The Story and Rituals of Mahashivaratri

Lord Shiva is regarded as the third god in the trinity. He has the power of destroying and purifying the universe. Lord Brahma restarts the process of creation of the universe after it is being destroyed by Shiva. For the believers of Shiva, he is the supreme power in this universe. Lord Shiva’s anger and pleasing character are very well known among the worshippers. Shiva means amiable, kind and good. People consider him to be a loyal husband to his wives Sati and Parvati.

Shiva and Sati.

Goddess Sati was daughter to King Daksha and spouse of Lord Shiva. Once, Daksha conducted a yagna without inviting Lord Shiva and Sati. But Sati was very interested to attend the yagna and started for her father’s kingdom. Sad and insulted by the disregard, her father showed, she immolated by jumping into the yagnakunda. Shiva became angry when he heard about the death of Sati and carrying her body he danced. He destroyed the Kingdom of Daksha by opening his third eye. In order to make him calm, Vishnu severed the body of Sati and threw it on earth. Parts of her body fell on 12 places and were called as Shakti Peethas.

Parvati and Shiva.

After the immolation of Sati, Shiva began the life of an ascetic. But Sati took birth was again born as Parvati as the daughter of Himavan. After growing old, Parvati understood about her past life. In order to re-unite with Lord Shiva, she started continuous tapas. Parvati tried many methods to please Lord Shiva however he was adamant.

Parvati, at last, asked the help of Lord of Love Kamadeva. He tried hitting Shiva with his arrow. Kamadeva, the Lord of Love was reduced into ashes, with the 3rd eye of Lord Shiva as he was furious. But, Shiva revived Kamadeva into life after his wife Rati requested. In order to make Shiva marry her, Parvati started her tapas. Lord Shiva got married to Parvati, due to the truthfulness in her tapas and the compulsion by saints, before Amavasya on the month of Phalguna. The night both got married is called Mahashivaratri.

Mahashivaratri.

Devotees of Shiva all over the world, celebrate Mahashivaratri, even today. In addition to visiting many important temples of Shiva, devotees also observe fast and night vigil.

There is another legend connected with this festival. In order to save her husband from all pains, Parvati did tapas on Mahashivaratri.. People believe that Parvati prayed for Lord Shiva’s long life on a moonless night in Phalguna. Following this custom started by Parvati, women even today, offer prayers and perform poojas to please Lord Shiva and wish for the long life of their spouses.

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Hanuman: the Favorite God

Hanuman is held in high regard by believers of the Hindu religion and worshipped by devotees around the world. ‘Anjaneya’, ‘Bajrang Bali’ and ‘Maruti’ are a few of his names, in the list of 108 names by which he is known.

Famous temples consecrated to Lord Hanuman include Sri Anjaneyar Temple in Ambur, Jakhu temple in Shimla and Sankat Mochan Temple in Varanasi. There is also a ‘Dattatreya Temple’ in central Trinidad that has an eighty five feet tall statue of the most loved god.

Hanuman was born as a monkey-like human belonging to the ‘vanara’ race. Hanuman met Lord Rama during his exile in the forest and afterwards helped in rescuing Goddess Sita from Kingdom of Ravana. He , without taking any help from others, helped Lakshman get back his life, bringing ‘Sanjeevani’ by transporting the ‘Gandhamadan’ mountain.

So he is worshipped by devotees for his courage and strength. He is also liked for his faithfulness to Lord Rama. Several temples have put Lord Rama’s and Hanuman’s idols side by side to symbolize their lifelong friendship.

Hindus observe Hanuman Jayanti in March or April as per the Gregorian calendar, every year, which is known as the ‘chaitra’ month.. Fasts are observed and people visit temples to offer their prayers to Hanuman. ‘Chalisa’, a special prayer which has 40 verses in it, is chanted by devotees of Anjaneya.

His devotees also wear red or saffron colored clothes and wrist bands. Legend says that when Hanuman asked Sita the reason for applying Sindhur on forehead, she replied that she was doing so as a gesture of long life for Lord Rama. It is believed he smeared his body in sindhur for Lord Rama, to make him live longer.

Anjaneya is believed to be immortal by his devotees and is said to be living to this day in caves, chanting the name of Lord Rama.

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The Mythology behind Hinduism

Several research reports have been written to know the origin of Hindu religion. The followers of Hinduism believe Hinduism to be timeless without any starting or ending.

But the historians think that the religion is not older than 5000 years. The theory suggests that the earliest followers of the Hindu religion lived around the Indus River region. In that period, that river was known as Sindhu River. After the migration of Persians to the river sides, they began to call it Hindu and that is the source of the name of the religion. People who practiced this religion started being called as Hindus and the religion was identified as Hinduism. This discourse is called as Aryan Theory in well known parlance.

A separate theory regarding the start of Hinduism says that the religion began close to 2000 BC. The creators of the religion were Aryans who had settled on the shores of Indus River and the Indus Valley region. But the facts show that this theory is erroneous and is regarded as completely hypothetical in nature.

The evolution of this religion can be categorized into 3 periods - the early period that dates from 6500 BC to 1000 AD, the medieval span that dated from 1000 AD to 1800 AD and the present age that dates from 1800 AD to the current date.

Curiously, the beginning of Hindu religion is not mentioned in even one of the sacred books. Actually, several of the teachings deal with the method of living in the current times and not thinking about the past. This religion gives significance to the right way of leading one’s life and does not assert to being a religion with a start and a finish.

Even though the present world tries to find the history of Hindu religion, those who follow this religion do not feel the desire to comprehend how it began. They believe in the practice of moral living and adhering to the tenets of Hindu religion to live a good life ultimately leading to God.

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The Enduring Lessons Of Gita

Most famous book of Hinduism is Bhagvad Gita which is popularly called just as the Gita. There are around 20 and nearly 700 verses in this Sanskrit book.

The entire content is the discussion Arjuna had with Shri Krishna. The basic lesson that this sacred text intends to communicate is that all humans must carryout their duties with utmost sincerity and not in expectance of or in fear of the final outcome of their actions.

The Gita lays emphasis on the fact that a person should lead a life where he is detached from all material things and worldly pleasures.

The book describes how it is possible for you to do all your duties extremely well and have ambitions and goals without having attachment to worldly pleasures. This book deals with the connection between humans and God, the way to communicate with Almighty, what is devotion and the real meaning of learning and unawareness.

The Bhagvad Gita focuses on the fact that the world is ever changing and is unstable, and if a person focuses on material comforts then he is bound to get disappointed and sad. This can cause hazardous sentiments such as being scared, worried, angry, hateful and envious. These sentiments are hazardous as they have an effect on the quality of your life and impede you from reaching stage of salvation.

The book talks about 3 most significant things. The first is about duty - every individual must carry out his obligations with full devotion to lead a full life. The second relates to the hidden self - every person has an inner self that is his or her true self and is unlike the external body. The third and last principle relates to omnipresent God and the way in which we can achieve the realization that he is the center of our world.

The lessons taught by Bhagvad Gita are significant in the life of all humans and that is why it is the best known text among all holy books in this world.

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What Gita Communicates?

The Gita is viewed as the essence of the Hindu religion by many learned men. The holy scripture indeed deserves this distinction as the wisdom contained in it guides all human beings on path of living life the ‘ideal’ manner.

Rich with examples, the Gita is profound yet easy enough for the common man to comprehend. The life principles described in Gita show us how we can achieve ‘Moksh’ by the means of following our righteous duties steadfastly.

The Gita is contained in the classical story of Mahabharata that forms the best background for this profound work of philosophy.

The Lord Krishna is said to have imparted this dialogue on the significance of the bounden duty of a human being to Arjun, who was one of his most loyal devotee as well as a friend. The whole kingdom ruled by Arjun and his brothers had been seized by their immoral cousins by corrupt means and Krishna had given the profound discourse found in Gita to Arjun to give him strength for fighting against his own relatives.

The wisdom in Gita is everlasting and applies to every shade of life and contains the profound philosophy about Karma which leads people to Moksh. It asks every human being to put all his effort and determination in attending to his duties.

Simultaneously, the person is required to stop pondering about the consequences of his actions. Only this would help him is being tranquil when faced with a difficulty and prevent him from being affected during abundance. The strict adherence to his obligations will direct him on the road leading to holy spirit.

The Gita is a practical guide on how one must live in order to be content and at peace with life. When one follows the teachings of this divine holy text, he or she can emerge from both calamity and excesses unaffected and composed. The Gita acts as a lifesaver for many people globally and just as it helped Arjun when faced with the task of taking arms against his own blood; it guides them in dealing with despair, sadness, anger and jealousy.

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Devi Durga and the Festival of Dussehra

According to Hinduism, Durga devi is the mother to everybody in the universe and the energy which makes creation, preservation and destruction possible. In Bengali her name comes from the word with the meaning ‘the unbeatable’ and in Sanskrit ‘the inaccessible’ and devotees refer o her as ‘Maa’. She is the personification of the feminine forces, both creative and destructive. She has a lot of aspects, each of which is a new quality. The integral attributes of goddess Durga are fearlessness and patience. A lot of times Saraswati, Kartik, Ganesha and Lakshmi are shown as her children.

Goddess Durga, being the embodiment of courage formed from Shakti, was created to defeat and kill the Asura king Mahishasura. The beings in heaven, the Earth and the Paatala were terrorised by Mahishasura. His boon from Lord Brahma, saying he can not be killed by any man, made him courageous. A female fighter was created from the fury of Vishnu and Shiva, after they were approached by beings from all three worlds.

Soon after the creation, she went straight to fight Mahishasura. Upon encountering her for the first time Mahishasura underestimated her because of the thought that it was not possible for a woman to defeat him. The battle went on for 10 days and Mahishasura took different disguises, however in the end was defeated and killed by goddess Durga. That’s how victory of good over evil was achieved. A big army was formed by the goddess to kill the evil forces used by the Mahishasura, the king. Goddess Durga gave them the knowledge to craft gold ornaments for the services offered by the army during the battle.

She is usually depicted as having 10 arms, each wielding a different weapon. One hand is used to hold a lotus which symbolizes the source of growth. She is pictured riding a lion or a tiger which is her vahana and also a symbol of fearlessness. She is believed to take different forms with her power. Kali, the goddess of violence and destruction and a consort of Lord Shiva is one of her aspects.

Several eastern states in the country such as Orissa, Bihar, Bengal and Assam, celebrate Durga puja with grandeur. In Nepal it is called Dashain. This 10 day festival sees five days of complete enjoyment and happiness. The final day when Durga killed Mahishasura in the battle is called as Dussehra and Vijayadashami.

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Stories on Lord Brahma

Of the trinity of Hindu gods, Lord Brahma is the first god followed by Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Development of the world including all the living and non-living beings in the world is his responsibility. He is regarded as the source of time, space and names. Brahma has many names such as Pitamaha (the father of the world), Lokesha (the creator god) and Vishwakarma (the creator of the world). He is believed to be creating the cycle of day and night.

There are several stories related to Lord Brahma’s birth. Lord Vishnu fell asleep after the destruction of the previous universe and in his sleep the idea of creation happened. This thought formed a Golden Embryo. This is how Lord Brahma was created, which also got him another name Hiranya Garbha or the Golden Embryo. There is also another story which says that he took birth from a Lotus , growing from the navel of Lord Vishnu. That is how He got other names Kanja Ja (born from Lotus) and Nabhi Ja (born from navel).

According to the Manusmriti, he created himself first as the self existent god who made the waters and deposited a seed into it. The seed formed into the Golden Embryo and from it He was reborn as Brahma. There is a third story related to his birth in the Ramayana. Ramayana has that Brahma was born from the ether which suspends the world.

He also believed to have created sons from his thoughts and they are referred to as manas putras (born from mind). His thought gave birth to Marici, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratuj, Pracetas, Vashishta, Bhrgu and Narada. His sons Daksa, Greed, Maya, Death, Dharma, Lust, Joy, Kama, Anger, Bharata and daughter Angaja are born from his body.

In his effort to design the universe and create living beings in it, he created a devi out of himself and named her Gayatri. Saraswati is another name for her. Both of them have been mentioned in a lot of religious texts and literature books. They are also the deities of meaning, arts, science and knowledge.

Brahma is seen as an old man with a white beard. In his four arms he holds a lotus, the Vedas, scepter, a spoon, a string of beads and a bowl of holy water. Although he originally had 5 heads, most pictures of depict him to have four heads. It is because Lord Shiva was insulted by Brahma and in the fury Shiva burned the 5th head into ashes.

There are no shrines dedicated to Lord Brahma although he is the third important god. A place called Pushkar in Ajmer is a point of pilgrimage for His devotees. Temples of Lord Shiva and Vishnu mostly have the northern wall dedicated to him. He is called Parivara Devata.

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Tirupati, the Richest Temple

Tirupati is an important holy sanctuary for the worshippers of Lord Vishnu, where the popular temple is situated. The temple in Tirupati where Vishnu is Lord Venkateswara, is called Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. Devotees believe, Tirupati means the spouse of Lakshmi Devi. The temple is located on Venkatadri, one hill amongst the six others in Tirupati. Govinda, Srinivasa and Balaji are a few names of Vishnu.

It has been estimated that the number of devotees coming to Tirupati is around 1 lakh everyday and this goes up to 5 lakhs when there is a festival, like the Brahmotsavam. That indicates Tirupati is visited by around 3 to 4 Crore believers per year. According to Lord Vishnu’s worshippers, the temple is among the 108 holy places.

Stories Related to the Temple.

Hindus believe that, when Lord Kubera married Padmavati, he gave money to the temple. Lord Vishnu’s debt is repaid by his devotees by putting money in the Hundi at the Tirupati temple.

How it Became Prosperous?.

It was at the time of Vijayanagara emperors’ rule that Tirupati and the shrine grew popular. It is said that they gave gold and valuable stones to the sacred temple. It was under the rule of King Krishnadevaraya, that the shrine was gold-plated. After some time, it was Raghoji Bhonsle who set up an administrative committee for the shrine.

The seven Holy Hills.

There are 7 hills in Tirupati, which are called Saptarishi or Saptagiri. Vishnu is called as Saptagirinivasa because of these hills.

The 7 hills are the homes of many Gods of the Hindu religion. The hills are Vrushabadri - the abode of Nandi (vehicle of Lord Shiva), Neeladri - abode of Neela Devi, Anjanadri - abode of Hanuman, Garudadri - hill of Garuda who is the vehicle of Vishnu, Seshadri - abode of Sesha (the servant of Lord Vishnu), Narayanadri - the abode of Lord Vishnu and Venkatadri - hill of Venkateswara.

The Reason behind Cutting Hair at Tirupati.

It is believed that a small part of Lord Vishnu’s head became hairless when a shepherd hit him. Neela Devi offered her hair when she saw that Vishnu lost his hair. With the thought that hair is one of the beautiful features of women, Vishnu promised that his devotees will cut their hair and dedicate it to her. This is how the hair cutting practice began and devotees even today cut their hair at Tirupati. Neela Devi is believed to be accepting the hair offered by the worshippers of Venkateswara.

Festivals.

As there are more believers of Vaishnavism, the people of Tirupati celebrate all kinds of special days related to Vishnu. Vaikunta Ekadasi, Rama Navami and Janmashtami are a few festivals, celebrated with unbound enthusiasm. People also celebrate Vasantholsavam and Rathasapthami too. The idol of Lord Vishnu is carried by worshippers in Rathasapthami.

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How Hindu Religion Originated And The Values Of Hindus

Various research reports have been written to know the start of Hindu religion. The followers of Hindu religion consider Hinduism to be timeless without any starting or ending.

But the historians think that Hinduism is not older than 5000 years. The theory says that the original followers of that religion were living on shores of the River Indus. In that era, Indus river was named Sindhu. When the Persians migrated to this river’s side, they started calling it Hindu and this is where the religion got its name. Those who practiced this religion started being called as Hindus and the name of the religion became Hinduism. This hypothesis is often known as the ‘Aryan Theory’.

A different discourse on origin of Hindu religion argues that this religion would have began close to 2000 BC. The originators of the religion were Aryans who had occupied the shores of Indus River as well as the Indus Valley region. But this theory has been proved wrong and is now known to be a myth.

The history of the religion can be divided into three phases - the early era which was from 6500 BC to 1000 AD, the medieval age which was from 1000 AD to 1800 AD and the current span which started in 1800 AD and continues till today.

Curiously, the beginning of Hindu religion is not mentioned in any of the sacred books. In fact, most of the preachings speak about how to live in the present without dwelling on the past. The religion concentrates on the proper way of living a life and does not allege to have any starting or ending to it.

Though the modern world demands to understand the origin of Hinduism, the practitioners of the religion do not feel the need to research its history. They only desire to live a moral life and faithfully follow the principles of Hindu religion to lead the correct life which takes them to the Almighty.

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The Timeless Teachings Of Gita

The best known book of Hindu religion is Bhagvad Gita which is frequently called just as the Gita. The book is in the Sanskrit language and contains 18 chapters and 701 verses.

The complete text is a dialogue between Arjuna and Lord Krishna. The primary teaching or message of this holy book is that every individual must perform his or her duties with complete dedication, but should not fret about results or do it with expectation of some returns.

The Gita gives significance to the principle that all human beings must live in such a way that he or she is indifferent to earthly pleasures and comforts.

This text explains the manner in which you can carry out your work properly and even have goals and aspirations but live a life of detachment to earthly goods. The book discusses an individual’s relationship with God, the meaning of devotion, how to interact with Almighty and the true meaning of knowledge and ignorance.

The Bhagvad Gita points out the fact that the world is constantly changing and is unstable, and if an individual focuses on material comforts then he is bound to get let down and sad. This can give rise to harmful sentiments such as being scared, worried, angry, hateful and envious. These bad emotions are dangerous as they influence the standard of an individual’s life and lead you away from Moksha.

The text deals with 3 important things. The first relates to duty - each person must fulfill his or her duties with commitment and live his or her life fully. The second concerns the hidden self - every individual has an inner self that is his or her real self and is unlike the external body. The third and last principle relates to omnipresent God and the manner in which we can attain the realization that he is the essence of our universe.

The teachings of the Bhagvad Gita are relevant in every person’s life and this is what makes it one of the most popular spiritual books in the world.

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