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He truly sees, who sees that all actions are done by Nature alone and the Soul is actionless.

 

Having no beginning and possessing no Gunas ( natural qualities), the Supreme Self, imperishable, though dwelling in the body,…., neither acts nor is tainted ( by actions).

 

…. he who in imperfect understanding looks upon the Soul as the agent – he does not see at all.

 

The Lord does not create agency or actions for the world; He does not create fruitful consequences of action; Nature does all this.

 

Having renounced all actions, the self disciplined indweller ( the Soul ) rests happily in the city of nine gates, neither acting nor causing action.

 

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Credit: ajitvadakayil-1.blogspot.com

 

If one asleep desires no desire whatsoever, sees no dream whatsoever, that is deep sleep ( sushupta ).   (This) .. deep sleep state (is) unified,  just a cognitive mass, consisting of bliss, enjoying bliss, ….. is awareness.

This is the lord of all. This is the all knowing. This is the inner controller ( antaryamin). This is the source of all, for this is the origin and the end of beings.

( But that which is even beyond this deep sleep state, is ) not inwardly cognitive, not outwardly cognitive, …. not a cognitive mass, not cognitive, not non-cognitive, unseen, with which there can be no dealing, ungraspable, having no distinctive mark, non-thinkable, that cannot be designated, the essence of the assurance of which is the state of being one with ones own self, the cessation of development, tranquil, benign, without a second ( advait ) – such they think is the fourth ( final superconscious state even beyond deep sleep – Turiya), That is the Self ( Atman ). That should be discerned.

…….. He who knows this, with his self enters the Self – yea, he who knows this!

MANDUKYA UPANISHAD  5-7

 

 

 

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Now, that light which shines higher than this heaven, on the backs of all, on the backs of everything, in the highest worlds, than which there is no higher – verily, that is the same as the light which is here within a person.

There is this seeing of it – when one perceives by touch this heat here in the body. there is this hearing of it – when one closes his ears and hears as it were a sound, as it were a noise, as of fire blazing,  one should reverence that light as something that has been seen and heard. He becomes one beautiful to see, one heard of in renown, who knows this – yea, who knows this.

Chandogya Upanishad 3.13.7

 

He who consists of mind, whose body is life, whose form is light, whose conception is truth, whose soul is space, containing all works, containing all desires, containing all odours, containing all tastes, encompassing this whole world, the unspeaking, the unconcerned – this Soul of mine within the heart is smaller than a grain of millet, or the kernel of a grain of millet; This Soul of mine within the heart is greater than the earth, greater than the atmosphere, greater than the sky, greater than these worlds.

Containing all works, containing all desires, containing all odours, containing all tastes, encompassing this whole world, this unspeaking, this unconcerned – this is the Soul of mine within the heart, this is Brahman. Into him I shall enter on departing hence. If one would believe this, he would have no more doubt. Thus used Shandilya to say – yea, Shandilya.

Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.2-4

 

( Chandogya Upanishad –  the earliest Upanishad  before the  8th Century B.C. – Shandilya was an important sage of the period )

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And if the wine you drink, the lip you press,

End in the nothing all things end in – yes

Then fancy while thou art,

Thou art but what thou shalt be – nothing -

Thou shall not be less.

 

 For in and out, above, about, below,

Tis nothing but a magic shadow-show,

Played in a box whose candle is the sun,

Round which we phantom figures come and go.

 

Tis all a chequer board of nights and days,

Where destiny with men for pieces plays:

Hither and thither moves and mates and slays,

and one by one in the closet lays.

 

The moving finger writes and having writ moves on,

Not all thy piety and wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,

Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.

 

Here with a loaf of bread beneath the bough,

A flask of wine, a book of verse and thou,

Beside me singing in the wilderness – 

And wilderness is paradise enow.

 

Rubaiyat of Omar Khhayam translated by Scott Fitzgerald

 

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Credit: badrossama.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Taking as a bow the great weapon of the Upanishad.

One should put upon it an arrow, sharpened by meditation,

Stretching it with a thought directed to the essence of That,

Penetrate the Imperishable as the mark, my friend,

The mystic syllable OM is the bow, The arrow is the soul,

Brahman is said to be the mark,

By the undistracted man is IT to be penetrated.

One should come to be in IT, as the arrow ( in the mark).

                                                               MUNDAKA   UPANISHAD

 

 

The one who, himself without colour, by the manifold application of his power

Distributes many colours in his hidden purpose,

And to whom, its end and its beginning, the whole world

dissolves – He is God!

May He endow us with clear intellect.

                                                   SVETASHVATARA  UPANISHAD

 

 

From the unreal lead me to the real,

From darkness lead me to light,

From death lead me to immortality.

                                            BRIHAD-ARANYAKA  UPANISHAD

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Credit : International Society for Krishna Consciousness ( ISKCON )

 

 

As the indweller  ( the soul ) in the body experiences childhood, youth and old age in the body,

So does it pass on to another body. Therefore the wise  man is not confused.

 

It is neither born nor does it die. Coming into being and ceasing to be do not take place in it.

Unborn, eternal, constant and ancient, it is not killed when the body is slain

( it does not cease to exist when the body perishes)

 

As a man casting off worn out garments puts on new ones,

So the embodied one ( the soul) casting off worn out bodies enters into others that are new.

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Gandhi observing fast of silence

The Hindu calendar is as full of fasts as festivals, with fasting being obligatory on most festivals. A fast can be total and stringent or of a limited nature. for instance a fast can prohibit the consumption of certain cereals, milk and its products, types of vegetables, particularly onion and garlic and other root vegetables and recommend  consumption of alterante edibles. Fasts can also include other prohibitions, like abstaining from drinking water,  avoiding eating consuming meat,abjuring violence, impurity, untruthfulness, sleep, gambling and sex, and observing silence.  Milder fasts allow eating of fruits and drinking water and milk. 

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The Buddha fasting before enlightenment – Gandhara sculpture

Fasts are undertaken primarily for spiritual evolution but also aim particularly to absolve one of sins committed, to overcome astrological afflictions, alleviate suffering and disease, achieve material well being, for the peace of deceased ancestors and to secure a place for oneself in divine spheres, Devloks. in the afterlife- that is, to attain the goals of Arth ( wealth and material wellbeing), Kama ( pleasure and love), Dharma ( religious and moral duties) and Moksha ( liberation and spiritual release and evolution, the ultimate aim of life). different fasts are directed at propitiating particular deities. Fasts are also undertaken during festivals

 

THE TITHI

Fasts generally fall into categories depending on the Tithis ( Lunar Days). An earlier post dwelt at length on this complex concept, which define the days of the Hindu lunar month. In a brief review let us try and grasp the import of the Tithi. The Tithi is a unique creation of the Indian mind based less on what is visible and more on calculation. India’s is perhaps the only civilization whose mentors conceived of recording the passage of time from day to day by relying on a formula of calculation rather than the visible movements of heavenly bodies. Most cultures  in antiquity conceived of days commensurate with the presence of the Sun in the sky and nights with its absence or again the visible phases of the Moon in the night sky. Not so the unique Indian sages and astrologers. For them the Tithi, the Indian equivalent of a day and a night was in fact a matter of calculating the difference in the longitudes of the Sun and the Moon. Quite an abstract way of defining the passage of days but one that would satisfy their  need for accuracy in recording the passage of time. There is a practical logic behind the exercise to define the passage of days in the month. Indian sages and astrologers saw that the Sun and the Moon would pass around the earth through 360 degrees. When the longitudes of the Sun and Moon were coterminous, it was a No-Moon and they fixed this Tithi as Amavasya ( noting that the difference in the longitudes was zero). When the longitudes of the Sun and the Moon placed them at 180 degrees apart, it was Full-Moon and they called the Tithi Purnima ( noting that the difference in longitudes was 180 degrees). They also noted that in between the two there would be 15 segments of 12 degrees on either side, each constituting a Tithi. Thus after Amavasya as the Moon’s longitude moved 12 degrees away from the Sun’s, the first Tithi  of Shukla Paksh ( ascendant phase of Moon) would commence and last till the Moon moved another 12 degrees further out. Of course meantime the Sun’s longitude would also have moved, though at a much slower pace. The second Tithi would commence when the Moon’s longitude was another 12 degrees away from where the Sun’s longitude had now moved to. Thus they devised the formula of subtracting the actual longitudinal positions of the Sun and the Moon and dividing the balance by 12 to arrive at the Tithi in either of the two phases. Furthermore, the Moon generally takes 2 hour to move a degree and it generally traverses 12 degrees in 24 hours, which is also the approximate time taken from one Sunrise to another, therefore an appropriate formula to measure the passing of days.

 

EKADASHI ( Eleventh  Tithi )

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Credit: drikpanchang.com

The most popular fasts are those falling on Ekadahsis, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The legend goes that he was in a slumber in a cave after a furious battle with a demon. The demon pursued him there and sought to slay him as he slept. A glorious power in the form of a goddess then arose from the slumbering Vishnu’s being and slayed the impertinent evil force. That goddess is worshiped on Ekadashis as the benign force that removes all obstacles. The fast is undertaken to purify the mind, strengthen faith, remove obstacles. The demon represents our negativity which accost us as we ‘slumber’ unaware that we are becoming subject to temptations. Thus the Putrada Ekadashi fast helps in bringing forth male progeny, the Papkusha Ekadashi fast requires one to remain silent, cleansing the mind and washing away sins, the Kamada Ekadashi fast ends all sorrows and so on – different Ekadashis for different gains arrive once each month.

TRIYODASHI  ( Thireenth Tithi )

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Credit: Trishul Das’ – vedicgoddess.weebly.com

The other common and recurring fasts are called Pradosh (ending afflictions), falling on Triyodashis dedicated to Lord Shiva. The fast is observed after an early morning bath with prayers to Lord Shiva and recitation of mantras and ritualistic placement of lamps in eight directions. Triyodashis falling on Saturdays are observed for the birth of a son, Mondays for relief from debt, Fridays for gaining wealth, fortune and a good spouse, Sundays for a long life. According to legend on Triyodashis the gods assemble at Mount Kailash the abode of Lord Shiva. Sarasvati the goddess of learning and fine arts plays on a Veena, Brahma the creator of the world plays on the cymbols, Vishnu the sustainer on a Mridangam and a galaxy of gods join Lord Shiva the god of gods in a dance. Theircombined blessings fall upon the fasting devotee.Those engaging in a fast, if poor are blessed with riches, if ignorant gain knowledge, if without issue with a son, wives do not get widowed, widows become spiritually enlightened and longevity is ensured.

2DHANTERAS KE MAUKA SE  BARTAN KI DOOKAN SAZIThe fast of Dhanteras (Wealth – Thirteenth) also falls on a Triodashi in the month of Kartik (October-November), waning-half, is dedicated to Yamaraj, Lord of death. On this day every Hindu housewife fervently goes shopping to bring home a metal utensil. Shopkeepers have a field day displaying pots ans pans and all manner of kithen utensils, shining bright on stands right into the streets. What is actually recommended is to bring home a silver utensil but the token purchase of a metal one is accepted. download (1)At the entrance of the home grain should be placed in a container as an offering to Lord Yama with a lamp facing south, his direction, to the recitation of Mantras. A dip in the Yamuna river is also highly recommended since Yamuna is the sister of the dark lord. The story (Katha) goes that once Yama asked his attendants what they disliked most about their job. Prompt came the protests that they felt deep remorse at snatching away souls of the young, particularly of one newly wed who had hardly a chance to taste the pleasures that mortal life had to offer. They pleaded with him to be told how such premature deaths could be averted. Lord Yama then proclaimed that those who fasted and lit a lamp in his honour on Dhanteras would not suffer such a plight. however most people just buy the utensil in the belief that this would bless them with riches but the real purport of the fast is to ensure that there are no premature deaths in the family.

CHATURTHI  (Fourth Tithi)

7175971_f496Yet another popular and recurring fast is the Chaturthi. Its lord is Ganesh, the elephant headed deity, remover of all afflictions and obstacles. according to scriptures the Chaturthi is in fact the mother of all Tithis. The Panchangs (calendar and almanac) show the precise time each month for fasting on chaturthis, depending on the rising of the Moon. women fast to ensure long life for their husbands. the principle Chaturthi falls in the month of Bhadrapad( August/September) commemorating the ‘birth’ of Ganesh. On this Chaturthi looking at the Moon is prohibited as it brings bad luck in the shape of false allegations. The legend goes that the Moon once burst out laughing on seeing the elephant headed God and had to suffer grave consequences for his misplaced merriment.

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Credit: jagranjunction.com

Another important Chaturthi, popularly known as Karvachauth falls in the month of Kartik ( October/November) this is the years most important observance undertaken by wives to ensure a long life for their husbandsa and their unflagging love. They pledge fidelity and dress in their bridal finery fasting without water or food from dawn till the siting of the Moon. They look at the Moon through a grain strainer and then at their husbands transferring the Moon’s radiance to them. The fast strengthens marital bonds reminding both partners of their obligations towards one another. The fast and the rituals are observed with unwavering resolve across the land. women gather together, sing and perform rituals as they fast.

cow-and-krishnaThe Bahula Chaturthi in the month of August is devoted to revering the cow as the best-loved animal of Lord Krishna and one that gives freely of milk, like nector from the gods. On this day of fasting no milk or milk products are consumed as the cow’s milk must go to its calf alone. This fast is undertaken by both men and women for the protection and wellbeing of their progeny.

 

TRITYA  ( Third Tithi )

The Akshya Tritiya, also called Akha Teej in local parlance falls during the month of Vaishakha (April/May -spring) dedicated to the loving consort of Lord Shiva – Gauri. Akha Teej means the indestructible Teej. All sacrifices made on this day whether in charity, penance, ritual prayers and baths in the Ganges have an enduring quality in conferring results on devotees. this is a day most auspicious for marriages and mass marriages are performed to reduce costs for those of humble means.628x471

Other popular Teejs occur during the month of Shravan ( July/August – onset of Monsoons) when women swing and sing, apply Henna on their hands and visit their parents, receive gifts and pray to Lord Shiva’s consort. the Gangor festiavl is also celebrated on a Teej falling in the month of Chaitra  ( April) when again women worship Gauri the daughter of the mountains and consort of Shiva, to ensure long life for their husbands and marital bliss and progeny.

POORNIMA  ( Full-Moon – Fifteenth Tithi, ascendant phase)

Poornimas are also good for fasting as they help to make one temperate, particularly as the Moon is believed to arouse carnal passions. the most auspicious Poornima occurs in October and is called Sharad Poornima. On this day it is believed that the Moon is in its most empowered state in the year and its rays are like nectar. It is therefore ethe practice to pray to the Moon when it is  high and to leave a rice pudding in a salver throughout the night in moonlight to absorb its rays. It is then eaten the next day by the family assuring health and good fortune.

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Credit: aboutfestivalsofindia.com

The Poornima in the month of Phalgun is celebrated with the burning of Holika fires symbolically destroying the evil aunt who took the boy devotee Prahlad in her lap with hypocritical love in the hope that he would be destroyed but perished in the attempt on account of divine grace. the day after India rocks with the festival of Holi.

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Credit: mallstuff.com

In the month of Chaitra (April) the Poornima marks the ‘birth’ of the mythical monkey faced Lord Hanuman of the Ramayana. He is considered the epitome of faith and devotion, the one who when asked where is your Rama, tore open his chest and showed the questioner his beloved Rama there. Hanuman is one of the most popular of gods. It is said that he was blessed by Rama with perpetual spiritual presence on the mortal plane and therefore devotees feel he is more accessible to them.

In the month of Vaishaka (April/May) the Poornima marks the birth of the Buddha. The Poornima in the month of Jaisht marks the birth of the great saint Kabir and the Poornima in Kartik the birth of the Sikh Guru Nanak. In the month of Ashad the Poornima is dedicated to all sages and mentors, called Guru Purnima. On this day one is expected to respect and serve ones Gurus and conduct oneself with devotion, simplicity, cleanliness,gentility, discipline and restraint It is also an occasion to receive blessings from elders and teachers.

AMAVASYA   ( No-Moon – fifteenth tithi – descending phase )

Amavasya fasts are essentially for helping ancestors in the after life. we are not aware what trials they may be undergoing in the intermediate worlds, depending on their Karmas, before reincarnating. the descriptions in the Garud Purana are intimidating to say the least and a close approximation to Dante’s nether worlds. thus fasting and setting aside token foods and offerings go directly to them and help them through their trials. During the fortnight of the Shrads beginning in the month of Ashwin after Poornima till the following Amavasya ( September ), the focus is entirely on fasting for the release (Moksha) of the Pitr – ones forbears. Other Amavasyas falling during each month are also devoted to helping ancestors.

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Credit : wikipedia.org

The Vat-Savitri amavasya falling in the month of Jyestha has a particular and romantic significance linked to the popular myth of the extraordinary princess Savitri 9radiant with the light of the sun). Savitri fell in love with Satyavan, a prince. Unfortunately his natal chart ominously pointed to an early and premature death.The king tried to dissuade his daughter from marrying Satyavan but she remained adament. satyavan’s parents had also become dispossessed of their kingdom and sought refuge in a forest. To add to their woes they ahd also beocme blind and helpless. she joined them in their humble forest dwelling under a Banyan tree and served them with utmost devotion. One day Satyavan went out to cut wood. Knowing that his days were numbered she accompanied him. He was suddenly afflicted with pain in the head and descending the tree put his head in her lap and died. Then there appeared before Savitri the Lord Yama, god of death riding his buffalo with attendants, come to claim Satyavan’s soul. Satyavan’s soul was led away but Savitri followed the terrible lord of death unafraid. He commanded her to return but she vowed to follow her husband to the ends of time. No one had ever followed the fearsome lord and Yama was impressed with her courage and determination and granted her a boon. She asked for the restoration of the sight of her husband’s parents. Grnating it, Yama proceeded on with Satyavan’s soul in tow. But Savitri still followed. then exasperated, Yama granted her a second boon. She demended the return of their kingdom. Again this was granted. But she still purdued the terrible lord. Impressed with her perseverance he granted her one final boon provided she did not ask that he be brought back to life. Now Savitri asked that she be allowed to bear Satyavan a hundred sons. at this point Yama released the soul of Satyavan without which the boon could not be effective. Satyavan thus came alive in her lap under the Banyan tree.

On this Amavasya, married women pray for the long life of their husbands and for marital happiness. It is the custom to place two baskets under a Banyan tree, one with five types of grain and the figures of Lord Brahma and his consort the goddess Savitri and in the other images of the lovers Savitri and Satyavan. After ritual prayers to the baskets , Lord Yama and the Banyan tree, women circumambulate the Banyan chanting Mantras and listen to the legend of Savitri and Satyavan, thus ensuring marital bliss for themselves. The significance of the Banyan regarded as a divine tree, is that it is said to embody Brahma the creative force of the material world in its roots, Vishnu the sustaining force in its trunk and Shiva the annihilating force at its crown.

 

PANCHMI  (Fifth Tithi)

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Panchmis are dedicated to the divine serpents whose lord is Sheshnag, the hydra headed cosmic serpent over whose coils the great lord Vishnu reclines, perpetually meditating on sustaining creation, while the great serpent’s hood forms a crescent-shaped umbrella over his head. Sheshnag and other serpents are worshipped on this day. Serpents are drawn on either side of ones home  and legends of serpents are heard through ritual prayer. This ensures that the house shall never want in food. the most important Panchmi is Nag-Panchmi falling in the month of Shravan ( waning half0 and is celebrated throughout India with fervour and devotion.

The Panchmi falling in the month of Magh (waxing phase) however is dedicated to the goddess of learning, knowledge and fine arts. Sarasvati. It is also the harbinger of spring and is called Basant (spring) Panchmi. On this day infants are taught their first alphabets and it is auspicious to begin an academic course.

DOOJ  ( second Tithi)

Another popular fast and festival is Bhaidooj (the Dooj for brothers). In the month of Kartik the second Tithi flling in the waxing half of the month is dedicated to strenthening amity between brothers and sisters. The legend goes that on this day Yama, the lord of death ate at the house of his sister Yamuna, symbolized now as the river that flows by the national capital delhi. On this day one finds brothers hastening to their sisters’ homesto feast on a meal specially prepared by them. It is said that he who on this day is fed by his sister, the epitome of kindness, shall be blessed with wealth, honour, long life and spiritual evolution.

OTHER FASTS

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Lord Rama Credit; whoa.in

Fasts are also rigorously observed on particular festivals to commemorate the ‘birth’ of Avatars Ram and Krishna and the unmanifest Universal consciousness, Shiva on Shivratri. We have seen in the previous post that Ram’s ‘birth’ is celebrated on Ramnavmi, the Navmi (Ninth Tithi) that falls in the month of , Chaitra (waxing half) which is the first month of the Hindu New Year, after Navratra, the first nine nights. while there is no historical record of the birth of the Avatar that has captivated the imagination of the entire land, his influence is so great that every other town and village bears the imprint of his name or that of persons in the story of his life, the epic Ramayana. Millions also carry his name in some form or other. There is even a natal chart of the great Avatar which shows the Zodiac signs of his birth and even the placement of planets and Nakshatra ( asterism) in which the Moon was at the time of his birth. Whether one can deduce the historical time when the planets and Zodiac Signs were so configured, is a matter which should be an interesting subject of research. For Hindus, he is more real than any historical event. Indeed if we were successful in a fixing a historical time for his birth, it would only devalue his legendary status. It is perhaps better to leave his persona in the mists of legend and myth.

Likewise Krishna, the other great Avatar that followed him, has also a natal chart, equally precise supporting the patterns of his earthly life. the existence of these natal charts, handed down by tradition from remote antiquity is astonishing. How were precise horoscopes drawn up for legendary Avatars of whose birth no historical records exist? After all horoscopes are based on the Panchang ephemeries and the hair splitting calculations of Tithis, and coordinates of planets at any time can be said to be more significant than historical dates in the Gregorian calendar.

The fast commences on the first day of the month and concludes on the Ninth Tithi, Navmi thus called RamNavmi. It includes chanting of Mantras, reading of the Ramayana, respecting elders, speaking the truth only, showing love for members of the family, avoiding quarrels, abstaining from sex and engaging in prayer. The observance of the fast results in the fulfillment of all worthy wishes, sins are absolved, the soul briefly liberated.

The Navmi of the following month of Vaishakhi is dedicated to Rama’s wife Sita, the epitome of feminine purity, virtue and sacrifice, the archetype of Indian womenhood. Her father the great wise king Janak, failing to have an issue prayed for one. While tilling the earth in a royal ritual to appease the rain god his plough struck a golden casket embedded in the earth which upon being opened revealed a beautiful baby girl. Thus she was named Vasundhara, daughter of mother earth. The observance of the fast is believed to equal acts of charity like gifting of land to the poor. the fast helps in cleansing the vehicle of the soul.

Krishna’s ‘birth’ is celebrated on the Ashtmi (Eighth Tithi) in the waning half of the month of Bhadrapad. worshipers fast during the day and stay up till midnight, the hour of the birth of the celestial Avatar in the prison of his maternal uncle the demon king Kansa who had been told that his sister would bear his nemesis. Accordingly he confined his sister and brother-in-law in the dungeons and on every birth dashed the child to the earth with laughter – but at the birth of the ninth child,  the Avatar, the prison keepers fell asleep, the prison doors flew open and Krishna’s father carried him to safety leaving him in the foster care of friends. The event is celebrated across the land in temples and homes as JanamAshtami or Ashtmi of birth. 

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Krishna and Radha Credit: taringa.net

The following Ashtami of the waning half of the month of Bhadrapad celebrates the birth of Krishna’s beloved but unwed consort, Radha, the epitome of the female romantic. In all temples Krishna is shown with playing the flute with Radha amorously standing beside him. According to most traditions they must be worshiped together. Worshiping Krishna alone is not auspicious. There is a mystical tradition according to which fasting on her birth day and chanting her name is equal to making all the major pilgrimages and results in acquiring great knowledge and prosperity. Fasts in honour of Radha bring happiness, honour, wealth and admirable qualities in the worshipers.

The Ashtami in the waning half of the month of Ashwin provides for a fast called the Jeevatputrika and is observed for the well being and long life of progeny and grandchildren.

The unique significance of stellar events in the life of a Hindu is further highlighted by the fact that the occurrence of festivals on different Tithis have enhanced results when the Moon is in certain Nakshatras ( the 27 Asterisms conjoining with the Zodiac Signs). Thus while the festival of Ramnavmi always falls on the Ninth Tithi of the waxing half of the month of Chaitra, if at that time the Moon is in the Nakshatra Punarvasu ( viewed from earth ) then that Ramnavmi becomes specially auspicious. This is because it would replicate the stellar configuration of the ‘actual’ time of Rama’s birth.This configuration is referred to in the ancient treatise the Agastyasamhita attributed to the great sage Agastya in whose hermitage Rama spent time during his exile. The configuration shows the Moon in Punarvasu, while the Sun is in the Sign Aries and the ‘birth’ takes place with the zodiac Sign Cancer  rising above the horizon, becoming Rama’s ascendant Sign. All planets are so placed that they cast benign aspects on the ascendant Sign to herald the birth of the Almighty Spirit on the mortal plane as an Avatar. This reminds one of the Star rising over Bethlehem  portending the birth of Christ the saviour. Likewise the other Avatar Krishna’s birth Tithi becomes doubly auspicious if on that Ashtami the Moon is in the Nakshatra Rohini.

Care has to be taken not to fast or commence prayers during a festival when it falls on a ‘mixed’ Tithi i.e. the same solar day. Thus prayers and fasts may have to be postponed at the commencement of the Hindu New Year  if the First Tithi, the Pratipada, for instance, happens to be joined to the preceding Amavasya ( No-Moon) on that day, which is the commencement also of the Navratra or nine auspicious nights of empowering prayer top the goddesses. Commencement of prayers and the ritual setting up of the altar on a mixed Tithi under the mistaken impression that the this is the day, can invite grave misfortune. In the religious texts the Goddess makes clear that she does not forgive those who commence such prayers at an inauspicious time. The importance for householders to possess the Panchang calendar therefore cannot be overemphasized. It clearly gives from day-to-day the type of Tithi on that solar day of the Gregorian calendar, the precise time of beginning and completion of aq Tithi on a certain day, down to the minute, the precise time of the entry of the Moon into a certain Nakshatra and time of exit and therefore the correct time of commencement of prayers.. You simply cannot assume that the New Year celebration and prayers of Navratra will commence at past midnight or the dawning of the day. The Panchang will tell you at what moment of the night or day the New Year will commence and it remains most advisable to take a good look at the Panchang for precise timings or then consult a Pundit in advance.

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Demon Ravana in prayer for empowerment Credit: srinistuff.com

Fasts are a form of sacrifice. As one makes sacrificial offerings to ritual fires, to lord Agni ( god of fire) or other deities so too with fasts of abstention, sacrifices are offered. This act of sacrifice leads to empowerment. In Hindu myths and legends a recurring theme is that of demonic forces undertaking fasts to oblige the gods to grant them boons. when a severe penance is undertaken the spiritual forces are left with no option but to grant boons. Demons then ask for boons of invincibility and immortality and thus empowered let loose a regime of terror on the pious. Ravana the adversary of Lord Rama was one such, a great devotee of Lord Shiva who through penance and prayer acquired powers superior even to the demi-gods. Thus the belief exists that fasts will inevitably produce rewards.

The Hindu calendar we see is full of fasts and festive occasions as the Christian calendar is of saints. We cannot possibly mention them all here. The broad categories and important fasts which are universally observed and some lesser known ones of interest have however been covered in this post.

 

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According to Hindu astrology the effects of stellar phenomena can be divided into two categories. The first is general, applicable broadly to all people universally and the second is particular, affecting only the individual.  The particular effects are determined on the basis of the individual’s horoscope ( more on this in a later post). The general effects for the entire populace are determined by the ascending and descending phases of the Moon, the nature of the Lunar Day ( Tithi ), the movement of the Sun on its northern and southern journeys, the movement of certain planets in certain constellations, the presence of the Moon in certain Asterisms ( Nakshatras ) on a particular day of the week, the passage of the eight sections of a day ( Chaughadias ) each of an hour and forty minutes duration, with different auspicious and inauspicious characteristics and effects.

SindhiTipno20121-248x300The general effects are annually made available in a traditional calendar ( Panchamg ) , which declares the effects for each day of the year.These effects also determine festivals, prohibitions and fasts and auspicious timings to undertake social, economic and personal activity and times and periods when certain activities are to be avoided.

Thus for instance the full-moon is auspicious, the no-moon is not. The Moon’s ascending phase is more auspicious than its descending phase. Certain Tithis ( days of the Lunar month ) are auspicious, others are not. Most of the months on the Sun’s northern journey are favourable whereas many months on its southern journey are not. The movement of certain planets in certain constellations are favourable while other movements are not. The presence of the Moon in certain Asterisms on certain days are auspicious while its presence in others are not. Some sections of the day are favourable for certain activities while others are not and so on.

Let us first look at one of the most important of the general effects which determine the festivals, which gladden the heart of the poorest and the richest equally throughout the year and become the heart, soul and inspiration for Indian culture, religious observances and joyous celebration, ones very raison d’etre.

HINDU DEVOTEES CROWD AROUND CHARIOTS IN PURI

juggannath festival for Krishna, Puri – Orissa

India is a land of numerous festivals – it is a wonder that any work ever gets done – if you are not careful more often than not you would arrive at a bank on a festive holiday about which you had no clue. There are festivals of colour, festivals of light, of prayers and processions, pilgrimages, holy dips and fasts. By and large this is a pious land immersed in faith. Processions of the goddess astride a lion slaying a demon in the east at Kolkata, of giant images of the elephant headed god Ganesh in the west at Mumbai, blessing the congregations as they are carried to the sea for immersion, of Shiva and Shakti ( creative force and its energy ), symbols of fertility at the Gangor festival as they are carried in palanquins preceded by musical bands and dancing worshippers in the north at Rajasthan and the great chariots of Krishna at Jaggannath ( from which the English word juggernaut is derived), lord of the universe, pulled by thousands of devotees at Puri in the east, to name only a few. Celebrations of the birth of Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Ganesh ( deemed astrologically rather than historically), Buddha, Mahavir (Jainism), Nanak (Sikhism) and a host of lessor known deities and saints fill the calendar with festivities and fasts. But behind this apparent diversity of celebrations is the unerring hidden pattern which is again determined by stellar configuration on the one hand and earthly seasons on the other. the two combine to provide relevance to seemingly unrelated celebrations of succeeding festivals. It is the lunar almanac that determines the day on which the festival arrives.

One of the most important festivals is the Navratra, the nine nights ( currently in progress). These ‘nine nights’ occur twice during the year. Basant Navratra, the nine nights of spring and Shardi Navratra, the nine nights of winter. It happens that every year as we look at the Gregorian calendar, unlike christmas arriving regularly on 25 december, Navratra commences on different days of the solar year as the timing is fixed from the lunar calendar on the basis of Tithis, lunar days. The lunar year commences on the first day of the lunar month of Chaitra, in the Shukla Paksh, the ascendant phase of the Moon. The month of Chaitra occurs in April. The month is named after the Asterism in which the Moon is located on Full Moon in any month.  In April on full moon day the Moon is located in the Asterism ( Nakshatra) Chitra and the month is christened Chaitra. Other months also likewise derive their names from the Asterisms. During that month the Hindu New Year begins on the first day after No-Moon or Amavasya, when the moon begins its journey of empowerment till the following full Moon. That first day , the New Year’s day is also the first day of Navratra, the nine nights of spring. This New Year Day celebrates the onset of spring and the empowerment of good through the worship of the nine goddesses of the nine nights. the devout engage in fasts. During his current official visit to the USA Prime minister Modi of India appears to be observing precisely such a fast.

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Credit: coastaldigest.com

When President Obama invited him to a private dinner at the White House, Modi accepted only hot water, enjoining all present to enjoy their dinner in his honour! Modi was observing the Navratra fast.President Obama however in deference to his Indian guest also chose not to eat.

The Navratra festival signifies the onset of the New Year, not just prayers to the goddesses. it is not surprising that the Government of India’s financial year begins not on the first of January but on the first of April, conforming to the arrival of the harvest and the commencement of the Indian lunar Year.

On the ninth day, furthermore, a major festival is celebrated, the astrologically determined birth of Lord Rama, Ram Navmi. The empowerment of the goodnesses bears fruit with an event which connects the spiritual world with the mortal one through the incarnation of the Formless Absolute ( Nirakar) into a mortal being, one with form ( Akar), in the person of one of India’s most popular spiritual personages, Rama, the human incarnation, the Avatar, the ideal man, the perfect husband, the exemplary King, the archetype of selflessness, sacrifice and morality and no less a god, visible and incarnate in flesh. Thus the lunar year begins with nine nights of empowerment of the forces of good culminating in the commemoration of the birth of the divine spirit into our imperfect world, the birth of Rama. Indeed an auspicious way to begin the year.

The second Navratra arrives after the passage of six months on the first day of the ascendant phase of the month of Ashwin called the Ashwin Shukla Pratipada, generally falling in September/October and culminating on the tenth day in the great festival of Dussehra, commemorating the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king of Sri Lanka, Ravana. Ravana is the archetype of vanity, hauteur, egotism, hedonism, arrogance, indiscretion, lust, immorality and disregard for righteousness. Rama’s ultimate victory and slaying of Ravana becomes the victory of good over evil. Ravana had abducted Rama’s consort Sita  confining her in Sri Lanka, enamoured by her beauty. Here again the process of empowerment of the forces of good through prayers and fasts to the nine goddesses culminates in the burning of giant effigies of Ravana and his two brothers amid much rejoicing the length and breadth of India. The Prime Minister of india stands by at a public celebration at  the Ramlila grounds in Delhi as Rama’s symbolic arrow is released by him piercing the giant image of Ravana which goes up in flames and fire crackers to general rejoicing. Astrology, mythology, spirituality and the seasons come together to define yet another landmark in India’s lunar calendar and national life.

1376755521-devotees-immerse-an-idol-of-goddess-durga-in-the-buriganga-river_1545636During Navratra in West Bengal, numerous prayer enclosures called Pandals are erected in cities, villages, hamlets and homes to worship the goddess Durga. Clay images of great artistry, clothed in brochades and adorned with ornaments show her riding a lion and slaying the demon Mahisasur ( the buffalo demon  who emerges from the head of a buffalo) a form assumed to dupe her. She holds a spear in one of her numerous hands carrying all manner of weapons and thrusts it into his muscular chest as her lion steed sinks its teeth into his buffalo form. Her face radiates extraordinary beauty and firm resolve to rid the world of evil. virtually every street and quarter vies with the other to erect a more magnificent tableau of the goddess. Every night worshippers congregate and make offerings amidst chanting, wafting incense and lighting lamps. The Shakti cult is strong here, the cult of pure female energy personified by the goddess, the active principle of the Universal absolute.

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immersion of the goddess

After nine days of intense worship during the ascendant phase of the Moon, on the ninth, the tableaus of the goddess are carried to the Ganges for immersion in great processions. In the North in Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat and elsewhere likewise the goddess assumes great significance and daily prayers are performed in every home and temple.

b_id_417315_ganeshIn the west particularly in Mumbai, the Lord Ganesh who has a beatific, charming and endearing elephant head, is the principal deity and during the month of Bhadrapad on the fourth Tithi of the ascendant phase of the Moon, generally falling in September, the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated. Here again giant clay images with numerous others in all sizes are carried to the ocean for immersion. it is interesting that the festival is celebrated on a Chaturthi ( fourth Tithi ) which happens to be ‘Rikt’ or ‘empty’ Tithi and therefore most inauspicious. however, being the lord of all things auspicious, his celebration on such a day is quite appropriate because he helps to dispel the negativity of the empty Tithi with his august presence.

Diwali-diyasThen arrives the festival of lights, Divali when Indian homes stir with a myriad earthen lamps lining wall after wall from mud huts to princely mansions and the night awakens with fire crackers which sound like guns and mortars being fired during a war throughout the night. If one did not know better one might think that war had been declared. That is the visible part of the festival. What is not so visible is the alter at the heart of every home, the hallowed temple corner. Laxmi the goddess of wealth and prosperity sits enthroned amidst flowers and incense, bejewelled and resplendent. This is the most holy of nights, a celebration which combines the spirit of Christmas and Thanksgiving all rolled into one. but strangely on this night the Moon is not auspicious at all being absent. Dipavali the festival of lights falls on an Amavasya. Generally Amavasyas ( No-Moon) are reserved for thoughts of departed ancestors and is a time when dark spirits are believed to roam the pitch black night. Why have the premier celebration of the year on such a night? Well, it is not because lighting lamps and flooding the place with lights would look good on a night that is really dark. Again one could argue that like Ganesh, the goddess Laxmi would dispel all dark forces with her enormous resources of positive energy. But that again is not the reason for the paradox.

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Lord Rama sita and Laxman in exile

It is explained that this is because it commemorates the return of Lord Rama from exile, to his kingdom of Ayodhya, after slaying the demon king Ravana and gaining victory over the forces of darkness. But why should Rama decide to return at such an inauspicious time like No-Moon? The answer is simple. His first duty was to his deceased father who died of grief in his absence during his years in exile. An exile to which king Dashrath himself had sent his son, with anguish. It happened at the time when Rama was to be anointed heir to the throne and the kingdom and palace were preparing for the joyous event. The night before the grand ceremony for which the waters of all of India’s sacred rivers had been collected for the annointment, Manthara the evil maid of Dashrath’s youngest of three queens, Kaikeye  told her that she was being naive in showering so much love on Rama ( the son of the queen-mother Kaushalya and eldest son of Dashrath) and giving support to his succession, which she should try to wrest for her own son Bharat. This produced a change of heart and she finally sought the fulfilment of two boons  promised her by Dashrath in the past after she saved his life during a battle. The first boon was that Rama be exiled to the forests for fourteen years. The second that Bharat be declared the heir.  Incidentally this evil turning of the mind of the righteous and favourite  step-mother of Rama, on whom she had always doted, was not of her own doing but providentially ordained to unfold the legend of the Ramayana for the benefit of mankind. Dashrath was distraught, unable to retract his promises to his wife and unable to countenance the exile of his most beloved son. Rama refused any suggestion of opposing the unwarranted punishment and  to honour his father’s word prepared for exile shedding his princely robes for that of a monk and prepared to leave armed with a bow. The tragedy was compounded when Sita his bride, despite much persuasion, insisted on accompanying him barefooted into the forest. Sita, who had always enjoyed the comforts of a princess was ready to sacrifice all wordly comforts to be with her beloved spouse. To add to the gloom, Rama’s inseparable step-brother Laxman, always impetuous, furious with his father, decided to join the exile. The great tragedy of the Ramayana had begun.

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Credit: india-forums.com Dashrath inadvertently kills Shravan Kumar the ideal son

After their departure, Dashrath pined away for his son repeating the word Rama from morning to evening and hating himself for having sent his saintly son into exile. Ministers were later despatched  to trace them and enjoin them to return but Rama refused to dishonour his father’s word to Kaikeye. Dashrath died of grief and too late Kaykeye realized her fatal folly. Dahshrath’s death in fact fulfilled a curse placed upon him in his youth by an aggrieved blind sage. Then, on a hunting expedition he let fly an arrow towards a movement in the bush. Alas, it was no animal but a boy fetching water from a pond for his thirsty blind parents. In dying the boy Shravan Kumar ( an ideal son) reproached  the King and asked him to carry the water to his parents. When the boy’s father learnt of the tragedy he cursed Dashrath that he too would suffer separation from his son and die in anguish.

bharat-and-paduka1Bharat was away during these tragic developments, on return was anguished by what his mother had done, refused the throne and set off to find his brother and bring him back, adding ‘had Bharat never been born”. But Rama refused to return before the passage of the stipulated fourteen years of exile and Bharat returned to administer the kingdom carrying Rama’s footwear clasped to his breast and placed them on the throne of Ayodhya.

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Rama slays the demon Ravana

It is to such an Ayodhya that Rama returned after the exile and slaying of Ravana on the No-Moon night, grieving over his father’s torment and wishing first and foremost to pray for his soul. This is the explanation for Divali occurring on an Amavasya, when prayers are offered for the dear departed. However, his return from exile and victory over Ravana is a cause for much celebration and India rejoices with lamps fire-works crackers and prayers.

The paradox is thus explained. Once again we have mythology, lunar configurations, religious ritual and festive celebration joining together in the formulation of a festival, holding multiple meanings and having many depths. and yes, Divali arrives every year precisely on the night of the No-Moon of the month of Kartik, generally in the month of November. Very precise timings are indicated for commencement of prayers to the goddess of wealth. Tradesmen open their new ledgers for the ensuing year. In many parts Divali also marks the commencement of the New Year for trade and commerce among traditional merchant communities. Prayers are held not only in homes but also at shops and factories where the picture of goddess Laxmi hang near the safe and at counters for receiving payments.

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Credit: sanatansociety.com LAXMI goddess of wealth

Things are never precisely what they seem in India. The goddess Laxmi is not merely the consort of Lord Vishnu, the maintainer of the universe but has a link to Lord Rama too. We must not forget that Lord Rama is in fact an incarnation ( Avatar ) of Lord Vishnu and Laxmi his consort is incarnated as his spouse, Sita. Many levels, many worlds, many meanings enrich the fabric of the celebrations. All these diverse impressions, stellar, mythological, religious, transcendental, ritualistic, commercial, sociocultural, stir constantly in the Indian psyche, whether rustic or elite, naive or sophisticated, traditional or modern, with equal viguor.

holi3_2518539kAnother seasonal festival is Holi. This festival of colour is celebrated at the end of March on the day after the full moon, the first day of the month of Chaitra. At Holi people dance in the streets throwing colour at one another, drink spicy milk laced with Marijuana and throw all inhibitions to the winds. You may well encounter rowdy youths moving around town in open trucks and wagons totally smeared in colour, dripping wet, occasionally stark nude and fully inebriated.

Holi-revelry-via-fotopedia.com_ Disguised in vivid colours, groups of revellers lustily embrace all and sundry in anonymity.

No one really minds being thoroughly wet, coloured and high as they have the sanction of the festive season. At this time the winter harvest has been collected and there is time and reason for merriment.

A day before Holi at every street corner Holika fires are lit and residents circumambulate them placing ears of green corn and barley fresh from the harvest against the smouldering embers. The legend goes that the demonic king Harinyakashyap weary of his son Prahlad’s unrelenting devotion for Lord Vishnu, sought to destroy him. His sister Holika had the boon of being impervious to fire and so he asked Prahlad to sit in her lap in a ritual fire in the hope that Prahlad would perish – such was his hatred for his god fearing son. Prahlad an exemplary Bhakt ( loving devotee) in Hindu lore, remained untouched by the flames by divine grace whereas the aunt despite her boon, perished on account of her evil intentions. The ashes of Holika fires symbolize the purity of faith and are considered holy ( no pun intended).

teejprocession-4_080311042944With these ashes, prayers for the festival of Gangor commence. This is the worship of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati also known as Gan – Gor, the male and female creative principle, icons of productivity and fertility, conferring progeny on worshippers. The prayers conclude about a fortnight later on Chaitra Shukla Tritiya ( third Tithi of the month of Chaitra’s ascendant phase).  This is a festival mainly observed in Rajasthan with great processions of Shiv and his consort. In Jaipur capital of Rajasthan the procession carries a magnificent image of the goddess in a palanquin through the streets to the delight of tourists. Women fast to create love in the hearts of their husbands and to ensure that widowhood never befalls them, while unmarried girls fast to find the perfect spouse, much like Gauri’s spouse Lord Shiva.

These are some of India’s famous festivals in the North, though there are numerous other festivals the length and breadth of this holy land. If you are a tourist you would not want to miss joining in the amazing spirit and spectacle of the festivals.

 

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Credit: artoflegendindia.com

 

 

ketu - alberthalljaipur.gov.inKetu is the lower severed half of the demon who sought immortality ( see previous post on Rahu). In astrological terms he is the southern Lunar Node, or the descending Node. While he is sometimes portrayed with a serpent’s head generally in keeping with myth and legend he is shown as headless with a serpent or fish-dragon body. The portrayal in ancient European texts also depicts the northern Node as having a serpent’s head. If uninfluenced by other planets he displays the qualities of Mars for the horoscope.

Like Rahu it too is inherently a malefic, yet it is paradoxically a significator of liberation, which can have multiple implications. It can signify liberation, through death, the liberation of ‘Moksha’, the enlightened stage reaches by the soul force, after which it does not need to reincarnate. Thus it is the antithesis of Rahu, which impelled the soul force to incarnate and materialize. It signifies the return of the soul force into the spiritual world. Thus it is an indicator of spiritual development and the desire for spiritual evolution. Likewise it is also the significator of the occult, magic and witchcraft, the non material realms of reality. Ketu is also the repository of ones Karma – a force for transformation which gets magnified during eclipses – then Ketu impels the transformation of the ego, creating awareness of the conscious Self within. While in India most traditionalists dread the eclipse as a harbinger of evil, the more erudite look upon it as an opportunity and astrologers and Pundits devise special occult ritual prayers for the spiritual evolution of their clients to be performed during an eclipse. Certain Brahmanical orders trace their lineage to Ketu.

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Credit: rudraksha-ratna.com

If Rahu is the factor for separation ( see previous post), Ketu represents obstruction and impediments. At the psychological level he may induce manic depression, pessimism, addictions and violence. Sudden death from accidents are also attributed to Ketu effects. Other effects include sexual perversion. Yet when beneficial for a chart it enhances the spiritual and mystical potential of the subject to the extent of conferring extra-sensory perception ( ESP) and even supernatural abilities. It confers special powers of spiritual healing through Tantrik practices.However the manner in which it is likely to create spiritual awareness and detachment is through material adversity, sorrow, pain and loss. Ketu governs magicians, astrologers and the medical profession. 

ketu1Ketu is also associated with being bitten by snakes, reptiles and dogs, in life threatening circumstances. In my first post on Stellar India I referred to the popular practice to have ear lobes of infants of both sexed pierced ( and adorned with ear rings) to ward off such Ketu effects. The piercing replicates the snake bite and therefore fulfills the astrological prophecy in advance, like a prophylactic. Prayers and incantations to Ketu are believed to cure those who have become poisoned by snake bites or otherwise. A favourable Ketu indicates luxury, wisdom and intuition. there are several temples in India dedicated to Ketu.

Ketu is exalted in Sagittarius and Scorpio and debilitated in Gemini and Taurus. It is friendly to Mercury, Venus, Saturn and Rahu, neutral to Jupiter and inimical to the Sun, Moon and Mars. Its gemstone is the Cat’s Eye and metal, Mica. His steed is the vulture.

 

 

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Cats Eye

 

 

 

 

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Artist: Pieter Weltevrede Credit: sanatansociety.org

 

 

320px-Lunar_eclipse_diagram-en.svgA common portrayal of Rahu is a demonic head. His vehicle is the lion or tiger. In astrology it is a natural malefic with characteristics similar to Lord Saturn. In fact it is considered the strongest malefic planet of the Zodiac.In Hindu Astrology (Jyotish), unlike the planets, who are all revered demi-gods of the pantheon, the Lunar Nodes are demonic entities. The Lunar nodes are the points where the Moon’s path in the sky crosses the ecliptic, the Sun’s path. The two points are called Rahu and Ketu and are treated as planets. The question arises how these Lunar Nodes come to occupy a place as important as the planets in Hindu Astrology. We need to trace their origin in Hindu mythology and Puranic ( ancient ) legends.

The demi-gods ( Devs) and their antitheses the Titans and demons ( Asurs)  are shown in a state of constant conflict to acquire control over the heavenly regions ( Swarg Lok ) and the earth ( Prithvi Lok ). The Demons rule the nether worlds ( Patal Lok ) from where they mount their attacks to win heaven and thereby gain power over the forces of nature enabling them to dominate the earth and destabilize it by polluting the minds of earthlings, and by causing earthquakes, floods and other natural calamities.  Allegorically it is the  struggle between the forces of good and evil. The demi-gods are often outwitted and heaven and earth fall under the spell of the demonic forces. Numerous legends speak of the rise of one great Titan after another threatening heaven and earth. The demigods then rush to the holy Trinity of Godhead ( Brahma the creator, Vishnu the sustainer and Shiva the annihilator) beseeching  their help  to oust the demons. Often the plight the demi-gods are in are of their own making. The demons succeed in gaining the upper hand when the demi-gods fall in righteous behaviour with bloated egos  and indulgences. After being duly reprimanded the Godhead then deigns to assist them through the employ of subterfuge and trickery. This becomes necessary because great demonic entities after engaging in extraordinary feats of penance, piety and meditation succeed in  gaining the blessings of the Godhead. The Godhead is obliged to grant them their wishes. Once thus empowered, the Demons cast away the mask of piety and launch attacks gaining control over the heavens.

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Credit: srisatchmo.wordpress.com

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Both the Devas and the Asuras were keen to acquire Amrit, the nectar of immortality. Lord Vishnu suggested to the Devs that the only way to get that nectar was by churning the cosmic oceans for which it would be necessary to get the Asurs to join them in the exercise. The churning then began by winding the king of serpents, Vasuki ( seen coiling round Lord Shiva’s neck as adornment) round Mount Meru, the Hindu Olympus. Lord vishnu assumed the form of a giant turtle on whose back Mount Meru was placed. The Asurs were to hold the head of the serpent while the Devs were to hold the tail. It was hoped that the fumes from the enraged serpant would confuse the Asurs, but the Asurs were not to be deterred. The churning first produced a pot of deadly poison which threatened to annihilate the universe. Lord Shiva magnanimously intervened by offering to drink it and save the world. As the deadly poison went down he confined it to his throat which turned blue – henceforth the saviour was called Neelkanth, Lord Blue-Throat.

When the churning finally produced the coveted pot of nectar, the Asuras usurped it, refusing to share it with the Devs. To save the day Lord Vishnu assumed the form of an enchanting damsel and charming the gullible Asurs stole the pot away, dancing towards the Devs and pouring the nectar quickly into their goblets. Rahu, a leading Asur realizing the subterfuge transformed himself into a Dev and joined the ranks of the demi-gods, being served the nectar.

 

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Credit: storiesofgods.com

The Sun and the Moon discovering his alien presence drew the attention of Lord Vishnu, now the divine damsel with the pot of nectar but too late, as Rahu had already drunk the nectar of immortality. Vishnu then let fly his famed discus severing Rahu’s neck from his body. but the two halves had already gained immortality and henceforth continued to haunt the Zodiac, seeking revenge on the Sun and the Moon by pursuing them and swallowing them time and again causing eclipses. The two nodes are however not associated with any Zodiac sign through lordship or ownership.

Rahu signifies all manner of separation, from tribe, family, home, region, country of origin –  ones essential roots. This could manifest as incessant travel or a career overseas, away from ones origins, even exile and execution. Separation could also imply absence of parental support or on account of being orphaned. Rahu’s adverse placement also indicates tendency to have  addictions  and obsessions, which could mean alcoholism, drug abuse and obsessive sex. Pronounced Rahu effects could even mean insanity and forms of mental instability, particularly when it afflicts a weak Moon ( which symbolizes the mind in the horoscope).  On account of its ability to eclipse the Sun, its influence can create grandiose illusions about ones importance. In the psychic area it could mean supernatural possession or susceptibility to adverse occult influences. His adverse influence can also be indicative of the possibility of being bitten by a snake. Viewed philosophically, Rahu signifies the spirit or soul’s contact with the material world and its machinations. It engenders desire and greed and is associated with materialism.

Another characteristic of Rahu effects is sudden or unexpected developments, both negative and positive. For instance sudden gain in wealth, through legacy or lottery or other fortuitous events or unforeseen calamities.However the gains would be of a dubious nature. Rahu can also produce beneficial effects like making the subject very prosperous, enhancement of status and ability to overcome enemies. Like all planets he is therefore also capable of facilitating Rajyoga – extremely beneficial effects.

Rahu is exalted in Taurus debilitated in Scorpio and favours Aquarius. It is friendly to Saturn, Venus, Mercury, neutral to jupiter and inimical to the Sun and Moon and Mars. In association with a planet it assumes its nature and magnifies it.

 

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RAHU YANTRA Credit: astrodevam.com

 

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