OUR SALUTATIONS TO CHITRA GUPTA ON CHITRA POURNAMI DAY
‘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.