during the last two decades. After 1996, she came under the intellectual influence of a great Sanskrit scholar Sri Padmanaba Iyer who persuaded her to undertake the study of Sanskrit language and Sanskrit literature as her life's mission. On his advice, Kamakshi Ramaswamy joined Karnataka State Open University in 1999 to do her MA in Sanskrit which she completed in 2001.

In 2002, Kamakshi Ramaswamy was persuaded by Prof Dr Thyagarajan, Head of the Dept of Sanskrit, Presidency College, to register herself for PhD in Madras University. He also came forward to act as her guide for doing research for the award of PhD Degree. To cap it all, it was Prof Dr.Thyagarajan who suggested the topic of SIVASAHASRANAMA A STUDY to her for her Doctoral thesis. Under Prof Dr.Thyagarajan's guidance and personal supervision for nearly 5 years, Kamakshi Ramaswamy has completed her PhD thesis with great distinction. Prof Dr.Thyagarajan is a great teacher. As Henry Adams wrote 'A Teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops'.

Perhaps the great American Writer Emerson (1803-1882) had dedicated scholars like Kamakshi Ramaswamy in view when he wrote: 'A great scholar will find a great subject, or which is the same thing, make any subject great. The office of the scholar is to cheer, to raise, and to guide men by showing them facts instead of appearances'. These great words of Emerson are very much applicable to the research thesis produced by Dr Kamakshi Ramaswamy titled SIVASAHASRANAMA A STUDY.


What is a Sahasranama? A sahasranama (Sanskrit:) is a type of Hindu scripture in which a deity is referred to by 1,000 or more different names. Sahasranamas are classified as stotras, or hymns of praise, a type of devotional scripture. Sahasra means a thousand, or more generally, a very large number. Nama (naman) means name. So the literal translation means 'thousand names'. A sahasranama provides a terse but encyclopedic guide to the attributes and mythology surrounding a deity. There are also many shorter stotras, called ashtottara-shata-nama stotras, which have only 108 names.

What is a Sivasahasranama? A Sivasahasranama is a list of a thousand names of Shiva, one of the most important deities in Hinduism. In Hindu tradition a sahasranama is a type of devotional hymn (Sanskrit: stotra) listing many names of a deity. The names provide an exhaustive catalog of the attributes, functions, and major mythology associated with the figure being praised.

Kamakshi Ramaswamy has presented her detailed analytical study of Sivasahasranama in 8 chapters. In the First Chapter she deals with different types of Stotras in Sanskrit Literature. The important aspects of Mantras are explained clearly indicating the difference between Mantras and Stotras.

The Second Chapter is devoted to Sahasranama Stotra in general. She clearly brings out the spiritual significance of its rendering and its contribution to the holistic health of an individual. She also discusses the significance of its recital in the kaliyuga.

The Third Chapter deals with Sivasahasranama Stotras in general. She analyses the role and importance of Sivasahasranama Stotras in the ancient scriptural texts like the Mahabharata, the Padmapurana, the Skandapurana, the Vamanapurana, the Lingapurana, the Markandapurana, the Sourapurana, the Bhairava Tantra, the Bhringiridi Samhita, the Rudrayamalatantra and the Akasa Kalpa Tantra. We can see that Lord Shiva, who is praised as Anantanama is the supreme God who has endless names. To quote the words of Kamakshi Ramaswamy: 'Each Rishi in his attempt to glorify Shiva, the Supreme Almighty, chose those names that appealed to him the most and composed a Sahasranama studded with those glorious names. There is no limit to Shiva's greatness. He is Anantabhuma.

His supremacy can never be explained exhaustively by any name or by anybody. Even the Gods will not be able to do justice in their effort to praise HIM. Puspadinta in his Siva Mahima Stotra explains how, Goddess Saraswati in Her attempt to write the greatness of Lord, could not complete Her work, even if she wrote non-stop, using the blue mountain as ink, ocean as ink pot, branches of the heavenly tree as pen and the surface of the earth as pages'.

The Fourth Chapter is devoted to the special study of Sivasahasranama Stotras. The context of the Sahasranama in the relevant Purana, the narrator and the receptor, the Nyasas, the Dhyana Slokas, the special epithets along with their meanings and the fruit of reciting the Sahasranama are all explained with clarity and precision. The Fifth Chapter is concerned with the Names and Forms of Lord Shiva. The Sixth Chapter identifies the manifold Facets of Shiva as derived from Sivasahasranama Stotras. The Seventh Chapter deals with the attributes of Shiva. Here the complexion of Shiva, the attires of Shiva, the weapons, ornaments, musical instruments and vehicles of Shiva are explained. The concluding Eighth Chapter deals with the celibacy and glory of Lord Shiva.

Dr Siddharth. Y Wakankar, Deputy Director of Oriental Institute, MS University of Baroda has paid this tribute to Kamakshi Ramaswamy: 'She in her pioneering study attempts very successfully to survey all the Sivasahasranama Stotras, scattered throughout the field of Sanskrit Literature, right from the Mahabharata and the Puranas upto some Tantrik Treatises. She has dwelt with every facet and dimension of Sivasahasranama, explaining the meanings/connotations of the various epithets of Lord Shiva, alluding to different stories, connected with the particular/peculiar epithets, having different shades of, meanings. This is a very good attempt by a through going student which reflects her wide-ranging reading as well as her devotion to the topic of her research study'.

After a detailed study of the thesis on Sivasahasranama presented by Kamakshi Ramaswamy, we can see that Shiva as Nataraja as a theme represents life force itself. Our great ancestors visualized Nataraja as a manifestation of the cosmic energy symbolizing the three aspects of creation, preservation and destruction. The dance of Shiva has always been synonymously viewed with truth and beauty, force and rhythm, movement and change, realization and dissolution. Shiva has been visualized in a variety of forms by seers, poets and artists - chiseled, painted, described and sung about in many parts of India and countries in South East Asia.




This itself is a testimony to the twin aspects of time and timelessness of Shiva, both as a personality and as a theme.