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Archive for July, 2009

Anjaneeya worship: Faith and Strength

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In India, Anjaneeya is known by many names including  Hanuman,  Maruthi, Vavuputhra and Anjanai Kumara. He is worshipped all over India and the world as a God to whom you can pray for solutions and relief for problems. Most Hindu temples will have special place for Hanuman. He is an embodiment of great devotion, strength, intelligence and courage. He plays a very important role in many places in the great Epic Ramayana . The verses in the book Sundarakandam  describes  in detail how he successfully flew across an ocean to locate Goddess Sita and bring the good news to his Lord Sri RAMA .

There are many famous temples for him. In Chennai we have Nanganallur temple, on the way to Pondicherry we have  Panchavadi temple, near salem in Namakkal  there is a famous Anjaneeyar temple and near Tirunelveli at Suchidram we have another  Anjaneeyar temple. In Delhi, on the  Poosa road, there is a 108 feet high statue temple and another  near Vijayawada, Mumbai chembur. The list goes on and on….

In north India most households will have  the book: Hanuman Chalisa. This is a text for chanting every day, of which two cartoon CDs have been made in India and are very popular. In the US an attempt is being made to make a full length movie on Hanuman by Sri Uru Patel with actor Keanu Reeves playing the lead role. His picture is also displayed prominently in gyms!

It is said that Hanuman is the most poular and sought after God on the internet. Sri Krishna and Sri Vinayaka have over 8.45 and 7.64 lacs devotees/supporters respectively. There is a record 26.8 lac people who are Hanuman’s devotees and the number is increasing…..

Prayers seeking his support give courage, strength and direction to his devotees. He is available at all times to the needy and distressed, rich and poor and all are equal to him. All he asks from you is true and sincere selfless devotion.  One can find devotees praying with Tulsi leaves, flowers and garlands made out of Sri Ram writings, fruits, honey and grains as offerings.

Many all over the world have experienced the positive vibrations and strength derived from His worship. There is an increasingly long list. People in India are happy to know that the President of the United States, Mr Barack Hussein Obama, is also a devotee and carries a small idol with him at all times.

Written by Raghuraman

July 2nd, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Posted in Hinduism

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Hindu Marriage: Tradition and Rationale

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The tenets of the Hindu marriage, its conduct, procedures and styles are explicitly laid down in the Vedas. The Hindu wedding is a balanced blending of religion, morality, culture and joy, making it a memorable event. The Vedic rituals solemnise the marriage while indoctrinating the specified duties of the couple through life. The rituals are symbolic of beautiful and noble sentiments.

The following lines go some way to explaining the significance of this important ritual:

GANAPATHI POOJA: The God of initiation is invoked first to keep away all impediments and for a smooth conduct of proceedings. This is followed by Navagra pooja.

VRATHAM: This is performed with invocations to various Gods: Indra, Soma, Chandra, Agni, with a vow to uphold values. This is followed by Kasi yatra.

VAKKKU NICHAY MUHURTHAM: The bride’s father and groom’s father solemnize the final betrothal ceremony.

This is followed by exchanging of garlands to symbolize the union of bride and groom. Then there is OONJAL, PAALIKAI SEEDS SOWING CEREMONY, VARA PUJA and Kanya Dhanam (father gives the bride to the groom). The bride will now wear an exclusive KOORAI sari with a belt of reed grass. Mantras and thanks giving hymns are chanted to deities. The father gets a word of assurance from the groom three times!

MANGALYA DHARANAM: Timed to the auspicious hour, the tying of Managala sutra (also called thali), with a back ground of loud Nadaswaram (called ketty molam), ladies sing the popular GOWRI KALYANA VAIBHOVAMAY. Three knots are tied: one by the groom and the remaining two knots by his sister, thereby welcoming the bride to the family.

This is followed by Pani grahanam and sapthapathi. This is walking seven steps around the fire while mantras are chanted. It is a confirmation of friendship, love, strength and, taste to live together inseparable for rest of their lives.

PRADHANA HOMAM: Homage paid by the couple to Agni, the fire GOD, a prime witness to the marriage. Then comes a treading on the grind stone, showing the star arundhathi (embodiment of an ideal wife and chastity), next LAJJJA HOMAM (brides offering to sacrificial fire) followed by AARATHI.

SHOWERING OF AKSHADAI: All elders and invitees bless the couple for their health, wealth, peace, love, joy and happiness.

Written by Raghuraman

July 2nd, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Posted in Hinduism, Indian Culture

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Spiritual Experiences: Haridwar and Rishikesh

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A train journey of about 42 hours, covering 5 states, took us north from Chennai to Haridwar. Rishikesh is one hour from Haridwar and further up is the Capital of Utterkand State: Dehradun. Delhi is a further 4 hour drive from Haridwar. Both Rishikesh and Haridwar are border areas and entry points for the famous Pilgrim yatra to Kedarnath and Badrinath. The river Ganga, originating from Gangaothri, flows through these towns which makes these places serene and much sought after tourist holy destinations. Ganga is worshipped as a provider, supporter and caring mother. The perennial flowing river calms down our agitated minds to elevate us to a state of peace and tranquility. The holy waters are carried back home and distributed to near and dear ones.

Many spiritual leaders have settled down here on the banks of the Ganga to establish centres of learning, Ashrams. There is Chinmaya ashram, Swami Sivanandha ashram, Swami Dyanandha Ashram, Pathajali Ashram and up to fifteen more. These are residential campuses wherein disciples of masters continue the great work. They are today centres of culture and tradition. Accommodation is offered to visitors but one needs to book in advance as there is a waiting list year round.

The towns are full of small narrow by lanes. Mostly three-wheelers run on these roads alongside cycle rickshaws. Everywhere we can witness a clean environment and simple lifestyles. Vegetarian food is available in road side eateries called Dhabas who offer fresh hot rotis, dhall and vegetables at unbelievable low prices (attracting every tourist). The local population is made of mostly shop keepers, traders and artisans. They sell products and wares to the tourists who come here almost every month excluding the rainy season. Being a tourist location there are many tourist/taxi operators and hotels on the river front catering to various budgets.

We had requested accommodation at Swami Dyanada Ashram and we were very happy to get our confirmation for a weeks stay. The Ashram is housed in an area of 5 acre of land in plenty of greenery with over 5 residential blocks and 250 rooms. There is a prayer/mediation hall, a beautiful temple on the banks of river, a dining room (to seat over 300) Visitors are treated with access to a very good library having an excellent collection of sacred old books in Sanskrit, Hindi and English which are available on CDs and DVDs. There is a lovely shop selling books written By Swami Dyanadha with lectures available on CDs and DVDs. There are also rudraksha malas, special chains rings made of 5 metals, wall hangings, useful items for a prayer room, wall decorations and a host of other unique items.

Our day starts at 4 am to go and attend temple pooja in the ashram temple right located in front of the river Ganga. Besides the main deity Siva, there are smaller temples for Ganapathy, Adisankaa, Hanuman and Jyothir lingams. It is a beautiful, white marble structure very clean and very well maintained with poojas and chanting performed in the traditional style.

We are given an early break fast so that we can attend the lectures and classes conducted by teachers in the ashram. After lunch we have free time for interactive sessions, library, reading or personal work. We then go for a river bath in Ganga (ice cold water flows even at 4 pm)- no soap, oil, or shampoo and all one needs is a towel and a change of clothes. The river is so pure and Divine, an ideal location for prayer and meditation, and generally reflect upon oneself in total silence. Many offer obeisance for departed souls in the family. We attend an evening prayers session by 6.30 pm and a special aarthi on the river front for matha Ganga. We participate with awe, admiration and total surrender. After an early simple dinner we retire, not before a stroll in the green woods and cool gardens full of flowering shrubs.

We made trips to the hill temple of Neelakanda Mahadev housing a beautiful swayamboo lingam of Siva. We are allowed to perform abisheham ourselves with milk and holy waters. It is said a visit to this temple is a cure for illness and a salvation for our misdeeds. We also visited the Ram and Lakshman Jula at Haridhwar for a feel of Haridwar which is known for temples and its markets. We also attended the famous Ganga Aathi at Triveni ghat, a great sight and a evening to remember all our lives. We  joined a special group and were allotted a priest to our aarthi, for our family, and received Prasad afterwards. A very satisfying experience.

Days quickly flew by and by Thursday evening we prepared for our next halting place, Haridwar, not before offering our grateful thank you and gratitude to members of the ashram. As customary we offered a donation to cover our stay and food and liberal tips to service staff (over 30 people) that made our stay a very pleasant experience.

We had booked our stay at Haridwar in Hotel Basera, which has a central location very close to the railway station. We had the the good fortune to get a car arranged through a contact of ours- Sekar from Delhi. Our driver knew all the local places and was very efficient in organizing smooth and hassle free visits to all locations. In addition to a repeat visit to Ram and lakshman jula areas, we went to the hill temples Manasa devi and Chandi devi. The route up is through cable cars, well organised by the management, a car comes every two minutes which can house four people  and takes 15 minutes to reach the top. Good Darsan and prayers to mother Kali, a little bit of shopping and we are back. The view all along was wonderful and we also witnessed the Aarthi at Hariki Pouri Ghat. We were fortunate to get in to the VIP darsan area through our drivers contacts! The view of 7 big Aartis being performed for the river Ganga was a thrilling sight to see with background chanting of Ganga matha slogas.

One afternoon we went for a bath in a very special ghat reserved for state VIPs, a very private and exclusive affair! As per our plan we spent an afternoon at Baba Ramdev centre, consulting doctors and getting tips and advice with general ayurvedic medicine.  It is a very well organised set up and the consultation was free.

We bade goodbye to our driver with farewell gifts and generous tips. A special gift and Prasad was packed and conveyed through our driver to our sponsor.

The third day was kept for local shopping and preparation for our final packing for our return trip next morning. We had three more bags full of gifts and ganga water for our friends back home! Our camera is full of photos and we transferred the pictures to CDs. The trip was extremely worthwhile with some of the experiences being beyond words to describe. We are grateful to the Almighty for his help, guidance and direction. A very special thank you is in order for our kind hearted and caring sons Vivek and Arjun, with whose support this trip was possible. An experience which will stay with us for a long time to come .

We boarded the train back to Chennai after 3 hectic days at Haridwar. The hotel people had packed us plenty of food to keep us going for one day and we relied on the dining car for the second day of the journey. We travelled home content with three more pieces of luggage full of giftsand ganga water for our friends together with two CDs full of photos and memories.

Written by Raghuraman

July 2nd, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Hinduism, Indian Culture

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