Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sai Baba - Who is he?

Is Sai Baba truly divine?.

There are so many stories surrounding him as trickster. How true are they?

I'll try to justify him with his social works and personal attributes.

On my next post I'll attach more videos and let you decide what is the real truth.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Deepavali - Festival Of Lights

'Festival of Lights' or Deepavali is a festival which has the potential of unifying entire India because of the charisma and splendor surrounding this festival. Deepavali has been given the traditional name of 'festival of lights' because of the hundreds and thousands of small oil lamps or diyas lighted by many households. The burning of these diyas are considered to be the lighted pathway of a person's expression of happiness and also a manner of paying obeisance to God, the Supreme power for attainment of health, prosperity, knowledge, financial security and peace in one's life.

'The festival of lights' is celebrated with much enthusiasm and zeal in all of north India. In fact the festival of Deepavali is regarded to bring the supernatural joy and brightness in a person's life with the hope of discovering light amidst darkness, achieving happiness in place of ignorance and spreading of love amidst hatred and violence. The tradition of lighting the diyas on Deepavali holds much importance as in Hindu mythology the light signifies goodness and vitality. In cities candles and classy neon lights often substitute these diyas.

The idea behind the lighting of diyas and candles on the festival of lights comes from a number of stories as mentioned in the Hindu mythology.

Many people confuses between Deepavali and "Naraka Chaturdasi". Deepavali is the day after Naraka Chaturdasi. In Dwapar Yuga, Lord Krishna, the ascendant of Lord Vishnu, killed the notorious demon Narakasura on the same day as that of Deepavali.

Narakasura was the son of God Bhooma Devi. Despite of a great parentage, he possessed devilish tendencies. He used to loot the people of three worlds and due to the supernatural powers he had nobody could stop him. Not only he plundered their valuable things, but abducted the womenfolk too. There was a terror of Narakasura everywhere.

Once Narakasura attacked the heavens to get hold of the army of elephants of Lord Indra. Indra being helpless before the demon, immediately he went to Lord Krishna to ask for help. Krishna at that time was spending a leisurely time with his wife Satyabhama. In order to fulfill both his duties as a friend and as a husband he took Satyabhama at the battlefield. 

On his divine vehicle Garuda (a giant eagle), Lord Krishna set for the fort of Narakasura. His grand fort was guarded by a five headed demon Mura. With his flying discus, Krishna beheaded Mura and then challenged Narakasura to come to fight on the battlefield. It was an easy victory for great Shri Krishna. Narakasura was killed and his son Bhagdatta was taken by Krishna under his supervision on the request of Bhooma Devi. During his last moments, Narakasura repented his ill-doings and asked for forgiveness. And as his last wish, he requested his death to be celebrated as the end of darkness (evil) and the beginning of light (dawn of righteousness). It is why the next day (dawn) is selected as the celebration day.

There is also another version of the story. Narakasura attained his powers from Lord Brahma and together with it he also received a boon that he can only be killed by his mother Bhooma Devi. To fulfill this boon Lord Krishna brought his wife Satyabama who happened to be an incarnation of Bhooma Devi herself. In this version after killing Mura, Lord Krishna was attacked by Narakasura. Lord Krishna pretended to collapse to his bow. Seeing this Satyabama became furious and attacked and killed Narakasura with Lord Krishna's bow and arrows. 

The killing of Narakasura again takes us to the message that it is inevitable for virtue and truth to win over vice and evil. The same message Lord Rama portrayed by killing Ravana. Bhooma Devi herself was happy of the killing of her son. The acuteness of Narakasura's evil deeds can be guessed from the fact that Lord Krishna had to take an oil bath to get rid of his blood splashes.

It is still a tradition among Hindus to clean the Krishna idols with hot water before burning the effigy of Narakasura. So, along with Lord Rama, Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Krishna too is prayed by the Hindus.

The most famous of these stories is the story revolving around Lord Ram and his family. Deepavali celebrates the home coming of Lord Ram, who according to a legend came home to Ayodhya after defeating the evil Ravana and spending fourteen years in exile. Deepavali is also the day of Lord Ram's coronation.

According to a popular legend King Dasharatha had three wives by the names of Kaushalaya, Kaikayee and Sumitra who had four sons Ram, Bharat, Laxmana and Shatrughan. Lord Ram, the son of Queen Kaushalaya was the eldest of all four brothers while Bharat was the son of Queen Kaikayee.

Queen Kaikayee wanted her son Bharat to be the future king of Ayodhya while King Dashratha decided to coronate Ram to be the future king. Kaikayee on getting to know about the decision of king Dashratha decided to ask the king for two wishes which he had promised her earlier in life. For her two wishes Kaikayee asked for sending Ram to exile for the period of fourteen years and to crown Bharat as the king, though Bharat refused to accept the kingship. Well Ram went to exile accompanied with his younger brother Lakshman and wife Sita. During exile King Ravana of Lanka abducted Sita and Lord ram had to fight a fierce battle in the southern part of the Indian sub-continent with ravana.

During this fight the king of the demons was killed and Lord Ram came back to Ayodhya along with His brother and wife. Deepavali marks his victorious return to his kingdom along with Hanuman, the Vanar who helped him in achieving success. The legend states it took 20 days for Rama to return to his kingdom after defeating Ravana. As with other Indian festivals, Deepavali signifies many different things to people across the country. Like in Gujarat, the festival is celebrated to honor goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth; and in Bengal, it is related with goddess Kali. Though everywhere, it is celebrated with the same sprit and signifies the renewal of life.

Dussehra epitomizes the triumph of good over evil. This is the auspicious day when the great Lord Rama killed Ravana and made Lanka free from the dominance of Asuras. The day when we burn the effigy of Ravana along with his subordinates Meghanad and Kumbhkarana. Lord Rama fought a battle of ten days with Ravana, who had abducted his wife Sita. With his Monkey Army called Vanar Sena, Shri Rama defeated the Ravana Sena and handed over the rule to Bhibhishan. Exact twenty days after the end of the war, Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya. It is the same day on which the festival of Deepavali is celebrated. The significance of Dussehra in context of Deepavali is thus relevant.

Since then the effigies of Ten faced Ravana, Meghnad and Kumbhkarana are burnt. Usually, ten days before Dussehra, the whole Ramayana is enacted in various parts of India as well as in many countries where people of Hindu community are living. This is popularly known as Ram Lila. On the tenth day, that is, Dussehra the whole Rama-Ravana war is enacted and at last the actor playing the role of Lord Rama burns the effigy with the stroke of his arrow.

It is also a day celebrated in India with great fervor. People, exchange sweets, especially, jalebis among their loved ones. The day also marks the advent of festive days till Deepavali as people start decorating their homes and distributing gifts to friends and family.

One more fantastic mythical story is associated with the celebrations of Deepavali. The festival of lights also pays a tribute to the birth of Goddess Lakshmi, who is the Goddess of wealth as well as health. The legend of emergence of Goddess Lakshmi is popularly known as the legend of Samudra Manthan.

The story of Samudra Manthan goes like this. Once, the great sage Durvasa was out for a walk when he met Indra. Indra in his own world rode ignoring the Durvasa and even threw the garland given by him on Airavata. Durvasa got really angry over Indra's ill-behaviour and cursed him saying "The pride of wealth has entered your head. Let Lakshmi forsake you." Indra realized his mistakes and begged mercy from him. On this, Durvasa said " Sri Vishnu will do good to you" and left him.
As the result of the effect of curse, soon after Lakshmi left Indra. With Lakshmi was gone the power, wealth, bravery and enthusiasm possessed by him. The moment Indra lost his kingdom, Demons attacked him. He hid out of their sight and was constantly running in order to safeguard his life. He went for help to Lord Vishnu through his teacher and guide Brihaspati. Lord Vishnu advised him make demons his friends and with their assistance churn the sea of milk (the process of Samudra Manthan). For this, he asked him to Mandara as the churning rod and Vasuki, the king of serpents, as the rope.

On churning the sea, nectar was produced, which was drunk by the all the God so as to gain the state of immortality. Lakshmi appeared again standing amidst the gigantic milky tides and in the middle of a beautiful Lotus. She showered on him all that had been taken away from Indra. The King of Sea appeared and embraced Goddess Lakshmi as his daughter. This was the amazing story of Indra and Lakshmi reunion.

Since time immemorial, Hindus commemorate the birth of Goddess Lakshmi on the third day of Deepavali. Lakshmi Puja is performed and the dark night of Amavasya is enlightened with long arrays of diyas, candles and bulbs of beautiful colors. Homes are decorated after a thorough cleaning as it is believed that on this auspicious day Goddess Lakshmi strolls in green lawns and visit the homes.

Deepavali is a festival celebrated by all Indian irrelevant of their cast, creed and religion with equal enthusiasm and gaiety. While the rest of the Indians are imbued into the festive mood for the advent the Hindu New Year, the agrarian society of India is jubilating for a different reason.

Deepavali is also the end of the cropping season. This is the time of the year when farmers would be getting the results of their sweat and blood. The hard work they do all through the year is supposed to pay results in terms of a healthy crop. Harvesting period generally bear a lot of prosperity for agrarian society. Thus, the farmers pray to Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth) for the best results.

This particular festival is celebrated the very next day of Deepavali. As mentioned earlier, the Goddess of Lakshmi is worshiped and people perform her Arti. Special dishes are made by the womenfolk on the harvest festival. Especially, Poha or Pava made up of freshly taken rice from the field is prepared. Along with the rural farmers, the people living in the urban Western India too commemorate the harvesting season with great dedication.

Deepavali falls around the months of October or November, which is also known as the season of Kharif when the crop of fresh rice is widely available. Thus, it is not only due to mythological reasons that Deepavali holds such a great importance in India, but the day is auspicious in more than one ways.