Archive for the 'Hinduism' Category

24
Mar
12

23rd of March 2012: ‘Vikram Samvat’ or Hindu New Year

Hindu New Year , also known as ‘Vikram Samvat’ is celebrated according to the Hindu Lunar Calendar. In the Indian Calendar, seasons follow the sun, months follow the moon and days both sun and moon. This era of Vikram Samvat began in 57 BC. To correspond with the solar calendar, 57 years are subtracted from the Hindu Year. Thus, the New Year begin with the first day of Kartik Maas following Deepawali Amaavasya.

“It is easy to talk on religion, but difficult to practice it.”

Ramakrishna

The origin of Hindu New Year relates to the legendary Hindu King Vikramaditya in 57 BC. According to the legend, King Gardabhilla abducted a nun by the name of Saraswati. She was the sister of the famous Jain monk Kalakacharya. The helpless monk looked for help of the Saka ruler in Sakasthana to defeat Gardabhilla. He was defeated and captivated by the Saka King. Though later released, but Gardabhilla retired to the forest where he was killed by a tiger. His son, Vikramaditya, who was brought up in the forest, later invaded Ujjain and pushed out the Sakas. Thus, to celebrate this event, he commemorated a new era called Vikram Samvat.

 

 

“The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history.”

 

Mao Zedong
 

On this occasion people decorate their houses by lighting and flowers decorations of varied colors like pink, blue, yellow, red and purple, etc… People also designed rangolis. Rangolis are the main attraction of the decoration part.

 

“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”

Mother Teresa
 

On that day it is a tradition to wake up early in the morning. People take a bath and they wear new clothes. Prayers are offered to goddess Lakshmi and to god Ganesh. Flowers, fruits and Prasad are offered to God. After the worship, prasad and fruits are distributed among the family members and neighbors. Prasad is a material substance that is first offered to a deity and then consumed.

 

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

Thomas Jefferson

 

The birth of a New Year is a whole new beginning and marks the time when the world awakens from its wintry slumber. So almost all the Hindu New Year festivals fall on the beginning of the spring months when nature turns bountiful and blesses the earth with fruitful greenery. The beautiful flowers that bloom in spring, the early bird songs, the fresh harvests which are the fruits of past labor and the commencement of a new agricultural cycle . All these symbolize the dawn of another year. Thus, every colorful spring festival of the Hindus, with all the expectations, apprehensions, hope and joy woven in the festivities, is essentially for a New Year celebration.

“The only source of knowledge is experience.”

Albert Einstein
13
Apr
11

Bungamati: a traditional Newari village in Nepal

Bungamati is a traditional and tiny Newari village from the 16th century and is located at eight kilometers south of Kathmandu (on the outskirts of Patan). The village has its own history and has retained its tradition and culture. It is a living museum and recalls medieval times.

The farming community of Newars who live here are mostly dependent on agriculture and much of their daily activities take place outside of their dwellings. It is perched on a spur of land overlooking the Bungamati River and is shaded by large trees and stands of bamboo. Fortunately, the village streets are too small and hazardous for cars. Visitors are rare, so tread gently.  

Bungamati is the birthplace of Rato Machhendranath, regarded as the patron of the valley, and the large shikhara – style temple in the centre of the village square is his home for six months of the year. He spends the rest of his time in Patan. The process of moving him around Patan and backwards and forwards to Bungamati is central to one of the most important annual festivals in the valley. The chowk around the temple is one of the most beautiful in the valley – here one can see the heart of a functioning Newari town.

There are many chortens and a huge prayer wheel, clearly pointing to the syncretic nature of the Newari religion. There are women sitting outside spinning, men crushing seeds, and other daily activities. Between Bungamati and Khokana the Karya Binayak Temple is dedicated to Ganesh. The temple is not particularly interesting and Ganesh is simply represented by a natural stone but the view is spectacular. From this point, surrounded by trees, you can look over the Bungamati valley to the foothills, or back to Bungamati, tumbling down the opposite hill.

11
Apr
11

Feel the sense of Bali temples: The Tampak Siring Temple

Tirta Empul Temple or Tampak Siring Temple is a holy spring water temple located in Tampak Siring Village, Gianyar regency and is about 39 km eastwards from Denpasar town. It is set in the dale and encircled by the hill. In the west side of this temple, there is an Indonesian President palace which has been found by the first president.

The name of Tirta Empul is loaded in a inscription which is kept at Sakenan Temple, Manukaya village, subdistrict of Tampak Siring, about 3 km from Tirta Empul Temple. In this inscription, the Tirta Empul is named by the Tirta Ri Air Hampul and then the name has changed into Tirta Hampul and finally become the Tirta Empul. Tirta Ri air Hampul is meaning the water emerge or the holy pool which is the water emerge from the land. It is believed that it is the infinite creation.

At the moment this pool water is sanctified by the Hindu society in Bali and they believe that this water source can heal various of diseases, hence every day this place is visited by a lot of Hindu people to do the ritual and sanctify them self . This place has been opened for public and became a famous tourist destination in Bali.

10
Apr
11

Feel the sense of Bali temples: The Ulun Danu Temple

Ulun Danu Temple is located in the village of Bedugul, in the Tabanan region, about 62 km from Denpasar. The temple of the Lake Goddess at Bratan is one of Bali’s most visited and most spiritually important Balinese temples.

This temple is dedicated to Dewi Danu, the Goddess of the Water and the Bratan Lake. The temple was founded in the 17th century and it is the focus of numerous ceremonies and pilgrimages to ensure the supply of water. The temple sits on the shore of the lake.

The Ulun Danu Temple has a classical Hindu thatched roof ( multi roofed shrine ) called Meru. The unforgettable surround setting is typical Balinese. At the edge of Bratan Lake irises bloom in shades of yellow, fuchsia and magenta;  young girls and old men fish in clusters among the tiger lilies whilst the misty peak of a dormant volcano emerges in the distance. It’s a most picturesque view that you must experience.

23
Mar
11

Discover the Heritage of Nature’s Beauty at Phewa Lake in Pokhara, Nepal

Phewa lake is the second largest lake in the republic of Nepal, roughly measuring 1,5 km by 4 km, it is the center of all attractions in Pokhara. The enchanting lake is an idyllic playground. Brightly painted wooden boats and sailboats can be rented on reasonable cost around the lakeside.

 The lake is neither deep (roughly 47 meters at most) nor particularly clean, but the water is warm and swimming is pleasant if you don’t think about the probable pollution.


The eastern shoreline of the lake, popularly known as Lakeside or Baidam, consists of seemingly endless strip of lodges, restaurants, bookshops and souvenir shops. One of the fascinating parts of lakeside is the splendid view of the mountains, especially when the still water reflects the peaks, creating a double image. Three out of the ten highest mountains in the world can be viewed very closely from Pokhara. It is also a base for trekkers undertaking the Annapurna Circuit.

Lake Phewa was slightly enlarged by damming. It is in danger of silting up because of the inflow during the monsoon. The outflowing water is partially used for hydro power. The dam collapsed in the late 1970s and has been rebuilt. The power plant is located about 100 m below at the bottom of the Phusre Khola gorge. Water is also diverted for irrigation into the southern Pokhara valley. The eastern Pokhara Valley receives irrigation water through a canal running from a reservoir by the Seti in the north of the city.

The Barahi temple is the most important religious monument in Pokhara. Built almost in the middle of Phewa lake, the two storied pagoda is dedicated to the boar manifestation of Ajima, the protectress deity representing the female force Shakti. Devotees can be seen, especially on Saturdays, carrying male animals and fowl across the lake to be sacrificed to the deity.

19
Mar
11

Hindu Death Rituals and Beliefs (Part 2)

Those who have been meritorious, but have not quite attained liberation through self-knowledge, are sent to a heavenly realm to await their fate. There the Gandharvas (demigods of fertility) sing to them, and the bevies of celestial nymphs dance for them. Since there is no need for punishment, they go forth immediately on very high divine carriages. And when they get down from those carriages, they are born in the families of kings and other noble people. There they maintain and protect their good conduct and live out their days before they are reborn enjoying the very best of pleasures.

The fate for those who have participated in less honorable thoughts or actions is far less pleasant. The Arthasastra, a Hindu textbook from the second century BC, offers a detailed description of some of the more frightening realms. Yet before reaching these dangerous destinations, one must first endure a miserable journey. The hard-hearted men of Yama, terrifying, foul-smelling, with hammers and maces in their hands, come to get the deceased, who tremble and begin to scream. Filled with terror and pain, the soul leaves the body. Preceded by his vital wind, he takes on another body of the same form, a body born of his own karma in order for him to be tortured.

The evil man becomes born as an animal, among the worms, insects, moths, beasts of prey, mosquitoes, and so forth. There he is born in elephants, trees, and so forth, and in cows and horses, and in other wombs that are evil and painful. When he finally becomes a human, he is a despicable hunchback or dwarf, or he is born in the womb of a woman of some tribe of untouchables. When there is none of his evil left, and he is filled with merit, then he starts climbing up to higher castes, Shudra, Vaishya, Kshatriya, and so forth, sometimes eventually reaching the stage of Brahmin or king of men. With so many unpleasant possibilities, it is easy to understand why reincarnation is not the only goal of every Hindu.

Those who lead a life of austerity, meditation and grace can look forward to the possibility of reaching Brahmaloka. This is the highest among the heavenly planes and the dwelling place of Brahma himself. This is a place of intensely spiritual atmosphere, whose inhabitants live, free from disease, old age, and death, enjoying uninterrupted bliss in the companionship of the Deity. There is no need for them to return to earth because they have freed themselves from all material desires. While they do experience a sense of individuality, they also experience a oneness with Brahma. This is the realm of immortality.

There is one other way to achieve liberation from samsara. This is to die within the city of Benaras, on the Ganges. Death, which elsewhere is feared, here is welcomed as a long-expected guest. A city of many names, it was known in ancient time as Kashi, the city of light, and the Mahabharata refers to it as Varanasi. The funeral pyres, which are located on the river, burn nonstop. Death, which elsewhere is polluting, is here holy and auspicious. People travel from around the country and the planet to spend their last days in Benaras because, death, the most natural, unavoidable, and certain of human realities, is here the sure gate to moksha, the rarest, most precious, most difficult to achieve of spiritual goals.

For those who are unable to die in Benaras, cremation on the banks of the Ganges or the spreading of the ashes in her waters is the next best thing. Referred to as the “River of Heaven” or the “goddess and mother,” she is considered to be sacred from her source in the Himalayas, all the way to the sea in the Bay of Bengal. Her power to destroy sins is so great that, people say, even a droplet of Ganges water carried one’s way by the breeze will erase the sins of many lifetimes in an instant.

Hindu death rituals in all traditions follow a fairly uniform pattern drawn from the Vedas, with variations according to sect, region, caste and family tradition. Most rites are fulfilled by the family, all of whom participate, including the children, who need not be shielded from the death. Certain rites are traditionally performed by a priest, but may also be performed by the family if no priest is available. Religions such as Hinduism offer our own immortal souls satisfying answers to questions of life and death. Their ancient mythic texts provide real reasons for our existence here on earth. They also demonstrate that death is something that can be prepared for instead of being feared. In addition, they offer the possibility of something to look forward to, so we need not dread our last days on this planet. A true Hindu shall love death as he loves this life.

18
Mar
11

Hindu Death Rituals and Beliefs (Part 1)

There is one thing that is certain in this lifetime: eventually we all must die. A belief in the cyclical reincarnation of the soul is one of the foundations of the Hindu religion. Death is viewed as a natural aspect of life, and there are numerous epic tales, sacred scriptures, and Vedic guidance that describe the reason for death’s existence, the rituals that should be performed surrounding it, and the many possible destinations of the soul after departure from its earthly existence. While the ultimate goal is to transcend the need to return to life on earth, all Hindus believe they will be reborn into a future that is based primarily on their past thoughts and actions.

The first mortal to meet his fate with Death was named Yama. This dubious honor makes him uniquely qualified to lead the way for others after death. The sacred scriptures of the Rig Veda, which call him King Yama, promise that all who have been good will receive admission to Yama’s paradise and the everlasting enjoyment of all the heavenly pleasures, include the restoration of a sick body, the maintaining of family relations and the highly desired apotheosis. Yama is aided by two killer guide dogs that are described as the four-eyed keepers of the path, who watch over men. These two dark messengers of Yama with flaring nostrils wander among men, thirsting for the breath of life. Yet, once they have secured their prey, they lead them back to their heavenly realm, where Yama directs them to their destiny.

Cremation is ritual designed to do much more than dispose of the body, it is intended to release the soul from its earthly existence. Hindus believe that cremation (compared to burial or outside disintegration) is most spiritually beneficial to the departed soul. This is based on the belief that the astral body will linger as long as the physical body remains visible. If the body is not cremated, the soul remains nearby for days or months. The only bodies that are not generally burned are unnamed babies and the lowliest of castes, who are returned to the earth.

The standard cremation ceremony begins with the ritual cleansing, dressing and adorning of the body. The body is then carried to the cremation ground as prayers are chanted to Yama, invoking his aid. It is the chief mourner, usually the eldest son, who takes the twigs of holy kusha grass, flaming, from the Doms (the untouchable caste who tend funeral pyres) eternal fire to the pyre upon which the dead has been laid. He circumambulates the pyre counterclockwise for everything is backward at the time of death. As he walks round the pyre, his sacred thread, which usually hangs from the left shoulder, has been reversed to hang from the right. He lights the pyre. The dead, now, is an offering to Agni, the fire. Here, as in the most ancient Vedic times, the fire conveys the offering to heaven. After the corpse is almost completely burned, the chief mourner performs the rite called kapälakriyä, the ‘rite of the skull,’ cracking the skull with a long bamboo stick, thus releasing the soul from entrapment in the body. After the cremation, the ashes are thrown into a river, ideally the Ganges river, and the mourners walk away without looking back.

The death ritual does not end with the elimination of the body. There is still the safety of the soul to look after. To ensure the passage during its voyage to the Otherworld, an eleven-day ritual called shraddha is performed. It consists of daily offerings of rice balls, called pindas, which provide a symbolic, transitional body for the dead. During these days, the dead person makes the journey to the heavens, or the world of the ancestors, or the far shore. On the twelfth day, the departed soul is said to reach its destination and be joined with its ancestors, a fact expressed symbolically by joining a small pinda to a much larger one. Without these rites, the soul may never find it way to Yama’s realm.