Journey of Swastika through years!

 The auspicious symbol of the swastika is very commonly used in Hinduism. It is usually a major part of the decoration for festivals and special ceremonies like weddings. The word ‘swastika’ is a Sanskrit word (‘svasktika’) meaning ‘It is’, ‘Well Being’, ‘Good Existence, and ‘Good Luck’. However, it is also known by different names in different countries – like ‘Wan’ in China, ‘Manji’ in Japan, ‘Fylfot’ in England, ‘Hakenkreuz’ in Germany and ‘Tetraskelion’ or ‘Tetragammadion’ in Greece.

The clockwise swastika is one of the 108 symbols of the god Vishnu as well as a symbol of the sun and of the sun god Surya. The anti-clockwise swastika (called a sauvastika) usually represents the terrifying goddess Kali, night and magic. However, this form of the swastika is not “evil” and it is the form most commonly used in Buddhism.

Vedas are possibly the oldest sacred texts and you find mentions of Swastika in Rig Veda, Atharva Veda and even Yajur Veda. Swastika has always been with the sanatan dharma. But when you do research on its journey, you realise how this has been prevalent from ages in different religion and civilizations. How and why did so many diverse countries and cultures, across many eras, use the same symbol and apparently with the same meaning, I do find it intriguing. In West, Swastika is now more associated with Nazis and Hitler. But use of it can be seen long before that and by different religion. What was common was the fact that everyone considered it as symbol of good luck. And it do proves a point – Humanity brings every religion together.

North Pole Star is called Dhruva Nakshatra in Sanskrit literature. Saptarishi are seven stars of the Big Dipper named after seven Rishis in our Vedic scriptures. North Pole Star is the center of Kalachakra around which Saptarshi Mandala revolves around a fixed centre on clockwise direction. Through the four seasons, the SaptaRishis form a swastika in the sky. I think this is the first Swastika of this planet earth.

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Mathematics Behind Dwadash Jyotirlings

When you look nature closely you realise Nature is more of an animated mathematical constructs. And when you start understanding and pondering on it, it leads to a new beauty and astonishment. It leads to a greater understanding of my place in the scheme of things in this creation! It’s hard to wrap your head around that animals, flowers, trees, mountains and galaxies and universe; even our bodies are nothing more than self-replicating fractals of an interactive biological software program. Yes that is how it is!!

Bee hive has a geometric pattern, migrating birds travel in perfect formation just as schools of fish do in the ocean. Most of all these blueprints are based on the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci spiral in this creation. The Golden ratio and the Fibonacci spiral Fibonacci_Spiraloccur everywhere in nature: in the spirals of DNA and in the dimensions of the earth and moon and planets. (Click Here to know about Fibonacci Numbers – LINK)  No matter where we look we see fractal geometry. An interesting example of fractal geometry is the human finger. A finger has three joints and is a fractal of our arm which also has three joints; and so it goes, big or small, repetitive fractal patterning is the same. Personally I feel nothing is random in nature, and nothing happens by chance. Continue reading

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Five Kailash Yatra!

For past many years I had this wish of visiting all the five Kailash. It is said this gives you salvation. Frankly speaking I don’t think just visiting these Kailash can give you salvation, there’s lot more you’ll need to do. Getting salvation I feel is not so easy.

The Five Kailash Yatras are able to transfer devotees’s physical journey into a spiritual experience, a journey in search of truth. The five Kailash Yatras is perhaps one of the most arduous calling pilgrimages. It entails long pilgrimages to five holy sites in upper reaches of Himalayas to seek the blessing of Lord Shiva who, as per the Hindu scriptures and legends, supposedly reside on the holy mountain peaks. Surrendering yourself through Bhakti lets you experience the oneness of “Jiva and Shiva”, the union of jivatma with parmatma!

  1. Shrikhand Mahadev or Shrikhand Kailash

When Bhasmasur got the boon from Lord Shiva that he can turn anyone into ash by placing his palm on anyone’s head, the Asura wanted to test if the boon really works by testing it on Lord Shiva. So Lord Shiva started running from this Asura. Finally Lord came to Shrikhand and sat down in meditation in the 50ft stone shivling till Lord Vishnu came and killed Bhasmasura by tricking him in putting his hand on his own head. Later Mata Parvati did long Akhanda Upasana to break his Samadhi, whereby she filled Nainsar Lake with her tears; Lord Shiva came out after breaking the shivling. Shrikhand Mahadev is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Its peak is 5155 meters high from main sea level. The journey passes through beautiful mist-laden forests filled with beautiful flowers and huge trees. Then the journey enters the difficult Himalayan terrain where you need to even cross few glaciers.

Shrikhand

Shrikhand Kailash

  1. Kinnaur/Kinner Kailash

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Adi Kailash – Lord Shiva’s oldest adobe!

Many think the Om Parvat is in itself the Adi Kailash. That is not the case. Om Parvat is located near Nabhidhang while Adi Kailash is located at different place, near Sin La pass and near Brahma Parvat. As per mythology, Pandavas had stayed here with Sage Vyaasa and meditated for a long period. Even Ravana, a great devote of Shiva, is said to have come from far off Lanka to pray to Lord Shiva here. This Kailash is considered to be the oldest adobe of our Lord Shiva and Parvati.

Adi Kailash area is full of great natural beauty, peace and serenity. Though in a very remote area, the Darshan (view) of Lord Shiva’s abode is well worth the effort it takes to get there. With the roar of urban life receding to the background one finds the healing quietude of this region conducive enough to turn inward and be one’s own listener.

The trek was really treacherous at places especially when you reach Budhi passing Malpa. It was like a test of our endurance. At Malpa we did stop for few minutes to pray for the souls of all those travelers who died while in sleep during the Uttarakhand deluge after a cloud burst.

Pathway

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Art on Varanasi Ghats

Unsanctioned arts on streets have been condemned too many times. But for me they are always piece of art. Something we need to appreciate. I had earlier posted about same in Israel. Israel Graffiti. Now for another place!

The ghats of Varanasi have always been an attraction to visitors. You always find it buzzing with people busy in different activities. The boat rides along the colourful and lively ghats, funeral pyres by the river’s edge, twisting lanes full of people, cows, bicycles and hole-in-the-wall shops selling tea, local sweets, spices and devotional bling, that’s what you see here. And in all this you invariably fail to notice many wall arts on the ghats.

Though many like me might like these arts/paintings but they might get removed from the ghats soon. Varanasi is considered as the heritage city of India. There are many heritage buildings on the ghats. The ghats itself are considered to be part of heritage status of this city. Defacing century’s old stone walls of the ghats along the Ganga by random graffiti, paintings and designs made of harmful chemicals is causing harm to the structures. Removal of these paintings has already been initiated with ASI, BHU and few other organization joining hands. Continue reading

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The Little known Masroor Rock Cut Temple!

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30 odd km from Kangra town, there is this rock cut temple, which is hardly known to even people of that district. It is the Masroor Rock Cut Temples which many call as Himachal Pyramids or Elloras of Himachal.

These rock cut temples of Masroor have been carved out of the sandstone monoliths which make up the landscape. No one seems to know who carved them. There are many legendary stories that go round.  Few locals say it was built by Pandavas. There’s another legend attached to the construction of this temple, it is said that these temples were carved out at night, and work had to be halted when it was morning, which is why some shrines remained unfinished. Historians have identified that sculptures in the Masroor temples have been shaped in late Gupta style, most likely in the second half of the 8th century. There are not known inscriptions in the temple and no written accounts about this temple – thus it is rather a guess.

Legends apart, it is the architecture of the temple that is awe-inspiring. It has been built in Nagara style. This is very important style in Hindu temple architecture, with characteristic beehive formed towers. Every design is intricately carved. The temple has black stone idols of Ram Lakshman and Sita. But in the centre of the temple is a figure of shiva which brings a theory that possibly the temple originally was of Mahadev. The shikhars of some of the temples remain standing and are a supreme display of the craftsmen of the 7th -8th century who overcame the limitations of the existing rock structures to shape and carve their creations. The rock-cut style started in the reign of the Pallava King, Narsingha Varman (630-668 AD) during the 1st half of the 7th century.  It reached its climax in the Kailasha Temple at Ellora.  Though rock-cut caves are common in South India, yet, temples cut out of free standing rocks, known to archaeologists and art critics, are only 4 in number – Rathas of Mammalapuram, Kailashas at Ellora, Dharmanatha temples in Dharmnar and this one as Masroor. The Rathas & Kailashas are built in the Dravidian style, whereas the Masroor and Dharmnar ones are in the Nagara style. Continue reading

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Breaking illogical tradition taboos in Vrindavan!

Our traditions are nice to follow, feels great too. But what about the orthodox traditional practices, those that are harsh and follows discrimination? Most of the times you’ll find the “Thekedars” of these traditions saying it’s in shastras knowing well that common man might not have in-depth knowledge about our shastras. Nowhere in our shastras there is any sort of discrimination. And many such discriminations are attached to our Widows.

We had the shameful tradition “Sati Pratha” at one time. Thankfully it has been eradicated now. This too was marked as a “Hindu Ritual” and widows were made to follow. But that is nowhere true as far as our shastras goes. The term Sati is derived from the original name of the goddess Sati, who self-immolated because she was unable to bear her father Daksha’s humiliation of her husband Lord Shiva. Later Sati became a term in our shastras for women in Hindu mythology who were exceptionally devoted to their husbands and righteous. Property tussles was the root reason behind this practice, with male heirs preferring to do away with a widow, leaving the inheritance entirely in their hands. The Brahmin who helps in the burning would get a hefty share so they brought forward all theories on glorifying Sati Pratha.

Sati Pratha was ended but there still remained many discriminatory practices. A widow was expected to stay away from all festivities, renounce all earthly pleasures, wearing only white, shave off hair, and eat veg food. For big majority of widows life was more like “Living sati”. Many of these taboos have been reformed but complete reform is still awaited. Continue reading

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Happy Holi 2016 – Lathmar Holi of Braj

All of us in India must have celebrated Holi – the very joyful, energetic  festival of colour. Holi – Popularly known as “Phagwah” in Assam, “Dol jatra” in West Bengal and “Fagu” in Nepal, the festival is celebrated with different names and traditions across India.

But what if I tell you that there is a village in Mathura district, Barsana where people play Holi with wooden sticks? Yes, this village near Vrindavan is the birth place of our dear Radha Rani and lies just beside Nand Gaon, our Kanha’s village. Here, men from Nand Gaon come to play Holi with the girls of Barsana and hope of raising their flag over Shri Radhikaji’s temple. But, instead of colours they are greeted with sticks by the gopis, the women folk of Barsana village. Hence, the Holi get its new name here Lathmar Holi. As the name suggests, “Lath” – Stick, “Mar” – To hit, this is Holi played by hitting sticks.

As per Hindu mythology Lord Krishna visited his beloved Radha’s village on this day and playfully teased her and her friends by applying colours to them. The Gopis took offence and chased Lord Krishna and his friends away by running after them with lathis (Sticks). Men and Women of Braj even today clash in a colorful display of battle. Men of Nand Gaon raid Barsana with the hopes of raising their flag over Shri Radhikaji’s temple. Continue reading

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Punno Maati – Not so Uplifting Custom of Durga Puja

durga puja

There are many rituals and traditions that we follow blindly without really knowing the true reason behind them. And one I would address today is connected to Durga Puja, especially the making of idol. So many times I have visited the Kumartuli of Kolkata just to watch the Kumors making different idols of Gods and Goddesses. Kumortolas across Bengal is most busy before Durga Puja when they are busy making n-number of idols of Maa, each one as beautiful as the other.

Kumartuli-2But this idol making of Durga has a custom, soil collected from a prostitutes home is used to partially make the idol. This soil is called “Punno Maati” or the pure soil. It’s said that when a man enters the porch of a prostitute, the “Nishiddo Palli” meaning the forbidden territory, he leaves behind outside all his purity and virtues. Hence the soil outside is considered pure. There’s another view that because Maa does not make difference among human beings. So the soil from outside a prostitute’s home is used to show inclusiveness. The destitute sections of society are shunned by all and through this process; it makes them feel a part of society and shows them that they too belong to the world as much as the others. Continue reading

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Rani ka Vav – The Unesco World Heritage Site

Ancient architectures have always fascinated me. In Gujarat I am getting to see some really great spellbinding architecture that is bound to leave anyone in awe. Rani ka Vav is among those which was built more than thousand years ago. Vav means stepwell and because it was built by Rani Udayamati in memory of her husband the Solanki ruler Bhimdev between 1022-1063 AD , it’s called Rani ki Vav. In reality, it is so beautiful I guess it would be equally appropriate to call it Vav ki Rani!

The step-well later got flooded and eventually remained buried under the earth for many hundred years! Believe it or not, it was excavated by Archaeological Survey of India only in the recent 1980’s! You will not believe your eyes (I did not, and you may feel free to blame me in case I underestimated your capability by an unwarranted extrapolation) to see how the carvings still looked so fresh, no way look to have been buried under earth and how on earth ASI has carried out such a marvellous work of excavation without damaging the structures! Continue reading

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Somnath – The Spectacular Resurrected Temple.

The temple city of Somnath or Prabhas Patan is situated in the state of Gujarat on the Arabian Sea. This is the first among the twelve Jyotirlings. Since ancient times, Prabhas Patan has been a pilgrimage center, being the confluence of the mythological Saraswati, Hiranya and Kapila. Legend has it that Lord Shiva’s Kalbhairav linga is situated at Prabhas. It is also associated with the moon as the Moon God is also said to have worshipped this Shivling. This is also the reason why this temple is popularly known as Somnath, the one named after the moon. The present temple, Kailash Mahameru Prasad is built in the Chalukya style of temple architecture and reflects the inherent skill of sompuras, Gujarat’s master masons. It has the shikhara, the Garbhagriha, the sabha mandap and the nritya mandap.

On the Southern side of the temple, on the wall at the sea shore, there is a pillar. It is called “Baanstambh” बाणस्तंभ्. On the top of the pillar is placed a globe of Earth and an arrow pierces through it. On the pole is inscribed “Aasmudrant Dakshindhuvparyant Abaadhit Jyotirmarga”. It means If you start travelling from Somnath Temple towards South in Arabian Sea, you will not meet any land until you reach the South Pole or the Antarctica. The temple has been built in such a position that there is no land between the Somnath temple and Antarctica.

Baanstambh

Baanstambh

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Happy New Year 2016

Sunrise

संघर्ष हो तो सफलता भी हो

परिश्रम हो तो परिणाम भी हो

शक्ति हो और सेवा भी हो

सपने तो हों पर शांति अवश्य हो

आप मस्त भी रहें और स्वस्थ भी रहें

आसमान भी छूऐं और धरा से भी जुड़े रहें

आने वाले साल आपके जीवन मे,

उत्साह की लहर रहे, उत्सव का माहौल रहे

प्रेम भी हो और आनंद भी हो

 

सूर्य की एक और परिक्रमा पूरी हुई और नये सपने एवम् नई चुनौतियां ले एक बार फिर आया नया साल । आने वाला यह नववर्ष आपके लिए मंगलमय हो ।

 

Sangharsh ho to safalta bhi ho

Parishram ho to parinaam bhi ho

Shakti ho aur seva bhi ho

Sapne to ho par shanti avashya ho

Aap mast bhi rahey aur swasth bhi

Aasmaan bhi chhuye aur dhara se bhi jude rahey

Aane waala saal aapke Jeevan mein

Utsav ki laher rahey, utsav ka mahaul rahey

Prem bhi ho aanand bhi ho.

 

Sun completes one more revolution and with new dreams and new challenges, brings in the new year. May this coming new year be happy one for you all.

Counting my blessings, wishing you More. Hope you enjoy the New Year in store. Have a joyous New Year!

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Incredible Bioengineering by Khasi Hill tribesmen!

The Khasi hills receive lot of rains throughout the year. It’s fair to say that this part of the world gets a hell of a lot of rain. And here you find the acclaimed Living Root Bridges which are specialty of the Khasis. Bridges always bring to our mind concrete and iron bars. But these bridges are different; they are not “Made” but “Grown”.

All around, even on the banks of high velocity streams, Ficus tree (Rubber Tree), thrive and flourishes a lot in the Khasi hills. These trees can even perch themselves strongly over boulders on the banks of streams. They have adapted themselves well from soil erosions around these rivers and streams. These trees shoot out many secondary roots. The War-Khasis, a tribe in Meghalaya, long ago noticed this tree and saw in its powerful roots, an opportunity to easily cross the rivers. Now, whenever and wherever the need arises, they simply grow their bridges.

By realizing they could tap into the power of these roots and use them to their own advantage, they started manipulating and directing the secondary roots to create ultra-strong living bridges with which to cross streams and rivers. To make a tree grow in a certain direction, the tribes’ people use the trunks of a betul nut tree, sliced down the middle and hollowed out, as a guidance system. The thin, tender roots of the rubber tree are placed so they grow in the direction of the tree trunk rather than fanning out. Eventually, the roots reach the other side of the river and grow into the soil. Or they would take two trees on both sides so as to make the roots move and meet in the centre of the trunk. Continue reading

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The Pitcher Plant scare!

It was during a walk through the wild of Shillong outskirts that I came across these plants. At first glance I was not sure what exactly it was but curiosity made me go near and check. On seeing them at close quarters I realized it was none other than Pitcher Plants that we studied so much in details in school. These plants are more of vine and these pitchers are hanging from it. There was a lid at the top of each pitcher. Inside it was filled with a liquid. Whatever I recall of my botany lectures, this liquid contains enzymes that digests food and is similar to one present in our own stomach.

Initially I was bit scared to touch the plant. Not sure of what might really happen if I do so. Considering its size I was sure of one thing, it CANNOT eat me!😀 But what if my hand or finger gets trapped! Garnering lot of courage I touched the tip of the pitcher’s mouth with a quick movement. Nothing happens! That helped my confidence and I next touched the pitcher properly, holding it to see exactly how it looks.

The pitchers are hard and the top mouth is quite stiff, almost woody in many of the pitchers. I touched the inside wall and found it slippery. The liquid was not exactly thick but a bit sticky. It seemed more like a gel. There was the cover, like a lid which was movable. In one pitcher I found the lid closed while other I could move it to close the pitcher. Maybe when it catches the insect, this lid closes over the mouth so that it cannot escape.

I local boy was passing by and he stopped to join me and explained more about how they use these pitchers. The vines of this plant are supposed to be very strong and the locals use it for tying up things. Even the pitcher is used to cook food. They pour out the liquid and wash it properly. A special kind of steamed rice with chicken is made by filling the same in this pitcher and then heating.

Here are few photographs of the Pitcher Plant. You can click on the images to view the enlarged version. Continue reading

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Shameful to call Raja Ram Mohan Roy a British stooge!

rajaramMohanRoy

Raja Ram Mohan Roy

In recent times suddenly there is a cry that our history has been distorted by historians who are more leftist. Unfortunately I find it’s now another set of so called Historians who are hell bent on discrediting our freedom fighters and reformers of that era in the name of “Discovering new facts of true History”. Today I am going to take up one issue and show how distorted their views are as it’s time we come out strongly and make sure these mischievous people don’t get away with such mudslinging. Yes the article would be a long one, but then don’t we know how history and its explanations are never in short. Still remember filling pages after pages when it came to History exam in school.

Check this LINK to know about the man Raja Ram Mohan Roy so that you realise how great a reformer he was!

Raja Ram Mohan Roy has been charged by few as “Stooge” of British govt. Sole reason being his support to Macaulay’s education reforms for India. According to them, Raja Ram Mohan Roy had written to the British govt asking for scrapping of a Sanskrit college and in turn also supported Macaulay’s plans to reform the education system of India by introducing English.  I’ll show how Raja Ram Mohan Roy was so correct in supporting him by proving what exactly Macaulay’s plan was and that he had no malicious intentions against Indians, by touching upon both his Minutes and also his speech in British parliament before coming to India. These reforms were necessary then considering the socio economic conditions and to uplift Indian education. Continue reading

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