Rathe vaamanam drishtva! It is said, those who welcome the Lord Jagannath by seeing him or greeting him, he becomes free from all sins”
The festival of carts or Ratha Yatra is celebrated every year in Jagannath Puri, Odisha whereby the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna manifests his most merciful form for the degraded people of Kaliyuga. Rath Yatra is the chief attraction festival of Jagannath Puri whereby lakhs of devotees come to celebrate the Lord’s festival and get his blessings. It is celebrated every year in the month of Aashadha, the second day of bright fortnight on pushya nakshatra.
The three presiding deities, Sri Baladeva, Sri Subhadra and Sri Jagannath travel from the premises of Sri Mandir and travel to Gundicha Mandir located a few kilometers away at the sea shore, where the Lord made his appearance in the Satyuga of Swayambhu Manu, the first Manu of Lord Brahma’s day.
By Vedic calculations one can determine when the Jagannatha Temple was first built, when the Temple was inaugurated and when the Deities were installed (on their simhasana). According to the authority of Skanda Purana, this period is fifteen crores and thirty-four lakhs (more than 150 million) years ago. From this it is clear that Ratha-yatra began in the time of Svarochisa Manu, the second Manu from the day of Lord Brahma.
The deities of Sri Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra were installed by Lord Brahma himself, who is a great devotee of Lord Sri Krishna. The Lordships have very strange form and this accounts to a wonderful story about why the lord has these forms.
When Lord Krishna was in Dwaraka, he kept on remembering his cowherd friends and the gopis of Vrindavan who had no other means of survival other than Krishna himself. Once the Lord became too anxious to hear about their well-being and went away with Balaram. Meanwhile, the 16,000 queens of Sri Krishna asked Mother Rohini, the mother of Balaram about the anxiety of Krishna. She told them about the Vrindavan past times of the lord and they all became very eager to hear them. But, Rohini devi was afraid, if Krishna hears these past times, he would run to Vrindavan immediately. So, she locked all the doors and windows and asked Krishna’s sister, Subhadra to stand at the door and don’t allow Krishna and Balaram to enter and she started narrating the incidents. Meanwhile, Krishna and Balaram came and asked Subhadra to allow them to enter. When she refused to do so, Krishna by his mystic power opened one of the windows to hear and as soon as he could hear and remember the past times, all three of them manifested the symptoms of eight fold ecstasy. Their hands shrunk, their eyes widened and legs melted. This is the form of Jagannath, Lord Krishna is feeling separation from his dear devotees. When the story was over, Narada Muni came to see the lord’s form but couldn’t see the same. He asked the lord about this peculiar form, to which Sri Krishna replied that this form is especially meant for people of Kaliyuga whereby they can easily attain the supreme perfection of spiritual life.
Thefestival started to mark the pulling of Krishna’s chariot by the Brajwasis from Kurukshetra to take him back to Vrindavan. They let go the horses and themselves pulled the rope of the chariot. The chariots are made from wood without using any iron nail to join pieces together. Three magnificent chariots are prepared which take the lord from Sri Mandir to Gundicha Mandir, where the deity of the lord was prepared i.e. the place where lord appeared. The lord stays there for about a week and then returns back to the temple again. A day before the Rath yatra, the gundicha temple is thoroughly cleaned and washed, which was initiated by Sriman Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. People come in huge numbers, just to pull the carts.
Simply by pulling the carts and dancing before the lord makes the person free from all the sinful reactions and makes them very joyful. Lord, being most merciful personally comes out to see his devotees and the people of the world so as to shower his unprecedented mercy on them.
Here is some of the information about the Rathas of the Lordship
- Sri Jagannath
Name of Ratha: Nandi Ghosh Ratha
No. of wheels: 16
- Sri Baladeva
Name of Ratha: Taal Dhvaja Ratha
No. of wheels: 14
- Sri Subhadra
Name of Ratha: Dev Dalan Ratha
No. of wheels: 12
Once upon a time an orphan boy lived with his grandmother in the village. The boy wanted to study so he requested his grandmother to send him to school. The only hurdle for going to school was the 5 km thick forest that he had to cross every day. The little boy was afraid to go to school as crossing the dense forest, full of wild animals, was a tough task for him.
His grandmother suggested him an easy solution. She told him that for good boys like him Gopal is a great friend and as soon as he reached the forest area he should call out for Gopal. Gopal will be with him throughout the forest journey and make him cross the forest. The boy obeyed his grandmother’s order and followed it wisely.
Every day he cried out ‘Gopal Aao’ (Come Gopal) when he reached the forest area, both back and forth. The moment he called for Gopal, an 11 year old boy appeared wearing a peacock hat, to hold his hand and made him travel across the forest safely. This continued for many days and the little boy felt secured and guarded.
When his grandmother asked him about his journey across the forest, he smiled and said, “I follow your advice daily and Gopal drops me safely”. According to him Gopal accompanied him to school and then back to his home. His grandmother thought he just imagines someone walking along with him and there is no one in reality but she was happy for his courage.
After few days a wicked shopkeeper in the village asked the little boy, “Aren’t you afraid to travel across the jungle alone?” The boy again answered in his innocence that he does not travel alone. As soon as he enters forest Gopal joins him till end of the forest, both ways. The shopkeeper didn’t believe him and thought it to be an imaginary tale. To verify the truth of his story, the shopkeeper asked the boy that can he show him Gopal. The boy replied, “You can hide behind the trees and see Gopal accompany me”.
One morning the shopkeeper went along with the boy to verify his tale. As soon as the boy said, “Gopal Aao”, Gopal came and holded his hand. But when Gopal turned around to see the shopkeeper, he fell unconscious. Gopal told the little boy to keep his presence as a secret and he will always be by his side.
This tale clearly portrays that God is always with his children and he is standing by our side in every thick and thin. Just like an innocent child we have to seek for his help and He will be there to support us.
The creation enthrals the being with its innate beauty and serenity, and our sacred Himalayas are the epitome of mother’s nature biggest miracle. Himalayas are not just an abode of snow or mighty range, but holds revering significance for people of varied cultures. Literally defining the word ‘Hima’ in Sanskrit is ‘snow’ and the word, ‘alaya’ means ‘abode’; also known as ‘Giriraj’ or ‘King of Mountains’. Thus Himalayas are the soul of God and a deity in itself.
- The spiritual centre of the world is the abode of supreme Lord Shiva, who lives atop Mount Kailash.
- The sacred holy dhams of Hindus i.e. Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri resides in the Himalayas.
- It is home to India’s most significant spiritual spaces like the Kailash Manasarovar, Amarnath, Vaishno Devi Temple, and many beautiful monasteries and Buddhist gompas.
- Three influential Sikh pilgrimages are also located in the sacred Uttarakhand Himalayas.
- The Himalayas is the source of the Indus Basin, the Yangtze Basin and the Ganga-Brahmaptura, which are three of the world’s primary river systems.
- Mount Kailash in Himalayas holds sacred values for Jains, Buddhists, Tibetans and Hindus; and consider the Kailash Parikrama as the source of Nirvana.
- The majestic, serene and tranquil ambience makes the existence of Himalayas as eternal and timeless.
- The aura of peace and calmness has attracted numerous saints and sages like Adi Sankaracharya, Guru Gobind Singh, Swami Vivekananada, and many others.
- Himalayan Sacred Walks provides the opportunity to soak in the sacred energies of the enchanting and majestic mountains and come back deeply transformed.
The wish fulfilling tree or also known as ‘kalpa vriksha’ in Sanskrit is considered auspicious for providing the necessities of life. It is said, that Adi Shankara replaced the ‘bali’ sacrifice of human beings by coconut, to achieve the fulfilment of desire by performing religious ceremonies. Coconut is referred as human head, where the outer hard shell is similar to physical body and the kernel to the subtle body. The marks on the hard coconut body are also considered to resemble the three eyed Lord Shiva, who is the Lord to fulfil our wishes and desires.
Significance of offering Coconut:
The purest offering to Lord is coconut, which is unadulterated and pure due to the outer hard shell. Devotees please the Lord by making a pure offering and portraying the intensity of their prayers. We have often seen people breaking coconut before the beginning of auspicious ceremonies or at the beginning of a profitable venture; it is because the coconut is loved by Lord Ganesha. Devotees remember Lord Ganesha by breaking the coconut and getting rid of all the evil energies and negative hurdles.
It is also said that the ceremony of breaking the coconut resembles the breaking of human selfish motives like greed, ego and pride. As the coconut breaks, the human ego or ‘ahankaar’ is broken and shattered in front of lord, by achieving the oneness with supreme God in the Universe. As the physical myth or ‘maya’ is smashed away, one can taste the sweet untouched nectar of divine bliss.
Every part of the coconut fruit along with its tree is beneficial for human existence. Parts like trunk, leaves and coir are used in making of thatches, mats, furniture, oils and soaps. The coconut tree soaks the salty water from the ground and transforms it into sweet nourishing water which is especially recommended for patients. Special parts of the tree and fruit are used in the preparation of ayurvedic medicines and the consumption of the fruit is really healthy.
“Water the plant for five years, reap coconuts for life” is an appropriate saying to define the significance of this auspicious fruit.
Contributed By: Meenakshi Ahuja
Have you ever imagined that a symbol can rage the anger of a specific community or individuals from a particular territory? Can a symbol be associated with the pride of one and the disgust of the other?
It’s a mystery in itself that how a simple symbol can be connoted differently by various individuals and divide the entire humanity into pieces. ‘Swatika’ is one such symbol that holds various beliefs for varied individuals.
True meaning of Swastika:
Literally, Swastika means ‘of good fortune’ – ‘Su‘ means ‘well’ and ‘asti‘ means ‘being’. It marks the beginning of peace, fortune and happiness in one’s life.
- Spreading its arms in four directions, the solar symbol defines the power of Sun or Lord Vishnu.
- The four armed wheel defines the altering nature of the Universe with a fixed and stable centre as God.
- It explains the four eras i.e. Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga, Dwapara-yuga and Kali-yuga.
- It represents the four varnas i.e. Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras.
- It defines the four basic aims of human pursuit – dharma (righteousness), artha (prosperity), kama (passion) and moksha (salvation).
- It describes the four Vedas – Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda, and Atharva-Veda and the four faces and four hands of Lord Brahma.
- It is also the emblem of Ganesha, the god of good luck.
- It represents the celestial change of the Sun to the tropic of Capricorn according to Hindu astronomy.
- It carries the spirit of enlightenment that defines the flow from humankind to a higher level of consciousness.
Negative connotation related with Swastika:
The above points highlight the positive side of the coin but we can never ignore the negative connotations and beliefs attached to this symbol. Till date the sentiments of the Jews are hurt and they associate the ‘Swastik’ with evil energies. As swastika was associated with ‘Aryan identity’, Adolf Hitler adopted the swastika as the emblem of ‘racial purity’ displayed on a red background. Even before that, during the post-World War I period, a number of far-right nationalist movements adopted the swastika.
In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote: “I myself, meanwhile, after innumerable attempts, had laid down a final form; a flag with a red background, a white disk, and a black swastika in the middle.” The devastating holocaust in Germany and the negative association with the Nazi party invokes the strong emotions of the Jews and has acquired a negative connotation in the West.
Significance for other cultures:
Not only for Hindus, but the symbol of swastika is also evident on the chest, palms, soles of Buddha and it symbolised the footsteps of Lord Buddha. For Jainism, it represents the four possible places of rebirth i.e. the animal or plant world, hell, earth, or the spirit world. In China and Japan, the swastika has been used to represent abundance, prosperity and long life. The Greek goddess Athena was sometimes portrayed as wearing robes covered with swastikas. For the early Christians, the symbol represented Christ, calling it a disguised cross.
Though the culture and experiences may vary the definition of Swastika, yet it is hoped that the true significance of this auspicious symbol is realized by the world, ignoring the historical past.
Contributed By: Meenakshi Ahuja