Ganesh Chaturthi greetings. After many years, I find myself in Mumbai during Ganesh puja. It appears very subdued — understandably so.
In the normal course, I usually visit India twice a year. But this time I am back in India after a bit over two years. Nothing much appears to have changed in Mumbai — the streets are mostly dug up and under construction that proceeds at a glacial pace. Ganesh is the Remover of Obstacles. The BMC (the public works corporation of Mumbai) is the Anti-Ganesh: it is the Installer of Obstacles.
It’s been a while since I posted an Ask Me Anything. So ask away. And listen to Kishori-tai. Continue reading →
Tonight is Maha Shivratri. Shiva as “Nataraja” — the Lord of the Dance — dances the Tandava, the dance of creation and destruction. It is the most powerful metaphor of how the universe operates. Listen to this Shiv Tandava Stotram. Continue reading →
Today is Saraswati Puja. And also Kamadeva Puja, the deva I am named after. Kamadeva is also “Atanu” — meaning “one without a body.”
On this day, we Hindus worship Devi Saraswati. Bengalis traditionally place books and pens next to an image of Ma Saraswati. She is always associated with learning and music. She is depicted playing the veena and holding a book in her lower left hand. She has to be one of my favorite Devis because I like to learn and I like music intensely.
Bengalis believe that one can have either Ma Saraswati’s blessings or Ma Lakshmi’s blessings but not both. Meaning you can either be learned or you can be rich but not both. I accepted that uncritically when I was little but when I grew up I realized that that cannot be true. Without learning there cannot be creation of wealth, and without wealth there cannot be learning. Continue reading →
Today, November 14th in India, is Diwali, or Deepaval. Diwali is a pretty big deal all across India and even outside India. Here’s what the all-knowing wiki says about this Indian festival (edted):
The five-day long festival originated in the Indian subcontinent and is mentioned in early Sanskrit texts. Diwali is usually celebrated twenty days after the Dashera festival, with Dhanteras, or the regional equivalent, marking the first day of the festival when celebrants prepare by cleaning their homes and making decorations on the floor, such as rangolis. The second day is Naraka Chaturdashi. The third day is the day of Lakshmi Puja and the darkest night of the traditional month. In some parts of India, the day after Lakshmi Puja is marked with the Govardhan Puja and Balipratipada. Some Hindu communities mark the last day as Bhai Dooj or the regional equivalent, which is dedicated to the bond between sister and brother, while other Hindu and Sikh craftsmen communities mark this day as Vishwakarma Puja and observe it by performing maintenance in their work spaces and offering prayers.
Some other faiths in India also celebrate their respective festivals alongside Diwali. The Jains observe their own Diwali which marks the final liberation of Mahavira, the Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas to mark the release of Guru Hargobind from a Mughal Empire prison, while Newar Buddhists, unlike other Buddhists, celebrate Diwali by worshipping Lakshmi, while the Hindus of Eastern India and Bangladesh generally celebrate Diwali, by worshipping Goddess Kali. The main day of the festival of Diwali (the day of Lakshmi puja) is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Malaysia (except Sarawak), Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Krishna Janmashtami celebrates the birth of Krishna some five thousand years ago. The eighth day following Raksha Bandhan is observed as Krishna’s birthday. According to some Hindu traditions, Krishna is not considered an incarnation of Vishnu because he is Vishnu.
Vishnu is supposed to have ten incarnations, the Dashavatars, nine of which have already taken place. They are Continue reading →
Bhagavan Mahavir, the last of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras, was born in 599 BCE in the kingdom of Vajji (somewhere in present-day Bihar.) Much of the biographical details of his life are, of course, disputed by various scholars but they are not really important. What’s important are his teachings.
It is believed that he was a contemporary of Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha. Maybe they were contemporaries or maybe they were not. Again it does not matter.
Their are parallels in their lives. Like the Buddha, Mahavir was born and raised in a royal family, renounced his family and wealth when he was around 30 years old, and went in search of truth and spiritual awakening. He became an ascetic, gave up all his possessions (including clothing) and meditated under a tree. He even lived in Rajagriha for many years, the same place that the Buddha lived in for a while. Rajagriha appears to have been a special place. It was also the birthplace of the the 20th Jain Tirthankara Munisuvrata. Continue reading →
First order of business. Have lots of fun eating sweets, bursting crackers, lighting lots of diyas and sparklers.
Diwali, or Deepavali, is the Hindu festival of lights. It is also the festival of wealth. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is worshiped on Diwali. Among Bengalis, Ma Kali is worshiped during Diwali. The tradition is attributed to a number of occasions.
The first day of Diwali: Dhanteras
The first day of Diwali is called Dhanteras — the thirteenth lunar day of the month of Kartik. On this day, Lord Dhanwantari came out of the ocean with amrut — the nectar of immortality — for the Devas. This day marks the beginning of Diwali celebrations. Continue reading →