Makar Sankranti Known as Utrayan , Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious day for the Hindus, and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervor & gaiety. Lakhs of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar & Prayag and pray to Lord Sun. It is celebrated with pomp in southern parts of the country as Pongal, and in Punjab is celebrated as Lohri & Maghi. not only look reverentially up to the sun, but also offer thousands of their colorful oblations in the form of beautiful kites all over the skyline. They may be trying to reach upto their glorious Bhagvan or bring about greater proximity with the one who represents the best. Makar Sankranti is the day when the glorious Sun-God of Hindus begins its ascendancy and entry into the Northern Hemisphere. Sun for the Hindus stands for Pratyaksha-Brahman – the manifest God, who symbolizes, the one, non-dual, self-effulgent, glorious divinity blessing one & all tirelessly. Sun is the one who transcends time and also the one who rotates the proverbial Wheel of Time. The Gayatri Mantra, which is chanted everyday by every faithful devotees is directed to Sun God to bless them with intelligence & confidance, Bhagvan shri Krishna has said in Bhagvad Gita that this manifested divinity was his first disciple, and we all know it to be indeed a worthy one too. On Makar Sankranti day the Sun begins its ascendancy and journey into the Northern Hemisphere, and thus it signifies an event wherein the Gods seem to remind their children that ‘Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya’. May you go higher & higher – to more & more Light and never to darkness. Astrological Significance: Makar means Capricorn and Sankranti is transition. There is a sankranti every month when the sun passes from one sign of the zodiac to the next. There are twelve signs of the zodiac, and thus there are twelve sankranti’s as well. Each of these sankranti’s has its own relative importance but two of these are more important – the Mesh (Aries) Sankranti and the most important, the Makar (Capricorn) Sankranti. Transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn, during the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is known as Makar Sankranti. From this day begins the six-month long Uttarayana, considered very auspicious for attaining higher worlds hereafter. While the traditional Indian Calendar is basically based on lunar positions, but sankranti is a solar event, so while dates of all festivals keep changing, the english calendar date of Makar Sankranti is always same, 14th January. Religious Significance: 1. The Puranas say that on this day Sun visits the house of his son Shani, who is the swami of Makar Rashi. These father & son do not ordinarily get along nicely, but inspite of any difference between each other Lord Sun makes it a point to meet each other on this day. Father in fact himself comes to his son’s house, for a month. This day symbolized the importance of special relationship of father & son. It is the son who has the responsibility to carry forward his fathers dream and the continuity of the family. 2. From Uttarayana starts the ‘day’ of Devatas, while dakshinayana is said to be the ‘night’ of devatas, so most of the auspicious things are done during this time. Uttarayana is also called as Devayana, and the next half is called Pitrayana. 3. It was on this day when Lord Vishnu ended the ever increasing terrorism of the Asuras by finishing them off and burying their heads under the Mandar Parvat. So this occasion also represents the end of negativities and beginning of an era of righteous living. 4. The great savior of his ancestors, Maharaj Bhagirath, did great Tapasya to bring Gangaji down on the earth for the redemption of 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar, who were burnt to ashes at the Kapil Muni Ashram, near the present day Ganga Sagar. It was on this day that Bhagirath finally did tarpan with the Ganges water for his unfortunate ancestors and thereby liberated them from the curse. After visiting the Patala for the redemption of the curse of Bhagirath’s ancestors Gangaji finally merged in the Sagar. Even today a very big Ganga Sagar Mela is organized every year on this day at the confluence of River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal. Lakhs take dip in the water and do tarpan for their ancestors. There is another spiritually symbolic aspect of this story. The 60,000 cursed son of Maharaj Sagar represent our thoughts, who become dull & dead-like because of uncultured & blind ambition. Redemption of such people is only by the waters of Gangaji, brought down ‘to’ & later ‘from’ the Himalayas with great tapasya. This represents dedicated hard work to get the redeeming Brahma-Vidya, which alone enlightens, enthuses & enlivens the life of anyone. 5. Another well-known reference of this day came when the great grandsire of Mahabharata , Bhishma, declared his intent to leave his body on this day. He had the boon of Ichha-Mrityu from his father, so he kept lying on the bed of arrows till this day and then left his mortal on Makar Sankranti day. It is believed that the person, who dies during the period of Uttarayana, becomes free from transmigration. So this day was seen as a sure-shot Good Luck day to start your journey or endeavors to the higher realms beyond. How to Celebrate: 1. Get up early in the morning, before sunrise, have bath and be ready with water & flowers for the sunrise. Worship the rising Sun, by offering water, flowers with both the hands & then pray with folded hands by chanting the Gayatri Mantra and pray for knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment to rise in the similar way to greater & greater heights. Pray for blessings to live a dynamic, inspired & righteous life. 2. Do tarpan for your ancestors. Offer water to the ancestors while praying for their blessings. Resolve to redeem the pledges & pride of your forefathers. Live life in such a way that wherever your forefathers may be their head is held high by the life & deeds of their children. 3. Have a special session of Meditation, wherein you bring about the awareness of the self-effulgent subjective divinity. Affirm the greatest importance of your spiritual goal very clearly, and pray to God to bless you with the capacity to constantly revel in your true self. May the graph of your rise like the Uttarayana Sun. May there be greater ‘Love & Light’ in your life & the world. 4. Prepare laddus or other sweets of Til & Gur and offer them to your friends & relatives. See to it that your ‘Well-being Prayer for all’ gets manifested in action & deeds. Give some Daan on this day to someone who truly deserves. 5- Til emanates from Bhagvan Vishnu’s body and that the above described usage wash away all kinds of sins. Sakranti period is held to be very auspicious and any good deeds during this time will produce merits. Gifts of clothing, blankets etc., on this day are productive of merits in both this life and in the next life. *Guruji Gopal vyas*East London Hindu Mandir, South AfricaStay safe, Stay Healthy
What is a Puja
Puja is the act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals. An essential part of puja for the Hindu devotee is making a spiritual connection with the divine. Most often that contact is facilitated through an object: an element of nature, a sculpture, a vessel, a painting, or a print.
During puja an image or other symbol of the god serves as a means of gaining access to the divine. This icon is not the deity itself; rather, it is believed to be filled with the deity’s cosmic energy. It is a focal point for honoring and communicating with the god. For the devout Hindu, the icon’s artistic merit is important, but is secondary to its spiritual content. The objects are created as receptacles for spiritual energy that allow the devotee to experience direct communication with his or her gods.
Performing a Puja
A worshipper is required to be pure of body and mind. The Puranas lay more stress on the quality of devotion and good behaviour than on rigid puja procedures. Puja originated as a substitute to homa and other Vedic sacrifices which women and Shudras could not perform and which required animal sacrifices. Due to Dravidian (see Dasas), Buddhist and Jain influences that preached non-violence, the killing or sacrifice of animals was discontinued and with the development of iconography, idol worship and puja took the place of sacrifice. It was also recognized that worship was essential for all, whatever the gender or caste (see Varna) and therefore puja was formalized as a universal option instead of the exclusive homam.
Pujas in Temples
A Hindu temple is believed to be the earthly seat of a deity and the place where the deity waits for its devotees. As such, temple structures are sacred spaces where gods partake of human offerings and in which the people can be with the gods. Many temples resemble palace architecture; this is not surprising, as deities are often considered kings.
Temples are normally dedicated to one primary god. Often they are elaborately decorated on the outside with stone or plaster carvings depicting religious stories, and their decoration is specific to the deity being worshiped. Mythological scenes are juxtaposed with scenes of everyday life and important political events, such as royal coronations, conquests, and celebrations, or with portraits of royal and secular patrons. These divine images and mythological scenes on the outer walls of the temple help worshipers recall the sacred stories they have heard or read.
One should remove one’s shoes before entering a Hindu temple in order to pay appropriate respect to the deity within the temple.
The innermost sanctuary of the temple contains the principal image of the deity. The character of each shrine is determined by the deity being worshiped.
Short Pujas/ Daily Pujas
Each time when you say ‘Samarpayami’ (literally: I am offering), please offer two axataas to the LORD with love and devotion.
(Akshatha is uncooked rice, if possible colored with kumkum , saffron powder, termaric and a little bit of water. Can be prepared well advance for a week and kept near the ALTAR).
1. Dhyaanam Samarpayami (Think or meditate on the LORD) 2. Aawaahanam Samarpayami (Offering invitation the LORD) 3. Aasanam Samarpayami (Offer a seat to the LORD) 4. Paadyam Samarpayami (offer water to wash the feet) 5. Arghyam Samarpayami (offer water to wash the hands) 6. Aachamaneeyam Samarpayami (offer water to drink ) 7. Snaanam Samarpayami (Give bath to the LORD) 8. Maha Abhishekam Samarpayami (main head bath) 9. Pratishtaapayaami (make him seated ) 10. Vasthram Samarpayami (Offer clothes to the LORD) 11. Yajnopaveetham Samarpayami (Offer the Holy Thread to the LORD) 12. Gandham Samarpayami (offer sandalwood paste/powder) 13. Akshatham Samarpayami (Offer Akshatha to the LORD) 14. Pushpam Samarpayami (Offer flowers to the LORD) 15. Ashthothtra Poojam Samarpayami (Offer the Holy 108 names of the LORD) 16. Dhoopam Aaghraapayaami (offer agarbatti) 17. Deepam Darshayaami (offer light ) 18. Neivedyam Samarpayami (Offer food to the LORD) 19. Phalam Samarpayami (Offer Fruits the LORD) 20. Taamboolam Samarpayami (offer beetle nut and leaves) 21. Dakshinam Samarpayami (Offer money to the LORD) 22. Maha Nirajanam Samarpayami (the main aarati) 23. Pradakshinam Samarpayami (taking clockwise rounds in front of the lord) 24. Namaskaram Samarpayami (prostrations offer them) 25. Mantra Pushpam Samarpayami ( both incantations and flowers 26. Praarthanaam Samarpayami (offering prayers; List your requests) 27. Xamaapanam Samarpayami (offering apologies to lord for any mistakes)
This word is the common term for worship of which there are numerous synonyms in the Sanskrit language. Puja is done daily of the Ishta-devata or the particular Deity worshipped by the sadhaka – the Devi in the case of a Shakti, Vishnu in the case of a Vaishnava, and so forth. But though the Ishta-devata is the principal object of worship, yet in puju all worship the Pancha-devata, or the Five Deva – Aditya (the Sun), Ganesha, the Devi, Shiva, and Vishnu, or Narayana. After worship of the Pancha-devata, the family Deity (Kula-devata), who is generally the same as the Ishta-devata, is worshipped. Puja, which is kamya, or done to gain a particular end as also vrata, are preceded by the sangkalpa; that is, a statement of the resolution to do the worship, as also of the particular object, if any, with which it is done.
There are sixteen upachara, or things done or used in puja: (1) asana (seat of the image); (2) svagata (welcome); (3) padya (water for washing the feet); (4) arghya (offering of unboiled rice, flowers, sandal paste, durva grass, etc., to the Devata in the kushi) (vessel); (5 and 6) achamana (water for sipping, which is offered twice); (7) madhuparka (honey, ghee, milk, and curd offered in a silver or brass vessel); (8) snana (water for bathing); (9) vasana (cloth); (10) abharana (jewels); (11) gandha (scent and sandal paste is given); (12) pushpa (flowers); (13) dhupa (incense stick); (14) dipa (light); (15) naivedya (food); (16) vandana or namas-kara (prayer). Other articles are used which vary with the puja, such as Tulasi leaf in the Vishnu-puju and bael-(bilva) leaf in the Shiva-puja. The mantras said also vary according to the worship. The seat (asana) of the worshipper is purified. Salutation being made to the Shakti of support or the sustaining force (adhara-shakti); the water, flowers, etc., are purified. All obstructive spirits are driven away (Bhutapasarpana), and the ten quarters are fenced from their attack by striking the earth three times with the left foot, uttering the Astra vija “phat,” and by snapping the fingers (twice) round the head. Pranayama (regulation of breath) is performed and (vide post) the elements of the body are purified (bhuta-shuddhi). There is nyasa (vide post); dhyana (meditation) offering of the upachara; japa (vide post), prayer and obeisance (pranama). In the ashta-murti-puja of Shiva the Deva is worshipped under the eight forms: Sharvva (Earth), Bhava (Water), Rudra (Fire), Ugra (Air), Bhima (Ether), Pashupati (yajamana – the Sacrificer man), Ishana (Sun), Mahadeva (Moon).
Krishna always taught about importance of cows through his actions. His love for cows is also seen from his pastimes he performed in Vrindavan. Krishna is also known as “Gopal”- “one who brings satisfaction to the cows”.
Krishna would take the cows in the forests and would even milk cows while in he lived in Vrindavan. He treated cows with utmost care. When he would play flute cows stopped eating grass and cry incessantly. Mother Yashoda would apply Gomutra, Goraj on Krishna, thinking that it will save Krishna from demons.
When Krishna went to Mathura, cows would not eat anything; they were deeply saddened by krishna’s absence. Kansa-the king of Mathura sent Akrur to Vrindavan to bring Krishna & Balram to Mathura. Akrur was gifted a cow by Krishna during that meeting. Krishna would gift cows to bramhins, saints when he was in Dwarka. Moreover, in Dwarka Krishna created deities of cows and would often offer his obeisance to them.
At the end of his Avatar Krishna told his beloved friend Uddhava that cow’s worship is equal to his worship. Krishna told Uddhava that whatever things I could do, whatever demons I could kill, was just because I served cows and I got this power by simply worshiping and serving a cow. He attributed credit of his deeds to cows.
“Panchagavya means all the things that a cow yields namely curd, milk, ghee, gomutra and cow dung. Panchagavya is used in all dharmik vidhi including (Yagya).
Bhagwat Geeta tells us about the importance of being in”Satva guna”, Satva guna brings us peace and happiness and worshiping cow increases our satva guna. Drinking cow milk blesses us with Divine consciousness and Divine energy and fills our body with transcendental qualities (sattvikta).
Aarti, Arti, arathi, or Arati is a Hindu ritual in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. It may be said to have descended from the Vedic concept of fire rituals, or homa. The word may also refer to the traditional Hindu devotional song that is sung in the ritual of the same name.
Aarti is generally performed twice or three times daily. For example, in the morning and in the evening, and at the end of a puja or bhajan session.
Aarti in Hindu temples
In mandirs (Hindu temples) aarti is performed daily by pujaris (priests). There is usually a ‘mangala-arati’ first thing in the morning, another later in the morning, one at lunchtime, and the final arati of the day at sundown.
The assembled devotees in the temple sing various types of kirtana and bhajans during the arati ceremony. The pujari performing arati first purifies his hands with sacred water from the acamana cup. He then sprinkles three spoonfuls of water over a conch, and blows it three times. He then lights an odd number of incense sticks (usually three) from a ghee lamp standing beside the altar. While ringing a small bell, he waves it seven times around the deities, and then he waves it once to the assembled devotees.
The pujari next lights a five-wick ghee lamp from the large lamp and offers it; four circles to the deities’ feet, two to their navel, three to their face, and then he waves it seven times around the deities’ whole bodies. He then gives it to another devotee, who presents the lamp to each devotee in the temple room. When offered the ghee lamp, devotees touch the flame with their hands, and then touch their hands to their foreheads.
The pujari then takes a smaller conch and fills it with water. He offers it by waving it three times around the deities’ heads and seven times around their bodies. He then pours the water into a shaker; which another devotee takes and walks around the temple room shaking it, ensuring that everyone has been touched by the water.
The next item offered is a cloth, offered seven times around the deities. After the cloth has been offered, the pujari takes a plate with flowers on it and offers it seven times around the deities’ bodies. The plate is then taken by another devotee and offered to the rest of the devotees, who each sniff the flowers.
After that, the pujari takes a camara (yak-tail whisk) from beside the altar and waves it before the deities, to keep the flies away from them. In warm weather, he will also wave a peacock fan before the deities.