ARAT IN COCHIN TD TEMPLE-PART 3-RITUALS/FUNCTIONS ON 8th DAY AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCES

ARAT IN COCHIN TD TEMPLE-PART 3-RITUALS/FUNCTIONS ON 8th DAY AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCES

My humble Pranams to our Kuladevata, Lord Laxmi Venkateswara,Goddess Laxmi, our revered senior pontiff, H.H.Srimad Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji of Kasi Math Samstan and His Patta Sishya, H.H.Srimad Samyamindra Thirtha Swamiji.

GOLDEN GARUDA VAHANA PUJA

GOLDEN GARUDA VAHANA PUJA

COMMENDATION 

I will not be doing justice to this blog, unless I express my deep gratitude to a few wise and important personalities who are experts and well versed on the subject and who have willingly shared their knowledge. Chief Priest, Sri.L.Krishna Bhat, Temple Tantri, Sri.Premkumar.N.Vadhyar, Sri Purushothama Mallya, renowned Writer, Author, Epigraphist, Research Scholar and Historian, Sri.A.Ramananda Bhat, Acharya of the temple, Sri.Anantha Bhat, nephew of Sri.L.Krishna Bhat and Parpathi Naveen, a member of the temple administration, a few temple Office Bearers and Volunteers and Sri.S.Krishnakumar have helped immensely to understand many of the important aspects of the festival and the various rituals being performed. My Pranams to all of them.

The functions and rituals performed from 1st to 7th day are detailed in a separate blog post titled, ARAT IN COCHIN TD TEMPLE-PART 2-VARIOUS RITUALS AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCES,

Arat Day(8th day) Functions

The salient and important functions performed on the 8th day of the festival, besides the normal daily pujas and yajnas (enunciated in the above referred blog post are Abhishekam/Mahaabhishekam, Avabrathasnanam, Chakrasnanam, Golden Garuda Vahana Puja, Pushpayagam, Recital of Veda mantras to propitiate the Great Lord and Goddess for their blessings and help remove all the bad omens arising due to any shortcomings in puja vidhis(procedures) and offerings, etc., Mangalaarti  Vishnuyaga samaapthi and Dwajaavarohanam to indicate the closing of the festival.

Abhishekam/Mahabhishekam

On the Arat day also, Abhishekam is performed in the same sequence as on other days, ie. just after sheeveli. In case of Rathotsavam festival, only Utsava Deities and Laxmi Devi Deity are taken for the Abhishekam and it is done with milk, pachaamrutham  and Ganges water followed by Kalabhabhishekam.

In case of Mahothsavam, Moola Moorthy is also taken for abhishekam along with the other deities mentioned above.Besides the above mentioned abhishekams, Kanakaabhishekam also is performed.

The procedure for these rituals are detailed under the title of Abhishekam in another blog post referred above.

After the abhishekam, sahasranama puja, mahaneivedhya puja, noon puja, shadagopam,Vishnuyagam and pallaki puja are performed. The procedures for all these rituals are detailed under the respective headings in the above referred post.

Avabrathasnanam

On completion of the above rituals, Utsava Deities are taken for the Avabrathasnanam to the same place and seats inside Sanctum Sanctorum as have been used for the abhishekam.It is a sort of purification process resorted to, by giving a mangala snanam to the Deities, after witnessing the yajnas performed during vishnuyagam.In this ritual, abhishekams are performed with rice powder, turmeric powder, scented oil made from champe and other flowers, the water from the nine kalasas sanctified during the Vishnuyagam and finally sahasradhaarabhishekam with the water from a special kalasa  sanctified by invoking the various devatas.Following these rituals, the Deities are cleaned with ganges water.

The Deities are decorated extensively with varieties of special diamond studded ornaments, crown, etc and with garlands made from different flowers. The Deities are then seated in the golden pallaki and with recitation of Veda mantras, playing of madhhalam and nadaswaram, proceed to the Lake Mandapam in a grand procession led by representative image of the Lord and the Chakra, on two separate caparisoned elephants, for Chakra snanam function.

Along the route, the Lord meets the idol of serpent, Cheppe Nag, installed at the south-western corner of the Papanasam lake’s precincts and meet Swami Vijayeendra Thirtha Swamiji and King Saluva Narasimha Raya of Vijayanagar dynasty, whose figures are niched on both sides of the entrance door of the lake . These installations are to recall the history of the Lord Venkateswara and the role played by them in the journey of the Lord from Vijayanagar to Cochin. While returning from the Lake mantapam to the temple after the sojourn, artis are performed to both Swami and the King.

Chakra Snanam

At the Papanasam lake, Deities are shifted to a throne installed on a make-shift twin boats joined together and profusely decorated with cloth, garlands of flowers, etc. and taken to the mandapam at the centre of the lake. At the mandapam, Deities are seated on the upper floor on a throne specially decorated for the purpose. Pujas and artis are then performed for the Deities along with a purification homam(yajna) and puja for the lake.Symbolically representing the Lord, the Chief Priest carries the Chakra and Saligramam on his head and take a plunge in the lake from the mandapam steps. This iscalled Chakra Snanam and it is believed that it purifies the lake water and converts it to Theertham. This theertham is splashed on the persons witnessing this ritual. Many persons take a dip in the lake theertham to purify their being. It is believed that the splashing of the lake water theertham or taking a dip in the lake after the Chakra Snanam absolves them of all sins and purify their being by removing all the bad and negative traits.

After this, Samaaradhana is served in the temple. Generally, samaaradhana on the arat day starts after 6 pm and more than 10000 people partake it in one sitting and time taken for the same is not more than half an hour.

After the sojourn at the lake mandap, the pujas and artis are performed and the Deities  proceed to the main temple, Utsava Deities and Laxmi devi in the Golden Palanquin, the Chakra and the Representative Deity on two elephants in a grand procession led by vaadhyamelam/panchavadhyam and a sea of community members. The procession circumambulates the Lake tank on its outer periphery, while proceeding to the temple.

Garuda Vahana puja

On arrival of the procession inside the temple premises through the eastern gopuram, the Utsava Deities are taken straight to the Golden Garuda Vahana, which is extensively decorated and kept ready in anticipation of the arrival of the Lord and Laxmi Devi. It is as if  Garuda is anxiouly waiting for the Lord and Goddess to arrive to take them on a procession around the temple.The Chakra and the Representative Deity are directly taken to the Garba Graha and seated in their respective places.

The magnificient view highlighting the grandeur of  the scene  with the Lord and Laxmi Devi seated on the Garuda Vahana, is something to be seen to feel the joy and the spiritual ecstasy felt by the devotees. After the relevant pujas and Khambaarti on behalf of the temple administration, devotees present in thousands have the artis performed on their individual behalf. The Garuda Vahana procession takes the round inside the temple premises in its outer periphery, stopping at various corners and mid-points to enable the devotees to have artis performed on their behalf. On arrival of the procession back to the front side of the temple, puja and artis are again performed and the Deities taken in the Golden palanquin. A Koombaarthi is performed with a kalasa filled with water, decorated with mango leaves and flowers and a coconut on the top of it. This is done to remove any evil force fallen on the Lord and Laxmi Devi.

The Deities are then taken to the kalyana mandapam/parswa mandapam for performing the Pushpayagam.

Pushpa Yagam is performed in the parswa mandapam by seating the Utsava Deities on a throne, when many of the community members will be present. This yajna is mainly to seek His pardon for any of the shortcomings occurred unknowingly in the day-to-day poojas and various other functions during the festival days and seek His  benevolence and blessings to all the community members, as well as all the devotees at large. While the Chief priests perform the pujas to the Deities, the Tantri perform a yajna in a Homa Kundam just in the front, with flowers, invoking mantras from all Vedas and Upanishads. Pushpaarchana and other pujas to the Lord, while reciting the various Veda mantras, doing prayers, singing of keertanas and finally the arti is performed.

After the Homam and Pujas, a large silk cloth is spread in front of the Lord to receive kaanik/daksina from all devotees who are present. The President of the temple then offers betel leaves and the chief priest distributes the prasadam to all.

Deities are then taken to the Garbha Graha(Sanctum Sanctorum) and Mangalaarti performed.

Vishnuyaga Samaapthi .

Utsava Deities along with Chakra are then taken in the palanquin to the yajna mantap and poornaahutis given, pujas, arti performed, conveying thanks to all the devatas for their benign presence and for avoidance of all the obstacles in the way of various festival functions on all the days. The yajna fire in all the kunds  is then extinguished to indicate the conclusion of the Vishnuyagam.

Dhwajaavarohanam

The Deities are then brought in the pallaki to the precincts of  the Dhwajastambam and in Their presence, all the pujas, arti done, the necessary offerings(bali) made, while thanking all the devatas. After this, Dhwajaavarohanam is done by the temple Tantri, indicating the conclusion of the 8 day Arat festival.

The Deities are then taken to the Garba Graha and seated in their respective places and necessary pujas and arti performed to finally conclude the festival.Soon after this the santum sanctorum is closed. The festival activities on Arat day(8th day) extend almost  to 6am the next day.

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ARAT IN COCHIN TD TEMPLE-PART 2-VARIOUS RITUALS AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCES

ARAT IN COCHIN TD TEMPLE-PART 2-VARIOUS RITUALS AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCES FROM 1st TO 7th DAY

My humble Pranams to our Kuladevata, Lord Laxmi Venkateswara,Goddess Laxmi, our revered senior pontiff, H.H.Srimad Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji of Kasi Math Samstan and His Patta Sishya, H.H.Srimad Samyamindra Thirtha Swamiji.

PUSHPAKA VIMANA PUJA

PUSHPAKA VIMANA PUJA

COMMENDATION 

I will not be doing justice to this blog, unless I express my deep gratitude to a few wise and important personalities who are experts and well versed on the subject and who have willingly shared their knowledge. Chief Priest, Sri.L.Krishna Bhat, Temple Tantri, Sri.Premkumar.N.Vadhyar, Sri Purushothama Mallya, renowned Writer, Author, Epigraphist, Research Scholar and Historian, Sri.A.Ramananda Bhat, Acharya of the temple, Sri.Anantha Bhat, nephew of Sri.L.Krishna Bhat and Parpathi Naveen, a member of the temple administration, a few temple Office Bearers and Volunteers and Sri.S.Krishnakumar have helped immensely to understand many of the important aspects of the festival and the various rituals being performed. My Pranams to all of them.

The history of  Lord Venkateswara and Laxmi Devi, as also the TD Temple, both of which are intricately linked, has been dealt with extensively in another blog post of mine, titled HISTORY OF KOCHI TIRUMALA VENKATESWARA AND TD TEMPLE.

This post details mainly the functions and rituals from the 1st day to 7th day. The details of varios functions and rituals on the 8th day are detailed in a separate blog post titled, ARAT IN COCHIN TD TEMPLE-PART 3-RITUALS/FUNCTIONS ON 8th DAY AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCES.

SIGNIFICANCE OF TWO ARAT FESTIVALS IN COCHIN TD TEMPLE

One of the unique features in Cochin TD Temple is that there are two Arat festivals in an year, one called Mahotsavam, performed in  the Lunar month of Chaitra(falling in March/April) and the second, called Rathotsavam, performed in the Lunar month of Margaseersha(falling in November/December), the former one to celebrate the first consecration of Lord Laxmi Venkateswara in Cochin temple and the latter to highlight the importance/significance of the Lunar month of Margaseersha as mentioned in the Holy Gita. The Great Lord in the avatar of Krishna says in chapter 10 of Bhagwat Gita that ‘I am the month of  Margaseersha amongst the months’. The two major differences between the two festivals are that, in Rathotsavam, a Pushpaka Vimana Puja is performed on the 7th day of the festival, towards the end of the morning functions/pujas  and during Mahotsavam, Mahabhishekam is performed for both the Moola Moorthy(The Main Stapana Deity) and the Utsava Moorthies(Deities) together on 8th day.(Arat day).

CONCEPTULISERS OF THE TWO ARAT FESTIVALS

These two festivals in an year, can be seen as culturo-religious festivals, unlike all other purely religious festivals. The procedures for the various Arat festival components and their sequences were drawn by Brahmasri Vedamurthi Subbha Achari, the then Acharya of the temple as ordained by H.H.Bhuvanendra Thirtha Swamiji of Sri Kasi Math Samstan along with His disciple, H.H.Varadendra Thirtha Swamiji. The Acharya has drawn and detailed the various pujas, yajnas, abishekas, vana yatras, etc, based on the religious scriptures, Padma Samhita- Part 1 and Part 2, and got them approved by the Swamijis.

Legend indicates that the abode of Lord Gosripuresa changes for some reason or other, most of the time forced upon. In order to circumvent this cycle and propitiate Him not to bring about any more such circumstances to shift from Gosripuram, the main arat function on the 8th day of the festival has been so devised to symbolically change His abode temporarily, twice every year, by taking Him along with Goddess Laxmi Devi in a grand procession to the Sanctorum(Kulamandapam) located in the midst of the Papanasanam lake of the temple, by using a well decorated twin-boat stage and seating them on a stepped highly decorated throne on the upper floor of the mandapam. After His sojourn for a few hours with pujas, arti and Chakra snanam to purify the lake, soon after the arrival and pujas and arti at the time of departure, the Deities are carried back to the temple in the Golden Palanquin in a grand procession,led by elephants with Chakra and representative Moorthy seated on the top of  two elephants. The main deities of the Lord and Goddess are taken directly to the magnificent Golden Garuda Vahana for the procession inside the temple premises. After the Garuda Vahana Puja,the Deities are taken to the parswa mandapam for the Pushpayagam, after which the deities are taken to Sanctum Sanctorum for Mangalaarthy puja.

VARIOUS FESTIVITIES

The festival in its normative form starts almost 10 days prior to the Dwajaarohanam day, with Kauthuga Bhandhanam(tying of Kankan/Naandhi) for the Moola Murthy(Main Deity), Utsava Deities, all Upadevatas and all the priests connected with the main and upadevata temples, in order to ensure that the festival is carried on, irrespective of any unexpected/untoward  occurrences on account of births or deaths in the family. Next day, pujas for the chosen arecanut palm trunk, temple flag, etc are performed.

The arecanut palm trunk for the mast is carefully selected by the temple authorities,by going around the sanketam and choosing the right one, with sturdiness and verticality, from one of the GSB family’s compound. The selection is done mostly a few months before the festival. However, the trunk is cut and brought to the temple in a procession a few days before the Dwajaarohanam day, with all vedic rituals performed and kept in a closed shed safely.

Another unique function organised about 8 days prior to the start of the festival is a procession of young GSB children, carrying vegetables, grains, fruits, etc and offering the same to the Lord, in the presence of the temple administrators , to signify the participative nature of the Mahajanams in the Arat festival. The procession starts in the Udhyaneswara temple and terminates at the main Gosripuresa temple.

Festival commences on the 1st day of the festival,in all solemnity, with the customary hoisting of  the temple flag with the Sacred Garuda Ensign(Dhwajaarohanam) with Lord and Goddess, seated in the palanquin stationed in the parswa mandapam,witnessing the ceremony for the start of the festival and help remove all obstacles and bad omens. The arecanut palm trunk is decorated with mango and peepal leaves and a small metallic Garuda image fixed in such a way that it remains on the top after Dwajaarohanam. It is to symbolically scan the surroundings and remove all obstacles to the conduct of the festival.

Tantri is the customary custodian of all the pujas for the decorated mast, the temple flag with garuda ensign, pujas for the 9 kalasas, filled with herbal water, placed nearby, hoisting of the mast and the temple flag, propitiating all the devatas by offering the argyam(bali) with cooked rice, etc. The nine kalasas are sanctified during the Vishnuyagam on all the 8 days, in the morning and night, and used for the Avabrathasnanam on the 8th day.

Immediately after the Dwajaarohanam, puja is done for the large two Bheris(Drums), then the Utsava Deities seated in the palanquin and  witnessing the Dwajaarohanam were taken around the temple, with beating of the Bheris and playing the madhhalam and nadaswaram. Vedic recital is done by Acharya, Tantri and their disciples at the four corners and the mid-way points. All the musical instruments and the beating of the Bheris are stopped and the Vedic recital is done in pin-drop silence. After completing a round, an announcement is made requesting all the mahajanams not to leave the town till the festival is over. Then the Deities are taken to Sanctum Sanctorum, pujas and arti performed. The Utsava Deities are then taken for the usual Pallaki(Palanquin) puja on the first day.

The atmosherics generated while performing each and every function/ritual during these 8 days are so electrifying, causing a surge of emotion and excitement that the devotees are filled with so much of spiritual ecstasy and they continue to remain spell-bound for years together and yearn for a return to witness the festival again and again.

Most of the morning session functions, starting from 5.30/6.00 am, on all the 8 days are common. They are:

1. Nadathurappu(opening of the doors of Sanctum Sanctorum).

2.Ushapuja(morning puja).

3.Sheeveli-A procession of representative image of the Lord inside the temple premises, with the image seated on the top of one of the three caparisoned elephants and a tall coloured umbrella just behind it and the other two caparisoned elephants with only tall coloured umbrellas held on the top. The procession circumambulates three times around the outer temple perimeter. With the first round for performing artis by the mahajanam, at the starting and 4 corner points of the temple, the second round is led by pancha vadhyam, by playing otta chenda(beating of chenda with one stick), eratta chenda(beating with two sticks), talam(thalu), madhhalam and kombu(bugle) and the third round led by experts playing Madhhalam and Nadaswaram. The instruments used for sheeveli are different types of local instruments, used in festivals in almost all Kerala temples. The sheeveli procession takes almost 1 1/2 hours to complete the 3 rounds.

4. Abhishekam. Both Panchaamrutha Abhishekam and Kalagaabhishekam are performed for the Utsava Moorthies from 1st to 7th day. Milk, ghee, curd, honey and sugar/jagerry are used, one at a time, for the panchaamrutha abhishekam. After this, Deities are washed with water and dried. Kalabhabhishekam is then performed with the solution of sandal wood paste.Vedic mantras are invoked while performing the abhishekams to invoke Lord’s pardon for any of the shortcomings occurred in the past, knowingly or unknowingly, in the day-to-day puja activities and restore The Images to their original splendour, which must have been partially diminished due to any of the shortcomings.

The three deities of Utsava Venkateswara, bhoodevi and Sridevi are normally seated on a Kurma peetam. They are separately taken out of the Kurma Peetam and placed on a separate abhisheka peetam for performing the above abhishekams.After the abhishekams, the Deities are cleaned and dried with a cloth and placed back on the Kurma Peetam, decorated with the normal kavacham, diamond studded crown and other ornaments and flowers, arti performed and the Deities on the common Kurma Peetam is then carried and placed on the throne, just below the Moola Moorthy. Arti is again performed for all the Deities together.

During Mahotsava festival, the abhishekam performed on the 8th day is called Mahaabhishekam and done for the Utsava Moorthies, Moola Moorthy and Laxmi Devi together, with milk, panchaamrutham and water from Ganges, followed by Kanakaabhishekam and Kalabhabhishekam. All the images are then cleaned with water, dried and decorated with diamond studded crown, many other costly ornaments and flower garlands. The Deities are then seated in their original places, followed by arti, sahasranama puja, mahaneivedhya puja and the noon puja.

During Rathotsava festival, the above abishekams are performed for only the Utsava Deities and Laxmi Devi.

5. Noon Puja(Uccha puja) and offering of Neivedhyam and Shadagopam at the 4 upadevata temples are performed after the abhishekam.

Shadagopam is a function performed by the chief priest after the neivedhya samarpanam to the main Deities. The padukas of the Lord is taken on a plate by the Chief Priest, to the four upadevata temples,starting with Laxmi Devi’s and followed by Hanuman,Garuda and Ganesa, puja and arti performed at each temple and touching the upadevatas with the paduka.

On the first day, Dwajaarohana rituals are perfomed immediately after the noon puja,  neivedhya samarpanam and Shadagopam. Pallaki puja is performed after Dwajaarohanam, followed by samaaradhana for the mahajanams.Vishnu Yagam is not performed in the morning on the first day.

6. Vishnu Yagam(except on first day morning). This is a special function unique to the Cochin TD temple.Though it is something which should be done continuously during the festival period, it is done two times a day, once in the morning and once in the night, largely for accomodating various other functions and rituals which are equally relevant and important and hence are inevitable. The 9 kalasas with the holy herbal water sanctified at the time of temple flag hoisting ceremony are taken in a pallaki and kept in the yajna mandapam. At the time of Vishnuyagam, The Chakra and Utsava Deities are ceremoniously taken to the Yajna Mandapam located in between Garuda and Laxmi Devi Upadevata temples. There are 4 yajna kunds(pits), to represent the Lord, namely, Vasudev/Narayan(though it is one kundam,it is taken as serving for both), Sankarshana, Pradhyumna and Anirudh.Utsava Deities are seated on a stepped throne, which is fully decorated with silk cloth, flowers, etc, facing west, all the 9 kalasas kept just by the side and the Chakra seated alone, facing east, just behind the Utsava Deities.Invoking the mantras from all the 4 vedas, yajnas are performed in all the 4 kunds simultaneously, with dasadravya offerings, viz.milk, ghee, ashtagandham, curd, 10 herbs, samidh, dhoopam, til, yavam and paddy. Once the Yajna starts in the night on the 1st day, the yajna fire is kept burning continuously till the Vishnuyaga samaapti on the 8th day night.While the chief priest does the puja for the Utsava Deities, Tantri Does it for the Kalasas and various priests representing Acharya performing the yajnas. The sanctified holy water in the 9 Kalasas is taken for the Avabratasnanam on the 8th day. While the Deities and Chakra are taken to the Sanctum Sanctorum after the Vishnuyagam, the kalasas are kept in yajna mantap itself, till they are ceremoniously taken in a palanquin for the Avabrathasnanam on the 8th day.

The objective of performing the Vishnuyagam is to seek the blessings of the Lord and the Goddess for maintaining Peace and Harmony, not only for our community members, but also for the well-being of His entire creation, irrespective of the creed.

7. Pallaki(Palanquin) Puja- The Utsava Moorthies are carried in a procession in the Golden Palanquin inside the temple premises.The procession takes three rounds of the temple, along the inner covered shed . Temple Tantri leads, by offering the bali of cooked rice to the various devatas at 8 different directions, to seek their obeisance to ensure a benign completion of the various functions during the festival.

8. Pushpaka Vimana Puja on the 7th day in case of Rathotsavam festival.

9.Besides the above, a special Abhishekam, called Avabrathasnanam is also performed before the Utsav Moorthis are taken in procession to the Sanctorum in the Papanasam Lake on the 8th day. Samaradhana on the 8th day is after the conclusion of Chakra Snana function, a very important and highly significant function. 

10. Samaaradhana on 1st and 8th day is by Dewaswom and on other days, if sponsored by anyone of the GSB community members.

The common functions in the evening on the first 3 days are:

1.Nadathurappu(opening of the doors of Sanctum Sanctorum).

2.Kazhcha Sheeveli– Taking the representative image of the Lord in a procession on a  caparisoned elephant inside the temple premises. Other details are given above under morning functions..

3. Mangalaarthi at Sanctum Sanctorum.

4. Vishnu Yagam.All details are given above under morning functions.

5.Pallaki(Palanquin) Puja– The same way as given under the morning functions, with a difference in the offering of the bali, which is in the form of flowers during the night.

6. Vahana Puja-A procession of the Utsava Deities, on various wooden vahanas(carriages). The Deities are placed on wooden carved figures that are fixed on the vahanas. The figures decorated extensively with garlands, etc. starting from the 1st day, are wooden Garuda, Hanuman,Hamsam,Airavata(Elephant),Aswam(Horse), Pushpaka Vimanam, silver Sesha (Serpent) besides Golden Garuda Vahanam on the 8th day.

As the Deities are taken in the evenings for Vana yatra on 4th and 5th days, Pattana pravesam on the 6th day and Mruga Yatra on the 7th day, all the functions indicated against sl.nos.2 to 6 are performed after the above mentioned yatras in the same order as given above, except the sheeveli, which is performed at the end of the day, on 4th, 5th, and 6th day and as usual, just after Nadathurappu in the evening on the 7th day.

The functions on the Arat(8th) day are entirely different and they are explained in a separate blog post, Arat in Cochin TD temple-Part 3-Rituals/Functions on the 8th day and their significances.

On the 4th, 5th and 6th day, the Utsava Deities are taken in the Golden Palanquin with all the paraphernalia along the southern, western and northern streets respectively around the temple, where the Deities are said to have absolute jurisdiction, temporal and spiritual(called sanketam). Two caparisoned elephants, one with a person on the top for splashing the holy water all along the route of the procession followed by the second one with the image of Chakra, representing the Lord’s weapon symbol, on the top as a symbolic image for the protection of the procession, lead the procession along the complete route. These processions  are symbolic representation for expressing the love of God for His devotees by visiting them in their own premises and for the symbolic observation of the welfare of His devotees and also enabling each and every house-hold and the community members to show their devotion and love for the God by having the arthis performed and also offering neivedhyam from the court-yard of each and every house on the route.Devotees who are staying outside the sanketam bring all the puja articles inside the temple premises and have arthies and neivedhyam done before the procession leaves the temple premises for the yatra.

As these processions take more than 5 hours, the Deities, the priests and all other members, who are officially part of the procession, have their sojourn for rest and recoup at Keraleswara temple, Manjal Bhagavathi temple and well known Kini family’s house, on the 4th, 5th and 6th day respectively. The sojourn is called Vallag in local parlance. Flower decorations are redone, puja and arti performed during the vallag.

On the 6th day of the festival, a unique function called Jalakreedotsavam is performed in the fore-mandapam of Laxmi Devi temple. This is performed just after the Nadathurappu.The Utsava Deities leave for the Pattana pravesam from the same premises. The function is symbolic of a sporting activity for the Lord and Laxmi Devi. In a large open mouthed shallow vessel, filled with sandal wood water, Lord and Laxmi Devi are seated on slightly elevated seats, facing each other. The two chief priests then splash the sandal wood water on both the deities with dharba grass, enacting the sport that will be played by Lord and Laxmi Devi. After this sport for a few minutes, the chief priests search and locate two golden finger rings already placed inside the vessel in the beginning and wear them on the deities. The Deities are then placed on a throne placed nearby and puja and arti performed. The sanctified sandal wood water is then distributed to all the persons present as theertham and also splashed on everyone.

PROCESSION FOR MRUGAYATRA

PROCESSION FOR MRUGAYATRA

In the same fashion as for vana yatra and pattana pravesam, on the 7th day,the Utsava Images are carried with all paraphernelia,on the Ashwa Vahana(Horse carriage) round the Rathaveethi(chariot route) of the temple for Palli Vettai(Mruga Yatra) to the temple of  Udyaneswara(New Siva Temple) situated at the north-eastern corner of Papanasam tank. Legend has it that, as the relation between Lord Gosripuresa and Udyaneswara rests on a special bonding, a visit of Lord Gosripuresa to the Udyaneswara temple on the 7th day of the festival  is undertaken for a joint hunting game and for symbolic hunting with a bow and arrow on a plantain tree.

Lord Gosripuresa on His return journey from the Udyaneswara temple visits the family of Devarvattom Shenoys’  family residence enroute, as a gesture of respect and good-will towards the family, who were solely instrumental in offering their family’s Laxmi Devi Vigraha in marriage to Lord Gosripuresa, when the Cochin GSB community members were not able to bring back the original Laxmi Devi Vigraha from Alleppy along with the Lord’s. The Lord and the Goddess have their sojourn(vallag) there for some time, before proceeding to the main temple. Puja and arti are performed during this time.

Other offerings of the Devarvattom Shenoy family, such as golden seat for the Main Deity, various diamond studded ornaments,a golden kalasa for the kalabhabhishekam of the Lord, golden garuda, etc. are praiseworthy and need a special mention here, to understand the significance of the Vallag in their residence on the 7th day. Sri. Janardhana Shenoy, son of Sri. Anantha Shenoy of the Devarvattom Shenoy family is largely instrumental for these contributions .

The Deities return to the temple in the Golden Palanquin. Mangalaarthy is then performed, followed by Vishnuyagam, Pallaki Puja and Vahana Puja, as explained above.

Arat Day(8th day) Functions are described in a separate post.

 

 

 

 

 

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HISTORY OF KOCHI TIRUMALA VENKATESWARA AND TD TEMPLE

HISTORY OF KOCHI TIRUMALA VENKATESWARA AND TD TEMPLE

In ARAT-part 1, I have touched on the overall perceptions of the general public on the Arat festival, as also the various managerial and organisational resources which go into it to make it a very real spiritual experience and the divinity that accrue to the general public. All this can be attributed to the powerful deity, a swayambu, which has a migratory history of its own. It is an accepted fact by all high and low, rich and poor that wherever the deity is installed, loved and respectfully prayed, the places have prospered in all dimensions beyond comparison and blessed everyone with benevolence. It had its own legend, before and after its arrival in Kochi along with the chequered history of the community members, as also their sufferings on various counts. But the past few decades have witnessed the peace and tranqillity that the temple deserves. The Lord rules Kochi with its benevolence showered on all the devotees, irrepective of their leanings.

Though, He took his swayambu form in Vijayanagar for the sake of the Vijayanagara ruler, probably it was His will to become the Ishta Devata of GSBs in Kochi. The image of Lord Venkateswara in­stalled in the Cochin Thirumala Devaswom Temple, according to the legend, originally be­longed to Saluva Narasimha Raya, the Vijayanagar ruler  since 1472 A.D. He was a great devotee of   Venkateswara of Tirumala Hills, and regularly worshipped him at the hill temple. When he became physically incapable of worshipping Him at the hill temple, due to the old age, because of his utmost devotion and faith in the Lord, the Lord decided to sculpt a deity and have it installed in a temple to be constructed nearer to the palace where the king stayed. The plan was executed by letting it be known to the king through a dream and thereafter presenting Himself in the royal court in the garb of a sculptor to make the deity to be installed in the new temple near the palace. As the deity was being sculpted in a closed room, not accessable to anyone, and the Lord after completing its sculpting disappeared, it is believed that the Lord Venkatachalapati Himself, on the pretext of sculpting, taken the form of the deity.

That is the reason to believe that the deity that has travelled all the way from Vijayanagar to Cochin and was installed in the old TD temple and thereafter being sanctified and prayed in the present Tirumala Devaswom Temple at Kochi is a Swayambu.

As the rulers who ruled the Vijayanagar Empire after the death of the King Saluva Narasimha Raya, were selfish and cruel and were not ruling the kingdom in the dharmic traditions, the empire started falling apart and completely fallen to the bad times. Due to the negligence in caring for the general public and loosing its(empire’s) splendour due to the adharmic ways, a great fire swept the city and destroyed most of it. As the priest of the temple had a dream of the impending calamity, he took the deity and kept it in a dilapidated well nearby.

Swami Vijayeendra Thirtha of Kumbakonam Mutt of Madhwacharya lineage, while on a pilgrimage to the various holy centres, unknowingly made a halt near the dilapidated well, where the image of Lord Venkateswara was lying. During his daily spiritual chores, a Serpent with raised hood appeared in front of the Swami showing the sign to follow. Swamiji followed the serpent. After crawling a small distance, the ser­pent went down to the dilapidated well and dis­appeared. To his surprise, when Swamiji looked down at the bottom of the dilapidated well, he saw the Image of Venkateswara lying at the bot­tom of the well. Swamiji took the image in his hands, went to his abode and performed the pooja for the image. After a few days of stay at the place, Swamiji continued his journey.

During his spiritual journey, one night, Swamiji had a dream to carry the Image to Cochin, where the Lord wished that His Image should be installed permanently. Swamiji accordingly travelled to Cochin. He was received by Mala Pai, the leader of the Cochin GSB Mahajan. By seeing the splendour of the Image, he requested Swamiji  to hand over the Image to him for worship by the GSB Mahajan. Swami Vijayeendra Thirtha agreed to hand over the resplendent idol of Tirumala Venkateswara to Mala Pai, provided he performs a Kanakabhishekam in such a way that the deity is fully covered by the gold coins. As the condition could not be fulfilled with the gold in the possession of Mala Pai, he requested the GSB Mahajan to contribute their mite. As soon as the contributions poured in from the mahajan, the Kanakabhishekam of the deity, as per the condition of Swami Vijayeendra Thirtha could be successfully performed. It is believed that the Lord wished to remain in Cochin as the Protector and the Harbinger of Prosperity for the Mahajan and the people all around, and not as the benefactor of one individual. Swamiji conceived this idea, because he had a premonition of the results of the happenings, and swamiji wanted that the Lord belong to the community at large as desired by the Lord Himself and conveyed as such to the Swamiji in his dream.However, Swamiji returned all that gold to the GSB Mahajan.

Later, a temple was constructed for the Lord and Swami Sudheendra Thirtha, the immediate successor of Swami Vijayeendra Thirtha of Kumbakonam Mutt performed the first prathishta of Lord Venkateswara at Cochin in the year 1599 A.D. in the Lunar month of Chaithra on Pournami day, when the moon was in conjuction with Chitra star. To commemorate the First Prathishta, an eight day festival, called ‘Arat’, was introduced in the temple, which continues even today.

Because of the trading skills of the community and the sincerity and honesty shown in all affairs, Raja Veera Kerala Varma of Cochin granted certain rights and privileges to the GSB community of Cochin in the year 1627.

In 1644, H. H. Srimad Upendra Thirtha Swami of Sri Kashi Mutt Samsthan gave directions and instructions for the performance of rituals and for the administration of the temple.

In 1648, the Cochin King permitted the GSBs, civil and criminal powers to be exercised by them within a well-defined boundary of their settlement. The GSBs could secure all these privileges in Cochin because of their skill and ability as overseas traders.

The temple was destroyed on 2nd March 1662 by the Portuguese. The houses of Konkanies were plundered and markets looted and the community fled with the Image of Venkateswara to Udayamperur nearby Tripunithura for safety. They remained there for nearly 10 months. The Dutch who came over Cochin defeated the Portuguese in a war on 6th January 1663 and established their rule at Fort premises of Cochin. The community came down to Cochin with the image and re­-established their settlement in Cochin with the help of the Dutch. A new temple for the Lord was constructed and the second Prathista of the Image of Lord Venkateswara was per­formed by Swami Devendra Tirtha of Sri Kashi Mutt along with his disciple Swami  Madhavendra Tirtha in the year 1719 A.D.

The Dutch who built their factories in Cochin and monopolised the trade of the port, relied on the GSBs for securing goods like pepper, rice, forest products etc. The Dutch company had secured in 1663 the privilege of extra-territoriality for the Konkanis and Christians in the Cochin kingdom. The privilege permitted the trial of all suits filed by and against Konkanis and the local Christian subjects of the Cochin province, in the Courts of the Dutch Company. The Konkanis were saved from lot of harassment by the other local population. They secured this privilege, because, they were the people whose help the Dutch needed most for their commercial transactions, and the local Christians because, they were the co-religionists of the Dutch.

Sakthan Thampuran who ruled Cochin during the year 1791 A.D  got jealous on seeing the prosperity of the community. He plundered the temple and killed some of the prominent community members in-charge of the temple. Shops belonging to the community were looted. The community with the Image of  Lord Venkateswara fled to Alleppey for safety and stayed there. After the Raja’s death in 1805 A.D, the Konkanies of Cochin made attempts to bring back the Tirumala Venkateswara image to its original place at Cochin.

As the prosperity and the enormous growth of Alleppy and its thriving sea port, after the installation of the Venkateswara Deity is attributed to the Lord, the Government of Travancore did not wish to part with the Deity. The GSB community was gifted with land and other resources and the Travancore government also built a suitable temple for the Deity to be installed, The Government of Travancore took keen interest on retaining the Image on Travancore soil. The state of uncertainty continued for almost 60 years.

The desperate Konkanies of Cochin planned the recovery of the Image by hook or crook. Ultimately, the the Lord’s image was clandestinely brought back to Cochin on 8th February 1853, but could not do it in the case of Goddess Lakhsmi’s image. A long legal battle ensued between the two kingdoms,Cochin and Travancore. The Konkanies of Cochin, however, got through all this ordeal and finally the Image was duly reinstalled in the Cochin temple itself with the help and the mediation of English rulers.

The Ruler of Cochin then gave back to the temple most of the properties and jewelleries confiscated by his predecessor.The third Pratistha of the Image of Lord Venkateswara in the present temple constructed by the community was performed on 9th May in the year 1881 A.D by Swami H.H. Swami Bhuvanendra Tirtha of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan along with his disciple Swami H. H. Varadendra Tirtha.

Sri Janardhan Shenoy and Sri Hari Shenoy who were the luminaries of the GSB community gave the family’s Lakshmi Devi image in marriage to Lord Venkateswara installed in the temple and also dedicated a Gold Garuda Vahanam to the temple, besides other contributions to add to the assets of the temple.

31 years following the third Prathistta were glorious. In 1912, this richest temple on the coast was handed over to the Maharaja of Cochin due to internecine quarrels among the administrative hierarchy.During the 37 years that followed, the Mahajan were treated as aliens in their own land and had no voice in the affairs of the temple.Through mediation of our Paramaguru H. H. Sukratheendra Thirtha Swamiji and our Revered Guru H. H. Sudheendra Thirtha Swamiji, the administration of the temple was again transferred back to a Committee of Mahajan in July 1949. First elections to the Devaswom Committee under the new dispensation of 1949 were held in 1951 and it continues to this day.

H. H. Srimad Sukratheendra Thirtha Swamiji attained Samadhi on 27-11-1124 M.E.

Among various festivals that are cel­ebrated in the temple of Cochin, the two Arat festivals in the months of  Vrischigam (November-December) and Medam(March‑April) are famous.

This write-up cannot be complete without mentioning the gratitude expressed by Kochi GSB Mahajan by installing the idols of the Serpent, Swami Vijayeendra Theertha and Vijayanagar King, Saluva Narasimha Raya, who were all instrumental in some form or other to help bring the original Venkateswara Idol to Kochi  and have it installed as the Presiding Deity of the Kochi TD Temple.To enable the community to recall the history and their contributions to the Sacred Cause, a statue of Saluva Narasimha Raya and that of Swamiji are niched in the walls on either side of the main gate of the Papanasam lake. The idol of the Serpent is installed on a separate peetam in the south-western corner of the lake. It is named as ‘Cheppe Nag’, meaning, Serpent of the dilapidated well.

Before I conclude, myself, along with my family, would like to express our gratitude to H.H.Sukratheendra Thirtha Swamiji for his insight and diplomacy and for being instrumental in the easy transition of the Temple administration from the Raja of Cochin to the Cochin Mahajan.

This concludes the background, history and the various struggles undergone by our Ancestors and also the various contributions made by the various GSB community Luminaries,to bequeath for the present and future generations, an Invaluable Spiritual Edifice and the All-powerful, Extremely Benevolent, All-Blissful LORD VENKATESWARA, also called GOSRIPURESA.

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HISTORY OF GSB COMMUNITY

HISTORY OF GSB COMMUNITY

In this blog, we are going to look at the history of the GSB community, the latter part of it  is inextricably tied with the Kochi TD temple, the main presiding Deity in the temple and the Arat festival. Without giving some details of the history, it will be difficult to link the Arat festival and its significance properly. The Kochi TD temple and the presiding Deity have their own historical significances, which will be dealt with in my next blog, before detailing the various events of the 8-day Arat festival.

The history of Saraswats is a record of their struggle for existence and a chain of migrations, the longest and the most wide spread among any community in India. Despite all the tribulations, the community has been able to preserve their culture and traditions intact, over many generations. Their traditions are unique and tolerant that they worship Shakti, Shiva and Vishnu as well.

The exact origin of the Saraswat Brahmins is not known definitely. But, the Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata have references of the community. According to Puranas, Saraswat brahmins are Aryan migrants from Central Asia who are believed to have come down to the Indian sub-continent through the Hindu-Kush mountains and the Khyber pass in about 2000-1500 B.C.

But a generally known origin of  Saraswat Brahmins dates back to the time when they started settling down, on reaching the Indian sub-continent, on the banks of the long extinct river Saraswati, which was flowing along the present Punjab and Rajastan. They derived their name either from the river Saraswati or from the then spiritual leader and great sage, known as Saraswat Muni, who lived on the banks of  Saraswati. Throughout the course of history, the Saraswat Brahmins have migrated to many different locations and are presently found in large colonies mostly on the western coast of India.

Most of these migrants settled down on the banks of Saraswati river. They took to an agrarian life, supported by cattle grazing. These migrants came to be known as Saraswats. Education was of great importance to the Saraswats and so they taught their young, the Sanskrit language and enlightened themselves from the Rig Veda. Although they spoke Sanskrit in public, they innovated a simplified version of Sanskrit called Brahmani which they spoke only at home. This language was the grass-root for the present day Konkani language. Over the years along the Saraswati, the Saraswats established the concept of Kuladevatas or family gods, and began worshipping them.

They accepted the Great Sage Saraswat Muni, living on the banks of Saraswati as their Guru. When a severe famine which lasted for about 12 years hit the region and the crops were not enough to feed everyone, the survival of the Saraswats became very difficult.

Historians suspect that after a few thousand years of flowing, the glaciers which were the source of the river started getting depleted of its potential and the region began to dry out and became non-existent by 1000 BC. The entire region started becoming arid and with no means of growing their crops, the Saraswats had no choice but to move to other places for their survival. The migration happened not overnight, but spread over centuries. The Saraswats migrated in three directions and mostly followed the river routes and migrated to the south-west (Sind), north (Kashmir) and east (Bihar).

The migrations to south-west followed the course of the river Saraswati and went up to Dwaraka and then by ship to Goa.

The second route of migration was to Kashmir. The traditions of Brahmins of Kashmir indicate that all brahmins in Kashmir are Saraswats. In the 14th Century, the Muslim rulers of Kashmir commenced persecution of the Hindus. Saraswats left on a large scale, and only a few families remained in Kashmir.

The Saraswats who moved south-east mainly followed the Ganges and reached Trihotrapura or modern Tirhut in upper Bihar. This was in 400-350 BC. The major settlements were in Kanyakubja (Kanpur area), Magadha and Mithila. The Lichhavis were the ruling dynasty then, to be followed later by the Mauryas. With their inherent adaptability, the Saraswats easily mingled with the locals, but did not try to compete with them in agriculture, their major occupation in that area. Instead, they relied on their superior intellect and educational background to secure administrative positions in the Lichhavi Kingdom based at Vaishali. The Saraswats lived in this area during the reign of the Maurya and Pala dynasty. After the Pala kings, the kingdom was plundered repeatedly by hordes of Muslim invaders and local kings from central India.

Life in Magadha became quite unbearable for the Saraswats, and so, around 1000 AD, almost 1500 years after they left the Saraswat desh, the Saraswats decided to move again. This time, however, they moved out mainly in two groups. One group (from Kanyakubja) moved east and settled in Bengal, where in the course of time they took to the Bengali culture. Another group (from Mithila) moved southwards and reached the Godavari river, and then proceeded along the south bank towards the source of Godavari near Nasik. They continued their journey till they reached Goa and thence to Gokarna Mandala in uttar kannada district, which was the southernmost settlement of ancient Aryans. As they migrated from Trihotrapura, which was in Gowda Desh they prefixed Gowda and called themselves Gowda Saraswats to distinguish themselves from the Brahmins of South India. The migration from Bihar to Gomantak is recorded in the Sahyadri Khanda of Skanda Purana.

Goa was chosen mainly for its fertile soil and sea ports with flourishing overseas trade. Another reason for their migration into Goa and its surrounding regions, presently known as Konkan, is the marital relationships between the Kadamba king Jayakeshi (1050-1080 AD) of Goa and a Saraswat king from Trihotra. Some historians believe that the king of Trihut sent ninety six families from ten gothras to the new land to propagate religion and philosophy at the request of the Kadamba king.

The first migration (700 BC) to Goa by Saraswats was directly from the Saraswat river banks  via Kutch and southwards mostly through sea routes.

Those Gowda Saraswats who were intelligent and lucky got royal patronage and positions in governance in due course of time. But the opportunities in these familiar professions were limited in Goa at that time. So, some enterprising Gowda Saraswats branched out into the practice of trading. The successes of these pioneering Gowda Saraswat traders encouraged many other Gowda Saraswats to whole-heartedly adopt trading as a main-stream profession.

Migration from Goa

In 11th century, several Gowda Saraswat families migrated to Thane and Kalyan (in Maharashtra) and started sea trade. In the 12th century, some families from Goa went south to Honavar, Bhatkal, Mangalore, Tellicherry and Calicut to set up trade. Around the same time, another group of Gowda Saraswats went to Gokarn in Karnataka, purchased land and became landowners. Some others who followed, joined services under Sonde and Vijayanagar kings in Belgaum and Dharwad areas.

Conversion to Vaishnavism

The Gowda Saraswats in Goa originally believed in Smarta tradition. Shri Madhavacharya , founder of Dwaita philosophy, during his return journey from North India visited Goa in 1294. Attracted by his Dwaita philosophy, many gowda saraswats converted to Vaishnavism.  The conversion formalities were completed by Padmanabha Tirtha, who was appointed head of Uttaradi Mutt. During his chathurmas,  he converted large number of Gowda Saraswats. His disciples also converted Gowda Saraswats who had gone to Thane in North and Calicut in South.  Despite their conversion, they did not discard their attachment to the Shaiva gods. Many of their Kuladevatas were Shaivite (Nagesh, Ramanath, etc) and also connected with Shakti (Shanteri Kamakshi, Mahalasa).

Migration to Kerala

The migration of GSBs to Kerala were mainly in two phases – in the 13th century (the exodus of 1294 AD) and subsequently in the 16th century (1560 AD) during the Portuguese rule.

A few members of the Saraswat community migrated from Goa and settled down in Cochin since the early part of 13th century A.D. Owing to certain religious disputes some Saraswats from Sasasti(Goa) were forced to leave their adopted country, Goa, with their idols in 1294 A.D. and travelled southward to the territory of His Highness, the Raja of Cochin. They formed themselves into a community which they named Konkanastha Mahajanam and later came to be known as Konkanis. The Raja of cochin took them under his protection. An area of land was given to them and helped to build a Temple and also made arrangements for the conduct of festivals in the temple built by them. There still remains a plot of land in Cochin called Sastiparambu to commemorate the fact that the Saraswats of Cochin originally belonged to Sasasti (Salcette).

By 1360 AD, there were about 150 families of Gowda Saraswat Brahmins at Tellicherry and most of them were engaged in trade. Other settlements were at Kasargode, Kumbala, Manjeshwar and Hosdrug. In fact, Saraswats were already there when Vasco da Gama arrived Calicut in 1498.  When the king of Cochin exempted Gowda Saraswats from the levy of toll tax, they came in large numbers and settled at Cochin as traders. In fact, the 360 families of Gowda Saraswats that migrated to Cochin were the pick of the Goa Saraswats and eventually became rich and powerful.

The local Brahmins did not recognise Saraswats as Brahmins and were not allowed inside the Kerala temples. This was mainly because many Saraswats were fish eating and some of them came to Kerala by sea. In those days crossing the sea was considered inauspicious by the Brahmins. The GSBs wanted to establish own temples and started worshipping their Kuladevatas in homes and settlements. By and by, the Kerala GSBs  gave up fish eating to establish as Brahmins.

The migration of GSBs to Kerala were mainly in two phases – in the 13th and 14th century and subsequently in the 16th century (1560 AD) in large numbers.

The Saraswat migrations reached its peak during the second exodus from Goa (in 1560 AD). Many of them came to Calicut, but were not welcomed by the Ruler Samoothiri of Calicut. So they moved still southwards. The first batch settled in Cherai, the area between Azheekal and Elankunnapuzha in the Vypeen island. In 1565 AD the idol of Lord Varaha brought from Goa by the settlers was installed at Cherai. In search of trading opportunities, some moved along the sea coast and settled in places like Alleppey, Purakkad and Kayamkulam. However, the major concentration was in Cochin area. They called their place of settlement Gosripuram. They belonged to the Madhwa cult and had links with the Kumbakonam mutt. The Saraswats settled in Cochin, set up temples of their Kuladevtas.

The social life of GSBs was inseperable from the temples and hence their social exchanges with the locals were limited. Most of the new GSB settlers in Kerala were very poor. However they managed to get Royal patronage and free land for establishing their temples. Only a few (who migrated in the first phase, mainly traders in Cochin and Kasargod) were well off. They took control of the temples and the vast lands associated with it. The poor dispersed further in search of opportunities and doing petty business like pappad making and cooking. The GSBs thus belonged to 3 classes – businessmen, landlords and poor.

In 1627 A.D, Vira Kerala Varma Raja of Cochin gave the Konkanis certain rights and privileges such as exemption from payment of succession fee, permision to construct houses with bricks, mortar and wood and also to conduct business from Cochin with foreign countries. This is considered as the turning point for the the Konkani community in Kerala. After this the Gowda Saraswats became supreme in trade and commerce. Again in 1648 A.D, the Raja of Cochin, Vira Kerala Varma, gave the community the civil and criminal powers to be exercised by them within the well-defined boundary of their settlement called Sanketam.  The Saraswats could secure all these privileges in Cochin because of their skill and ability as overseas traders.

The Saraswats had migrated from Goa during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, but the exodus became thicker after the entry of the Portuguese in Goa in the 16th century. In 1510 A.D,  Panaji was captured by the Portuguese general, Alfonso Albuquerque from the Adil Shah dynasty of Bijapur, and the Portuguese rule was established. At first, the Portuguese did not interfere with the locals. They employed Hindus and engaged them in their armies, and they maintained good trade relations with the Hindu empire of Hampi. When different Christian missionaries arrived in Goa, some sort of religious intolerance began. The Hindu temples were being destroyed and conversions were being forced on the GSBs. The official figures show that 280 temples in Berdez and 300 temples in Salcette were destroyed. The Portuguese built churches in many places where the temples stood. In 1559 A. D, King Joao III of Portugal issued a decree threatening expulsion or execution of non-believers in Christianity. They were forced to eat beef. This was perhaps the worst of times seen by the Konkani people. The Saraswats who were poor and belonged to lower strata got converted to christianity and the rich had the power to resist conversion and stayed back in Goa. Those belonged to the middle class who refused conversion had to flee.

Having thrown the idols of their Kuladevatas (resident deities) into wells, thousands of Saraswath Brahmin families fled to interior Maharashtra and coastal Karnataka. About 12,000  families from the Sasashti District of Goa fled by ships to the southern ports from Honavar to Kozhikode. Many settled down at these ports, which already contained Saraswat traders and spread into the interior. About 4,000 went north-east to settle down in Maharashtra and Indore, and others went south to settle in Karwar and South Kanara. It is said that once tensions died down, the Brahmin men alone travelled back to their native places and brought back their Kuladevatas. The families who escaped were never to see Goa again. The last of those who were expelled by the Portuguese from Goa landed in Calicut, Kerala but were driven out by the Zamorin. And so they went to Cochin and Travancore. This happened sometime in the year 1560 A. D.

A saga of travails suffered by our ancestors throughout their history are described above. Despite all these migrations and difficulties, a strong religious, cutural and language bond prevailed throughout. Though there may have been some aberrations here and there, by and large, the Saraswat Brahmins all over, should really be proud of  their ancestors.

As far as Kochi GSBs are concerned, they have continued to suffer till a few decades back. As these details are integral with the history of our Lord Tirumala Devar, they are described in a separate subsequent blog, titled ‘History of Lord Tirumala Devar AND TD TEMPLE’.

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ARAT IN KOCHI TD TEMPLE-PART 1

ARAT IN KOCHI TD TEMPLE-PART 1-AN INTRODUCTION

How do I describe it ? Call it a festival or Utsav or a sanctified occasion when we do everything to propitiate His divinity or a divine occasion when we try to invoke all our scriptures and do yajnas to imbue the deities with more respledence, a part of it may have been diminishing due to any adverse or negative environment/occurrences. Whatever may it be known as, it definitely imbues immense positive energy in all the participants, by virtue of their being in the environment filled with so much piety, purity, bhakti, devotion, invocation of scriptures and a feeling of a sort of surrender to the Lord. The best of our culture and tradition get sublimated during these 8 days. Whatever you may name , the fact is that, this is one occasion which GSBs are longing and excited to participate in, whether from India or off-shore and make a detailed pre-planning to participate in it. It is possible that many of them are not able to make it due to various exigencies. But, at the first available opportunity, people rush to attend it. It is something to be really excited about. May be, it is due to the divinity of the occasion, grandeure, feeling of spiritual ecstacy on participation in the purifying/sublimating events on all these days. Sometimes, it also forcibly occasions a family union, friend’s reunion, cultivating new acqaintances, etc. It is something which everyone is looking forward to.

It is also an occasion when the Utsav Deities of God and Goddess are taken around the residential localities of most of the GSBs residing around the immediate temple premises, to offer their prayers from the close proximity of each one’s residence, when the Deities can be seen from close quarters and seek their blessings.  No other festival or occasion gives such unique opportunity.Their faith is so deep that nobody from the community in Kochi generally travel outside the city, during Arat festival.

It is an occasion when everyone tries to look their best, irrespective of their standing in the society. This is an occasion for the ladies and the young girls to make the best use of their ward-robes and their ornament chest. The occasion is sparingly used to scout for the eligible boys and girls for the marriage.

Though the Arat festival  procedurally remains same in almost all the GSB temples, with regard to the various pujas, yajnas, etc, a unique thing in Gosripuram temple is the Golden Garuda Vahana Puja on return of the deities to the temple, after the Avabrata Snanam in the temple papanasam lake in the afternoon and the night arti puja.

It is really a majestic and divine sight of the God and Goddess(utsava deities) seated atop almost a two storey high pedestal mounted on the Golden Garuda installed on a wooden vahana(chariot) and decorated beautifully. Thousands of people , some even from other communities, take part in it and offer the artis. The mass spiritual ecstasy felt by all the bhaktas/devotees present during that occasion is really very very difficult to write about, especially when the first large arti by the devaswom is offered.One has to participate to really get a feel of it. The most impressive part of this occasion is the congregation of a massive gathering of not only the local community members, but also many of our community members coming from far-off places in Kerala, to paticipate in it. Garuda Vahana is taken around, covering the full perimeter of the outer prakara of the temple, after which the deities are taken to the Parswa Mandap to perform the pushpa(flower) yajna, recite the mantras from Vedas and Upanishads before the deities are carried to the Sanctum Sanctorum to perform the Mangalaarthi.

Another unique  thing of the Arat is the Dwajastamba. Gosripuram temple does not have a permanent Dwajastamba. Instead, a mast made from an arecanut tree is used for hoisting the Arat flag with the Garuda ensign. Special pujas are conducted for the mast before it is erected as well as for the flag with the Garuda ensign, before arohanam and avarohanam.

The above mentioned introduction is only with respect to some of the gross activities related to the arat, at large. Can we guess how much efforts, energy and co-ordination goes into organising and managing the various events and activities that go on behind the curtain.  Herculean efforts go into the meticulous arrangements, starting from getting the right type of areca nut tree for hoisting the flag with Garuda ensign, various pujas, yajnas, abhishekas, yatras around the temple premises outside the temple boundaries, vahana pujas, Palli Veta, Avabrata snanam in papanasam lake, Garuda vahana puja, preparing the neivedhyams and brahmana bhojanam inside the inner prakara and  preparing the various food items and serving them for the samaradhana to the mahajanam.

Till a few years back, Samaradhana on all the eight days was the norm. Except for the first day and Arat day, samaradhana was sponsored by various well known families of the community. Samaradhana on the first and Arat days was by the devaswom.  As the cost was steadily increasing, the original deposits(swaasti) kept with the devaswom was not found sufficient to meet the expenses of the samaradhana and also the families were not able to increase the swaasti amount on account of the various reasons. Hence, these days, except for the two days, samaradhana is organised only whenever someone sponsors it.On normal days, whenever it is sponsored by any individual, association or group of friends, it attracts an attendance of near about 5000 community members to partake it. On 8th day of arat, the samaradhana is a part of the Arat utsav and members participating in the samaradhana can be any number more than 10000. Seating on the 8th day can go upto the outer boundaries, even stretching on sand, on all the four sides, covering each and every inch of the temple premises inside its boundaries. The arrangement is such that there is hardly any complaint of not getting served even at any of the remote corner. However, second helping is not feasible on this day. But no one returns without partaking the samaradhana. Sometimes, service is extended to the second batch, if members are left out from the first batch. It is a mammoth activity, which is organised and managed so well, that it can be taken as an organisation and management marvel and it is to be seen to be believed. If someone clicks an aerial view of the 8th day samaradhana and the night Garudothsav, it will offer a few awesome and magnificent pictures against the backdrop of the top of  the Sanctum Sanctorum. There cannot be many parallels to these events.

All these require meticulous planning, co-operation, co-ordination and efforts from different groups of people. Volunteering is a major input for almost all the activities during these days and many members participate for different activities willingly. Tireless efforts of many people, viz., Temple President, Adhikari(Administrator), Temple commitee members, Melsanties, Tantri, other 22 pujaris of the main and sub temples, various temple executives, officers, many employees at different levels, for pujas as well as administrative activities, chefs, etc. go into making the Arat so grand and divine and awesome that community members even from outside Kerala should participate and have a glimpse of it and seek the blessings of Lord Venkatachalapathy in this divine atmosphere.

The topic is so divine and vast that if it has to be understood in its true dimension, different aspects related to it, has to be covered. Though Arat has its own significance, it is related to a history of the presiding deities, GSBs migration from Goa to Kochi, the benevolence bestowed on the community by the Rajas of Cochin and local Dutch government, the desire of the Lord to have Him installed in Gosripuram and finally the desire of the Lord to be the protector and to belong to the Mahajanam of Konkani Community in Gosripuram. Though this is explained in various sites in the Net and can be easily scanned, it will be worth writing the same briefly to have some continuity on my write-up to convey a feel of the real divinity of the presiding deity of the Gosripuram Temple and the Arat.

In Gosripuram temple, Arat is a bi-annual utsav, the main one in the Malayalam month of  Medam(March-April) is called ‘Mahotsavam’ and the second one in the Malayalam month of  Vrichigam(November-December) is called ‘Rathotsavam’. The details  and some minor difference will appear in the third part of my blog.

I plan to do it in three separate blogs, viz. Arat 1-Introduction(the present blog), Arat 2-History  and Arat 3-covering the various events/aspects of the 8-day Utsav.

Though myself and my husband were born and brought up in Cochin and Ernakulam and are conversant with many of the aspects of Arat in Kochi, an interaction with the Chief Priest of the TD temple, Sri. L. Krishna Bhat and his nephew, Sri. Anantha Bhat helped us to refine them. I humbly acknowledge their sincere contributions and express my gratitude for the same.

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VEDA VYASA JAYANTI

VEDA VYASA  JAYANTI

Birth of Sage Veda Vyasa:

Sage Parasara was a great Jnani and one of the supreme authorities in his time, on astrology and his book Parasara Hora is still a textbook on astrology. Parasara came to know that a child, conceived at a particular moment of time, would be born as the greatest spiritual man of the age.

On that day, Parasara was travelling in a boat and he spoke to the boatman about the nearing of that auspicious time. The boatman had a daughter called Satyavathi, who was of age and awaiting marriage. He was impressed with the sanctity and greatness of the Rishi and offered his daughter in marriage to Parasara. Vyasa was born of this union.

As he was born on a dweepa (island), he is also known as Dwaipaayana. As he was dark in complexion, he is called Krishna Dwaipaayana.

Sri VedaVyasa’s immortal writings inspire the whole world to this day. He divided and arranged the single sacrosanct Veda into four Sub-Vedas, as we are familiar with them today. He is the author of the great epic, Mahabharata, which contains the Bhagavad Gita, the crown jewel of Hindu Scriptures. He also wrote the most chanted Vishnu Sahasranama.

He wrote the Brahma Sutras integrating the messages of the Upanishads relating to Jiva, the Universe and Brahman. He wrote 18 Maha Puranas. Of these 18, Vishnu Purana was compiled by Veda Vyasa’s father, Sage Parasara, but was edited and presented by Vyasa.

He intuitively witnessed the various incidents of the Mahabharata and narrated it to Lord Ganesa for writing. It contains the crown jewel of  Dharma, the Bhagavad Gita.

Vyasa is considered as one of the many Upa-Avataaras of Vishnu.

Vyasa was grandfather to the Kauravas and Pandavas. Their fathers, Dhritarashtra and Pandu, adopted as the sons of Vichitravirya by the royal family, were fathered by him. He had a third son, Vidura, by a serving maid. He had another son, Suka, born of his wife, sage Jabali’s daughter, Pinjala (Vatika), and is considered his true spiritual heir. He makes occasional appearances in the story as a spiritual guide to the young princes.

Sri VedaVyasa is the repository of all spiritual knowledge and who has illuminated the world through his divine literary accomplishments.

Veda Vyasa is known to be born on Shuklapaksha Trayodasi day in the month of Vaisakha and the day is celebrated as Veda Vyasa Jayanti. The day is celebrated as a day of emancipation, elevating the mankind from a world of ignorance to the world of knowledge and the underlying spirituality.

There is also another belief that Veda Vyasa was born on the pournami day of Ashaada month(Lunar month), which is also celebrated as Guru Purnima, by many people as a mark of gratitude for his immense contribution of spiritual knowledge to the mankind.

When he wanted to record the great epic Mahabharata for parting the wisdom of spiriuality for the welfare of all people, he was feeling the necessity of finding a powerful writer, who could take his dictation. As proposed by Brahma, Lord Ganesha took the responsibility of writing. Lord Ganesh agreed, on the condition that Veda Vyasa would not stop dictation even for a moment. The Mahabharata was thus compiled by the joint endeavour of Veda Vyasa and Lord Ganesha.

Every scripture in Hinduism begins with adoring salutations to Sri VedaVyāsa. No other name in the Indian spiritual pantheon and culture evokes such reverential sentiment and stirs widespread awe as that of  Sri VedaVyasa.

CELEBRATION BY GSBs

As Veda Vyasa, a sage and acharya unparalleled, gifted the immense knowledge of  Vedas and other Sastras and helped illuminate the mankind on the meaning of Jiva, World and Brahman and for infusing the requisite spirituality in our day to day life, Veda Vyasa has been chosen as the presiding Deity of Kasi Mutt Sanstan and befitting Pujas are done by our Swamijis everyday. Special Pujas are conducted on Vyasa Jayanti day, to suit its solemnity.

Vyasa Jayanti is observed by GSBs on Shuklapaksha Trayodasi day in the month Vaisakha.

Special archanas and abhishekas are offered to Veda Vyasa on this day, propitiating him through Lord Mahavishnu in all the GSB temples. Veda recitation is also done in the temples to commemorate the day.

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DASAVATARA-MYTHOLOGICAL ASPECTS AND MAHATMYAM

DASAVATAR- MYTHOLOGICAL ASPECTS AND MAHATMYAM

The mythological reasons for the ten avatars as per Hindu philosophy are given below.

Ten Avatars:

1. Matsya (the fish)

2. Kurma (the tortoise)

3. Varaha (the Boar)

4. Narasimha (half man and half lion)

5. Vaman (dwarf)

6. Parasuram

7. Rama

8. Balarama

9. Krishna

  1. Matsya avatar was taken by Maha Vishnu in Satya Yuga, to save the humanity and the sacred Vedic texts stolen by Hayagreeva(a demon) from Brahma and taken refuge in deep sea. Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as a fish in this world, kills Hayagreeva and restores the Vedas to King Manu. As there was going to be a Pralaya soon after and that the world would come to an end by a huge flood in seven days and to survive this and move on to the next yuga, Lord Vishnu in Matsyavatar told King Manu that he has to build a huge boat and take the seven sages, seeds of all plants, one animal of each type along with him. The Matsya told Manu that he would appear on the seventh day to propel the boat to Mt Himavan. True to his word, Lord Vishnu, in the form of Matsya, appeared before Manu and propelled the boat to Mt Himavan and kept them there till the flood receded, thus saving the world from the worst catastrophy and also restored the Vedas to the posterity.                                                   The Matsya Jayanti falls on the Trithiya day in shuklapaksha of the month of Chaitra.
  2. The Kurma Avatar was taken by Lord Vishnu to restore to the Devas their pre-eminent position over the demons. This avatar incarnated in Satya Yuga.The Devas were cursed by Sage Durvasa for their indolence and arrogance, thereby sapping all their powers and also immortality. Mahavishnu in Kurmavatar helps the Devas to obtain amrut, the nectar of immortality and gain strength. He asks the Devas to churn the ocean of milk after adding medicines into the ocean, using Mt Manthara as the churning stick and the serpent Vasuki as rope. He persuades the Asuras (Demons) by offering a share of nectar, in exchange for helping Devas to churn the ocean. Both the devas and the asuras started churning the ocean,using the serpent Vasuki as the rope. But as churning was proceeding, the mountain kept sinking. It is then the Lord Vishnu took the form of the Kurma(turtle), to keep the mountain afloat and help continue the churning. As soon as the nectar appeared, the asuras grabbed it. As it would mean destruction, if the Demons had nectar, Maha Vishnu took the form of a beautiful maiden and seduced them into allowing her to distribute the nectar herself. Soon after the devas were served, the maiden disappeared by deceiving the Asuras.                                                                                                                        The Kurma Jayanti falls on the day of Dwitiya in Shuklapaksha of the month of Vaisakha.
  3. Varaha Avatar in SatyaYugawas taken by Lord Vishnu to save Goddess Earth from sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Brahma gives a boon to a demon named Hiranyaksha that no beast nor man nor god could kill him. But somehow Boar was not in the list. Hiranyaksha starts destruction by pushing Goddess Earth to the Sea. He also steals the Holy Scriptures, the Vedas, from the Lord Brahma while he was sleeping. Maha Vishnu incarnates himself as a Boar and raised the goddess Earth out of the ocean using his two tusks. After that he kills the Demon and retrieves the Vedas from him, thus ending the destruction caused by the Asura.                         Varaha Jayanti falls on the day of Chathurthi in Shuklapaksha in the month of Shravan.
  4. Narsimha Avatar was taken by Lord Vishnu in the Satya Yuga to kill the demon king Hiranyakashyappa who had received a boon from Lord Brahma that he would be neither killed by a man or beast, nor in daylight or at night, neither inside or outside a building and neither on earth nor in the sky. Because of this boon Hiranyakashyappa considered himself as immortal and Supreme God of all and wanted none but him to be worshiped by all. But his son Prahlada who was a staunch devotee of Maha Vishnu politely refused to do so.Angered by this, he tries to kill Prahlada in various ways but he remains uneffected. When the king asks Prahlad as to what superior quality he sees in Lord Vishnu for worshiping Him, Prahlad answers that Vishnu is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. When the king asks whether Lord Vishnu is present in the insentient pillars of his palace and Prahlad answers ‘yes’ to that, Hiranyakashyappa breaks one of the pillars with the help of his mace, when Lord Vishnu in the form of Narasimha(half man-half lion) appears from the pillar and drags Hiranyakashyappa to the entrance of the large palace hall, keeps him on his thighs and kills by tearing his stomach by using his claws, by not violating any of the conditions stipulaled by the asura for not killing him. It was dusk at that time, which is neither day time nor night time, another condition stipulated by him.                            Narasimha Jayanti falls on the day of Chathurdasi in Shuklapaksha of  the month of Vaisakha.
  5. Vamana Avatar in Treta Yuga, was taken by Lord Vishnu  in order to destroy Bali, the king of demons and Grandson of Prahlada.  A descendant of Hiranyakashipu, empowered by severe penance, defeated Indra, the king of the Devas and conquered the whole world. Fearing that he would overcome all the three worlds (heaven, earth and the nether worlds), the Devas appealed to Vishnu. Taking birth in a Brahmin family and growing up to be a dwarf, Vishnu approached Bali for alms, when the latter was performing a religious sacrifice. Bali, in an expansive mood promised him whatever he wanted–which was as much land as he could cover in three strides. Vishnu then covered heaven and earth in two strides to emancipate the Devas and banished Bali to the nether world, by measuring the third stride by keeping the feet on Bali’s head.Lord Vamana is the 5th Avatar among the ten dashavatars of Lord Vishnu. According to the Puranic texts of Hinduism, Vamana Avatar is the first incarnation of the Second Age, or the Treta yuga and also the first Avatar of Mahavishnu which appears in a completely human form, that of a dwarf Brahmin. The legend of Bhagavata states that the Vamana avatar was taken by Vishnu to restore Indra’s authority over the heavens, which was taken away by the King Bali. Vamana Jayanti falls on Dwadasi day in Shuklapaksha of the month Baadrapad.
  6. Parasurama Avatar of Lord Vishnu is in Treta Yuga, to kill the Kshatriya kings of the earth who had become arrogant and were harming people and saints in the forest. Lord Vishnu incarnated as Parsurama, a Brahmin, born to Jamadagni and Renuka and belonging to the Brighu clan. Parasurama always carried an axe presented to him by Lord Shiva.His name is derived from the axe-like weapon (Parsu) he carried, which was a gift from Shiva.  One day King Kartavirya stole the Kamadhenu cow from Jamadagni’s home. Enraged by this, Jamadagni went and killed the king and brought Kamadhenu back. Angered by this, the son of the king killed Jamadagni. On hearing what happened to his father, Parasurama went and avenged the death of his father by killing all the kshatriyas.                                                                                                     Parasurama Jayanti falls on the Tritiya day(Akshaya Tritiya) in Shuklapaksha of the month of Vaisakha.
  7. RAMA Avatar was in Treta Yuga.  In this Avatar, Vishnu incarnates himself as Rama, the Kshatriya king, central to the Ramayana epic. By far, one of the most popular avatars along with Krishna of Hindu mythology, Rama exemplifies the ideal son, king, father and man. The legend is about ‘good’ triumphing over ‘evil’-the slaying of Ravana, the demon king.                                                                                            The Ramayana speaks of how the Goddess Earth (Bhumidevi), came to the Lord Creator, Brahma, begging to be rescued from evil kings who were plundering her resources and destroying life through bloody wars and evil conduct. The Devas also came to Brahma fearful of the rule of Ravana, the ten-headed rakshasa emperor of Lanka. Ravana had overpowered the Devas and now ruled the heavens, the earth and the netherworlds. Although a powerful and noble monarch, he was also arrogant, destructive and a patron of evil doers. He had boons that gave him immense strength and was invulnerable to all living and celestial beings, except man and animals. Brahma, Bhumidevi and the Devas worshipped Vishnu, the Preserver, for deliverance from Ravana’s tyrannical rule. Vishnu promised to kill Ravana by incarnating as a man in the garb of the eldest son of Kosala’s king, Dasaratha.Vishnu’s eternal companion, the Ananta Sesha is said to have incarnated as Lakshmana, to stay at his Lord’s side on earth. Throughout his life, no one, except himself and a few select sages, among which are included Vasishta, Sharabhanga, Agastya and Vishwamitra knew of his destiny.                                                                 Rama’s life and journey is one of perfect adherence to dharma, despite harsh tests of life and time. He had been an ideal man and a perfect human. For the sake of his father’s honour, Rama abandons his claim to Kosala’s throne to serve an exile of fourteen years in the forest. His wife, Sita and brother, Lakhsmana, unable to live without Rama, decide to join him, and all three spend the fourteen years in exile together. While in exile, Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, the Rakshasa (Asura) king of Lanka. After a long and arduous search that tests his personal strength and virtue, Rama fights a colossal war against Ravana’s armies. In a war of powerful and magical beings, greatly destructive weaponry and battles, Rama slays Ravana in battle and liberates his wife. Having completed his exile, Rama returns to be crowned king in Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) and eventually becomes emperor, rules with happiness, peace, prosperity and justice—a period known as Rama Rajya.                                                                                                                                                          As a person, Rama personifies the characteristics of an ideal person who deserves to be emulated. He had within him all the desirable virtues that any individual would seek to aspire, and he fulfils all his moral obligations (maryada). Rama’s purity and piety in his intentions and actions inspires affection and devotion for him.For example, he gave up his rightful claim to the throne, and agreed to go into exile for fourteen years, to fulfill the vow that his father had given to Kaikeyi, one of King Dashratha’s wives. This is in spite of the fact that Kaikeyi’s son, Bharat, begged him to return back to Ayodhya and said that he did not want to rule in place of Rama. But Rama considered his dharma as a son, above that of his own birthright and his life’s ambition. For such supreme sacrifices, and many other qualities, Rama is considered a maryada purushottam, upholder of Dharma.                                                                             Rama’s day and time of birth is celebrated by Hindus across the world as Rama Navami. The occasion of victory over Ravana and the rakshasas is celebrated as the 10-day Vijayadashami, also known as Dussehra in North India. The Ram Leela is publicly performed in many villages, towns and cities in North India. Rama’s return to Ayodhya and his coronation are celebrated as Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights. The latter two are the most important and popular festivals in India and for Hindus across the world.                                                                                                          Rama’s birthday is celebrated as Rama Navami and it falls on the ninth day of the Hindu lunar year, Chaitramasa on Shuklapaksha Navami
  8. Lord Balarama: Balarama is the elder brother of the Lord Krishna and is regarded as the eight avatar of Lord Vishnu in Dwapara Yuga. Balarama is also known as Baladeva, Balabhadra and Halayudha. Vaishnavism and various Indian Hindu traditions worship Balarama as one of the Dasavataras of Mahavishnu and he is also listed the same way in the Bhagavata Purana. According to another version of  Hindu mythology, he is said to be a manifestation of Adishesha, the serpent on whom Vishnu rests, as Lord Vishnu incarnates as Sri Krishna, the younger brother of Balarama. Renowned for his loyalty and protection of Sree Krishna, Balarama as a god helps people find magnificent harmony in their lives.                                                                                                                                          He is portrayed with the plough, indicating the beginning of full-fledged cultivation. Human civilization has developed agriculture and was no longer dependent on meat and forest for food. It is the beginning of agrarian economy.Because of the severe threat to their kingdom and all over from Asura king Kamsa and his cohorts, Lord Indra and other gods approached Mahavishnu, to find a way out of this predicament. Mahavishnu promised that He will in the form of Balarama and Krishna destroy the asuras and restore peace and dharma on earth as well as in Lord Indra’s domain.Balarama was born as a son of Vasudeva and Devaki.  Kamsa, the brother of Devaki and an evil king, was intent upon killing all the children of his sister because of a prediction that he would die at the hands of her eighth son. Kamsa thus threw his sister Devaki and her husbandVasudeva into prison, and proceeded to kill each of their children as they were born.Vasudeva’s first wife was Rohini and second wife was Devaki. Devaki got conceived for the seventh time and the Lord made the foetus transferred from the womb of Devaki to that of Rohini. Rohini gave birth to Balarama and raised him. The child was formally named Rama, but because of his great strength he was called Balarama, Baladeva or Balabhadra.He was so powerful that he, single handedly, at a very tender age, killed the great demon, Dhenuka, who had the form of an ass. Another demon tried to carry off Balaram on his shoulders, but the young boy beat out the demon’s brain with his fist.When Shri Krishna went to Mathura, Balaram accompanied him and supported him till Kamsa was killed by Shri Krishna. He also taught Duryodhana and Bheem, the use of the mace. His chief weapon is plough.Those who hold the view that Balaram was not incarnation of Lord Vishnu but of the great serpent Sesha on whom Lord Vishnu reclines, claim that the ninth avatar is Buddha.                                                                                                               Balarama was born under Shravana nakshatra on Shraavana Purnima day.
  9. Lord Krishna:The ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Dwapara Yuga is Krishna. He represents the advancing human civilization.

    When Dharma was showing signs of decline, Rama appeared to protect the earth and righteousness (Dharma). It was for these purposes that the Rama Avatar took place.

    By the time of Balarama and Krishna Avatar, the forces of wickedness had grown to very great proportions. Krishna was not concerned much about the earth or other mundane things.His main concern was with Dharma. When Dharma is firmly established, the earth and the Dharma do get automatically protected.

    The birth of Krishna is in itself a transcendental phenomenon that generates awe among the Hindus and overwhelms one and all with its supra-mundane happenings.

    Mother Earth, unable to bear the burden of sins committed by evil kings and rulers, appealed to Brahma, the Creator for help. Brahma prayed to the Supreme Lord Vishnu, who assured him that he would soon be born on earth to annihilate tyrannical forces.
    One such evil force was Kamsa, the ruler of Mathura (in northern India) and his people were utterly terrified of him. On the day Kamsa’s sister Devaki was married off to Vasudeva, an akashvani or voice from the sky was heard prophesying that Devaki’s 8th son would be the destroyer of Kamsa. The frightened Kamsa immediately unsheathed his sword to kill his sister but Vasudeva intervened and implored Kamsa to spare his bride, and promised to hand over every new born child to him. Kamsa relented but imprisoned both Devaki and her husband Vasudeva.

    When Devaki gave birth to her first child, Kamsa came to the prison cell and slaughtered the newborn. In this way, he killed the first six sons of Devaki. Even before her 8th child was born, Devaki and Vasudeva started lamenting its fate and theirs. Then suddenly Lord Vishnu appeared before them and said he himself was coming to rescue them and the people of Mathura. He asked Vasudeva to carry him to the house of his friend, the cowherd chief, Nanda in Gokula, right after his birth, where Nanda’s wife Yashoda had given birth to a daughter.
    He was to exchange his boy and bring Yashoda’s baby daughter back to the prison. Vishnu assured them that nothing shall bar your path.

    At midnight on ashtami, the divine baby was born in Kamsa’s prison. Remembering the divine instructions, Vasudeva clasped the child to his bosom and started for Gokula, but found that his legs were in chains. He jerked his legs and was unfettered! The massive iron-barred doors unlocked and opened up.

    While crossing river Yamuna, Vasudeva held his baby high over his head. The rain fell in torrents and the river was in spate. But the water made way for Vasudeva and miraculously a five-mouthed snake followed him from behind and provided shelter over the baby.
    When Vasudeva reached Gokula, he found the door of Nanda’s house open. He exchanged the babies and hurried back to the prison of Kamsa with the baby girl. Early in the morning, all the people at Gokula rejoiced the birth of Nanda’s beautiful male child. Vasudeva came back to Mathura and as he entered, the doors of the prison closed themselves.
    When Kamsa came to know about the birth, he rushed inside the prison and tried to kill the baby. But this time it skipped from his hand and reaching the sky. She was transformed into the goddess,’Yogamaya’, who told Kamsa that his nemesis is already safe elsewhere.
    Kamsa tried many ways to kill Krishna, but all attempts failed and Krishna grew up in Gokul along with Balarama. Once, both of them were invited to the palace of  Kamsa to be his guests. Kamsa used many indirect tricks to kill Krishna. When everything failed, both of them started fighting directly and in the process killed Kamsa and all his cohorts and liberated his parents from the prison and also released King Ugrasen and all others imprisoned by Kamsa. Ugrasen was then installed as king of Mathura.
    Besides killing Kamsa, Krishna had also to impart and teach the philosophy of life and right living to the mankind, so that Peace, Harmony and Dharmic ways prevailed on the earth for the future . For this, He had to choose a battle field at kurushetra, where Pandavas of the right dharmic order and Kauravas and their friendly kings, who were all demonic in nature fought a no-holds barred battle. Pandavas and Kauravas were the sons of two real brothers. The war was a real fight between the arrogant, egoistic and greedy Kaurava family and Pandavas, who had dharmic disposiion to the core.When Krishna’s peace efforts failed to bring camaradarie between the cousins and when Duryodhana chose the army of Krishna to fight for him and Pandavas had to satisfy themselves by having Krishna as their guide. philosopher and strategist. Pandavas were aware that having Krishna on their  side is the best possible asset to win the war. They had the confidence that they will never loose the war, when Krishna is on their side.
    Once the war was about to start, Arjuna becomes despodent by seeing many of the venerated elders and gurus, close relatives and friends and becoming the cause of the death of many of them. That is when the great Song of Life was given the birth by Lord Krishna, in the form of conveying the secrets of life, living and the philosophy behind it, to Arjuna, his closest friend, in the form of Bhagawat Gita. It is one of the most beautiful and succint forms of Vedic and Upanishadic teachings. Having got himself encouraged and rejuvenated by hearing the philosophy enunciated by Lord Krishna, Arjuna got up and decided to fight the war with full vigour.
    It was only because of the various strategies formulated by Krishna, the charioteer, strategist and guide of Arjuna, Pandavas were able to decimate many of the invincible opponents like Bheeshma, Dronacharya, Karna, etc, who were otherwise would have been very very difficult to vanquish.
    The sum and substance of the Krishna’s teaching is how to remain in equanimity in any of the life’s situation, favourable or unfavourable, and discharge one’s own duties and responsibilities(Karma) without any fear and favour and by taking refuge and surrendering everything  at Brahman’s feet, without getting attached yourselves to any of your possessions, how can you win the war of life. It also tells you, how transient is this life form and how it discards the material body at the old age and transcends to another body at the appropriate time, depending upon how the individual performed during the span of his life.
    The greatest blessing from Krishna, the ninth incarnation of Mahavishnu, to the mankind, is the Life’s War Song,in the form of Bhagawat Gita. It is the elixir of life.It depicts a realistic and practical way for living a good, peaceful and happy life.That is a very good reason for Hindus, especially vaishnavites, to have him as the most lovable and venerable God. 
    Krishna’s birthday was on an ashtami day and it is celebrated as Janmashtami by all Hindus and it is one of the most celebrated festivals in Hindu calendar. It falls at mid-night in Krishnapaksha of Shravan month.
    10.Kalki Avatar-The tenth incarnation of Lord Vishnu  will be Kalki and is yet to happen. He is supposed to ride on a swift horse Devadatha and destroy the world. It is a clear indication that human beings will bring an end to life on earth.But today, these divine and demoniac forces are battling in each human being. This is the mark of the Kali yuga. The numerous natural calamities caused by the human beings, because of their greed, selfishness and the crass indifference shown to the nature and the spirituality and the numerous nuclear weapons stored will stand testimony to it.

    After complete annihilation, Lord Vishnu alone floats on a pipal  life – perhaps the last remaining life form. Millions of years after the complete annihilation, life will begin again in water.

    Buddha, the ascetic prince is listed as an avatar of Vishnu in some Hindu scriptures in place of Balarama. This avatar of Mahavishnu appears in the Kaliyuga when the true devotion to Vedas was replaced by empty rituals. To enlighten the world, Lord Vishnu descended the earth as Buddha, the enlightened one. In this avatar he teaches the world that in order to remain happy one has to curb all attachments and desires . Buddha was born as the crown prince of Kapilavastu born to Mayadevi, the wife of Sakya King Shuddhodana, in the Lumbini forest and was named Siddarth. In the due course he gets married and even has a child. Siddhartha who was saddened by the sorrows around him renounced the throne to find out the meaning and the absolute truth and to lead the world on the path of peace. He leads a hermit’s life in the forest and one day became the enlightened one. His teachings sow the seeds to the religion of Buddhism which is now very popular across the whole world. Gauthama Buddha preached about the necessity to follow a balanced and harmonious way of life.

    Buddha Purnima festival is celebrated to mark the birth of Lord Buddha. Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti is celebrated with traditional religious fervour. Buddha Purnima falls on the full moon day in the Hindu lunar month of Vaisakh. Lord Buddha was born on the Full Moon day in the month of Vaisakh in 563 BC. Here, it is interesting to note that Buddha achieved enlightenment and nirvana (salvation) on the same day.

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