sacred

Dev Prayag

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Dev Prayag

Dev Prayag is the confluence of the two holy rivers, the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda to evolve as the mighty Ganges, the holiest river for Hindus. It is the last prayag (confluence) on the way from Badrinath. Beyond this confluence, the river is known as Ganges till it meets the sea in the Bay of Bengal.

 At Devprayag the colour of the water from Alakananda is blue and crystal clear, while the colour of the water in Bhagirathi is pale yellow and muddy, evidencing the territory the two have traversed before reaching Dev Prayag.

The confluence of the Bhagirathi, and Alaknanda has been vividly described by a British Army Officer, Captain Raper as:

The contrast between the two rivers joining here is striking. The Bhaghirathi runs down a steep declivity with rapid force, roaring and foaming flowing over large fragments placed in its bed, while the placid, Alakananda, flowing, with a smooth, unruffled surface, gently winds round the point till, meeting with her turbulent consort, she is forcibly hurried down, and unites her clamours with the blustering current“.

Alaknanda before entering Dev Prayag
The confluence got the name tag ‘Dev’ from a poor Brahmin called Deva Sharma who performed “rigorous religious austerities” here.

The legendary king Rama did penance here were, to atone for his sin of killing the demon-king Ravana, a Brahmin. A famous temple dedicated to Rama called the Raghunath Math is located above the confluence (seen in the upper left portion of the picture). It is believed to be installed in the temple about 1250 years ago, though ancient stone inscriptions traced here, dates the temple’s existence to the first century AD. Vaishnavites consider it as one of the 108 Divya Desams (sacred abodes of Vishnu) for undertaking a pilgrimage during their lifetime.

The holiness of this place is considered equal to the famous Triveni Sangam confluence at Allahabad where the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers merge. For Hindus who wish to offer “pindas” to their forefathers, offering them at Devprayag is considered holier than Gaya.

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.)

The ancient holy Haridwar

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Ganga Aarti Har Ki Pawri in the evening

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.

Ganga Aarti Har Ki Pauri in the eveningHar Ki Pawri in the afternoon

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”.

Ganga Aarti at Har Ki Pawri in the evening with priests Chanting Vedic Mantra before evening Aarati

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.)

The Holy Shrine of Amarnath

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The Shiva Linga of Ice

The Holy Shrine of Amarnath, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is located in a cave on the most challenging of mountainous in Kashmir, India, at an altitude of 12,756 ft, about 141 km from Srinagar. It is situated at the farther end of the Lidder Valley. It can be reached either through Pahalgam, Chandanwari, Sheshnag Panchatarani Route or the Baltal Route, via Sonmarg (the latter being more arduous and difficult but shorter).

The Amarnath Yatra, normally begins on Ashadha Purnima (day of the Full moon in the Month of Ashadha of the Indian Calendar) and ends on Shravana Purnima (day of the full moon in the month of Shravan of the Indian Calendar).

The Shrine of Amarnath Ji is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. The ice stalagmite formed inside the cave, is the image of Lord Shiva and is surrounded by and covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of about 45 days in summer when it is open for pilgrims. Thousands of devotees (of all religions) who make an annual pilgrimage to the Cave braving icy winds, rain and climbing forbidding terrain to see the ice stalagmite formed inside the cave. The experience is both breath taking and humbling.

The holy cave a close up view.._

The temple is reported to be about 5,000 years old and was mentioned in ancient Hindu texts. The exact manner of discovery of the cave in modern times is not known. Folklore has it that discovery of this Holy Cave was by a Gujjar (shepherd) Buta Malik, in the 15th Century after it was out of public gaze since the middle ages, may be to avoid the wrath of intolerant rulers/Kings/Emperors of the period.

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.)

 

 

Goswami Tulsidas

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tulsidas ji

After the recent incident where the Bihar board topper ‘Ruby Rai’ could not write about Tulsidas ji. She just wrote ‘Tulsidas ji, pranam’ and left the entire nation shocked. This incident evoked Shubhpuja to make the oblivious youth aware about the ancient sage ‘Goswami Tusidas’ and his revering work.

Goswami Tulsidas ji was born to Atamaram Dube and Hulsi in Rajpur, Uttar Pradesh in 1532 AD. Since birth he has been an unusual being who was born with all the teeth taking almost a year in his mother’s womb. It was said that he was born during the asterism mula (मूल नक्षत्र), which is considered unlucky for the parents. The solution was to either leave the child or not to look at him for eight years.

His mother died after few days of his birth and the father was helpless to support his own son, thus the father abandoned the child. The boy was referred as ‘Rambola’ since his first word after birth was ‘Rama’. A lady named Chuniya, who was the mother-in-law of the midwife who had helped during the birth of the child, took care of him. Yet this could not last for long and she died after 5 years. Now Rambola was left alone and there was no one to take care of him. He became helpless for food and had to beg from door to door.

Later Narharidas, known to be the descendant of Ramanand took Rambola to Ayodhya, where he stayed for about 10 months and then he shifted to Varanasi. He received his spiritual learning at an early age and got the knowledge of Sanskrit grammar, Hindu literature and philosophy, four Vedas, six Vedangas, Jyotisha from his guru Shesha Sanatana at the Panchaganga Ghat in Varanasi. Throughout these years his master and gurus used to narrate him the Ramayana and it became a part of his daily diet.

After coming back to his home town he married Ratnavali in 1583 and had a son named Tarak. Rambola (Tulsidas) was attached to his family and showered his complete love and care upon them. Seeing the intensity of his care once his wife told him that he should shower this love on God and not only on them. Love for God can help him to fulfill the purpose of his life. Soon after hearing such statements from her wife, Tulsidas left his home and went to Prayag after renouncing his grihstha life.

As the destiny had already decided Tulsidas fate; Lord Hanuman had predicted that a saint named Tulsi will recite the Ramayana in Hanuman’s words. Situations were created and as per the similar planetary positions (the day when Shri Rama was born) on Ram Navami, Tulsidas ji began writing the immortal verse- Ramcharitramanas. Tulsidas expressed his own divine feelings and love for his lord using the lyrical poetry. He completed the holy book in 2 years, 7 months and 26 days, on the anniversary of Rama and Sita ji.

Apart from it, Tulsidas ji wrote many other books like Dohavali (573 miscellaneous Doha and Sortha in Braja and Awadhi), Kavitavali (kavittas in Braja), Gitavali (328 Braja songs divided into seven books), Krishnavali (61 Braja songs for Lord Krishna), and many more.

Tusidas was in direct communication with Lord Rama due to his devotion and bhakti for Hanuman ji. Once Tulsidas expressed his ardent desire to have the pratyaksh darshan of Lord rama. Hanuman assured him that someday Lord will come to bless him in person. One day when Tulsidas ji was sitting on the stairs of river Chitrakoot, after taking bath and preparing sandal paste to apply on his forehead, he found two self illuminated people and a lady coming to him and asked him to apply tilak on his forehead. While he was performing the task Lord Hanuman murmured in his ears-

“Chitrkut ke ghaat par bhayee santan ki bhid, Tulsi daas chandan ghise tilak kare raghubir”

Then it dawned on Tulsidas that the person before him is Lord Rama with Lakshman and Sita ji. He immediately feel on their feet and seek their blessings.

It is said that his end was highly painful and he suffered from boils on his arms. At that time Tulsidas ji wrote Hanuman Bahuk. It is a series to portray the strength, devotion and virtues of Hanuman followed by his humble prayers to cure his problem by seeking His blessings.

Tulsidas ji is an epitome of perfection for the human beings and his love for Lord Rama is beyond expression. His life is an inspiration for today’s man and his teachings help us to get closer to the supreme reality.  He said, “Sri Ram is Brahman itself. He is unknowable, unperceivable, beginningless, nonpareil, devoid of transformation, and indivisible. He is that which the Vedas have been describing as ‘neti-neti, not this, not this”.  Tulsidas ji taught us the language of love leaving aside all the other barriers and his literary works are a silver lining for the deteriorating society.

Lord Venkateshwara Tirupati

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Govindarajasawmi Temple Tirupati Hills.._

Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple is a landmark vaishnavite temple dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Mythology has it that Lord Venkateswara appeared here to save mankind from trials and troubles of Kali Yuga. Hence the place has also got the name Kaliyuga Vaikuntham and Lord Venkateshwara is also referred to as Kaliyuga Prathyaksha Daivam apart from many other names: Balaji, Govinda, and Srinivasa.

Tirupati Temple lies on the seventh peak of the Tirumala Hills -Venkatadri, on the southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini, a holy water tank. Hence the temple is also referred to as “Temple of Seven Hills”.The temple is also known by other names like Tirumala Temple, Tirupati Temple, Tirupati Balaji Temple.

The Temple is constructed in Dravidian architecture and is believed to be constructed over a period of time starting from 300 AD. The Garbagriha (Sanctum Sanctorum) is called Ananda Nilayam. The preciding deity, Venkateswara, is in standing posture and faces east in Garbhgriha. The temple follows Vaikhanasa Agama tradition of worship. The Temple is one of the eight Vishnu Swayambhu Kshetras and is listed as 106th and the last earthly Divya Desam.

It is estimated that Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple is the richest temple in the world in terms of donations received and wealth.Visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily (30 to 40 million people annually on an average), which on special occasions like the annual Brahmotsavam, shoots up to 500,000 per day, makes it the most-visited holy place in the world.

Tirupati Temple an ariel view

On the Tirupati Hill there are other notable temples and rocks too including a Hanuman Temple.  There is one rock arch believed to be 1500 million years old.

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.)

 

Sacred shrine of Badrinath

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badrinath

The holy shrine of Badrinath is located in Garhwal, along the banks of the legendary Alaknanda River on the mighty Himalayas located at 10,279 ft above the mean sea level. The Nar Parbat Mountain is located opposite to the temple, while the Narayana Parbat is located behind the Neelakanta Peak.

In the main shrine is the 1 m Shaligram (black stone) image of Badrinarayan, which is housed in a gold canopy under a Badri Tree also made of gold. The image is said to hold a Shankha (conch) and a Chakra (wheel) in two of its arms in a lifted posture (which I could not figure out in my many visits) and two arms are rested on its lap in a Yogamudra (Padmasana) posture which I clearly saw. Legend has it, that Badrinath ji is swambhu.

The Tapt Kund, a group of hot sulphur springs just below the temple, are considered to be of medicinal value and many pilgrims bathe in the springs before visiting the temple and praying before the Lord. (Neela bathed here every year we visited). The springs have a year-round temperature of 55 °C (131 °F).

There is no historical record about the temple, but there is a mention of the presiding deity Badrinath in Vedic scriptures, (ca.1750–500 BCE). As per some accounts, the temple was a Buddhist shrine till the 8th century and Adi Shankara converted it to a Hindu temple. A traditional story asserts that Shankara expelled all the Buddhists in the region with the help of the Parmar ruler king Kanak Pal. The architecture of the temple resembles that of a Buddhist Vihara (temple) and the brightly painted facade is typical of Buddhist temples. As per other accounts, it was originally established as a pilgrimage site by Adi Shankaracharya in the 9th century. Hindu followers assert that he discovered the image of Badrinath Ji in the Alaknanda River and initially enshrined it in a cave near the Tapt Kund hot springs.

The holy Shrine

The Holy Shrine of Badrinath Ji opens on Akhaya Tritiya (early May) and is closed on Diwali, when the Lord’s abode is shifted to Josthimath.

 

Contributed By: Amitava Mukherjee

 

The illuminating month of Kartik

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shubhpuja.comThough the entire year and months are a blessing for being to learn, grow, cherish and experience bliss; yet some particular time of the year holds special significance. Especially according to Hindu calendar every month has their unique significance and comes as a special grace for the devotees. Like the sacred month of Kartik is believed to be auspicious due to the visit of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva on Earth.

Rituals of Kartik Maas:

Kartik maas usually occurs in the October and November month as per the English calendar. Kartik Mahina is named after the Hindu god Kartikeya and in the Vaishnava calendar, God Damodara governs this month. This month is considered sacred not only due to religious and mythological tales, but as it is this month is a relief after the scorching heat and humid season. The rituals performed during this month are: Snaan (holy bath), Daan (charity), Tara Bhojan (star meal), Vrat (fasting), buying and donating of Suvarna (Gold), Rajat (Silver), Bhumi (Land), Vastra(Clothing), Tapasya, Japa, Homa, Yagna, Annadaan (donating food), Puja with Tulsi leaves, Deep daan (offering lamps), Abhishek of Vishnu’s Idol with holy Ganges water, Shodasopacharas to Deities, Veda- parayana, Purana Shravan, Bhajans, Deva Stutis, Visits to temples, ‘Jaagarans’ (keeping awake in the night singing hymns), Guru seva and etc.

Special Significance:

This time of the year is the transition phase from Sadhana to Kaivalya i.e. from sowing and cultivating the seeds of devotion by noble deeds, now is the time to experience the bliss and fruitful results from it. As the entire year devotees are involved in adoring and pleasing the Lord by performing sacred acts and this month is a celebration to live the joyous result of the dedication. Therefore this is the month of all happy festivals of Karva Chauth, Ahoi Ashtami, Dhan-Teras, Diwali, Govardhan Puja, Bhai Duj,Tulsi Vivaah, Kartik Purnima and so on.

This year the Kartik maas begins from 28th October, 2015 and ends on 25th November, 2015. May all the devotees light the lamp of love within and create a beautiful ambience of peace and humanity!