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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.)

Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra

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Jagannath Rath

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.

Jagannath-Puri-Rath-Yatra

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

 

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.)

 

 

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.)

 

The holy shrine of Kedarnath

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shubhpuja.com

The Holy Shrine of Kedarnath (one of the 12 Jyotir Lingas in Hinduism) is a beacon light of India’s most refined secularism. It is situated at a height of 3,583 m (11,755 ft), on the banks of the legendary Mandakini river, a tributary of Ganges. It is an impressive stone edifice of unknown date. The present structure is believed to have been constructed in the 8th century AD and is on a site adjacent to where Pandavas are believed to have built the temple.

It has one Garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) and a Mandap and stands on a plateau surrounded by mighty snow clad peaks and glaciers of the towering Himalayan Mountain Range. [One can see the majestic heights of Kedarnath peak 6,940 m (22,769 ft) and Kedar Dome 6,831 m (22,411 ft)].

The first hall inside Kedarnath Temple contains statues of the five Pandava brothers and Draupadi, Lord Krishna, Nandi, the vehicle of Shiva and Virabhadra, one of the guards of Shiva. A medium-size conical rough stone formation is in the Garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) is the ruling deity, Lord Kedarnath Ji. It is revered and worshiped as Sadashiva form of Lord Shiva.  Kedarnath, also means the ‘Lord of Kedar Khand’, the historical name of the region.

Kedarnath Ji before the Devastataion in 2014_o

The head priest (Raval) of the Kedarnath temple belongs to the Veerashaiva community from Karnataka but pujas are carried out by Raval’s assistants on his instructions. There are five main priests for the temple, and they become head priests for one year by rotation. During Pooja of Lord Shiva at Kedaranath the mantras are pronounced in the Kannada language, a tradition hallowed by a history of hundreds of years.

Adi Shankara was believed to have revived this temple, along with the Holy Shrine of Badrinath..

With one of the Pandas Vinod Tiwari

The temple is opened Akshaya Tritriya to Kartik Purnima (the autumn full moon, usually November). During the winter months, the Vigrahas (deities) from Kedarnath temple and the seat of the Lord are brought to Ukhimath and worshiped there for six months.

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.)

Chiming Bells of Positivity: Why there are Bells in Temples?

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shubhpuja.comThe Hindu worship and temples are incomplete without the ringing of bells. Bell is usually the first thing present at the entrance of the holy shrine or temple rung by the devotees. The bell is composed of a special metal that includes cadmium, bronze, lead, copper, zinc, nickel, chromium and manganese. The speciality of ringing the bell is that it creates a harmony between both the sides of brain. The vibrations produced after ringing the bell lasts for almost 7 seconds that reaches the seven healing chakras of our body and is very beneficial. The loud sound of the bell awakens the busy mind and our mind becomes free from all thoughts.

Other Significance of Bell:

  • The sound of the bell is believed to replicate the fundamental sound of Universe ‘AUM’.
  • It is supposed to symbolize and remind every devotee that the reality (prakriti) has three stages of evolution, “srishti“, “sthiti” and “laya” meaning creation, preservation and destruction.
  • The sound spreads the waves of positivity all around and relieves stress and tensions of the devotees.
  • Raising the hand to ring the bell makes all the senses awake and vibrations enter the heart and mind.
  • The ringing bell distracts us from the disturbances and focus attention on God.
  • In olden days temples were without doors and were often located on hills and in forest areas so animals, birds used to stay in temples for shelter, so first bells were rang to make the creatures go away from there.

 

||Ghantaayam tadayeth kim prayochanam, yaksha rakshasa paisasa tanava brahmarakshasah gacchanthi mani sapthah||

Meaning – “I am ringing this this bell to invoke god and to let the noble forces enter my heart and keep evil spirits away”
Contributed By: Meenakshi Ahuja