Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Story of Navratri

India is a land of colorful and vibrant festivals. Among all festivals, Navratri stands as a prominent occasion, celebrated by people across the length and breadth of the country. It is celebrated in different ways, but the spirit remains the same - to commemorate the victory of good over the evil. Maa Durga and her avatars are worshipped all through the nine days of the festival. Special pujas are performed to invoke the deity and seekevery blessings. Every puja should be culminated with aarti.

The story associated with Navratri can be found in various Hindu religious texts like Markandeya Purana, Vamana Purana, Varaha Purana, Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Devi Bhagavatam and Kalika Purana. The story of Navratra is the symbolic message of the fact that however glorious and powerful the evil become, at the end it is the goodness that wins over all of the evil.

The story is based on the life of two sons of Danu, named Rambha and Karambha who performed several austerities to gain extreme power and authority. When their prayers became deeper and austerities exceptional, the King of the heaven, God Indra got perturbed. Out of fear, he killed Karambha. Rambha, who came to know about his brother’s death, became all the more stubborn, to win over the Gods. He increased the intensity of his austerities and finally got several boons from gods like great brilliance, beauty, invincibility in war. He also asked a special wish of not being killed by either humans or Gods or Asuras.

He considered himself immortal and started freely roaming in the garden of Yaksha where he saw a female-buffalo and fell in love with her. To express his love, Rambha disguised in the form of a male-buffalo and copulated with the female buffalo. However, soon after that a real male buffalo discovered Rambha mating with the she-buffalo and killed him. As the pyre of Rambha was organized, the female-buffalo, who was copulated with him jumped into the funeral pyre of Rambha to prove her love. She was pregnant at that time. Thus, a demon came out of the pyre, with the head of a buffalo and body of a human, and thus he was named Mahisasura (the buffalo headed demon).

Mahishasura was extremely powerful. He defeated the gods and the demons and acquired power over the entire world. He even won over the heaven and threw the gods out. He captured the throne of Indra and declared himself to be the the lord of the gods. The gods, led by Brahma approached Vishnu and Shiva and evaluated them of the situation. In order to save the Gods, the three supreme deities, combined to the take the shape of a terrible form and this was goddess Durga. All the gods granted this Goddess power and all the supreme weapons they had. Thus Durga is called the brilliance of all the Gods.

When Mahisasura saw her, he was mesmerized by her beauty. Her fell in love with her and proposed to marry her. The goddess agreed to marry him only if he could defeat her in the battle. Thus began a scary and terrible battle between both, which continued for nine days. Finally, on the last day, Durga took the form of Chandika and stood over the chest of Mahishasura and smashed him down with her foot. She then pierced his neck with her spear and cut off his head off with her sword, and killed him. It is the day when VijayaDashmi is celebrated.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Clever Ganesha.

According to the Hindu mythology, in the snow-capped mountains of Kailash, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, the heavenly couple, live with their two divine children, Ganesha and his brother Karthik.

This is the story of those days when both Ganesha and Karthik were very young.

Ganesha, the elder son was full of patience and wisdom. Karthik, on the other hand, was impish and playful. But both of them were intelligent and powerful. The two brothers had much difference in their physique. Ganesha had a massive body with a big belly and an elephant's head, young Karthik was a beautiful boy with strong limbs. They were kind to everybody and were loved by all.

Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati loved their two children and the children, in turn, were devoted to their parents.

But one day, as the other Gods talked about the qualities of the brothers, a doubt arose in the mind of one of them."Who is the wiser of the two brothers?" he asked the others "Ganesha or Karthik?". Soon, all of them were talking and expressing their opinions about this matter. But no one could surely decide. As they racked their brains to solve the issue, one of the Gods got an idea!

“I know whom to ask!” said he. As others looked at him inquisitively, he continued, "Lord Brahma. He is the Creator of the world. He should know the answer, so let's ask him! He can surely solve this suspicion". Without any more delay, the Gods rushed to Brahma. Brahma was surprised to see all the deities, together.

"Such a lovely surprise! What brings you here?"

The Gods told Brahma about their doubt. "O lord Brahma, who is the wiser of the two brothers?” asked they, "Ganesha or Karthik?"

"I do not know!" replied Brahma. "I am the maker of mankind, not heavenly beings. Ganesha and Karthik were born to the celestial gods Shiva and Parvati."

The Gods were upset. Even the Brahmaji did not know! They would not be able to have an answer, after all.

Looking at their gloomy faces, Lord Brahma decided to help them. "It is true that I do not know who is the wiser of the two brothers", he thought. "But I can perhaps find it out with the help of my son Narada".

Narada, the son of Lord Brahma, was a naughty sage who was well-known for creating disputes. Wherever he went, he created problem. But if he got away with all his mischief and without getting cursed it was only because the trouble he caused usually ended on a happy note.

"Narada, help the Gods. Find the answer to their question," said Brahma after explaining the problem. "Certainly, Father," replied Narada, and his eyes twinkled naughtily, smelling an opportunity to play a prank.

Using his magical powers Narada speedily flew over the white mountains of Kailash and, in no time, arrived at the divine house of Shiva and Parvati. He was warmly welcomed by the heavenly couple.

"0 Shivji, rescuer of the Universe!, O Devi Parvati !" Narada praised the lord. "I thank you for your warm welcome. It is indeed a pleasant joy and an honour to see you both together as the Divine couple".

Everyone knew about Narada's playful nature. Shiva understood that Narada was up to some mischief. "Now tell us the truth. I can sense some mischief brewing in your mind. What is the prank you are planning to play on us?" he said jokingly.

Narada pretended to be hurt. "You greatly insult me, Lord Shiva! I have just come here to give you a gift," he said in a sorrowful voice.

"A gift for me? What is it Narada?” asked Lord Shiva. Narada, hearing the eagerness in Shiva's voice smiled to himself in delight. He produced a golden mango and gave it to the Lord. Gehrig"A mango!" exclaimed Shiva. "Now don't say you travelled all the way here to give me this fruit."

"It is no ordinary fruit, my Lord," Narada replied. "The taste of this fruit is said to be sweeter than nectar. This is the divine fruit of knowledge that bestows eternal wisdom to those who eat it."Is it so?" asked Shiva, looking at the mango. He then asked his wife Parvati to have a bite.

"No, stop!" cried Narada. "What are you doing?"

Lord Shiva looked at Narada curiously. "Why? Do you want me to eat it without letting Parvati taste it? I am going to share it with her". Saying so, he turned to share the fruit with his wife, Goddess Parvati.

Narada shook his head in disagreement. "That cannot be done, Lord Shiva. It is a magical fruit, blessed by the sages and Gods. It is not possible to cut the mango into pieces. It should be eaten by a single person as a whole fruit".

The divine couple looked at each other. They were confused. Then Lord Shiva shrugged. "If that is the case, let my better half have this fruit. Here Parvati, you can have this whole mango," he said, offering the mango to his wife.

Parvati was surprised. "Oh no, I don't want it! You are my husband. How can I eat it without you having a taste of it?" she refused. Both Lord Shiva and Narada requested her to eat the fruit but Parvati gradually declined. "Instead, let one of our children have the fruit," she suggested.

"But, how is that possible?" asked Narada cautiously. "There is one fruit and two children. Who should be given the fruit - Ganesha or Karthik?"

While the elders were talking, Ganesha and Karthik appeared in Kailash. They saw that their parents and Sage Narada were having some serious talk on something. Then Karthik noticed something yellow and round in Narada's hand.

“What is Uncle Narada having in his hand?” Karthik asked to Ganesha. Ganesha was similarly interested.

“ This is a magical mango, Karthik, "Narada replied, as he heard Karthik's question. "I gave it to your Father but he wanted your Mother to eat it. But she won't have it. She wants to give it to one of you".

"A magical mango? I love mangoes!” shouted Karthik, "I want it! I want it!".

"No, no, it should come to me. I love mangoes too! I'm the eldest son and the right one to eat the fruit of knowledge," argued Ganesha. Soon the brothers started fighting.

The divine parents were perplexed. This is nothing but a mountain out of a molehill. Lord Shiva looked at Narada. "So this is why you came to Kailash! I knew it! I knew there was something in your mind. Well done Narada, you have finally played the trick. This is why you came here. But now that you have created trouble, please solve it. You decide to whom the mango should go to," he said firmly.

Narada was delighted that his plan was working so well. "Why don't we could have a competition to settle the matter?" he said with a twinkle in his eye.

"The children agreed to Narada’s suggestion. Lord Shiva thought over the matter.

"All right, then." said he, "We'll have a contest. Whoever of you goes around the world three times and returns first will get the fruit," he said to his children.

Hearing this, Karthik immediately mounted his vehicle, the peacock. His brother Ganesha was slow and fat. Karthik laughed to himself in delight. He was very certain that he would win. Ganesha too, understood that his vehicle, the mouse, could not compete with the peacock's speed. So he thought for a second. Suddenly, he got a thought. Ganesha smiled to himself.

Karthik flew around the world stopping at all temples and sacred spots on the way and offering his prayers. To his astonishment, he found Ganesha at every major stop. Karthik was puzzled. How did Ganesha manage to be so fast?

The reason was the razor-sharp intelligence and the great wisdom of Ganesha. Back in Kailash, Ganesha remembered that his parents Shiva and Parvati represented the entire universe. Without delay, the young elephant-headed god walked around his parents with great devotion, folding his hands.

"Why are you circling us Ganesha?" asked Lord Shiva."I'm your son and to me, you two make up my whole world. Why should I go further to win the contest?" replied Ganesha.Shiva was pleased with his elder son's smart answer and gave the magical fruit to him.

When Karthik returned after his trip, he understood what had happened and accepted the dominance of his clever brother Ganesha. The Gods found the answer to their doubt. They praised and blessed Ganesha. Narada laugh quietly. His father had praised him too. So did the Gods.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Where there is a will there is a way.

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Meera. One day she returned from her school very sad. She went to her room, kept her bag on the table and lied down on the bed, crying loudly. Her mother heard her crying and came to find out.

“I have failed in two subjects,” and saying that she started crying again. Her mother tried to console her, but Meera wouldn’t listen.

In the evening when her father returned, he tried to explain to her. “Do your best in the next exam and you will get good marks,” he told her.

For the next two days, Meera refused to go to school. In fact, she thought of never going to school again. On the third day, as she sat gazing out of the window, she saw a sparrow trying to build a nest on a tree. She saw it bring sticks and leaves in the nest and then fly away to get more. Every time the wind blew, the leaves and sticks would get blown away. But this did not stop the sparrow from building her nest and by evening, she was able to complete her nest.

As Meera sat watching the sparrow, her mother came and stood beside her. “What are you looking at?” she asked her.

Meera told her all about the sparrow.

“If a sparrow can succeed in her task with courage, don’t you think you can succeed if you study hard?”

The next morning, Meera dressed up to go to school. As she was leaving, she saw the sparrow sitting by its nest. Waving it goodbye, she left for school. She studied well and cleared her exam with flying colors.