Wednesday, May 31, 2017

1019. Lotus born in Lotus.....!

Indeed Bhojaraja Vikramaditya was blessed to have the nine gems in his court.   

Kalidasa: Kalidasa was a famous Sanskrit writer and poet.

Varahamihira: Varahamihira was an Indian astronomer, astrologer and mathematician.

Amarasimha: Amarasimha was the author of Amarakosha

Vetala Bhatta : Vetala Bhatta wrote “Nitipradipa” .

Vararuci: Vararuchi was a great grammarian and Sanskrit scholar who authored Prakrit Prakasha first grammar of Prakrit Basha. 

Dhanvantari : Dhanvantari is regarded as one of the world’s first surgeons and medical practitioner.

Kshapanika : Kshapanika wrote a book called Jyothisyashastra.

Shanku: Sanku a great scholar and author of Shilpashastra.

Harisena:  Harisena is known to have composed the Prayag Prasasti.

In the year 1983 when I was 16 and had just toddled into the college, “Kaviratna Kalidasa” a Kannada movie was released. Our matinee idol Dr. Raj Kumar had eased the role of Kalidasa. The movie was made excellently. I do remember one of the scenes where Dindima, a scholar from the neighbouring land barges into the court of Bhojaraja and presents a riddle to the King and his scholars to solve. 

The riddle goes like this:

Kamale Kamlotpattihi shruyate na tu drushyate. 
(Lotus born in Lotus, neither heard nor seen)

Dindima gives time for the wise men in the court to solve the riddle, promising to come back after a weeks time to know if the riddle is solved. None of the scholars in the court are capable of solving the riddle and Kalidasa is away from the Kingdom. Bhojaraja announces a reward of half of his Kingdom to anyone who can solve the riddle.

The Royal Courtesan in the Kingdom gets to know about the riddle and wishes to solve it. Kalidasa used to visit her daily and she puts the riddle before him. Kalidasa who became a Vikata Kavi (Jester Poet) by the grace of Maa Kali immediately looked at the glowing face of the dancer and said:

Balee tava mukhambhoje katham Indeevaradwayam?
(How is it there are two lotuses in your lotus face?)

The Royal Courtesan joins both the sentences and it reads thus:
Kamale Kamlotpattihi shruyate na tu drushyate. Balee tava mukhambhoje katham Indeevaradwayam?

(Lotus born in Lotus, neither heard nor seen. How is it there are two lotuses in your lotus face?)

Ambhuja is lotus and Indeevara is also lotus.....

Kalidasa uses one lotus in Mukhambhoja and the other two in Indeevara Dwayam.

Kalidasa praising her beauty says, “What is so special about one Lotus being born in another Lotus? Right now I am able to see two Lotus (eyes) in one Lotus (face), forget about one in one, here it is two in one!

The beauty of the incidence is that solving the riddle using the Prasa (Rhetoric) which is the blessings given to Kalidasa by Her. We were fortunate to read Abhijnana Shakuntalam and Raghuvamsam by Kalidasa while in college.  

There is a saying in Kannada “Ravi Kanadanna Kavi Kanda” (A poet can see things not seen even by the Sun).  Kalidasa is immortal through his amazing works.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

1018. Two varieties of Devotees.......One God!!!

Tattva Jnana (Philosophy) has its foundation on Tarka (Inquiry) which is based on Nyaya (Logic).  If there is no inquiry there is no philosophy at all, and if there is no logic in that inquiry it is just Vitarka (Argument). The most prominent and important inquiry that every philosopher has tried to cover is the relationship between the Bhagvan (God) and Bhakta (Devotee). The theories and thesis over this are many and all are different. One common feature among every philosopher’s thought is that the trait of Bhagavan is same. Hence it is the characteristics of the Bhakta which makes the theories and thesis look different.

To understand the difference in the characteristics of the Bhakta let us peep into the Nyaya Sutras of Rishi Aksapada Gautama, the proponent of Nyaya Darshana (School of Logic). Nyaya Sutras is a scripture dealing mainly with Tarka Vidya (Science of Debate) and Vaada Vidya (Science of Discussion) focusing on Jnana (Knowledge) and Nyaya (Logic) at the same time.

According to this scripture Bhaktas are of two types, one who surrender the entire responsibility to be taken up by Bhagavanthe Lord Himself.  They have attained that higher level through Sadhana where the Lord does not want to miss them!  He takes up the full responsibility and is at their beck and call. Such kind of Bhaktas are termed as Maarjaalanyayi Bhaktas. While the rest of the Bhaktas  keep running behind the Lord to please and appease Him. They always want to draw His attention so that He takes up their responsibilities. These are Markatanyayi Bhaktas.

In Sanskrit, Maarjaala is cat and Markata is monkey. To understand this better we need to observe how cats and monkeys handle their little ones. There is a vast difference between how a cat handles its kittens and a monkey takes care of its infant. Though when seen from the mothers point of view both appear to be the same, the difference is very clear when we closely observe them.

When a kitten strays away from the vicinity of its mother, the mother cat fetches the young ones by its jaws. Cats have sharp canines and holding the kitten by its neck can result in serious injury to the frail kittens, yet there is a firm and gentle way the mother cat adapts to hold the kitten. Here the kitten has no responsibility of its own. Mother cat automatically assumes all the responsibility and goes behind it. This is Maarjaala Nyaya (Logic of the Cat).

In case of an infant monkey we observe that it is always holding the belly of its mother tightly. The mother monkey keeps moving, running and jumping from one tree to the other as if it is alone. It is the responsibility of the infant monkey to clutch and hold firmly to avoid falling down and getting seriously injured. Here the mother monkey is not as responsible as the mother cat while the infant monkey takes the responsibility to be with its mother. This is Markata Nyaya (Logic of the Monkey).

If we start as Markatanyayi Bhaktha today, some day with His grace we can attain the level of being a Maarjaalanyayi Bhaktha........What say??? 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

1017. Life experiences.........!

Life according to our ancient thought is Anubhava Dhara (Flow of Experiences). As an individual if I come in contact with the external world which comprises mostly of matters, I have an experience. If such experiences are pleasant it makes me happy and I would wish that it repeats. On the other hand if the experiences are unpleasant I try to forget them and never wanting it to occur again. Astonishingly though sometimes I do learn the hardest lessons in life from those unpleasant ones. Whatever happens in life is an experience which is inevitable and it doesn’t matter if it is pleasant or unpleasant. Amazingly sometimes I do get involved in some acts without acknowledging the fact that it may bring either pleasant or unpleasant experiences. It is like a trip to the departmental stores.  

I decide to shop at a particular departmental store. I will have made a mental note of what all I need to buy. In any case as I make an entry into the store I invariably recall some additional items to buy. I am greeted by racks of fresh products with the sticker revealing the barcode and the price tag. An overwhelming feeling takes over; a few moments later, I am lost. I am now walking past various aisles like fly trying to navigate its way through a row of lights in a dark place. It does not matter which way I happen to glance or still my gaze, there is more stuff which I feel I should purchase. I end up buying on impulse.

Exactly similar to the purchase i make at the departmental stores is the way I get involved with the experiences of my life. My life experience would have been enchanting if I know exactly what I need and when I need, but then making choices does not cease till my last breath. Like the shopping at the departmental store, the choices I make determine my financial and material outcome only at the checkout time. The more I choose to load in my cart, the more fixed I am. The experiences of life are like those purchases I made, some done thoughtfully while a few are impulsively.

Amazingly just as the cashier who is not interested in the purchases I have made as long as I am paying for it, the world too is not really interested in whatever might be the experience I endure. But regardless of how much I buy I still have to exit and get back home. I may love or hate the store, it is only transient; I must leave eventually. There are no permanent chairs there for me to sit comfortably for long. I am allowed to stay only for a limited period of time, such is the reality of this world too. It is transient, a temporary place and a permanent illusion. This is not my permanent home. I will only feel peaceful when I get back home.

The within is my permanent home, its complete, eternally stashed with all the provisions, it is rich and full of infinite extravagance. No stress, no loading-unloading, no bill payments, no making choices all the time. Whatever I want is available in abundance there........Need to get back HOME!!! 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

1016. Language a mere tool for Expression....!

Language is a way the mind symbolically express or explains its abstract thought to itself as well as the outside world. As someone who regularly attempts to communicate those abstract thoughts to others through the use of language, I have always been aware that there is some degree of limitation of language. I am not saying that language is short of words but there are some expressions which you cannot express in any language. Like for example, the feel of ecstasy or the agony of pain or the expression of love.

Language is just a mirror that helps in displaying our emotions and it is not an important factor too. A person who has difficulty in talking too can express his emotions or a person who is in a foreign land unable to converse can also relate without the knowledge of the language they speak in that land.

It is very silly to say that for a subject to be conveyed one has to be perfect in language. We have orators who in spite of having a through command over the language fail over the lack of content. It is not the language that is important for a thought that needs to be expressed, but the content that is to be conveyed. We have seen many of us ridiculing the person who is talking in English with difficulty, instead of concentrating on the message his words are reflecting upon. We find the language more important than the matter; it is like giving more credit to recipe decoration irrespective of whether the dish tasty well or not.

Just as a person who is deprived of light in his eye can dream with the help of his mind, so is the thought expressed by the heart understood by mind. There is no need of any language as it is not the ears which are reciprocating but the mind. Mind grasps the emotion through expressions not through the words by which it is conveyed.

In Ramayana, Maharshi Valmiki describes Hanuman as a “Nava Vyakarana Pandita” (scholar of nine systems grammar). Now why should Maharshi Valmiki applaud Hanuman for his hold on the grammar and subsequently brand him as “Buddhimanta Varishta” (wise among the wisest)? Hanuman while young had learnt the communication skills from Surya, the Sun God.

Hanuman in the disguise of a Brahmin meets Shri Rama and Lakshmana in Kishkinda and starts a conversation with them. Mesmerised by the way Hanuman communicated Shri Rama tells Lakshman thus, “To speak in the way he (Hanuman) has done is not possible for one who has not studied and understood Vedas. Surely he had studied the entire range of grammar thoroughly, as is clear from the fact that nothing has been wrongly worded by him even though he spoke a great deal. No fault of expression was noticed anywhere in his face, or eyes, or forehead or eyebrows or in his limbs. The speech that emanated from his heart got articulated in his head and flowed down through his throat. It is marked by absence of prolixity and is unambiguous and also unfaltering. It does not make a irritating impression on one’s ears, uttered as it were in a modulated tone. He utters a wholesome, distinct and remarkable speech that is grammatically correct, fluent and delightful to the mind. Whose mind will not be rendered favourable by such a wonderful speech which has its seat in the three articulating organs (heart, head and throat)? The mind even of an enemy with his sword drawn out to strike will calm down hereby.”

Hanuman was not a language expert but the words were gentle.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

1015. The man drape in the blanket of Human Hair.....!

In a dark jungle a man draped in a blanket made of human hair encounters a young Sadhu (Saint). This was the conversation between them:

The Man: Have you seen God? If no, how foolish would it be for you to make others believe in him?

Saint: Have you ever seen King of this country?

Man: No.

Saint: When you have not seen the King, yet you believe that he exists?

Man: No, we get orders from the King on regular basis, which proves he is there.

Saint: Similarly even we do get orders from God. How do you know that those orders are from King?

Man: Those who deliver the orders of the King are the ones who have actually seen him.

Saint: Similarly there are Rishis who have experienced God and propose the same in scriptures.

Man: I don’t believe in your scriptures they are just doctored to cheat people.

Saint: If I challenge you that King does not exist and it is act of few people to cheat rest of us? Do you agree?

Man: No. How can’t it be, I can take you to the King. Can you take me to your God?

Saint: Yes I can, but you need to experience God.

Man: There is the catch, I can take you to the King and make you see him with your physical eye but I doubt if you can take me to your God.

Saint: Can you show me the King if I say I won’t travel all the way to fort?

Man: No, You will have to come to the fort.

Saint: Even if I enter the fort and do not come to the palace, can you show me the King?

Man: No, You have to come to the King’s palace.

Saint: Even if I come to King’s palace, can I directly get access to King?

Man: No, You will need some sort of recommendation or authority to meet the King.

Saint: Say for example, I somehow get a chance to meet the King, if I close my eyes when he is around, can you show me?

Man: No. You have to keep your eyes wide open to see the King.

Saint: Even after having the glimpse of the King if I say that I don’t believe that he is the King, is there anything you can do?

Man: No, I can only say you are a fool!

Saint: For a ruler of a single kingdom, if you need so much of a procedure to see, what can you say of the ruler of whole universe?

Man: Hmm

Saint: I can make you experience God. But you will have to put effort by performing some Sadhana in order to purify your mind and make it ready to experience God. Only then you can say to others about the experience you had with God. Unlike the King, God is everywhere you need not go outside to get in contact with Him, He is within you. If your mind and conscience is clear you can experience Him present in me as I am experiencing His presence in you now.

The man in the blanket of human hair stood silent though he did not accept the words of the saint. The man was the proponent of materialism and the first Charvaka, named Ajita Kesakambali. 
In Sanskrit, Kesa is hair and Kambali is blanket. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

1014. Bharathiyata, the Indianness....!

Bharatiyata (Indianness) thrived on the improvised thought. This is one society which welcomes a new thought. One view about its existence comes from the Sampradayastas (Traditionalists), while a contrast views is from the Udaravadis (Liberalists).
Though the traditionalist have not move an inch away from their views, the winds of modernity cropping up from west in recent times have created a lot of confusion among the liberals. Post independence due to the colonial mind-set the liberal thought gave rise to two groups namely the orthodox and the heterodox. The orthodox liberal like the traditionalists stuck to the indigenous path though fighting for the need to change. They never were pulled by the western materialism. But the heterodox liberals who misunderstood the western modernity as only material achievement, ended up imitating the results than to assimilating the methods to achieve them. Hence they started to adore the western culture more by criticizing our traditions and over the course of time have had the inclination to adopt the western way going away from where they truly belonged to. It will not be correct for us to question their decision but we can observe that being brought up in an environment which has its roots firm in the acceptance of the new thought they found it as if they were not ready for so momentous a change where the change is not accepted and if accepted it is just the contrary to what was. It's like how a mudskipper leaves its pond which is in the verge of drying up and making its way into an unknown river looking for more abundant, nutritious waters. In this venture the mudskipper would not understand the fact that unlike its pond which would have been rejuvenated with one rainfall, this river is filled with risk factors in the form of other water inhabitants.    
If those heterodox liberal who call themselves “Intellectuals” examine the liberalism they find in the western society, they will notice that it is an inherently flawed doctrine. From the feudal system to a capitalistic age we have noticed the change since centuries and the variations in our thought and that of the western thought.
In feudal society the land was mainly owned by the lord and rented out to the peasants, while capitalism gives the right to accumulate private property merely out of self-interest with illusionary explanation that it would create a system where everyone is benefited. In the feudal system the administrative affairs were managed by aristocracy consisting of a Master and religious matters by a Guru. The heterodox liberals began a movement to set free the peasants from the control of the Master and the Guru. They failed to understand that the feudal relations were paternalistic in nature with the master and the peasants sharing the bond like father and son. Liberalism was a revolt against both the order and its hierarchical nature.
All of this sounds wonderful but what happened in reality was that liberalism only succeeded in destroying the paternalistic tie between master-peasant, not the master-servant hierarchy itself, which in turn reproduced itself in the modern form of the capitalist-labourer. But in the absence of paternalism, the new master and servant are connected by the bond which related them monetarily. Eventually the liberal thought destroyed the best of feudalism and retained its worst.

This was never the essence of true Bhartatiyata.....Do you agree??? 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

1013. Excess should be avoided....!

Ati daanaat Balirvadho hyati maanaat Suyodhanah
Ati loulyaat Raavano hantah Ati Sarvatra Varjayet----Subhashitam.

Bali met his end due to his extreme charity, Suyodhana was killed due to his excessive pride, and lust beyond control brought the end to Ravana. Hence excess should be avoided.

This is a Subhashitam which warns us of too much involvement in anything and everything. Bali who was bound by his limitless sacrifice and the sacrifice he made to Vamana against the advice of his Guru Sukracharya saw the end of him. Duryodhana, the eldest son of Dhritharastra, died of limitless self-esteem. Ravana too had lust which had no boundary and that brought his end.

Now if we notice in this Subhashitam we can observe that it was not the limitlessness which affected the three individuals mentioned here. All the three Bali, Duryodhana and Ravana were affected by the path in which they were treading. There is no limit to do anything if we are on the path of Dharma. I as an individual can go beyond to achieve anything but need to be within Dharma. 

They say that off the four Purushrthas namely Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha we can go beyond our limits to acquire Artha and to satiate our Kama but it needs to be within Dharma and Moksha. Artha and Kama are like the gushing river which should not breach the banks called Dharma and Moksha.    

I have always wondered why this Subhashitam did not mention about Raja Harishchandra who had gone beyond the boundary to utter Truth. He had to sell his wife and son to keep up the promise. He was subjected to lot of hardship in the cremation ground for being truthful. Why it is not considered limitlessness of uttering Truth by Raja Harishchandra??? As far as the sacrifice is considered why was Raja Shibi not accused of over indulgence in this Subhashitam when he readily offered the flesh from his thigh to the eagle in order to save the pigeon??? Was Puru not to be reprimanded for going beyond limit to exchange his youth with his aged father??? Will it not be crossing the limits when Bhishma made his vow to remain unmarried to facilitate his father Shantanu’s marriage with Satyavathi??? Would not Shri Rama be going beyond limits when he accepted to fulfil his father Dasharatha’s promise to Kaikeyi???

Where is the limit to do anything which makes us feel pleasant within??? There is a sense of satisfaction in whatever we aim at doing. That satisfaction brings the utmost joy that every individual yearn to experience. While Bali, Duryodhana and Ravana also aimed at the best going beyond but there was this self-cantered itch in what they wanted to achieve. They aimed at the best because they were trying to gratify their senses and never had the sense to satisfy the Self.

If we take up any task involving our emotions like Kama, Krodha, Moha, Mada Matsarya and Lobha, we will never be aware of what we are doing. Thus we lose control over the decisions we take. It is at that emotional movement we may cross our limits. It is required to be self controlled to act spontaneously and this spontaneity sparks when there is no selfishness in that act. The act of selflessness can be achieved only if one is treading on the path of Dharma. Either way one could cross the limit while on the path of Dharma or Adharma, but what need to be cautioned is already mentioned in this Subhashitam. Let’s not miss that point. 

It is not going beyond the limit that matters but the path that makes the difference.....Isn’t it???               

1012. Link between Rameshwaram and Kashi....!

The pilgrimage to Kashi starts from Rameshwaram!

It is a custom to first go to Rameshwaram and make a Sankalpa (volition) and collect the sand from the sea near Agni Theertha. The pilgrim carries the sand from Rameshwaram to Kashi and immerses the sand in Ganga. After the dharshana of Kashi Vishwanatha, Maa Vishalakshi and Maa Annapurna, the pilgrim will offer his obedience to Maa Ganga and carry Ganga water in a copper container. He is supposed to make a trip again to Rameshwaram and use the Ganga water to anoint the Sri Ramanatha Swamy at Rameshwaram.

Is there any significance in this practice or is it just a blind tradition followed???

Let us find out and before that a small story about Ganga will help us understand about why we need to displace the sand and water geographically!!!
In the Navama Skanda (9th Canto) of Srimad Bhagvatham is the story of Ganga. As per the legend, Sagara Chakraavarthi of Ikshvaku dynasty was ruling Ayodhya. He had two wives Keshini and Sumathi. Keshini had a son Asamanjasa while Sumathi was blessed with 60000 sons.

Once Sagara performed Aswamedha Yagna and as a part of the Yagna ritual the sacrificial Horse was to be released to wander in the nearby kingdoms. The Kings of those kingdoms had to either surrender and offer gifts or tie the wandering horse and fight against the King. The sacrificial horse after passing through many kingdoms finally arrives at the ashrama of Kapila Muni which is now Rameshwaram.

Kapila Muni is seated in the seat of silence and the 60000 sons of Sagara come looking for the horse. Assuming Kapila Muni who was sitting with his eyes close to have captured the horse, they shout at him disturbing his transcendental state. Enraged at being disturbed Kapila Muni opens his eyes resulting in 60000 sons of Sagara burning down to ashes.

Worried, Sagara sends his grandson Anshumantha (son of Asamanjasa) to find the whereabouts of his 60000 sons and also the sacrificial Horse. Anshumantha finally reaches the ashrama of Kapila Muni and get to know about the incidence. Kapila Muni advises him that only Vishnupaadabhavi Ganga can wash off the sins of his uncles. So Ganga has to flow over the heap of ash.

Sagara, his son Asamanjasa, then Anshumantha and his son Dileepa make many attempts to bring the celestial river Ganga down, but do not succeed. Finally King Bhagiratha, son of Dileepa takes up the task performs a severe penance and is successful. He routed it to Ganga Sagara (which is now called Bay of Bengal).

It is said that Ganga after it enters Sagara would touch the shore in Rameshwaram near Agni Theertham where the ashes of the ancestors of Bhagiratha were present. In Treta Yuga when Shri Rama and his vanara sena built the Sethu (bridge) to go to Sri Lanka, Ganga could not reach the sands of Rameshwaram. Hence it was made a custom for every pilgrim to carry the sand which has the ashes of 60000 sons of Sagara from Agni Theertham to Kashi and immerse in Ganga.

Now why should we bring Ganga water to anoint Sri Ramanatha Swamy at Rameshwaram???

As told earlier the waters of Ganga does not reach Rameshwaram and in due course there were many rivers like Padma, Meghna, Godavari, Krishna, Irrawaddy and Kaveri draining out into Bay of Bengal. So no longer was it Ganga Sagar it became the confluence of many rivers apart from Ganga. Hence the anointment of Sri Ramanatha Swamy at Rameshwaram is done from the original Ganga water brought by the pilgrims without being amalgamated with other river waters.

Could be a strange custom but we did take the sand of Rameshwaram and immerse it at Kashi Ganga, now we have carried with us the small copper pots filled with Ganga water to anoint Sri Ramanatha Swamy at Rameshwaram.....When???
Waiting again for his graceful call..... !!!

1011. Ghats of Varanasi....!

A boat ride along the river Ganga at Kashi provides the mammoth view of numerous Ghats there. Ghat is a place where Hindus burn the mortal remains on the wooden pyre. The divinity of Kashi lies in the unique combination of physical, metaphysical and supernatural elements associated with our self. Ghats of Kashi are natural supplement to the concept of divinity and hence considered as the one which liberates the Jeevatma from the bondage of Samsara.

They say “Kasyam Maranam Mukti” hence it is the land where people come to shed their mortal coils. Our body is associated with Pancha Tattva (Five elements namely Space, Air, Fire Water and Earth). After the mortal coils are shed the body is confined to Fire element and in turn is absorbed by water, space, air and earth.

That is how the connection between cosmic order and harmonic relationship between Brahmanda (Micro Cosmos) and Pindanda (Micro Cosmos) is established through interlink of Meso Cosmos (which are the Ghats). Puranas mention that Maharudradeva whispers the Taraka Mantra in the ear of the dead here so that the Jeevi can cross Vaitarni River in the land of Yamaraja.

There are now only two Ghats where the burning of the mortal remains is allowed. Harishchandra Ghat and Manikarnika Ghat.

Harishchandra Ghat named after the descendent of Ikshvaku dynasty Raja Harishchandra who has his name associated with Satya (Truth).

Once Rishi Vishwamitra and Rishi Vashishta have a debate and Vishwamitra claims that there is no one in this universe who will never tell a lie. Rishi Vashishta who was the kula guru of Ikshvaku Vamsha tells that his disciple, Raja Harishchandra is the one who will never utter a lie or cheat anyone. Rishi Vishwamitra wants to disprove the claim and puts Raja Harishchandra to test asking for the kingdom as Dakshina (Ritual fee). Raja Harishchandra generously gave up the entire kingdom. Viswamitra accepted the kingdom but let it remain with Raja for the time being and tells him that he will accept it in near future.

After a few years there is famine and the King uses the wealth in the treasury and seeing this as an opportunity Rishi Vishwamitra comes to claim the kingdom. To compensate the treasure used in famine, Harishchandra sells his wife and son into slavery. In Kashi, he devoted himself as a worker in a crematorium under Dom Raja, Veera Bahu. He is no longer Raja Harishchandra now his identity is Veeradasa, the servant of Veera Bahu. 

The one time Emperor of Saptamahadwipas (seven continents) is now working as the assistant to the incharge of the Ghat. This is all because of the clash of ego among Rishi Vishwamitra & Rishi Vashishta.

Veeradasa had to collect the crematorium fee, rice and vastra to allow the cremation. He also had to see that the mortal remains is completely turned to ashes. From the thus collected, he had to give the crematorium fee to Dom Raja and keep the rice and vastra for his use.

One day his wife arrives at Kashi with the dead body of their son. His wife who is now a slave cannot afford the crematorium fee nor the rice and vastra. Harishchandra tells her he can afford to let go the rice and vastra which is his part but she has to pay the crematorium fee which belongs to Dom Raja. He is firm on the decision and asks her to fetch the fee. Rishi Vishwamitra accepts that Raja Harishchandra is indeed honest.

The Dom Raja who is in-charge of the cremation is overwhelmed by the behaviour of Raja and names the Ghat as Harishchandra Ghat.

When we arrived at the Manikarnika Ghat we could see three pyres burning and a few waiting for the Dahana Samskara. There is no time limit and the burning happens nonstop.

The Ghat for its tranquillity attracts many foreign tourists who are amazed looking at the way the oldest religion of the world disposes the dead.

Here death is a celebration and people come here to stay at the old age homes like Mumukshu Bhavan waiting for the eleventh hour to fade away. The smoke engulfed at the Ghat area irrespective of day or night making the place Eternal.

1010. A pilgrimage to Kashinagara

The landscape between what was once the two rivers called Varuna & Assi before the decent of Holy Ganga is Varanasi. When Ganga made her appearance the two rivers joined her. It was then the land got the holy tag and became the place of “learning & burning”.

Learning not just the Para vidya (lower knowledge) but also the Apara Vidya (higher knowledge), burning not just the mortal remains but also the inner enemies within. Lower knowledge being the art of knowing about the things outside us, while the higher knowledge is the art to know about our Self.

As we took the pilgrimage to the oldest city of the world called Kashinagara, we were told by our boatman that if you happened to take a sag of rice and start to pour a hand full of it on the deity situated in the every temple the rice in the sag may get over but the temple count won't. Every house in the by lanes of Kashinagara has a small temple.

The most significant among them is the Sri Kashi Vishwanatha, Maa Vishalakshi, Maa Annapurna, Sankat mochan Hanuman, Kshetrapalaka Kala Bhairava.

We happen to take the Aarti seva at Sri Kashi Vishwanatha and were at the temple doors at 2.30 A.M. After a thorough security check we were allowed into the temple. There were around 200 seva karthas and we were allowed to sit in front of the sanctum which has doors on all four sides.

The Shiva linga which was unusually not at the center but at one corner was visible to all. The aarthi ritual started with Abhisheka (anointment) with water from Ganga, milk, curd & jaggery. This ritual was performed chanting Rudrachamakam. Abhiskhekam was followed applying scandal oil to the linga and decorating with flowers. The Shiva linga was immersed with lots of flowers and then camphor was lit on the four sides of the Linga. The sounds of Damaru and Shanka filled the air with the swaying of aarthi lamp. This was an enchanting moment the chant “Har Har Shambho Mahadev Kashi Vishwanatha Gange, Sadashiv Maa Parvathi Sanghe" was loud and clear.

Before making the trip to this holy city I read about Kashi in some books and blogs. One of the seeker from Japan had posted about her experience as a write up in her blog. She admitted that though she did not know much about the rituals performed she could relate to them.

One of her friends responding to the write up wanted to know if Kashi and Ganga were clean. The response this Japanese lady gave was thought provoking. She wrote thus: "I am here at this oldest holy city not to gauge or assess how clean the city is nor am I here to give a test report on Ganga water. I am here to cleanse my inner self. I will have done my part if I can clean my inner self without polluting the outside of me".

1009. Ganga Saptami....

Srimad Bhagavatam says when Maha Vishnu grew from Vamana (Dwarf) to Trivikrama (Gigantic Form) to measure the three worlds His foot stretched to Satyaloka the abode of Brahma. Excited to see His holy feet, Brahma immediately offered humble worship with water from his Kamandala. This holy water, purified and sanctified by the touch of the His feet, gushed down as the sacred Ganga. Today is Ganga Saptami, according to Hindu Mythology Ganga descended to the earth on this day on the request of Sage Bhagiratha. When she descended on the earth from Heaven, it was Lord Shiva who took her in His matted hairs to check her mighty force which otherwise would have swept the whole Earth away.

It was on the Ganga Saptami day in 1986 my mother left for the Divine abode. Every year it was a custom to offer Tilatarpana on Vaishaka Shukla Saptami Thithi. I cannot count my fortune and the blessing which has provided an opportunity to be here in Ganges this year to perform the ritual. My priority though should be not to pollute Ganges while performing the rituals.

They say rivers have the ability to clean themselves if left alone to flow naturally. It's mere flowing force will maintain its purity automatically. The chain link of problem starts when a lot of silt gets accumulated, the quantity of flow reduced because of dams built, the width of the river shrinks, catchment area gets encroached, industries are set up and the effluences are linked to the river. With this chronology it is never possible to find the real culprit for the rivers to get polluted. As Buddha tells there is no point in finding the cause but it is necessary to work on the effect and see that it does not recur. It is an overwhelming sight to see the Namame Gange Mission for clean Ganga is yielding wonderful results and we are able to hear the local people say that now the river is much lively. After my Prime Minister declared he was the son of Ganga Maa and pledged to restore the river its pristine glory.

Ganga is one of the major rivers of the Indian subcontinent and is the national river, flowing east through the Gangetic Plain of northern India into Bangladesh. The 2,510 km river rises in the western Himalayas in the Uttarakhand and drains into the Sunderbans delta in the Bay of Bengal. On the banks of this river are situated many well known places of pilgrimage such as Haridwar, Prayag and Kashi. It is on the banks of this holy river that many Rishis, Munis and Tapasvis have been performing their spiritual endeavours.