Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Vrat Katha of Sakat Chauth

There are two legends of Sakat Chauth. The first legend of Sakat Chauth is related to Goddess Sakat.
The second legend is about Lord Ganesh and traditionally it is narrated during Sakat Chauth Puja.

Long ago there were two sister-in-laws. Their husbands were real brothers. Although both brothers belonged to the same family, the elder brother was quite rich and the younger brother was very poor. The younger brother used to sell wood which were used for cooking.

The wife of younger brother was ardent devotee of Lord Ganesh and used to observe fasting on each Sankashti Chaturthi. She used to work as a maid at the home of elder brother to feed her family.

On the day of Sakat Chauth she had nothing to cook. She worked hard at the home of her sister-in-laws to get some remuneration on the auspicious day of Sakat Chauth. The elder sister refused to pay her on the day of Puja and told that she would be rewarded for her hard work only after Puja on the next day. The tired lady came home with empty hands. This made Lord Ganesh angry on the elder sister.

In the evening when husband of younger sister came back from the work, she was not able to serve the meal. The husband was also frustrated as no one bought the fuel on the auspicious day of Sakat Chauth. The husband thrashed his wife for not cooking the food. The poor wife went to sleep with empty stomach.

At night Lord Ganesh came to her home. When Lord Ganesh asked to open the door she thought of dreaming it and told "All doors are open to come inside as I have nothing in the home to lock". After coming in Lord Ganesh asked for some food and she replied "I cooked Bathua (बथुआ) in the morning which is lying on the stove. You go and eat that". After eating Bathua, Lord Ganesh asked that he wants to relieve. She replied "All five places in home, including four corners and the entrance are available for you to relieve." After relieving Lord Ganesh asked that he wants something to wipe. The hungry and frustrated lady told "Use my forehead for that".

Next day when lady woke up she found that her forehead, all four corners in the home and the entrance were full of precious diamonds, jewelry and the gold. Then she realized that it was not in the dream but in the reality Lord Ganesh came to her home to bless her family. Later she went to sister-in-laws to get balance to weigh the massive wealth.

Her sister-in-laws stick some adhesive at the bottom on the balance. When the elder sister got the balance back she was able to know about massive wealth. On repeated requests from the elder sister, the younger sister revealed the story of Ganesh coming to her home.

After that the elder sister started working at the home of younger sister to repeat the same fortune for her family. On next year she played the whole story as it is to please lord Ganesh, including forcing her husband to thrash her on the day of Sakat Chauth. Everything went as expected except it was not massive wealth but feces and its stink all over her home. The feces were not getting removed even on repeated attempts. Pandits suggested her to share the wealth equally with the younger sister-in-laws to get rid of the curse of Lord Ganesh.

She did the same but even after that feces and its stink was not removed. Later it came to know that one necklace was not shared with the younger sister-in-laws. The curse of Lord Ganesh was cured only after that necklace was also shared with the younger sister-in-laws.

People pray to Lord Ganesh to get blessed like younger sister-in-laws after listening to this legend.

Vasant Panchami - 14th or 15th Feb

We have noticed that many sources have marked Vasant Panchami on 15th February 2013 while Drik Panchang almanac has marked Vasant Panchami on 14th February 2013. Our team has looked into it to make sure that our software has not erred. We found no error in marking the day of Vasant Panchami on 14th February.

To assist followers of Drik Panchang to make the right choice we are giving following explanation.

1. Panchami Tithi is getting over at 09:05 a.m. on 15th February while it starts at 08:19 a.m. on 14th February. According to religious text Dharmasindhu,

Snapshot from Dharmasindhu - translated by Sadashiv Shastri

"if Panchami prevails (or starts) after noon on previous day then only second day should be chosen to observe Vasant Panchami". According to this rule Vasant Panchami should be observed on 14th February as Panchami starts much before the noon i.e. on 08:19 a.m. on previous day.

2. People who want to observe Vasant Panchami on 15th February have to make sure that they finish Saraswati Puja before 09:05 a.m. as Shashthi Tithi would start after that. As most of the schools and colleges also celebrate Vasant Panchami it would not be practical to finish it before 09:05 on 15th February.

It should be noted that Shahi Snan at Kumbh Mela on Vasant Panchami is marked on 15th February. It looks appropriate also as Snan is done at sunrise and it is on 15th February when Panchami would prevail during Sunrise.

Both Saraswati Puja and Kumbh Snan on Vasant Panchami are observed on Panchami Tithi but due to start and end timings of Panchami Tithi, they might be observed on two different days.

However people, including Sadhus of various Akhadas participating in Kumbh, who would do Vasant Panchami Snan on 15th February, should take holy dip at Sangam before 09:05 a.m.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ravi Pushya Yoga in India - 27th Jan

Ravi Pushya Yoga is getting formed on Sunday, 27th in most cities in India. When Pushya Nakshatra prevails on Sunday Ravi Pushya Yoga is formed. Pushya is the 8th Nakshatra out of 27 Nakshatra in Vedic Astrology.

Ravi Pushya Yoga is auspicious time for buying gold and jewelry, staring new ventures, buying new vehicles, etc.

In Indian Ravi Pushya Yoga would start from sunrise and would end on 16:29 in the evening. For cities outside India, Yoga timings can be checked on Ravi Pushya Yoga Timings.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sankranti - From Punjab to Kerala

Makar Sankranti is celebrated throughout India. In North India people take holy dip in Ganga on Makar Sankranti day. Thousands of people throng Hindu pilgrimage places like Haridwar, Banaras and Allahabad to take holy dip in Ganga. It is believed that holy dip in Ganga on Sankranti purges all sins committed by the person.

Makar Sankranti is also the main bathing day at Ganga Sagar Mela which is held near Kolkata. Sikh community especially in Punjab and Haryana celebrates Lohri one day before Sankranti.

In Tamil Nadu people celebrate Pongal on the very same day. Pongal is celebrated for four days but the most important day of Pongal festivity is known as Thai Pongal and it is celebrated on Makar Sankranti day.

In Kerala, the most important event on Makar Sankranti is Makaravilakku. The world famous Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple celebrates Sankranti during evening by lighting Makaravilakku. Makaravilakku is artificial light that is created three times at a distant hill. Thousands of devotees wait for Makaravilakku as it symbolizes celestial lighting at Sabarimala Hills.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

11th January Hanuman Jayanti in Tamil Nadu

In Tamil Nadu Hanuman Jayanti is observed during Margashirsha Amavasya and it would be observed on Friday, 11th January in 2013.

In North Indian states Hanuman Jayanti is observed on full moon day during Chaitra month. Hanuman, who is also known as Vanara God, was born on this day and Hanumath Jayanthi is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Hanuman.

Hanuman Jayanti in North India would be celebrated on Thursday, 25th April in 2013 on Chaitra Purnima day.

Ganga Sagar Mela on Makar Sankranti

Ganga Sagar Mela is held every year on Makar Sankranti. It is organized at Sagar Island near Kolkata, where the Ganga breaks into hundreds of streams and merges into the sea. Ganga Sagar is one of the significant pilgrimage places for Hindus. The annual Ganga Sagar Mela is the largest fair by the number of pilgrims who visit it except Kumbh Mela.

It is believed to be the place where ashes of Raja Bhagiratha's ancestors were purified by the holy water of Ganga.

Ganga Sagar Mela is held for about 4 days but the most important Snan day falls on Makar Sankranti day. The most auspicious time to take holy dip is during dawn hours just before sunrise.

In 2013, due to Kumbh Mela at Allahabad the number of pilgrims visiting Ganga Sagar should be less compared to last year.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2 Dates for 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda

In 2013, we would celebrate 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.

According to English calendar the anniversary would be celebrated on Saturday, 12th January and according to Hindu Lunar calendar it would be celebrated on Sunday, 3rd February.

The government of India has declared 12th January as National Youth Day in honor of Swami Vivekananda. Hence most non-spiritual activities like processions, speeches, recitations, music concerts, youth conventions, seminars, Yogasana presentations, essay writing competitions and sports events would be held on 12th January.

The spiritual and religious activities like Mangalarati, special worship, Homa, meditation, devotional songs, religious discourse and Sandyarati would be held on 3rd February on Krishna Paksha Saptami after seven days of Paush Purnima.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ekadashi Food | Ekadasi Food

Devotees can decide the type of Ekadashi fasting during Sankalp according to their will power and physical strength. In religious texts four types of Ekadashi fasting has been mentioned.

1. Jalahar (जलाहर) i.e. Ekadashi fasting with only water. Most devotees observer this fasting during Nirjala Ekadashi. However devotees can observe it on all Ekadashi fasting.

2. Ksheerbhoji (क्षीरभोजी) i.e. Ekadashi fasting on Ksheer. Ksheer refers to milk and milky juice of plants. But in Ekadashi context it should be all products made of milk.

3. Phalahari (फलाहारी) i.e. Ekadashi fasting on fruits only. One should consume only high class of fruits like mango, grapes, banana, almond, and pistachios etc. and should not eat leafy vegetables.

4. Naktabhoji (नक्तभोजी) i.e. having single meal in a day just before sunset. Single meal should not have any variety of grains and cereals including beans, wheat, rice and pulses which are forbidden during Ekadashi fasting.

Staple diet for Naktabhoji during Ekadashi fasting includes Sabudana, Singhada (Water caltrop and also known as Chestnut), Shakarkandi, Potatoes and Groundnuts.

For many Kuttu Atta (BuckWheat Flour) and Samak (Millet Rice) is also staple diet during single Ekadashi meal. However validity of both items as Ekadashi food is debatable as those are considered semi-grains or pseudo grains. It is better to avoid these items during fasting.

Is Sankranti on 13th January 2013?

No. However few most circulated Hindi newspapers in North India like Amar Ujala and Hindustan are publishing date of Makar Sankranti as 13th January. We don’t know the reasoning behind it. But according to both Surya Siddhanta and Drik Siddhanta date of Makar Sankranti is falling on 14th January.

Also the official website of Maha Kumbh which is under preview of U.P. Tourism lists Sankranti on 14th January which is also the first day of Shahi Snan at Sangam.

This year Sankranti would occur at 07:03 A.M. on 14th January and Punya Kaal would begin from this moment to sunset. However Maha Punya Kaal would prevail only for 24 minutes just after sunrise.

Please visit Makar Sankranti Punya Kala timings to check auspicious timings for Makar Sankranti for your city.

About Akhadas (अखाड़ा) in Kumbh Mela

Akhadas are religious institutions which were created by Adi Shankaracharya to promote Hindu culture and religion during 8th Century. He created total 7 Akhada namely

1. Mahanirvani (महानिर्वाणी) - Panchayati Akhada Mahanirvani
2. Niranjani (निरंजनी) – Panchayati Akhada Nairanjani
3. Juna (जूना) -
4. Atal (अटल) – Shanbhupancha Atal
5. Avahan (आवाहन)
6. Agni (अग्नि)
7. Anand (आनंद)

to strengthen Hindu religion and to unite various Hindu groups practicing different customs, beliefs and rituals.

These Akhadas exist even today with less or more same names. All Akhadas have their own primary deity to worship, separate flags, Gurus and ideologies. Each Akhadas is administered by a committee of five members known as Shree Panch. The head of each Akhada is known as Mahamandaleshwar (महामंडलेश्वर).

Juna is the biggest Akhada by number of Sadhus in it and operates from Banaras which is followed by Niranjani and Mahanirvani. Usually it is believed that in all Akhadas drugs are promoted which is not true as in few Akhadas drugs are banned.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Kalpawas (कल्पवास) during Kumbh

Camping at the bank of river Ganges at Sangam during Kumbh is known as Kalpawas (कल्पवास). Sand of Sangam is considered pious for Kalpawas.

People follow austerity during this period and have only single meal in the day, wear white clothes and abstain from all sort of worldly pleasures for a month. The main activities during Kalpawas are

1. Tap (तप )
2. Homa (होम )
3. Dana (दान)

Most devotees do Kalpawas from Paush Purnima to Magh Purnima which spans for one complete lunar month. However few devotees do Kalpawas from Makar Sankranti to Kumbh Sankranti. Usually Maithil Brahmin from Bihar and Jharkhand do Kalpawas for one complete solar month.

Most Naga Sadhus camp at Sangam during this period.

8th January Saphala Ekadashi

Paush Krishna Paksha Ekadashi is known as Saphala Ekadashi. It should be noted that in Hindu calendar followed in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh it is Margashirsha Krishna Paksha during Saphala Ekadashi.

In 2013 date of Saphala Ekadashi is 8th January. For Vaishnava Sampradaya and followers of ISKCON, Saphala Ekadashi is on the same day. For U.S. Cities Saphala Ekadashi would be on 7th January. It is interesting to note that festivals might fall one day before for U.S. location although clock runs approximately 12 hours behind to that of India.

The Parana, i.e. breaking the Ekadashi fast, for most Indian cities would be between sunrise and 9 a.m. (approximately).

In 2013 there would be two Saphala Ekadashi and the other one would fall on 28th December.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

55 Days of Kumbh Mela 2013

Kumbh Snan will start from 27th Janurary on Paush Purnima and would end on 25th February on Magha Purnima. Hence, there would be total 30 bathing days during 2013 Kumbh.

However Kumbh Mela would span more than 30 days. It will start from 14th January on Makar Sankranti day and would end on 10th March on Maha Shivaratri day. Hence in 2013 Kumbh Mela would be held for total 55 days.

During these 55 days, there would be few days which would be more auspicious to take holy dip at Sangam. The published 9 days when it would be more auspicious to take bath are

1. 14th January on Makar Sankranti
2. 27th January on Paush Purnima
3. 6th February on Krishna Paksha Ekadashi
4. 19th February on Mauni Amavasya
5. 15th February on Vasant Panchami (Saraswati Puja falls on 14th February)
6. 17th February on Ratha Saptami
7. 18th February on Bhishma Ashtami
8. 25th February on Maghi Purnima
9. 10th March on Maha Shivaratri

Out of 9 days, 3 would be Shani Snan days when Naga Sadhus would take ceremonial bath along with street possession. The days when Naga Sadhus would take bath are

1. 14th January on Makar Sankranti
2. 19th February on Mauni Amavasya
3. 15th February on Basant Panchami  (Saraswati Puja falls on 14th February)

Above dates have been published in various newspapers in North India. The most important bathing day during Purna Kumbh 2013 would be Mauni Amavasya day.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Prachin Keshav Dev Mandir

Most tourists and devotees who visit Mathura are not aware that near to Krishna Janmabhumi, there exists old Keshav Dev Mandir which claims to be the most authentic birthplace of Lord Krishna. This temple is very close to newly constructed Janmabhumi temple and comes under Mallapura. This is a respected place of worship among people of Braj.

According to historians and local beliefs the legendary Krishna temple at Janmabhumi was demolished by Aurangzeb's order in 1670 C.E. At that time Maratha Sindhiya founded Prachin Keshav Dev Mandir near to historic Potara Kunda. By this record Keshav Dev temple is 342 years old.

This temple is unique as it has four-armed Krishna. Next to temple there is the room which is claimed to be birthplace of Lord Krishna and has deities of Vasudeva, Devaki and Krishna. It has the place where umbilical cord of Lord Krishna was hidden in the Earth.

Main Deity of Four-Armed Krishna at Prachin Keshav Dev Mandir, Mathura

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why Two Janmashtami Dates?

We have written about two Janmashtami dates even within the same city Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna. We have highlighted the influence of ISKCON and Vaishnava Sampradaya due to which most people celebrate Janmashtami according to Vaishnavite rules.

If one is not the follower of Vaishnavism then one should not follow Vaishnava date of Janmashtami and should observe Janmashtami as per Smarta rules. But unfortunately many people don’t understand this difference.

In Mathura Prachin Keshava Dev Mandir (which should not be confused with newly constructed temple with similar name at Janmabhumi), which claims to be the most authentic place of Lord Krishna’s birth, celebrates Janmashtami according to Smarta rules.

Shri Krishna Chandra Goswami from the old Keshava Dev Mandir says "We don’t care when other temples are celebrating Janmashtami and we always follow it on Saptami Tithi (usually Ashtami prevails during midnight of Saptami Tithi) while Ashtami prevails during midnight". In other words old Keshava Dev Mandir celebrates Janmashtami according to Smarta Sampradaya and is not influenced by ISKCON and other prestigious temples in Mathura and Vrindavan founded by Vaishnavite.

It is important to understand the difference between Smarta and Vaishnava to choose right Janmashtami date. In Hinduism there are three major sects namely Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism which revere only Vishnu, only Shiva and only Shakti respectively. These are non-liberal sects and believe in the supremacy of single deity.

If you worship all Gods and believe that all deities are manifestation of one God then you belong to Smarta Sampradaya. Smarta Sampradaya is a liberal and nonsectarian group which accepts all major Hindu deities as form of one supreme God.

After reading above explanation it should be easy to choose the school one belongs to. If you belong to Smarta School then you should not follow ISKCON date of Janmashtami. We emphasize on Smarta date because majority of Hindus believe in multiple God. We also make a note on Vaishnavite date of Janmashtami if it falls on the different date.

In 2012 most temples in Mathura and Vrindavan celebrated Janmashtami on 10th August except the old Keshava Dev Mandir which stuck to its old tradition and celebrated Janmashtami on 9th of August. In 2013 there would be single date of Janmashtami for both Sampradaya. But in 2014 again there would be two dates of Janmashtami.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Belwan – Land of Penance of Goddess Lakshmi

In city of Lord Krishna, Mathura, across the river Yamuna, there is ancient temple of Goddess Lakshmi. The temple area is known as Belwan. Belwan is known as land of penance of Goddess Lakshmi.

According to Hindu mythology Goddess Lakshmi started penancing in Belwan to please Lord Krishna. Many Gopis were privileged to dance with Lord Krishna in Vrindavan. Goddess Lakshmi was denied entry to join troop of Gopis to dance with Lord Krishna.

Later Goddess Lakshmi was consoled by Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna explained that these Gopis have penanced for thousands of year to get this opportunity to dance with me. After this, Goddess Lakshmi started penancing to please Lord Krishna. The deity of Shree Lakshmi faces Vrindavan with folded hands in worship of Lord Krishna.

Every year in the month of Paush (as per North Indian Calendar), devotees visit Belwan on each Thursday to seek blessing of Shri Lakshmi. On all Thursdays in month of Puash, grand Mela is organized in Belwan.

In 2013, dates to visit Belwan are 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th of January.