Ennapadam Bhagavati


Bhagavathi at Ennapadam Temple at Kerala

Saturday, April 16, 2011

OUR SALUTATIONS TO CHITRA GUPTA ON CHITRA POURNAMI DAY
 V.SUNDARAM I.A.S.

‘Myth is an attempt to narrate a whole human experience, of which the purpose is too deep, going too deep in the blood and soul, for mental explanation or description. ’D. H. LAWRENCE (1885-1930)

Chitragupta - Celestial Accountant

Tomorrow (17-4-2011) is CHITRA POURNAMI DAY. I am under the divine spell of an essay written by Sri.Aurobindo (1872-1950). Indeed I have now been transported to a celestial world. I cannot help quoting his haunting words here: ‘Ancient Bharata — where does she begin? When did she end? Or has she even ended? There are those who say no. They say she has no beginning, no end, like the Brahman1 that she loves and swears by, which begins from nothing and ends into nothing. Timeless.” 


But what if all our imagination is empty and meaningless? What if she is truly just another piece of land, nothing more? What if that strange echo that one hears inside the womb of silence is only our madness and not her eternal spirit, throbbing, pulsating, living? What if her children are no children but human strangers, cold and scientific, come for a lifetime or two, entrapped for God only knows what reason, living any which way they can? What if her chroniclers, the ones that chisel stones and paint dreams are only eking out a living, not in tune with the life-force that runs underneath the stone, unable to put a finger on the pulse that beats in the heart of brick walls? If this is true, then all the more do we hang on to our imagination, empty or not. If this is true, then we must not give way to this ‘other’ steel reality. And if madness is all it is, then who’s to say whether madness is not but a step closer to the Divine? In that case, it is a step we shall gladly take.” These lines of Sri Aurobindo has inspired me to write about Chitra Pournami which falls tomorrow.

Chitra Pournami, or Chitirai Purnima, is an important Tamil festival observed on the full moon day (Poornima) in the month of Chitirai (April-May). On this day the star Chitra and full moon come together–--a day when earth receives the combined effulgence of the moon and the star Chitra. Poornima is a Day dear to the Mother Goddess. Both full moon and new moon days are good for propitiating our forefathers. In astrology, moon is matru karaka. It is believed that ‘Austerities’ done with great devotion on this day would please the spirit of one’s mother. It is on this day that the Umamaheswara Vratam is observed. Ancients also believed that austerities on poornima day in the month of Chittirai would keep the souls of ancestors resting in peace.  

Hanuman Jayanti is the popular festival celebrated on Chaitra Pournami Day. This festival is mainly observed in Maharashtra, Goa, and some parts of Andhra Pradesh. Chitragupta Vratam or Chitragupt Puja is another important vow observed on Chait Purnima day. This puja is dedicated to Chaitragupta, Asthana Accountant of Lord Yama. Chitragupt Puja is also observed as Dawat Puja on Bhai Dhuj.

Pathala Vratam is another vrata observed on Chait Poornima day especially in Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Karnataka.
Chaitra Parva is also celebrated mainly on Chait Purnima Day by the tribals in Koraput region of Orissa and certain parts of Bihar.

Chitra Poornima is, according to scriptures, the birthday of Chitragupta who keeps account of our virtues and sins. The day is dedicated to Chitragupta, the official keeper of deeds in the abode of Yama—the Lord of Death. Chitragupta is a Minister of Yama or Kaala. His duty is to examine after the death of men, a list of the good and evil actions they had done while living. After death, when one reaches the abode of Yama, it is Chitragupta who tallies the register of good and bad deeds and shows it to Yama. Therefore, Chitra Pournami day is dedicated to Chitragupta and devotees pray to him to forgive their sins. It is universally believed that bathing in holy rivers and temple ponds on this day will wash away the sins committed. 

Another important legend associated with Chitra Poornima, relates to Lord Indra, the King of Gods, and his Guru Brihaspati. Once Indra and Brihaspati had an altercation, and the Guru stopped advising his pupil. Without the sound counsel of his Guru, Indra committed numerous sins. Finally, Brihaspati relented and took up his duty. He then advised Indra to undertake a pilgrimage to the earth to alleviate the burden of sins committed by him in his absence. One day during his pilgrimage, Indra had a sudden realization that he had been redeemed from his sins. He looked around and noticed a Shivlinga under a Kadamba tree. He was sure that it was Lord Shiva who had helped him in alleviating his sins. He decided to worship the Lingam and to his surprise he found a golden lotus in a nearby pond. He prayed to Lord Shiva by offering the golden lotus. This happened on a Chitra Pournami day and the place was Madurai in Tamil Nadu. In remembrance of this event, in the Madurai Meenakshi temple, a Devendra Puja is observed on Chitra Poornima Day.

On this auspicious day, in many temples in Tami Nadu, elaborate pujas are done and a special rice offering is made to Chitragupta. In Vaishnavite shrines like Tirupati and Azhagar koil, there is a perennial spring known as Akasa Ganga, in which, according to Brahmanda puranam, every holy river in Bharatham joins on Chitra Poornima Day. The devout bathe in Akasa Ganga on this day.


Akash Ganga, Tirupati Andhra Pradesh 

We, the Hindus of India, as a people, can be legitimately proud of our history with a distinct culture. We inimitably have our own thought processes, nearly enmeshed and interconnected, even in their differences. Our Bharatham is very much like a spider’s web—each new thought, each new idea, each new truth that  she has come across or has been shown to her, has been given its own thread, woven into its own place, and although unique and distinct in its identity, it is nevertheless part of the same web. To quote the clinching words of Shonar ‘Diverse we are, but it is diversity which overflows from within its own connotation, begging for a new word for it feels too small and too inadequate in the Indian context.... That ‘something’ which unifies is what this country leans upon as a source of strength for the age-to-come. Once upon a time long ago, the sages who lived on this soil injected this sense of unity into our life-streams and millenniums later, it is our attempt to drift along, and be carried by the undercurrent of their thoughts, to bring out from beneath the surface the reason why India today still stands united....A huge potpourri of events has made this country stick together, simmering in a giant cauldron, with the flame of its one Truth burning below eternally. THAT IS THE FLAME OF UNITY’.
 
Even as Chitra Pournami is a very important festival day in Madurai in the State of Tamil Nadu, so it is in the holy town of Salasar Balaji in Rajasthan State. Salasar town is in District Churu of Rajasthan, situated on Jaipur and Bikaner Highway. It is 57 kilometres from Sikar town, 24 kilometers from Sujangarh town and 30 kilometers from Laxmangarh. Salasar is a very important religious place for the devotees of Lord Hanuman. Salasar Dham attracts innumerable worshippers from all parts of India throughout the year and more particularly on Chaitra Poornima Day. On this day, large fairs take place in this temple town where more than 6 to 7 lakhs of people assemble to offer their prayers to Lord Hanuman.

Shri Balaji at Salasar in Rajasthan

I am presenting here the interesting legend relating to the history of Salasar Hanuman Temple in Rajasthan. It was Chitra Poornima Day in April 1811.  It was a Saturday. On that day, a miracle happened.  A Ginthala-Jat farmer of village Asota in district Nagaur of Rajasthan was ploughing his field. All of sudden the plough was hit by some stony thing and the sound – thlikk — was heard. He dug up the soil of that place and found an idol covered with sand. His wife reached there with his lunch packet. The farmer showed the idol to his wife. She cleaned up the idol with her sari. The idol was that of Balaji i.e. Lord Hanuman. They bowed their heads with devotion and worshipped Lord Balaji. The news of appearance of Lord Balaji spread in the Asota village immediately. The Thakur of Asota also heard the news. Lord Balaji ordered him in the dream to send the idol to Salasar in the Churu district. Same night a devotee of Lord Hanuman, Mohan Dasji Maharaj of Salasar saw Lord Hanuman or Balaji in his dream. Lord Balaji told him about the idol of Asota. He immediately sent a massage to Thakur of Asota. The Thakur was surprised and he wanted to know, how could Mohandasji know the minor details without coming to Asota? Certainly it was on account of the Divine kindness of Lord Balaji. The idol was sent to Salasar and was fixed at the place known as Salasar Dham. 


The fascinating tapestry of Indian culture in all its forms and aspects has been beautifully described by Octavio Paz (1914-1998): ‘The Indian genius is a love for abstraction, at the same time a passion for the concrete image... it is abstract and realistic, sexual and intellectual, pedantic and sublime. On the one hand a repetition of, forms... on the other, the desire for totality and unity. And in its highest moments: the incarnation of a totality that is plenitude and emptiness, the transfiguration of the body into form that, without abandoning sensation and the flesh, is spiritual.’ What Octavio Paz has said here is reflective not just of sculpture but all that Indian culture represents in all its glorious manifestations. 


Thursday, April 14, 2011

JOYOUS NEW YEAR (PUTHANDU) IN
TAMILNADU AND (VISHU) IN KERALA

V.SUNDARAM I.A.S.



The Tamil calendar is used in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in India, and by the Tamil population in Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. It is used today for cultural, religious and agricultural events, with the Gregorian calendar being largely used for official purposes by the Government both within and outside India. The Tamil calendar is based on the classical Hindu solar calendar which is also used in Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Manipur, Nepal, Orissa, Rajasthan and the Punjab.

There are several festivals based on the Tamil Hindu calendar. The Tamil New Year follows the nirayanam vernal equinox and generally falls on 13 or 14 April of the Gregorian year. 13 or 14 April marks the first day of the traditional Tamil calendar and this day remains a public holiday in both Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.

Tropical vernal equinox fall around 22 March, and adding 23 degrees of trepidation or oscillation to it, we get the Hindu sidereal or Nirayana Mesha Sankranti (Sun's transition into nirayana Aries). Hence, the Tamil calendar begins on the same date in April which is observed by most traditional calendars of the rest of India - Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Orissa, Manipur, Nepal, Punjab etc. This also coincides with the traditional New Year in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The recurrent 60-year cycle of years is also an inherent part of an ancient custom and tradition. This cycle of 60 years is observed by most traditional calendars of India and China, and is related to 5 revolutions of Jupiter according to popular belief, or to 60-year orbit of Nakshatras (stars) as mentioned in Surya Siddhanta.

The Surya Siddhanta is a Siddhanta or treatise of Indian astronomy whose authorship is disputed. Varahamihira in his Panchasiddhantika contrasts it with four other treatises, besides the Paitamaha Siddhantas (which is more similar to the "classical" Vedanga Jyotisha), the Paulisha and Romaka Siddhantas (directly based on Hellenistic astronomy) and the Vasishta Siddhanta. Citation of the Surya Siddhanta is also found in the works of Aryabhata.

The work referred to by the title Surya Siddhanta has been repeatedly recast. There may have been an early work under that title dating back to the Buddhist Age of India (3rd century BC). The work as preserved and edited by Burgess (1858) dates to the Middle Ages. Utpala, a 10th century commentator of Varahamihira, quotes six shlokas of the Surya Siddhanta of his day, not one of which is to be found in the text now known as the Surya Siddhanta. The present Surya Siddhanta may nevertheless be considered a direct descendant of the text available to Varahamihira.

This year, the traditional Tamil Hindu New Year starts on 14 April 2011, Kaliyuga 5113. There are several references in early Tamil literature to the April new year. Nakkirar, the author of the Nedunalvaadai writes in the 3rd century that the Sun travels from Mesha/Chitterai through 11 successive Raasis or signs of the zodiac. Kūdalūr Kizhaar in the 3rd century refers to Mesha Raasi/Chitterai as the commencement of the year in the Puranaanooru. The Tolkaapiyam is the oldest surviving Tamil grammar that divides the year into six seasons where Chitterai marks the start of the Ilavenil season or summer. The 8th century Silappadikaaram mentions the 12 Raasis or zodiac signs starting with Mesha/Chitterai. The Manimekalai alludes to the Hindu solar calendar as we know it today. Adiyaarkunalaar, an early medieval commentator or Urai-asiriyar, mentions the 12 months of the Tamil Hindu calendar with particular reference to Chitterai.


Sixty-year cycle



I have already referred to this 60-year cycle of the Tamil calendar, which is common to North and South Indian traditional calendars, with the same name and sequence of years. Its earliest reference is to be found in Surya Siddhanta, which Varahamihirar (550 CE) believed to be the most accurate of the then current theories of astronomy. However, in the Surya Siddhantic list, the first year was Vijaya and not Prabhava as currently used. This 60-year cycle is also used in the Chinese calendar.

After the completion of sixty years, the calendar starts anew with the first year. This corresponds to the Hindu "century." The Vakya or Tirukannitha Panchangam (the traditional Tamil almanac) outlines this sequence.

The following list presents the current 60-year cycle of the Tamil calendar:

No. Name in                             Name in                       Gregorian Year
       Tamil                                  English                                
                                                                                               
01.
பிரபவ
Prabhava
1987–1988
02.
விபவ
Vibhava
1988–1989
03.
சுக்ல
Sukla
1989–1990
04.
பிரமோதூத
Pramodoota
1990–1991
05.
பிரசோற்பத்தி
Prachorpaththi
1991–1992
06.
ஆங்கீரச
Aangirasa
1992–1993
07.
ஸ்ரீமுக
Srimukha
1993–1994
08.
பவ
Bhava
1994–1995
09.
யுவ
Yuva
1995–1996
10.
தாது
Dhaatu
1996–1997
11.
ஈஸ்வர
Eesvara
1997–1998
12.
வெகுதானிய
Bahudhanya
1998–1999
13.
பிரமாதி
Pramathi
1999–2000
14.
விக்கிரம
Vikrama
2000–2001
15.
விஷு
Vishu
2001–2002
16.
சித்திரபானு
Chitrabaanu
2002–2003
17.
சுபானு
Subhaanu
2003–2004
18.
தாரண
Dhaarana
2004–2005
19.
பார்த்திப
Paarthiba
2005–2006
20.
விய
Viya
2006–2007
21.
சர்வசித்து
Sarvajith
2007–2008
22.
சர்வதாரி
Sarvadhari
2008–2009
23.
விரோதி
Virodhi
2009–2010
24.
விக்ருதி
Vikruthi
2010–2011
25.
கர
Kara
2011–2012
26.
நந்தன
Nandhana
2012–2013
27.
விஜய
Vijaya
2013–2014
28.
ஜய
Jaya
2014–2015
29.
மன்மத
Manmatha
2015–2016
30.
துன்முகி
Dhunmuki
2016–2017
31.
ஹேவிளம்பி
Hevilambi
2017–2018

32.
விளம்பி
Vilambi
2018–2019

33.
விகாரி
Vikari
2019–2020

34.
சார்வரி
Sarvari
2020–2021

35.
பிலவ
Plava
2021–2022

36.
சுபகிருது
Subakrith
2022–2023

37.
சோபகிருது
Sobakrith
2023–2024

38.
குரோதி
Krodhi
2024–2025

39.
விசுவாசுவ
Visuvaasuva
2025–2026

40.
பரபாவ
Parabhaava
2026–2027

41.
பிலவங்க
Plavanga
2027–2028

42.
கீலக
Keelaka
2028–2029

43.
சௌமிய
Saumya
2029–2030

44.
சாதாரண
Sadharana
2030–2031

45.
விரோதகிருது
Virodhikrithu
2031–2032

46.
பரிதாபி
Paridhaabi
2032–2033

47.
பிரமாதீச
Pramaadhisa
2033–2034

48.
ஆனந்த
Aanandha
2034–2035

49.
ராட்சச
Rakshasa
2035–2036

50.
நள
Nala
2036–2037

51.
பிங்கள
Pingala
2037–2038

52.
காளயுக்தி
Kalayukthi
2038–2039

53.
சித்தார்த்தி
Siddharthi
2039–2040

54.
ரௌத்திரி
Raudhri
2040–2041

55.
துன்மதி
Dunmathi
2041–2042

56.
துந்துபி
Dhundubhi
2042–2043

57.
ருத்ரோத்காரி
Rudhrodhgaari
2043–2044

58.
ரக்தாட்சி
Raktakshi
2044–2045

59.
குரோதன
Krodhana
2045–2046

60.
அட்சய
Akshaya
2046–2047

 

The Malayalam New Year Day is called Vishu. This Year Vishu falls on 15 April 2011. Vishu is a festival celebrated on this day in the State of Kerala. This festival marks the first day of Malayalam Year and falls in the month of Medam (April – May). This occasion signifies the Sun’s transit to the zodiac – Mesha Raasi (first zodiac sign) as per Indian astrological calculations.

Kani Konna (Cassia fistula), Kerala's regional flower, is a popular vishukanni

The most important event in Vishu is the Vishukkani, (please see the picture above) which literally “the first to be seen on the Vishu day”. The Vishukkani consists of a ritual arrangement of auspicious articles like raw rice, fresh linen, golden cucumber, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, the yellow flowers konna (Cassia fistula), and a holy text and coins, in a bell metal vessel called uruli in the puja room of the House.

The VISHUKKANI, also called Kanikaanal, is inseparable from Vishu. According to the age-old belief of Malayalees, an auspicious kani (first sight) at the crack of dawn on the Vishu day would prove lucky for the entire year. As a result, the Vishukkani is prepared with a lot of care to make it the most positive sight so as to bring alive a wonderful, propitious and prosperous new year! Normally, the responsibility to put the Kani in order falls on the experienced shoulders of the eldest lady of the house. A traditional Kani is prepared as described below. There are also beliefs that if you do not see a proper Vishukkani, then you will lose a year from your life or have bad luck, depending on how much you see!!






Vishu Kkani in Kerala on 15 April 2011

The grandmother or mother who arranges the Vishukkani will sleep in the puja room. On Vishu day, during the auspicious hour of the Brahma muhurata (4:00 to 5:30 a.m.), she will wake up and light the oil-lamp wicks and have her first auspicious sight of Vishukkani. She will then go to the rooms where the rest of the family is sleeping and wake them up one by one. Covering the eyes of every one, she will then lead them to the puja room, where the family members will have the full darshan of the auspicious Vishukkani.


A traditional vishu kani setting

Upon opening one's eyes, every one in the family would be overwhelmed by the glorious darshan of the Lord. The mirror placed behind the Vishukkani, which is symbolic of Bhagavati (Devi), not only enhances the lustre of the Vishukkani through the resplendent reflection of the Vishukkani, but also projects our own face or for that matter of any devotee who is blessed enough to watch the Vishukkani on that sacred day. The mirror placed behind Vishukkani also points to the importance of making our mind pure enough to render devotional service (Nava vidha bhakti) with true and unsullied love to Lord Sri Krishna.

Vishu (Malayalam:വിഷു) New Year festival celebrated in the state of Kerala is similar to the New Year festivals observed elsewhere in India like Baisakhi in Punjab, Bihu in Assam, Pohela Boishakh in Bengal, Bisu in Tulu Nadu region in Karnataka, Vishuva Sankranti in Orissa, Puthandu  in Tamil Nadu and Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh.


"VISHU" is celebrated with much fanfare and vigour in all parts of Kerala. Bursting crackers is part and parcel of the celebration especially for children. Elders gift firecrackers to children and every child vie with each other to make a world of their own. People wear new clothes (Puthukodi) for the occasion and elders of the family distribute tokens of money, called Vishukkaineetam, to children, servants and tenants.

Vishu is also a day of feasting, wherein the edibles consist of roughly equal proportions of salty, sweet, sour and bitter items. Feast items include Veppampoorasam (a bitter preparation of neem) and Mampazhapachadi (a sour mango soup).
video

Vishukani is important in many famous temples such as Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple, Guruvayur Temple and Sabarimala.


Bengali New Year 2011

Bengalis celebrate New Year during the month of Baisakh that is the first month of the Bengali calendar. It is celebrated on the first day of the Baisakh month. Bengal new year day is called the ‘Pohela Baisakh’.  In the year 2011, ‘Pohela Baisakh’ falls on 15th April.

Pohela Baisakh is considered the auspicious time for new beginnings like marriages, business etc.  People clean their houses and decorate them at the occasion of the festival.  They make rangolis with flour which are called Aalpana and place an earthen pot in the middle of the rangoli.  They use flour to make designs in front of their houses. The designs have a pot in the middle that is made up of clay, decorated with a red and white color swastika and is filled with vermilion and holy water. The pot also has a branch of mango tree that has five twigs and few leaves. The ritual of placing this pot is a symbol of good wealth for the family.

A tradition of Prabhat Pheri is also followed in the morning to greet the first day of the New Year. Women generally wear white sarees with red borders and men are dressed in kurta and dhoti to be a part of Prabhat Pheri.

People wish each other ‘Shubo Nabo Barsho’ which means ‘Happy New year’. Bengali New Year marks a new start for the Bengalis and thereby sets new goals for them.

Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is worshipped with flowers like daisies, roses, hibiscus and marigold.  Devotees take a dip in the nearby rivers.  Businessmen pray to Lord Ganesh and open new account books.   There is also a tradition of starting the day with a breakfast which is made with soaked rice called Panta Bhaat.  People take onion, green chillies and fried fish along with Panta Bhat.

All around west Bengal, Baisakhi fairs are organized.  Apart from stalls of agricultural products, toys, handicrafts, food items, cosmetics, sweets people can enjoy cultural programs in these fairs.  Puppet shows, recital of Nabo Barsho poems, singing, drama, gambhira gan, narrative plays etc are the popular attractions of these fairs.

To conclude in the most inspiring words of Sri Aurobindo: “When we look at India – more particularly the past of India --- what strikes us most is her stupendous vitality, her inexhaustible power of life and joy of life, her almost unimaginably prolific creativeness. … Thus an ingrained and dominant spirituality, an inexhaustible vital creativeness and gust of life and, mediating between them, a powerful, penetrating and scrupulous intelligence combined of the rational, ethical and aesthetic mind each at a high intensity of action, CREATED THE HARMONY OF THE ANCIENT INDIAN CULTURE.”