The Ancient City of Haridwar (Hardwar) is the gateway to the Holy Shrines on the mighty Himalayas in Garhwal and Kumaon. The River Ganges, after flowing for 253 kilometers from its source at Gaumukh at the edge of the Gangotri Glacier for the first time enters the Indo-Gangetic Plains at Haridwar (to begin its march to the Bay of Bengal), which gave the Haridwar its ancient name, Gangadwára. It is one of the oldest living cities in the World.
Haridwar finds mention in the ancient Hindu scriptures and is held as one of the seven holiest places (Sapta Puri) to Hindus. Samudra manthan mentions Haridwar,Ujjain, Nashik and Prayag (Allahabad) are the four places where Amrit, (elixir of immortality), spilled over accidentally from the pitcher while being carried by “Garuda”. Thus the Kumbha Mela, is celebrated every 12 years in Haridwar.
Archaeological findings show that terra cotta culture between 1700 BCE and 1200 BCE existed in Haridwar region. Haridwar came under the Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE) and later under the Kushan Empire (1st–3rd centuries AD). Haridwar is mentioned by the Chinese traveler, Huan Tsang in his writings, who visited India in 629 AD, during the reign of Harshavardhan (590–647). Haridwar fell to the Uzbek conqueror Timur Lang (1336–1405) in January 1399.
During his visit to Haridwar, Guru Nanak (1469–1539) bathed at ‘Kushawart Ghat’, where the famous, ‘watering the crops’ episode took place. Ain-e-Akbari, of Abul Fazal written in 16th century during Akbar’s reign, refers to Haridwar as Maya (Mayapur), known as “Hardwar on the Ganges”.
Hindus believe that there are within Haridwar, the ‘Panch Tirth‘ (Five Pilgrimages) within Haridwar, are “Gangadwar” (Har ki Pauri, the fulcrum of religious activities in Haridwar), Kushawart (Ghat in Kankhal), Bilwa Tirtha (Mansa Devi Temple) and Neel Parvat (Chandi Devi Temple), apart from several other temples and ashrams located in and around the city. Also, alcohol and non-vegetarian food is not permitted in Haridwar.
Contributed By: Dr. Amitava Mukharjee
(He is the most renowned world economist on poverty alleviation and empowerment today. He has long association with United Nations for launching their initiatives on fight against hunger and providing micro assistance to most marginalised societies. He is a great scholar and has been teaching in University of London and Stanford University. He has travelled over 130 Countries and written numerous books. Deeply religious he has visited various holy shrines. We bring you glimpses of his travelogue.)
Science behind touching feet of elders
Whenever we see someone pious or advanced in spirituality, it naturally comes in the heart of an Indian to touch their feet and take their blessings. This custom has been prevalent since centuries and marks the respect which we give to our elders or someone who is senior than is in the matter of understanding the spiritual aspect of the human life.
The science behind touching the feet of elder goes like this:
The nerves that start from our brain spread across all your body. These nerves or wires end in the fingertips of your hand and feet. When you join the fingertips of your hand to those of their opposite feet, a circuit is immediately formed and the energies of two bodies are connected. Your fingers and palms become the ‘receptor’ of energy and the feet of other person become the ‘giver’ of energy.
Usually, the person of whose feet you are touching is either old or pious. When they accept your respect which came from your reduced ego (shraddha) their hearts emit positive thoughts and energy (kripa) which reaches you through their hands and toes.
Their blessing creates an aura which helps us to get to the higher understandings and gives the recipient some share of the piety which the elder has earned.
The divine act of ‘puja’ or also known as ‘pooja’ refers to the ceremonial worship by making an offering to the image of God, as per the definition in encyclopedia. The act performed by majority of us in our daily routine, yet very few of us realizes the true meaning of puja. It is an art of expressing our reverence and gratitude to the divine energy, by performing various rituals. It is a pious way of direct communication between our soul and its true master.
Puja is not just a ceremony for few minutes or hours, it helps to seek strength from God which helps us to deal with the ups and downs throughout the day. As the other ancient practices like Ayurveda and Yoga provides the natural healing of the mind, body and soul. The Hindu system of medicine and meditative practice keeps the person away from illness of body and mind. Similarly the practice of adoring God is the ancient technique to wake the positive energies and seek blessings from them. ‘Puja is a form of yoga whose final result aimed to be the consciousness of god through homage to God.’
The mantra, yantra and tantra in puja help the devotees to awaken the positivity within and around him and channel the particular frequencies to resolve the problems. In simple words, puja is a homemade remedy- free of side effects that can be used any day and anytime to seek the strength from Almighty and face the difficulty.
Though every ritual and ingredient used during puja ceremony has their own unique significance but above all our willingness and modest attitude also play an important role. Adoring the positive energies with a right approach relieves us from the stress and also saves us from negative energies.
“A forehead without a Tilak, a woman without a husband, a Mantra the meaning of which is not known while doing Japa (recitation), the head that does not bend before holy personages, a heart without mercy, a body devoid of health, a custom without purity,… – all these are worthy of condemnation. They exist for name’s sake only.” Our holy scriptures have mentioned the vitality of ‘Tilak’ or ‘Bindi’ applied between the space between two eyebrows.
According to varied traditions, different types of Tilaks are applied using different materials.
- The red kumkum tilak symbolise power, valour and dynamism indicating the devotees of Goddess Shakti or Durga.
- The U shaped tilak of sandalwood paste symbolise purity, calmness and tranquillity indicating the devotees of Lord Vishnu.
- The three horizontal lines (tripundra) of Vibhuti or yagna ash signifying wealth, fortune and devotion of the Shaiva group of worshippers.
- The three horizontal lines of holy ashes, with or without a red dot symbolise the worshippers of Lord Shiva.
Significance of applying Tilak:
Our human body is a source of energy and it continuously emits electromagnetic waves through certain special points. The Aajna Chakra or brow chakra connects to the Bhramanadi i.e. the main spot of wisdom, memory and thinking.
- The point soothes the inner soul and leads to the awakening of third eye of consciousness
- It provides the cooling effect to the body that prevents the emission of energy
- Being a major acupressure point, it relieves headaches through stabilising the nerves
- The center point is connected to the eye muscle that reduces the probability of vision defects due to tilak
- It keeps one away from the evil energies and prevents the chance of hypnotism
- Regular application of tilak helps in maintaining the immunity level
- As per Ayurveda, the spot calms the stress and fatigue to solve the problem of insomnia
Nowadays the scientific and religious relevance have lost its true essence in the society and is replaced by the artificial and fancy decorative stick bindis, which is just an object of show off and fulfils no other purpose. Instead abide by the nature and its beneficial products and apply tilak with the prayer – “May I remember the Lord. May this pious feeling pervade all my activities. May I be righteous in my deeds.”
Contributed By: Meenakshi Ahuja
Goddess Saraswati is the store house of knowledge and wisdom, and the lover of art and music. Lord Brahma, the divine consort of Goddess Saraswati, creates the beautiful Universe and Sarsawati ji completes the process by showering the knowledge required for comprehending the creation.
The pious and serene state of Goddess is depicted by her vahan i.e. swan. The pure white swan portrays the selfless realization of true knowledge and also the discrimination between the eternal and mortal. The Goddess is also accompanied with a peacock near her image that signifies the ignorant attitude and how one is tangled in the deceptive charm of beauty. By mounting on the peacock, Saraswati ji teaches that the external appearance is transitory and should not be given priority. It’s the divine inner soul that needs to be focused and revered.
Lord Vishnu: Serpent and Garuda
Lord Vishnu also known as Narayana is the maintainer who sustains the entire creation. Lord Vishnu is the strength to maintain goodness in the Universe and he is also the remover of darkness of illusion. The connection between Lord Vishnu and his ‘sesha naag’ is renowned where the Lord rests upon sesha’s form of snake. Sesha means ‘balance’, thus the Lord is laid upon him. Snake is a symbol of time, eternity and wisdom that shows the controller of time representing the absolute truth of life.
Garuda, the eagle god is also the Vahana of Lord Vishnu that is well known for its speed and mighty wings. At one instance, Garuda wanted a place even higher than Lord Vishnu but as he got acquainted of the powers of Lord Vishnu, he became his faithful devotee by surrendering himself as his vehicle. It symbolise the numerous flying thoughts of mortals and the way they are controlled by the Almighty.
Lord Shiva: Nandi bull
Lord Shiva is the embodiment of creating as well as destroying. He is worshipped for his supreme powers and signifies the union of duality with Goddess Shakti. The vehicle of lord Shiva, Nandi bull symbolise the brutal and aggressive attitude of humans. By mounting on the top of the bull, lord Shiva tames the evil energies and also controls the sexual impulses. Shiva controls the negative impulses by riding on its back and teaches the important lesson to mankind.
Goddess Durga: Lion
Goddess Durga, another form of Parvati ji is the ferocious depiction of powerful and warrior Goddess. She is the widely adored deity renowned for female energy or Shakti. Goddess Durga with three eyes and ten arms is mounted on the golden hairy lion that symbolise the removal of dark night through bright golden light. Defeating the demon Mahishasura, mounting on the lion represents the ferocious and wild nature of both the Goddess and her vehicle. The lion acts as the celestial vehicle and portrays the lordly powers of wild beast.
Lord Ganesha: Mouse
The one without whom every important work is incomplete and without whose grace our life is doomed is our own beloved Ganesha. The remover of all our obstacles, Ganesha is the store house of knowledge, wisdom and intelligence. Lord Ganesh is often seen riding the tiny moshika raj ‘mouse’ as his vehicle which is considered weak. Mouse is related with destructive traits that spoils the food and crops, especially. Here the mouse connotes the human mind that destroys the mental peace due to evil thoughts and energies, but by mounting on the devil energies, Lord Ganesha crushes them. The faithful devotion is depicted by bestowing a peaceful mind to the devotee and teaching us the power of goodness and faith.
Lord Brahma: Seven swans
Lord Brahma is the supreme deity known for creation of this Universe. He is upmost source of knowledge and his consort Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge and wisdom. Brahma ji is known for the creation of Vedas that are the base of knowledge for this Universe. The four head and four armed God is the symbol of four vedas, four maha yugas and the fourfold social order. He is seen mounted on the chariot lead by seven swans as swan is the symbol of knowledge and discretionary powers. Swan is known for purity that teaches us to make right decisions in our life. Swan is also known for separating milk from the mixture of milk and water that reveals the characteristic trait of Lord Brahma to make fine distinction while creating the Universe.
Goddess Lakshmi: Owl
The Goddess of prosperity and wealth is the consort of Sri Mahavishnu and is highly revered by the Hindu devotees. She is the store house of wealth, good luck, fortune, beauty, charm and riches that defines her power of showering unlimited blessings. The vehicle of goddess Lakshmi, an owl or ‘uluka’ is often a negative connotation; therefore it is considered to be associated with Alakshmi (Goddess of inauspiciousness). It is believed that during the Samudra manthan, Lakshmi was born out of Amrit and Alakshmi emerged with Halahal. As owl is known for its nocturnal activity, it is associated with ill omen but for few the ability of owl to see only in darkness symbolise the capability of going from darkness to light i.e. materialism to spiritualism. The figure of owl with the Goddess is a reminder that the wealth and fortune are a trap and our inner conscious and wisdom keeps us away from the ‘adharmik’ use of that fortune.
Lord Indra: Airavata
The most powerful and excellent warrior, known as the King of Devas and also the God of War and Weather. The term Indra is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Ind’ meaning to be powerful and the one who defeats his enemy. He is even renowned for his arrogant traits, yet he is the chief deity in Rig Veda. To maintain dharma in all three lokas and fight against evil powers, Lord Indra is the heroic protagonist. The four tusked, white elephant is the vahana of this deity, which is said to have emerged during Samudra manthan. The mighty elephant is renowned for protecting the gates of paradise as well as other miracles. It is said that Airavata gathered water from the large lakes of Udaygiri Mountains and showers it in the direction of lord Indra; thus holding the ability of giving rise to clouds or pouring rain. The pious and spotless white creature is a symbol of purity and is known to be created during the beginning of life by Lord Brahma.
Lord Vayu: Thousands of horse
The great personification of wind, Lord Vayu is known as the initial partaker of soma juice. He is a dear friend of lord Indra and given equal respect and weightage. He is as swift as mind and also called as the God of Thoughts. He is one of the major elements of the five elements of the Universe and is also described as ‘Satata-ga’ (ever moving), ‘Pavana’ (wind), and ‘Gandha-vaha’ (the perfume bearer). He is the guardian of North West direction and the father of Lord Hanuman and Bheema. Vayu devta is often shown riding forty nine or thousand horses that helps to cover long distances swiftly within few seconds. Horse is known for its swift and mighty powers and is often symbolised as notorious and fast mind that flies from one thought to another in just few seconds. By climbing upon these horses, Lord Vayu tames the swift thoughts and brings stability and calmness in our mind. The white coloured horses that cover all the three lokas of the world are a symbol of victory over our evil and negative thoughts.
Contributed By: Meenakshi Ahuja
To cherish the glories of reverent Goddess Durga and her different forms on each day, the nine days are dedicated to her nine avatars. The first three days, Goddess Durga is worshipped to praise her divine energy which terminates the existence of evil energies in the form of demon. Her ferocious and raging form personifies the energy of mother that erupts actively when positive and righteous powers are at stake.
The ‘pious’ or ‘sanyasin’ form of Goddess Durga which is Goddess brahmacharini, is worshipped on the second day of navratri festival. Her severe penance (tapa) defines the loyalty and love for lord Shiva. ‘Brahma’ refers to the tapa that Ma Brahmacharini performed for thousands of years without even consuming food for achieving Shiv Ji as her consort (husband). Goddess brahmacharini puja is a sign of gaining strength and wisdom, as she is the bank of knowledge and wisdom. The worshipper attains emotional as well as mental balance to face the hard times and an inspiration to cross the darkest hours.
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