Tag Archives: Hinduism

Love Your Neighbour as Yourself?


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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This reading is from Gospel of Mark 12:28-34.

One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?

Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’

And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”l

And when Jesus saw that [he] answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions

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All the established religions of the world concur in one axiom, namely, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

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In Hinduism

The Hindus, followers of the oldest of the religions now being practised, believe that one’s own Self or Soul is really identical with the Self or Soul of all other creatures. Hence one who injures another injures oneself. In the Hindu Vedas, “Love your neighbour as yourself'” is an inherent precept of unity with the absolute self, ‘That art thou’ (tat tvam asi). So, it follows that because one loves oneself, one is bound to love one’s neighbour, who is not different from oneself”

“This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.” (Mahabharata 5,1517)

“One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire.” (Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8)

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In Judaism

For the devout Jew, all the commandments were to be kept with equal care, but there is evidence of preoccupation in Jewish sources with the question put to Jesus.

In Leviticus 19:15-18, we read:

You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment. Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your neighbour justly.

You shall not go about spreading slander among your people; nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbour’s life is at stake. I am the LORD.

You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart. Reprove your neighbour openly so that you do not incur sin because of that person.

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.

It is a mitzvah (commandment) for every human to love each and everyone from Israel as he loves his own body (self). As it is written, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself“, therefore one must sing his neighbour’s praises, and show concern for his financial well-being, as he would for his own well-being and as he would for his own honour. Anyone who aggrandizes himself at the expense of another person has no portion in the world to come.

In the first century BC, Hillel (later known as Hillel the Elder) migrated to the Land of Israel from his birthplace Babylonia, to study Torah. He worked as a woodcutter and eventually became the most influential force in Jewish life. Hillel is said to have lived in great poverty. He was known for his humanitarianism. One of his most famous sayings, recorded in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, a tractate of the Mishnah), is “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

The following source Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a is usually quoted to approve of Hillel’s indulgence of the gentile and the wisdom of this approach.

Shammai, a native of the Land of Israel was Hillel the Elder’s friendly adversary.  Little is known about him, except that he was a builder, known for the strictness of his views. He was reputed to be dour, quick-tempered and impatient.

One day a gentile came to Shammai and said to him: “Convert me (to Judaism) on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.”

Irked by the request of the gentile, Shammai pushed him aside with the measuring stick he was holding.

A few days later this same gentile went to Hillel, and Hillel converted him, saying: “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”

Let us take Hillel’s words seriously and try to understand what he means.

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In Zoroastrianism

That nature is only good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self. (Dad istan-i-Dinik)

“Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.” (Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29)

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In Jainism

“A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.” (Sutrakritanga 1.11.33)

“One should treat all beings as he himself would be treated.” (Agamas Sutrakritanga 1.10.13)

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In Taoism

Regard your Neighbour’s gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss. (T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien)

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In Buddhism

“…a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?” (Samyutta Nikaya v. 353)

“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” (Udana-Varga 5:18)

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In Confucianism

“Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.” (Analects 12:2)

“Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence.” (Mencius VII.A.4)

Tsekung asked, “Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?” Confucius replied, “It is the word shu–reciprocity: Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” (Analects 15.23)

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In Islam

“No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” (#13 of An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths)

I am reproducing here a part of the article “‘Love thy neighbour’ in Islam” written for the January 2008 issue of the London-based Faith Magazine. cf. http://www.faith.org.uk (See Related Articles at the bottom for the link to the full article).

  • Another point needs to be made. Whereas Christian doctrine prescribes loving thy neighbour like thyself, Muslim doctrine prescribes loving for one’s brother (an yuhibba  li-akhî-hi) what one loves for oneself. Here, Islam’s wording of the golden rule is not dictated by any of Arabic’s linguistic or syntactical rules but is instead intentional. It is not love thy neighbour, but love for thy neighbour [. . .].” The object of man’s love is again beyond mankind because it is of God. As the eminent medieval theologian al-Ghazâlî (d. 505/1111) wrote, only God is the One who deserves love; man’s love for himself leads directly to God since every man owes his existence to God.
  • But who is the one for whom we must love that which we love for ourselves? Another important collector of canonical sayings and deeds by and about the Prophet, al-Tirmidhî (d. 278/899), said that “if you love for those you love what you love for yourself, you are a Muslim.” One’s brother is also Muslim and, not unlike neo-testamentary writings, brotherhood is first of all linked to confession, this according to the writings of the Tradition. For many, the Muslim’s brother is a Muslim, the believer’s brother is the believer, everyone is a brother in God’s religion and in His Book, that is to say in the pact with the Messenger, and even a slave is a brother when he prays. The Qur’an itself says that “believers are naught else than brothers” (Qur’an, 49:10) and that “He made friendship between your hearts so that ye became as brothers by His grace” (Qur’an, 3:102-103).

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In Sikhism

Treat others as thou wouldst be treated by thyself. (Adi Grandth)

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In Bahá’í Faith

Desire not for anyone the things that ye would not desire for yourselves. (Gleanings 66)

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Recently I read the following passage attributed to the American Shawnees Indians: “Do not kill or injure your neighbour, for it is not him that you injure, you injure yourself. But do good to him, therefore add to his days of happiness as you add to your own. Do not wrong or hate your neighbour, for it is not him that you wrong, you wrong yourself. But love him, for Moneto loves him also as he loves you.”

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There are many people
who will say they’re Christians
and they live like Christians on the Sabbath day

But come Monday morning, til the coming Sunday
They will fight their neighbor all along the way

{chorus}
Oh you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble, and you don’t try to help him
then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

In the Holy Bible, in the Book of Matthew
Read the 18th chapter in the 21st verse
Jesus plainly tells us that we must have mercy
There’s a special warning in the 35th verse

Oh you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble, and you don’t try to help him
then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

There’s a God almighty, and you’ve got to love him
if you want salvation and a home on high

If you say you love him while you hate your neighbor
then you don’t have religion, you just told a lie

Oh you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble, and you don’t try to help him
then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

Oh you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble, and you don’t try to help him
then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

Add this anywhere

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The Awesome Monolithic Kailasanatha Temple at Ellora, India.


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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The village of Ellora lies 18 miles (30 km) north-west of Aurangabad in the state of Maharashtra in India. It is an archaeological site well-known for its monumental caves that are an epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture.

Historians and archaeologists conjecture that the Rashtrakuta dynasty built the temples found there. Ellora is also known as Elapura in the Rashtrakuta Kannada literature.

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Map of the 34 Ellora Caves (Source: wondermondo.com)
Map of the 34 Ellora Caves (Source: wondermondo.com)

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There are 34 caves at Ellora, excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills, extending more than two kilometres. There are 12 Buddhist caves (1–12), 17 Hindu caves (13–29), and five Jain caves (30–34). All the caves are in proximity revealing the religious harmony that prevailed in the region during this period. Now, the Ellora cave complex is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India and is a World Heritage Site.

From written records, we learn that travellers from outside India often visited the Ellora caves. The 10th-century Arab historian and geographer Al-Mas‘udi was one of the early visitors. In 1352, Sultan Hasan Gangu Bahmani visited the caves. The other historical visitors were: Persian historian Firishta (1560 – 1620),  French traveler Jean de Thévenot (1633 – 1667), Italian writer and traveler Niccolao Manucci (1639 – 1717), and Sir Charles Warre Malet (1752 – 1815), the British East India Company’s Resident at the court of the Peshwa Mahrattas.

The Kailasanatha temple

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The Kailasnatha Temple, Ellora (Source: rediff.com)
The Kailasnatha Temple, Ellora (Source: rediff.com)

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Among all the cave temples at Ellora, the unrivalled centrepiece is Cave 16 – the Kailasanatha temple, designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. It is also known as Kailasa temple. It is an unrivalled work of rock architecture, a monument that has always excited and astonished travellers.

Some historians and archaeologists believe that the majestic Kailasanatha temple was created before any other temple in the Ellora cave complex.

Fragment of Old Kannada inscription (765 AD) from Hattimattur village of Rashtrakuta King Krishna I (Source: Epigraphia Indica and Record of the Archæological Survey of India, Volume 6).
Fragment of Old Kannada inscription (765 AD) from Hattimattur village of Rashtrakuta King Krishna I (Source: Epigraphia Indica and Record of the archaeological Survey of India, Volume 6)..

 

As attested in Kannada inscriptions of 775, King Krishna I of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty who ruled from 756 –774, responsible for building 18 Shiva temples, commissioned the building of the Kailasanatha temple.

The temple encompasses Dravidian architecture. It does not contain any of the Shikharas common to the Nagara style. It was built similar to the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal in Karnataka. King Krishna I employed architects from the Pallava kingdom in South India. The walls of the temple have marvellous sculptures from Hindu mythology, including Ravana, Shiva, and Parvathi while the ceilings have paintings. At first, white plaster covered the walls of the Kailasanatha temple to simulate the snow-covered Mount Kailas in Tibet.

Though the Kailasanatha temple looks like a freestanding, multi-storied temple complex, it is, in fact, a monolithic structure carved out of one single rock.  It is the largest monolithic human-created structure in the world. It covers an area of over 42,500 square feet (3,948 square metres). The Kailasanatha Temple is 276 by 154 feet (84 by 47 metres) wide. It has a larger area than the Parthenon temple on the Athenian Acropolis, in Greece. Measured at the stylobate, the dimensions of the base of the Parthenon are 228 by 101 feet  (69.5 by 30.9 metres) or 23,030 square feet (2,140 square metres).

The Kailasanatha temple is notable for its vertical excavation. Carvers started at the top of the rock and excavated downwards. In all the other temples and caves in the rest of the world and even in Ellora, the carvers hewed out rock from the front and carved as they went along using the rock cutting technique called “cut-in monolith“.

It was only at Kailasanatha temple the architects used the exact opposite technique called “cut-out monolith“. They worked downwards and hewed out all the unnecessary rock. After that, the sculptors chiselled the sculptures and intricate designs. This work would have required extreme planning and precision work to avoid damage to the completed work. Just imagine the colossal amount of rock removed to create this pillar.

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Ground plan of Kailashnatha Temple at Ellora Caves, India. From "A handbook for travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon." Author John Murray (Firm)
Ground plan of Kailasanatha Temple at Ellora Caves, India. From “A handbook for travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon.” Author John Murray (Firm)

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All the carvings on the Kailasanatha temple are on more than one level.

The temple structure begins with a two-storied gopuram or gateway. It serves to screen the sacred temple from the outside world.

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Columned arcade at the Kailasanatha Temple carved out of the surrounding cliff face punctuated by sculpted panels, and alcoves. (Source: campoamor-photography.com)
Columned arcade at the Kailasanatha Temple carved out of the surrounding cliff face punctuated by sculpted panels, and alcoves. (Source: campoamor-photography.com)

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On entering the temple premises, we come to a U-shaped courtyard edged by a columned arcade three stories high, punctuated by huge sculpted panels, and alcoves with enormous sculptures of deities.

In the middle of this courtyard are two hewn out two-storied monolithic temple structures, each about 23 feet (7 metres) high.

The first structure is the Nandi Mandapa – the traditional Dravidian Shivaite shrine housing the bull “Nandi“.

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One of the dhwajasthambhas, obelisk-like monolithic carved pillar at Kailash temple (Source: wondermondo.com)
One of the dhwajasthambhas, obelisk-like monolithic carved pillar at Kailash temple (Source: wondermondo.com)

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Two 50-feet-high dhwajasthambhas, obelisk-like monolithic carved pillars that dwarf the humans standing beside them, flank the Nandi Mandapa. Decorated with frieze carvings, it would have taken years of work to create such huge structures.

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Shiva lingam at Kailash temple - (Source - Sanjay Acharya - Wikimedia Commons)
Shiva lingam at Kailash temple – (Source – Sanjay Acharya – Wikimedia Commons)

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Then comes the central main Shiva temple housing the lingam, a symbol of the energy and potential of the Hindu god Shiva.

The vimanam (steeple), that crowns the Garbhagriha, the Sanctum sanctorum of the temple rises to a height of about 90 feet., and about 120 feet (36.6 metres) high.

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Life-size elephants carved on the base of the Shiva temple (Source: wondermondo.com)
Life-size elephants carved on the base of the Shiva temple (Source: wondermondo.com)

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Elaborate illustrative carvings decorate the lower storeys of both the Nandi Mandapa and the Shiva temple. Life-size elephants carved on the base of the Shiva temple give us the impression that the elephants are holding the structure aloft.

In the early days of construction, stone flying bridges connected these galleries to the central buildings, perhaps to remove the debris chiselled out from the columned arcades, galleries, the central buildings, etc. Those flying bridges must have collapsed or removed after constructing the temple.

Most historians and archaeologists presume it took 26 years between 757 and 783 to build the temple, during the reign of King Krishna I and nine years after his death.

There are no records of the monstrous task of hewing out a colossal amount of rock, about 400,000 tonnes to construct the Kailasanatha temple. Some writers state the amount of hewed rock as 200,000 tonnes.

To find out if historians could be right about the 26 years of construction of the temple, let us do a simple arithmetic calculation. Let us just focus only on the removal of rock from the site. We will assume the workers toiled 12 hours per day, for 26 years to remove 400,000 tonnes of rock as the historians claim. So, 15,384 tonnes of rock removed every year. This means the workers removed 42 tonnes of rock every day, which gives us 1.75 tonnes of rock removed every hour. An impossible task which no groups of humans could have done at that time.

From the chisel marks found on walls of this temple, archaeologists assume that the carvers used three types of chisels pointing to three different periods of the Rashtrakuta dynasty.

Inscriptions on the Kailasanatha temple itself range from 9th to 15th century. So, we can conclude that it would have taken not 26 years but centuries of human labour to create the Kailasanatha temple.

Click on this line to view 155 photographs of the Ellora Caves.

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Who Are We to Judge?


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Judge not others

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Judging and condemning others, is an easy task. We come to conclusions based on our observations and interactions with others. Most of us label the people around us: “He’s an idiot”, “She’s a slut”, “He’s an oaf”, etc., etc.

But who are we to pass judgment? What rights do we have to appraise others?

This brings to my mind two sayings in Tamil:

  • “இன்னது மெய் இன்னது பொய் என்று யார் சொல்லலாம்?”

    (Transliteration: innathu mei, innathu poi endru yaar sollalaam?)

    Meaning: “Who can tell which is true and which is false?”

  • “கண்ணாலே காண்பதும் பொய், காதாலே கேட்பதும் பொய், தீர விசாரிப்பதே மெய்..”

    (Transliteration: kannaalae kaanbathum poi, kaathaalae kaetpathum poi, theera visaaripathae mei.)

    Meaning: “the eye can lie, the ear can lie, best is to investigate thoroughly.”

So, we must investigate thoroughly before condemning others. Also, we must learn to forgive those who displease us.

Forgiving

All of us have a right to our justified anger.

Though psychologists tell us that “anger is a human emotion that is completely normal and generally healthy” doesn’t mean that we have the right to take that anger out on our loved ones, friends, neighbors, or any other human being or living creature.

Forgiving is just not an attitude. It involves using our will and intellect to forgive and forget. We should not wait for the feeling to forgive come to us; because that may never happen. And, if you find it difficult to forgive, then pray to God and ask Him for the grace to forgive.

Martin Luther King Jr., said:

First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love… Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Giving

Giving is a spiritual practice and has a spiritual value. All the major religions of the world teach their followers to give, to provide for the poor and the needy.

The pali word ‘dāna‘ and the Sanskrit word ‘daan‘ mean giving or generosity. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is also used to mean the practice of cultivating generosity.

For the Hindus, there are five important points to keep in mind:

  1. Give with the heart not with the head.
  2. Give with Joy, not reluctantly.
  3. Give only that is useful to the other person, not rubbish.
  4. Give without expecting anything in return. There should be no give and take.
  5. Give with humility, love and compassion, not with pride or arrogance.

For the Buddhists,

  1. Giving (dāna) as a formal religious act has the effect of purifying and transforming the mind of the giver.
  2. Generosity developed through giving leads to being reborn in happy states and the availability of material wealth. Conversely, lack of giving leads to unhappy states and poverty.
  3. Giving without seeking anything in return leads to greater spiritual wealth. Moreover, it reduces the acquisitive impulses that ultimately lead to continued dukkha (sorrow).

In Judaism, traditional Jews give at least ten percent of their income to charity and their homes commonly have a pushke, a box for routinely collecting coins for the needy. Jewish youths continually go door-to-door collecting cash and sundry for various worthy causes. A standard mourner’s prayer includes a statement that the mourner will make a donation to charity in memory of the deceased.

Zakat or alms-giving is the third pillar of the five pillars of Islam. It is the practice of charitable giving by the followers of prophet Muhammad based on accumulated wealth. It is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality. Zakat consists of spending 2.5% of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy. A Muslim rather than to achieve additional divine reward may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah).

True  Christians ought to follow the wisdom of Jesus. He said to his disciples:

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.

Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
 — Luke 6:36-38

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.
— Luke 6:41-42

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To Worship or Not to Worship Shirdi Sai Baba: That Is the Question…


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Dwarka Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)
Dwarka Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)

Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati seems to be an outspoken person. A few days before the recent parliamentary elections the seer was in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh to attend a religious programme. A reporter from a news channel pressed him to know his views on Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate. The seer lost his cool and instead of answering slapped the reporter.

The incident was politically coloured with both Congress and BJP taking different stands. The seer brushed aside the matter, saying he did not want to discuss politics.

Mayank Aggarwal, the State Congress leader said: “Sadhus should not be asked political questions in the first place.” He also added that the seer wanted the discourse to be around religious issues and felt bad at being asked about Modi.

The BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai,  said: “We believe that the religious leaders are the flag-bearers of religion, ethics and truth. They should be the epitome of forgiveness. Questions from the media are of prime importance and should not be brushed aside.”

However, the unperturbed seer brushed aside the matter, saying he did not want to discuss politics. Elucidating on the matter he said: “I slapped the reporter and told him ‘you are talking about him (Modi) so that he can remain a topic of discussion’.

On June 30, 2014, while addressing a meeting of the central working committee of the Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the forthright Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand stood steadfast on his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba. He asserted that Sai Baba was a Muslim fakir and should not be worshipped like a Hindu deity. He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion will continue even if he is sent to jail, “They may burn my effigy or even send me to jail, but my campaign to protect the sanctity of the Hindu religion will continue,” Shankaracharya said.

On June 30, 2014, while addressing a meeting of the central working committee of Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the forthright Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand stood steadfast on his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba. He stressed that there is a need now to guard against forces that were “corrupting” the Hindu religion by arbitrarily creating new gods and propagating them. He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion was being opposed by those who had made religion a means of livelihood and some people were making money in the name of Shridi Sai Baba. He said worshipping Sai Baba was a conspiracy to divide the Hindus.

Uma Bharti (Source: dnaindia.com)
Uma Bharti (Source: dnaindia.com)

At that meeting a letter sent by Uma Bharti, the Union Minister of water resources, to the Shankaracharya explaining the rationale behind her statement made the previous day was also read out at the confluence. In the letter she had said, looking upon someone as a god was people’s prerogative.

Shirdi Sai Baba - 2 Shirdi Sai Baba - 1 Shirdi Sai Baba - 3

However, Uma Bharti’s justification did not seem to satisfy the seer. Known to be a Congress backer, the Shankaracharya, belittled Uma Bharti saying he thought a devotee of Lord Ram had become a Union minister and a Ram temple in Ayodhya would soon be a reality, instead, she turned out to be the “worshiper of a Muslim.” He asked whether she had not seen the pictures of Sai Baba depicted like Hindu Gods including Shiva and Vishnu?

Now, while people are ranting and raving over this controversy of whether it is right to worship a human or not, some might wonder who the protagonist, Shridi Sai Baba, is.

The early life of Sai Baba continues to be an enigma. There are no reliable and consistent records of his birth and parentage. He is believed to have been born around 1838. He arrived at Shirdi as a nameless individual at a young age.

At Shirdi, he stayed on the outskirts of the village in Babul forest and meditated under a tropical evergreen Neem tree. Many villagers after perceiving him as an embodiment of discipline, penance and austerity, revered his saintly figure and gave him food.

After wandering in the woods for days, Sai Baba took shelter in a disused decrepit mosque. He referred to his new dwelling as “Dwarkarmai“, after the abode of Lord Krishna in Dwarka.

Very soon he had a large number of devotees among the Muslims, Hindus and Zoroastrians, who regarded him according to their individual beliefs, as a saint, a fakir, an avatar or an incarnation of god, or a Sadguru. They flocked to Dwarkarmai seeking spiritual guidance.

Unlike the present day spiritual leaders, Sai Baba had no love for corporeal materials. His sole concern was teaching self-realization.

Sai Baba is worshiped by people in India and around the world as a saint. He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to the Almighty and the guru. He did not distinguish people based on religion or caste.

It still remains a mystery and almost everyone is uncertain of Sai Baba’s true religious leaning – Islam or Hinduism. His teachings combined elements of Islam and Hinduism. He practiced Islamic rituals, but taught using words and figures drawn from both traditions.

A minor section of the Islamic community in India considers Sai Baba as a Muslim Fakir and as a Sufi Pir or Peer, translated into English as “saint” and could be interpreted as “Elder”. In Sufism a Pir’s role is to guide and instruct his disciples on the Sufi path.

Zoroastrians like Nanabhoy Palkhivala and Homi Bhabha, worship Sai Baba who has been cited as the Zoroastrians’ most popular non-Zoroastrian religious figure.

Sai Baba died on October 15, 1918. He was buried in Shirdi. He is well known for the aphorisms such as “Allah Malik” (“God is King”) and “Sabka Malik Ek” (“One God governs all”), which is associated with both Islam and Sufism. He also said:

Trust in me and your prayer will be answered“.

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This is Communal Harmony in My Beloved India


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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United We StandTHIS IS MY BELOVED INDIA!

Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis …

” And peace on Earth to people of good will …”

This is India - Merry Christmas!
This is India – Merry Christmas!

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I came across the above fabulous photo on the internet. Do you like it? What message does it convey?

Here are some photographs I came across while surfing the net. 

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The vow of Hindu-Muslim unity

Talking about communal harmony on April 8, 1919, Mahatma Gandhi said:

“If the Hindu-Muslim communities could be united in one bond of mutual friendship and if each could act towards the other as children of the same mother, it would be a consummation devoutly to be wished. But before this unity becomes a reality, both the communities will have to give up a good deal, and will have to make radical changes in ideas held herefore. Members of one community when talking about those of the other at times indulge in terms so vulgar that they but acerbate the relations between the two. In Hindu society, we do not hesitate to indulge in unbecoming language when talking of the Mohammedans and vice-versa. Many believe that an ingrained and ineradicable animosity exists between the Hindus and
Mohammedans.

“When both are inspired by the spirit of sacrifice, when both try to do their duty towards one another instead of pressing their rights, then and then only would the long-standing differences between the two communities cease. Each must respect the other’s religion, must refrain from even secretly thinking ill of the other. We must politely dissuade members of both communities from indulging in bad language against one another. Only a serious endeavour in this direction can remove the estrangement between us.” (25:201-202)

He made the members present take a vow as under:

“With God as the witness, we Hindus and Mohammedans declare that we shall behave towards one another as children of the same parents, that we shall have no differences, that the sorrows of each shall be the sorrows of the other and that each shall help the other in removing them. We shall respect each other’s religion and religious feelings and shall not stand in the way of our respective religious practices. We shall always refrain from violence to each other in the name of religion.”

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Spoof: Part 2 – Rape Festival In Assam, India


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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The American news satire website NATIONAL REPORT claim and labels itself as “America’s #1 Independent News Team”. But it is better known for pushing the boundaries of good taste than making its readers laugh. On November 2, 2013, it published a post titled “The Assam Rape Festival In India Begins This Week.

Earlier on January 8, 2013, the SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS posted the article titled “The Punjab Rape Festival In India Begins This Week“. The NATIONAL REPORT just copied that article word-for-word. The only change was in the title – the Indian state “Assam” was substituted in lieu of “Punjab” to read: “The Assam Rape Festival In India Begins This Week.

The Assam Rape Festival In India Begins This Week

The article claiming a non-existent, wishful (in the mind of the author) vulgar event taking place in India was a spoof by a person writing under the pseudonym Jimmy Rustling.

Jimmy Rustling

The social media was abuzz with reactions to the article. So far, it has been shared more than 312,000 times on Facebook and around 3,000 times on Twitter. It has besmirched the image of Assam and has sparked widespread protests in the state.

The article does not display any disclaimer saying it is a spoof. However, there is a general Disclaimer page on the NATIONAL REPORT website:

DISCLAIMER: National Report is a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within National Report are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental . The views expressed by writers on this site are theirs alone and are not reflective of the fine journalistic and editorial integrity of National Report. Advice given is NOT to be construed as professional. If you are in need of professional help (and you may be if you are on this page), please consult a professional. National Report is intended for a mature audience and not for children under the age of 18.

Linked to the “Rape Festival” articles in SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS and NATIONAL REPORT is a common website Giveindia.org that looks like a genuine Indian website seeking donations for the welfare of Indian women.

At the end of the article there is the following statement:

For more information about the festival or if you would like to participate, please call the 24-hour India Rape Festival hotline at (785) 273-0325.

Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr.
Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr.

I googled and found that the given hot line number (785) 273-0325 belongs to Fred W. Phelps Sr., an American pastor heading the Westboro Baptist Church, an independent Baptist church based in Topeka, Kansas in 1955. Address: Westboro Baptist Church, Address: 3701 SW 12th St, Topeka, KS 66604, United States.

According to Phelps, basically everyone, who isn’t a part of their “religion” and “church” is doomed and will go to hell.

 

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Phelps’ group protests all over the United States at Gay funerals and Soldiers funerals. The first Amendment under the U.S. Constitution protects them to do these despicable hate acts.

Although the  “church” started as only hating “fags” they have now moved on to hate Australians, Canadians, Jews, Swedish, and even the Amish. To picket hey use signs such as: “God Hates Fags“, “Fags Hate God“, “America Is Doomed“, “Soldiers Die God Laughs“, “Thank God for 9/11“, etc.

Many people in USA, India and other countries believed the contents of the article as a true fact even though no such festival exists or existed in any part of India. And the article was widely shared even now via social media. It has been blindly copied and posted in sundry websites around the world without verifying the facts, thereby tarnishing the image of India.

Here is an example of this spurious, apocryphal copying:

The Assam Rape Festival In India Begins This Week - news.ugo.co.ug

On November 6, 2013, Patricia Kahill, posted the article verbatim without verifying facts in UGOnews with the following introduction:

Reports from National Report say that this week in Indian men readied themselves to begin celebrating the annual Assam Rape festival. This festival sees that every unmarried girl between the age of 7-16 who has not been hidden is raped. (sic)

This article published in UGOnews evoked many scathing comments. I have reproduced some of them here:

Prashant Moni · Textiles
It is very sad that some mentally sick peoples are publishing the scenario of a region in a very bad manner. To be make clear that there is NO ANY SUCH FESTIVAL in Assam or even in any other region in India. This is nothing but an output of mentally sick person (s). (sic)

Rajeev Gohain · J.B College, Jorhat
What a rubbish story. The picture is from a festival from Uttar Pradesh, Tamilnadu is lakhs km far. The names are not Assamese. The creator of this story is that the psychic who is dreaming about this type of festival , so that he also can go and participate it.. I am requesting to whole the world not to believe this type of fake story, but come and enjoy a beautiful green Assam famous for One horned Rhino and Tea.

Ashish Das · Online Entrepreneur and Blogger
Stupid website… research before publishing.

Manashwi Sharma · Student
This is absolutely NOT TRUE. There is no such freaking festival celebrated in Assam or in any part of India. I Request everyone NOT TO BELIEVE whatever is written on this website. This is totally a FALSE NEWS.

Prasanta Dutta · Guwahati College
I am from Assam and 33 year’s old, Its a is totally a Stupid news. Women is always respected in Assam more than other part of the world. (sic)

Sukanya Goswami · Dibrugarh University
this is unacceptable!!! shame on your mentality!!! u people published such a wrong thing about a region without knowing any thing!!! shame on u!!!! go and research before doing such stupid things!!!! u people dont knw any thing ,never heard about assam and but ready to publish nonsense about it!!! stupid website!!!! (sic)

Shreeja V Shetty · Software Tester at GlowTouch Technologies
Well this news is surely not true. India is a lovely country. But action should be taken on the one who wrote this! So that nobody repeats such nonsense again!

Lekha Borah · Works at Working as a Freelance Photographer
Want to make it clear that there is no this kind of \\”DIRTY FESTIVAL IN ASSAM”// or in INDIA. This is nothing but a fake RUMOUR of some mentally sick persons.Very sad and very shameful thing happened made by psycho people. (sic)

Slickèr Qalie Ndlovu · Member, Organisation of African Youth (Zimbabwe)
people stop lying please (sic)

On November 12, 2013, Patricia Kahill posted another article in UGOnews titled “The Controversial Assam Rape Festival” in which she says:

Last week we reported about the Assam rape festival a controversial and satire story that was first published by National Report a USA based website, lead to a number of comments on our site from the Indian community.

According to Lets Gist the point of the story was activism, to educate people about what is going on  in India on a daily basis, because a lot of people don’t know.

Hindustan Times received a statement from Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam immediately that said:

“the fraudulent and extremely unethical article about the completely fictitious festival is an act of serious disrespect and total disregard shown towards the humble and unsuspecting people of our beautiful state of Assam. The writer of such a piece of pure evil is not fit for human society.”

Bharat Narah, press adviser to Gogoi, told Gulf News:

The Assam Rape Festival article is not at all humorous. It is distasteful, unethical, abominable, despicable and must be abhorred by all sections of society. We have taken up a suo moto case against the website and the author of the piece. It is a highly sensitive matter which cannot be ignored. We are assessing all our options and are in touch with the Cyber Cell of the Police Department.

Regardless of race, culture, or nationality, any decent and moral person should be offended by this filth. Media plays a very critical role in forming opinions. If media will start acting so naively, then the responsibility of spreading information through media should be taken away. We Indians know that this news is totally fake, but people in other parts of the world are getting the wrong message about our nation. This mischief by the media should be dealt with very strictly.

The comment by Nancy Powell, US ambassador to India, when she addressed the students of Xavier Institute of Social Science (XISS) in Ranchi, on November 19, 2013, is an epiphany for the state of affairs now prevailing in India.

When a student asked: “Why aren’t American students coming to India for studies?

She replied: “The concern for personal security and perceived increased danger to women as a result of the rape cases was perhaps a factor in US students’ decision regarding study in India.”

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← Previous post – Spoof: Part 1 – Rape Festival In Punjab, India

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← Previous Spoof: Part 1 – Rape Festival In Punjab, India

Spoof: Part 1 – Rape Festival In Punjab, India


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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On January 8, 2013, an American website SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS posted an article titled: “The Punjab Rape Festival In India Begins This Week,” written by a person using the pseudonym ‘Jimmy Rustling‘.

The Punjab Rape Festival In India Begins This Week

Since January 2013, this article, camouflaged as a news item, circulated through blogs, email, and social media. Its claim that the tradition of the Punjab Rape Festival dates back to 43 BC is utter nonsense. Factually, there is no such event as the Punjab Rape Festival. The story was simply concocted by the psychotic Jimmy Rustling.

This obviously false story caused a great deal of apprehension and dismay after it spread through the media. Not realizing that there is no such event and never ever was, many decried the imaginary event and wanted it stopped.

Here is an example of one such silly call titled “HELP ME STOP’The Punjabi Rape Festival in India by Neil Padayachee posted on January 16, 2013.

'HELP ME STOP'The Punjabi Rape Festival in India

The comments for the post “The Punjab Rape Festival In India Begins This Week”  show that the average follower of SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS  is an ignoramus who could be manipulated to believe any unauthenticated absurd news, as he would when he reads the religious scriptures, mainly because it is in print.

As usual, pranksters too joined in and added fuel by defending the festival and stating they were looking forward to participating in the hypothetical event.

Sarab H:
This is so messed up! I demand justice!

M ShelatI agree. Something needs to be done to stop this!

Mark Dauglas ZnenitzI would go to this festival. Probably not participate but I would go

Eva Monreli: They are not even considering that one can get viral diseases (Like AIDS)from these people. This should be stopped!

Holly Marys: I have many many many MANY demons in me that need uncorking. May I, as an American and not Punjabi, participate so that I may perhaps be rid of my demons once and for all?

Catherine: Sick people! This is 2013 for God’s sake. Stop these archaic Men form doing injustice to the girl child.

Naga sadhus who had gathered at the Allahabad Maha Kumbh Mela 2013.
Naga sadhus who had gathered at the Allahabad Maha Kumbh Mela 2013.

The above photo of Naga sadhus at the Kumbh mela was used along with the ‘rape festival’ story. This photo of Naga sadhus gathered at the Allahabad Maha Kumbh Mela 2013, deceives readers into believing that the Hindu sadhus were rushing to rape unmarried girls in the age group 7 to 16 years.

Sharell Cook
Sharell Cook

Sharell Cook, an Australian traveller researching distinctive cultures from her early 20s, initially visited India in the year 2000 and found it a total assault on her senses, confronting, but then oddly inspiring and captivating. Even today, this impression about India has not changed. Even now, Sharell is residing in cosmopolitan Mumbai where she writes full-time while learning Hindi. This is her impression about the Allahabad Maha Kumbh Mela:

The Kumbh Mela in India is as mesmerizing as it is spiritual.  This ancient northern Indian festival is a meeting of mystical minds. The largest religious gathering in the world, the Kumbh Mela brings Hindu holy men together to discuss their faith and disseminate information about their religion. It’s attended by millions of people each day.

Many Indians living in the United States called for the removal of the article from the website and wanted authorities to take punitive action against the author and the website that published it.

In late January 2013, the writer responding to the angry calls posted the following message on his Facebook Page:

Paul Horner alias Jimmy Rustling
Paul Horner alias Jimmy Rustling

I’ve been getting emails from people saying that I should remove my story entitled, “The Punjab Rape Festival In India Begins This Week.”

The point of the story was an activism piece to educate people about what is going on over there on a daily basis, because a lot of people don’t know. I read everything I can get my hands on and every day there’s another story about another horrible rape or murder of a young girl in India…. usually where the guy gets off, not being punished, or worse, where the victim is forced to marry her attacker.

So I wrote up the most exaggerated, ridiculous thing I could think of… it gets people to pass around the story and then question what’s going on over there if they didn’t already know. A simple Google search of “Punjab rape” brings up 100+ different stories of young girls getting raped, murdered, forced to marry the man who raped them… it’s disgusting.

Anyway, that’s the point of the story and I’m not pulling the article.

In an email to hoax-slayer.com the author wrote:

One of the other MAJOR factors for doing the story was collecting money for the women of India for schooling, clothes, help in leaving abusive situations. So, a few months ago I added this to the bottom of the story:

WANT TO HELP THE WOMEN IN INDIA? THEN DO SOMETHING!
Click here to learn more.

I checked out that charity thoroughly. They are 100% legit giving 90-95% of collected funds to the cause.

To keep the controversial “Rape Festival” spark alive, SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS on May 7, 2013, posted yet another spoof story in bad taste written by Jimmy Rustling titled: “Surprise Winner At This Years Punjab Rape Festival.

Surprise Winner At This Years Punjab Rape Festival

Once again the stupid readers of this post came out with absurdities:

Sarah H: They give awards to men in India for raping woman? WOW.

Samantha: This is just disgusting! They don’t arrest them for rape but they give them awards??? SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE ABOUT THIS!

Lena: Govt must come forward to support RAPE FESTIVAL. This is the only world class entertainment ,where every one love to participate. Tourist visits to India ,will generate collosal amount for the nation. Allow everyone to participate,give them FREE CHANCE to win award. GOVT must provide FREE VISA Access. Let people of the world to enjoy and feel free to taste of RAPE. RAPE reduces heat,its good for health and for the growth of man kind. C.M needs to be changed,since he wants to snatch this freedom from people of punjab, which is against the will of the nation. Democracy in India should not tarnished at any cost.

Readers of SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS made these comments despite the following image posted proudly on its site on the page “Super Official Awards.”

Fox News Called Super Official News A 'Fake News Site'

The name Jim Rustling is the pseudonym of an author named Paul Horner, a Staff Writer for NATIONAL REPORT who claims to have won numerous awards for journalism including a Peabody Award and a Pulitzer Prize.

How authentic are the writings of Jimmy Rustling a.k.a. Paul Horner?

You will find the answer if you read the article titled “President Obama Presents Paul Horner With Super Universe Ultimate Award For Excellence In Winning The Game” posted on November 5, 2012 in SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS.

I understand that  “Fred Dursk” is another pseudonym of Paul Horner. Now, I wonder how many other pseudonyms this person has, and whether the name “Paul Horner” itself is real, or is it another pseudonym of some other person hiding behind these names.

A disclaimer right at the bottom of the posts in SUPER OFFICIAL NEWS reads as follows:

Disclaimer: Lulz killing of any kind will not be tolerated. If you are being a buzzkill, your comment can be altered or deleted. This entire site is pretty much just a resume containing a collection of my writings and such for the off chance that someone like The Onion or The Daily Show ever happens to stop by. Until then just remember, if it’s on the internet it must be true.

Next → Spoof: Part 2 – Rape Festival In Assam, India

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Deepavali: The Festival of Lights


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Glow of joy! Women lighting traditional lamps on the eve of Deepavali (Photo:  K.C. Sowmish)
Glow of joy! Women lighting traditional lamps on the eve of Deepavali (Photo: K.C. Sowmish)

The people in India, belonging to culturally diverse and fervent societies celebrate various holidays and festivals. The different states and regions in India have their own local festivals depending on prevailing religious and linguistic demographics.

Deepavali (also known as Diwali, Dīvali, Dīpāwali, Dipabali, etc.,), is one of the most sacred festivals of the Hindus.

Deepavali is a “festival of lights,” symbolizing the victory of righteousness over spiritual darkness. All over the world, the Hindus celebrate Deepavali jubilantly with their families in their homes, performing traditional spiritual activities. In India, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia, people belonging to other religions as well join the Hindus in the celebrations.

Goddess Lakshmi is the most significant deity during Deepavali Puja. Several other gods and goddesses are also worshipped. Various religious rituals are followed during the five-day festivities.

Deepavali is celebrated as a five-day festivity that starts on Dhanteras, celebrated on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna paksha (dark fortnight) of Ashwin and ends on Bhau-Beej, celebrated on the second lunar day of Shukla paksha of the Hindu calendar month Kartik. However, in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, the Deepavali festivity begins one day earlier on Govatsa Dwadashi, and is a six-day festivity.

The month of Ashvin begins with the Sun’s exit from Virgo in the solar religious calendar. In the Sanskrit language ‘Ashvin’ means light. It is the seventh month of the lunisolar Hindu calendar.

In many cultures, people use the lunisolar calendar where the date indicates both the moon phase and the time of the solar year.

In the Tamil sidereal solar calendar, used by Tamils all over the world, Ashvin is known as Aipassi (ஐப்பசி). In the Bengali sidereal solar calendar, officially used by the Bengali people in West Bengal and Bangladesh, it is the sixth month and is called Ashbin (আশ্বিন).

The Five/Six Days of Deepavali

Deepavali celebrations is a five-day festivity spread over from Dhanteras to Bhau-Beej. In some places like Maharashtra and Gujarat the celebrations begin with Govatsa Dwadashi. All the days except Deepavali are named according to their designation in the Hindu calendar. The days are:

Govatsa Dwadashi or Vasu Baras (27 Ashvin or 12 Krishna Paksha Ashvin):

In Sanskrit, Go means cow and vatsa means calf, Dwadashi or Baras means the 12th day. On this day the cow and calf are worshiped.

King Prithu chasing Prithvi.
King Prithu chasing Prithvi.

According to Hindu mythology, Prithu was a king, from whom the earth received her name Prithvi. The epic Mahabharata and the Hindu text Vishnu Purana describe him as a part Avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu.

Prithu was the son of King Vena, a tyrant. Due to the lawless rule of Vena, an appalling famine engulfed the earth making it barren. King Prithu went after Prithvi, the earth goddess, who fled from him transforming herself into a cow. After being caught, Prithvi agreed to yield her milk as the world’s grain and vegetation that brought prosperity to the world once again.

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Dhanatrayodashi or Dhanteras or Dhanwantari Trayodashi (28 Ashvin or 13 Krishna Paksha Ashvin):

In Sanskrit, Dhana means wealth and Trayodashi means 13th day. This day falls on the 13th day of the second half of the lunar month Ashvin, and usually eighteen days after Dussehra.

Dhanventari,  physician of the  devas, and god of  Ayurvedic Medicine.
Dhanventari, physician of the Devas, and god of Ayurvedic Medicine.

According to Hindu mythology, Dhanvantari is an Avatar of Vishnu. He appears in the Vedas and Puranas as the physician of the gods devas, and is the god of Ayurvedic medicine. He is depicted as Vishnu with four hands, holding medical herbs in one hand and a pot containing rejuvenating nectar called amrita in another.

In the myth of the Samudra or Sagar manthan (Churning of the Ocean of Milk), Dhanavantari emerged bearing the pot of nectar after the Devas (demi gods) and Asssuras (demons) churned the ‘Ocean of Milk’ using the Mount Mandarachala, also known as Mount Meru, as the churning rod and Vasuki, the king of serpents, as the rope.

The Hindus pray to Lord Dhanvantari seeking his blessings for good health for themselves and others, especially on Dhanteras, his Jayanti (Birth Anniversary), along with Goddess Lakshmi, the provider of prosperity and well-being.

Lakshmi and Kuberan
Lakshmi and Kuberan (Source: amritsartemples.in)

Lord Kubera, the God of assets and wealth is also worshiped on this day by the Hindus. Dhanteras is very significant among business communities since it is customary to buy precious metals on this day.

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Naraka Chaturdashi (29 Ashvin or 14 Krishna Paksha Ashvin):

Chaturdashi is the 14th day (Tithi) of the waxing phase or waning phase of the moon.

This day signifies the victory of good over evil and light over darkness, because on this day the demon Narakasura was killed by Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu. . This day is also known as Kali Chaudas, Roop Chaudas or Choti Diwali.

In one source in Hindu mythology, Narakasura is the asura son of the earth goddess Bhūmī-Devī (Earth) and Lord Vishnu in his Varaha (boar) Avatar. In other sources, he is said to the son of the asura Hiranyaksha. It was foretold that he would be destroyed by a later incarnation of Vishnu. So, his mother, the earth, sought a boon from her consort Vishnu for a long life for her son, and that he should be all powerful. Vishnu out of love for Bhūmī-Devī granted these boons.

Narakasura, knowing himself to be unrivalled in prowess became evil, and subdued all the kingdoms on earth and brought them under his control. Next, he set his eyes on Swargaloka (the heavens), the abode of the devas. Unable to withstand the powers of Narakasura, the mighty Indra, the lord of the devas, fled from Swargaloka. Narakasura became the overlord of both the heavens and earth. Intoxicated by power, he stole the earrings of Aditi, the heavenly mother goddess, and usurped some of her territory, while also kidnapping 16,000 women.

The devas, led by Indra appealed to Vishnu, asking him to deliver them from Narakasura. Vishnu promised them that he would help them when he would be incarnated as Krishna.

Narakasura was allowed to enjoy a long reign because of the boon granted by Vishnu.

When Vishnu incarnated as Krishna, he married Satyabhama, an Avatar of Bhūmī-Devī. Aditi, being a relative of Krishna’s wife approached her for help. On learning about Narakasura’s ill treatment of women and his behaviour with Aditi, Satyabhama was enraged. Shr approached Lord Krishna for permission to wage a war against Narakasura.

As promised to the Devas and Aditi, Vishnu in his Krishna avatar, riding his mount Garuda with wife Satyabhama, attacked the great fortress of Narakasura. The battle was fierce. Narakasura unleashed all his army on Krishna. However, Krishna slew them all. He also killed Mura, Narakasura’s general. Thus, Krishna is called ‘Murāri ‘(the enemy of Mura).

Krishna and Narakasura
Krishna hurling the Sudarshana Chakra.

The desperate Narakasura launched his great weapon, sataghini, a thunderbolt, and then his trident on Krishna, but these weapons did not harm Krishna. Eventually, Krishna beheaded Narakasura with his Sudarshana Chakra, a spinning, disk-like super weapon with 108 serrated edges.

Before dying, Narakasura requested a boon that his death anniversary should be celebrated by all people on earth. This day is celebrated as ‘Naraka Chaturdashi’.

In southern India, this is the actual day of festivities.

On this day, the Hindus, all over the world, wake up before dawn, have a fragrant oil bath and dress in new clothes. In Tamilnadu, after the bath, a home-made medicine known as “Deepavali Lehiyam” is consumed, which is supposed to aid to overcome digestive problems that may ensue due to feasting that occurs later in the day. They light small lamps around their homes and draw elaborate kolams or rangolis in front of their houses. They perform a special pooja with offerings to Krishna or Vishnu, for liberating the world from the demon Narakasura on this day. The Hindus believe that bathing before sunrise, when the stars are still visible in the sky, is equal to taking a bath in the holy river Ganges. After the pooja, the devotees burst firecrackers heralding the defeat of the demon. As a day of rejoicing, housewives prepare elaborate breakfasts and lunches and meet with family and friends.

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Lakshmi Puja (30 Ashvin or 15 Krishna Paksha Ashvin):

Amavasya, the new moon day, is the most significant day among the five days Deepavali festivities and the ceremonies followed on that day are known as Lakshmi Puja, Lakshmi-Ganesh Puja and Deepavali Puja. The Hindus worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Ganesh, the God of auspicious beginnings also known as the banisher of obstacles.

Deeyas

Deeyas (little clay pots) are lit in the homes and streets to welcome prosperity and well-being.

On this day, ink bottle, pens and new account books are worshipped. Ink bottle and pen, are sanctified by worshipping Goddess Maha Kali. New account books are sanctified by worshipping Goddess Saraswati.

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Govardhan Pooja and Bali Pratipada (1 Kartika or 1 Shukla Paksha Kartika):

In North India, this day is celebrated as Govardhan pooja, also called Annakoot.

Krishna holding Govardhan Hill to save his people.
Krishna holding Govardhan Hill to save his people.

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna taught people to worship Govardhan, the supreme controller of nature, a manifestation of himself and to stop worshiping Lord Indra, the Lord of Swargaloga and also the god of Rains. Indra was furious and directed his wrath on the people by raining on them. Krishna lifted the Govardhana hill to save his kinsmen and cattle from rain and floods.

For Annakoot, large quantities of food are decorated symbolising the Govardhan hill lifted by Krishna.

In the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the Govardhan pooja is performed with great zeal and enthusiasm.

In Haryana Govardhan Puja forms an important part of the celebrations of Diwali. There is a tradition of building hillocks with cow dung, to symbolize the Govardhan hill. After making such hillocks, devotees worship them after decorating them with flowers. They move in a circle round the cow dung hillocks and offer prayers to Lord Govardhan.

In Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, this day is celebrated as Bali-Pratipada or Bali Padyami. The day commemorates the victory of Vishnu, in his dwarf form Vamana, over the demon-king Bali.

In Maharashtra, it is called Padava or Nava Diwas (new day). Men present gifts to their wives on this day. In Gujarat, it is celebrated as the first day of the Vikram Samvat calendar.

Yama Dwitiya or Bhau-Beej (2 Kartika or 2 Shukla Paksha Kartika):

On this day, siblings meet to express love and affection for each other. Brothers visit their sisters’ place on this day and usually have a meal there, and also give gifts to their sisters.

Bhau-Beej - Sibling meeting each other on this day.
Bhau-Beej – Siblings meeting each other on this day.

This tradition is based on a story when Yama, lord of Death, visited his sister Yami (the river Yamuna). Yami welcomed Yama with an Aarti and they had a feast together. Yama gave a gift to Yami while leaving as a token of his appreciation. So, the day is also called ‘Yama Dwitiya’.

Bandi Chhor Divas (Diwali), the Sikh celebration of the sixth Nanak Guru Har Gobind’s return from detention in the Gwalior Fort, coincides with Diwali. This coincidence has resulted in celebrating the day among many Sikhs and Hindus.

Many Buddhists in India celebrated the anniversary of Emperor Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism around the time of Diwali.

Jains celebrate the anniversary of Mahavira’s (or Lord Mahavir) attainment of nirvana on October 15, 527 BC. Many Jains celebrate the Festival of Lights in his honor.

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Prayer Beads: The Buddhist Japa mala


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Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj .

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Buddhism is a way of life that got transformed into a religion. It is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs, and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhārtha Gautama, also known as Gautama Buddha, Shakyamuni, or simply as the Buddha. The Buddha, meaning “the awakened one” lived and taught in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent between the 6th and 4th centuries BC.

According to Dīpavaṃsa, the oldest historical record of Sri Lanka, Buddhism was introduced into the island during the reign of Sri Lanka’s King Devanampiya Tissa (307 BC to 267 BC) by Venerable Mahinda, the son of the great Indian Emperor Ashoka.

Around 228 BC, Sohn Uttar Sthavira, one of the royal monks of Emperor Ashoka came to Suvarnabhumi (or Burma, the present day Myanmar) with few other monks carrying Buddhist sacred texts.

Buddhism was introduced into China during the reign Emperor Ming (58-75 AD).

In 372 AD, about 800 years after the death of the historical Gautama Buddha, Buddhism was introduced to Korea from Former Qin, a state of the Sixteen Kingdoms in China.

Buddhism took root in Japan during the Kofun period (250 to 538 AD).

During the reign of King Thothori Nyantsen (5th century AD), a basket of Buddhist scriptures written in Sanskrit arrived in Tibet from India which were not translated into Tibetan until the reign of king Songtsän Gampo (618-649 AD) who had married a Chinese Tang Dynasty Buddhist princess and a Nepalese Buddhist princess, named Bhrikuti.

Eventually, Buddhism became the established religion in these countries.

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Tibetan Buddhist 108 Ox Bone Skull Prayer Beads Mala
Tibetan Buddhist 108 Ox Bone Skull Prayer Beads Mala

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The Buddhists in India adopted the Hindu practice of using Japa mala for repeating mantras or counting breaths. As Buddhism spread to other eastern countries so did Japa mala for meditation. They also used the Japa mala as a divination tool.

The voices of groups of monks chanting together resonate from the Buddhist monasteries in a continual monotonous murmuring. Chanting with a string of 108 prayer beads helps the Buddhist faithful to reach an interior state of supreme reality beyond time and place.

Like the Hindu Japa mala, the Buddhist Japa mala too are usually composed of 108 beads or divisions of that number, 54 or 27. The 108 beads represent the number of worldly desires or negative emotions that must be overcome before attaining nirvana. Buddhists believe that saying a mantra for each fleshly failing will purify the supplicant.

The Buddhist Japa malas are made of sandalwood, seeds, stones, or inlaid animal bone.

Burmese Buddhist monks prefer strings of black lacquered beads.

In Tibet, Japa malas of inlaid bone originally included the skeleton parts of revered monks, to remind their users to live lives worthy of the next level of enlightenment. Today’s bone malas are made of yak bone, which is sometimes inlaid with turquoise and coral.

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Buddhist 27-bead wrist malas
Buddhist 27-beads wrist malas

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Smaller 27-bead wrist malas were created mainly to prevent the prayer beads from touching the ground during prostrations.

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Prayer Beads: The Hindu Japa mala


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj .

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The antiquity of the Japa mala, the Hindu rosary, is confirmed by its frequent inclusion in sculpture and painting along with Hindu deities such as Agni, Agastya, Ahirbudhnya, Ardhanarisvara, Bhadrakali, Bhringin, Brhaspati, Gauri, Kamantaka, Lakulisa, Manasa, Parvati, Rati, Risi(s), Shiva, Subramanya, Surya, Uma, and Vāyu, among others. Lesser spirits are believed to dwell in rosary-bead perforations.

A female Shiva sadhu (sadhvi) in Haridwar, India. (Photo: Brett Davies, 2010)
A female Shiva sadhu (sadhvi) in Haridwar, India, holding a Japa mala. (Photo: Brett Davies, 2010)

The Sanskrit term “Japa mala” for the strand of Hindu prayer beads means ‘muttering chaplet’ because of the prayer beads’ function to record the number of prayers uttered.

Japa mala is used as an aid to meditation, each bead counted is an individual prayer or mantra, that keeps the mind from wandering and make it concentrate, without distractions, on the meaning of the prayer being recited. Recitation is usually murmured, or silent. The repetition of a mantra or divine names through the devotional act known as japa yoga

This practice of praying using prayer beads to keep count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra or the name or names of a self-selected deity (ishtadevata) became widespread by the eighth century BC in India.

108-bead mala of  jasper with turquoise howlite and red bamboo coral marker beads.
108-beads Japa mala of jasper with turquoise howlite and red bamboo coral marker beads.

The 108 beads of the Japa mala represents the cosmos derived by multiplying the twelve astrological signs by the nine planets. Hence the Japa malas are usually made from 108 beads, though other numbers, usually divisible by nine, are also used. The total number of beads may vary among different Hindu sects. A common Vaishnavite Japa mala has 108 beads. Shaivites often use 32, or 64. There are many other variants.

27- beads Japa Mala made of Rudraksha seed
27- beads Japa Mala made of Rudraksha seeds.

When worn visibly by a Hindu, the material used for the Japa mala bead can indicate the Hindu deity or sect to whom the Japa mala and its wearer are dedicated.

According to Hindu tradition the correct way to use a mala is to hold it with the right hand, with the thumb flicking one bead to the next, and with the mala draped over the middle finger. Since the index finger represents the ego, the greatest impediment to self-realization, it is considered best to avoid using it when chanting on a mala.

A widely used Hindu Japa mala prayer is the Gāyatrī Japam also called Gāyatrī Mantra, repeated twice a day in the morning and in the evening. It is addressed to Savitr, the Sun before sunrise, the supreme generative force and ruler of the planets, to propitiate hostile planets or angry gods. The greater the number of repetitions, the greater the blessing. The favored number of repetitions are 27, 54, or 108 times, without any break. Through repetition, the reciter strives to accumulate an inner force originating from the Sun, to illuminate his mind, to gain knowledge, energy, and blessings in one’s undertakings.

Materials used in Hindu Japa malas are the most varied of those used among all religions. Most of them are of vegetable origin that include seeds, berries, fruit, nuts, drupes, dried plant stems, and wood. From mineral sources come glass, semiprecious or precious stones, and metals. Materials of animal origin such as bone, ivory, horn, coral, shells and pearls are also used. A Japa mala made of gold or gemstones is considered one hundred times more auspicious and efficacious than any other material. Glass, especially coloured ones simulating precious stones, has also been used for centuries. Today plastic beads that simulate natural minerals are universally used because of their low-cost.

The Hindus believe that each material embodies its own particular properties: Silver and gold fulfill wishes; coral brings wealth; crystal, good luck; pearls, glory; and shell helps one to achieve fame.

Many Hindus fear falling prey to evil eyes that could fall on them and their Japa Mala. To avoid this some members belonging to certain Hindu sects place the Japa mala and the hand holding it into a small cloth bag called gaumukhi, meaning “cow’s mouth” while reciting the prayers.

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