Hindu Fasts & Festivals
© The Divine Life Trust Society
ISBN 81-7052-039-8 Published By
THE DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY
P.O. Shivanandanagar—249 192
Distt. Tehri-Garhwal, Uttar Pradesh,
THE HINDUS are a profoundly religious people. Their goal of
life is Self-realisation or the attainment of God-consciousness.
A religion of some kind they must have—a religion which will
stir the depths of the heart and give room for the exercise of
faith, devotion and love.
All Hindu festivals have a deep spiritual import or high
religious significance. All great Hindu festivals have
religious, social and hygienic elements in them. In every
festival there is bathing in the morning before sunrise in the
river or tank or well. Every individual will have to do some
Japa, prayer, Kirtan, recitation of Sanskrit verses and
Man gets tired on account of hard work or monotonous actions.
He wants some change or variety. He wants relaxation. He wants
something to cheer him up. These festivals make him cheerful and
happy, and give him rest and peace.
In this book Gurudev has explained the significance and the
philosophy of many of our fasts and festivals. In two aspects of
these observances, he has always allowed the greatest freedom:
(1) in the determination of the dates of the festival, which, as
he has explained on page 53, vary, and (2) in the traditional
ways of celebrating them. For instance, in South India during
the Durga Puja they have the Kolu when various idols and toys
are arranged in colourful galleries before which, every evening,
girls sit and sing. Again, in some places there is fire-walking
without the Kavadi (see page 109), held in honour of Draupadi
Amman who was born of fire; or in Ceylon, according to Yogi
Satchidananda of Ceylon, in honour of Kannaki Amman. Gurudev
never disturbs anyone’s good beliefs and customs.
The way in which the most important festivals are observed at
the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, in India is also given in this
volume. If we have no precedent, we can as well adopt that. On
the particular day, it would be even enough to read the chapter
relating to that day, to remind ourselves of the spirit of the
Gurudev observes in his Ashram not only the festivals of the
Hindus but those of the Christians and the Muslims, too: an
example for us to copy. In his eyes, there are no distinctions.
The New Year’s Day according to the English calendar has the
same significance to him as the Tamil or the Telugu New Year’s
Day. Hence, when he talks of the Telugu New Year’s Day in this
book, it can well be read Tamil New Year’s Day or Gujarati New
—The Divine Life Society
PRAYERS FOR ALL OCCASIONS
Devotees and followers of Sri Gurudev Sivananda in South
Africa and elsewhere, follow Gurudev’s invariable custom of
commencing all functions with the following invocatory Kirtans,
and concluding them with the peace chants that follow.
Jaya Ganesha Jaya Ganesha Jaya Ganesha paahimaam
Sri Ganesha Sri Ganesha Sri Ganesha rakshamaam
Jaya Saraswati Jaya Saraswati Jaya Saraswati paahimaam
Sri Saraswati Sri Saraswati Sri Saraswati rakshamaam
Saravanabhava Saravanabhava Saravanabhava paahimaam
Subramanya Subramanya Subramanya rakshamaam
Sivananda Sivananda Sivananda paahimaam
Sivananda Sivananda Sivananda rakshamaam
Jaya Guru Shiva Guru Hari Guru Ram
Jagad Guru Param Guru Sat Guru Shyam
Adi Guru Advaita Guru Ananda Guru Om
Chit Guru Chitgana Guru Chinmaya Guru Om
Jaya Siya Ram Jaya Jaya Siya Ram (2)
Jaya Radhe Shyam Jaya Jaya Radhe Shyam (2)
Jaya Hanuman Jaya Jaya Hanuman (2)
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare,
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare (3)
Sivananda Sivananda Sadguru Natha Sivananda
Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra
Om trayambakam yajaamahe sugandhim pushtivardhanam
Urvaarukamiva bandhanaan mrityor muksheeya maamritaat.
Concluding Peace Chants
Sarveshaam swasti bhavatu, sarveshaam shaantir
Sarveshaam poornam bhavatu, sarveshaam mangalam bhavatu;
Sarve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve santu niraamayah,
Sarve bhadraani pashyantu, maakaschid duhkhabhaagbhavet;
Asato maa sad gamaya
Tamaso maa jyotir gamaya
Mrityor maa amritam gamaya;
Om poornamadah poornamidam poornaatpoornamudachyate,
Poornasya poornamaadaaya poornamevaavashishyate.
Om shaantih shaantih shaantih!
Meditation On Lord Shiva
Shaantam padmaasanastham shashadharamakutam
Shoolam vajram cha khadgam parashumabhayadam dakshinaange
Naagam paasham cha ghantaam damaruka sahitam chaankusham
Naanaalankaara deeptam sphatika maninibham paarvateesham
MEANING: I prostrate myself before the five-faced Lord
of Parvati, who is adorned with various ornaments, who shines
like the crystal jewel, who is seated peacefully in the lotus
pose, with moon-crested crown, with three eyes, wearing trident,
thunderbolt, sword and axe on the right side, who holds the
serpent, noose, bell, damaru and spear on the left side,
and who gives protection from all fear to His devotees.
Meditation On Sri Shankaracharya
Padmaaseenam prashantam yamaniratamaanan gaari tulya
Phaale bhasmaankitaam bhasmita rujira mukhaam
Kambugreevam karaabhyaam avidtamurulasat pustakam
Vandyam geervaana mukhyair natajana varadam bhaavaye
MEANING: I meditate on Sri Shankaracharya who is
seated in the lotus posture with Jnanamudra, who is calm,
endowed with virtues like Yama, Niyama, etc., whose glory is as
great as that of Lord Shiva, who wears the sacred ashes on the
forehead, whose face resembles the blossomed lotus, with
lotus-like eyes, possessing sacred books in hand, who is ever
adored by people of high learning and wisdom, and who fulfils
the desires of his devotees (who prostrate themselves before
Meditation On Lord Dattatreya
Maalaakamandalu dharah karapadmayugme
Madhyastha paaniyugale damarutrishoolam;
Adhyastha urdhva karayoh shubha shankhachakre
Vande tamatrivaradam bhujashatkayuktam.
MEANING: I meditate on Lord Dattatreya, the son of
Atri, who has six hands, who holds the rosary and water-vessel
in two hands, with damaru and spear in the other two
hands, and with conch and discus in the upper two hands.
Meditation On Lord Ganesha
Kapittha jamboophala saara bhakshitam;
Umaasutam shoka vinaasha kaaranam
Namaami vighneshwara paada pankajam.
MEANING: I worship the lotus feet of Ganesha, the son
of Uma, the destroyer of all sorrows, who is served by the host
of gods and elementals, and who takes the essence of the
kapittha-jarnbu fruit (fruit resembling the bilwa
Meditation On Lord Subramanya
Mahaa matim divya mayoora vaahanam;
Rudrasya soonum sura sainyanaatham
Guham sadaaham sharanam prapadye.
MEANING: I always take refuge in Lord Guha (Lord
Subramanya) of six faces, who is of deep red colour and infinite
knowledge, who has the divine peacock to ride on, the son of
Lord Shiva and the leader of the army of the Devas.
Meditation On Sri Krishna
Vamshee vibhooshita karaan navaneeradaabhaat
Peetaambaraadaruna bimbaphalaa dharoshthaat;
Poornendusundara mukhaad aravinda netraat
Krishnaat param kimapi tattwam aham na jaane.
MEANING: I know not any other Reality than the
lotus-eyed Krishna with hands adorned with flute, looking like a
heavy-laden cloud in lustre, wearing a yellow silk garment, with
His lower lip like a ruddy bimba fruit, and with face
shining like the full moon.
Meditation On Sri Rama
Peetam vaaso vasaanam navakamala dala spardhinetram
Vaamaankaaroodhaseetaa mukhakamala milal lochanam
Naanaalankaara deeptam dadhatamuru jataa mandalam
MEANING: One should meditate on Sri Ramachandra, with
hands reaching the knees, holding the bow and arrows, seated in
the locked-up lotus posture, wearing a yellow garb, with eyes
vying with the newly-blossomed lotus petals, with a pleasant
gait, who has Sita seated on His left thigh, who is blue like
the clouds, who is adorned with all kinds of ornaments and
having a big circle of Jata on the head.
His Mantra is: Om Namo Narayanaya
Suklambharadharam visnum sasi varnam caturbhujam
Prasanna vadanam dhyayet sarvavighnopasantaye
THE TWELVE months of the Hindu year, based on the lunar
calendar, are named after that star during whose ascendency the
full moon of that month occurs. The full moon day of Chaitra
month, that is, the Purnima during the ascendency of the Chitra
star is particularly sacred to the Chitra Guptas, the recording
angels of the Hindu pantheon. A special worship is offered to
these celestial representatives of the god of death, and an
offering of spiced rice is prepared and later distributed as
prasad or holy sacrament. A fire worship is done at the
close of the ritualistic worship. By the performance of this
religious observance annually, these angels of the other world
are greatly pleased and judge man’s actions with more sympathy.
The psychological effect of this worship, done on the very
first full moon day of every year (Chaitra is the first of the
twelve months), is to vividly remind us of the higher power that
maintains a constant watch over every act of ours on this
earth-plane. This memory serves as an invisible check on one’s
conduct. The conception of the Chitra Guptas as located within
each shoulder is a powerful inducement to keep oneself engaged
in constantly doing good actions only.
The term Chitra Gupta means “hidden picture”. A true picture
of all our good and evil actions is preserved in the ethereal
records. The Hindu personifies it for the sake of worship. The
real significance of the worship of the Chitra Guptas is
beautifully brought out in the following story connected with
Brihaspati is the Guru or preceptor of Indra, the king of the
gods. Indra disobeyed Brihaspati on one occasion and the Guru
relinquished his task of instructing Indra in what he should and
should not do. During the period of the Guru’s absence, Indra
did many evil deeds. When the compassionate Guru resumed his
duty again, Indra wanted to know what he should do to expiate
the wrongs he had done in his Guru’s absence. Brihaspati asked
Indra to undertake a pilgrimage.
While Indra was on pilgrimage, he suddenly felt the load of
sins taken off his shoulders at a certain place (near Madurai in
South India), and he discovered a Shiva Lingam there. He
attributed the miracle to this Lingam and wanted to build a
temple for it. He had this constructed immediately. Now he
wished to perform the worship of the Lingam; the Lord Himself
caused golden lotuses to appear in a nearby pond. Indra was
greatly pleased and blessed. The day on which he thus worshipped
the Lord was Chitra Purnima.
When you perform worship on the Chitra Purnima day, remember
this story. If you have intense faith, if you feel with a
contrite heart that you have committed sins on account of
ignorance, if you pray with faith and devotion to the Lord to
forgive your sins, if you resolve never to commit them in the
future, and if you resolve to be obedient to your Guru and never
to flout his counsel, then your sins will be forgiven. There is
no doubt about this. This is the significance of the above story
of Indra. Meditate on this story on Chitra Purnima day.
The Hindu scriptures prescribe elaborate worship of the
Chitra Guptas on this day. The Deity is invoked in an image or a
kalasa (vessel filled with water) and then worshipped
with all the rituals and formalities of the worship offered to
God’s image. Meditate on Chitra Gupta, reciting the following
Chitra guptam mahaa praajnam lekhaneepatra dhaarinam;
Chitra-ratnaambara-dhaararn madhyastham sarvadehinaam.
Then offer ritualistic worship with incense, camphor, flowers, etc.
Feed some Brahmins, the poor and the needy. Give bountifully in
charity and receive the Lord’s blessings.
DEEPAVALI or Diwali means “a row of lights”. It falls on the
last two days of the dark half of Kartik (October-November). For
some it is a three-day festival. It commences with the
Dhan-Teras, on the 13th day of the dark half of Kartik, followed
the next day by the Narak Chaudas, the 14th day, and by
Deepavali proper on the 15th day.
There are various alleged origins attributed to this
festival. Some hold that they celebrate the marriage of Lakshmi
with Lord Vishnu. In Bengal the festival is dedicated to the
worship of Kali. It also commemorates that blessed day on which
the triumphant Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after defeating
Ravana. On this day also Sri Krishna killed the demon
In South India people take an oil bath in the morning and
wear new clothes. They partake of sweetmeats. They light
fireworks which are regarded as the effigies of Narakasura who
was killed on this day. They greet one another, asking, “Have
you had your Ganges bath?” which actually refers to the oil bath
that morning as it is regarded as purifying as a bath in the
Everyone forgets and forgives the wrongs done by others.
There is an air of freedom, festivity and friendliness
everywhere. This festival brings about unity. It instils charity
in the hearts of people. Everyone buys new clothes for the
family. Employers, too, purchase new clothes for their
Waking up during the Brahmamuhurta (at 4a.m.) is a great
blessing from the standpoint of health, ethical discipline,
efficiency in work and spiritual advancement. It is on Deepavali
that everyone wakes up early in the morning. The sages who
instituted this custom must have cherished the hope that their
descendents would realise its benefits and make it a regular
habit in their lives.
In a happy mood of great rejoicing village folk move about
freely, mixing with one another without any reserve, all enmity
being forgotten. People embrace one another with love. Deepavali
is a great unifying force. Those with keen inner spiritual ears
will clearly hear the voice of the sages, “O Children of God!
unite, and love all”. The vibrations produced by the greetings
of love which fill the atmosphere are powerful enough to bring
about a change of heart in every man and woman in the world.
Alas! That heart has considerably hardened, and only a
continuous celebration of Deepavali in our homes can rekindle in
us the urgent need of turning away from the ruinous path of
On this day Hindu merchants in North India open their new
account books and pray for success and prosperity during the
coming year. The homes are cleaned and decorated by day and
illuminated by night with earthern oil-lamps. The best and
finest illuminations are to be seen in Bombay and Amritsar. The
famous Golden Temple at Amritsar is lit in the evening with
thousands of lamps placed all over the steps of the big tank.
Vaishnavites celebrate the Govardhan Puja and feed the poor on a
O Ram! The light of lights, the self-luminous inner light of
the Self is ever shining steadily in the chamber of your heart.
Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Withdraw the senses. Fix the mind
on this supreme light and enjoy the real Deepavali, by attaining
illumination of the soul.
He who Himself sees all but whom no one beholds, who
illumines the intellect, the sun, the moon and the stars and the
whole universe but whom they cannot illumine, He indeed is
Brahman, He is the inner Self. Celebrate the real Deepavali by
living in Brahman, and enjoy the eternal bliss of the soul.
The sun does not shine there, nor do the moon and the stars,
nor do lightnings shine and much less fire. All the lights of
the world cannot be compared even to a ray of the inner light of
the Self. Merge yourself in this light of lights and enjoy the
Many Deepavali festivals have come and gone. Yet the hearts
of the vast majority are as dark as the night of the new moon.
The house is lit with lamps, but the heart is full of the
darkness of ignorance. O man! wake up from the slumber of
ignorance. Realise the constant and eternal light of the Soul
which neither rises nor sets, through meditation and deep
May you all attain full inner illumination! May the supreme
light of lights enlighten your understanding! May you all attain
the inexhaustible spiritual wealth of the Self! May you all
prosper gloriously on the material as well as spiritual planes!
Durga Puja or Navaratri
SALUTATIONS to the Divine Mother, Durga, who exists in all
beings in the form of intelligence, mercy, beauty, who is the
consort of Lord Shiva, who creates, sustains and destroys the
This festival is observed twice a year, once in the month of
Chaitra and then in Aswayuja. It lasts for nine days in honour
of the nine manifestations of Durga. During Navaratri (the word
literally means “nine nights”) devotees of Durga observe a fast.
Brahmins are fed and prayers are offered for the protection of
health and property.
The beginning of summer and the beginning of winter are two
very important junctions of climatic and solar influence. These
two periods are taken as sacred opportunities for the worship of
the Divine Mother. They are indicated respectively by the
Rama-Navaratri in Chaitra (April-May) and the Durga Navaratri in
Aswayuja (September-October). The bodies and minds of people
undergo a considerable change on account of the changes in
Nature. Sri Rama is worshipped during Ramnavmi, and Mother Durga
The Saviour from all Sorrows and Dangers
The Durga Puja is celebrated in various parts of India in
different styles. But the one basic aim of this celebration is
to propitiate Shakti, the Goddess in Her aspect as Power, to
bestow upon man all wealth, auspiciousness, prosperity,
knowledge (both sacred and secular), and all other potent
powers. Whatever be the particular or special request that
everyone may put before the Goddess, whatever boon may be asked
of Her, the one thing behind all these is propitiation, worship
and linking oneself with Her. There is no other aim. This is
being effected consciously or unconsciously. Everyone is blessed
with Her loving mercy and is protected by Her.
Durga Puja or Navaratri commences on the first and ends on
the tenth day of the bright half of Aswayuja
(September-October). It is held in commemoration of the victory
of Durga over Mahishasura, the buffalo-headed demon. In Bengal
Her image is worshipped for nine days and then cast into water.
The tenth day is called Vijaya Dasami or Dussera (the “tenth
day”). Processions with Her image are taken out along the
streets of villages and cities.
The mother of Durga (that is, the wife of the King of the
Himalayas) longed to see her daughter. Durga was permitted by
Lord Shiva to visit her beloved mother only for nine days in the
year. The festival of Durga Puja marks this brief visit and ends
with the Vijaya Dasami day, when Goddess Durga leaves for Her
return to Mount Kailas. This is the view of some devotees.
In Bengal, Durga Puja is a great festival. All who live away
from home return during the Puja days. Mothers reunite with
their sons and daughters, and wives with their husbands.
The potter shows his skill in making images, the painter in
drawing pictures, the songster in playing on his instrument, and
the priest in reciting the sacred books. The Bengalis save money
throughout the year only to spend everything during the Puja
days. Cloth is freely distributed to the Brahmins.
The woman of Bengal welcomes the Goddess with a mother’s love
and sends away the image on the last day, with every ceremony
associated with a daughter’s departure to her husband’s home and
with motherly tears in her eyes. This signifies the parting of
Durga from Her beloved mother.
Durga Puja is the greatest Hindu festival in which God is
adored as Mother. Hinduism is the only religion in the world
which has emphasised to such an extent the motherhood of God.
One’s relationship with one’s mother is the dearest and the
sweetest of all human relations. Hence, it is proper to look
upon God as mother.
Durga represents the Divine Mother. She is the energy aspect
of the Lord. Without Durga, Shiva has no expression and without
Shiva, Durga has no existence. Shiva is the soul of Durga; Durga
is identical with Shiva. Lord Shiva is only the silent witness.
He is motionless, absolutely changeless. He is not affected by
the cosmic play. It is Durga who does everything.
Shakti is the omnipotent power of the Lord, or the Cosmic
Energy. The Divine Mother is represented as having ten different
weapons in Her hands. She sits on a lion. She keeps up the play
of the Lord through the three attributes of Nature, namely,
Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. Knowledge, peace, lust, anger, greed,
egoism and pride, are all Her forms.
You will find in the Devi Sukta of the Rig Veda Samhita
that Vak, symbolising speech, the daughter of the sage Anbhirna,
realised her identity with the Divine Mother, the Power of the
Supreme Lord, which manifests throughout the universe among the
gods, among men and beasts and among the creatures of the deep
In the Kena Upanishad, you will find that the Divine
Mother shed wisdom on Indra and the gods and said that the gods
were able to defeat the demons only with the help of the power
of the Supreme Lord.
The worship of Devi, the universal Mother, leads to the
attainment of knowledge of the Self. The story in the Kena
Upanishad known as the “Yaksha Prasna”, supports this view.
It tells how Uma, the Divine Mother, taught the Truth to the
gods. Goddess Shakti thus sheds wisdom on Her devotees.
The Destroyer of Demoniac Attributes
Devi worship is, therefore, worship of God’s glory, of God’s
greatness and supremacy. It is adoration of the Almighty. It is
unfortunate that Devi is ignorantly understood by many as a mere
blood-thirsty Hindu Goddess. No! Devi is not a vicious demoness
nor is She the property of the Hindus alone. Devi does not
belong to any religion. Devi is that conscious power of God. The
words Devi, Shakti, etc., and the ideas of different forms
connected with these names are concessions granted by the sages
due to the limitations of the human intellect; they are by no
means the ultimate definitions of Shakti.
The original or Adi Shakti is beyond human comprehension.
Bhagavan Krishna says in the Gita: “This is only My lower
nature. Beyond this is My higher nature, the life-principle
which sustains the universe”.
The Upanishad also says: “The supreme power of God is
manifested in various ways. This power is of the nature of God,
manifesting as knowledge, strength and activity”.
Truly speaking, all beings in the universe are
Shakti-worshippers, whether they are aware of it or not, for
there is no one who does not love and long for power in some
form or other. Physicists and scientists have now proved that
everything is pure, imperishable energy. This energy is only a
form of divine Shakti which exists in every form.
A child is more familiar with the mother than with the
father, because the mother is very kind, loving, tender and
affectionate and looks after the needs of the child. In the
spiritual field also, the aspirant or the devotee—the spiritual
child—has an intimate relationship with the Mother Durga, more
than with the Father Shiva. Therefore, it behoves the aspirant
to approach the Mother first, who then introduces Her spiritual
child to the Father for his illumination.
The Mother’s Grace is boundless. Her mercy is illimitable;
Her knowledge infinite; Her power immeasurable; Her glory
ineffable; and Her splendour indescribable. She gives you
material prosperity as well as spiritual freedom.
Approach Her with an open heart. Lay bare your heart to Her
with frankness and humility. Be as simple as a child. Kill
ruthlessly the enemies of egoism, cunningness, selfishness and
crookedness. Make a total, unreserved, and ungrudging
self-surrender to Her. Sing Her praise. Repeat Her Name. Worship
Her with faith and unflinching devotion. Perform special worship
on the Navaratri days. Navaratri is the most suitable occasion
for doing intense spiritual practices. These nine days are very
sacred to the Divine Mother. Plunge yourself in Her worship.
Practise intense repetition of the Divine Name, having a regular
“quota” of repetitions per day, and the number of hours spent on
Devi fought with Bhandasura and his forces for nine days and
nine nights. This Bhandasura had a wonderful birth and life.
When Lord Shiva burnt Cupid with the fire of His “third eye”,
Sri Ganesha playfully moulded a figure out of the ashes, and the
Lord breathed life into it! This was the terrible demon
Bhandasura. He engaged himself in great penance and on account
of it obtained a boon from Lord Shiva. With the help of that
boon, he began harassing the worlds. The Divine Mother fought
with him for nine nights (the demons have extraordinary strength
during the night), and killed him on the evening of the tenth
day, known as the Vijaya Dasami. The learning of any science is
begun on this highly auspicious day. It was on this day that
Arjuna worshipped Devi, before starting the battle against the
Kauravas on the field of Kurukshetra.
Sri Rama worshipped Durga at the time of the fight with
Ravana, to invoke Her aid in the war. This was on the days
preceding the Vijaya Dasami day. He fought and won through Her
In days of yore, kings used to undertake ambitious
expeditions on the day of the Vijaya Dasami. Those kings who did
not go on such expeditions used to go out hunting in the deep
forests. In Rajputana, India, even up to this date, people
arrange mock attacks on some fort on Vijaya Dasami.
This day, however, has much to do with the life of Sri Rama.
Nowhere in the history of the world can we find a parallel to
the character of Sri Rama as a man, son, brother, husband,
father or king. Maharishi Valmiki has exhausted the entire
language in describing the glory of Sri Rama. And, we shall be
rightly celebrating the Dussera if we make honest efforts to
destroy the demon of our ego, and radiate peace and love
wherever we go. Let us all resolve to become men of sterling
character. Let us resolve and act. The story of Sri Rama is
known in almost all parts of the globe, and if we but succeed in
following even a hundredth part of His teachings, we shall make
our lives more fragrant than the rose and more lustrous than
Dussera can also be interpreted as “Dasa-Hara”, which means
the cutting of the ten heads of Ravana. So, let us resolve today
to cut the ten heads—passion, pride, anger, greed, infatuation,
lust, hatred, jealousy, selfishness and crookedness—of the
demon, Ego, and thus justify the celebration of Dussera.
Religious observances, traditional worship and observances at
times have more than one significance. Apart from being the
adoration of the Divine, they commemorate stirring events in
history, they are allegoric when interpreted from the occult
standpoint and, lastly, they are deeply significant pointers and
revealing guides to the individual on his path to
Outwardly, the nine-day worship of Devi is a celebration of
triumph. This nine days’ celebration is offered to the Mother
for Her successful struggle with the formidable demons led by
Mahishasura. But, to the sincere spiritual aspirant, the
particular division of the Navaratri into sets of three days to
adore different aspects of the Supreme Goddess has a very
sublime, yet thoroughly practical truth to reveal. In its cosmic
aspect, it epitomises the stages of the evolution of man into
God, from Jivahood (the state of individualisation) to Shivahood
(the state of Self-realisation). In its individual import, it
shows the course that his spiritual practice should take.
Let us, therefore, examine in detail the spiritual
significance of Navaratri.
The central purpose of existence is to recognise your eternal
identity with the supreme Spirit. It is to grow into the image
of the Divine. The supreme One embodies the highest perfection.
It is spotless purity. To recognise your identity with That, to
attain union with That, is verily to grow into the very likeness
of the Divine. The aspirant, therefore, as his initial step, has
to get rid of all the countless impurities, and the demoniacal
elements that have come to cling to him in his embodied state.
Then he has to acquire lofty virtues and auspicious, divine
qualities. Thus purified, knowledge flashes upon him like the
brilliant rays of the sun upon the crystal waters of a perfectly
This process demands a resolute will, determined effort, and
arduous struggle. In other words, strength and infinite power
are the prime necessity. Thus it is the Divine Mother who has to
operate through the aspirant.
Let us now consider how, on the first three days, the Mother
is adored as supreme power and force, as Durga the Terrible. You
pray to Mother Durga to destroy all your impurities, your vices,
your defects. She is to fight with and annihilate the baser
animal qualities in the spiritual aspirant, the lower,
diabolical nature in him. Also, She is the power that protects
your spiritual practice from its many dangers and pitfalls. Thus
the first three days, which mark the first stage or the
destruction of impurity and determined effort and struggle to
root out the evil tendencies in your mind, are set apart for the
worship of the destructive aspect of the Mother.
The presiding Deity over Creation and Dissolution
Once you have accomplished your task on the negative side,
that of breaking down the impure propensities and old vicious
habits, the next step is to build up a sublime spiritual
personality, to acquire positive qualities in place of the
eliminated demoniacal qualities. The divine qualities that Lord
Krishna enumerates in the Gita, have to be acquired. The
aspirant must cultivate and develop all the auspicious
qualities. He has to earn immense spiritual wealth to enable him
to pay the price for the rare gem of divine wisdom. If this
development of the opposite qualities is not undertaken in right
earnest, the old demoniacal nature will raise its head again and
again. Hence, this stage is as important in an aspirant’s career
as the previous one. The essential difference is: the former is
a ruthless, determined annihilation of the filthy egoistic lower
self; the latter is an orderly, steady, calm and serene effort
to develop purity. This pleasanter side of the aspirant’s
Sadhana is depicted by the worship of Mother Lakshmi. She
bestows on Her devotees the inexhaustible divine wealth or Deivi
Sampath. Lakshmi is the wealth-giving aspect of God. She is
purity itself. Thus the worship of Goddess Lakshmi is performed
during the second set of three days.
Once the aspirant succeeds in routing out the evil
propensities, and develops Sattwic or pure, divine qualities, he
becomes competent to attain wisdom. He is now ready to receive
the light of supreme wisdom. He is fit to receive divine
knowledge. At this stage comes the devout worship of Mother
Saraswathi, who is divine knowledge personified, the embodiment
of knowledge of the Absolute. The sound of Her celestial veena
awakens the notes of the sublime utterances of the Upanishads
which reveal the Truth, and the sacred monosyllable, Om. She
bestows the knowledge of the supreme, mystic sound and then
gives full knowledge of the Self as represented by Her pure,
dazzling snow-white apparel. Therefore, to propitiate
Saraswathi, the giver of knowledge, is the third stage.
The tenth day, Vijaya Dasami, marks the triumphant ovation of
the soul at having attained liberation while living in this
world, through the descent of knowledge by the Grace of Goddess
Saraswathi. The soul rests in his own Supreme Self or
Satchidananda Brahman. This day celebrates the victory, the
achievement of the goal. The banner of victory flies aloft. Lo!
I am He! I am He!
This arrangement also has a special significance in the
aspirant’s spiritual evolution. It marks the indispensable
stages of evolution through which everyone has to pass. One
naturally leads to the other; to short-circuit this would
inevitably result in a miserable failure. Nowadays many ignorant
seekers aim straight at the cultivation of knowledge without the
preliminaries of purification and acquisition of the divine
qualities. They then complain that they are not progressing on
the path. How can they? Knowledge will not descend until the
impurities have been washed out, and purity is developed. How
can the pure plant grow in impure soil?
Therefore adhere to this arrangement; your efforts will be
crowned with sure success. This is your path. As you destroy one
evil quality, develop the virtue opposite to it. By this process
you will soon bring yourself up to that perfection which will
culminate in identity with the Self which is your goal. Then all
knowledge will be yours: you will be omniscient, omnipotent and
you will feel your omnipresence. You will see your Self in all.
You will have achieved eternal victory over the wheel of births
and deaths, over the demon of worldliness. No more pain, no more
misery, no more birth, no more death! Victory, victory be yours!
Glory to the Divine Mother! Let Her take you, step by step to
the top of the spiritual ladder and unite you with the Lord!
At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the following are the
regular features during the Durga Puja celebrations:
1. A special ritualistic worship of the Mother is conducted
daily, which includes the recitation of the Durga Saptashati.
2. Laksharchana for the Mother in the temple, with recitation
of the Sri Lalita Sahasranama, is also conducted.
3. All are exhorted to do the maximum number of Japa of the
Navarna Mantra, Aim hreem kleem chaamundaayai vichche, or
the Mantra of their own tutelary Deity.
4. An elaborately decorated altar is set up for the evening
Satsangs, with the picture of Mother Durga for the first three
days, Mother Lakshmi for the next three days, and Mother
Saraswathi for the last three days. Many sacred verses from the
scriptures are recited and many Kirtans are sung. The Durga
Saptashati or the Devi Mahatmya is recited and
explained in discourses. The function concludes with the formal
floral worship and Arati. Sometimes scenes from the Devi
Mahatmya are also enacted.
5. Earnest spiritual aspirants fast with milk and fruits only
on all the nine days, or at least once in each of the three
6. Besides the books representing Saraswathi, all instruments
and implements like typewriters, printing machinery, etc., are
also worshipped on the ninth day.
7. On the Vijaya Dasami day, all aspirants en masse
are given initiation into various Mantras according to their
tutelary Deities. Deserving aspirants are initiated into the
holy order of Sannyas. Initiation in the study of the alphabets
is given to young children, and to the old children also! New
students commence their lessons in music, etc. During the
morning Satsang the books which were worshipped on the ninth day
are again worshipped and a chapter from each of the principal
scriptures like the Gita, Upanishads, Brahma Sutras,
Ramayana, and Srimad Bhagavatam is recited.
8. On the Vijaya Dasami day, there is Kanya Puja also. Nine
girls below the age of ten are worshipped as the embodiment of
the Divine Mother. They are fed sumptuously and, amongst other
things, presented with new clothes.
9. On this last day a grand havan is conducted in the
temple, with recitation of the Durga Saptashati and other
verses in praise of the Divine Mother.
Gayatri Japa Day
TO BRING to one’s mind repeatedly the inspiring lives of
great personalities, the wise men of all the ancient religions
had set apart particular days in the year, as specially sacred
and auspicious on their account. On these days, nations and
races glorify these lofty personalities, they re-live the spirit
of the great events to perpetuate the memory of these great men.
Thus we find that the calendar of the Hindus is marked by
birthdays of divine incarnations, saints and sages, the Gita
Jayanthi, Guru Purnima, Shivaratri, Vaikunta Ekadashi, and many
more auspicious occasions. The Gayatri Japa Day is one such very
holy and glorious day intended to remind all of the greatest and
most glorious of all Mantras, the sacred Gayatri Mantra.
The Gayatri is the life and support of every true Hindu. It
is the impregnable spiritual armour, the veritable fortress,
that guards and protects its votary. In fact, that is the very
meaning of the word Gayatri—”that which protects one who sings
The Gayatri is the divine power that transforms the human
into the Divine and blesses man with the brilliant light of the
highest spiritual illumination. Whoever may be one’s favourite
Deity, the regular repetition of a few malas (rosary of a
hundred and eight beads) of Gayatri Japa every day will shower
upon one incalculable benefits and blessings. It is universally
applicable, being purely an earnest prayer for light addressed
to the Almighty Supreme Spirit. The Para Brahma Gayatri Mantra
is the most important of all Mantras. For every Brahmin of any
creed or order of life, this has been prescribed as being the
sole transcendental guiding light. The Brahmachari or celibate,
the Grihastha or householder, and the Vanaprastha or one who is
retired, must repeat this Mantra every day; the Sannyasin or
renunciate is asked to repeat Om instead of this Mantra.
The nature of the Gayatri Mantra is such that you can repeat
it while meditating on any form you like. It is generally
conceived of as a female Deity by the majority of devotees. One
who worships God as Mother adheres to this belief. But, in its
true light, the Gayatri never speaks of a female at all. You
cannot find a single word in the entire Gayatri Mantra, which
speaks of a female. The feminine form of the word “Gayatri”
cannot make its Deity a female. It is only the name of its metre
and not the Deity.
Some people think that the Gayatri Mantra is presided over by
the sun. In fact, even this idea is to be modified a little. The
sun that it speaks of is not that which shines over this earth
before our physical eyes, but tat savituh or “that Sun”,
the great Sun which this sun or moon does not illumine, and
which is the impersonal, absolute Brahman.
Therefore, this is the greatest of all Mantras as its
presiding Deity is none other than Para Brahman Himself. Hence,
why hanker after other Mantras? The Gayatri itself is the
crest-jewel or the king of all Mantras. It is the most powerful
of all Mantras. Na gayatryah paro mantrah—”There is no
Mantra greater than the Gayatri”.
Each word, each letter of the Gayatri bears on its head the
highest Vedantic concept of the absolute, supreme Truth. Do Japa
of the Gayatri—it will give you the most excellent fruit, the
fruit of immortality! The Mantra is as follows:
Om bhur bhuvah svah
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dheemahi
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat.
Om: symbol of Para Brahman.
Bhuh: Bhu Loka or the physical plane.
Bhuvah: the astral plane.
Svah: the celestial plane.
Tat: That; the transcendental Paramatma; God.
Savituh: the Creator.
Varenyam: fit to be worshipped.
Bhargah: remover of sins and ignorance; glory,
Devasya: resplendent, shining.
Dheemahi: we meditate.
Dhiyah: the intellect, understanding.
Prachodayaat: enlighten, guide, impel.
MEANING: “We meditate on the glory of the Creator who has
created the universe, who is fit to be worshipped, who is the
embodiment of knowledge and light, who is the remover of all
sins and ignorance. May He enlighten our intellect!”
Herein there are five parts: Om is the first part; Bhur
bhuvah svah is the second; Tat savitur varenyam is
the third; Bhargo devasya dheemahi is the fourth; and
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat is the last. While chanting the
Mantra you should pause after every part.
This rare and most precious divine treasure of the Gayatri
Mantra is neglected by the youth of the present day. This is a
very serious lapse indeed. Open your eyes now on this sacred day
and start in right earnest the Japa of the Gayatri. Repeat it at
least 108 times (1,008 is better!) on the Gayatri Japa day. Then
continue it (at least 108 times daily) without missing even a
May the whole world be made Gayatri-conscious through the
inspiration of the auspicious Gayatri Japa Day! May you all be
thrice blessed by taking the vow of daily Gayatri Japa right
from this very moment! May you realise the inner Truth of the
Gayatri Japa is observed on the day after the Raksha Bandhan
or Avani Avittam (July-August).
THE FULL moon day in the month of Ashad (July-August) is an
extremely auspicious and holy day of Guru Purnima. On this day,
sacred to the memory of the great sage, Bhagavan Sri Vyasa,
Sannyasins settle at some place to study and discourse on the
thrice-blessed Brahma Sutras composed by Maharishi Vyasa,
and engage themselves in Vedantic, philosophical investigation.
Sri Vyasa has done unforgettable service to humanity for all
times by editing the four Vedas, writing the eighteen
Puranas, the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavata.
We can only repay the deep debt of gratitude we owe him, by
constant study of his works and practice of his teachings
imparted for the regeneration of humanity in this iron age. In
honour of this divine personage, all spiritual aspirants and
devotees perform Vyasa Puja on this day, and disciples worship
their spiritual preceptor. Saints, monks and men of God are
honoured and entertained with acts of charity by all the
householders with deep faith and sincerity. The period Chaturmas
(the “four months”) begins from this day; Sannyasins stay at one
place during the ensuing four rainy months, engaging in the
study of the Brahma Sutras and the practice of
Mark fully the deep significance of this great day. It
heralds the setting in of the eagerly awaited rains. The water
drawn up and stored as clouds in the hot summer now manifests in
plentiful showers that usher in the advent of fresh life
everywhere. Even so, all begin seriously to put into actual
practice all the theory and philosophy that have been stored up
in them through patient study. Aspirants commence or resolve to
intensify with all earnestness, their practical spiritual
Sadhana right from this day.
Generate fresh waves of spirituality. Let all that you have
read, heard, seen and learnt become transformed, through
Sadhana, into a continuous outpouring of universal love,
ceaseless loving service, and continuous prayer and worship of
the Lord seated in all beings.
Live on milk and fruit on this day and practise rigorous Japa
and meditation. Study the Brahma Sutras and do Japa of
your Guru Mantra, during the four months following the Guru
Purnima. You will be highly benefited.
The day of worship of one’s preceptor, is a day of pure joy
to the sincere spiritual aspirant. Thrilled by the expectation
of offering his reverent homage to the beloved Guru, aspirants
await this occasion with eagerness and devotion. It is the Guru
alone that breaks the binding cords of attachment and releases
the aspirant from the trammels of earthly existence.
The Srutis say: “To that high-souled aspirant, whose
devotion to the Lord is great and whose devotion to his Guru is
as great as that to the Lord, the secrets explained herein
become illuminated”. Guru is Brahman, the Absolute, or God
Himself. He guides and inspires you from the innermost core of
your being. He is everywhere.
Have a new angle of vision. Behold the entire universe as the
form of the Guru. See the guiding hand, the awakening voice, the
illuminating touch of the Guru in every object in this creation.
The whole world will now stand transformed before your changed
vision. The world as Guru will reveal all the precious secrets
of life to you, and bestow wisdom upon you. The supreme Guru, as
manifested in visible nature, will teach you the most valuable
lessons of life.
Worship daily this Guru of Gurus, the Guru who taught even
the Avadhuta Dattatreya. Dattatreya, regarded as God and the
Guru of Gurus, considered Nature Herself as His Guru, and learnt
a number of lessons from Her twenty-four creatures, and hence he
is said to have had twenty-four Gurus. The silent, all-enduring
earth with its lofty forbearance, the shady fruit-bearing tree
with its willing self-sacrifice, the mighty banyan tree reposing
with patience in the tiny seed, the drops of rain whose
persistence wears away even the rocks, the planets and the
seasons with their orderly punctuality and regularity were all
divine Gurus to him. They who will look and listen, will learn.
Become a personification of receptivity. Empty yourself of
your petty ego. All the treasures locked up in the bosom of
Nature will become yours. You will progress and attain
perfection in an amazingly short time. Become pure and
unattached as the mountain breeze. As the river flows
continuously, steadily and constantly towards its goal, the
ocean, so also let your life flow ceaselessly towards the
supreme state of absolute Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, by letting
all your thoughts, all your words and all your actions be
directed only towards the goal.
The moon shines by reflecting the dazzling light of the sun.
It is the full moon on the Purnima day that reflects in full
splendour the glorious light of the sun. It glorifies the sun.
Purify yourself through the fire of selfless service and
Sadhana, and like the full moon, reflect the glorious light of
the Self. Become the full reflectors of Brahmic splendour, the
light of lights. Make this your goal: “I will be a living
witness to divinity, the brilliant Sun of suns!”
The Supreme Self alone is real. He is the Soul of all. He is
all-in-all. He is the essence of this universe. He is the unity
that never admits of a duality under all the varieties and
diversities of nature. Thou art this immortal, all-pervading,
all-blissful Self. Thou art That! Realise this and be free.
Remember these four important lines of the Brahma Sutras:
1. Athatho brahma jijnasaa—Now, therefore, the enquiry
2. Janmasya yathah—From which proceed the origin, etc.
3. Sastra yonitwat—The scriptures are the means of
4. Tat tu samanvayat—For, That is the main support (of
Jaya Guru Shiva Guru Hari Guru Ram;
Jagad Guru Param Guru Sat Guru Shyam.
It is through the medium of the preceptor that the individual
can raise himself to Cosmic-Consciousness. It is through that
medium that the imperfect can become perfect, the finite can
become infinite and the mortal can pass into the eternal life of
blessedness. The Guru is verily a link between the individual
and the Immortal. He is a being who has raised himself from
this to That and thus has a free and unhampered
access to both realms. He stands, as it were, upon the threshold
of immortality, and, bending down, he raises the struggling
individuals with his one hand, and with the other, lifts them up
into the kingdom of everlasting joy and infinite
Do you realise now the sacred significance and the supreme
importance of the Guru’s role in the evolution of man? It was
not without reason that the India of the past carefully tended
and kept alive the lamp of Guru-Tattva. It is therefore not
without reason that India, year after year, age after age,
commemorates anew this ancient concept of the Guru, adores it
and pays homage to it again and again, and thereby re-affirms
its belief and allegiance to it. For, the true Indian knows that
the Guru is the only guarantee for the individual to transcend
the bondage of sorrow and death, and experience the
Consciousness of the Reality.
Give up the delusive notion that to submit to the preceptor,
to obey him and to carry out his instructions, is slavish
mentality. Only the ignorant man thinks that it is beneath his
dignity and against his freedom to submit to another man’s
command. This is a grave blunder. If you reflect carefully, you
will see that your individual freedom is in reality an absolute
abject slavery to your own ego and vanity. It is the vagary of
the sensual mind. He who attains victory over the mind and the
ego is the truly free man. He is the hero. It is to attain this
victory that a man submits to the higher, spiritualised
personality of the Guru. By this submission he vanquishes his
lower ego and realises the bliss and freedom of the infinite
To strengthen and affirm the faith of the wavering man and to
guarantee the attitude that is necessary for the fruition of all
worship, the ancients have deified the personality of the Guru.
To adore the Guru is indeed to adore the Supreme. In this world
of mortality, the Guru is verily like an ambassador in an alien
court. Just as an ambassador represents fully the nation to
which he belongs, even so, the Guru is one who is the
representative of the sublime transcendental state which he has
attained. Just as to honour the ambassador is to honour the
nation that he hails from, even so to worship and to offer
adoration to the visible Guru is verily the direct worship and
adoration of the Supreme Reality. Even as a distant tree though
it cannot be seen is nevertheless known by the fragrance its
fully-bloomed flowers waft far and wide, so also, the Guru is
the divine flower who disseminates the Atmic aroma of divinity
in this world, and thus proclaims the immortal Lord who is
invisible to the physical eye. He is the standing witness to the
Supreme Self, the counterpart of the Lord on earth, and through
worship of him one attains the Self.
Remember and adore Sri Vyasa and the Gurus who are fully
established in knowledge of the Self. May their blessings be
upon you! May you cut asunder the knot of ignorance and shine as
blessed sages shedding peace, joy and light everywhere!
At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the Guru Purnima is
celebrated every year on a grand scale. Many devotees and
aspirants come from all parts of the country.
1. All aspirants awake at Brahmamuhurta, at 4 o’clock. They
meditate on the Guru and chant his prayers.
2. Later in the day, the sacred worship of the Guru’s Feet is
performed. Of this worship it is said in the Guru Gita:
Dhyaana moolam guror murtih;
Pooja moolam guror padam;
Mantra moolam guror vakyam;
Moksha moolam guror kripa
“The Guru’s form should be meditated upon; the feet of the
Guru should be worshipped; his words are to be treated as a
sacred Mantra; his Grace ensures final liberation”.
3. Sadhus and Sannyasins are then worshipped and fed at noon.
4. There is continuous Satsang during which discourses are
held on the glory of devotion to the Guru in particular, and on
spiritual topics in general.
5. Deserving aspirants are initiated into the Holy Order of
Sannyas, as this is a highly auspicious occasion.
6. Devout disciples fast and spend the whole day in prayer.
They also take fresh resolves for spiritual progress.
Wake up at Brahmamuhurta (at 4 a.m.) on this most holy day.
Meditate on the lotus feet of your Guru. Mentally pray to him
for his Grace, through which alone you can attain
Self-realisation. Do vigorous Japa and meditate in the early
After bath, worship the lotus feet of your Guru, or his image
or picture with flowers, fruits, incense and camphor.
Fast or take only milk and fruits the whole day.
In the afternoon, sit with other devotees of your Guru and
discuss with them the glories and teachings of your Guru.
Alternatively, you may observe the vow of silence and study
the books or writings of your Guru, or mentally reflect upon his
Take fresh resolves on this holy day, to tread the spiritual
path in accordance with the precepts of your Guru.
At night, assemble again with other devotees, and sing the
Names of the Lord and the glories of your Guru.
The best form of worship of the Guru is to follow his
teachings, to shine as the very embodiment of his teachings, and
to propagate his glory and his message.
IN DAYS of yore, there were communities of cannibals in
India. They caused much havoc. They threatened the lives of many
innocent people. One of them was Holika or Putana. She took
immense delight in devouring children. Sri Krishna destroyed her
and thus saved the little children. Even today, the effigy or
figure of Holika is burnt in the fire. In South India, the clay
figure of Cupid is burnt. This is the origin of the great
festival of Holi.
It begins about ten days before the full moon of the month
Phalgun (February-March), but is usually only observed for the
last three or four days, terminating with the full moon. This is
the spring festival of the Hindus. In the spring season all the
trees are filled with sweet-smelling flowers. They all proclaim
the glory and everlasting beauty of God. They inspire you with
hope, joy and a new life, and stir you on to find out the
creator and the Indweller, who is hiding Himself in these forms.
Holi is known by the name of Kamadahana in South India, the
day on which Cupid was burnt by Lord Siva.
Another legend has it that once upon a time an old woman’s
grandchild was to be sacrificed to a female demon named Holika.
A Sadhu advised that abuse and foul language would subdue
Holika. The old woman collected many children and made them
abuse Holika in foul language. The demon fell dead on the
ground. The children then made a bonfire of her remains.
Connected to this legend of the demon Holika is Bhakta
Prahlad’s devotion to Lord Narayana, and his subsequent escape
from death at the hands of Holika. Prahlad’s father,
Hiranyakashipu, punished him in a variety of ways to change his
devotional mind and make him worldly-minded. He failed in his
attempts. At last he ordered his sister, Holika, who had a boon
to remain unburnt even in fire, to take Prahlad on her lap and
enter into the blazing flames. Holika did so. She vanished, but
Prahlad remained untouched and laughing. He was not affected by
the fire on account of the Grace of Lord Narayana.
This same scene is enacted every year to remind people that
those who love God shall be saved, and they that torture the
devotee of God shall be reduced to ashes. When Holika was burnt,
people abused her and sang the glories of the Lord and of His
great devotee, Prahlad. In imitation of that, people even today
use abusive language, but unfortunately forget to sing the
praises of the Lord and His devotee!
In North India, people play joyfully with coloured water. The
uncle sprinkles coloured water on his nephew. The niece applies
coloured powder on her aunt’s face. Brothers and sisters and
cousins play with one another.
Huge bundles of wood are gathered and burnt at night, and
everywhere one hears shouts of “Holi-ho! Holi-ho!” People stand
in the streets and sprinkle coloured water on any man who passes
by, be he a rich man or an officer. There is no restriction on
this day. It is like the April Fool’s Day of the Europeans.
People compose and sing special Holi songs.
On the festival day, people clean their homes, remove all
dirty articles from around the house and burn them.
Disease-breeding bacteria are thereby destroyed. The sanitary
condition of the locality is improved. During the festival, boys
dance about in the streets. People play practical jokes with
passers-by. A bonfire is lit towards the conclusion of the
festival. Games representing the frolics of the young Krishna
take place joyously around a fire.
On the last day of Holi, people take a little fire from this
bonfire to their homes. They believe that their homes will be
rendered pure, and their bodies free from disease.
Nowadays, people are found indulging in all sorts of vices in
the name of the Holi festival. Some drink intoxicating liquor
like toddy and fall unconscious on the roads. They indulge in
obscene speech as a result of drinking. They lose respect for
their elders and masters. They waste their money in drink and
dice-play. These evils should be totally eradicated.
Festivals like Holi have their own spiritual value. Apart
from the various amusements, they create faith in God if
properly observed. Hindu festivals always have a spiritual
significance. They wean man away from sensual pleasures and take
him gradually to the spiritual path and divine communion. People
perform havan and offer the new grains that are harvested
to the gods before using them.
There should be worship of God, religious gatherings and
Kirtan of the Lord’s Names on such occasions, not merely the
sprinkling of coloured water and lighting of bonfires. These
functions are to be considered most sacred and spent in
devotional prayers, visiting holy places, bathing in sacred
waters, and Satsang with great souls. Abundant charity should be
done to the poor. Then only can Holi be said to have been
properly celebrated. The devotees of the Lord should remember
the delightful pastimes of the Lord on such happy occasions.
All great Hindu festivals have religious, social and hygienic
elements in them. Holi is no exception. Every season has a
festival of its own. Holi is the great spring festival of India.
Being an agricultural country, India’s two big festivals come
during the harvest time when the barns and granaries of our
farmers are full and they have reason to enjoy the fruits of
their hard labour. The harvest season is a festive season all
over the world.
Man wants relaxation and change after hard work. He needs to
be cheered when he is depressed on account of work and
anxieties. Festivals like Holi supply him with the real food and
tonic to restore his cheer and peace of mind.
The religious element in the Holi festival consists of
worship of Krishna. In some places it is also called the Dol
Yatra. The word dol literally means “a swing”. An image
of Sri Krishna as a babe is placed in a little swing-cradle and
decorated with flowers and painted with coloured powders. The
pure, innocent frolics of little Krishna with the merry
milkmaids (Gopis) of Brindavan are commemorated. Devotees chant
the Name of Krishna and sing Holi-songs relating to the frolics
of little Krishna with the Gopis.
The social element during Holi is the uniting or “embracing”
of the great and the small, of the rich and the poor. It is also
the uniting of equals. The festival teaches us to “let the dead
bury the dead”. We should forget the outgoing year’s
ill-feelings and begin the new year with feelings of love,
sympathy, co-operation and equality with all. We should try to
feel this oneness or unity with the Self also.
Holi also means “sacrifice”. Burn all the impurities of the
mind, such as egoism, vanity and lust, through the fire of
devotion and knowledge. Ignite cosmic love, mercy, generosity,
selflessness, truthfulness and purity through the fire of Yogic
practice. This is the real spirit of Holi. Rise from the mire of
stupidity and absurdity and dive deep into the ocean of
The call of Holi is to always keep ablaze the light of
God-love shining in your heart. Inner illumination is the real
Holi. The spring season is the manifestation of the Lord,
according to the Bhagavad Gita. Holi is said there to be
ON THE full moon day of the month of Kartigai
(November-December) which falls on the ascension of the Kritigai
star, the Hindus celebrate the Kartigai Deepam. It is on this
day that the huge beacon is lit on the holy hill Arunachala, in
Once Lord Shiva assumed the form of a hill at Tiruvannamalai
in South India. Here He quelled the pride of Brahma and Vishnu
who were quarelling as to their relative greatness. One day,
when Lord Shiva was in meditation, Parvati left Him and went to
the hill of Arunachala. There She performed penance. She was the
guest of the sage Gautama. It was during Her penance here that
Mahishasura was killed by Durga hidden by Parvati. Parvati saw
Shiva as Arunachalesvara. She was taken back by the Lord to His
side, and made His Ardhangini once more, that is, She occupied
half of the body of the Lord.
Arunachalesvara is Tejo Lingam. Arunachala or the
Tiruvannamalai Hill is the place that represents the fire
element. (The five elements are represented by five holy places
When the light on the top of the Tiruvannamalai Hill is
unveiled on the Kartigai Deepam day, people see the big light
and worship it. They recite again and again in a loud voice
“Harohara”. The esoteric meaning is that he who sees the light
of lights that is burning eternally in the chambers of his heart
through constant meditation attains immortality. The light on
the Arunachala brings the message to you that the Self or Lord
Shiva is self-effulgent, He is the light of lights.
On the Kartigai Deepam day in South India, people make
bonfires in front of temples in the evening. It is said that
Lord Shiva burnt the chariots of several demons who were
torturing sages and celestials. This bonfire symbolises this
People place rows of earthen lamps in front of their houses
on the evening of Kartigai Deepam and worship the Lord. They
also light a variety of fireworks.
Annihilate the three impurities, namely, egoism, selfish
action and delusion. Burn the mind, senses and the desires in
the fire of knowledge of the Self or Shiva-Jnanam. Attain full
illumination and behold the light of lights, which illumines the
mind, intellect, sun, moon, stars, lightning and the fire. This
is real Kartigai Deepam.
May the light of lights illumine you all! May Lord Shiva
bless you with more light! May you merge in this supreme light
and attain the eternal abode of bliss and immortality!
SALUTATIONS and adorations to the Supreme Lord, the
primordial power that divided the year into the four seasons.
Salutations to Surya, the Sun-God, who on this great day embarks
on his northward journey.
The Sanskrit term “Shankramana” means “to begin to move”. The
day on which the sun begins to move northwards is called Makara
Shankranti. It usually falls in the middle of January.
Among the Tamilians in South India this festival is called
To many people, especially the Tamilians, Makara Shankranti
ushers in the New Year. The corn that is newly-harvested is
cooked for the first time on that day. Joyous festivities mark
the celebration in every home. Servants, farmers and the poor
are fed and clothed and given presents of money. On the next
day, the cow, which is regarded as the symbol of the Holy
Mother, is worshipped. Then there is the feeding of birds and
In this manner the devotee’s heart expands slowly during the
course of the celebrations, first embracing with its long arms
of love the entire household and neighbours, then the servants
and the poor, then the cow, and then all other living creatures.
Without even being aware of it, one develops the heart and
expands it to such proportions that the whole universe finds a
place in it.
As Shankranti is also the beginning of the month, Brahmins
offer oblations to departed ancestors. Thus, all the great
sacrifices enjoined upon man find their due place in this grand
celebration. The worship of the Cosmic Form of the Lord is so
well introduced into this, that every man and woman in India is
delightfully led to partake of it without even being aware of
To the spiritual aspirants this day has a special
significance. The six-month period during which the sun travels
northwards is highly favourable to them in their march towards
the goal of life. It is as though they are flowing easily with
the current towards the Lord. Paramahamsa Sannyasins roam about
freely during this period, dispelling gloom from the hearts of
all. The Devas and Rishis rejoice at the advent of the new
season, and readily come to the aid of the aspirant.
The great Bhishma, the grandfather of the Pandavas, was
fatally wounded during the war of the Mahabharata, waited on his
deathbed of nails for the onset of this season before finally
departing from the earth-plane. Let us on this great day pay our
homage to him and strive to become men of firm resolve
As already mentioned, this is the Pongal festival in South
India. It is closely connected with agriculture. To the
agriculturalist, it is a day of triumph. He would have by then
brought home the fruits of his patient toil. Symbolically, the
first harvest is offered to the Almighty—and that is Pongal. To
toil was his task, his duty, but the fruit is now offered to
Him—that is the spirit of Karma Yoga.
The master is not allowed to grab all the harvest for himself
either. Pongal is the festival during which the landlord
distributes food, clothes and money among the labourers who work
for him. What a noble act!—It is an ideal you should constantly
keep before you, not only ceremoniously on the Pongal day, but
at all times.
Be charitable. Be generous. Treat your servants as your
bosom-friends and brother workers. This is the keynote of the
Pongal festival. You will then earn their loyalty and enduring
The day prior to the Makara Shankranti is called the Bhogi
festival. On this day, old, worn-out and dirty things are
discarded and burnt. Homes are cleaned and white-washed. Even
the roads are swept clean and lovely designs are drawn with
rice-flour. These practices have their own significance from the
point of view of health. But, here I remind you that it will not
do to attend to these external things alone. Cleaning the mind
of its old dirty habits of thought and feeling is more urgently
needed. Burn them up, with a wise and firm resolve to tread the
path of truth, love and purity from this holy day onwards. This
is the significance of Pongal in the life of the spiritual
If you do this, then the Makara Shankranti has a special
significance for you. The sun, symbolising wisdom, divine
knowledge and spiritual light, which receded from you when you
revelled in the darkness of ignorance, delusion and sensuality,
now joyously turns on its northward course and moves towards you
to shed its light and warmth in greater abundance, and to infuse
into you more life and energy.
In fact, the sun itself symbolises all that the Pongal
festival stands for. The message of the sun is the message of
light, the message of unity, of impartiality, of true
selflessness, of the perfection of the elements of Karma Yoga.
The sun shines on all equally. It is the true benefactor of all
beings. Without the sun, life would perish on earth. It is
extremely regular and punctual in its duties, and never claims a
reward or craves for recognition. If you imbibe these virtues of
the sun, what doubt is there that you will shine with equal
He who dwells in the sun, whom the sun does not know, whose
body the sun is, and by whose power the sun shines—He is the
Supreme Self, the Indweller, the immortal Essence. Tat Twam
Asi—“That thou art”. Realise this and be free here and now
on this holy Pongal or Makara Shankranti day. This is my humble
Pongal prayer to you all.
On the Shankranti day, sweets, puddings and sweet rice are
prepared in every home, especially in South India. The pot in
which the rice is cooked is beautifully adorned with tumeric
leaves and roots, the symbols of auspiciousness. The cooking is
done by the women of the household with great faith and
devotion, feeling from the bottom of their hearts that it is an
offering unto the Lord. When the milk in which the rice is being
cooked boils over, the ladies and the children assemble round
the pot and shout “Pongalo Pongal!” with great joy and devotion.
Special prayers are offered in temples and houses. Then the
people of the household gather together and partake of the
offerings in an atmosphere of love and festivity.
There is family re-union in all homes. Brothers renew their
contacts with their married sisters by giving them presents.
The farmer is lovingly greeted by the landlord and is given
presents of grain, clothes and money.
On the next day, the herds of cows are adorned beautifully,
fed and worshipped. In some villages the youth demonstrate their
valour by taking “the bull by the horn” (and often win their
brides thereby!). It is a great day for the cattle.
On the same day, young girls prepare various special
dishes—sweet rice, sour rice, rice with coconut—and take them to
the bank of a river or tank. They lay some leaves on the ground
and place on them balls of the various preparations for the
fish, birds, and other creatures. It is an extremely colourful
ceremony. The crows come down in large numbers and partake of
the food. All the time a valuable lesson is driven into our
minds—“Share what you have with all”. The crow will call others
before beginning to eat.
Both these days, which are family re-union days, are regarded
as being inauspicious for travel. This is to prevent us from
going away from home on those days.
When you celebrate the Shankranti or Pongal in this manner,
your sense of value changes. You begin to understand that your
real wealth is the goodwill and friendship of your relatives,
friends, neighbours and servants; that your wealth is the land
on which your food grows, the cattle which help you in
agriculture, and the cow which gives you milk. You begin to have
greater love and respect for them and for all living beings—the
crows, the fish and all other creatures.
In Maharashtra and in North India, spiritual aspirants attach
much importance to Makara Shankranti. It is the season chosen by
the Guru for bestowing his Grace on the disciple. In the South,
too, it should be noted that it was about this time that
Mahadeva favoured several of the Rishis by blessing them with
His beatific vision.
RAKSHA BANDHAN is called Avani Avittam in South India. This
falls on the full moon day of the month of Sravan
(August-September). It is an important Hindu festival. Hindus
wear a new holy thread and offer libations of water to the
ancient Rishis on this day.
Recitation of the Vedas on this great day is highly
beneficial. This festival is also known as Upakarmam, and is
specially sacred to the Brahmins, who have been invested with
the sacred thread. When the Brahmin boy is invested with this
holy thread, symbolically his third eye, or the eye of wisdom,
is opened. This festival of Upakarmam reminds the wearer of the
sacred thread of its glorious spiritual significance. Brahmins
also offer libations of water to their ancestors to whom they
owe their birth and to the great Rishis to whom they are highly
indebted for their spiritual knowledge and the Vedas
themselves. The true Hindu never forgets his benefactors!
The followers of the four different Vedas have their
Upakarmam on different days.
On this day, Sachi, the consort of Indra, tied a holy thread
or amulet around the wrist of Indra, when he was defeated by the
demons. Then Indra, the king of gods, gained victory over the
demons by the power of this protection (Raksha means
“protection”) and recovered the lost city of Amaravati.
In North India, on this day, an amulet known as a Raksha or
Rakhi, is tied round the wrist of brothers by the sisters as a
protection from evil during the coming year. Brahmins and
Purohits similarly tie amulets round the wrists of their patrons
and receive gifts. A Mantra is recited when the Rakhi or the
silken thread is tied. The silken thread is charged with the
power of the Mantra, which is as follows:
Yena baddho balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah;
Tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshey maa chala maa chala.
“I am tying on your hand this Raksha, with which the most
powerful and generous King Bali himself was bound; O Raksha,
don’t go away; don’t go away.”
The power of this Mantra protects the wearer from evil
This falls on the 7th day of the bright fortnight of the
month of Margaseersha (December-January). People worship the sun
in the early morning and recite the Surya Sahasranama.
Good actions done on this day give manifold results. Brahmins
become celestials if they fast on this day and worship God;
Kshatriyas, that is, people of the warrior caste, become
Brahmins; Vaishyas, the merchants, become Kshatriyas: and Sudras
or men of the servant caste, become Vaishyas. If women fast on
this day, they attain knowledge and derive virtues. If widows
fast on this day, they get rid of widowhood from the next birth
onwards. Even the sin of slaying a Brahmin is expiated by the
power of fasting on this day. He who takes a bath at the time of
sunrise is purified like Mother Ganges. He can never become a
Fast on this day. Observe the vow of silence. Remain in a
solitary place. Do Japa. Practise intense meditation with faith
and devotion. You are sure to attain God-realisation on this
Telugu New Year’s Day
THIS FALLS on the first day of the month of Chaitra
(March-April) according to Chandramana. This is a day of
rejoicing. This is new year’s day for the people of Andhra
Pradesh and also the Telugu people all over the world.
Those who live north of the Vindhya hills observe
Barhaspatyamana. Those living south of the Vindhya hills observe
Sauramana or Chandramana.
There is a peculiarity about the practices of the various
sects of Brahmins; one who is not conversant with them finds it
difficult to understand their meaning. Even though they are all
Brahmins, certain differences in their lineage may be traced
among them. These become manifest in their distinctive calendars
where the dates and months vary. Some have calculations
according to the solar system, and others according to the lunar
system, with the result that despite all being Brahmins, the New
Year differs among different sects. Thus there is a Telugu New
Year’s Day; a Tamil New Year’s Day, and a New Year’s Day
distinct from these in the almanac of North India.
THE DIVINE MOTHER or Devi is worshipped during the Vasanta
Navaratri. This occurs during the spring. She is worshipped by
Her own command. You will find this in the following episode in
the Devi Bhagavata.
In days long gone by, King Dhruvasindu was killed by a lion
when he went out hunting. Preparations were made to crown the
prince Sudarsana. But, King Yudhajit of Ujjain, the father of
Queen Lilavati, and King Virasena of Kalinga, the father of
Queen Manorama, were each desirous of securing the Kosala throne
for their respective grandsons. They fought with each other.
King Virasena was killed in the battle. Manorama fled to the
forest with Prince Sudarsana and a eunuch. They took refuge in
the hermitage of Rishi Bharadwaja.
The victor, King Yudhajit, thereupon crowned his grandson,
Satrujit, at Ayodhya, the capital of Kosala. He then went out in
search of Manorama and her son. The Rishi said that he would not
give up those who had sought protection under him. Yudhajit
became furious. He wanted to attack the Rishi. But, his minister
told him about the truth of the Rishi’s statement. Yudhajit
returned to his capital.
Fortune smiled on Prince Sudarsana. A hermit’s son came one
day and called the eunuch by his Sanskrit name Kleeba. The
prince caught the first syllable Kli and began to
pronounce it as Kleem. This syllable happened to be a
powerful, sacred Mantra. It is the Bija Akshara (root syllable)
of the Divine Mother. The Prince obtained peace of mind and the
Grace of the Divine Mother by the repeated utterance of this
syllable. Devi appeared to him, blessed him and granted him
divine weapons and an inexhaustible quiver.
The emissaries of the king of Benares passed through the
Ashram of the Rishi and, when they saw the noble prince
Sudarsana, they recommended him to Princess Sashikala, the
daughter of the king of Benares.
The ceremony at which the princess was to choose her spouse
was arranged. Sashikala at once chose Sudarsana. They were duly
wedded. King Yudhajit, who had been present at the function,
began to fight with the king of Benares. Devi helped Sudarsana
and his father-in-law. Yudhajit mocked Her, upon which Devi
promptly reduced Yudhajit and his army to ashes.
Thus Sudarsana, with his wife and his father-in-law, praised
Devi. She was highly pleased and ordered them to perform Her
worship with havan and other means during the Vasanta
Navaratri. Then She disappeared.
Prince Sudarsana and Sashikala returned to the Ashram of
Rishi Bharadwaja. The great Rishi blessed them and crowned
Sudarsana as the king of Kosala. Sudarsana and Sashikala and the
king of Benares implicitly carried out the commands of the
Divine Mother and performed worship in a splendid manner during
the Vasanta Navaratri.
Sudarsana’s descendants, namely, Sri Rama and Lakshmana, also
performed worship of Devi during the Vasanta Navaratri and were
blessed with Her assistance in the recovery of Sita.
It is the devout Hindu’s duty to perform the worship of Devi
for both material and spiritual welfare during the Vasanta
Navaratri and follow the noble example set by Sudarsana and Sri
Rama. He cannot achieve anything without the Divine Mother’s
blessings. So, sing Her praise and repeat Her Mantra and Name.
Meditate on Her form. Do worship. Pray and obtain Her eternal
Grace and blessings. May the Divine Mother bless you with all
This is an important bathing day. All Hindus observe it. It
is also known as Magh Sukla Panchami as it falls in the month of
Magh (January-February). This is the festival that marks the
first day of spring.
Vasanta means the spring season, which is very congenial for
doing vigorous Yoga Sadhana.
Men, women and girls wear yellow cloth. The yellow colour is
a sign of auspiciousness and spirituality. It represents the
ripening of the spring crops. Even the food is coloured yellow
by using saffron. All the folk get together and sing songs
connected with spring.
All get up in the early morning, take bath and worship the
sun, Mother Ganga, the Deity of the sacred river Ganges, and the
On this memorable day, Lord Shiva burnt the god of love,
Cupid. The gods had sent Cupid to tempt the Lord while he was
absorbed in Samadhi, in order to beget a powerful son who would
be able to destroy the wicked demon Tarakasura. Cupid discharged
an arrow at Lord Shiva from behind a tree. Shiva became very
greatly enraged. He opened His third eye and reduced Cupid to
ashes. More details of this story are given in the chapter on
The Bengalis call this festival Saraswathi Puja. They worship
the Goddess Saraswathi on this day. The image of the Goddess is
taken in procession and immersed in the holy Ganges.
Sri Appayya Jayanthi
SRI APPAYYA Dikshita was born in the Krishna Paksha of the
Kanya month of Pramateecha Varsha 1544 A.D.) on the auspicious
hour and day under the Uttaraproshtapada constellation. His
Jayanthi is celebrated every year on 2nd October.
Sri Appayya, the greatest name in the 16th century annals of
South India, is the reputed author of more than 104 books,
representative of all branches of knowledge in Sanskrit
literature. He attained greatness mainly by his works on
Vedanta. All the schools of Vedanta have drawn unique and
unrivalled authority and support from his pen.
Of his Vedantic work, the Chaturmata Sara Sangrah is
justly famous for the impartial justice with which he has
expounded the tenets of the four great schools, namely, the
Dwaita, Visishtadwaita, Shivadwaita and the Adwaita. This
exposition is given in his Nyaya Muktavali, Nyaya
Mukhamalika, Nyaya Manimala, and Nyaya Manjari (all these
together form the Chaturmata Sara Sangrah).
In almost all branches of Sanskrit learning and
literature—poetry, rhetoric, philosophy—his name was peerless
among his contemporaries, or for that matter, for decades after
him and till today. His Kuvalayananda is generally the
first work of rhetoric that is taken up for study. As is usual,
Pundit Jagannatha, his contemporary and rival, levelled some
criticism on it in his Rasagangadhara
His poems in praise of Lord Shiva are great favourites among
the worshippers of Shiva. He has also written a learned
commentary entitled Parimalam on Vedanta; this is an
outstanding monument of his philosophic erudition.
He had a gigantic intellect. Great was the reverence paid to
him in his own lifetime; even today he is greatly revered. Once
he went to the village which was the birthplace of his wife. A
grand reception was accorded to him by the villagers who were
proud of calling him one of themselves. There was great
excitement. All hailed him with the words, “The great Dikshita
is coming amongst us!”. There was no other talk among the
villagers for days before the event. The day came, and the
distinguished guest, Appayya Dikshita, was greeted by crowds of
people who flocked to have a sight of the grand lion of
An old lady, curious to a degree, came out, staff in hand, to
see the phenomenon; with the freedom that is conceded to one of
her age, she made her way easily through the crowd and looked at
him steadily for some minutes. Dim recollections of a face,
floated in her mind.
Definitely recalling the face, she exclaimed, “I have seen
this face somewhere. Wait. Oh yes! are you not the husband of
The great scholar confirmed her surmise with a smile.
The good old lady was disappointed. With her face and spirits
fallen, she retraced her steps homeward, remarking, “What ado to
make—just over Achha’s husband!”
Appayya summarised a world of wisdom when he perpetuated the
incident in a half verse: “Asmin grame achha prasiddha—In this
village the name and precedence are Achha’s!”
Appayya is considered as an Avatara of Lord Shiva. When he
went to Tirupati temple in South India, the Vaishnavas refused
him admission. The next morning they found the Vishnu murti
in the temple changed into a Shiva murti. The
spiritual head of the temple was most astonished and startled.
He begged pardon and prayed to Appayya to restore the original
form of Vishnu.
Appayya flourished in the middle of the 16th century. He was
a great rival of Pundit Jagannatha in the field of poetry.
Appayya had no independent views on the doctrinal side of
Shankara’s Vedanta, but carried on fierce controversies with the
followers of Vallabha at Jaipur and other places. He summarised
his views in the Siddhantalesha, which is the most
admirable digest of the doctrinal differences among the
followers of Shankara.
No doubt, he is among the greatest of the spiritual
luminaries that India has produced. Though a detailed account of
the history of his life is lacking, his works are sufficient
testimony of his greatness.
On this great day (2nd October) when you celebrate the
birthday of Appayya Dikshita, pray and worship the Lord and your
Guru. Study Appayya’s works, especially his great devotional
work, Atmarpana Stuthi.
Om Namo Bhagavate Dattatreyaya
DATTATREYA Jayanthi falls during December-January on the full
moon day of the month of Margaseersha. His story is told as
Anusuya is quoted as the model of chastity. She was the wife
of Atri Maharishi, a great sage and one of the seven foremost
seers and sages. She was well established in the Pativrata
Dharma, the main elements of which are devotion to husband and
regard of him as God Himself. She did severe austerities for a
very long time in order to beget sons equal to Brahma, Vishnu
and Shiva, the Hindu Trinity.
Once, Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvati requested their
husbands (the Trimurtis) to test the Pativrata Dharma of
Anusuya, by asking her to give them alms with an unclothed body.
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva came to know of the austerity and
desire of Anusuya. So, they agreed to their wives’ request, as
they knew that by agreeing to it, they would also be fulfilling
Anusuya’s wish. They put on the garb of Sannyasins and appeared
before Anusuya, asking her to give them alms as specified by
their wives. Anusuya was in a great dilemma. She could not say
“No” to the Sannyasins. And she had to maintain her Pativrata
Dharma also, which she would be violating if she appeared naked
before men other than her own husband. She meditated on the form
of her husband, took refuge at his feet and sprinkled over the
three Sannyasins a few drops of water used for washing the feet
of her husband. Immediately the Trimurtis were transformed into
three babies on account of the glory of her chastity. At the
same time, there was accumulation of milk in her breast. She
thought that these children were her own and fed them with the
milk, in a nude state and cradled them. She was eagerly
expecting the arrival of her husband who had gone to have a
As soon as Atri Rishi returned home, Anusuya related all that
had happened during his absence, placed the three children at
his feet and worshipped him. But, Atri knew all this already
through his divine vision. He embraced all the three children.
They became one child, with two feet, one trunk, three heads and
six hands. Atri Rishi blessed his wife and informed her that the
Trimurtis themselves had assumed the forms of the three children
to gratify her wish.
In the meantime, Narada went to Saraswathi, Lakshmi and
Parvati and informed them that their husbands had been turned
into children through the power of the Pativrata Dharma of
Anusuya and that they would not return unless they asked for
their husbands as alms from Rishi Atri. Thus Saraswathi, Lakshmi
and Parvati assumed the form of ordinary women, appeared before
Atri and asked for their own husbands as alms. Atri duly
honoured the three ladies and, with folded palms, prayed to them
that his wish and the wish of Anusuya should be fulfilled.
Then, the Trimurtis appeared in their true form before Atri
and said, “This child will be a great sage according to your
word and will be equal to us, according to the wish of Anusuya.
The child will bear the name of Dattatreya.” Saying this they
Who is regarded as an Incarnation of the Trinity.
The child Dattatreya soon attained manhood. As he had the
rays of the Trimurtis and as he was a great man of the highest
wisdom, all the Rishis and ascetics worshipped him. He was
gentle, peaceful and amiable. He was an Avadhuta—an ascetic who
always remains naked. He preached the Truth of Vedanta.
Dattatreya taught his Avadhuta Gita to Lord Subramanya.
This is a wonderful book which contains the truths and secrets
of Vedanta and the experiences of Self-realisation.
Once, while he was roaming happily in a forest, he met King
Yadu, who, on seeing Dattatreya so happy, asked him the secret
of his happiness and the name of his Guru.
Dattatreya said, “The Self alone is my Guru. Yet, I have
learnt wisdom from twenty-four other individuals and objects. So
they, too, are also my Gurus.”
Dattatreya then mentioned the names of his twenty-four Gurus
and spoke of the wisdom that he had learnt from each as follows:
“The names of my twenty-four Gurus are earth, water, fire,
sky, moon, sun, pigeon, python, ocean, moth, honey-gatherers
(black bee), bees, elephant, deer, fish, the dancing-girl
Pingala, raven, child, maiden, serpent, arrow-maker, spider and
1. I learnt patience and doing good to others from the
2. From water, I learnt the quality of purity.
3. I learnt from air to be without attachment though I
move with many people in this world.
4. From fire I learnt to glow with the splendour of
Self-knowledge and austerity.
5. I learnt from the sky that the Self is
all-pervading and yet it has no contact with any object.
6. I learnt from the moon that the Self is always
perfect and changeless and it is only the limiting adjuncts that
cast shadows over it.
7. Just as a sun reflected in various pots of water appears
as so many different reflections, so also Brahman appears
different because of the bodies caused by the reflection through
the mind. This is the lesson I have learnt from the sun.
8. I once saw a pair of pigeons with their young
birds. A fowler spread a net and caught the young birds. The
mother pigeon was very much attached to her children. She fell
into the net and was caught. From this I have learnt that
attachment is the root cause of earthly bondage.
9. The python does not move about for its food. It
remains contented with whatever it gets, lying in one place.
From this I learnt to be unmindful of food and to be contented
with whatever I get to eat.
10. Just as the ocean remains unmoved, even though
hundreds of rivers flow into it, so also the wise man should
remain unmoved among all the various sorts of temptations,
difficulties and troubles.
11. To control the sense of sight and to fix the mind on the
Self, is the lesson I learnt from the moth.
12. I take a little food from one house and a little from
another house and thus appease my hunger. I am not a burden on
the householder. This I learnt from the black bee which
gathers honey from various flowers.
13. Bees collect honey with great trouble, but a
hunter comes along and takes the honey away easily. From this I
learnt that it is useless to hoard things.
14. The male elephant, blinded by lust, falls into a
pit covered with grass, even at the sight of a female elephant.
Therefore, one should destroy lust.
15. The deer is enticed and trapped by the hunter
through its love of music. Therefore, one should never listen to
16. Just as a fish that is covetous of food falls an
easy victim to the bait, so also the man who is greedy for food
loses his independence and easily gets ruined.
17. There was a dancing girl named Pingala. Being
tired of looking for customers, one night she became hopeless.
She had to be contented with what traffic she had that day and
retired to a sound sleep. I learnt from this fallen woman the
lesson that the abandonment of hope leads to contentment.
18. A raven picked up a piece of flesh. It was pursued
and beaten by other birds. It dropped the piece of flesh and
attained peace and rest. From this I learnt that a man in the
world undergoes all sorts of troubles and miseries when he runs
after sensual pleasures and that he becomes as happy as the bird
when he abandons them.
19. The child who sucks milk is free from all cares,
worries and anxieties, and is always cheerful. I learnt the
virtue of cheerfulness from the child.
20. The maiden was husking paddy. Her bangles made
much noise and there were visitors from her husband’s house. To
silence the bangles, she removed them, one by one. Even when
there were just two, they produced some noise. When she had only
one, it did not make any noise, and she was happy. I learnt from
the maiden that living among many would create discord,
disturbance, dispute and quarrel. Even among two there might be
unnecessary words or strife. The ascetic or the Sannyasin should
remain alone in solitude.
21. A serpent does not build its own hole. It dwells
in the holes dug out by others. Even so, an ascetic should not
build a home for himself. He should live in a temple or a cave
built by others.
22. I learnt from the arrow-maker the quality of
intense concentration of mind.
23. The spider pours out of its mouth long threads and
weaves them into cobwebs. Then it gets itself entangled in the
net of its own making. Even so, man makes a net of his own ideas
and gets entangled in it. The wise man should, therefore,
abandon all worldly thoughts and think of Brahman only.
24. The beetle catches hold of a worm, puts it in its
nest and gives it a sting. The poor worm, always fearing the
return of the beetle and sting, and thinking constantly of the
beetle, becomes a beetle itself. I learnt from the beetle and
the worm to turn myself into the Self by contemplating
constantly on It; thus I gave up all attachment to the body and
The king was highly impressed by listening to these
enlightening words of Lord Dattatreya. He abandoned the world
and practised constant meditation on the Self.
Dattatreya was absolutely free from intolerance or prejudice
of any kind. He learnt wisdom from whatever source it came. All
seekers after wisdom should follow the example of Dattatreya.
On Dattatreya Jayanthi, get up at Brahmamuhurta and meditate.
Fast and pray throughout the day. Do not mix with anybody. Live
in total seclusion. Forget the body. Identify yourself with the
blissful Self. Study Dattatreya’s glorious works, namely, the
Avadhuta Gita and the Jivanmukta Gita. Worship Lord
Dattatreya’s (or, your own Guru’s) form. Take wholesome resolves
that you will follow the great teachings of Lord Dattatreya. You
will realise the Self very soon.
At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, this day is celebrated
every year on a grand scale, in the Dattatreya Temple, on a
hillock near the main Ashram.
1. The glorious Image of Lord Dattatreya is duly worshipped,
with bathing and flowers.
2. All the spiritual aspirants assemble there, singing the
Lord’s Names and glories.
3. Discourses are given by Yogis and Sannyasins, on the life
and teachings of Lord Dattatreya during this gathering as well
as during the night Satsang at the Ashram. The Avadhuta Gita
and the Jivanmukta Gita are also read and explained.
4. It is a day of great rejoicing.
May you all enjoy the choicest blessings of Lord Dattatreya,
and may you all attain the highest goal, Self-realisation in
this very birth!
SALUTATIONS to Lord Ganesha who is Brahman Himself, who is
the Supreme Lord, who is the energy of Lord Shiva, who is the
source of all bliss, and who is the bestower of all virtuous
qualities and success in all undertakings.
Mushikavaahana modaka hastha,
Chaamara karna vilambitha sutra,
Vaamana rupa maheshwara putra,
Vighna vinaayaka paada namasthe
MEANING: “O Lord Vinayaka! the remover of all
obstacles, the son of Lord Shiva, with a form which is very
short, with mouse as Thy vehicle, with sweet pudding in hand,
with wide ears and long hanging trunk, I prostrate at Thy
Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular of Hindu
festivals. This is the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is the day
most sacred to Lord Ganesha. It falls on the 4th day of the
bright fortnight of Bhadrapada (August-September). It is
observed throughout India, as well as by devoted Hindus in all
parts of the world.
Clay figures of the Deity are made and after being worshipped
for two days, or in some cases ten days, they are thrown into
Lord Ganesha is the elephant-headed God. He is worshipped
first in any prayers. His Names are repeated first before any
auspicious work is begun, before any kind of worship is begun.
He is the Lord of power and wisdom. He is the eldest son of
Lord Shiva and the elder brother of Skanda or Kartikeya. He is
the energy of Lord Shiva and so He is called the son of Shankar
and Umadevi. By worshipping Lord Ganesha mothers hope to earn
for their sons the sterling virtues of Ganesha.
The following story is narrated about His birth and how He
came to have the head of an elephant:
Once upon a time, the Goddess Gauri (consort of Lord Shiva),
while bathing, created Ganesha as a pure white being out of the
mud of Her Body and placed Him at the entrance of the house. She
told Him not to allow anyone to enter while she went inside for
a bath. Lord Shiva Himself was returning home quite thirsty and
was stopped by Ganesha at the gate. Shiva became angry and cut
off Ganesha’s head as He thought Ganesha was an outsider.
When Gauri came to know of this she was sorely grieved. To
console her grief, Shiva ordered His servants to cut off and
bring to Him the head of any creature that might be sleeping
with its head facing north. The servants went on their mission
and found only an elephant in that position. The sacrifice was
thus made and the elephant’s head was brought before Shiva. The
Lord then joined the elephant’s head onto the body of Ganesha.
Lord Shiva made His son worthy of worship at the beginning of
all undertakings, marriages, expeditions, studies, etc. He
ordained that the annual worship of Ganesha should take place on
the 4th day of the bright half of Bhadrapada.
Without the Grace of Sri Ganesha and His help nothing
whatsoever can be achieved. No action can be undertaken without
His support, Grace or blessing.
In his first lesson in the alphabet a Maharashtrian child is
initiated into the Mantra of Lord Ganesha, Om Sri Ganeshaya
Namah. Only then is the alphabet taught.
The following are some of the common Names of Lord Ganesha:
Dhoomraketu, Sumukha, Ekadantha, Gajakarnaka, Lambodara,
Vignaraja, Ganadhyaksha, Phalachandra, Gajanana, Vinayaka,
Vakratunda, Siddhivinayaka, Surpakarna, Heramba, Skandapurvaja,
Kapila and Vigneshwara. He is also known by many as
His Mantra is Om Gung Ganapathaye Namah. Spiritual
aspirants who worship Ganesha as their tutelary Deity repeat
this Mantra or Om Sri Ganeshaya Namah.
The devotees of Ganesha also do Japa of the Ganesha Gayatri
Mantra. This is as follows.
Tat purushaaya vidmahe
Tanno dhanti prachodayaat.
Lord Ganesha is an embodiment of wisdom and bliss. He is the
Lord of Brahmacharins. He is foremost amongst the celibates.
He has as his vehicle a small mouse. He is the presiding
Deity of the Muladhara Chakra, the psychic centre in the body in
which the Kundalini Shakti resides.
He is the Lord who removes all obstacles on the path of the
spiritual aspirant, and bestows upon him worldly as well as
spiritual success. Hence He is called Vigna Vinayaka. His Bija
Akshara (root syllable) is Gung, pronounced to rhyme with
the English word “sung”. He is the Lord of harmony and peace.
Lord Ganesha represents Om or the Pranava, which is the chief
Mantra among the Hindus. Nothing can be done without uttering
it. This explains the practice of invoking Ganesha before
beginning any rite or undertaking any project. His two feet
represent the power of knowledge and the power of action. The
elephant head is significant in that it is the only figure in
nature that has the form of the symbol for Om.
The significance of riding on a mouse is the complete
conquest over egoism. The holding of the ankusha
represents His rulership of the world. It is the emblem of
Ganesha is the first God. Riding on a mouse, one of nature’s
smallest creatures and having the head of an elephant, the
biggest of all animals, denotes that Ganesha is the creator of
all creatures. Elephants are very wise animals; this indicates
that Lord Ganesha is an embodiment of wisdom. It also denotes
the process of evolution—the mouse gradually evolves into an
elephant and finally becomes a man. This is why Ganesha has a
human body, an elephant’s head and a mouse as His vehicle. This
is the symbolic philosophy of His form.
He is the Lord of Ganas or groups, for instance groups of
elements, groups of senses, etc. He is the head of the followers
of Shiva or the celestial servants of Lord Shiva.
The Vaishnavas also worship Lord Ganesha. They have given Him
the name of Tumbikkai Alwar which means the divinity with the
proboscis (the elephant’s trunk).
Lord Ganesha’s two powers are the Kundalini and the Vallabha
or power of love.
He is very fond of sweet pudding or balls of rice flour with
a sweet core. On one of His birthdays He was going around house
to house accepting the offerings of sweet puddings. Having eaten
a good number of these, He set out moving on His mouse at night.
Suddenly the mouse stumbled—it had seen a snake and became
frightened—with the result that Ganesha fell down. His stomach
burst open and all the sweet puddings came out. But Ganesha
stuffed them back into His stomach and, catching hold of the
snake, tied it around His belly.
Seeing all this, the moon in the sky had a hearty laugh. This
unseemly behaviour of the moon annoyed Him immensely and so he
pulled out one of His tusks and hurled it against the moon, and
cursed that no one should look at the moon on the Ganesh
Chaturthi day. If anyone does, he will surely earn a bad name,
censure or ill-repute. However, if by mistake someone does
happen to look at the moon on this day, then the only way he can
be freed from the curse is by repeating or listening to the
story of how Lord Krishna cleared His character regarding the
Syamantaka jewel. This story is quoted in the Srimad
Bhagavatam. Lord Ganesha was pleased to ordain thus. Glory
to Lord Ganesha! How kind and merciful He is unto His devotees!
Ganesha and His brother Lord Subramanya once had a dispute as
to who was the elder of the two. The matter was referred to Lord
Shiva for final decision. Shiva decided that whoever would make
a tour of the whole world and come back first to the starting
point had the right to be the elder. Subramanya flew off at once
on his vehicle, the peacock, to make a circuit of the world. But
the wise Ganesha went, in loving worshipfulness, around His
divine parents and asked for the prize of His victory.
Lord Shiva said, “Beloved and wise Ganesha! But how can I
give you the prize; you did not go around the world?”
Ganesha replied, “No, but I have gone around my parents. My
parents represent the entire manifested universe!”
Thus the dispute was settled in favour of Lord Ganesha, who
was thereafter acknowledged as the elder of the two brothers.
Mother Parvati also gave Him a fruit as a prize for this
In the Ganapathi Upanishad, Ganesha is identified with
the Supreme Self. The legends that are connected with Lord
Ganesha are recorded in the Ganesha Khanda of the Brahma
On the Ganesh Chaturthi day, meditate on the stories
connected with Lord Ganesha early in the morning, during the
Brahmamuhurta period. Then, after taking a bath, go to the
temple and do the prayers of Lord Ganesha. Offer Him some
coconut and sweet pudding. Pray with faith and devotion that He
may remove all the obstacles that you experience on the
spiritual path. Worship Him at home, too. You can get the
assistance of a pundit. Have an image of Lord Ganesha in your
house. Feel His Presence in it.
Don’t forget not to look at the moon on that day; remember
that it behaved unbecomingly towards the Lord. This really means
avoid the company of all those who have no faith in God, and who
deride God, your Guru and religion, from this very day.
Take fresh spiritual resolves and pray to Lord Ganesha for
inner spiritual strength to attain success in all your
May the blessings of Sri Ganesha be upon you all! May He
remove all the obstacles that stand in your spiritual path! May
He bestow on you all material prosperity as well as liberation!
THE GITA Jayanti, or the birthday of the Bhagavad Gita,
is celebrated throughout India by all the admirers and lovers of
this most sacred scripture on the eleventh day (Ekadashi) of the
bright half of the month of Margaseersha (December-January),
according to the Hindu almanac. It was on this day that Sanjaya
narrated to King Dhritarashtra the dialogue between Sri Krishna
and Arjuna, and thus made the glorious teachings of the Lord
available to us, and to people of the world, for all time.
The Gita Jayanti marks one of the greatest days in the
history of mankind. Nearly six thousand years ago on that day a
dazzling flash of brilliant light lit up the firmament of human
civilization. That flash, that marvellous spiritual effulgence,
was the message of the Bhagavad Gita, given by the Lord
Himself on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Unlike ordinary
flashes of light which die away after a split-second, this
brilliant flash of that memorable day has continued to shine
through the centuries, and even now illumines the path of
humanity on its onward march to perfection.
The Gita is the most beautiful and the only truly
philosophical song. It contains sublime lessons on wisdom and
philosophy. It is the “Song Celestial”. It is the universal
gospel. It contains the message of life that appeals to all,
irrespective of race, creed, age or religion.
The Gita was given to us about six thousand years ago
through Arjuna, an Indian prince, by Sri Krishna, the Lord
incarnate. The teachings are based on the Upanishads, the
ancient, revealed metaphysical classics of India. The Gita
shows a way to rise above the world of duality and the pairs
of opposites, and to acquire eternal bliss and immortality. It
is a gospel of action. It teaches the rigid performance of one’s
duty in society, and a life of active struggle, keeping the
inner being untouched by outer surroundings, and renouncing the
fruits of actions as offerings unto the Lord.
The Gita is a source of power and wisdom. It
strengthens you when you are weak, and inspires you when you
feel dejected and feeble. It teaches you to embrace
righteousness and to resist unrighteousness.
The Gita is not merely a book or just a scripture. It
is a living voice carrying an eternally indispensable and vital
message to mankind. Its verses embody words of wisdom coming
from the infinite ocean of knowledge, the Absolute Itself.
The voice of the Gita is the call of the Supreme. It
is the divine sound explained. The primal source of all
existence, all power, is the manifested sound, Om. This is the
Divine Word. It is Nada Brahman, whose unceasing call is: “Be ye
all ever merged in the eternal, unbroken, continuous
consciousness of the Supreme Truth.” This is the sublime message
that the great Gita elaborates and presents in all
comprehensiveness and in a universally acceptable form. It is
verily this message of the Bhagavad Gita that I wish to
recall and reproclaim with emphasis to you.
To be always conscious of the Divine, to ever feel the Divine
Presence, to live always in the awareness of the Supreme Being
in the chambers of your heart and everywhere around you, is
verily to live a life of fullness and divine perfection on earth
itself. Such constant remembrance of God and such an attitude of
mind will release you forever from the clutches of Maya and free
you from all fear. To forget the Supreme is to fall into Maya.
To forget Him is to be assailed by fear. To live in unbroken
remembrance of the Supreme Truth is to remain always in the
region of Light, far beyond Maya’s reach.
Mark carefully how the Gita stresses again and again
this lofty message. The Lord declares: “Keep thou thy mind in
Me, in Me place thy reason”.
In another verse He says: “Therefore, at all times remember
Me and fight. You will surely attain Me, having thus offered
And yet again: “Perform thou action, remaining united with Me
The Gita guides you to glory with the watchwords: “Be
thou divine-minded, devoted to Me as your goal, and let your
subconscious mind be divine”.
The Lord gives the following firm assurance also: “I become
the saviour from this mortal world for those whose minds are set
Such is the most illuminating message of the Gita,
seeking to lead man to a life of perfection even while
performing his ordained role here. Long has this message been
neglected by man. Forgetting the Lord, the world has turned
towards sense indulgence and mammon. A terrible price has been
paid. O man, enough of this forgetfulness! The Lord has warned
you against heedlessness: “If, out of egoism, thou wilt not
hear, then thou shalt perish”.
It is a matter of great regret that many young men and women
of India know very little of this most unique scripture. One
cannot consider oneself as having attained a good standard of
education if one does not have a sound knowledge of the
Srimad Bhagavad Gita. All post-graduate knowledge, all
research in universities is mere husk or chaff when compared to
the wisdom of the Gita.
Live in the spirit of the teachings of the Gita. Mere
talks or lectures will not help you in any way. Become a
The Gita may be summarised in the following seven
1. “Uttering the one-syllabled Om, the Brahman, and
remembering Me, he who departs, leaving the body thus, attains
the Supreme Goal”.
2. “It is meet, O Lord, that the world delights and rejoices
in Thy praise; the demons fly in fear to all quarters, and all
the hosts of Siddhas bow to Thee!”
3. “With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, heads and
mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere, He exists in the world,
4. “Whosoever meditates on the omniscient, ancient ruler of
the whole world, minuter than an atom, the supporter of all, of
form inconceivable, effulgent like the sun, such a one goeth
beyond the darkness of ignorance”.
5. “They, the wise, speak of the indestructible Asvattha,
having its roots above and branches below, whose leaves are the
metres or hymns; he who knows it is a knower of the Vedas”.
6. “And I am seated in the hearts of all; from Me are memory
and knowledge, as well as their absence. I am verily that which
has to be known by all the Vedas; I am indeed the author
of Vedanta, and the knower of the Vedas am I”.
7. “Fix thy mind on Me; be devoted to Me; sacrifice to Me;
bow down to Me; having thus united thy whole Self with Me,
taking Me as the Supreme Lord, thou shalt verily come to Me”.
Read the whole of the Gita on Sundays and other
holidays. Study carefully again and again the verses in the
second discourse, which deal with the state of the Sthitaprajna
(a perfected Yogi and sage). Also study the eight nectarine
verses in the twelfth discourse.
The study of the Gita alone is sufficient for the
purpose of scriptural study. You will find in it a solution to
all your problems. The more you study it with devotion and
faith, the deeper will your knowledge become, the more
penetrative would be your insight, and the clearer your
thinking. Even if you live in the spirit of one verse of the
Gita, all your miseries will come to an end and you will attain
the goal of life—immortality and eternal peace.
None but the Lord can bring out such a marvellous and
unprecedented book, which grants peace to its readers, and which
guides them in the attainment of supreme bliss.
The teachings of the Gita are broad, sublime and
universal. They do not belong to any particular cult, sect,
creed, age, place or country. They are meant for all. They are
within the reach of all. The Gita has a message for the solace,
peace, freedom, salvation and perfection of all human beings.
At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the holy and auspicious
Gita Jayanti is observed every year on a grand scale:
1. All the aspirants wake up at 4 am and do meditation on the
2. From sunrise to sunset there is unbroken recitation of the
Gita. The Samputa-method is used, that is, before and
after each verse of the Gita, the following Samputa is
Sarva dharmaan parityajya maamekam sharanam vraja;
Aham twa sarvapaapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shucha.
Thus, between two verses of the Gita, this verse is
recited twice. This is an extremely efficacious method of
earning the Grace of the Lord and the Gita, the Mother.
3. All spiritual aspirants fast the whole day (it is also the
4. Various competitions are held, especially for small
children to manifest their talents in the recitation of the
Gita. In the case of the slightly older children, they are
given a chance to discourse upon the Gita. This is a
wonderful way to of encourage children to study this sacred
5. In the evening, a special Satsang is held at which learned
scholars, Yogis and Sannyasins discourse upon the the holy
6. Leaflets, pamphlets and books containing the teachings of
the Gita, as also translations of the holy scripture, are
Take a resolve on Gita Jayanti that you will read at least
one discourse of the Gita daily. Recite the Fifteenth Discourse
before taking your meals. This is done at the Sivanandashram.
Keep a small pocket-sized edition of the Gita with you
at all times. Mark a few verses in it which inspire you.
Everyday, while you are waiting for your bus or train, or
whenever you have a little leisure, pull out the book and read
these verses. You will be ever inspired.
May you all lead the life taught by the Gita! May the
Gita, the blessed Mother of the Vedas, guide and
protect you! May it nourish you with the milk of the ancient
wisdom of the Upanishads!
Glory to Lord Krishna, the Divine Teacher! Glory to Sri
Vyasa, the poet of poets, who composed the Gita! May his
blessings be upon you all!
Yatra yatra raghunatha kirtanam;
Tatra tatra kritha masthakanjalim;
Bhaspavaari paripurna lochanam;
Maarutim namata raakshasanthakam
MEANING: “We bow to Maruti, Sri Hanuman, who stands
with his palms folded above his forehead, with a torrent of
tears flowing down his eyes wherever the Names of Lord Rama are
SRI HANUMAN is worshipped all over India—either alone or
together with Sri Rama. Every temple of Sri Rama has the
murti or idol of Sri Hanuman. Hanuman is the Avatara of Lord
Shiva. He was born of the Wind-God and Anjani Devi. His other
names are Pavanasuta, Marutsuta, Pavankumar, Bajrangabali and
Om Sri Hanumate Namah
He is the living embodiment of Ram-Nam. He was an ideal
selfless worker, a true Karma Yogi who worked desirelessly and
dynamically. He was a great devotee and an exceptional
Brahmachari or celibate. He served Sri Rama with pure love and
devotion, without expecting any fruit in return. He lived to
serve Sri Rama. He was humble, brave and wise. He possessed all
the divine virtues. He did what others could not do—crossing the
ocean simply by uttering Ram-Nam, burning the city of Lanka, and
bringing the sanjeevini herb and restoring Lakshmana to
life again. He brought Sri Rama and Lakshmana from the nether
world after killing Ahiravana.
He had devotion, knowledge, spirit of selfless service, power
of celibacy, and desirelessness. He never boasted of his bravery
He said to Ravana, “I am a humble messenger of Sri Rama. I
have come here to serve Rama, to do His work. By the command of
Lord Rama, I have come here. I am fearless by the Grace of Lord
Rama. I am not afraid of death. I welcome it if it comes while
serving Lord Rama.”
Mark here how humble Hanuman was! How very devoted he was to
Lord Rama! He never said, “I am the brave Hanuman. I can do
anything and everything.”
Lord Rama Himself said to Sri Hanuman, “I am greatly indebted
to you, O mighty hero! You did marvellous, superhuman deeds. You
do not want anything in return. Sugriva has his kingdom restored
to him. Angada has been made the crown prince. Vibhishana has
become king of Lanka. But you have not asked for anything at any
time. You threw away the precious garland of pearls given to you
by Sita. How can I repay My debt of gratitude to you? I will
always remain deeply indebted to you. I give you the boon of
everlasting life. All will honour and worship you like Myself.
Your murti will be placed at the door of My temple and
you will be worshipped and honoured first. Whenever My stories
are recited or glories sung, your glory will be sung before
Mine. You will be able to do anything, even that which I will
not be able to!”
Thus did Lord Rama praise Hanuman when the latter returned to
Him after finding Sita in Lanka. Hanuman was not a bit elated.
He fell in prostration at the holy feet of Lord Rama.
Lord Rama asked him, “O mighty hero, how did you cross the
Hanuman humbly replied, “By the power and glory of Thy Name,
Again the Lord asked, “How did you burn Lanka? How did you
And Hanuman replied, “By Thy Grace, my Lord.”
What humility Sri Hanuman embodied!
There are many who want wealth in return for their services.
Some do not want wealth, but they cannot resist name and fame.
Others do not want any of these, but they want approbation.
Still others want nothing, but they boast of their deeds.
Hanuman was above all these. That is why he is recognised as an
ideal Karma Yogi and an unsurpassed adept in Bhakti. His life is
full of object lessons. Everyone should try his best to follow
the noble example of Hanuman.
His birthday falls on Chaitra Shukla Purnima (the March-April
full moon day).
On this holy day worship Sri Hanuman. Fast on this day. Read
the Hanuman Chalisa. Spend the whole day in the Japa of
Ram-Nam. Sri Hanuman will be highly pleased and will bless you
with success in all your undertakings.
Glory to Hanuman! Glory to his Lord, Sri Rama!
THIS IS THE birthday of Lord Krishna, the eighth Divine
Incarnation. It falls on the 8th day of the dark half of the
month of Bhadrapada (August-September). This is one of the
greatest of all Hindu festivals. Lord Krishna was born at
midnight. A twenty-four hour fast is observed on this day, which
is broken at midnight.
Temples are decorated for the occasion. Kirtans are sung,
bells are rung, the conch is blown, and Sanskrit hymns are
recited in praise of Lord Krishna. At Mathura, the birthplace of
Lord Krishna, special spiritual gatherings are organised at this
time. Pilgrims from all over India attend these festive
The Lord appeared when the moon entered the house of
Vrishabha at the constellation of the star Rohini, on Wednesday,
the 8th day of the second fortnight of the month of Sravana,
which corresponds to the month of Bhadrapada Krishnapaksha
according to the Barhaspatyamana, in the year of Visvavasu,
5,172 years ago (from 1945), which means 3227 B.C.
Study the Bhagavatam and the Pancharatras,
which are equal to the Upanishads. You will know all
about the glory of Lord Krishna, His Lilas and superhuman deeds.
The eighth Avatara, Krishna, who has become the Beloved of India
and the world at large, had a threefold objective: to destroy
the wicked demons, to play the leading role in the great war
fought on the battlefield of Kurukshetra (where he delivered His
wonderful message of the Gita) and to become the centre
of a marvellous development of the Bhakti schools of India.
There is no true science except devotion to Lord Krishna.
That man is wealthy indeed who loves Radha and Krishna. There is
no sorrow other than lack of devotion to Krishna. He is the
foremost of the emancipated who loves Krishna. There is no right
course, except the society of Sri Krishna’s devotees. The Name,
virtues and Lilas (divine pastimes) of Krishna are the chief
things to be remembered. The Lotus Feet of Radha and Krishna are
the chief objects of meditation.
Sri Krishna is the ocean of bliss. His soul-stirring Lilas,
which are the wonder of wonders, are its waves. The honeyed
music of His flute attracts the minds of His devotees from all
three regions. His unequalled and unsurpassed wealth of beauty
amazes the animate and the inanimate beings. He adorns His
friends with His incomparable love.
His palms bear the signs of a lotus and discus, the right
sole of His feet of a flag, lotus, thunderbolt, an iron goad,
barley seed, and the Swastika. His left sole has the rainbow,
triangle, water-pot, crescent, sky, fish, and a cow’s footprint.
His Form is composed of condensed universal consciousness and
bliss. His Body pervades the entire cosmos.
Devotion is the only means of attaining Lord Krishna. Bhakti
kindles love for the Lord. When love is directed towards
Krishna, man is freed from the bondage of the world.
Though Lord Krishna appeared in a human body, He had a divine
body not composed of the five elements. He did not take any
birth here in the usual sense of the term. He did not die. He
appeared and disappeared through His Yoga Maya as He has
declared in the Gita. This is a secret, known only to His
devotees, Yogis and sages.
His enchanting form with flute in hand is worshipped in
myriads of homes in India. It is a form to which is poured out
devotion and supreme love from the hearts of countless devotees
not only in India but also in the West. Millions of spiritual
seekers worship Him and repeat His Mantra, Om Namo Bhagavate
Lord Krishna was great in knowledge, great in emotion, great
in action, all at once. The scriptures have not recorded any
life more full, more intense, more sublime and grander than the
life of Sri Krishna.
Krishna has played various roles during His stay in the
world. He was Arjuna’s charioteer. He was an excellent
statesman. He was a master musician; he gave lessons even to
Narada in the art of playing the veena. The music of His
flute thrilled the hearts of the Gopis and everyone else. He was
a cowherd in Brindavan and Gokul. He exhibited miraculous powers
even as a child. He killed many demons. He revealed His Comic
Form to His mother, Yasoda. He performed the Rasa Lila, the
secret of which can only be understood by devotees like Narada,
Gauranga, Radha and the Gopis. He taught the supreme Truth of
Yoga, Bhakti and Vedanta to Arjuna and Uddhava. He had mastered
every one of the sixty-four fine arts. For all these reasons He
is regarded as a full and complete manifestation of God.
Incarnations of God appear for special reasons under special
circumstances. Whenever there is much unrighteousness, whenever
confusion and disorder set in on account of unrighteousness and
baffle the well-ordered progress of mankind, whenever the
balance of human society is upset by selfish, ruthless and cruel
beings, whenever irreligion and unrighteousness prevail,
whenever the foundations of social organisations are undermined,
the great Incarnation of God appears in order to re-establish
righteousness and to restore peace.
An Incarnation is the descent of God for the ascent of man. A
ray from the Cosmic Being in His potential state of
manifestation descends on earth with mighty powers to keep up
the harmony of the universe. The work done by the Incarnation of
God and His teachings produce a benign influence on human beings
and help them in their upward divine unfoldment and
The Incarnation comes to reveal the divine nature of man and
makes him rise above the petty materialistic life of passion and
The greatest manifestations are called Incarnations proper.
Rishis, Munis, prophets, sons of God and messengers of God are
The Incarnations usually come with their particular or
favourite groups or companions. Lord Rama came with Lakshmana,
Bharata and Shatrughna. Lord Krishna came with Balarama, Devas
and Rishis. Sanaka came with Sanandana, Sanatkumara and
Sanatsujata. Some, like Sri Shankara and Ramanuja, come as
teachers and spiritual leaders. Some, like Chaitanya, are born
to instill devotion in the hearts of people and turn their minds
towards God. The Incarnations proper, like Krishna, come only
when there is widespread catastrophe in the world.
Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
On the holy Krishna Janmashtami, the ladies in South India
decorate their houses beautifully, ready to welcome the Lord.
They prepare various sweetmeats and offer them to the Lord.
Butter was Krishna’s favourite, and this is also offered. From
the doorway to the inner meditation room of the house the floor
is marked with a child’s footprints, using some flour mixed with
water. This creates the feeling in them that the Lord’s own Feet
have made the mark. They treat the day as one of very great
rejoicing. There is recitation of the Bhagavatam, singing
and praying everywhere.
The Janmashtami is celebrated at the Sivananda Ashram,
Rishikesh, with the following programme of intense spiritual
1. During the preceding eight days, Japa of Om Namo
Bhagavate Vasudevaya is done intensely.
2. Those who can, will recite the Bhagavatam during
this period. Others will listen to it being recited.
3. On the birthday itself everyone fasts and spends the whole
day in holy communion.
4. Everyone greets others with the holy Mantra, Om Namo
5. A grand havan is performed on that day.
6. There is continuous Satsang from 4a.m. early in the
morning till night. Yogis, Sannyasins and learned men discourse
upon the glorious life and teachings of the Lord.
7. From sunset people assemble in the elaborately decorated
temple and sing the Lord’s Names and glories.
8. Many hymns and portions of the Bhagavatam,
especially the Gopika Geetam, are recited.
9. Towards midnight, there is a grand worship of Lord
Krishna. The Lord is bathed with milk while His Name is chanted
10. This worship concludes with offerings of flowers, waving
of lights (Arati), and reading of that portion of the
Bhagavatam which deals with the birth of Krishna. This
synchronises with midnight, the hour of the Lord’s birth, at
which time the murti of the Lord is rocked in a beautifully
decorated cradle. After this item, all the assembled devotees
partake of the holy prasad or sacrament, and then retire,
filled with the Grace and blessings of Lord Krishna.
If you cannot read the whole of the Srimad Bhagavatam
during these days, at least you should recite the following four
most important verses from the book. The leading two verses and
the closing verse are the prologue and the epilogue
“Hear from Me the most secret knowledge coupled with the
essential experience and its component parts.
“May you realise by My Grace, the knowledge of Myself and
what form, qualities and actions I am endowed with.
1. “Before creation I alone existed. There was nothing,
neither existence nor non-existence. I am that which remains
2. “Understand that to be Maya or illusion which is devoid of
any purpose, which is not to be found in the Self and which is
unreal like light and darkness.
3. “As the primary elements are amalgamated, with one another
and also separate from one another at the same time, so I
pervade the whole universe and am also separate from it.
4. “The aspirant should, by the method of positive and
negative, know that thing which exists always and everywhere.
“Experience this truth through the highest superconscious
state so that you will not be disturbed even by illusory
There is another beautiful verse in the Bhagavatam
which you can recite daily: “In days of yore, the Lord, born of
Devaki, brought up in the house of Yasoda, killed the wicked
Putana of illusive form and lifted the Govardhana hill, killed
Kamsa and the sons of the Kuru race, and protected the sons of
Kunti. Thus is recited the essence of the ancient Bhagavat
Purana consisting of the nectarine stories of the deeds of
May the blessings of Lord Krishna and Sri Radha be upon you
Guru charanam, bhaja charanam,
Satguru charanam, bhava haranam.
Maanasa bhajare, guru charanam,
Dustara bhava saagara taranam.
Guru maharaaj guru jaya jaya,
Para brahma satguru jaya jaya
RELIGION IS realisation; it is not mere learning—this is the
divine message which stands deeply in the minds of every Hindu.
This is not a mere fancy. This is not a mental conception. This
is not a stretch of imagination. It is not a coinage of the
brain. Nor is it a decision arrived at by vehement vituperation
and incongruent argumentation promulgated by an ordinary
This is the assertion of Shankara, India’s greatest
philosopher-saint, the incarnation of Lord Shiva, reverently
known as Srimath Adi Shankaracharya.
What can we take him for except the Lord Himself, who
proclaims authoritatively and undauntedly: “I am the Self of
all; I am the all; I am transcendent; I am one without a second;
I am the Absolute; I am the infinite Consciousness; I am
Shankara is our Vedanta Guru. He was God incarnate. He was
born at a time when Indian thought and culture were decaying;
when they underwent sore distraction; when ethical glory and the
widespread influence of the Buddhistic cult was gradually dying;
when there was complete chaos and confusion; when innumerable
sects sprang up and, with their own individual doctrines,
confounded the masses; when evil social influences and blind
superstitions, garbed falsely in the clothes of religion,
attracted the credulous masses into a frenzy, and ambushed them
into complete ignorance of the ultimate Reality. There were no
less than seventy-two cults and sects of this type which carried
away people from the right path.
The Founder of the School of Monistic philosophy,
Who is regarded as the Avatara of Lord Shiva.
The advent of Lord Krishna rejuvenated Hindu religion and
saved many a soul from complete ruin, souls which would
otherwise have subjugated themselves to passivism due to the
misinterpretation of the Vedas and the Upanishads.
In the same way, Shankara appeared on earth to deliver very many
struggling souls. He set them free, and enlightened them through
his peaceful, unostentatious persuasion and loving propaganda.
Through his irresistible logic, he planted the triumphant banner
of unique intellectual conquest over all other schools of
philosophy. Before him, all other theories proved to be phantoms
It was only Shankara who gave the unshakable concrete form to
Hinduism and established the unity and purity of enlightened
Hindu thought and culture. Superstitions and corrupt practices
melted away in no time.
The age-long six systems of theism which were suppressed by
the prattlers re-emerged in their original glory only through
the concerted efforts of Shankara.
His victory over other systems of philosophy was not due to a
stubborn grip onto his own faith and reasoning without
considering the pros and cons of others. He had mastered even
the minutest intricasies of the other theories. The underlying
currents of his thoughts were the foundations of the other
systems. It is for this reason alone that his philosophy was
recognised with much reverence by all the other schools of
thought, despite differences in their superstructure.
The secret of his conquest and the charm therein lay in his
most apt and reasonable illustrations in every case. He never
based his arguments on theoretical axioms and untestified
hypotheses, but entirely on integral experience. Further, all
his arguments were based upon the Vedas as well, which
are genuine and authoritative.
Shankara never entered into hot discussions to substantiate
his case or disprove others’ theories. With his gigantic
intellect he poured out his masterly exposition in simple and
clear terms with the same supreme authority of the Gita,
Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras, the self-evident
validity of the Sruti Pramana, and so on.
Above all, the philosophy of Shankara is not restricted to
the highly intellectual. It is within the easy reach of even the
layman. With his profound knowledge, all-comprehensive learning,
keen intuitive insight and convincing explanations, he has
erected the strong edifice of Vedanta, equally accessible to the
scholar and the layman. How effectively he prescribed “Bhaja
Govindam” to the scholar who was racking his brains in
committing various scriptures to memory!
Vedanta is not the only aspect of philosophy he has preached
to the world. He has entered the heart of every earnest seeker
after truth. He encourages the worship of various forms of the
Lord and greatly advocates Bhakti. Without a tinge of partiality
to one form or the other, he has composed innumerable hymns,
each brimming with devotion and philosophical truth, each
inculcating divine ecstasy and perennial joy even in the tender
undeveloped mind. His untiring work for the welfare of mankind
marks him out as a veritable, dynamic Karma Yogi, too.
At the background of all these, his devotion to his Guru is
supermost. Mark what he says: “Any person who realises ‘I am
That Brahman’ through the unparalleled mercy and glance of the
Sadguru, loses all feelings of doubt and, with his mind free
from illusion, attains liberation even while living in the
body”. How much efficacy and glory lie in devotion to the Guru!
Shankara Jayanthi falls on the 5th day of the bright half of
Vaisakh (May-June). On this day, study his works, pray and
meditate. May you be showered with his blessings!
PROSTRATIONS and humble salutations to Lord Subramanya, the
Supreme Being, who is the ruler of this universe, who is the
indweller of our hearts, who is the second son of Lord Siva, who
is the beloved of Valli and Deivayanai, who bestows boons easily
on His devotees, who is the embodiment of power, wisdom, love
The mighty demon, Tarakasura, had been oppressing the
celestials very much. He drove them out from heaven. All the
gods then went to Brahma to appeal for help.
Brahma said to the gods, “O Devas, I cannot destroy Taraka,
as he has obtained My Grace through severe penance. But let Me
give you a suggestion. Get the help of Cupid, the God of Love.
Induce him to tempt Lord Siva, who remains absorbed in His Yoga
Samadhi. Let Lord Siva unite with Parvati. A powerful son, Lord
Subramanya, will be born to them. This son will destroy the
demon that harasses you.”
Indra, the chief of the gods, thereupon requested Cupid to go
with his wife, Rati, and his companion Vasanta (the season of
spring), to Mount Kailas, the abode of Siva. Cupid carried out
the instruction at once, for it was already springtime. Standing
behind a tree, Cupid shot his arrow of passion towards Siva,
whilst Parvati was placing some flowers in His hands. The moment
their hands met, Siva experienced a distracting feeling. He
wondered what it was that disturbed His Yoga. He looked around
and saw Cupid crouching behind the tree.
The Lord opened His “third eye”, the inner eye of intuition,
and Cupid was burnt to ashes by the fire that emanated from it.
That is why the God of Love is also called Ananga, which means
After burning Cupid, the Lord ascertained by His Yogic vision
that the birth of Lord Subramanya was absolutely necessary to
destroy the powerful Taraka. Siva’s seed was thrown into the
fire which, unable to retain it, threw it into the Ganges, which
in turn threw it into a reed forest. This is where Lord
Subramanya was born; hence, He is called Saravanabhava—“born in
a reed-forest”. He became the leader of the celestial hosts and
the destroyer of Taraka as Brahma had ordained.
Lord Subramanya is an incarnation of Lord Siva. All
incarnations are manifestations of the one Supreme Lord. Lord
Subramanya and Lord Krishna are one.
Lord Krishna says in the Gita: “....of army generals,
I am Skanda”.
The Lord manifests Himself from time to time in various names
and forms, for the sake of establishing righteousness and
subduing the wicked.
Lord Subramanya is a ray born of the Consciousness of Lord
Siva. Valli and Deivayanai are His two wives. They represent the
power of action and the power of knowledge respectively. He is
the easily accessible Godhead in this dark age of ignorance and
godlessness. In this He is no different from Hanuman. He gives
material and spiritual prosperity and success in every
undertaking of His devotees, even if they show a little devotion
to Him. He is worshipped with great devotion in South India.
Lord Subramanya’s other names are Guha, Muruga, Kumaresa,
Kartikeya, Shanmukha, and Velayudhan.
In His picture, Lord Subramanya holds a spear in His hand,
just as Lord Shiva holds the trident. This is an emblem of
power. It indicates that He is the Ruler of the universe. His
vehicle is the peacock. He rides on it. This signifies that He
has conquered pride, egoism and vanity. There is a cobra under
His feet, which indicates that He is absolutely fearless,
immortal and wise. Valli is on His one side, Deivayanai on the
other. Sometimes He stands alone with His spear. In this pose He
is known as Velayudhan; this is His Nirguna aspect, which is
free from the illusory power of Nature.
The six heads represent the six rays or attributes, namely,
wisdom, dispassion, strength, fame, wealth and divine powers.
They indicate that He is the source of the four Vedas,
the Vedangas and the six schools of philosophy. They also
indicate His control over the five organs of knowledge as well
as the mind. They denote that He is the Supreme Being with
thousands of heads and hands. That His head in turned in all
directions signifies He is all-pervading. They indicate that He
can multiply and assume forms at His will.
There are big temples of Lord Subramanya at Tiruchendur, in
Udipi, Palani Hills, in Ceylon and Tiruparankundrum. The Lord
spent His childhood days in Tiruchendur and took Mahasamadhi at
Kathirgamam. If anyone goes to Kathirgamam with faith, devotion
and piety, and stay in the temple there for two or three days,
the Lord Himself grants His vision to the devotee. The devotee
is filled with rich spiritual experiences. A big festival is
held in the temple every year on Skanda Sashti. Thousands of
people visit the place. “Mountains” of camphor are burnt on this
Skanda Sashti falls in November. It is the day on which Lord
Subramanya defeated the demon Taraka. Great festivals are held
on this day with great pomp and grandeur. Devotees also do
Bhajan and Kirtan on a grand scale. Thousands are fed
sumptuously. Many incurable diseases are cured if one visits
Palani and worships the Lord there. In South India, the Lord
Subramanya’s Lilas are dramatized on the stage.
In addition to the Skanda Sashti, devotees of Lord Subramanya
observe weekly and monthly days in His honour. Every Friday, or
the Kartigai Nakshatram day every month, or the sixth day of the
bright fortnight,—all these are sacred days for His devotees.
The sixth day of the month of Tulam (October-November) is the
most auspicious of them all. This is the Skanda Sashti day.
In many places the festival commences six days prior to the
Sashti itself and concludes on the day of the Sashti. During
these days, devotees recite various inspiring hymns and read
stories connected with Lord Subramanya. They worship the Lord
and take Kavadi (see below). They go on pilgrimage to the
various Subramanya shrines.
The famous Nakkerar has composed the Tirumurukatrupadai in
His praise. He who studies this famous work daily with devotion
and faith, gets certain success in life as well as peace and
prosperity. The Tiruppugal is another well-known book in
Tamil, which contains the inspiring devotional songs of
Arunagirinathar in praise of Lord Subramanya. The
Kavadichindu songs are also in praise of the Lord. The
Skanda Sashti Kavacham is another famous hymn in praise of
Lord Subramanya and is sung particularly on festive occasions.
The Kavadi Festival
Perhaps the most potent propitiatory rite that a devotee of
Shanmukha undertakes to perform is what is known as the Kavadi.
The benefits that the devotee gains from offering a Kavadi to
the Lord are a millionfold greater than the little pain that he
inflicts upon himself.
Generally, people take a vow to offer the Lord a Kavadi for
the sake of tiding over a great calamity. Though this might, on
the face of it, appear a little mercenary, a moment’s reflection
will reveal that it contains in it the seed of supreme love of
God. The worldly object is achieved, no doubt, and the devotee
takes the Kavadi; but after the ceremony he gets so
God-intoxicated that his inner spiritual being gets awakened.
This is also a method that ultimately leads to the supreme state
Kavadi: The Kavadi has various shapes and sizes, from
the simple shape of a hawker’s storehouse (a wooden stick with
two baskets at each end, slung across the shoulder) to the
costly palanquin structure, profusely flower-bedecked and
decoratively interwoven with peacock feathers. In all cases the
Kavadi has a good many brass bells adorning it and announcing it
as the Kavadi-bearer draws it along. As the Kavadi-bearer very
often observes silence, the bells are the only eloquent signs of
a Kavadi procession.
Now, the two baskets hanging at each end of the Kavadi
contain rice, milk or other articles that the devotee has vowed
to offer the Lord. The more devout among them, and especially
those who do it as a Sadhana, collect these articles by begging.
They travel on foot from village to village, and beg from door
to door. The villagers offer their articles directly into the
basket of the Kavadi. The Kavadi-bearer continues begging until
the baskets are full or the avowed quantity is reached, and then
offers the Kavadi to the Lord. Some keen devotees undertake to
walk barefoot from home to one of the shrines of Lord
Subramanya, bearing the Kavadi all the way and collecting
materials for the offering. He has to walk a hundred miles
sometimes! The people who place the articles in the baskets also
receive the Lord’s blessings.
The Kavadi-bearer: The Kavadi-bearer is required to
observe various rules between the time he takes up the Kavadi,
and the day of the offering. He has to perform elaborate
ceremonies at the time of assuming the Kavadi, and at the time
of offering it to the Lord. He also puts on the dress of a
Pandaram, a Saivite mendicant. It consists of a saffron-coloured
cloth, a conical scarlet cap, and a cane silver-capped at both
ends. Lord Siva, the Supreme Pandaram Himself, loves to wear
this dress. The Pandaram lives on alms only. The bare chest of
the Kavadi-bearer is covered with several rudraksha malas.
The Kavadi-bearer observes strict celibacy. Only pure,
Sattwic food is taken; he abstains from all sorts of
intoxicating drinks and drugs. He thinks of God all the time.
Many of the Kavadi-bearers, especially those who do it as a
spiritual Sadhana, impose various forms of self-torture. Some
pass a sharp little spear through their tongue, which is made to
protrude out of the mouth. Others may pass a spear through the
cheek. This sort of piercing is done in other parts of the body
also. The bearer does not shave; he grows a beard. He eats only
once a day. The spear pierced through his tongue or cheek
reminds him of the Lord constantly. It also prevents him from
speaking. It gives him great power of endurance.
The Kavadi-bearer enjoys a high state of religious fervour.
He dances in ecstasy. His very appearance is awe-inspiring;
there is divine radiance on his face. Devotees often experience
the state of feeling union with the Lord. Sometimes the Deity
enters them and possesses them for some time.
Agni Kavadi: This is the most difficult
Kavadi-offering. With the Kavadi hanging on his shoulder, the
devotee walks through a pit of burning coals. Hymns are sung in
praise of the Lord by those assembled all around the pit. Drums
are beaten and incense is burnt. The entire atmosphere is
awe-inspiring. The true devotee enters into ecstasy and easily
walks over the fire.
At the Sivananda Ashram in India, Skanda Sashti is observed
for six days, preceding and including the Sashti day.
1. Devotees of Lord Subramanya live on milk and fruit and do
2. All spiritual aspirants get up at 4am during Brahmamuhurta
and meditate on the Lord.
3. On each of the six days, all the participants do as many
malas of the Mantra Om Saravanabhavaya Namah as possible.
They even greet one another with this Mantra.
4. Yogis and learned scholars deliver lectures on Subramanya
Tattwa or the divine sport of the Lord. During the evening
Satsang, hymns in praise of Lord Subramanya are sung. Readings
are taken from my book Lord Shanmukha and His Worship.
Devotees sing inspiring songs on the Lord.
5. Every day there is elaborate ceremonial worship of the
image of Lord Subramanya installed in the Bhajan Hall.
6. On the last day a grand havan (fire-worship) is
conducted. The Satsang is devoted entirely to the adoration of
Pray from the bottom of your heart: “O my Lord Subramanya, O
all-merciful Lord! we have neither faith nor devotion. We do not
know how to worship Thee in the proper manner, or to meditate on
Thee. We are Thy child who have lost the way, forgotten the goal
and Thy Name. Is it not Thy duty, O compassionate Father, to
take us back? O Mother, will you not introduce me to Thy Lord?
Mother’s love for Her children is deeper and truer than any
object in this world. Though we have become worthless and
undutiful children, O beloved Mother Valli, pardon us! Make us
dutiful and faithful. We are Thine from this very second. Always
Thine. All is Thine. It is the Mother’s duty to correct, educate
and mould Her reckless child when it strays aimlessly on the
wrong path. Remove the gulf or the veil of delusion that
separates us from Thee. Bless us. Enlighten us. Take us back to
Thy Lotus Feet. We have nothing more to say. This is our fervent
prayer to Thee and Thy Lord, our beloved and ancient Parents.”
May Lord Subramanya shower His Grace upon you!
Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram
SALUTATIONS to Lord Rama, an Incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who
is measureless, who is of the nature of pure Consciousness and
bliss, who is the consort of Sita, Master of Sri Hanuman, and
the Lord of the three worlds, who took His birth at His own will
in order to establish righteousness, destroy the wicked and
protect His devotees.
Ramnavami or the birthday of Lord Rama falls on the 9th day
of the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra (March-April).
Rama was the Lord Hari Himself, incarnate on earth for the
destruction of Ravana. He was well accomplished, beautiful and
endowed with royal marks. His glory and prowess were unlimited.
He was peerless on earth. He was free from malice. He was
gentle. He was the protector of all His people. He always
addressed them in gentle words. He never used any harsh words
even when somebody provoked Him. He held sway over the whole
Let Sri Rama be your ideal. Ideals are remembered and adored
for the purpose of adopting them in your own life. The Ramnavmi
celebration or the Vasanta Navaratri every year is an opportune
period for us to saturate ourselves with the spirit of Lord
Rama. We love and adore our ideals because we express thereby
our yearning to unite with them. In our worship of God it is
implied that we should be virtuous, good and perfect even as God
is. Hence the wise instruction: “One should become divine in
order to be able to worship God”. One cannot be a real
worshipper of Lord Rama unless one makes an honest attempt to
grow in the virtues that the Lord represents. On the other hand,
worship of Lord Rama is itself the surest means to develop such
One who approaches Sri Rama with love and worshipfulness
becomes large-hearted, pure in spirit, good-natured and
dispassionate in thought, word and deed. A true devotee of Lord
Rama is His representative, with His power and His knowledge.
Lord Rama was the prince of the Ikshvaku race. He was
virtuous and of manly strength. He was the Lord of the mind and
the senses. Brave and valiant, He was yet gentle and modest. He
was a sage in counsel, kind and sweet in speech, and most
courteous and handsome in appearance. He was the master of all
the divine weapons, and a great warrior. Ever devoted to the
good and prosperity of His kingdom and His subjects, He was a
defender of the weak and the protector of the righteous. Endowed
with numerous wondrous powers of the mind, He was well versed in
all sciences—in military science as well as the science of the
Deep and unfathomed like the ocean, firm and steadfast like
the Himalayan mountains, valiant like Lord Vishnu, He was the
joy of Kaushalya. Though fierce like fire on the battlefield, He
was calm like the cool breeze of the Mandara Hills, patient like
Mother Earth, bounteous like the god of wealth and righteous
like the lord of justice himself. In the pains and the griefs of
His people, His heart swiftly sympathised with the sufferers. In
the festive scenes which held them in joy, He like a father,
shared their joys. By His honour and heroism, as well as by His
gentleness and love for His subjects, He greatly endeared
Himself to the hearts of His people. Such a great person was the
Lord Rama was the best of men with a sterling character. He
was the very image of love. He was an ideal son, an ideal
brother, an ideal husband, an ideal friend and an ideal king. He
can be taken to embody all the highest ideals of man. He led the
ideal life of a householder to teach the tenets of righteousness
to humanity. He ruled His people so well that it came to be
known as Ram-Rajya, which meant the rule of righteousness, the
rule which bestows happiness and prosperity on all.
The noblest lesson embodied in the Ramayana is the
supreme importance of righteousness in the life of every human
being. Righteousness is the spiritual spark of life. Cultivation
of righteousness is the process of unfoldment of the latent
divinity in man. The glorious incarnation of the Supreme Being
in the form of Lord Rama has exemplified the path of
righteousness. Let mankind follow His footsteps and practise the
ideals cherished by Him, for it is only thus that there can be
everlasting peace, prosperity and welfare in this world.
None but the righteous can be truly happy. None but he who
has the correct sense of duty and the will for its
implementation can be said to live worthily. One must be imbued
with a definite conviction about the supremacy of moral
principles, ethical values and spiritual ideals. These ought to
guide one’s day-to-day actions and serve as powerful means for
the culture of the human personality. That is the purpose of
life. That is the way to Self-realisation. That is the message
and the mission of Lord Rama’s fife on earth.
To a devotee, Sri Rama is not simply a good and a great
person, but God Himself. Rama was the son of King Dasaratha of
Ayodhya, but He is also the divine omnipresent, omnipotent and
omniscient God. The destruction of the ten-headed Ravana
signifies the annihilation of the mind or the ten senses.
Worship of Lord Rama is worship of the all-pervading Godhead
Himself. Read the prayers offered by Mandothari and Brahma in
the Yuddha Kanda of the Ramayana. They refer to Rama as
the one Creator of the universe, the God of all, the Ruler of
Devotion to God is not a simple emotion. It is the result of
intense dispassion and purity of heart and attitude. You should
strive your utmost to possess the good qualities that are
extolled in the Ramayana and exemplified in the life of
Lord Rama. Otherwise, emotion may rise up in you temporarily to
a kind of ecstasy, but you will not experience divine
consciousness thereby. Devotion is a fruit which ripens
gradually through the processes of self-restraint and virtue.
Without intense dispassion there can be no real Sadhana for
Self-realisation. Only after detachment from the world of
things, is it possible to attain the Supreme Godhead. Remember
Devotion has absolutely nothing to do with age, caste, creed,
position or sex. Generally, the worldly-minded people say: “We
will practise meditation and devotion when we retire from
service.” This is a serious mistake. How can you do serious
Sadhana after squeezing out all your energy in working? How will
you be able to practise the strict Yogic discipline in your old
age? Is there any certainty in life? No, the spiritual seeds of
discipline and devotion must be sown in you while you are young,
while your heart is tender and untainted. Then only will it
strike a deep root, blossom forth and bear fruit when you become
old and retire. Only then can you bravely face the god of death
and meet him with a smile!
I shall tell you the means of attaining the final release
from the great cycle of births and deaths. Devotion to Lord Rama
is a great purifier of the heart. From devotion arises
knowledge. From knowledge comes the realisation of the pure
Self. Knowing this perfectly, one goes to the Supreme Abode and
merges in the Supreme Self.
Without first developing devotion to Rama who is the Self,
who lives in the hearts of all beings, who is all bliss and who
is peerless, how can man cross the ocean of worldly life which
has sorrow, pain and misery for its waves?
Do thou therefore worship Lord Rama who is Vishnu and the
consort of Sita who is Lakshmi. Abandon all foolishness and
enmity. Take to the service of Lord Rama.
The Lord is extremely fond of those who have surrendered
themselves to Him. He has given this promise in the Ramayana:
“To anyone who once takes shelter under Me and solicits ‘I am
Thine’, I bestow fearlessness from all beings. This is My vow”.
Even a great sinner who is full of evil qualities and who is
fond of other people’s wealth, is freed from all kinds of faults
that pertain to worldly life if only he remembers the Lord
always. He attains purity and goes to the supreme abode of the
The Name of Lord Rama is the greatest purifier of the heart.
It wipes away all one’s sins. Not only this, but it wipes away
the sinful tendencies as well. The Name is sweeter than the
sweetest of objects. It is the haven of peace. It is the very
life of pure souls. It is the purifier of all purifying
agencies. It quenches the consuming fire of worldly desires. It
awakens the knowledge of God. It bathes the aspirant in the,
ocean of divine bliss. Glory to Sri Rama and His Name!
O Devotee! recite His Name, sing His glory and serve His
Lotus Feet. Enthrone in your heart Lord Rama of dark hue, whose
image is reflected in the heart of Lord Shiva. Blessed is the
pious soul who uninterruptedly drinks the nectar of Sri Rama’s
Name which has been churned out of the ocean of the Vedas,
which removes the impurities of the Kali Yuga or the iron age,
which lives constantly on the lips of Lord Shiva, which is a
sovereign remedy or unfailing specific to cure the disease of
worldly existence and which is the life of Mother Sita.
Ram-Nam burns ignorance, passion and sin. With or without
knowledge, correctly or incorrectly, when the word “Rama” is
pronounced it showers a rain of good upon the devotee. Sri Rama
is Brahman who takes one across the ocean of worldly existence.
Rama is one in across whom the Yogis sport, that is, the Self
Lord Shiva tells His consort Parvati: “This Ram-Nam is equal
to the Lord’s thousand Names, or repetition of the Mantra a
LORD SRI RAMA
Om Sri Ramaya Namah
I call this the anti-gossip tonic. When you find that you are
wasting your time in gossip, repeat His Name several times. You
can make up for the time lost, and the mind will be slowly
weaned away from the habit of gossiping.
Sri Rama is also a wish-fulfilling tree. He will bestow upon
you whatever you want! Just read what Lord Shiva further says:
“The seat of all good things, the destroyer of all impurities
of this age of darkness, purer than purity itself, the food for
the journey of aspirants on the path to salvation, their only
resting place, the very life-breath of virtuous men, is the
Divine Name of Sri Rama. So say the sages”.
On the auspicious Ramnavmi day take a firm resolve that you
will repeat Ram-Nam with every breath and that you will
endeavour to lead a righteous life.
Ramnavmi is one of the most important festivals of the
Vaishnava sect of the Hindus. However, even those who adore Lord
Shiva celebrate the occasion. Some observe a strict fast on the
day. Temples are decorated and the image of Lord Rama is richly
adorned. The holy Ramayana is read in the temples. At
Ayodhya, the birthplace of Sri Rama, a big fair is held on this
In South India the Sri Ramnavmi Utsavam is celebrated for
nine days with great fervour and devotion. Those talented in the
art of story-telling narrate the thrilling episodes of the
Ramayana. The Kirtanists chant the holy Name of Rama and
celebrate the wedding of Rama with Sita on this great day. It is
an extremely colourful ceremony, highly inspiring and
At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, Ramnavmi is celebrated
for nine days as follows:
1. Spiritual seekers do as much Japa as possible. The sacred
Mantras Om Sri Ramaya Namah or Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai
Jai Ram are chanted.
2. Devotees read the whole of the Ramayana, either the
Sanskrit version of Sage Valmiki or the Hindi version of Saint
Tulsidas, during these nine days.
Those who cannot recite the entire epic may read this single
verse which contains in a nutshell the story of the Ramayana:
“Formerly, Sri Rama went to the forests, where Rishis did
penance, and killed the illusive deer. Sita was carried away and
Jatayu was killed. Rama met Sugriva, killed Vali and crossed the
ocean. The city of Lanka was burnt by Hanuman. The demons,
Ravana and Kumbhakarna, were then killed. Thus is recited the
3. Devotees greet one another with “Sri Ram” or “Jai
4. Those who have adopted Lord Rama as their favourite Deity
observe a fast, taking only milk and fruit for all the nine
days. Some fast only on the Ramnavmi day itself
5. On the final or Ramnavmi day, there is a grand worship of
Lord Rama in the gorgeously decorated temple. All the Vedic
rituals including Laksharchana are performed.
6. A havan is also performed.
7. From four in the morning to late at night, there is Ram
and Ram alone everywhere!
8. Leaflets, booklets and books relating to Lord Rama are
9. Special meetings are held in the evening at which
discourses on the life and teachings of the Lord are delivered.
10. Earnest seekers take resolves to accelerate their
O beloved seekers! time is fleeting. Know the value of time.
Time is most precious. Utilise every second profitably. Do not
procrastinate. Abandon all idle gossiping. Forget the past. Live
every moment of your life for the realisation of the divine
ideal and goal. Unfold your latent faculties. Grow, evolve and
become a superhuman or a dynamic Yogi. Struggle hard and reach
the goal of life.
May you all attain the final beatitude of life through
intense devotion towards Lord Rama! May you live immersed in the
ecstasy of divine love! May Sri Rama who is as effulgent as a
million suns and who is adored by the gods and devotees, protect
you all! May the blessings of Lord Rama be upon you all!
ALL THINGS in this vast creation function upon definite laws.
There is always a beautiful system and sound rationale governing
every phenomenon and process, mundane or mystical. Just as the
gross elements and physical forces operate differently under
different states and conditions, so also the subtler and higher
forces respond and react in the inner mystic planes, and in the
purely spiritual processes like meditation, prayer, worship,
etc. Therefore, you will find definite injunctions for
performing certain types of worship in the morning, certain
other injunctions for the midday prayers, and still others for
the evening worship. Again, some observances are meant to be
performed during certain phases of the moon, some when a
particular star is in the ascendant, or at the time of a
particular conjunction of planets.
The Pradosha worship is to be done in the evening twilight on
the 13th day of each lunar fortnight. It is the worship of Lord
Shiva for victory and success in all undertakings, and the
fulfilment of all your heart’s cherished desires. When you
desire to obtain a favour from a superior person, don’t you
naturally approach him at a moment when he is likely to be in a
very pleasant frame of mind? You will perhaps see him after he
has had a good dinner and is happily chatting with a friend in a
hearty, expansive mood. Even so, the Hindu, especially the Hindu
who is engaged in the motivated type of worship, usually selects
the most pleasant aspect of God for his worship. He performs it
at a time which the ancient Rishis experienced as being the most
helpful and efficacious in propitiating the Deity. The Pradosha
worship is based on such mystic psychology.
Pradosha is the worship of Lord Shiva and Parvati when they
both are in an extremely propitious mood. Repeatedly worsted in
war by the demons, the gods approached Lord Shiva to bless them
with a leader for their celestial hosts. They came to the Lord
at twilight on the thirteenth day of the lunar fortnight and
found Him in the blissful company of His consort, Parvati.
Hymned and glorified by them, Siva immediately granted their
prayerful request. Hence, the extreme auspiciousness of the
The Skanda Purana relates how Sandilya Muni prescribed
this Vrata to a certain Brahmin lady. She came to the sage with
two boys, her son, Suchivrata, and an orphan prince,
Dharmagupta, whose father was slain in battle and the kingdom
overrun by enemies.
Acting upon the advice of the sage, the woman and the boys
performed the Vrata with great devotion. After four months, that
is, in the eighth Pradosha, Suchivrata obtained a pot of nectar
and drank the divine ambrosia. Prince Dharmagupta won the hand
of a celestial princess and, as ordered by Lord Siva, with the
help of the celestial king himself, his enemies were slain and
his kingdom restored to him. Then Dharmagupta attained the
Lord’s supreme abode. So easily, and yet so greatly is the Lord
of Kailas pleased by this Vrata.
One who takes this Vrata fasts on that day, and keeps vigil
at night after the fast is over. Bathing an hour before sunset,
the worshipper first performs a preliminary worship of Lord
Shiva, together with all the others of His divine family,
namely, Parvati, Ganesha, Skanda and Nandi. After the worship of
Ganesha, Lord Shiva is invoked in the special kalasha
placed on a square mandala with a lotus drawn in it and
spread over with darbha grass. After the formal worship
has been completed, a Pradosha story is read and heard by the
devotees. This is followed by the recitation of the Maha
Mrityunjaya Mantra 108 times. In the end the sacred kalasha
water is partaken of, the sacred ash is applied to the
forehead, and the water which was used to bathe the Lord, is
drunk. A gift of a pot, a cloth and an image of the Lord is
given to a Brahmin to conclude the worship.
A very important point to be remembered in this connection is
that during this auspicious period all the hosts of celestial
beings and gods come down from the heavens and attend the
worship in their subtle forms. This adds immensely to the
sanctity of the worship.
This Vrata is highly lauded by the scriptures and is of very
great sanctity and importance to worshippers of Lord Shiva. The
mere sight of the Deity in a temple during this period will
destroy all sins and bestow bountiful blessings and Grace upon
the fortunate beholder. Even a single bael leaf (leaf
taken from the wood-apple tree) offered to the Lord at this
unique, auspicious moment equals a hundred Mahapujas. It is
usual to have special additional lights in the shrine during the
Pradosha. To light even a single wick at this juncture is highly
meritorious and productive of untold benefits, spiritual as well
as material. Most fortunate and blessed is the person who
performs the Pradosha Vrata, for upon him Lord Shiva showers His
choicest Grace and blessings in a very short time.
Here is the Yogic interpretation of the Pradosha:
According to the Shiva-Raja Yoga, concentration is directed
towards the central point in the middle of the eyebrows, where
the spiritual light can be perceived by the Yogi who turns the
vision inwards. The Yogi passes through various stages, all of
which are subdivisions of the four states of waking, dreaming,
deep sleep, and the Superconscious State or Samadhi. Each one of
these states is further sub-divided into four states, for
example, the waking-dreaming, waking-sleep, waking-fourth, and
waking-waking. It will be seen that when the states are
sub-divided in this way, the first three states comprise a total
of twelve sub-states. The thirteenth is the fourth-waking. There
is correspondence between this and the 13th day of the lunar
fortnight, either bright or dark.
Those who worship Mother Shakti have certain beliefs of their
own, one of which is that the Goddess that is worshipped
acquires one ray on each of the days of the bright fortnight,
starting from the first day. Thus, on the full moon night, the
Goddess would have received fifteen rays and would be ready for
the final form of worship intended to benefit the devout
worshipper in all ways. That is why the Navavarana worship is
always conducted on the full moon day.
The moon is believed to have a direct influence on the mind.
Incidentally, the word mati means both the moon and the
According to Shiva-Raja Yoga there are two channels through
which the Prana flows. These are the Ida and the Pingala, ruled
respectively by the moon and the sun. Midway between these two
there is a third, known as Sushumna. The Yogi is asked to start
the practice of Yoga when the breath is passing through the
lunar channel. This coincides with the flow of the breath
through the left nostril. If, however, at the time of practice
the flow is through the right nostril, the Yogi is asked to
perform a special exercise by which to change the flow to the
left. When the Yogi concentrates on the point between the
eyebrows, he transcends, stage by stage, the first twelve
sub-states. The current of breath continues flowing through the
lunar channel. The “moon” is gaining more and more strength.
When the 13th day is reached, the spiritual power of the Yogi
has correspondingly increased, and he is in a condition to see
the lights which appear in the nerve centre in between the
eyebrows. In inverse proportion to the increase in concentration
is the duration of the Yogi’s breath. At the start of the
practice, the breath will occupy a space of 16 fingers (inches
approximately). The moment the concentration has led him from
the waking to the dream state, the length of the breath becomes
only 12 fingers. In this way, when he reaches the thirteenth
stage, only 4 fingers of breath would remain. As this breath now
circulates only within the nostril, no breath is noticeable at
the tip of the nose. From that moment the light is fixed
permanently at the centre between the eyebrows, and the Yogi
would have realised the object of his practice.
Let me now describe the actual process of Shiva-Raja Yoga:
The Yogi sits in utter darkness, with the head and body
erect, eyes open, and the gaze directed to the centre of the
eyebrows. He utters the Mantra in his mind and, without
restraining his breath, concentrates his gaze at the middle of
the eyebrows, ever on the thought of the appearance of the
lights. The deep concentration resulting thereby yields the
following fruits, in order.
First, he overcomes the distractions of his mind. He reaches
a stage wherein he seems to hear somebody talking somewhere in
the distance. The words are not distinct, but a sort of murmur
is heard. Nevertheless, since his mind is elsewhere, he pays no
attention to it. In fact, the sound comes from nowhere outside.
It is his own mind that produces these sounds. The mind is
actually functioning in its form as sound. Soon afterwards, this
sound ceases, and he begins to see all sorts of visions, in the
same manner as we see pictures in a movie. It appears (as if in
a dream) that he is passing through hills of varying degrees of
beauty, through seas and lakes of all sorts of colours and
shapes, and through clouds of different hues. The clouds appear
dark and thick at first and thin out gradually. These are scenes
which are very pleasant to witness. But they are only
thought-forms, an imagery created by the mind as it is
functioning as a form. It is in this stage that the Yogi may
hear musical notes as well—of the flute, violin, cymbals or any
The Yogi then passes through an entirely different
experience. He suddenly awakens from a deep sleep. He does not
remember when he got into the sleep state, but he is conscious
of the sudden awakening. The truth is that he had not slept at
all. His mind became a complete blank, he lost consciousness of
the workings of the mind, which was nonetheless still active all
the time. When he regained consciousness, he suddenly felt his
awareness once again. He is now tempted to examine himself to
ascertain if his posture is still erect and if his eyes are
still fixed between his eyebrows. Finding no change in these he
realises that the temporary loss of consciousness was only a
stage which he passed through in his Yoga.
Next comes the stage when he feels as if something of the
nature of a hot nail is pricking him at the centre of his
eyebrows. In the earlier period of his practice there will only
be this sensation, but as he advances, this is followed by the
appearance of the lights. Even then there are various stages
which have to be passed before the lights get their proper
At first a yellow and a red light appear, the red being in
the centre and two yellow flame-like lights on either side.
After a few days, all these colours pass away and he begins to
see a steady light of the shape and colour of the moon. As his
practice advances, this grows brighter and brighter, and the
whole room in which the Yogi sits is gradually illumined,
starting with the intensity of twilight until it becomes a flood
of bright light. Yet in this state nothing that is in the room
is seen; other things which are not there, begin to appear. They
come and go with amazing rapidity, and reveal many things to
Thus far, we have dwelt upon only the first four stages of
the entire series of sixteen stages which have to be passed
through by the Shiva-Raja Yogi before he finally attains union
with Lord Shiva. The details of the experiences at each stage
vary from man to man, as also from day to day. But, in the main,
these are the stages:
At first, the Yogi is aware of what transpires about him. He
is in the waking part of the waking state. Then the pictures
come in the dream part of his waking state. The feeling of
overpowering sleep occurs in the deep sleep part of the waking
state. The appearance of the light occurs in the fourth part of
the waking stage.
The dream and the deep sleep states also have their four
sub-divisions which have to be passed. When the Yogi comes to
the thirteenth stage, he is in the waking part of the fourth
state. The vision of Lord Shiva in the form of
Self-Consciousness now begins. The form of the Lord appears
before him as though coming out of the lights, which began at
stage four of the sixteen stages. From this stage onwards the
mind loses its sense of separate activity. It becomes deeply
absorbed in the Self within.
On the 13th lunar day Nature assists the worshipper in waking
up from his mental deep sleep and in becoming aware of the
fourth state. The Yogi who practises his Yoga on the Pradosha
day gets these experiences of Lord Shiva quite readily.
Similar to the above is the significance of the worship of
Lord Ganesha on the 4th day of the lunar fortnight. This
corresponds to the Fourth part of the waking state, when the
lights are first seen. On the 8th day or the Ashtami, Mother
Durga is adored. This corresponds to the fourth part of the
dream state. Ekadashi or the 11th day corresponds to the deep
sleep part of the deep sleep state. In this state there is
complete unawareness of the mind. This is the most favourable
moment for a direct contact with God, the indweller. If we fast
and pray on this day, we can reduce our bodily activities to the
minimum and can have the vision of the Lord who resides in our
If we thus analyse the rationale of our holy days, we
discover that our ancients took particular care to effect a
synthesis of Yoga—Karma, Jnana and Bhakti.
At the Sivananda Ashram in India, a special havan and
an elaborate worship are conducted for the long life, health,
success and prosperity of all. The Lord’s sacred prasad
is sent to devotees all over the world.
Satya Narayana Vrata
YOU ARE all familiar with Narada Rishi. He is the Triloka
Sanchari—the one who moves about in the three worlds. When he
once visited the earth plane, there was great misery. He was
unable to find a way to relieve human suffering. He at once
approached Lord Narayana and related to Him the sad state of
affairs on earth.
Lord Narayana said to Narada, “O venerable Rishi, let people
observe the Satya Narayana Vrata in the evening of Shankranti or
Purnima. Let them all hear the story (Katha) of Satya Narayana.
All miseries will come to an end. There is no doubt of this.”
Rishi Narada thereupon returned to earth and preached the
glory of the Satya Narayana Vrata. Many observed the vow without
taking any food during the course of the day and attained what
they desired. All were happy and prosperous.
The observance of the Satya Narayana Vrata does not cost
much. You need only give a small gift to the pundit who comes to
read the story and then distribute some prasad which also
need not be very costly. Some wheat flour and sugar will make up
the prasad. A little curd and some fruit are required.
Even the poorest man can observe this Vrata.
In North India the vow is observed by the vast majority of
people. It takes about three hours to complete the whole
observance. It is generally observed on the full moon day,
particularly the Kartik, Vaisakh, Sravan and Chaitra Purnimas
and the Shankranti day. It can also be done on new moon days.
Five stories are connected with this Vrata. They speak about
the glory of Lord Narayana and His Grace, His prasad, and
of the incalculable benefit derived by observing the Vrata. He
who hears these stories with faith, devotion and one-pointedness
of mind derives considerable benefit. The first of these is the
story of Narada, narrated above. The other stories have great
moral lessons in them concerning truthfulness, fulfilment of
2. The Story of a Poor Brahmin
There was a very poor Brahmin. He was living on alms. Lord
Narayana appeared before him in the form of an old Brahmin,
asked him to observe the Satya Narayana Vrata and gave him His
word of assurance that he would be free from poverty, by
observing this Vrata. The Brahmin acted accordingly. All his
desires were fulfilled.
3. The Story of a Wood-cutter
The same Brahmin then did the Vrata on a grand scale. A poor
wood-cutter entered the compound of the Brahmin to drink some
water. The Katha of Satya Narayana was going on. The
wood-cutter, attracted only by the skill of the story-teller,
sat down and heard it with rapt attention. He also was inspired
to observe the Vrata in his house. He took some prasad
and ate it.
Then he went to the market-place and sold his bundle of fuel.
He received double the usual amount for his fuel. He immediately
purchased the things that were necessary for the Vrata and
observed it along with his family members, with intense faith
and devotion. All his desires were fulfilled. He enjoyed
everything that was possible on this earth plane. After death he
attained the supreme abode of Satya Loka where Truth alone
4. The Story of a Merchant
Once upon a time King Ulkamukha reigned over the earth. He
was a devotee of Lord Satya Narayana. The queen, too, was very
pious. One day they observed a fast and performed the Satya
Narayana Vrata on the banks of the holy Bhadrasheela.
A merchant named Sadhu came to the king and asked him what he
was doing. The king explained to the merchant all about the
Satya Narayana Vrata. When Sadhu returned home he narrated to
his wife, Lilavathi, the glory of the Satya Narayana Vrata as he
heard it from the king. Thereupon, both resolved to observe it,
provided they were blessed with a child. Lilavathi soon brought
forth a girl whom they named Kalavathi.
Sadhu now thought that he would postpone the Vrata till after
his daughter was married. The wedding of Kalavathi took place in
course of time, but Sadhu had entirely forgotten his resolve.
After some time he went to foreign countries for trade along
with his son-in-law.
Lord Narayana felt it was high time He reminded Sadhu of his
resolve. One night, while Sadhu was at a place called
Ratnasarpur, he was suddenly arrested and imprisoned along with
his party by the royal police. The police suspected them to be
thieves. At the same time, thieves had robbed the property of
Sadhu in his native place.
Meanwhile, poor Lilavathi and Kalavathi were leading a
miserable life in the streets. One day Kalavathi went to get
alms and it so happened that she received some prasad of
Lord Satya Narayana from a temple. She came back to her mother
and pleaded that they, too, should observe the Vrata. They thus
observed the Vrata and worshipped Lord Satya Narayana.
That very day, the king of Ratnasarpur dreamt that Sadhu and
his party were not really guilty of any theft and that they
should be released else he would be destroyed along with his
relatives. The king at once released Sadhu and his party from
prison, giving them double the value for their merchandise.
Sadhu was on his way back to his native village when Lord
Satya Narayana appeared before him in the guise of a mendicant
and asked him what he had in the boat. Sadhu suspected that the
mendicant might ask him for some money. He therefore replied
that there were bundles of leaves only in the boat.
The mendicant replied, “Your words will come true, O
That night, while Sadhu was on his usual round of checking
the contents of the boat, he found that the jewels had indeed
all turned into leaves! He realised that this was due to
uttering falsehood to the mendicant. He quickly went out in
search of the mendicant, found him in a secluded spot and begged
The mendicant sternly said, “You have not kept up your
promise of observing the Satya Narayana Vrata.” Then he revealed
his true identity to the merchant, gave him words of solace and
Sadhu came back to his boat and found that all the bags
contained jewels again. He worshipped Lord Satya Narayana with
intense faith and devotion.
After five days, Sadhu reached his native place. He sent a
message to inform his wife and daughter of his arrival. At the
time when the messenger arrived to give the news, Lilavathi and
Kalavathi were hearing the Satya Narayana Katha. When they had
finished the worship they went to meet Sadhu, but, alas! they
had forgotten to take the prasad of the Lord.
Lord Satya Narayana wanted to point out their carelessness in
not taking the prasad. The boat with its wealth and their
son-in-law sank. The son-in-law struggled in desperation for his
life. Sadhu who was on the shore prayed and worshipped the Lord.
A divine voice was heard in the sky: “Kalavathi has not taken My
prasad. So this has happened.” Kalavathi hurried back to
her house and ate the prasad. She returned, and with
sheer joy on her face, beheld both her father and her husband
who was miraculously saved through the Grace of Lord Satya
Narayana. Even the boat and the jewels were recovered
miraculously. All rejoiced. Sadhu narrated all that had happened
during his travel and how he was saved by the Lord when in
Thenceforth, the couple, Sadhu and Lilavathi, regularly
observed the Satya Narayana Vrata during Purnima and Shankranti,
and lived happily ever after. They attained the blissful abode
of Lord Narayana.
5. The Story of King Tungadhwaja
One day King Tungadhwaja went out hunting. After walking a
long distance he was overcome by fatigue. He sat under a banyan
tree. Some boys of the cowherd class were performing the Vrata
of Satya Narayana in the vicinity of the banyan tree. The boys
came to know that a king was resting under the tree. One of them
respectfully took some prasad and placed it before the
The king did not want to attend the function, nor prostrate
before the Lord. He did not take the prasad either. In
fact, he cast a look of disgust at the offering, and proudly
returned to his capital.
The Lord wanted to teach the king a lesson. The king was
given the news that his sons and daughters died and his whole
property was destroyed. He inwardly understood that this was due
to the disrespect he had shown to the Lord and His prasad.
He repented very much for his wrong doing.
With a sore but repentant heart, he made his way to the
banyan tree where the boys had worshipped the Lord. He himself
now performed the worship with intense faith and devotion. Lord
Satya Narayana showered His Grace upon the king. He got back his
lost property and his children. The king thereafter regularly
worshipped the Lord and lived happily.
He who observes this Vrata, which is even being observed by
the gods themselves, with faith, devotion and self-surrender; he
who hears the sacred story of Lord Satya Narayana with faith and
devotion; he who attends the worship and eats the prasad—he
certainly attains health, wealth and joy. He is uplifted from
the mire of worldliness and the clutches of death. He finally
abides in the Truth.
In the Kali Yuga, worship of Lord Hari through the Satya
Narayana Vrata makes one happy, peaceful and prosperous. This is
the truth described in the ancient epics.
THIS FALLS on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of
Phalgun (February-March). The name means “the night of Shiva”.
The ceremonies take place chiefly at night. This is a festival
observed in honour of Lord Shiva. Shiva was married to Parvati
on this day.
People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do
not even take a drop of water. They keep vigil all night. The
Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it
every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc.,
whilst the chanting of the Mantra Om Namah Shivaya
continues. Offerings of bael leaves are made to the
Lingam. Bael leaves are very sacred as, it is said,
Lakshmi resides in them.
Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, such as the Shiva Mahimna
Stotra of Pushpadanta or Ravana’s Shiva Tandava Stotra
are sung with great fervour and devotion. People repeat the
Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya. He who utters the
Names of Shiva during Shivaratri, with perfect devotion and
concentration, is freed from all sins. He reaches the abode of
Shiva and lives there happily. He is liberated from the wheel of
births and deaths. Many pilgrims flock to the places where there
are Shiva temples.
The Story Of King Chitrabhanu
In the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhishma,
whilst resting on the bed of arrows and discoursing on Dharma,
refers to the observance of Maha Shivaratri by King Chitrabhanu.
The story goes as follows.
Om Namah Shivaya
Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty,
who ruled over the whole of Jambudvipa, was observing a fast
with his wife, it being the day of Maha Shivaratri. The sage
Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of the king.
The sage asked, “O king! why are you observing a fast today?”
King Chitrabhanu explained why. He had the gift of
remembering the incidents of his previous birth.
The king said to the sage: “In my past birth I was a hunter
in Varanasi. My name was Suswara. My livelihood was to kill and
sell birds and animals. One day I was roaming the forests in
search of animals. I was overtaken by the darkness of night.
Unable to return home, I climbed a tree for shelter. It happened
to be a bael tree. I had shot a deer that day but I had
no time to take it home. I bundled it up and tied it to a branch
on the tree. As I was tormented by hunger and thirst, I kept
awake throughout the night. I shed profuse tears when I thought
of my poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously
awaiting my return. To pass away the time that night I engaged
myself in plucking the bael leaves and dropping them down
onto the ground.
“The day dawned. I returned home and sold the deer. I bought
some food for myself and for my family. I was about to break my
fast when a stranger came to me, begging for food. I served him
first and then took my food.
“At the time of death, I saw two messengers of Lord Shiva.
They were sent down to conduct my soul to the abode of Lord
Shiva. I learnt then for the first time of the great merit I had
earned by the unconscious worship of Lord Shiva during the night
of Shivaratri. They told me that there was a Lingam at the
bottom of the tree. The leaves I dropped fell on the Lingam. My
tears which I had shed out of pure sorrow for my family fell
onto the Lingam and washed it. And I had fasted all day and all
night. Thus did I unconsciously worship the Lord.
“I lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss
for long ages. I am now reborn as Chitrabhanu.”
Spiritual Significance of the Ritual
The Scriptures record the following dialogue between Sastri
and Atmanathan, giving the inner meaning of the above story.
Sastri: It is an allegory. The wild animals that the
hunter fought with are lust, anger, greed, infatuation, jealousy
and hatred. The jungle is the fourfold mind, consisting of the
subconscious mind, the intellect, the ego and the conscious
mind. It is in the mind that these “wild animals” roam about
freely. They must be killed. Our hunter was pursuing them
because he was a Yogi. If you want to be a real Yogi you have to
conquer these evil tendencies. Do you remember the name of the
hunter in the story?
Atmanathan: Yes, he was called Suswara.
Sastri: That’s right. It means “melodious”. The hunter
had a pleasant melodious voice. If a person practices Yama and
Niyama and is ever conquering his evil tendencies, he will
develop certain external marks of a Yogi. The first marks are
lightness of the body, health, steadiness, clearness of
countenance and a pleasant voice. This stage has been spoken of
in detail in the Swetaswatara Upanishad. The hunter or
the Yogi had for many years practised Yoga and had reached the
first stage. So he is given the name Suswara. Do you remember
where he was born?
Atmanathan: Yes, his birthplace is Varanasi.
Sastri: Now, the Yogis call the Ajna Chakra by the name
Varanasi. This is the point midway between the eyebrows. It is
regarded as the meeting place of the three nerve currents
(Nadis), namely, the Ida, Pingala and the Sushumna. An aspirant
is instructed to concentrate on that point. That helps him to
conquer his desires and evil qualities like anger and so on. It
is there that he gets a vision of the Divine Light within.
Atmanathan: Very interesting! But how do you explain
his climbing up the bael tree and all the other details
of the worship?
Sastri: Have you ever seen a bael leaf?
Atmanathan: It has three leaves on one stalk.
Sastri: True. The tree represents the spinal column.
The leaves are threefold. They represent the Ida, Pingala and
Sushumna Nadis, which are the regions for the activity of the
moon, the sun and fire respectively, or which may be thought of
as the three eyes of Shiva. The climbing of the tree is meant to
represent the ascension of the Kundalini Shakti, the serpentine
power, from the lowest nerve centre called the Muladhara to the
Ajna Chakra. That is the work of the Yogi.
Atmanathan: Yes, I have heard of the Kundalini and the
various psychic centres in the body. Please go on further; I am
very interested to know more.
Sastri: Good. The Yogi was in the waking state when he
began his meditation. He bundled up the birds and the animals he
had slain and, tying them on a branch of the tree, he rested
there. That means he had fully conquered his thoughts and
rendered them inactive. He had gone through the steps of Yama,
Niyama, Pratyahara, etc. On the tree he was practising
concentration and meditation. When he felt sleepy, it means that
he was about to lose consciousness and go into deep sleep. So he
determined to keep awake.
Atmanathan: That is now clear to me; you certainly do
explain it very well. But why did he weep for his wife and
Sastri: His wife and children are none other than the
world. One who seeks the Grace of God must become an embodiment
of love. He must have an all-embracing sympathy. His shedding of
tears is symbolical of his universal love. In Yoga also, one
cannot have illumination without Divine Grace. Without
practising universal love, one cannot win that Grace. One must
perceive one’s own Self everywhere. The preliminary stage is to
identify one’s own mind with the minds of all created beings.
That is fellow-feeling or sympathy. Then one must rise above the
limitations of the mind and merge it in the Self. That happens
only in the stage of Samadhi, not earlier.
Atmanathan: Why did he pluck and drop the bael
Sastri: That is mentioned in the story only to show
that he had no extraneous thoughts. He was not even conscious of
what he was doing. All his activity was confined to the three
Nadis. The leaves, I have said before, represent the three Nadis.
He was in fact in the second state, namely, the dream state,
before he passed into the deep sleep state.
Atmanathan: He kept vigil the whole night, it is said.
Sastri: Yes, that means that he passed through the
deep sleep state successfully. The dawning of day symbolises the
entrance into the Fourth state called Turiya or
Atmanathan: It is said that he came down and saw the
Lingam. What does that mean?
Sastri: That means that in the Turiya state he saw the
Shiva Lingam or the mark of Shiva in the form of the inner
lights. In other words, he had the vision of the Lord. That was
an indication to him that he would realise the supreme, eternal
abode of Lord Shiva in course of time.
Atmanathan: So it appears from what you say that the
sight of the lights is not the final stage?
Sastri: Oh no! That is only one step, albeit a
difficult one. Now think of how the story continues. He goes
home and feeds a stranger. A stranger is one whom you have not
seen before. The stranger is no other than the hunter himself,
transformed into a new person. The food was the likes and
dislikes which he had killed the previous night. But he did not
consume the whole of it. A little still remained. That was why
he had to be reborn as King Chitrabhanu. Going to the world of
Shiva (Salokya) is not enough to prevent this. There are other
stages besides Salokya. These are Samipya, Sarupya and finally
Sayujya. Have you not heard of Jaya and Vijaya returning from
Atmanathan: Yes, I have understood now.
Lord Shiva’s Assurance
When creation had been completed, Shiva and Parvati went out
to live on the top of Mount Kailas. Parvati asked, “O venerable
Lord! which of the many rituals observed in Thy honour doth
please Thee most?”
The Lord replied, “The 14th night of the new moon, in the
dark fortnight during the month of Phalgun, is my most favourite
day. It is known as Shivaratri. My devotees give me greater
happiness by mere fasting than by ceremonial baths and offerings
of flowers, sweets and incense.
“The devotee observes strict spiritual discipline in the day
and worships Me in four different forms during each of the four
successive three-hour periods of the night. The offering of a
few bael leaves is more precious to Me than the precious
jewels and flowers. My devotee should bathe Me in milk at the
first period, in curd at the second, in clarified butter at the
third, and in honey at the fourth and last. Next morning, he
should feed the Brahmins first and, after performing the
prescribed ceremonies, he can break his fast. O Parvati! there
is no ritual which can compare with this simple routine in
Parvati was deeply impressed by the speech of Loid Shiva. She
repeated it to Her friends who in their turn passed it on to the
ruling princes on earth. Thus was the sanctity of Shivaratri
broadcast all over the world.
The two great natural forces that afflict man are Rajas (the
quality of passionate activity) and Tamas (that of inertia). The
Shivaratri Vrata aims at the perfect control of these two. The
entire day is spent at the Feet of the Lord. Continuous worship
of the Lord necessitates the devotee’s constant presence in the
place of worship. Motion is controlled. Evils like lust, anger,
and jealousy, born of Rajas are ignored and subdued. The devotee
observes vigil throughout the night and thus conquers Tamas
also. Constant vigilance is imposed on the mind. Every three
hours a round of worship of the Shiva Lingam is conducted.
Shivaratri is a perfect Vrata.
The formal worship consists of bathing the Lord. Lord Shiva
is considered to be the Form of Light (which the Shiva Lingam
represents). He is burning with the fire of austerity. He is
therefore best propitiated with cool bathing. While bathing the
Lingam the devotee prays: “O Lord! I will bathe Thee with water,
milk, etc. Do Thou kindly bathe me with the milk of wisdom. Do
Thou kindly wash me of all my sins, so that the fire of
worldliness which is scorching me may be put out once for all,
so that I may be one with Thee—the One alone without a second.”
At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the Shivaratri festival
is celebrated in the following manner.
1. All spiritual aspirants fast the whole day, many of them
without taking even a single drop of water.
2. A grand havan is performed for the peace and
welfare of all.
3. The whole day is spent in doing the Japa of Om Namah
Shivaya and in meditation upon the Lord.
4. At night all assemble in the temple and chant Om Namah
Shivaya the whole night.
5. During the four quarters of the night the Shiva Lingam is
worshipped with intense devotion.
6. Sannyas Diksha is also given on this day to sincere
seekers on the path.
Offer this inner worship to Lord Shiva daily: “I worship the
jewel of my Self, the Shiva residing in the Lotus of my heart. I
bathe Him with the water of my pure mind brought from the river
of faith and devotion. I worship Him with the fragrant flowers
of Samadhi—all this so that I may not be born again in this
Here is another formula for the supreme worship of the Lord:
“O Shiva! you are my Self. My mind is Parvati. My Pranas are
your servants. My body is your house. My actions in this world
are your worship. My sleep is Samadhi. My walk is
circumambulation of you. My speech is your prayer. Thus do I
offer all that I am to you.
VAIKUNTA Ekadashi falls in the month of Marga-seersha
(December-January). This is observed with all solemnity in the
temples of Lord Vishnu. Fasting is prescribed on all Ekadashis,
that is, the 11th day of the lunar fortnight, twice a month.
In this Kali Yuga, even if just one Ekadashi is observed with
dispassion, faith and devotion, and if the mind is wholly fixed
on Hari, one is freed from the rounds of birth and death. There
is no doubt about this. The scriptures give us their assurance
on this point.
Devotees fast on this day, observe vigil the whole night and
do Japa, Hari Kirtan and meditation. Some do not take even a
drop of water. Those who are unable to fast completely can take
some light fruit and milk.
No rice should be taken on Ekadashi days. This is very
important. The sweat that fell down from the head of Brahma
assumed the form of a demon and said to the Lord, “O Lord! now
give me an abode to dwell.”
Brahma replied, “O demon! go and dwell in the rice particles
eaten by men on Ekadashi day and become worms in their stomach.”
For this reason rice is prohibited on Ekadashi. If one
observes the Ekadashi fast regularly, Lord Hari is propitiated.
All sins are destroyed. The mind is purified. Devotion gradually
develops. Love for God becomes intense. Orthodox people in South
India observe complete fasting and vigil even on ordinary
Ekadashi days. For the devotees of Lord Vishnu, every Ekadashi
is a very sacred day.
Benefits of Fasting
Nowadays, many educated people do not observe fasting on this
sacred day. This is due to the impact of the dark, vicious,
materialistic forces. When the intellect develops a little,
people begin to enter into arguments and unnecessary
discussions. Intellect is a hindrance on the spiritual path.
They who have not developed the heart but who have developed
their intellect begin to doubt and question at every step. They
are led astray. They want a “why” and a “how” for everything.
They want “scientific” explanations for all phenomena.
God is beyond proofs and presumptions. One has to approach
religion and the scriptures with great faith, reverence and
purity of heart. Then only are the secrets of religion revealed
unto him like the apple in the palm of one’s hand. Does anybody
ask his mother to prove who is his father?
Fasting controls passion. It checks the emotions. It controls
the senses also. It is a great penance. It purifies the mind and
the heart. It destroys a multitude of sins. Fasting controls the
tongue in particular which is the deadliest enemy of man.
Fasting overhauls the respiratory, circulatory, digestive and
urinary systems. It destroys all the impurities of the body and
all sorts of poisons. It eliminates uric acid deposits. Just as
impure gold is rendered pure by melting it in the crucible again
and again, so also this impure mind is rendered purer by
Young and robust Brahmacharis (celibates) should observe
fasting whenever passion troubles them. Only then will they have
very good meditation, as the mind will be rendered calm. The
chief object of fasting is to render the system calm so that one
is able to practise meditation rigorously during that period.
Withdraw the senses and fix the mind on God. Pray to God to
guide you and to throw a flood of light on your spiritual path.
Say with feeling: “O God, guide me! Protect me, protect me! I am
Thine, I am Thine! Forsake me not!” You will be blessed with
purity, light and strength. Follow this Sadhana on the days that
you fast, Ekadashi days in particular.
Fasting is one of the ten canons of Yoga. However, avoid
excessive fasting. It will produce weakness. Use your common
sense. If you cannot fast for the full twenty-four hours, at
least fast for 10-12 hours and then take some milk and fruit.
Gradually increase your fast to 15 hours and then up to 24
hours. Fasting makes a man strong, both spiritually and
In his code, the Manu Smriti, the great Hindu
lawgiver, Manu, prescribes fasting for the removal of the five
capital sins. Diseases that are pronounced incurable by doctors
are cured by fasting. Occasionally, a complete fast is greatly
desirable for all to keep up good health, to give adequate rest
to the internal organs and maintain celibacy. All diseases have
their origin in overeating and verily fasting is the only method
to cure this.
Complete fasting helps to control sleep. Taking recourse to
tea to control sleep is not desirable. You will not gain any
spiritual strength if you depend on an external agent. During
fasting avoid all company. Live alone. Utilise your time in
Sadhana. When breaking a fast do not take a heavy meal or a
heavy food that is hard to digest. Milk or some fruit juice is
Moderation in eating and withdrawal of the senses in Yogic
meditation are the obverse and the reverse of the same coin.
Moderation consists in taking a little food or water just to
keep the body in good working order.
In the Gita you will find: “Verily, Yoga is not for
him who eats too much, nor who abstains to excess, nor who
sleeps too much, nor to the excessively wakeful”.
The Yogi withdraws his senses from the particular sense
objects. The senses are made to turn into or get involved into
the mind. When one is fully established in these two practices,
supreme control of the senses is achieved.
Once there was a demon, Mura, who oppressed the gods. The
gods approached Lord Hari for protection. Hari sent Yoga Maya to
kill the demon. Yoga Maya carried out the behests of the Lord
Then the Lord said to Yoga Maya, “Those who observe Ekadashi
will be freed from all sins, and you will be called by the name
King Ambarisha was a great votary of Lord Hari. He practised
the Ekadashi Vrata for a year. Ambarisha obtained His Grace. On
one occasion he fasted for three consecutive days. He was about
to break the fast when Rishi Durvasa appeared as his guest. The
king received him with due respect and requested him to take his
meals. The Rishi agreed and went to bathe in the river. The king
waited patiently for a long time, but the Rishi did not return.
Time was running out; if the king did not eat anything before
the day ended his Vrata would not bear fruit. And if he ate, he
would be showing disregard to the Rishi. As a compromise the
king took a little water to serve both the conditions.
When Durvasa returned from his bath, he knew exactly what had
happened, and was angry. He tore a hair from his tuft and
charged it to kill Ambarisha. The king was unmoved. The discus
of Lord Vishnu destroyed the power of the hair of Durvasa. It
now followed the Rishi wherever he went and tried to destroy
Rishi Durvasa went to Brahma and Shiva for help, but to no
avail. He went to Lord Hari who said to him, “I am dependent on
My devotees. My heart is in the possession of My devotees. Go
thou, therefore, to Ambarisha; beg his pardon and thou shalt be
Ambarisha thereupon prayed to the charged hair to desist from
its course, and saved the Rishi. Durvasa thanked him from the
bottom of his heart.
Vara Lakshmi Vrata
LORD SHIVA describes the glory of this Vrata in the Skanda
Purana. It is performed by a woman whose husband is still
living. Maha Lakshmi is the abode of all auspiciousness and
prosperity. This worship of Maha Lakshmi is done to obtain good
progeny, and for the health and long life of the husband.
The Vrata is observed on the Friday immediately preceding the
full moon day of the month of Sravan (August-September). After a
purificatory bath, the lady should put on a clean, fresh cloth
and make a mandala with the drawing of a lotus upon it. A
kalasha filled with rice and topped with fresh mango
leaves, a coconut and cloth are placed on the mandala and
Lakshmi is invoked therein. Fresh grains are used in the worship
as they convey the idea of growth and prosperity.
After the worship of the kalasha, follows the worship
of Ganesha, then the worship of the raksha or the sacred
thread. Now the main worship of Vara Lakshmi begins and the
raksha is worshipped a second time. It is then tied to the
right hand of the lady. After the worship various auspicious
articles are given as charity to some deserving lady whose
husband is alive. This lady is also fed with dainties.
Lakshmi not only bestows wealth and all sorts of material
prosperity, but also imparts divine wisdom to all Her devotees.
She is Vidya Shakti. She introduces Her devotees to Her Lord.
She recommends them to Her Lord for their salvation.
The Giver of Prosperity and Happiness
She is the power of Lord Narayana who is also known as Lord
Vishnu or Lord Hari. Narayana is God’s aspect of preservation.
He is an embodiment of Shuddha Sattwa. Lakshmi is His causal
body. She is Maya, the illusory power of Nature. She deludes the
whole world by Her veiling power and projects it through Her
projecting power. She Herself as Vidya-Lakshmi enlightens the
spiritual aspirant. Beauty, grace, a picturesque scenery or
charming landscape, modesty, love, prosperity, music, the five
elements and their combinations, the internal organs, mind,
Prana, intellect—all these are Her manifestations.
Without Lakshmi even Sannyasins cannot do propaganda or
preaching work or run their institutions. They are in fact more
in need of Lakshmi than the householders because they have to do
great dynamic work for human weal. Sri Shankara worshipped Devi,
Lakshmi and Saraswathi for success in his work. All great
prophets and divine messengers who have done great spiritual
work in the past were devotees of Mother Lakshmi, Devi and
May Goddess Lakshmi bless you all! Let us repeat Her Mantra:
Om mahaadevyai cha vidmahe;
Vishnu patnyai cha dheemahi
Tanno lakshmi prachodayat.
WHEN THE gods and the demons churned the milky ocean in days
of yore, nectar came out of it. Lord Vishnu assumed the form of
Mohini, a charming lady, deluded the demons and distributed the
nectar only among the gods. But Rahu had disguised himself as a
god. The sun and the moon pointed this out to Mohini who
immediately slashed off the demon’s head. Since the nectar had
by then already reached up to the neck, he did not die. Thus the
head came to be known as Rahu and the body as Ketu. To avenge
this betrayal, Rahu and Ketu periodically eclipse the sun and
Astronomically speaking, when the sun, the moon and the earth
are all in line, with the moon or the earth at the centre, a
solar or lunar eclipse takes place respectively.
At the time of the eclipse, people bathe in the sacred
rivers. They do charitable acts. They give cows, money and gold.
The day after the eclipse they feed the poor, the Brahmins and
the Sadhus. After the eclipse they clean their houses, vessels,
etc., and take a bath before they start cooking.
One should not take food during the eclipse. When the eclipse
begins the food should by then have been digested. One should
take food only after seeing the sun or the moon free from the
eclipse. When the clear sun or the moon is not seen before
sunset or sunrise, in the case of the solar and lunar eclipse
respectively, food can be taken only after the sun or the moon
is seen the next day.
Pregnant women should not see the sun or the moon during the
time of the eclipse. If they do the child born may have some
kind of defect. He may be born deaf, dumb or blind. Householders
are forbidden from sexual intercourse on the day of the eclipse,
for the same reason.
At this time one should take great care in avoiding bleeding,
scorpion stings, etc. These have disastrous results. Even an
earthworm has a poisonous effect when it bites one during an
Those who do Japa at the time of the eclipse derive great
benefits. The effect of Japa and Sankirtan during the eclipse
contributes towards relieving the suffering of humanity and also
of the planets. These people receive the blessings of the gods.
They attain perfection quickly. Those who wish to tap the subtle
force locked in the Mantra that will cure scorpion stings should
stand in water and repeat the appropriate Mantra.
The little intellect cannot understand many things in this
universe. Hence, have faith in the words of sages.
Ignorance has eclipsed Self-knowledge. However, this eclipse
will disappear. You will shine in your own glory. This is the
spiritual significance of the eclipse.
The dark fortnight of Aswayuja (September-October) is known
as the Mahalaya Paksha or the fortnight specially sacred for
offering oblations to the departed ancestors. The last day of
this period, the new moon day, is considered as the most
important day in the year for performing obsequies and rites.
The renowned hero of the Mahabharata, Karna, when he
left the mortal coil, ascended to the higher worlds and the
great charity he had done here was returned to him hundredfold.
But, it was all gold and silver; there was no food, as he had
not done any food-charity! He prayed to the god of death. So, he
was sent back to earth for fourteen days, to make up for this
For fourteen days, he fed Brahmins and the poor, and offered
oblations of water. On his return to the higher regions, he had
food in plenty. It is these fourteen days that are commemorated
in the Mahalaya Paksha. Due to the grace of the god of death, it
has been ordained that offerings made during this period benefit
all the departed souls, whether they are connected to you or
Charity in the form of food is important during this
observance. Life depends upon food. You cannot preach religion
to empty stomachs. This human body is the most important vehicle
for realising God. How precious must food be which keeps the
body fit for Yoga! The gift of food is the greatest gift.
Therefore, give food in plenty, not only during the Mahalaya
fortnight but all through the year.
Om Tat Sat Brahmaparnamastu
Philosophy of Idol Worship
THE IDOL is a support for the neophyte. It is a prop in his
spiritual childhood. A form or image is necessary for worship in
the beginning. It is an external symbol of God for worship. It
is a reminder of God. The material image calls up the mental
idea. Steadiness of mind is obtained by image worship. The
worshipper will have to associate the ideas of infinity,
omnipotence, omniscience, purity, perfection, freedom, holiness,
truth and omnipresence with the form of worship he chooses.
It is not possible for all to fix the mind on the Absolute. A
concrete form is necessary for the vast majority for practising
concentration. To behold God everywhere and to practise the
presence of God is not possible for the ordinary man. Idol
worship is the easiest form of worship for the modern man.
A symbol is absolutely indispensable for fixing the mind. The
mind wants a prop to lean upon. It cannot hold a conception of
the Absolute in the initial stages. Without the help of some
external aid the mind cannot be centralised. In the beginning,
therefore, concentration or meditation is not possible without a
Everyone an Idol Worshipper
Idol worship is not peculiar to Hinduism. Christians worship
the Cross. They have the image of the Cross in their mind. The
Muslims keep the image of the Kaaba stone when they kneel and do
prayers. The people of the whole world, save a few Yogis and
Vedantins, are all worshippers of idols. They keep some image or
the other in their mind.
The mental image also is a form of idol. The difference is
not one of kind, but only of degree. All worshippers, however
intellectual they may be, generate a form in the mind and make
the mind dwell on that image.
Everyone is thus an idol worshipper. Pictures, drawings,
etc., are only forms of idols. A gross mind needs a concrete
symbol as a prop and a subtle mind requires an abstract symbol.
Even a Vedantin has the symbol Om to fix his wandering mind. It
is not only the pictures or images in stone and in wood that are
idols, but dialectics and great leaders also become idols. So,
why condemn idolatry?
A Medium for Establishing Communion With God
Idols are not the idle fancies of sculptors, but are shining
channels through which the heart of the devotee is attracted to
God and flows towards Him. Though apparently the image is
worshipped, the devotee feels the presence of the Lord in it and
pours out his devotion unto it. It is the appalling ignorance of
the modern sensual man that clouds his vision and prevents him
from seeing Divinity in the lovely and enchanting idols of His
The wonderful scientific advances of this century ought to
convince one of the glory of idol worship. How are the songsters
and orators confined to a small boxlike thing called a radio or
a T.V.? The latter are merely lifeless, mechanical structures
which would break into a thousand pieces if thrown violently;
and yet, if you know how to handle it, you can hear through it
the music and see through it the pictures occurring several
thousands of miles away. Even as you catch the sound-waves of
people all over the globe through the radio and T.V., it is
possible to commune with the all-pervading Lord through the
medium of an idol. The divinity of the all-pervading God is
vibrant in every atom of creation. There is not a speck of space
where He is not. Why do you then say that He is not in the
There are many who would glibly say: “Oh, God is an
all-pervading formless Being. How can He be confined to this
idol!” Are these people ever conscious of His omnipresence? Do
they always see Him and Him alone in everything? No. It is their
ego that prevents them from bowing to the idols of God and with
that motive they put this lame excuse forward.
Empty vessels make much sound. A practical man who does
meditation and worship, who is full of knowledge and real
devotion, always keeps silent. He influences and teaches others
through silence. He alone knows whether an idol is necessary in
the beginning of concentration or not.
However intellectual one may be, one cannot concentrate
without the help of some symbol. An intellectual or a learned
person may say on account of his pride and vanity: “I do not
like an idol. I do not wish to concentrate on a form.” He cannot
concentrate on the formless One. He thinks that people will
laugh at him when they come to know that he is meditating on an
idol. He never does any meditation on the formless One. He
simply talks and argues and poses. He wastes his life in
unnecessary discussions only. An ounce of practice is better
than tons of theories.
Intellect is a hindrance in the vast majority of intellectual
persons. They say that the existence of Brahman is guess-work,
the superconscious state is a bluff and Self-realisation is an
imagination of the Vedantins. Deluded souls! They are steeped in
ignorance. They are carded away by their secular knowledge which
is mere husk when compared to the knowledge of the Self. There
is no hope of salvation for such people. First, their wrong
impressions should be flushed by good impressions through
Satsang. Then only will they realise their mistakes. May the
Lord bestow on them clear understanding and thirsting for real
A Symbol of God
The idol is a substitute or symbol. The image in a temple,
though it be made of stone, wood or metal, is precious for a
devotee as it bears the mark of his Lord, as it represents
something which he holds holy and eternal. A flag is only a
small piece of painted cloth, but to a soldier it stands for
something that he holds very dear. He is prepared to give up his
life in defending his flag. Similarly, the image is very dear to
a devotee. It speaks to him in its own language of devotion.
Just as the flag arouses martial valour in the soldier, so also
the image arouses devotion in the devotee. The Lord is
superimposed on the image and the image generates divine
thoughts in the worshipper.
A piece of ordinary white paper or coloured paper has no
value. You throw it away. But, if there is the stamp of the
Government on the paper (currency note), you keep it safe in
your money pocket or trunk. Even so, an ordinary piece of stone
has no value for you. You throw it away. But, if you behold the
stone idol of Lord Krishna at Pandharpur or any other idol in
shrines, you bow your head with folded palms, because there is
the stamp of the Beloved Lord on the stone. The devotee
superimposes on the stone idol his own Lord and all His
When you worship an image, you do not say: “This image has
come from Jaipur. It was bought by Prabhu Singh. Its weight is
50 lbs. It is made of white marble. It has cost me Rs.500.” No!
You superimpose all the attributes of the Lord on the image and
pray: “O Inner Ruler! You are all-pervading. You are omnipotent,
omniscient and all-merciful. You are the source of everything.
You are eternal, unchanging. You are the life of my life, the
Soul of my soul! Give me light and knowledge! Let me dwell in
Thee for ever!”
When your devotion and meditation become intense and deep,
you do not see the stone image. You behold the Lord only who is
pure Consciousness. Image worship is very necessary for
An Integral Part of the Cosmos
For a beginner, the idol is an absolute necessity. By
worshipping the idol, the Lord is pleased. The idol is made up
of the five elements. The five elements constitute the body of
the Lord. The idol remains an idol, but the worship goes to the
If you shake hands with a man, he is highly pleased. You have
touched only a small part of his body and yet he is happy. He
smiles and welcomes you. Even so, the Lord is highly pleased
when a small portion of His cosmic body is worshipped. An idol
is a part of the body of the Lord. The whole world is His body.
The devotion goes to the Lord.
The worshipper superimposes on the image the Lord and all His
attributes. He does the sixteen forms of reverence to the Lord.
First, the Presence of the Deity is invoked. Then a seat is
offered, the feet are washed, water is offered, and then
hospitality is offered. The idol is bathed, dressed and invested
with the sacred thread. Sandal paste is applied to its forehead,
flowers are offered, and incense is burnt. Then a lamp is lit
and waved before the Deity. Food is now offered, together with
the burning of camphor. A gift of gold is offered. Finally (the
sixteenth step), the Deity is bidden farewell.
In these external forms of worship, the inner love finds
expression. The wandering mind is fixed now in this form of
worship. The aspirant gradually feels the nearness of the Lord.
He attains purity of heart and slowly annihilates his egoism.
To the worshipper who has faith in the symbol, any kind of
image is the body of the Lord, be it made of stone, clay, or
brass, or be it a picture, drawing, etc. Such worship can never
be idolatry. All matter is a manifestation of God. God is
present in everything. Everything is an object of worship, for
all is a manifestation of God who is therein worshipped. The
very act of worship implies that the object of worship is
superior and conscious. This way of looking at things must be
attained by the devotee. The untutored mind must be trained to
view things in the above manner.
Idol worship Develops Devotion
Idol worship makes concentration for man simple and easy. You
can bring before your mind’s eye the great pastimes of the Lord
in His particular incarnation in which you view Him. This is one
of the easiest modes of Self-realisation. It is one that suits
the majority of people today.
Just as the picture of a famous warrior evokes heroism in
your heart, so also a look at the picture of God will elevate
your mind to divine heights. Just as the child develops the
maternal feeling by caressing, nursing and protecting its doll
made of rags, and suckles it in an imaginary manner, so also the
devotee develops the feeling of devotion by worshipping the idol
and concentrating on it.
Unveiling the Divinity in the Idol
Regular worship and other modes of demonstrating our inner
feeling of recognition of divinity in the idol unveil the
Divinity latent in it. This is truly a wonder and a miracle. The
picture comes to life. The idol speaks. It will answer your
questions and solve your problems. The God in you has the power
to awaken the latent Divinity in the idol. It is like a powerful
lens that focuses the sun’s rays onto a bundle of cotton. The
lens is not fire and the cotton is not fire either, nor can the
sun’s rays by themselves burn the cotton. However, when all
three are brought together in a particular manner, fire is
generated and the cotton is burnt. Similar is the case with the
idol, the aspirant, and the all-pervading Divinity. The idol is
the lens which brings into focus the all-pervading rays of
Divinity and lights up the aspirant with divine illumination.
God is enshrined in the idol. From here, He will protect you
in a special manner. The idol will perform miracles. The place
where it is installed is at once transformed into a temple, nay,
a Vaikunta or Kailas in reality. Those who live in such a place
are freed from miseries, from diseases, from failures and from
worldliness itself. The awakened Divinity in the idol acts as a
guardian angel blessing all, conferring the highest good on
those who bow to it.
The Image—A Mass of Consciousness
The idol is only a symbol of the Divine. A devotee does not
behold therein a block of stone or a mass of metal. It is an
emblem of God for him. He visualises the indwelling Presence in
the idol. All the sixty-three Nayanar saints of South India
attained God-realisation through worship of the Shiva Linga, the
image of Lord Shiva. For a devotee, the image is a mass of
consciousness. He draws inspiration from it. It guides him. It
talks to him. It assumes the human form to help him in a variety
The image of Lord Shiva in the temple at Madura in South
India helped the fuel-cutter and the old woman. The image in the
temple at Tirupati assumed a human form and gave witness in the
court to help His devotees. These are marvels and mysteries.
Only the devotees understand them.
When Idols Become Alive
For a devotee or a sage, there is no such thing as insentient
matter. Everything is consciousness. The devotee actually
beholds the Lord in the idol. Narsi Mehta was put to the test by
a king. The king said, “O Narsi! if you are a true, sincere
devotee of Lord Krishna, if, as you say, the idol is Lord
Krishna Himself, let this idol move.” According to the prayer of
Narsi Mehta, the idol did move. The sacred bull, Nandi, standing
before Shiva’s idol, took the food offered by Tulsidas. The idol
of Krishna played with Mirabai. It was full of life and
consciousness for her.
When Appayya Dikshita went to the Tirupati temple in South
India, the Vaishnavas refused to grant him admission. The next
morning they found that the idol of Lord Vishnu in the temple
had changed to the idol of Lord Shiva. The priest was greatly
astonished and startled. He asked pardon and prayed to Appayya
Dikshita to change the idol again to that of Lord Vishnu.
Kanaka Das was a great devotee of Lord Krishna in Udipi, in
the district of South Kanara, in South India. He was not allowed
to enter the temple on account of his low birth. Kanaka Das went
round the temple and saw a small window at the back of the
temple. He seated himself in front of the window. He was soon
lost in singing songs in praise of Lord Krishna. Many people
gathered round him. They were very powerfully attracted by the
sweet melody of his music and the depth of his devotion. Lord
Krishna turned round to enable Kanaka Das to get His Darshan.
The priests were struck with wonder. Even today, pilgrims are
shown the window and the place where Kanaka Das sat and sang.
The idol is the same as the Lord, for it is the vehicle of
the expression of the Mantra-consciousness which is the Deity.
The devotee should regard the idol in the temple with the same
attitude of respect and reverence that he would evince should
the Lord Himself appear before him in person and speak to him in
Vedanta and Idol Worship
A pseudo-Vedantin feels ashamed to bow before an idol in the
temple. He feels that his Advaita (attitude of oneness) will
evaporate if he prostrates himself. Study the lives of the
reputed Tamil saints—Appar, Sundarar, Sambandhar, and others.
They all had the highest Advaitic realisation. They saw Lord
Shiva everywhere. Yet, they visited all temples of Shiva,
prostrated before the idol and sang hymns which are on record
till today. The sixty-three Nayanar saints solely practised the
worship of the idols of Shiva and attained God-consciousness
thereby. They swept the floor of the temple, collected flowers,
made garlands for the Lord and put lights in the temple. They
were illiterate, but attained the highest realisation. They were
practical Yogis and their hearts were saturated with pure
devotion. They were embodiments of Karma Yoga. All practised the
Yoga of synthesis. The idol was all consciousness to them, not a
mere block of stone.
Madhusudana Swami, who had Advaitic realisation, who beheld
oneness of the Self and who had the feeling of oneness with all
creation, was intensely attached to the form of Lord Krishna
with flute in His hands.
Tulsidas realised the all-pervading essence. He had Cosmic
Consciousness. He communed with the all-pervading, formless
Lord. And yet, his passion for Lord Rama with bow in His hand
did not vanish. When he was at Brindavan, beholding the idol of
Lord Krishna with flute in hand, he said, “I will not bow my
head to this form.” At once Lord Krishna’s form assumed the form
of Lord Rama. Then only he bowed his head.
Tukaram also had the same cosmic experience as that of
Tulsidas. He sings in one of his songs: “I see my Lord
all-pervading, just as sweetness pervades the sugar-cane”, and
yet, he always speaks of his Lord Vittala of Pandharpur with His
hands on the hips. Mirabai also realised her identity with the
all-pervading Krishna, and yet she was not tired of repeating
again and again, “My Giridhar Nagar!”
From the above facts, we can clearly infer that one can
realise God through worship of the idol; that the idol is a
great aid for the realisation of the Lord in His all-pervading,
formless aspect also; that the worship of the idol is very
essential for the purpose of concentration and meditation in the
beginning; and that such a worship is not in any way a hindrance
to the attainment of God-realisation.
Those who vehemently attack idol worship are groping in
extreme darkness and ignorance, and have no real knowledge of
worship. They enter into unnecessary, vain debates and
discussions against idol worship to show that they are learned
persons. They have not done any real Sadhana at all. They are
persons who have made idle talking and tall talk their habit and
profession. They have ruined themselves. They have unsettled the
minds of countless persons and ruined them also. The whole world
worships idols alone in some form or another.
The mind is disciplined in the beginning by fixing it on a
concrete object or symbol. When it is rendered steady and
subtle, it can be fixed on an abstract idea such as Aham
Brahma Asmi. As one advances in meditation, the form melts
in the formless and one becomes absorbed in the formless
essence. The worship of idols is, therefore, not contrary to the
view of Vedanta. It is rather an aid to the highest Vedantic
Idol worship is only the beginning of religion. Certainly it
is not its end, The same Hindu scriptures which prescribe idol
worship for beginners, also speak of meditation on the Infinite
or the Absolute and contemplation on the significance of Tat
Twam Asi for advanced aspirants.
There are different grades of worship. The supreme state is
Self-realisation. Second in rank is meditation on the Supreme
Self. The third is the worship of symbols. The fourth is the
performance of rituals and pilgrimages to holy places. The
Shastras, the Gurus, are like kind mothers. They take hold
of the hands of the aspirants and take them step by step till
they are established in the highest superconscious state. Glory
to the Hindu Rishis who take aspirants from the lower to the
higher form of worship!
Beloved children of the Lord! Shed your ignorant disbelief
this moment. Enshrine supreme, unshakable, living faith in your
heart this very moment. Recall to your mind the glorious
examples of saints of the past. They believed, and they reaped
the rich spiritual harvests. You too can enjoy great peace,
happiness and prosperity here, and attain Him here and now if
you have faith in idol worship.