The Gitopanishad, popularly known as the Bhagavad-Gita is considered by seers and sages alike as the essence of all Vedic knowledge. However, in today’s day and age, it can be rather captivating and indeed gratifying for one to lick the outer surface of the honey anodyne of the Vedic literature. On the other hand, sowing the seed of enlightenment apart from properly nourishing and protecting the spirit of the Sanatana teachings from external and widespread influences such as Mayavada or the impersonal aspect of the Absolute Truth and Shunyavada (the void-ist conceptualization) of the same by the Buddhists becomes tentative.
The Supreme Authority
The Acaryas (ideal teachers or Gurus), however advise us to follow the directions on the label of the honey bottle as given by the physician himself before consuming the medicine. In the Shastras, which are the corollaries of the Vedas, that Supreme practitioner or Bhagavana is Lord Krishna.
Spiritual masters such as Shankaracarya, Madhvacarya, Nimbarkacarya, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and other Vedic authorities validated and indeed preached this great truth unequivocally. As far as the historical dating is concerned, Lord Krishna himself says to Arjuna that the great truth or yoga he is propounding was first spoken to the Sun god, Vivasvan eons ago.
That Supreme Yoga was reinvoked and reinvigorated on the battlefield of Kurukshetra for the benefit of humanity and the annihilation of evil personified in the form the vicious Kuru dynasty. Indeed, the human form of life is considered most auspicious for realization of the Absolute Truth and hence, one is advised not to waste it on trivial matters by quarreling like dogs and cats.
The analogy of the banyan tree with the entanglement of the material world presents a stark reality of life. The middle section of the Gita, however, illuminates with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness of the bodily concept of life and also the light--way out of it.
The imperishable Banyan Tree
“Bhagavan said: It is said that there is an imperishable banyan tree whose roots are upwards and branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One, who knows this tree, is the Knower of the Vedas.”
The Gita is crystal clear in that for one engaged in Karmic activities, there is no relief/respite. The person wanders from one branch to another like a bird albeit an aimless one. The leaves which are compared to Vedic hymns are meant for uplifting one from the morass of material life. The roots grow upwards because the tree is the perverted reflection of the spiritual world (sat-chit-ananda). In other words, this is the indestructible tree of illusion.
Lord Krishna is asking us to break attachment with this material tree through the weapon of detachment. But for nescience to obviate, knowledge has to be instilled and realized. To reach that end, Lord Krishna further elucidates upon the subject:
“The branches of this tree extend downwards and upwards, nourished by the modes of material nature. The twigs are the objects of the senses. The tree also has roots going downwards, and is bound by the fruitive actions of human society.”
In the lower part of the tree are situated lower forms of life whereas the demigods and other evolved forms of life are situated on the upper parts. Like a real tree nourished by water, this tree is nourished by the modes of nature: goodness, passion and ignorance. The twigs are considered as sense objects towards which the tips of branches or the senses develop raga (attachment) or dvesha (aversion). Our attachment or aversion to sense objects is the root cause of temporal happiness and suffering.
Through the analogy of the banyan tree, it can be concurred that the human form of life is the field of activities wherein we enjoy the fruits of happiness and misery.
Breaking free from the Banyan Tree
After explaining the nature of the banyan tree, Lord Krishna further high-lightens the fact that the real form of this banyan tree cannot be perceived by those already enmeshed within its roots. However, with the axe of detachment and determination one must cut down the strongly rooted illusory tree. Detachment implies breaking free from the trappings of sense gratification and surrender to the Supreme Person and Place from where, having gone once, one never returns.
Lord Krishna, is that Supreme Person because the Gitopanishad declares boldly that everything began from Him and everything else is an extension of His material energy or Maya.
When one surrenders to that Superior authority, he is relinquished from his past sins of ignorance and selfish cravings. The deeply embedded banyan tree in the consciousness of the person is cast far away and the objective reality of who we really are is revealed within the core of his heart.
The last section of the Gita confirms the aforementioned truth, when Lord Krishna states the following:
“Abandon all varieties of religion and surrender unto me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not Fear.”
*based on the commentaries of Vaishnava Acharyas
Yantra literally means “support” and “instrument”. A Yantra is a geometric design acting as a highly efficient tool for contemplation, concentration and meditation. Yantras carry spiritual significance : there is a specific meaning that pertains to higher levels of consciousness.
The Yantra provides a focal point that is a window into the absolute. When the mind is concentrated on a single, simple object (in this case a Yantra), the mental chatter ceases. Eventually, the object is dropped when the mind can remain empty and silent without help. In the most advanced phases, it is possible to attain union with God by the geometric visualization of a Yantra.
The Yantra is like a microcosmic picture of the Macrocosm. It is a focusing point and an outer and inner doorway. The Yantras are often focused on a specific deity and so. By tuning into the different Yantras you can tap into certain deities or creative force centers in the universe.
Yantras are usually designed so that the eye is carried into the center, and very often they are symmetrical. They can be drawn on paper, wood, metal, or earth, or they can be three-dimensional.
The most celebrated Yantra in India is the Shri- Yantra, the Yantra of Tripura Sundari. It is a symbol of the entire cosmos that serves to remind the practitioner of the non difference between subject and object.
At the basis of Yantra operation is something called “shape energy” or “form energy”. The idea is that every shape emits a very specific frequency and energy pattern. Examples of old beliefs in shape energy are the Yantra and mandalas of eastern philosophies, the star of David, the five pointed star (pentagon), the Christian cross, the pyramids and so on. Certain ‘powers’ are ascribed to the various shapes. Some have ‘evil’ or negative energies and some ‘good’ or positive energies, but in Yantra yoga only the beneficial and harmonious energies are used.
When one focuses on a YANTRA, his mind is automatically “tuned in” by resonance into the specific form energy of that Yantra. The process of Resonance is then maintained and amplified. The Yantra acts only as a “tune in” mechanism or a doorway. The subtle energy does not come from the YANTRA itself, but from the Macrocosm.
Basically Yantras are secret keys for establishing resonance with the beneficial energies of the Macrocosm. Very often the Yantras can put us in contact with extremely elevated energies and entities, beings of invaluable help on the spiritual path.
At this moment, there is little known about Yantras in the Western world. Many people consider them just pretty pictures and some artists claim to draw “Yantras” from their imagination. They are very far from the true meaning and use of Yantras. First of all, Yantra cannot simply be invented from imagination. Every specific mood and emotion has an associated form energy and shape. This unequivocally determines the form of the Yantra associated to that mood. The traditional Yantras were discovered through revelation, by clairvoyance, not invented. One needs to be a true spiritual master, a tantric guru, to be able to reveal a new Yantra to the world.
Search the Internet and the libraries and you will find very little consistent knowledge about Yantras. Some people placed Yantras upside down, a monument of their ignorance. You cannot place a Yantra just any way you please. Anyone knows that when the cross is held upside down, it is no longer a beneficial symbol. A Yantra put upside down is no longer the same Yantra.
The power of Yantra to induce resonance is based on the specific form of its appearance. Such a diagram can be composed from one or more geometrical shapes which combine into a precise model representing and transfiguring in essence, at the level of the physical universe, the subtle sphere of force corresponding to the invoked deity. From this point of view we can argue that the Yantra functions similarly to a Mantra (sacred word). By resonance, a certain energy from the practitioner’s microcosm vibrates on the same wavelength with the corresponding infinite energy present in the macrocosm, energy which is represented in the physical plane by the Yantra. The principle of resonance with any deity, cosmic wisdom, aspect, phenomenon or energy owes its universal applicability to the perfect correspondence existing between the human being (seen as a true microcosm) and the creation as a whole (Macrocosm).
Every Yantra is delimited from the exterior by a line or a group of lines forming its perimeter. These marginal lines have the function to maintain, contain and prevent the loss of the magical forces represented by the core structure of the Yantra, usually the central dot. They also have the function to increase its magical and subtle force.
The core of the Yantra is composed of one or several simple geometrical shapes : dots, lines, triangles, squares, circles and lotuses representing in different ways the subtle energies.
For example the dot (Bindu) signifies the focalized energy and its intense concentration. It can be envisaged as a kind of energy deposit which can in turn radiate energy under other forms. The dot is usually surrounded by different surfaces, either a triangle, a hexagon, a circle etc. These forms depend on the characteristic of the deity or aspect represented by the Yantra. In the tantric iconography, the dot is named Bindu; in tantra Bindu is symbolically considered to be Shiva himself, the source of the whole creation.
The triangle (Trikona) is the symbol of Shakti, the feminine energy or aspect of creation. The triangle pointing down represents the Yoni, the feminine sexual organ and the symbol of the supreme source of the Universe, and when the triangle is pointing upwards it signifies intense spiritual aspiration, the sublimation of one’s nature into the most subtle planes and the element of fire (Agni Tattva). The fire is always oriented upwards, thus the co-relation with the upward triangle – Shiva Kona. On the other hand, the downward pointing triangle signifies the element of water which always tends to flow and occupy the lowest possible position. This triangle is known as Shiva Kona.
The intersection of two geometric forms (lines, triangles, circles, etc.) represents forces that are even more intense than those generated by the simple forms. Such an inter-penetration indicates a high level in the dynamic interaction of the correspondent energies. The empty spaces generated by such combinations are described as very efficient operational fields of the forces emanating from the central point of the Yantra. That is why we can very often encounter representations of Mantras in such spaces. Yantra and Mantra are complementary aspects of Shiva and their use together is much more efficient than the use of one alone.
A typical combination often found in the graphical structure of a Yantra is the superposition of two triangles, one pointing upwards and the other downwards, forming a star with six points (Shatkona), also known as David’s Star. This form symbolically represents the union of PURUSHA and PRAKRITI or Shiva-Shakti, without which there could be no Creation.
Another simple geometrical shape often used in Yantras is the circle, representing the rotation, a movement closely linked to the shape of spiral which is fundamental in the Macrocosmic evolution. At the same time, the circle represents perfection and the blissful creative void. In the series of the five fundamental elements it represents air (Vayu Tattva).
Between the simple geometrical elements that compose Yantra, there is also the square (BHUPURA). The square is usually the exterior limit of the Yantra and symbolically, it represents the element earth (Prithvi Tattva).
Every Yantra starts from the center, often marked by a central dot (Bindu) and ends with the outer square. This represents the sense of universal evolution, starting from the subtle and ending with the coarse, starting from “ether” and ending with “earth”.
Even though most of the times Yantras are composed of these simple geometrical shapes, sometimes we encounter other elements such as arrow points, tridents, swords, spikes included in the design of a Yantra with the purpose of representing vectors and directions of action for the Yantric energies.
The lotus symbol (or its petals) is both a symbol of purity and variety, every lotus petal representing a distinct aspect. The inclusion of a lotus in a YANTRA represents freedom from multiple interference with the exterior (purity) and expresses the absolute force of the Supreme Self.
In conclusion, a Yantra is a very complex spiritual instrument in the tantric practice (Sadhana). It can calm and focus the activities of the mind, and by its positive auto-suggestion it has a beneficial impact on the health and psychic well being of a person.
A Yantras alone represents nothing. Only when it is awakened by mental concentration and meditation will the process of Resonance appear and the beneficial macrocosmic energies will manifest themselves in the practitioner’s Microcosm.
As shown above, the secret key to using Yantras in meditation is Resonance. The process of Resonance is established by mental focus on the image of the Yantra. As long as the mind is tuned into the specific mood associated to that Yantra, the energy flows, but when the Resonance is stopped, the energy disappears.
· Hang the Yantra on a wall facing North or East, placing the center of the Yantra at the level of your eyes
· Adopt your favourite posture or, if you want, sit on a chair maintaining your spine straight
· Breath in through the nose and out through the mouth, but do not force at all, just let the breath flow normally
· Look into the center of the Yantra, trying to blink as rarely as possible; you don’t want to look at the particular details of the Yantra, just keep your sight right in the center and observe the whole Yantra at once
· This exercise should last at least 15-30 minutes every day; the experience will be indescribable
· In time, after at least seven days of Yantra meditation you will be able to tap into the same yantric energy even without a Yantra (at the beginning you may fix your sight on an exterior or imaginary point or evoke the Yantra with your eyes closed)
· Do not forget to consecrate the fruits of this practice to God (karma yoga); you should not chase any objective when doing Yantra meditation, just let it gradually guide you towards the sublime energies of the Macrocosm
· When executing this techniques it is recommended that we maintain a state of aspiration and intense longing for experiencing the beatific energies of the consciousness
· In superior phases the Yantra absorbs the practitioner’s complete attention, and he can no longer tell if the Yantra is within himself or if he is within theYantra; this is the state of non-duality.
The Battle of Kurukshetra marked a turning epoch in the history of mankind wherein a philosophical and religious dialogue ensued between a great warrior named Arjuna and the mystical supreme character worshipped by many as Lord Krishna.
Whereas for the most part, the dialogue was initiated in the form of Arjuna asking Krishna queries related to the fundamental nature of being to phenomenological inquiries and their practical application in life, the middle section of the Gitopanishad begins with Krishna elucidating spontaneously the knowledge of the Absolute.
“Now hear, O son of Prtha, how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free of doubt.”
The words ‘Now hear’ bear great significance as they signify the correct method of receiving such knowledge (by hearing in a humble state of mind). In other words, bhakti or devotion begins with hearing from/about Krishna.
Underlying the distinction from theoretical philosophy, Krishna declares such knowledge to be both ‘phenomenal’ (perceptible through direct experience) and ‘numinous’ (indicating presence of divinity). Krishna further emphasizes the importance of such knowledge, by stating, “This being known, nothing further shall remain for you to know”.
Herein, the difference between Gyana and Vigyana is clearly outlined. Whereas Gyana is referred to as the knowledge of the difference between the body and soul, Vigyana goes a step further in that it is defined as the knowledge of the Supreme or Krishna consciousness. Such knowledge is corroborated by seers such as Ramanujacarya, Madhavacharya and other great saints.
Furthermore, the sublimity of such knowledge is high-lightened by the following verse: “Out of thousands among men, one my endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.”
Here, Krishna does not intend to overwhelm and hence discourage us from realizing the truth but instead accentuates and glorifies the superiority of Bhakti, in the face of the Brahman realized impersonalist and the Paramatma( Super-soul) realized Yogi. Even demigods, what to speak of great scholars and philosophers, fail to comprehend the Supreme Truth as the son of Nanda and the charioteer of Arjuna.
Therefore, one who understands Krishna as the Supreme Absolute Truth is indeed a rare soul. Be that as it may, devotees can easily understand Him through the spotless process of devotional service.
Henceforth, Krishna summarizes the material world and its workings, in connection with His own being—“Earth, air, fire, water, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego-all together constitute My separated energies”.
Herein, the material world is reduced to its gross and subtle constituents, in concurrence with the 24 elements defined by Sankhya-Yoga. The word ‘separated’ is noteworthy because Krishna has allowed the material world to move independently of His direct control.
After succinctly defining the elemental parts of the material world, Krishna elucidates on the subject matter of a ‘superior’ energy of His; the living entity or jiva-atma.
“Besides these, O mighty armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.”
The living entities are His superior energy because the quality of their existence is one and the same with the Supreme, but they are never equal to Him in quantity of power. Due to the mindless exploitation of the gross and subtle inferior energy, the Superior energy or the living entity forgets his real spiritual nature.
Due to avidya (ignorance or forgetfulness) covering his real spiritual form, the living entity undergoes manifold miseries and sufferings in the form of birth, old age, disease and death. Such forgetfulness is due to the influence of matter on spirit. However, as soon as all material ideas are erased, the atman begins to manifest its eternal, full of knowledge and blissful essence. That is to say, the living entity is a fragmental part and parcel of the Supreme Consciousness. Realization of this fact entails liberation or mukti.
That the living entities are part and parcel of the Supreme whole or Krishna is elucidated by His own words, “All created beings have their source in these two natures. Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in the world, know for certain that I am both the origin and dissolution”. From this verse, it is to be understood that Krishna is the creator and also the destroyer (for which he assumes different forms).
Exercising His literary powers, Krishna then goes a step further to embed the notion of being the maintainer of everything as well. “O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, like pearls are strung on a thread.”
From the aforementioned verse, it can be clearly deciphered that the Absolute Truth is a person. The Brahma-Samhita further corroborates this fact : “The Supreme Absolute Truth is Krishna, who is the primeval Lord, the reservoir of all pleasures, Govinda, and the eternal form of complete bliss and knowledge”. (ishvarah paramah krshnah sac-cid-aananda-vigrahah).
Just as no one can see the thread that holds a pearl necklace together, Krishna maintains everything covertly. We can see Him everywhere by Hearing from and/or about Him from an authorized source. Indeed, hearing is one of the most crucial components of the sublime creeper of devotional service.
Sanatana Dharma, which means the eternal or universal tradition, is the ancient name for what we today call the Hindu religion. It refers to a dharma, a teaching, law or truth that exists in perpetuity, that is all-encompassing, embracing the full spectrum of human spiritual experience, culminating in the direct realization of the Divine as one’s own true Self.
Through the course of time and human limitations, Hinduism may have taken on various elements which do not reflect this eternal essence of universal truth. However, the power of Sanatana Dharma continues behind the Hindu tradition, particularly in its Yoga and Vedanta spiritual forms, providing it with a depth, breadth and vitality that perhaps no other spiritual tradition on Earth is able to sustain.
One can find in Hinduism all the main religious teachings of the world from nature worship, to theism, to the formless Absolute. One can find practices of devotion, yoga, mantra and meditation in a great plethora of expressions, including the world’s most sophisticated spiritual philosophies of Self-realization. Hinduism is not anchored to any single prophet, book or historical revelation that can tie down the expanse of its vision. It does not subordinate the individual to an outer religious authority, but encourages everyone to discover the Divine within their own awareness.
Indeed, if one were to synthesize all the existing religions of the world, one would end up with a teaching much like Hindu Dharma. Hinduism has the devotional theism of western religions, the karma theory and meditation practices of Buddhism, and the nature worship of native traditions, all unified at a deep philosophical and experiential level into one harmonious fabric. Hinduism appears like the common root from which these various religious expressions have diversified or perhaps, departed.
Global Sanatana Dharma and Hinduism in India
Yet though Hinduism has been its main expression through history, Sanatana Dharma as a universal and eternal tradition cannot be reduced to the forms of Hinduism or to a tradition belonging only to India. Sanatana Dharma has counterparts in other lands and traditions. In fact, one can argue, wherever the higher truth is recognized, that is Sanatana Dharma, regardless of the names, forms or personalities involved.
If we look at the ancient world prior to the predominance of western monotheistic traditions, we find much that resembles Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma, whether among the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Celts, Persians, Chinese or Mayas to name but a few. India is the land in which Sanatana Dharma has taken the deepest root and maintained its best continuity. Hinduism is the religion in which Sanatana Dharma has best survived. But Santana Dharma is relevant to all peoples and must be recognized throughout the world for the planet to achieve its real potential for the unfoldment of consciousness.
One then may ask, “If Hinduism is an expression of Sanatana Dharma, why does it appear to be limited to India like a local ethnic religion, rather than a universal approach?” The first thing to realize in this regard is that a universal approach will always seek to create local forms. For example, a universal approach to diet will encourage people to eat the local food that has the best nutritional content. It will not emphasize the same food items for people in all lands and climates.
Sanatana Dharma will always create a great diversity of local forms, and never aim at uniformity. Uniformity is not a sign of universality, but of artificiality. Dharma is not a set of fixed beliefs or practices but a way of adaptation to the living truth that is always changing in form though one in law and principle. Even in India we see a great deal of local diversity in how Hinduism is presented and expressed in the different parts of the country. This variety that exists within Hinduism is probably greater than the variety found within any other religion. Yet through all of this diversity there remains a clear unity of Hindu thought and culture.
Sanatana Dharma is central to the soul of India as a nation. India’s place in human history is to function as the global guru or spiritual guide rooted in Sanatana Dharma as Sri Aurobindo once eloquently proclaimed. The traditional culture of India is infused with yoga, meditation and experiential spirituality of all types. This means that India cannot flourish as a country without a recognition of Sanatana Dharma and an honoring of its values on all levels of India’s culture.
However, besides its connection to Sanatana Dharma, India has another side, much like many other countries and cultures. There are divisive forces that deny this dharmic cultural unity, whether in the name of political ideologies like Marxism, other religious traditions like Christianity and Islam, or sectarian trends within Hinduism itself. Even in Hindu society, we too frequently see an emphasis on clan, family, and community that overrides any greater national interests or even the greater needs of Hinduism itself. This narrow vision can reduce Hindu Dharma to an Indian tradition only, or it can emphasize one Hindu sect or guru while ignoring the greater background of Sanatana Dharma.
One encounters this problem particularly when non-Indians seek to become Hindus. They are often told that one must be born a Hindu and cannot convert to Hinduism, which is not true historically or Hinduism could have never spread so far as it has. We also see this problem with Hindus who have migrated outside of India. They form their own religious communities, which is admirable, but do not make much of an effort to bring non-Indians into these, even when such individuals may approach them seeking to join Hindu Dharma. This further gives the impression that Hinduism is a religion for a particular ethnic group only, not a universal path. It can turn away westerners who have a genuine receptivity to Sanatana Dharma.
The Revival of Hinduism through Sanatana Dharma
To counter such attempts to limit Hinduism and to bring its teachings out for the benefit of all, we need a revival of Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma, the eternal or universal tradition, for the entire planet. Such a global projection of Sanatana Dharma does not deny the importance of Hinduism as central to India, its culture, its past and its future. But it emphasizes a global and expansive Hinduism, not one that contracts itself according to geographical or ethnic boundaries.
Such a bold assertion of Sanatana Dharma makes Hinduism relevant to all people, all religions and all cultures. It removes Hinduism from being restricted to local forms or controlled by the dictates of any particular group. This expansive Sanatana Dharma will naturally honor India and seek a revival of Hinduism in India. But it will do so with a global vision and a linking up with Hindus and dharmic groups worldwide.
There have already been important movements in this in direction. In fact, one can argue that the global spread of Hindu teachings like Yoga, Vedanta and Ayurveda is a sign of Sanatana Dharma arising at a global level. Gurus from India and their teachings have spread to all countries.
Unfortunately, many modern teachers from India have left the greater portion of Hinduism behind in their attempt to gain a broader recognition, to the extent of denying their Hindu roots and not educating their disciples in the greater Hindu tradition, its importance and its values. Instead of honoring the Hindu connection with Sanatana Dharma, they promote an artificial unity of all religions that puts Hindu views and practices in the background or ignores them altogether.
Such teachers state that people can add the spiritual practices of the Hindu tradition, like Yoga and Vedanta, on to any other cultural or religious foundation. They do not encourage people to study and honor the Hindu tradition itself but rather to stay within their own culture’s religious tradition, even if it is anti-Hindu. They do not emphasize Hinduism’s special connection to Sanatana Dharma, but try to make Hindus feel that all other religions are the same as their own and no real differences exist between them.
In this regard, such teachers of universal spirituality are making a mistake in their understanding of dharma. Sanatana Dharma is not just a spiritual path or what is called a Moksha Dharma, a way of liberation. Sanatana Dharma shows a dharmic way for all aspects of life starting with personal life-style practices, to the family, education, business, intellectual culture and even politics (all the spheres of dharma, artha, kama and moksha).
Unfortunately, the teachers who try to universalize the Moksha Dharma of Hinduism and apply it to all religions leave out the other aspects of Dharma, which includes the dharmic foundation for both social and individual life. A new resurgent global Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma will project all aspects of dharma and not be limited to a Moksha Dharma. It is important that we replace this “radical universalism” of all religions being the same, which is a misinterpretation and diminution of Sanatana Dharma, with a global Hindu and dharmic resurgence that affirms Sanatana Dharma as both a spiritual path and a way of life on all levels.
It is not only Yoga and Vedanta that have universal value, so does the foundation of Hindu Dharma on all levels. This includes Hindu rituals, which are a science of interacting with the cosmic forces, Hindu temples and holy places which are conduits for cosmic energy, Vedic sciences like Ayurveda, Vedic astrology and Vastu, Hindu music and dance and other Hindu art forms. These outer aspects of Hindu or dharmic living can be developed and adapted in different cultural contexts but their basic principles are as enduring as the great truth of Vedanta that there is only one Self in all beings.
On this foundation of dharmic living, both in terms of our outer culture and our inner spiritual practices, people from all lands and cultures can embrace Sanatana Dharma. They can find in Hindu thought a model for an authentic dharmic culture and spirituality that addresses their own individual, social and environmental needs, which they can use to restructure their lives as way of Self-realization. In that dharmic approach, all divisive religious identities will disappear into a greater unity of consciousness, not only with other human beings, but with the entire universe.
Mahakaaleshwar and the mystic city of Ujjain
As per Shiva Purana, once Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had an argument in terms of supremacy of creation. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies while Vishnu would be worshipped till the end of eternity. The jyotirlinga is the supreme partless reality, out of which Shiva partly appears. The jyothirlinga shrines, thus are places where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light. There are 64 forms of Shiva, not to be confused with Jyotirlingas. Each of the twelve jyothirlinga sites take the name of the presiding deity - each considered different manifestation of Shiva. At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginningless and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva.
The twelve jyotirlingas are
Somnath in Gujarat
Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh
Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh
Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh
Kedarnath in Himalayas
Bhimashankar in Maharashtra
Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh
Triambakeshwar in Maharashtra
Vaidyanath at Deogarh in Jharkhand or at Baijnath in Himachal Pradesh
Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat
Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu
Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharashtra
The idol of Mahakaleshwar is known to be dakshinamurti, which means that it is facing the south. This is a unique feature, upheld by the tantric shivnetra tradition to be found only in Mahakaleshwar among the 12 Jyotirlingas. The idol of Omkareshwar Mahadev is consecrated in the sanctum above the Mahakal shrine. The images of Ganesh, Parvati and Kartikeya are installed in the west, north and east of the sanctum sanctorum. To the south is the image of Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. The idol of Nagchandreshwar on the third storey is open for darshan only on the day of Nag Panchami. The temple has five levels, one of which is underground. The temple itself is located in a spacious courtyard surrounded by massive walls near a lake. The shikhar or the spire is adorned with sculptural finery. Brass lamps light the way to the underground sanctum. It is believed that prasada (holy offering) offered here to the deity can be re-offered unlike all other shrines.
The presiding deity of time, Shiva, in all his splendor, reigns eternally in the city of Ujjain. The temple of Mahakaleshwar, its shikhar soaring into the sky, an imposing façade against the skyline, evokes primordial awe and reverence with its majesty. The Mahakal dominates the life of the city and its people, even in the midst of the busy routine of modern preoccupations, and provides an unbreakable link with ancient Hindu traditions.
In the precincts of the Mahakaleshwar temple is Shri Swapaneshwar Mahadev temple, where devotees pray to Shiva as Mahakaal, to realize the most important dreams of their lives. Sadashiv Mahadev is so empathetic, benevolent and easy to please that devotees are sure to be granted the boons they wish for with a pure heart in this temple, it is believed. Here Mahadev is Swapaneshwar and Shakti is Swapaneshwari.
The Story of Shrikhar and Mahakaal
According to the Puranas, the city of Ujjain was called Avantika and was famous for its beauty and its status as a devotional epicenter. It was also one of the primary cities where students went to study holy scriptures. According to legend, there was a ruler of Ujjain called Chandrasena, who was a pious devotee of Lord Shiva and worshiped him all the time. One day, a farmer's boy named Shrikhar was walking on the grounds of the palace and heard the King chant the Lord's name and rushed to the temple to start praying with him. However, the guards removed him by force and sent him to the outskirts of the city near the river Kshipra. Rivals of Ujjain, primarily King Ripudamana and King Singhaditya of the neighboring kingdoms decided to attack the Kingdom and take over its treasures around this time. Hearing this, Shrikhar started to pray and the news spread to a priest named Vridhi. He was shocked to hear this and upon the urgent pleas of his sons, started to pray to Lord Shiva at the river Kshipra. The Kings chose to attack and were successful; with the help of the powerful demon Dushan, who was blessed by Lord Brahma to be invisible, they plundered the city and attacked all the devotees of Lord Shiva.
Upon hearing the pleas of His helpless devotees, Lord Shiva appeared in his Mahakala form and destroyed the enemies of King Chandrasena. Upon the request of his devotees Shrikhar and Vridhi, Lord Shiva agreed to reside in the city and become the chief deity of the Kingdom and take care of it against its enemies and to protect all His devotees. From that day on, Lord Shiva resided in His light form as Mahakala in a Lingam that was formed on its own from the powers of the Lord and His consort, Parvati. The Lord also blessed his devotees and declared that people who worshipped Him in this form would be free from the fear of death and diseases. Also, they would be granted worldly treasures and be under the protection of the Lord himself.
The Mahakaleshwar Temple as a Shakti Peeth
Shakti Peethas are shrines that are believes to have enshrined with the presence of Shakti due to the falling of body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi, when Lord Shiva carried it. Each of the 51 Shakti peethas have shrines for Shakti and Kalabhairava. The Upper Lip of Sati Devi is said to have fallen here and the Shakti is called Mahakali.
Ujjain was an important literary centre of ancient India. The writings of Bhasa are set in Ujjain, and he probably lived in the city. Kalidasa also refers to Ujjain multiple times, and it appears that he spent at least a part of his life in Ujjain. richchhakatika by Shudraka is also set in Ujjain. jjain also appears in several stories as the capital of the legendary emperor Vikramaditya. Somadeva's Kathasaritsagara mentions that the city was created by the Vishwakarma, and describes it as invincible, prosperous and full of wonderful sights.
Human curiosity attains its zenith when philosophical questions of birth and death are contemplated. From the beginning of civilization, no question has evoked such a profound seeking as death of a loved one and birth of a new life. What happens after death is an even deeper mystery sought after by sages, prophets, artists and poets alike.
Are experience of the world is that, right from the seed to the animals and man; all are under a constant state of flux. Countless answers or solutions have been put forth regarding the ever changing nature of the world we inhabit and are an intrinsic part of.
One of the matchless gifts offered from the treasure trove of spiritual wisdom come from the words of Swami Vivekananda, the fountain head of reason and logic. Uncovering the dust from the much neglected Vedic perception of the underlying reality behind the Universe can usher a wave of intellectual but empirical revolution.
“Modern science is now recognizing matter as one substance manifesting itself in different waves and in various forms, rendering redundant the division and breaking of one thing into multifarious smaller entities,” says the pearl of Vedantic knowledge on evolution.
Vivekananda, however, further extends this idea of evolution further to ancient Vedantic thought of involution; wherein every evolution presupposes an involution. A beautiful analogy is then drawn to practically demonstrate the theory:
“The plant comes out of the seed, grows into the tree, completes the circle, and comes back to the seed. But what was the seed? It was the same as the tree. All possibilities of a future tree are in that seed; the possibilities of future man are in the baby; all possibilities of any future life are in the germ,” Vivekananda states lucidly.
Modern science again corroborates Vivekananda’s analysis of truth, particularly when mathematical reasoning states that the sum total of energy displayed in the universe is the same throughout. This further quashes the notion that the universe cannot come out of nothing or Shunyatta (zero).
This presupposition of involution in every evolution cannot be better illustrated than in the succinct words of Vivekananda himself; that the child is the man involved and the man is the child evolved.
In other words, the evolution of mankind from the protoplasm to human beings and to God himself is but one life wherein the whole manifestation is involved. This is to say that the highest expression was present in the germ in minute form and that one mass of intelligence is uncoiling itself.
Hence, growth must not be something extraneous but that perfection lies latent in every life. There can be no question of growth when something is already present within but manifests itself in different forms.
The uniformity and continuity is further elucidated by Vivekananda when he says that effect is the manifested and thus there is no essential difference between the two differently appearing phenomena.
For example, the laws of physics state that glass is the sum total of the material plus the will of the manufacturer. But what keeps the glass from crumbling to pieces is the force of adhesion. In that case, the effect is the cause itself.
Vivekananda enunciated the same notion but had a greater vision to perceive the same principle involved in the evolution of life.
“Cosmic life got involved and became finer, and out of that fine something which was the cause itself, it has gone on evolving, manifesting itself and becoming grosser,” says India’s spiritual stalwart as if a scientist of the highest order.
Also, the idea of destruction takes a whole new meaning with Vivekananda’s flawless reasoning as going back to the source. To illustrate the picture am inference is drawn from the throwing of die. When thrown, the die produce a combination of numbers, say 1-2-3-4. After a certain number of throws it is but a given that the same combination will repeat itself.
When applied to matter, the forms of a table, chair, glass, among other things are one combination. In time, they will break and segregate and after a certain period, the same combination will manifest. This is theory of reincarnation stated in scientific parlance.
Thus far, Vivekananda has stated with glaring precision an extensive empirical analysis of the Universe, its evolution and the idea of reincarnation, discoveries which modern science is just beginning to understand.
Vivkananda’s unparalleled perception is testimony to the fact that the knowledge of Indian seers have surpassed, both in breadth and scope, western philosophical and scientific notions which are still struggling to provide an empirical anodyne to the perennially pricking question of the nature of existence and the metaphysical mystiques involved in its manifestation.
The Immortality of the Soul by Swami Vivekananda( Complete works)
Smriti or “that which is remembered”, is a vast corpus of diverse Vedic literature which is authored by an individual and is not considered divine per se.
The Smritis comprise of a genre of Sanskrit texts referred to as Dharma-Sahastra. These texts form an integral part of the Indic branch of learning and pertain to right conduct (Dharma), religion and legal duty.
In the modern age, a lot of criticism is levied on the Dharma-Shastras, mainly due to the flawed way in which they are interpreted.
Most of the scholarly analysis of the Dharma-Shastras undertaken by the western researchers today, focuses on the literal interpretation of words, rather than their stated intent. It is no surprise, then, that under such a narrow purview, the Dharma-shastras are castigated as ‘backward, illiberal and oppressive’.
For understanding any system propounded by an ancient text, it is essential that one focuses on the spirit rather than the letter of the law.
The Shastras are not a set of rigid blanket injunctions meant to be applied and followed at all times and in all places. They talk about Sat or truth while defining rules that are applicable for a particular time period and a defined region.
In contrast, the constitution which is an amalgamation of Euro-centric views, espouses the idea that the state or religious authority should define rules for all times to come. One can argue for the flexibility of the constitution by pointing towards the provision for amendments. However, such provisions carry with them a written down presumption that changing or for that matter, tweaking the legal sections will be anything but a walk in the park.
Dharma or right conduct, as laid by the Shastras implicitly entails the application of one’s own mind according to the situation at a particular point of time. For example, the activities of Ram which were considered as right action in Tretayuga, might be viewed as anything but sacrosanct in the post-modern world.
The doctrine that the application of laws should be based on the character (right conduct) of an individual, as put forth by the Shastras, is a very liberal concept.
Fast forward to the present age and the world is still struggling hard to define the notions of liberalism and pluralism. In fact, the ideas of freedom have become so abstract so as to say that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. In other words, what may be morally right for one person may be wrong for someone else.
Such a concept of liberty inherently advocates moral relativism as the only practical way to live. Values are denounced and their existential basis becomes philosophically questionable.
The Dharma-Shastras, on the other hand, are clear in the declaration that no liberalism can amount to unfettered behavior. Even while being bound to the law, there is freedom to formulate a new legislation.
Another factor that makes the ancient ideology of life as superior to the present society, is the emphasis on non-consumerism and non-individualism.
The classical vision, as expounded by the epic of Mahabharata is: Tasyeta ekam kulasyarthe, which basically means giving up self-interest for a higher interest.
This maxim forms a ladder with a series of progressive rungs; Giving up interest of the self for the interest of the family, ceding the interest of the family for the welfare of the village, rejecting the interest of the village for the betterment of the nation and ultimately sacrificing the attachment to the nation for the benefit of the atma or soul.
Such a hierarchical system of working ensured that every unit of society, from the microcosm of the individual soul to the macrocosm of the nation was happy and peaceful.
In the here and now, such a method of functioning will be completely against the fundamental right to freedom. Most of the educated people in India have been ingrained with such a heavy dosage of romantic individualism by the Western education system, that such a practical way of living is visualized as untenable and highly illogical.
A deeper scrutiny of the Westernized-individualism will reveal to us that such an indoctrination is a shrewd strategy to run the wheels of the global capitalist economy.
In the consumerist model, a mechanism called ‘branding’ is put to efficient use to enslave people. The brands are utilized as tools to create a virtual relationship with consumers that is pure fiction.
This relation engenders a trust relationship between the consumers and the brand that necessarily bypasses the company.
Such a master-plan is premised upon inventing and selling the myth that the consumer makes his economic decisions purely out of his own self-interest, that everyone engages in such a behavior and that society is better off as a result.
A direct consequence of the popularization of such a world-view is the crass consumerism under whose lashing waves we are deluging not just ourselves, but also the environment which sustains us.
The sacrifice of self-interest for the sake of something higher is an ideal that much more practical sense, than the warped logic of individual freedom as extolled by the west.
Another reason why the Shastras are looked down upon and derided as relics of a bygone era, is because of the fundamental proposition of the Varna-ashram dharma.
Such criticism again arises out of fuzzy and faulty understanding of the both orders of social organization.
While the Varna system segregates the social population into four castes: Brahmana, Kshtariya, Vaishya and Shudra, the Ashram apparatus divides life into four stages: Brahmacharya, Grhastha, Vanaprastha and Sannyasa.
The Ashrama dharma is a very practical way of defining living. The initial years are spent in accumulating knowledge and education. After reaching adulthood, marriage and generation of wealth assume importance. Then, after a certain time, one hands over all his wealth and retreats into the forest in search of spiritual knowledge. Finally, one embraces the renounced order of life fin order to establish his/her relationship with higher self.
In the modern age, the youth is only subjected to knowledge which is beneficial in churning out wealth. Consequently, there is hardly an impetus on discovering the spiritual aspect of life.
Retirement life, as it is viewed by the Vedic civilization, has also undergone a sea change. As one progresses towards retirement age, he becomes more consumerist than ever before, courtesy the accumulation of retirement benefits, fund stockings etc.
This is primarily a Euro-centric idea, which India has happily adopted even as it isolates itself from the values enshrined in its own spiritual books. Life, whose goal previously was self-realization, has morphed into an incessant money-generating machine.
While, such a system does create a kind of material evolution, it inevitably transmutes into a spiritual devolution.
Another means of social organization, the Varna or caste system has also been abolished now. The reason cited for quashing such a successful model of social harmony is the oppression of Shudras or men engaged in menial jobs by the higher class or the Brahmanas.
Again, such arguments against the Vedic mode of functioning are based on a narrow understanding of the system.
First of all, the caste system was never entirely based on birth. Factors such qualities and the profession of a person assumed paramount importance in defining ones caste. Birth was never the final judgment in defining the life of an individual.
Secondly, such a hierarchical social order was not a special feature of only the Indic civilization. Greek philosopher Plato, for example, prescribes a system which is completely oppressive in its nature. In Europe, the entire population was divided into masters and slaves. In China and in Japan, the situation was no better.
It was only in India, that a flourishing and prosperous middle class existed. Prima-facie, this was due to the strength and the flexibility of the Varna system.
Thirdly, the perception that all Shudras were untouchables and were lived outside the town is wrong. Most of them were involved in the daily economic activities. Some of them even became kings when they acquired power. For example, the Shudras enjoyed their own kingdom, a fact mentioned in the Mahabharata.
In hindsight, the guilt that is endowed upon the Varna-ashram system is a needless and thoughtless guilt. It was a system which worked (and works) much better than other models of social organization, both in the pre-technological as well as the post-modern age.
It would be pertinent and at same time, ironical to know that the sophistication and practicality of the Shastras was a quality much appreciated by the European scholars themselves.
Freidrich Neitzsche, a philosopher who stood against organized religion of any kind, while reading Louis Jaclliot’s translation of Laws of Manu, is known to have said: “Close the Bible and open the Manu Smriti. It has an affirmation of life, a triumphing agreeable sensation in life and that to draw up a lawbook such as Manu means to permit oneself to get the upper hand, to become perfection, to be ambitious of the highest art of living.”
Perhaps it is time that our misdirected civilization takes note and acts on the prescription of their philosophical idol.
Shani is one of the 'Navgrahas' and the son of Surya (Sun God) and his wife Chhaya hence also known as Chayyaputra. He’s the elder brother of Yama the Hindu god of death.
The word shani also denotes the seventh day or Saturday in most Indian languages.
The word 'shani' comes from 'Sanaye Kramati Sa?', the one who moves slowly, because Saturn takes about 30 years to revolve around the Sun.
Legends say when Shani first opened his eyes at birth the sun went into eclipse which shows Shani’s powerful influence in astrology. He’s known as the greatest teacher and well wisher for the righteous. He’s also known as the greatest punisher of those who follow the path of evil, betrayal and unjust deeds. He’s dark in colour and wears black. He holds a sword, arrows and two daggers and his mount is a crow.
Shani dev, along with the goddess Jyestha, the god Yama, and the goddess Nirrti, are associated with the crow in Hindu mythology. Throughout Hindu mythology crows represent harmful and inauspicious characteristics, both of which Shani possesses.
There is a popular belief that worshiping Lord Hanuman will help one in removing the hardships caused by Shani Bhagavan or Saturn. People worship Lord Hanuman on Saturdays to remove the malefic influence of Sani in their horoscope. As per Hindu Astrology, bad positioning of Shani results in a difficult period in life. There is an interesting story regarding why worshipping Hanuman will help in overcoming Shani Dosha or Sade Sati.
Ravan, the demon-king in Ramayana, had defeated all the Devas and had brought all the grahas (planets in astrology) under control. He kept the Navgrahas (9 planets) suppressed beneath his leg. Ravana was also a great astrologer. When his eldest son, Meghanada, was about to be born he forcefully kept all the grahas in the most favorable astrological position.
The Devas were worried that if Ravana’s son was born in a favorable astrological position, he will be invincible. So the Devas asked all the grahas (planets) to move from the favorable position. But they told they were unable to escape from the foot of Ravana.
Shani agreed to help, provided he was able to glance upon Ravana’s face.
There is a popular belief that Shani Drishti, or Shani’s glance, is as deadly as his position. Shani is believed to cast an evil eye and this causes deep trouble.
The Devas took the help of Saint Narada to achieve Shani Drishti.
Saint Narada reached the palace of Ravana and saw Shani and other planets under the feet of Ravana. Saint Narada praised Ravana’s victory over the grahas and said that he should stamp on their chest and this is true symbol of victory and not on their back as he is doing now.
Ravana agreed to Narada’s observation and immediately got the planets turned up. As Shani turned up, his glance fell on Ravana’s face and this kick-started his hardships also known as the sade sati the dreaded 7.5 years long period of Saturn (Shani).
To take revenge on Shani, Ravana kept him in a tiny prison that had no opening so that no one will ever again see Shani’s face, the glance of shani worked perfectly as far as the destruction of Ravana's wisdom was concerned, it reached to a point where Ravana lost control over his intelligent self and indulged into crafting his own downfall by kidnapping Shri Ram's wife, Maa Sita.
Thus Shani Dev plays a very vital role in Ramayana, which most of us have been unaware of,
Later when Lord Hanuman arrived in Lanka – Ravan’s kingdom – as a messenger from Sri Ram to Mata Sita, He heard the cry of Shani coming from a dark prison with no holes. Hanuman broke open the prison and rescued Shani.
Shani said that he is very thankful for helping him but as he has looked at the face of Hanuman there will be hardships of 'Sade Sati' or 'Shani Dosha' for Hanuman. It is the divine scheme of things and no one can escape from it.
Hanuman wanted to know what sufferings he will have to face. Shani explained that first I will come upon on your head and this will make you leave your home, wife and sons and go about suffering.
Hanuman said that Shani can definitely come upon his head as he has no family and his abode is at the feet of Ram.
Shani took refuge on Hanuman’s head. Hanuman then began to fight the demons that chased him in Lanka. In the process Hanuman began to head heavy boulders, trees and rocks. He crushed huge rocks with his head and Shani was getting hurt and suffering in the process.
Finally, Shani got away from Hanuman’s head and said that you are the only one who will have no effect of inauspiciousness. I cannot trouble you. Since you have saved me from Ravana’s prison I would like to give you a boon.
As boon, Hanuman asked Shani not to trouble or cast evil eye on his devotees.
Shani promised not to trouble or cause hardships to Hanuman devotees.
From that day people started worshiping Hanuman to escape from Shani.
Following are some important places of Shani-Worship-
Shani Devaalayam in Deonar
This temple called Shree Saneshwara Temple is situated east of the Shivaji statue at the junction of Chembur, Deonar, Govandi on Mumbai-Pune-Bangalore, Eastern Express Highway. The presiding deity of this temple is Lord Shaneeswara: a beautiful, mighty, and imposing seven-foot-tall black statue.
Every Saturday evening, as soon as the priest gives Aarti, Lord Shaneeswara is said to descend upon the main priest. All of a sudden, the whole atmosphere in the temple changes. One can see and feel the charged atmosphere in the temple. There after the priest sits on a chair which has a seat made of very sharp, long iron nails pointing upwards. The foot rest and hand rest are also fully fitted with upward facing, sharp long iron nails. He sits on the chair without any discomfort. Thereafter the devotees sit in silence in front of Swami. They are asked to bring and keep a pair of yellow lemons in their hands, waiting for their turn. Swami signals one by one by turn, to come near to him. He listens patiently to their problems, agony or distress. Then he explains the cause of their agony and distress. It could be Prarabdham, consequences of their past deeds which are carried over to present janma, which means "life" in Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Or as Swami explains, their problems could be the result of actions / deeds of his or her present birth itself. In some cases it could be handy work of Vamachara Tantra by their enemies and ill-wishers. There are other types of cases where it is believed that Aatmas of the deceased have occupied the sufferer's body causing misery and trouble. Swami listens to them all with apt attention with closed eyes and intent silence and offers them Prakshalana, or "cleansing" Praayaschitam or "repentance" through procedures such as yagna, pooja, dana, abstinence, etc. Thousands have claimed that their prayers have been answered by "Shaneeswara" through Swami.
In the premises of this Shani temple, navagraha mandapam is also there apart from Hanuman, Jagadeeswara, Saibaba and Mata deities. The Sanctum Sanctorum has a very tall imposing murthy of Lord Shaneeswara along with Jestha Devi. To his left is Hanuman and to his right is Jagadeeswara Swami.
located half-way between Shirdi and Aurangabad. The deity here is "Swayambhu" (Sanskrit: self-evolved deity) that is self emerged from earth in form of black but imposing stone. Though no one knows the exact period, it is believed that the Swayambhu Shanaishwara statue was found from times immemorial by shepherds of the then local hamlet. It is believed to be in existence at least since Kali yuga.
The story of the swayambhu statue handed down from generations through word of mouth, goes something like this: When the Shepherd touched the stone with a pointed rod, the stone started bleeding. The shepherds were astounded. Soon the whole village gathered around to watch the miracle. On that night Lord Shanaishwara appeared in the dream of the most devoted and pious of the shepherds.
He told the shepherd that he is "Shanaishwara". He also told that the unique looking black stone is his swayambhu form. The shepherd prayed and asked the lord whether he should construct a temple for him. To this, Lord Shani Mahatma said there is no need for a roof as the whole sky is his roof and he preferred to be under open sky. He asked the shephered to do daily pooja every Saturday without fail. He also promised the whole hamlet will have no fear of dacoits or burglars or thieves.
So, Lord Shanaishwara can be seen even today, in the open yard without any roof above. To this day, there are no doors for any houses, shops, temples. It is to be seen to believe that even post office has no door, not to speak of locks. Due to the fear of Lord Shani, none of the structures, be it dwelling houses, huts, shops, etc. situated within one kilometer radius of this Lord Shani temple have neither doors nor locks. No thievery or burglary ever occurred here in this hamlet called Shani Shingnapur. Some who have tried to steal have died vomiting blood within minutes of their act and before they could cross the boundary. Many others are said have received varied punishments such as long sickness, mental imbalance etc.
The first form of Goddess Durga is referred to as Shailputri or Daughter of the Mountain. She is a daughter of the Himalayas. In her previous birth, she was born as Sati-Bhavani, the daughter of Daksha. She had married Lord Shiva, without her father's consent. One fine day, Daksha organized a Yagna, wherein he didn't invite Lord Shiva. Since Sati was obstinate, she went to her father's place and attended the Yagna. Thereupon, Daksha insulted Lord Shiva. Humiliated and angered by her father, because he insulted her husband, Sati burnt herself in the fire of the Yagna.
The second form of Goddess Durga is called 'Brahmacharini'. Her name is derived from the word 'Brahma', which means 'Tapas' or penance. She holds a rosary in her right hand, while Kamandal in her left hand. Full of merriment, Brahmacharini is worshipped on the second day of Durga Puja. According to the legend, she was born as Parvati Hemavati, the daughter of Himvan. One fine day, when Parvati was playing with her friends, sage Narada approached her and told that she would marry her husband from her previous birth on a condition that she would have to observe penance. After hearing this, she decided that she would tie the wedding knot with none other than Shambhu (Lord Shiva), her husband in the previous birth. After saying this, she went to observe penance. This is the reason, why she is referred as Tapacharini or Brahmnacharini. since then, she also came to be known as Uma.
The third form of Goddess Durga, referred to as Chandraghanta, represents bravery. The charming, bright Chandraghanta looks gorgeous. She has a half-circular moon in her forehead, hence the name 'Chandraghanta'. With three eyes, she is golden in color. Ten types of weapons, including sword and arrows are held by her ten hands. Seated on a lion, she is always ready to go to war. The unprecedented bravery of Chandraghanta is worshipped on the third day of Durga Puja.
Kushmanda, the fourth form of Goddess Durga, resides in solar systems. It is believed that Kushmanda is the creator of the entire Universe. According to the legends, she created the Universe by merely laughing. She hands eight hands out of which, seven hold weapons and the eighth one bears a string of beads. With rosary in her right hand, she sits on a Lion. The deity is worshipped on the fourth day of Durga Pooja.
In her fifth form, Goddess Durga is known as 'Skanda Mata'. After observing penance, Goddess Parvati tied the wedding knot with Lord Shiva. Their son is Skanda, the leader of the army of Gods. Therefore, the fourth form of Goddess Durga is referred to as Skanda Mata, the Mother of Skanda. The deity of fire - Skanda Mata - is white in color, has three eyes and four hand. She is seated on a lion, with her son (Skanda), on her lap.
Katyayani is the sixth form of Goddess Durga. As per the legends, Rishi Katyayan was born in his 'Katya' lineage. He observed penance, because he wanted to get paramba as his daughter. Pleased with her prayers, Goddess Durga blessed him and took birth as his daughter. The daughter was then named 'Katyayani'. Seated on her vehicle lion, Katyayani has three eyes and four hands.
The seventh form of Goddess Durga is popularly known as 'Kalratri'. As the name suggests, Kalrati is as black as a dark night. With bountiful unlocked hair, Kalratri wears necklaces that shine like lightening. She is personified as the deity of power, with large eyes and fire that is breathed by her. Kalratri is also referred to as Shubhamkari, as she makes her devotees fearless. She has four hands, with a sharp sword in her left hand and a burning torch in her lower left hand, her lower and upper right hand that shows blessings.
The eighth form of Ma Durga is called 'Maha Gauri'. She is as white as a conch and is eight years old. She is clad in a snow white cloth and is accessorized with white colored ornaments. With three eyes and four hands, she rides on a bull. Her left hand shows the fearless Mudra, while her lower left hand holds a Trishul. Calm and peaceful Maha Gauri observed penance. According to the legends, when she observed penance and got dirty due to dust, Lord Shiva cleansed her body with the Holy Water of Ganges, flowing through his head.
The ninth and last form of Goddess Durga is known as Siddhidatri. It is believed that Lord Shiva attained all the eight Siddhis (Anima, Mahima, Garima, Laghima, Prapti, Prakamya, Lishitya and Vashitva) by offering prayers to Maha Shakti. With her gratitude, the half portion of the body of Lord Shiva became of Goddess Shakti. Hence, he is called 'Ardhanarishwaran'. Siddhidatri has all the eight Siddhis. She rides on a lotus. Siddhidatri is worshipped by all the other Gods and the Rishis-Munis, Siddhas, Sadhakas and Yogis.