Shiva, the bestower of blessings – Shiva Purana
In the chapter 2 in Section 5 of Uma-saṃhita of Shiva Purana, Upamanyu narrated to Shri Krishna on His asking, the the details of the persons who have attained their desires by propitiating Shiva. Upamanyu said to Shri Krishna: --
“O leading scion of the family of Yadus, I shall enumerate the various devotees, by whom the cherished desires of their hearts have been realised through the propitiation of Shva. Please listen.
Symbolism of Shiva
Shiva (Sanskrit: “Auspicious One”) is aspect of supreme being, explained as Brahman in the Upanishads that continuously dissolves to recreate the universe. Shiva, i.e., formless, pure, eternal, root of cosmic sound “Om”, originator of Vedas, creator of oldest language “Sanskrit” and dance. Shiva is known by many names – Mahadeva, Mahayogi, Pasupati, Nataraja, Bhairava, Vishwanath, Bhava, Bholenath and so on. Shiva is All and in all, the creator, preserver, destroyer, revealer and concealer. Shiva is the original creator of world, language, dance, music, yoga etc.
According to the Shiva Purana, Brahma lacked the power to create women, until Shiva appeared before him in the androgynous form of Ardhanarishvara, “the Lord whose half is woman”, the right being the male manifestation.
Panchanana Form of Shiva -
In some temples Shiva is shown with five faces. Each of the faces has a name and represents a specific aspect. These five faces are Isana, Tatpurusa, Aghora, Vamadeva and Sadyojata.
Tulsidas ji who composed Ram Charit Manas, has explained the various attributes of Shiva in the devotional hymn "Rudrashtakam" appear in the Uttara Kand of Ram Charit Manas. The above hymn explains the attributes of Shiva as under:
The ash is not a normal one, but instead the ash from a cemetery. It corresponds to the Hindu philosophy of life and death, that death is the ultimate reality of life. The ashes represent a reminder that all of material existence is impermanent, comes to an end becoming ash, and the pursuit of eternal Self and spiritual liberation is important.
The three matted locks on the head symbolizes the idea of integration of physical, mental and spiritual energies is the ideal of yoga. So, Shiva is master of yoga.
The right side of the body symbolizes the human activities based upon knowledge, reason and logic. It signifies Shiva preserves natural order in the universe.
The snake also denotes dormant energy of a man, also called Kundalini energy.
It is believed that the Rudraksha contains the secrets of the entire evolution of Cosmos within it. Disciples devoted to Lord Shiva always wear Rudraksha to lead a peaceful life and also for deeper meditation. It helps maintain good health, gain self-empowerment and lead a fearless life.
In the scriptures, it is said that when Shiva mode of creation, his damru vibrates 14 times. These 14 basic formulae contain all the alphabets in Sanskrit arranged in ways to facilitate various grammatical processes. Therefore, the Damaru represents alphabets, grammar, and language itself.
The tiger in Hindu dharma represents the vehicle of Shakti, the Goddess of power and force. Shiva wearing the tiger skin represents his power and that he is the master of Shakti that goes beyond any other force.
Tiger also represents lust, and Shiva sitting on it shows that he has conquered lust.
In Vedic period, the people felt the presence of Supreme Being (Omniscient, Omnipresent & Omnipotent) presiding over the forces of nature existed in the three realms of universe and connected with the almighty by worshiping these visible forces. The importance these deities continued three yugas (Satya, Treta & Dwapar). In Dwapar yug, Kunti, wife of Pandu, conceived her sons’ using mantras of Vedic deities - Karna from Surya, Yudhishtra from Yamraja, Bhima from Vayu, Arjuna from Indra, Nakul & Sehdev from Ashvins. Even today, the worship of Vedic deities brings not only material prosperity but also spiritual enlightenment.
Internal Relevance of Vedic Deities:
Sri Aurobindo, modern philosopher highlighted the relevance of each deity in the human body and the hymns dedicated to the deities (devatas). The human body is similar to the body of the Cosmic Self, Purusha, who manifested in creation as the Lord of the Universe. The Vedic deities preside over the various attributes of human body.
The cosmic manifestation is grossly divided into three worlds, the upper, lower and middle regions. In Rig Veda (Mandala 3.62.10), the highly revered mantra i.e., Gayatri Mantra is mentioned. Its recitation is traditionally preceded by Om and the formula bhur bhuvaḥ svaḥ. Om - Primeval sound; Bhur - Earth, Physical realm, Human Body; Bhuva - Antariksha, Intermediate Space, Consciousness, Prana, Vital energies; Suvah - Sky, Heaven, Soul, Spiritual realm, bliss.
The Vedic Deities are classified into these three realms:
Based upon the number of invocations available in the Vedas, two other categories of the following Vedic deities were worshipped:
Characteristics of Prominent Vedic Deities:
According to the Kena Upanishad, he is the only god to have gone nearest to Brahman and was to know Him as Brahman. Humans worshipped Lord Indra as the strength until the completion of the first three ages. Till the completion of the third age (Dwapar yug), the idea of Supreme Being had been established in peoples’ minds. Lord Krishna had stopped the trend of Indra worship in his childhood and humans started a trend of worshipping Krishna in the name of Gowardhana.
Hymns of Vedic deities in Rigveda:
Each hymn in Rigveda is given to a certain deity (devata) and that particular Deva is worshipped through hymns in his praise. The main deities are Indra, Agni, Soma and Surya. Each of the Gods has his consort, like Indra and Indrani, Varuna and Varunani. There are 33 Devas in Rigveda. The prominent deities are:
The number of hymns in Rigveda are dedicated the Vedic deities are mentioned in bracket witnessing their importance - Indra (250), Agni (200), Soma (123), Ashvins (56), Varuna (46), Maruts (38), Mitra (28), Ushas (21), Vayu (12), Savitr (11), Rbhus (11), Pushan (10), Apris (9), Birhaspati (8), Surya (8), Dyauṣ Pitr and Pṛithvi Matr (Heaven and Earth) 6, plus 5.84 dedicated to Earth alone; Apas (6), Adityas (6), Vishnu (4 plus 2 paired hymns 1.155 dedicated to Vishnu-Indra & hymn 6.69 dedicated to Indra-Vishnu, total of 5 i.e. 4+1/2+1/2), Brahmanaspati (6), Rudra (4 plus a paired hymn 6.74 dedicated to both Soma-Rudra. A total of 41/2 i.e. 4+1/2), Dadhikras (4), Yama (4), Sarasvati (3), Parjanya (3), Vac (2), Vastospati (2), Vishvakarman (2), Manyu (2), Kapinjala (the Heathcock, a form of Indra - 2) and minor deities (one single or no dedicated hymn).
Some dedications are to paired deities, such as Indra-Agni, Mitra-Varuna, and Soma-Rudra, here counted double. Visvedevas (all gods together) have been invoked 70 times.
Incarnations of Shiva – Shiva Purana
In the Section 3 of Satarudra–Samhita of Shiva Purana, the countless incarnations of Shiva are mentioned. These incarnations are in fact symbolize the scheme of creation and maintenance of the universe. Other incarnations are for the benefits of devotees and protecting them from evils.
The five famous forms of Shiva are named Ishana, Tatpuruṣa, Aghora, Vamadeva and Sadyojata. Each form stands in relation to a particular element or organ as follows.
Significance - These five faces symbolize the scheme of creation evolved out of twenty-five constituents viz. five gross and five subtle elements, five organs of action and five of knowledge, besides mind, ego, intellect, nature and the individual soul.
The universe consists of the eight essentials viz. earth, water, fire, wind, ether, soul, sun and moon. These essentials are eight incarnations of lord Shiva i.e., Rudra is fire, Sarva is water, Pasupati is plants, Ugra is air, Asani is Vajra, Bhava is Indra, Mahadeva is moon and Ishana is sun.
Significance - These eight incarnations made the whole world function
Incarnation as Ardhanarishvara:
Brahma performed a great penance to enable creation produced by couples. Then the delighted Shiva appeared. Brahma said, “the gods and others were mentally created by me. But they do not multiply themselves. Hence, they are being created again and again. Hereafter I wish to make all my subjects flourish by making the creation originate from pairs.”
Shiva spoke to Shakti: “O goddess, yon have been propitiated by Brahma, through his penance. Lovingly become pleased with him and fulfil his desires.”
Receiving that behest of lord Shiva with her bent head, the goddess became the daughter of Dakṣha on the importunity of Brahma. Ever since then, creation became copulatory.
Significance - Ardhanarishvara (half-male and half-female) is symbolical of the process of creation by copulation.
In the ninth aeon of Dvapara of the seventh Varaha Kalpa, in the Vaivasvata Manvantara, Shiva’s ninth incarnation was as Rsabha to stabilize the path of yoga.
Other nineteen incarnations of Shiva took place in other aeons of Dvapara. They were Gangadvara, Satatejas Vyasa (reviver of path of renunciation), Sage Bali, Gautama in the family of Angiras, Vedasiras, Gokarna, Guhavasin, Sikhandin, Jati, Malin, Attahasa, Daruka, Suṣmayaṇa Vyasa, Sveta, Sulin, Sakti Vyasa, Sahisnu, Somasarman and Krishna.
Incarnation as Nandi:
Silada, a great sage did a severe penance of Shiva and sought a boon for a son equal to him, devoid of death and not born of a womb. Shiva granted the boon and said: “I shall become your son by the name of Nandi. I shall not be born of a womb. Thus, you shall be my father, of me who am the father of the worlds.
Incarnation as Bhairava:
When deluded by maya, Brahma made fun of Shiva’s form who appeared out of mass of flame, Shiva created Bhairava. Bhairava was with terrifying features. Kala-Bhairava, in a trice, cut off Brahma’s fifth head with the tip of the nails of the fingers of his left hand.
Significance - To detach 5th head of Brahma and latter to remain as protector in Kashi and to devour sins of those people who reach Kashi.
Incarnation as Sarabha:
Another incarnation of Shiva was Sardula. For the benefit of the gods, the wonderfully divine form of a Sarabha (the mythological animal with eight legs and capacity of killing lions) of blazing fire-like lustre was assumed by lord Shiva to control Ugra Narasimha from destroying the Universe.
Significance - To control Ugra Narasimha from destroying the Universe.
Incarnation as Agnishvara:
Grhapati, a son of Brahamin, did great penance of Shiva and secured the title of Agni and the boon that the phallic image installed by him, will be known as Agnishvara and it will be conducive to the enhancement of all splendour.
Significance - A person who worships Agnisvara, the bestower of prosperity, at Varanasi, is honoured in the region of fire even if, by chance, he dies elsewhere.
Incarnation as Yakṣeshvara:
When the gods and the Daityas have churned the milk ocean to get nectar, poison blazing as the fire of dissolution came out at first. They were highly agitated and frightened and sought refuge in Shiva. Shiva quaffed off the terrible poison afflicting gods and Asuras. Shiva retained obliquely the acute poison that he drank, in his neck. He shone much thereby and became Blue-necked. Released from the burning sensation of the poison thanks to the blessings of Shiva, the gods and the Asuras began to churn again. The nectar came out after many gems which was drank by the gods, thanks to the favour of Vishnu. Then a great battle ensued between them inflicting pain on both. The moon was eclipsed by Rahu and fled in terror of Rahu. He went to the abode of Shiva extremely agitated by fear and sought Shiva’s protection. The, Shiva wore the moon on his head as the latter had sought refuge. Then Rahu too, came there and eulogised lord Shiva with reverence. Realising his desire, Shiva fixed on to his neck his head that had been formerly cut off by Vishnu, and that was known as Ketu. Then the Asuras were defeated by the gods in the battle. By drinking nectar, the gods had become powerful and gained victory.
Deluded by Shiva’s Maya, Vishnu and others became very haughty. Then Lord Shiva, the suppressor of arrogance, became a Yakṣa. He hastened to the place, where the gods were stationed. Yakṣeshvara said to them: — “O gods, why have you all assembled here. What is your goal? Tell me the reason as I ask unto you.”
The gods said: — “O lord, a terrible battle took place here wherein all the Asuras were killed. The few that remained fled away. We are great heroes and powerful slayers of the Daityas. How insignificant in strength are those Daityas in front of us!”
On hearing the arrogant words of those gods, lord Shiva, in the form of Yakṣa said: --
“O gods, do not be arrogant. There is another lord who is the creator and annihilator. You have forgotten the great lord. You boast too much but you are devoid of strength. If you are proud and think that you know your strength to be great, O gods, split this blade of grass placed by me, with your own weapons.”
Then Vishnu and other gods professing to be heroic exerted their manliness and hurled their respective weapons. But the weapons of the gods, were rendered fruitless before the power of Shiva. Then a celestial voice arose that dispelled the surprise of the gods — “O gods this Yakṣa is Shiva who removes the arrogance of the arrogant.”
O hearing the celestial voice they became divested of their arrogance. They had realised Yakṣeshvara. They bowed to and eulogised him.
Significance - Yakṣeshvara incarnation of Shiva, that dispels the arrogance of the arrogant and lets the devotion of the good flourish.
Ten Incarnations & their significance:
Kashyapa, the father of asuras, did great penance of Shiva. Shiva on being pleased, was born in eleven forms to Surubhi, the wife of Kashyapa. These eleven Rudras are Kapali, Pingala, Bhima, Virupakṣha, Vilohita, Shastṛa, Ajapada, Ahirbudhnya, Shambhu, Chaṇḍa and Bhava.
Significance - The ten Pranas in the body, with the Atman as the eleventh. When they depart from this mortal body, they make one's relatives weep. Because they make them weep (rud), therefore they are called Rudras.
Incarnation of Hanuman:
Significance - To help Lord Rama in Ramayana.
Incarnation of Mahesha:
Significance - Urged by the friendship with Bhairava Lord Shiva incarnates as Mahesa to play with him.
Incarnation of Bull:
Significance - To bring back Lord Vishnu from Patala.
Incarnation of Pipplada:
Significance - To subdue the pride of Saturn and thus helping people to overcome affliction of Saturn.
Incarnation of Vaisyanatha:
Significance - To redeem a prostitute named Mahananda who was devotee of Shiva, Lord Shiva goes to her house taking form of Vaishya and finally takes her to Shiva Loka.
Incarnation of Dvijaswara:
Significance – To test of king Bhadryu by taking form of a Brahmin.
Incarnation of Yatinatha Hamsa:
Significance – To test of a Bhilla (tribe race) by taking form of Yatinatha.
Incarnation of Krishna Darshana:
Significance - Lord Shiva taking the form of Krishna Darshana shows that the part left after the Yajna also belongs to him, also Instructs Nabhaga.
Incarnation of Avadhutesvara:
Significance - Taking the form of Avadhuta Lord Shiva subdues arrogance of Indra and the birth of Jalandhara is triggered from this event.
Incarnation of Bhikshuvarya:
Significance – To dispel the suspicion of Brahmin women.
Incarnation of Sureshwara:
Significance - Taking the form of Indra Lord Shiva tested devotion of Upamanyu.
Incarnation of Jatila:
Significance – To test the Penance of Parvati by taking the form of Jatila.
Incarnation of Sunartakanata:
Significance - Taking the form of Sunartakanata Lord Shiva goes to Himalayas house to ask hand of Parvati.
Incarnation of Sadhu Dvija:
Significance - Gods being afraid that Himalaya will attain instant salvation due to giving of Parvati to Shiva request to Shiva to delay salvation of Himalaya. So, Lord Shiva taking the form of Sadhu Dvija goes in front of Himavat and start to insult Lord Shiva.
Incarnation of Ashwatthama:
Significance - Destruction in the 18th night of Mahabharata war is carried out by Ashwatthama and so on.
Incarnation of Kirata:
Significance - Lord Shiva taking the form of Kirata tests the war skill and devotion of Arjuna.
Other incarnations of Shiva are as Durvasa and the Twelve Jyotirlinga are separately published.
Shiva’s incarnations are countless and conducive to the benefit of good devotees. Their number cannot be counted or specified.
The Devi in Sanskrit means goddess and is shakti, or the feminine spirit, manifests itself in many forms. She is symbolized as cosmic energy. Energy is the physical ultimate of all forms of matter and the sustaining force of the Spirit. The Devi assumes many aspects, according to the tasks to be performed by Her, sometimes sweet and tender, and at others terrible and devouring. It encompasses and supplements qualities such as strength, transformation, anger, beauty, compassion, fear, and power.
Feminine Tridevi goddesses play eminent roles of Creator (Maha Sarasvati), Preserver (Mahalakshmi), and Destroyer (Mahakali), with the masculine Trimurti – Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra.
Ma Sarasvati represents goddess of knowledge, music, art, speech, learning, and wisdom. The name Sarasvati came from “saras” (meaning “flow”) and “vati” (meaning “she who has …”), i.e., “she who has flow” or can mean Sara meaning “essence” and swa meaning “self.” The earliest known mention of Sarasvati as a goddess is in the Rigveda. Vasant Panchami on the fifth day of spring is celebrated as Sarasvati Puja and Sarasvati Jayanti. She is mother of Vedas.
Sarasvati emerged from Brahma and began to give him direction on creating order in the cosmos; the sun, moon, and stars all came into being. She later became the bride of Brahma.
She is generally shown to have four arms holding a book, a rosary, a water pot, and a musical instrument (Veena) respectively. The book symbolizes the Vedas representing the divine, eternal, and true knowledge as well as all forms of learning. The rosary of crystals, representing the power of meditation, inner reflection, and spirituality. The pot of water represents the purifying power to separate right from wrong, the clean from the unclean, and essence from the inessential. The veena, represents all creative arts and sciences and associated with the love and feelings expressed in speech or music.
A hamsa – either a swan or a goose – is often shown near her feet. The hamsa is a sacred bird, which if offered a mixture of milk and water, is said to be able to drink the milk alone. It symbolizes the ability to discriminate between good and evil. The swan is also a symbolism for spiritual perfection, transcendence, and moksha.
Ma Lakshmi, also called Sri, represents goddess of wealth, fortune, and prosperity (both material and spiritual). Her name is derived from Sanskrit root word “Laksya” for knowing the goal and understanding the objective. Lakshmi manifests in eight sources of wealth, the Ashtalakshmi prosperity, fertility, good fortune or good luck, good health, knowledge, strength, progeny, and power.
In the holy book of Shrimad Bhagavata, it is explained that Lakshmi ji came out of the ocean during the churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan). So, she is known as a daughter of the ocean. She came out of the ocean sitting on a full-bloomed lotus and having lotus flowers in both hands with two elephants by her sides holding beautiful vessels.
Lakshmi has 8 primary forms personified as Ashta Lakshmi (Ashtalakshmi) - Dhanya Lakshmi (Goddess of the Harvest), Adi Lakshmi (Mother Lakshmi resides with Lord Narayana in Vaikuntha), Dhairya Lakshmi (grants the boon of infinite courage and strength), Gaja Lakshmi (She came out of the ocean with two elephants by her sides holding beautiful vessels), Santan Lakshmi (bestowed of desirable children with good health and a long life), Vijay Lakshmi (grants victory & success everywhere, at all time, in all conditions), Dhana Lakshmi (bestower of wealth which comes in many forms: Nature, Love, Peace, Health, Prosperity, Luck, Virtues, Family, Food, Land, Water, Will Power, Intellect, Character, etc.) and Vidya Lakshmi (Grants Vidya with eighteen qualities viz. Serenity, Regularity, Absence of Vanity, Sincerity, Simplicity, Veracity, Equanimity, Fixity, Non-irritability, Adaptability Humility, Tenacity, Integrity, Nobility, Magnanimity, Charity, Generosity and Purity).
Lakshmi is depicted as a standing or siting in padmasana on a lotus throne, while holding a lotus in her hand, symbolizing fortune, self-knowledge, and spiritual liberation. Her four hands represent the four goals of human life – Dharma, Kama, Artha, and Moksha.
Ma Durga is the creator and the protector of the universe and the destroyer of evil. In different Yugas for the destruction of the distress of the gods, she assumed different forms and features. She is usually depicted as having eight to ten arms, with just as many weapons gifted to her by various gods to destroy Mahishasura. Her mount is usually a lion.
In Sri Durga Saptashati, appearance of Ma Durga (Mahakali, Chandika, Chamunda etc.) is mentioned.
In Shiva Purana, The stories of the birth and wedding of Sati and Parvati with Shiva have been lucidly recorded.
Goddess Durga has manifested in nine forms and together called Navadurga. They are worshipped during the nine days of Navratri. Navdurga, All the nine forms of Durga Devi represent nine different qualities.
1. Shailputri (Daughter of Mountain) – She represents devi in her childhood and has two hands both holding a trident and lotus. She is seated upon the behind of a white bull.
2. Brahmacharini (Mother of devotion and penance) - She represents the phase of ascetism and has two hands, both of which carried a rosary and a water utensil.
3. Chandraghanta (Destroyer of demons) - She represents the form of shakti and has ten hands, nine of them are armed by a trident, mace, bow, arrow, lotus, sword, bell and a waterpot, while one other hand blesses her devotees. She is seated upon a fierce tiger.
4. Kushmanda (Goddess of The Cosmic Egg) - She represents the form of mahashakti and has eight hands, six of which held a discus, mace, lotus, bow, and arrow in one hand, sword, and rosary and the two other hands carried a jar of honey and waterpot. She is mounted upon the back of a lion.
5. Skandmata (Goddess of motherhood and children) – She represents stage of motherhood and has four hands, two of which held lotuses, the third holding her son, the six-headed infant Kartikeya seated on her lap, and the fourth saves her devotees. She is seated upon the back of a lion.
6. Katyayani (Goddess of Power) - She represents warrior stage and is dressed in green and pink vestments. Her four hands each carried a sword, shield, lotus and trident. She's seen seated on a fearsome lion.
7. Kaalratri (Goddess of Auspiciousness and Courage) - She represents form of destruction and has four hands all held a trident, scimitar, vajra, and a cup. She is seated upon the behind of a donkey as her vehicle.
8. Mahagauri (Goddess of Beauty) - She represents form of recovery and has four hands, three of which carried a trident, mini-drum, and a pink lotus while her one hand promised her devotees protection. She is seated upon a white ox.
9. Siddhidhatri (Goddess of Supernatural Powers or Siddhis) – She represents form of mahashakti and has four hands carried a discus, conch shell, pink lotus and a mace. She is seated upon a fully bloomed lotus.
Chausath yoginis (64) - The Saptamatrika (Brahmi, Maheshvari, Kumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Chamunda) joined by Chandika and Mahalakshmi form the nine Matrika cluster. According to Kaula Tantra, female Goddesses Shaktis emerged from the cosmic soul of the eight principal Deities and formed Kali Durga. These eight manifested each in turn into eight Divine Shakti, thus resulting in the 64 Tantric Yoginis.
Shodash Matrikas (16) – Shodash matrikas are – Gauri, Padma, Shachi, Medha, Savitri, Vijaya, Jaya, Devasena, Svadha, Svaha, Mata, Loka Mata, Hrishti, Pushti, Tushti and Kula Devata.
Dus Mahavidya (10) – Devi Bhagwat purana mentions Das Mahavidya which represents ten divine qualities of goddess and worship of these goddesses destroys respective negative tendencies. Das Mahavidya are –
Another Tantric text Mundamaala –tantra names a slightly different set of thirteen Mahavidyas (Kali, Tara, Tripura-Sundari, Bhairavi, Bhuvaneshvari, Chinnamasta, Bagala, Dhumavathi, Annapurna, Durga, Kamala, Matangi and Padmavati).
In certain other lists, some obscure goddesses: Vasali, Bala and Pratyangira are included.
Spiritual Significance of form of Ma Durga:
Ma Durga is depicted as a warrior aspect of Devi Parvati with 8 arms who rides a lion or a tiger.
Lion or a Tiger - It symbolizes unlimited power to protect virtue and destroy evil. The tiger represents power, will and determination. This suggests to the devotee that one has to possess all these qualities to get over the demon of ego.
Eight Hands holding following Objects of Symbolism - This suggests that she protects the devotees from all directions. She carries in the hands such as a mace, sword, disc, arrow, and trident. It conveys the idea that one weapon cannot destroy all different kinds of enemies. Different weapons must be used to fight enemies depending upon the circumstances. For example, selfishness must be destroyed by detachment, jealousy by desirelessness, prejudice by self-knowledge, and ego by discrimination.
Conch - The sound that emanates from a conch is the sound of the sacred syllable AUM (or Om), which is said to be the sound of creation. A conch in one of the Goddess's hands signifies the ultimate victory of virtue over evil and righteousness over unrighteousness.
Trident - The trident is a symbol associated with Shiva, and its three points symbolize the creation, protection, and destruction of the universe. Durga's trident or "trishul" is a symbol of three qualities - Satwa (inactivity), Rajas (activity) and Tamas (non-activity) - and she is remover of all the three types of miseries - physical, mental and spiritual.
Bow and Arrow - The bow and arrows represent energy. By holding both the bow and arrows in one hand "Mother Durga" is indicating her control over both aspects of energy - potential and kinetic.
Thunderbolt - The thunderbolt signifies firmness. The devotee of Durga must be firm like thunderbolt in one's convictions. Like the thunderbolt that can break anything against which it strikes, without being affected itself, the devotee needs to attack a challenge without losing his confidence.
Lotus - The lotus in Durga's hand is not in fully bloomed, it symbolizing certainty of success but not finality. The lotus in Sanskrit is called "pankaja" which means born of mud. Thus, lotus stands for the continuous evolution of the spiritual quality of devotees amidst the worldly mud of lust and greed.
Sudarshan Chakra - The "Sudarshan-Chakra" or beautiful discus, which spins around the index finger of the Goddess, while not touching it, signifies that the entire world is subservient to the will of Durga and is at her command. She uses this unfailing weapon to destroy evil and produce an environment conducive to the growth of righteousness.
Sword - The sword that Durga holds in one of her hands symbolizes knowledge, which has the sharpness of a sword. Knowledge free from all doubts is symbolized by the shine of the sword.
Palm - One of her hands opens the palm to indicate Her blessings.
Three Eyes Like Shiva, Mother Durga is also referred to as "Triyambake" meaning the three eyed Goddess. The left eye represents desire (the moon), the right eye represents action (the sun), and the central eye knowledge (fire).
Shivalinga – Shiva Purana
According to Vayu Purana, in the Holocaust, all creation which gets absorbed and which appears in the reincarnation period is called Linga. For this reason, worship of Shivalinga is a symbol. Shiva Purana is another authoritative Hindu text which explains the various aspects of Shivalinga.
Shivalinga is not just sacred in Bharat. Harappa-Mohenjo-Daro’s archaeological findings also show its importance even in 3,000 BCE from the prehistoric Indus culture. Romans referred to Lingam as ‘Prayapas’. Romans introduced the worshipping of Shivalinga to European countries. Babylon, an ancient city in Mesopotamia is said to have found statues of Shivalinga during their archaeological findings.
Some compare it to the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang. Etymologically and semantically, Yin is said to depict feminine-- the half-unity of consciousness. Yang, on the other hand, symbolises the other half-- the masculine. Jointly they embody the alliance of consciousness in the creation.
The various aspects of Shivalinga as explained in Vidhyeshwara Samhita of Shiva Purana are elaborated hereunder.
Forms of Shivalinga:
The tripundraka (the three parallel lines of ash marks on the forehead) is the essence of trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra (Chapter 18 Shlokas 73) He who has the tripundraka made of ashes with water and performs worship derives the entire benefits of the same. (Chapter 18 Shlokas 80)
Importance of Propitiation of Shivalinga:
The propitiation of the earthen phallic image is sanctifying, bestower of bliss, longevity, satiety, nourishment and fortune. A devotee endowed with unflinching faith shall worship the earthen phallic image with such modes of service as easily available. It accords achievement of all desired objects. He who worships the earthen phallic image in the three junctures of the threshold division of the day everyday gains the bliss for twenty-one future births. He is honoured in Rudraloka with this body alone. He who worships the earthen phallic emblem of Shiva everyday stays in Shivaloka for so many years. (Chapter 19 Shlokas 17-24)
Deities, asuras, persons, Gandharvas, serpents, Raksasas and many others have attained greatness after worshipping earthly phallic image of Shiva. The phallic emblem of shiva made of precious gems is considered best in Satya yuga; of pure gold in the Dwapera; of mercury in Trata and of earth in Kali yuga. (Chapter 19 Shlokas 4-7)
The devotees should worship the phallic emblem with sixteen forms of service and homage to acquire the benefits of prakriti and purusha through means of inherent or extraneous. The worship performed on Sundays with Om wards off birth. Abhishek done with five cow products (milk, curd, ghee, cow’s urine & dung (chapter 16 shlokas 109-111)
Pranav recited nine crore times, purify persons. With each nine-crore repetition of Pranav, the person wins over the five elements successively. The egotism is win over with repetition of another nine crore of times. By repeating it daily one thousand times, the devotee becomes perpetually pure. A devotee who completes one hundred eight crores of Japa of Pranav is fully enlightened and shall master suddha yoga. One who has mastered suddha yoga becomes certainly liberated person. The devotee who practices Japa of Pranava with due ritualistic placing of fingers on the body parts (Nyasa) become sage. (Chapter 17 Shlokas 16-26)
Reference: Vidhyeshwara Samhita of Shiva Purana
Hinduism, the world's oldest religion, is still commonly practiced. Because of its large following, it's also regarded as the world's third largest religion. The religious practices in many sects and religions such as Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism etc. are offshoot of Snatana Dharma., commonly called as Hinduism. The archaeological evidences of Hinduism date as far back as 7500 B.C.E. in India.
There are sufficient archaeological evidences of Shree Rama and Shree Krishna, the incarnations of Vishnu Bhagwan. The conclusive evidences of Archaeological findings of historical persons – Shree Rama and Shree Krishna are as under:
Maryada Purushottam Shree Rama, the historical person:
Valmiki, who wrote the Ramayana, was a contemporary of Shree Rama. While narrating the events in epic, he has mentioned the position of planets. Using the recent planetary software, it is possible these planetary positions actually took place precisely as specified in Ramayana.
Renowned historian and archaeological researcher Dr. Ram Avtar has unearthed more than 200 such places related to the events of the life of Shri Ram and Sita, where even today there are memorial sites, where Shri Ram and Sita stayed or stayed. The time period of the monuments, frescoes, caves etc. was investigated by scientific methods. However, to make it presentable, a few important places (with present day places) are discussed here:
They went to The Viradha Sarabhanga and Sutikshan Muni Ashrams ahead of The Dandakaranya Area and Satna. There are many monuments in Panna, Raipur, Bastar and Jagdalpur. For example, Mandavya Ashram, Shringi Ashram, Ram-Lakshman Temple etc. Ram have gone to modern Jabalpur, Shahdol (Amarkantak) from there. Shahdol to North East is sarguja region. The name of a mountain here is 'Ramgarh'. The cistern in which a waterfall falls from a height of 30 feet is called ‘Sita Kund'. There is a Vashishta cave here. The names of the two caves are Lakshman Bongra and 'Sita Bongra'.
Shree Krishna, the historical figure:
There is sufficient evidence available now to suggest that Shree Krishna was indeed a historical figure, who lived about 5000 years ago. This evidence is not just literary but also archaeological, geographical as well as astronomical, N S Rajaram, author of the book Search for the Historical Krishna.
The places mentioned in the history of Shree Krishna such as Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul, Govardhan, Hastinapur (Meerut), Indraprastha (Delhi), Kurukshetra, Dwarka etc. are the geographical places which are still existing.
Dwarka is mentioned in a number of texts, including the Mahabharata, the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, the Harivamsha as well as the Skanda Purana, and the Vishnu Purana. The Mahabharata says that the city was also extremely well planned: divided into six sectors which were in turn divided into residential, commercial areas and had 9,00,000 royal palaces. It is said that it was submerged in the big flood 9,000 years ago. The astronomical, archaeological and historical evidences of birth of Shree Krishna are provided as under:
Dr. S. Balakrishna of NASA, USA; Dr. B. N. Narahari Achar, Department of Physics, Memphis University, USA; Dr. R. N. Iyengar, Department of Civil Engineering, Bangalore; Dr. S. Kalyanaraman, Saraswati River Research Centre, Chennai and others submitted papers on the date of Mahabharata war based on Astronomical data with the use of Planetarium software at the two-day seminar in Bangalore, India between fifth and sixth January 2003 and agreed that there does not exist any contradiction between any two descriptions of planetary configurations given in
Sri Rama & Sri Rama Rajya
The Rama is not only for chanting but the role model for modern youth. The team builder, the team leader, the dharma, one who exemplified various relationships, the incarnation of almighty, the hope, the soul of people of Bharat.
Sri Rama can be simply described as a man who displays perfect moral as well as social behaviour. Sri Rama, in the words of Swami Vivekananda, is “the embodiment of truth, of morality, the ideal son, the ideal husband and above all, the ideal king”. He is a symbol of the victory of right over the evil. Lord Rama characterizes how a man should fulfil his moral commitments and should strictly follow his limits so that social order can be maintained. It is precisely due to this fact; he is known as “Marayada Puroshattam” or “The man of limits”.
Dr Hariom Pawar, the famous poet from Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh wrote a popular poem. Its excerpts are as under:
“…राम मिलेंगे मर्यादा से जीने में; राम मिलेंगे बजरंगी के सीने में; राम मिले हैं वचनबद्ध वनवासों में; राम मिले हैं केवट के विश्वासों में; राम मिले अनुसुइया की मानवता को;
राम मिले सीता जैसी पावनता को; राम मिले ममता की माँ कौशल्या को; राम मिले हैं पत्थर बनी आहिल्या को; राम नहीं मिलते मंदिर के फेरों में; राम मिले शबरी के झूठे बेरों में…”
“Ram would meet by living with dignity; Ram would meet in the heart of Sri Hanuman; Ram would meet in determined inhabitants of forests; Ram met in the beliefs of Kevat; Ram met Anusuiya's humanity; Ram met in Sita-like purity; Ram met to mother of love, Kaushalya; Ram met to stone-made Ahilya; Ram does not meet in visits to temples; Ram met in the partly eaten berries of Shabri”
Ram Rajya have been the symbol of good governance, progress, prosperity, and peace - the ideal form of governance. A study of ancient scriptures tells us that during Rama's rule, there was no room for pain, poverty, disease, grief, or discrimination. He provided immediate justice and the poor were not marginalised. Truth and non-violence were the creed people followed, without coercion, and out of free moral responsibility and self-discipline. Ram's own behaviour carved that consciousness in the hearts of the subjects. According to the concept of Ram Rajya, the king ought to practice austerity, generosity, kindness, be just, welfare-oriented and capable of caring and planning for his subjects.
Challenges faced by India today:
Selfishness in Relationship:
Sri Rama set an example to treat all equally.
These days different form of terrorism is on rise which is impacting social and national security. Terrorism during the time of Sri Rama was also prevalent. When Sri Rama was less than sixteen years old and not even completed the studies, rishi Vishvamitra demanded his help to kill the immensely strong rakshasas named Tadaka, Maricha and Subahu. They were harassing rishis by destroying their Yajnas. Raja Dasaratha, who was initially hesitant but later permitted Sri Rama and Sri Lakshamna to go along with rishi Vishvamitra to protect both rishis and their Yagnas. Sri Rama obeyed the directions of his father and proceeded to terrible forest along with his brother Sri Lakshamna and rishi Vishvamitra and slayed the rakshasas. Later, during fourteen years’ exile, Sri Rama killed many Rakshasas such as Viradha, khara, Dushana, Meghnath, Ravana etc. to protect the innocent citizens.
In the olden times, people especially kings were generally holding more than one wife. Even the father of Sri Rama, Dasratha was having three wives. In those days, Sri Rama vowed to marry only once.
Sri Rama married with Ma Sita and had great love for his wife. He resisted any temptation that could come in the way of his love for his wife. He taught the way of life which eliminated crime against women. When demoness Shurpanakha disguises as a woman to seduce Rama, then stalks and harasses Rama's wife Sita after Rama refuses her. After Ravana was killed Mandodari came to Sri Rama and said, she has found one quality in Sri Rama that even the shadow of a woman other than his wife should not touch Him. Ravana, on the other hand, was willing to sacrifice so many lives in his attempt at making another man's wife his. Therein lies the difference. That one quality of Sri Rama has led to His victory, says Mandodari.
Erosion in value system:
India is facing the menace of corruption, dishonesty, violence, and deceit. The incidents of rape are increasing, corruption is entrenched at all the levels and violence is becoming acceptable in our society. It is here where we need Sri Rama again with us to tell us that it is his character that we need to emulate today. Sri Rama established a sound judicial system which ensured that every person is happy under his rule all times. Sri Rama was a selfless king who thought of his people before thinking about himself. Tulsidas mentioned that in Ram Rajya, no one suffered at physically, spiritually and bodily. Everyone lived in harmony with affection towards each other while performing their own duties as described in the scriptures. All the four limbs of the Dharma – Truth, Purity, Compassion & Charity were fulfilled.
Pre-Meditative & Meditative Asanas (Postures)
Relaxation and Pre-meditative asanas may be done for relaxation and loosening up the legs respectively. Meditative asanas are the body positions usually sitting but also sometimes standing or reclining, used to facilitate meditation.
Relaxation Asanas: -
A few relaxation practices are
Pre-Meditative Asanas: -
Meditative Asanas: -
During meditation, sitting asana position should be most stable and the body firm & immovable. This should not require efforts to keep spine upright. To sit long in the same position, loosening up of the legs is necessary which is possible by half butterfly and hip rotation.
For transmutation of the sexual energy –
Supta Vajrasana (Sleeping Thunderbolt pose) – this asana helps to transmute sexual energy into more subtle forms of energy. It also gives the benefits of matsyasana. To do this asana one should have supple back and flexible legs. Those with stiff legs should not attempt it. Process: Sit in vajrasana, knees could be together or separated, rest same as Matsyasana (lean slightly backwards, place the hands on the floor slightly behind & on the sides of the buttock, support the weight of the body on the straight arms, bend one of the arms, allowing forearm & elbow to rest on the ground, slowly bend the other arm so that both elbows rest on the ground behind the buttocks, bend the head backwards so that you can see the floor behind the head, stretch the neck as much as comfortable, slowly slide the arms forwards away from the head, lower the top of the head towards the ground, gently allow top of the head to support the body weight, relax the arms allowing head, buttocks & legs take the body weight, breathe slowly & deeply, stay in this final pose, return to the starting position. Alternatively, the arms can be folded behind the head).
Reference: A systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya – by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born at Mayapur near Navaidip, district Nadia (75 miles from Kolkata) West Bengal, who lived during 1486-1533. He was from Bengali Brahmin family. At sixteen, he was youngest professor in Nadia who attracted large numbers of students. He also challenged other scholars to debates in East Bengal and turned victorious.
Incarnation of Sri Krishna:
He is considered an avatar of Lord Krishna by his followers. Many supernatural phenomena were seen manifesting on the boy’s body. While sleeping a moon like aura was sometimes found floating over him and in his bed room many luminous figures appeared before his mother. He is believed to be Radha and Krishna came in one body.
Initiation for Worship of Radha-Krishna:
When he was around twenty years, he undertook a pilgrimage to Gaya, to perform pinda-rites for the salvation of his ancestors. After pida-rites, when worshipped at Vishnu-pada, he fell into trance. When he fell, an ascetic Isvara Puri supported him. After coming to normalcy, Sri Chaitanya requested Puri to help him realize a glimpse of Radha’s love for Sri Krishna. Isvara Puri initiated him into the Mantra for Sri Krishna worship. Immediately after initiation, his jovial mood was transformed into sorrowful mood. His soul tossed from sorrow to ecstasy and from ecstasy to sorrow.
Start of Sri Krishna Sankirtan:
After return from Gaya, he fell into trance a number of times and developed religious ecstasy. He failed to teach the students. Then he proposed to start Sri Krishna kirtan. The eight expressions of intense God-love – weeping, shivering, sweating, horripilation, fainting etc. – began to manifest in him. Such external manifestations of the onset of Sri Krishna prema were sometimes very uncontrollable and turbulent in nature. Once, he behaved strangely and declared himself as deity.
He and his followers started Sri Krishna Kirtans (Har Bol) from door to door to spread Sri Krishna bhakti.
When he was twenty four, the Radha mood began possess him more. He had taught Bhakti till then and now he wanted to teach Prema (intense love) by his own example. In Radha mood he began to heave sighs of longing, and manifest agonizing pangs of separation and collapsing.
Pilgrimage to Jagannath Puri:
He madly longed to go to Vrindavan. For five days he walked without food or rest through fields and forests and lost the way. He reached the residence of a Advaita Acharya at Santipur who persuaded him to go to Jagannath Puri. After reaching Puri temple, he rushed like one frenzied towards the image to embrace Jagannath and in the process fell down. There he met Pandit Vasudeva Sarvabhauma in Puri who advised Chaitanya that he was too young to be ascetic, that his devotional fervor, singing, dancing etc. were mere eccentricities and aberrations, and that he should now learn Vedanta under him. Chaitanya accepted the proposal. During taking lessons, the Pandit asked whether he was following his exposition, and got the shocking reply that Vedanta text was itself simple enough for him to understand, but he could not understand even a word of Shankara’s commentary. Then for a verse from Bhagavad Gita, the Pandit gave nine meanings, Chaitanya gave many more. Then the Pandit declared him full of Vedic wisdom. The Pandit surrendered himself to Chaitanya and prostrated at his feet.
When he got up and looked, he saw six armed divinity instead Chaitanya. The sight put him into a state of rapt Samadhi. Next day, Chaitanya told him: the law of Prema-Bhakti is as Radha had sung:
“Listen! The flute my beloved is beckoning me. I must go. My beloved cannot be won without sacrifice. If you desire to capture Him, you must first surrender everything to Him.”
Pilgrimage along Eastern Coast, Southern & Western Parts of India:
Sri Chaitanya travelled along east coast to south up to Kanyakumari and visited several places such as Rajamundri near east Godavari, Kanyakumari, Madurai, Udupi (seat of Madhacharya’s religion), etc. He then passed through western and middle regions of India where he visited the famous Pandarpur in Maharashtra, Dwarka, etc. Then he travelled towards Puri passing through many holy places along the banks of Tapti, Narmada and Godavari. After the stay of three years at Puri, he left Puri and proceeded for Vrindavan. On the way, he stayed at Varanasi, Prayaga and Mathura. After a few months stay in Vrindavan, he returned to Prayaga. He converted a large number of Mohammedans not by the scriptures of Vaishnavism but by argument from the Quran. The descendants of those converts are still known as Pathan Vaishnavas.
Return to Puri:
Sri Chaitanya returned Puri from Prayag. He continued to stay at Puri for eighteen years, until His disappearance in His forty-eighth year at the time of Sankirtan in the temple of Tota Gopinath. During these 18 years, His life was one of settled love and piety. He was surrounded by numerous followers, all of whom were of the highest order of the Vaishnavas having spiritual love in Radha-Krishna.
Reference: Bhakti Schools of Vedanta – by Swami Tapasyananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.