ॐ Vanamali's Blog



“Oh Wavering mind! Go to Vrindavana and take the dust of that holy soil, on which the lotus feet of Lord Krishna have trod and place it on your forehead. Then only will you be blessed.”

This refrain from a famous song kept ringing in my ears all through the six hour train journey from Rishikesh to Mathura station. We were eight pilgrims from Rishikesh and four from Mumbai and all of us felt truly blessed to have been invited by the Lord to visit his home in Vrindavana! It is a fact that one can never go on a pilgrimage unless the deity of the temple wants to meet us and invites us. All of us rendezvoused at Mathura station and went straight to the Krishna Janmasthan which was unfortunately totally dominated by the dome of the masjid in the background. The Janmasthan is the dungeon in which Krishna was born.


Kamsa’s dungeon has been re-constructed in a cinematic fashion and we went and sat inside. As soon as I closed my eyes I was wafted seven thousand years back to a stormy night when the Lord revealed himself to his parents Devaki and Vasudeva in the gloomy dungeon of Kamsa, King of Mathura. The baby that Devaki gave birth to had changed into the four-armed Vishnu holding the divine insignia like conch, chakra, lotus and mace. The darkness of the dungeon was dispelled by the effulgence emanating from the Lord. He told Vasudeva to deport him immediately to the cow- herd settlement of Gokula and keep him there and bring back the baby girl that had just been born to Yashoda, the wife of their chief, Nanda. With these words the effulgent form vanished to be replaced by a delightful baby. Vasudeva had no time to ask how he was going to accomplish this formidable task since he was chained to the pillar and all the dungeon doors were locked and heavily guarded. But before he could even formulate this thought the chain fell off by its own accord. He found himself free and carefully wrapped the baby in his tattered upper garment and hugged him to his heart while Devaki watched with tears overflowing from her eyes. He walked to the massive doors that swung open of their own accord. The guards were snoring, leaning on their spears. Vasudeva walked fearlessly down the dark corridors leading to the outside gate and once again found that the gates flung open effortlessly allowing him to depart with his precious burden which he clutched to his heart. It was already five minutes past midnight and the entire sky was lit up with intermittent flashes of lightning and growls of thunder. He could hardly see a step in front of him since rain was pouring down in buckets. But strangely enough not a drop fell on his head. It is said that Sheshnag, the serpent on which Lord Vishnu slept, was holding his hood like an umbrella over the head of the divine infant who was his master. He had to cross the turbulent river Yamuna in order to reach Gokula. He had no doubt in his mind as to whether he was going to accomplish this impossible task. As he came to the river, it parted to allow him to walk across with the water coming barely up to his ankles. At last he reached the village and found the house of the chief and crept into the bedroom and saw Yashoda lying there in a kind of stupor after having given birth to a baby girl. He exchanged the babies reluctantly since he was loathe to leave his precious burden but there was no time even to think so he took the baby girl who was the incarnation of the divine mother and made his way back to the dungeon. Hardly had he passed through the gate than the doors clanged shut of their own accord. The baby girl started to cry at the top of her voice as soon as he gave her into Devaki’s arms and the snoring guards woke up with a rude shock.

The whole scene flashed through my mind as I sat in the dungeon. This was the route I wanted to follow – the path taken by Vasudeva long ago on that stormy night when Krishna, the greatest of all avatars (incarnations) was born. Clutching the baby to my heart I got into the van which was transporting us to Gokula, across the river. It was 15 km from Mathura. The bridge was not an impediment. In my mind I crossed on foot and reached the huge mansion called Nanda Bhavan in Gokula. It is said to be 5000 years old and built by the great architect Vishvakarma. It had eighty four pillars out of which eighty were supposed to have been built by Vishvakarma and four by the creator Brahma. The pillars were made out of huge logs of wood and looked incredibly old. Of course the “pandas” or priests of Vrindavana are most avaricious and extremely clever at squeezing money out of innocent pilgrims with gory tales of what happened to people who refused to do what they advised! However we were impervious to such threats and simply sat and soaked in the atmosphere which still lingered. We were allowed to rock the cradle that had held the baby who is still rocking the world in this 21st century!

Nanda Bhavan

One of the greatest of my Lord’s lilas was played as soon as he returned to Mathura from Vrindavana at the age of twelve. Kamsa had invited all the gopalas (cow herds) to come to Mathura to take part in the great festival of Shiva’s bow but his secret intention was to kill Krishna when he came. The gopalas were simple folk and they were delighted to go to the big city of Mathura. When they reached the city the boys along with Krishna and Balrama danced and skipped along the grand trunk road leading to the palace. They were entranced by the shops and big houses they saw on either side of the road and walked along laughing and joking with their beloved friend. Suddenly they saw a strange figure approaching them. It was a girl with three humps on her back. She was so bent that she could not even look up. She hobbled along clutching a silver pot of sandal paste. She belonged to a family of devadasis, (courtesans) who used to cater to the pleasures of the great Lords of the court. She used to be known as Kubja or Trivakra since she had three humps on her back. But since she was so ugly no one ever looked at her and she was given the task of making unguents for the king. She was hobbling along painfully down the road when a pair of lotus feet stopped right in front of her and stopped her progress.

A mellifluous voice asked her, “O Sundari!” (Beautiful One) “Who are you taking this sandal paste for?”

She could not see the person but she knew he must be very special since no one had ever called her anything but “hunchbacked one” or “crooked one.”

Immediately she answered, “Who else but for you, my Lord?”

Krishna laughed and said, “Let the world see the beauty of your soul in your face.”

So saying he pressed his toe on her right foot and placed his forefinger under her chin and lifted her up, straightening up her three humps so that she stood straight and tall and beautiful in front of him. She looked straight into his lotus eyes and her own brimmed over with love. Taking the sandal paste meant for the king, she lavishly anointed the lord’s body with it. He smiled at her and walked on after his brother who was looking with displeasure at the scene. Kubja saw her saviour walk away. She could not bear to think that she would never see him again. In despair she caught his uttareeyam (top cloth) and pulled him back. He turned round with a laugh and asked, “What do you want?”

She replied, “Will you come to my house tonight?”

Touched by her offering of the only thing she had to offer, Krishna replied with great compassion, “I will come after I have finished the work for which I have come.”

She let go of his uttareeyam with great reluctance and watched him go with all her love spilling out of her eyes.

Keshava Deva

Straight after the visit to the dungeon we visited the Keshavdeva Mandir, at which spot this incident is supposed to have taken place. I was filled with delight thinking of this occurrence and the great compassion he had shown to this poor hunchback of Mathura. My eyes overflowed when I thought of the compassion he showers on all of us who are spiritually hunchbacked and totally incapable of overcoming our negativities.

It was only after visiting Keshav Deva Mandir that we went to Nanda Bhavan, the house of Nanda, in Gokulam.



En route from Gokula to Vrindavana our guide was kind enough to take us to the little known village of Rawal, which is supposed to be the birthplace of Radha Rani. There was a simple temple there and an old man sitting and reading some scriptures and he told us the story of this place where there was a miraculous bush which had been in existence since the time of the birth of Radha. We could still see it on the roof top. The legend of this place is most interesting.

Krishna’s foster father, Nanda, was living in the village of Nandgaon and his friend Vrishabhanu was living in the village of Barsana. They had no children and decided to shift closer to the Yamuna for fear of Kamsa. Nanda shifted to Gokula and Vrishabhanu to Rawal. Soon after shifting Nanda got a baby girl who was exchanged for Krishna as we know.

At about the same time when Vrishnabhanu went to the river for his bath he saw a lovely lotus flower in the middle of the river on which was laying an extremely charming baby girl. He brought the baby to his home and performed all rituals but soon he realised that the baby was blind, deaf and dumb. The parents were grief stricken but the great sage Narada came to them and advised them to hold a big ceremony for the baby and invite everyone including his friend Nanda and his family from Gokula. Nanda came with Yashoda and the baby Krishna. While the elders were talking Krishna crawled to the cradle and put his face on the side of the cradle and looked intently at the baby. Immediately the baby girl opened her eyes and started cooing and gurgling with delight. She did not want to see anyone in the world except her beloved Krishna and that was why she had never opened her eyes all these days!

Today however, the village of Barsana is the one to which everyone goes since it is supposed the village in which Radha grew up. That has a really radiant aspect to it which this village lacks.

From there we went on to Vrindavana. As soon as we reached I jumped out and took a pinch of the sand and smeared it on my forehead. This was the sacred earth on which my beloved Lord had walked and sat and played and crawled and danced. I felt it was sacrilegious to stamp this holy ground. How fortunate we were to be able to come here and enjoy his divine presence. Everyone in this celestial town greets you with the words, “Radhe! Radhe!” The response is generally, “Shyam Milaade”. This means “Lead me to Shyam or Krishna!” Even the auto rickshaw drivers would poke out their heads and shout, “Radhe! Radhe!”, if someone was blocking their path!



After checking in at our guest house in Vrindavana our guide suggested we visit the most famous place in Vrindavana known as Nidhivana. We reached there almost at sunset and walked through the heavily barred gates set in a high wall, leading into a courtyard. From there another gate opened out into a most mysterious garden if it can be called as such. This gate and all places around were guarded by hundreds of monkeys. We were not sure if we would be allowed to go in without being molested but thankfully an old man carrying a heavy stick offered to take us round. The small narrow path led us further and further into the secret garden. Both sides of the path were filled with ancient looking, twisted and stunted trees growing in pairs. The barks were smooth and white, the ground beneath was totally bare of all grass and looked as if it had been made smooth by countless feet stamping over it. These trees were supposed to be “van tulsi, a type of jungle tulsi”. We had been advised not to pick or take even a single leaf from them. There was a Kund at some point which again looked dark and mysterious. The winding path eventually led us to a little room called the “Rang Mahal”. There was a priest there who told us the whole story of the place. Every night after 8 pm the priest would make up the beautiful sandalwood cot inside the room. He would keep a glass of milk, a glass of water, some sweets and some “paan” (betel leaf) and a neem stick. He would then lock the door carefully and leave the garden, locking the huge door outside. No one was allowed to stay in the garden after that. All animals including dogs and monkeys would leave at that time. Even birds would not fly over the garden after sunset. Next morning the priest would return at 6.30 am and unlock the gate and the door of the room. He would find the bed ruffled up, the glasses of water and milk empty and no signs of the sweets and the paan. This is a miracle that takes place every day. It is said that the room is the place where Krishna used to attend to Radha Rani’s toilette or “Shringaar”, before dancing with the gopis. Apparently these trees are actually gopis who take on their human form and dance the “Rasa Lila” with their beloved, Krishna every night. He retires to the room with Radha and hence everything is consumed by morning. It is also a fact that these trees seem to be growing in pairs and it is noticed that they keep shifting their positions during the night. Anyone who dares to get into the garden after the forbidden hour is found in the morning to have gone totally crazy or blind or unable to articulate. They can only babble. The houses that are on the sides lock up the windows facing the garden. Some have even bolted and barred the windows overlooking the garden so that they can never be opened even accidently. This of course is one of the most mysterious places in this town filled with the magic of that most magnificent incarnation of the Lord.



After this we went to the beautiful temple of Radha Ramana. It was a huge temple filled with devotees. The entrancing voice of the singer filled the whole hall. Everyone seemed mesmerised by his voice. I went and stood right in front of the sanctum. The two delightful idols of Radha and Krishna were far off and could only be seen clearly by using a pair of binoculars. The priests went up and down carrying offerings and garlands but I hardly noticed them. Having just come from the magic forest of Nidhivana, I was wafted into a world peopled by Radha and Krishna alone. The plaintive voice of the musician pulled at my heart strings and wafted me into the magic world of the rasamandala. I was Radha and I alone danced with him swaying in his arms to the beat of the drums playing behind me. The scintillating forms in front of me took me into an ethereal world where nothing else existed. After a long, long while the music faded, the wispy forms in front stiffened and turned into idols. Intoxicated with the glory of the place we returned to our rooms singing, “Sri Radha Ramana Hari Bol, Sri Radha Ramana Hari Bol.” Thus ended our memorable first day in the city of Radha/Ramana (the delight of Radha).

Later I discovered the history of the temple. It is one of the oldest temples in Vrindavana. One of the miracles here is that the fire in the temple kitchen has been burning continuously ever since it was lit during the time of its construction. The idol of Krishna is actually a shaligrama (type of black stone). Gopal Bhatt Goswami had gone to the Gantaki river in Nepal and brought back twelve shaligramas. He started worshipping all twelve but had an intense desire to worship the Lord in his form. One day on the day of Narasimha Chaturdashi he found that one of the shaligramas had turned into the exquisite figure of the Lord which is what we see now.


Bankey Bihari

Next morning we went to the most famous of the temples of Vrindavana- Sri Bankey Bihari – meaning the one with the three bents. When Krishna stands holding the flute in his hands, he is bent in three places! This temple opens rather late in the morning since he is supposed to have spent the whole night with the gopis at Nidhivana and tired himself out! Each temple is connected with some aspect of his life with the gopis and this lends a piquant charm to each story. It was really crowded and we had to literally fight our way to the front where there was supposed to be different lanes for men and women but somehow there seemed to be no particular rule anywhere and people were simply jostling each other to get to the front. But there was a barricade of some sort right in front and we managed to cling on to the railings and lean forward to get a good view of the charming figure within the sanctorum. A priest was standing in front throwing flower garlands to various people in the crowd. I was hoping desperately that he would throw one to me and even put out my hand. Suddenly I felt a thud round my neck which nearly made me lose my balance and I found a garland of roses and marigolds round my neck. I had no idea where it had come from. I looked back and there was no one there. My eyes filled with tears and I just prostrated to him for I knew that HE was the one who had thrown the garland round my neck. I inhaled the perfume of the tulsi garland round his neck and heard the plaintive call of the flute beckoning me to go closer and closer until I melted in his arms covered in a purple haze where his eyes flowed into mine.

I sat in a daze for a while on the steps. This is a custom we follow in the south but here actually it was discouraged. However we did manage to sit for a while and absorb the vibrations of the place.

Now let us look into the history. The temple was built by Swami Haridas who is supposed to be the incarnation of Lalita, who was Radha Rani’s friend. He was the guru of the famous singer Tansen. Once he sang a beautiful song to the celestial couple in Nidhivana and found that the couple appeared before him. The Swami requested them to merge into one and this is the idol of Bankey Bihari that we see now. Swami Haridas’ lineage can be traced to Sri Gargacharya who was the Kulaguru of the Yadava clan and who had performed the naming ceremony of the baby Krishna. He had been meditating on the divine couple at the forest of Nidhivana for many years. His disciples were very curious about the place and one day they entered the Kunj. They were blinded by a bright and intense light which filled the whole place. For a few seconds they were granted the sight of the divine couple but none could stand the vision for long and feared that they might lose their sight. The swami then requested Radha and Krishna to take a single form and thus the couple turned into the one single black charming idol which we see today. The charisma is such that no one can look at it all the time so the curtains in front are regularly drawn and opened by the priests. It is said that if we gaze too long into Krishna’s eyes we will lose consciousness.


Radha Damodara

This was quite a big temple with a garden at one side and a library at the other. The beautiful idols of the Lord and Radha were already clothed in their deep blue winter garments. There was a very interesting story connected with this temple. One of the Goswamis called Sanatana Goswami, had been doing four parikramas (going round) of the mountain of Govardhana that Krishna had lifted and held up as an umbrella over the gopalas and gopis when rains threatened to flood the whole village. The Goswami kept doing this till he became too old to walk. At that time the Lord manifested himself as a small mound at this very place and told him that from now on he need not go to Govardhana to do his parikrama but could do it round this mound. This mound is known as the Giriraj Charan Shila and has Lord Krishna’s footprint on it since he is supposed to have stood on it. It is now covered with a beautiful cloth and the priests uncovered it now and then and exposed it to all the pilgrims. It is right in front of the charming figures of Radha and Krishna. We were told that we would get the same benefit of doing circumambulations of Govardhana if we went on the walking path round the temple. We were thrilled to hear this since we knew that we certainly did not have the time to do the real parikrama of the mountain. This was truly a bonus. Chanting Krishna mantras we went round and round on the little path and just as we completed the 4th round, the curtains that had been drawn in front of the sanctorum for the main puja, lifted and enabled us to see the mid-day Arati (waving of lights). In each temple my Vanamali had arranged a small miracle. History has it that this temple was established by Jiva Goswami in 1542 AD. During the time of Aurangzeb the idols were removed to Jaipur was some time and brought back in 1739. He established a library here where all the original manuscripts of the Goswamis are stored. Some of these have been preserved.

ISKCON TEMPLE (International Society for Krishna Consciousness)


Next we went to the famous Iskcon temple. It was very beautiful with fantastically decorated figures of Radha and Krishna in the middle, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda on the left side altar and Sri Prabhudananda on the right side. Since the noon Arati was going on, there was a lot of dancing and singing by the devotees in which all of us joined in with great delight.

After this we partook of the Krishna Prasad which was served at their restaurant reserved for visitors.



Our next stop was at the comparatively small temple of Mirabai, the princess of Mewar who was married to the prince of a neighbouring state at a very young age. She had given her heart to Lord Krishna and could never have a proper relationship with her husband, who suspected her of having illicit relationships with some other man. He didn’t dream that it was Krishna himself who was her sole love and husband. Instigated by his jealous sisters he repeatedly tried to kill her but of course the Lord saved his devotee time and time again. At last she decided to leave the palace and made her way to Vrindavana. When she tried to enter the hall where some great pundits were carrying on a debate about the Lord’s exploits, she was stopped. They shouted at her and declared haughtily that women were debarred from entering that place. Meera looked around at all of them and innocently asked, “Where is the man here? I see only women. There is only One Purusha (male) in this world and that is my Lord Giridhari. Everyone else is a woman!”

This is the spot where this episode took place and her temple was built here.

I suddenly noticed a young man in full prostration in front of the idol. Something about him attracted me and I waited for him to get up. However he did not rise up for a long time. I turned away and told one of the boys to give him some money since he was dressed very poorly. However when we searched for him, he was no longer to be found. Since I was standing at the door there was no way he could have slipped out without one of us noticing! Another question mark in Vrindavana?

Meera Bai went to Vrindavana in the year 1524 after leaving the palace of her husband. She lived in Vrindavana from 1524 to 1539. After that she went to Dwaraka and stayed there till her death in 1550. In Vrindavana Krishna is always found with Radha and the bhava (attitude of the mind) here is that of a lover and his beloved. In Dwaraka however, Krishna is worshipped as the husband of Rukmani and his various wives. Meera always considered him as her husband. Perhaps that is why she left Vrindavana and went to Dwaraka.



The great sage and Acharya known as Lalit Kishori Devji lived between 1758 and 1823. He was anxious to meditate in seclusion under a tree. His disciples found a place and fenced the whole area using bamboo sticks. Bamboo sticks are known as “tatiya” in the local dialect. This is how the place got its name.

When we went there it was already quite dark and we could hardly see where we were walking since the place was lit only with a few “diyas” (mud lamps) placed here and there that had flickering lights, casting grotesque shadows on the sand. The whole place had been preserved exactly as it had been at the time of the great sage. I was wafted a couple of centuries back. It was a magical place. There were no large, ugly concrete edifices. There was only a huge square of river sand in which our feet sank deep. Apparently the sage had never left this square of sand and never ventured out of this self-imposed prison. It was fenced with bamboo sticks and filled with various kinds of trees that Krishna loved like neem, peepul and kadamba. This place is meant only for sadhana (spiritual practice) and is not intended to attract the normal tourist.

His samadhi was in a small room in the centre of the square. Thankfully the place had not been electrified. We sat in front of the samadhi in almost complete darkness. It was a most mysterious place filled with strong vibrations. Soon a couple of men came and sat in front and started singing some wonderful verses about Krishna. It was really thrilling. Tears poured down my eyes as the soul stirring couplets reverberated through the air. We sat in silence soaking in the atmosphere of devotion that filled the place. Our guide then told me that the Madhathipati (chief of the ashram), had come there and I could take the opportunity to meet him. I followed him round the samadhi temple and came to a platform about two feet high, again made totally out of sand that had been firmly stacked and was most stable. A cloth had been spread over it and the priest sat quite firmly on it. He gave me some Prasad (food that has been offered to the deity) and told me to come in the morning the next day. We did go again the next day but the aura and mystery surrounding the place had been overpowering at twilight and was hardly perceptible at 11 in the morning. But we did have a good look inside the samadhi room which had just two plain mounds, one for the saint and the other for his disciple.


Yamuna Arti

From there we went straight to the banks of the Yamuna to watch the famous Yamunaarati. There was a kind of a platform above the Yamuna on which the priest and various helpers were seated in front of a makeshift altar. He had a beautiful voice and was chanting innumerable songs. A lady dressed like a gopi was dancing and singing at the side. The Yamuna was only a dark expanse of water at the back. Suddenly the darkness was lit by thousands of little lights floating down the river. The little lamps were placed in boats made of leaves and filled with flowers exactly as we used to see in Rishikesh on the Ganga. At the end of the long drawn out puja each of us were given separate arati plates and lamps and asked to perform our own aratis to the river goddess.

My heart bled for the holy river. Our ancient sages were so wise that they taught us to worship our rivers like goddesses since they knew that rivers were the lifelines of our country. However today we have forgotten this truth and have clung on to the surface rituals which are meaningless without the basic truth that supports them. After the pujas are over, the plastics, the flowers, the papers and the rubbish are all thrown into the “holy” river as if she was a garbage bin! All the little nalas (drains), collecting the refuse from the big hotels and bustling city were all released into the river which was slowly being choked to death. “Why are we killing our rivers like this?” I cried out. Why are we clutching at the empty shell of the rituals without realising the reason for their being? Our rivers are screaming out loud to save them. We have shut our ears to their cries and keep on with our meaningless rituals, uncaring of the fact that we are actually committing suicide since without our rivers we will be lost!


Karthyani Temple

On the third day morning we went to the Karthyayani temple which was a fairly new temple built by Swami Keshavananda who was a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya, which Paramahamsa Yoganandaji had visited. Keshavananda spent forty years in the Himalayas. There he had a vision of the mother goddess Karthyayani and went to Vrindavana and located the place where the gopis had prayed to Devi Kartyayani and built this temple.

It had beautiful vibrations and as we sat in front I was reminded of the touching story of Devi Karthyayani which is given in the Bhagavad Purana. She is the primeval Mother Goddess and the gopis who were totally enamoured of Krishna decided to undertake a forty-one day vow to her in order to procure him as their husband.

In the month of November they would get up at Brahma Muhurtam at 4 am and go to the River Kalindi in the bitter cold. They would take a bath in the icy waters and then make an idol of the goddess Karthyayani with the river sand and worship her with this mantra.

“Karthyayani Mahamaaye, Mahayogin, Yatheeswari, Nandagopa sutham Devim pathim me kuruthe mama.”

(O! Devi Karthyayani! Thou art the great Mother goddess! The controller of maya, the great yogini! Do thou grant us our wish and give us the son of Nanda (Krishna), as our husband.)

Hundreds of gopis used to gather together on the river banks and repeat this mantra and pray earnestly to the goddess to give them Krishna as their husband. This went on for forty days. On the forty-first day, the object of their desire presented himself before them on the river banks. They were thrilled to see him but a bit shy since they were naked so they sank down to their necks in the water. Their clothes had been discarded on the banks. Krishna picked up the clothes and casually climbed up a tree and hung the clothes on the branches. The gopis didn’t know what to do since they were stark naked. They begged him to return their clothes but Krishna refused and asked them to come out one by one with their arms raised above their heads and he would give them their clothes.

This is one of the most mis-interpreted episodes in his life. The gopis had actually reached the very pinnacle of excellence as far as devotion was concerned. They cared nothing for themselves and were ready to sacrifice everything, even their own relations for his sake but they still clung to the body as if it belonged to them. This test was given to them in order to make them realise that they were not the body. We are ashamed to expose our bodies in front of another person but Krishna is not another person. He is the very breath of our breath, the life of our lives, the supreme atman, ensconced within the covering of our bodies. Our body is his temple. This is the truth he wanted to teach them - that he was not separate from them so there was no need for them to be ashamed to expose their bodies in front of him. This was the final test given to them before he agreed to their demands which was to have him as their husband.

One by one the gopis came up to the Lord of their hearts and accepted their garments from his hands. He had tested them to the utmost, made them dance to his tune, run for him, cook for him, dance for him, play with him, do everything for him and now he had made them realise that they were not separate from him. He was their very self. Pleased with their unconditional love and devotion he blessed them and told them that he would meet them in the forest on the next full moon day- which was the Sharad Pournami when the moon would be at its its largest. That was when he danced the “rasalila” with them. This is one of the most esoteric of his lilas and all of us felt exalted when we listened to this story. All of us prayed to the goddess Karthyayani to give us Krishna as our husband!



From there we went to the Ranganatha temple which is the biggest temple in Vrindavana with huge grounds. It is one of the few temples in Vrindavana, built in the South Indian Dravidian architectural style. The main priest is always a South Indian.

It was built in 1851 by a Jain businessman. The main deity is Ranganatha, the deity found in Sri Rangam in Tamil Nadu. The temple had closed for the mid-day puja so we sat in the beautiful gardens and meditated till the huge doors opened. We went in and were just in time for the noon Aarti. It was so perfectly planned that we felt truly awed. It was a huge and very beautiful idol and we were able to pray without any crowd for a long time before they asked all of us to go out since the temple was closing for the afternoon. It was the wedding anniversary of a couple in our group. He was a S.Indian who had great faith in the deity so they were so happy to have had the great good fortune to have darshan of his favourite deity on this auspicious occasion.

We came out on the road and were surrounded a group of widows for which Vrindavana is famous. Many of them wander around in the streets begging for food or money. We asked them to come with us and the couple took them to a restaurant and gave them a good meal. Feeding the poor is supposed to be the most auspicious thing to do on an anniversary or birthday. So it was their great good luck to have been able to do so. We also bought some shawls and distributed it to them. It was such a delight to see how happy they were. We were so grateful to Krishna for having given us this opportunity.

Widows of Vrindavana


Govinda Dev Temple

This temple is said to be one of the oldest and believed to have been installed by Vajranabha, Lord Krishna’s great grandson more than five thousand years ago. But the deity was lost over a period of time. Once when Rupa Goswami was searching for the deity he sat under a tree near the Yamuna banks. He was approached by a gopala who told him that he had seen a cow go up the hill daily and pour milk into a hole. The Goswami went and dug near the hole and found the beautiful idol of Lord Govindaji. He requested Raja Man Singh of Jaipur to build a temple. He built it in 1590. According to the legend it is said that Akbar had donated some of the red sandstone that had been brought for constructing the Red Fort in Delhi to Raja Man Singh who was his general. It was destroyed along with so many of the temples of Vrindavana by Aurangzeb. The idol was taken and kept in Jaipur. It was later re-installed during the British rule in 1873.



This was indeed a unique temple, one of the few Shiva temples in Vrindavana. The story goes that Lord Shiva was anxious to see the rasalila of Lord Krishna. On full moon day of the Sharad season he arrived with Parvati in the forest of Vrindavana to watch the fun. In this dance the gopis would make a circle with Krishna standing in the middle playing the flute for the dance. But the miracle was that every gopi had her own Krishna as her dancing partner! Shiva was very anxious to witness this particular lila of the Lord. He tried to slip in unnoticed but this was naturally quite a difficult task for the blue-necked one.

Shiva was determined to participate in it and so he meditated with Radha in his mind. Pleased by his meditation, Radha sent her close friend Lalita to bring him over into the Rasamandal after he had a dip in the holy Yamuna.

When Shiva took the dip, he came back as a beautiful damsel and Lalita took him to the Rasamandal. Lord Krishna recognised Lord Shiva and named him as Gopeshwar. Shiva considered Lalita as his guru since she helped him understand the secrets of the Rasalila.


No description of Vrindavana would be complete without mentioning the six Goswamis to whom the world owes a debt for they are the ones who brought out the esoteric secrets of the transcendental lilas of the Lord and disovered the places where the rasamandala was held. Almost all the temples of Vrindavana were built by them. They were a group of true sages from the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition who lived during the 15th and 16th centuries. All of them came from affluent families but gave up everything and came to Vrindavana as directed by their guru Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who is considered as Krishna’s yugavatara (Incarnation of the age).

The two brothers Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis were told by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the year 1516 to go and live in Vrindavana and search for all the holy places connected with Krishna’s transcendental pastimes. The brothers were actually important ministers in the government of Bengal but at the behest of their guru they renounced their mundane life and went to Vrindavana which at that time was only a large forest. They wore nothing but a loin cloth and slept under trees. They ate only roots and dry chappaties (unleavened bread) obtained by begging in the nearby villages. They hardly slept for more than two hours and spent their time in meditation and writing books on the science of Bhakti Yoga. They wrote on parchment leaves which have been preserved in the Vrindavana Research Institute. The two Goswamis Rupa and Sanatana were assisted by Raghunatha Dasa, Raghunatha Bhatta, Gopala and Jiva Bhatta from the south, and these form the famous six Goswamis of Vrindavana.

Their fame came to the ears of the Moghul Emperor Akbar who decided to pay a visit to Vrindavana in 1570. Jiva Goswami led him blindfolded into the sacred forest known as Nidhivana where he experienced such bliss that he granted permission to construct four grand temples dedicated to Krishna. These are the temples of Govindaji, Gopinatha, Madan-Mohana and Jugal Kishore. He also gave money to set up a library at the Radha Damodara temple to preserve the writings of the Goswamis. He gave the best red sandstone normally reserved for the Emperor’s palaces to make some of the temples. Unfortunately one hundred years later in 1670, all these temples were desecrated by his grand-son Aurangzeb.


Madan Mohan

This temple is said to be the oldest in Vrindavana. The idol of Krishna known as Madana Mohana (the enticer of Cupid) was discovered by Sanatana Goswami. The idols of Radharani and Lalita Sakhi are also found here. It was built in 1580 on a fifty foot hill called Dwadasaditya Tila.

Every day we would pass this temple to which our guide had been hesitating to take us since he thought I might not be able to climb. When we assured him that I could manage it, he decided to attempt it on the 4th day of our soul uplifting pilgrimage. It was not much of a climb and we were really glad to have made it. It was under construction and had been declared a Hindu Heritage temple. I’m never very happy to hear this since most of the temples that have been taken over by the government in this way lack something. Even though the grounds are maintained very well the fact is that there is no priest or proper pujas conducted at such temples. So they look like beautiful mausoleums. The spirit of the temple is missing. This had not come to this stage but the priest was rather a lackadaisical person. As I said the grounds were well kept and a lot of construction was going on, which made it difficult to do a full parikrama of the temple. However we did find a very sweet sweeper lady who was so happy to see us and of course her name had to be Lalita (Radha’s best friend and confidante!), whose idol is to be seen in the temple. This was another of the puckish pranks my Lord loved to play with me.


Seva Kunj

This was another weird place something like Nidhivana. Since it was bright daylight it didn’t have the magic and mystery of Nidhivana. I don’t know what made our guide insist that we visit this place. He was always prompted by Vanamali himself. His instincts were so deep and unpredictable that I’m sure he had direct contact with Vanamali. We went to the little temple in which there was an avaricious priest who as usual gave a long drawn out explanation of how this was the place where the rasalila used to be performed. The temple walls were decorated with paintings of the various lilas performed by my Lord. In one he is seen to be combing and decorating Radha’s hair. But what made me take instant notice was the painting in which Krishna had taken Radha’s foot onto his lap and was tenderly massaging it. This is why this place is known as Seva Kunj since Krishna used to do seva (selfless service) to Radha and help her to get ready for the Rasalila. There is also a well here which Krishna is said to have made for Lalita.

We went and sat in the courtyard in front and sang some songs but all the time this picture was haunting me. Suddenly a sweeper carrying a huge broom in one hand and a garland with lavender coloured chrysanthemums in the other, came in front of us and garlanded me. I couldn’t believe it. Who was he? From where had he suddenly appeared with a garland? What was the story of this place? I closed my eyes and they overflowed with gratitude towards my Lord who had appeared in so many forms and had accompanied me to this holy spot. All these boys and girls were nothing but gopis. Everything was Krishnamayam (filled with Krishna). I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude to each and every one of these noble souls who had accompanied me and were anxious to serve me in any way they could. If my Lord could massage Sri Radha’s feet as recompense for her unconditional love and devotion to him, could I not touch the feet of these pure souls who had taken on human forms and who were actually gopis in disguise. Each one of them in their own way had done so much for me. How could I ever repay them for their loving service? I was filled with a desire to touch their feet on this holy ground and thus repay my debts if indeed that was possible. It was not a logical thought. It was a spontaneous action prompted by Him alone. One by one they came forward ignorant of what they were called for. I could hear the tinkling of their anklets as they came and each of them was covered with a purple haze, some of which enfolded me. I was choking with some uncontrollable emotion of love and gratitude. I touched each one’s feet reverently and placed the dust on my head. The love I bore for each of them could only be compared to the love that my Lord had for the gopis. As Uddhava said in the Bhagavad Purana – “Blessed is this land! Blessed is the dust of this place on which that holy one has trod. Blessed are the shrubs and trees for his clothes have brushed them as He walked!”

Uddhava then took the dust of that holy ground on which the gopis were standing and placed it on his head and said, “Blessed are these gopis of Vrindavana for the dust of their feet is capable of purifying all the three worlds!”

If Uddhava, the Prime Minister to the king, the most erudite person of the age could have felt this, what wonder that I, who was only a servant of the devotees of the Lord, could feel overwhelmed with love for these gopis who had followed me to this holy land?

I could have rolled on this ground – this holy ground on which my Lord had walked, on which the gopis had walked, on which so many saints had trod! I felt inebriated like a bee that had drunk deep from the nectar of the flowers of the Vanamala that hung round my Lord’s neck and I could hardly stand. The haunting music of his flute was driving me crazy. I knew that my only salvation lay in his divine arms.

“O Vanamali! My only Love! I surrender totally at thy feet.


Ananda Ashram

None of us felt like going anywhere after this. The Ananda Widows ashram had been kind enough to allow us to donate the lunch for 178 widows that day. Silently we proceeded to the place. Compared to the widows we had seen on the streets the previous day, here all of them had lovely beds, and extremely clean bathrooms and kitchens etc.

Most of them were Bengalis and all were very old. Bengal in the past century had very strict laws concerning widows. Though they were treated as queens while their husbands lived they were considered to be most unlucky the moment their husband died. Their own parents refused to keep them in their houses and many of them were taken to the widows ashrams in holy places like Kasi and Vrindavana where they were left to manage as well as they could. The government had provided some sleeping quarters for quite a few of them but they had to fend for their food by begging on the streets. They were given a petty sum by the temples for singing bhajans during arati.

So it was a joy to see this well- looked after and happy widows at the Ananda Ashram. We were taken round each of the beds and I felt so happy to observe their joy and the way those in charge dealt with them. They seemed to be filled with love. Their own children had abandoned them and the love which they could not give to their children they lavished on these pure souls who had dedicated their lives to serving them. We were all deeply touched by this scene. We went to three of their ashrams and blessed the food. I felt deeply honoured to be asked to serve the food at one of the ashrams. The rest of the group distributed sweets and chocolates. After all the inmates had their lunch, we also sat on the floor and partook of the delicious lunch that had been cooked in true Bengali style.

After this we went to their office where we had sat- sang with all the office bearers. Jayeeta Chakraborty, the one who was in charge of the ashrams was such an inspiration to us. She had dedicated her whole life to these people and since she spoke the language of the majority, she could converse so easily and sweetly with them. It was obvious that all of them adored her. I’m truly grateful to her for having helped us in so many ways during this trip. Rajeshji was the guide that had been given to us. Within a few hours he became not only a guide but a friend and true devotee of Vanamali. He was such a pure soul. All of us felt blessed at having him with us all the time.




We had been invited to visit the Giridhari Dham so on the way back to our guest house, we went there. Most of the inmates were foreign devotees. Somehow they discovered that it was my birthday and insisted on singing songs and giving blessings. It was a delightful end to the day. One of them who was from Canada asked my opinion about what they should do in that city. Without hesitation I told her that the one way they could help the city would be to clean it up. I told them to offer 1 kg of rice or atta for a kg of plastics and I assured her that they could get the place cleaned soon enough.

“India’s role in society is to provide spirituality and in turn it’s your role to teach us cleanliness. There are many people who go round chanting bhajans but I think Krishna would love you even more if you undertook the great task of cleaning up the city.”

She was quite impressed by this and promised to take up the challenge. I hope they will do it.



On the last day, despite my hints the party was anxious to visit the site of the famous Govardhan hill where Krishna had performed one of his most prominent miracles. The cowherds were a pastoral race and were always anxious to please Indra, the god of rain, for their entire livelihood was bound up with the cows that lived on the pastures and green grass that depended on rain. Once when they were preparing for the festival meant for Indra, Krishna went up to his father and advised him that worshipping the hill Govardhan was better than worshipping Indra. This was the hill that stopped the rain clouds that shed their store of water on their pastures so worship should be given to the hill was Krishna’s argument. Nanda and the others reluctantly agreed and all of them took all the delicious eatables they had prepared and went to the hill and offered their worship. Indra saw this and was furious. He let loose his flood waters and the little village started to drown in the rising deluge. The terrified gopalas ran to their saviour. Krishna told them not to worry and that Govardhana would save them. He lifted up the mountain as if it was only a huge mushroom and the gopalas and gopis and the cows took all their possessions and stayed for one whole week under this amazing umbrella. Indra could not believe that such a small boy was capable of holding up a mountain but at the end of a week when he had exhausted all his stock of water he realised that another star had risen in the heavens who was going to usurp his throne. He repented his behaviour and went to Krishna along with the celestial cow, Surabhi and extolled him and begged him to forgive him. Surabhi requested to be allowed to pour her milk over him in the very first “abhisheka” or pouring of some liquid over a deity. He agreed and Indra performed this task and everyone extolled Krishna by a new name – “Govinda” or the Indra (king) of all creatures and cows in particular.

This incident also represents the fall of the ancient Vedic gods of whom Indra was the king. That used to be a kind of sacrificial worship and Krishna brought in the jnana-bhakti marg – a combination of knowledge and devotion. He has dominated the spiritual scene since his advent and has been classified as the supreme incarnation.

Govardhana hill is supposed to stretch from Radha Kund to the end of the so called hill which is actually only a long ridge that stands about 30 m above the surrounding land. The hill has apparently been decreasing by the size of a mustard seed everyday due to the curse of the sage Pulastya.

Once, the great sage was travelling over the world and landed in Shyamali Dvip (now called Africa). There, he saw Mount Drona’s son Govardhana filled with flowering bushes and fragrant vines heavily laden with fruits. It had minerals and jewels. It looked auspicious with many caves and streams. Different kinds of birds were fluttering around filling the air with their cooing sounds. He thought Govardhana would be an ideal place for performing austerities and requested Mount Drona to allow him to carry his son, Govardhana to Kashi, the city of Shiva. Drona was not anxious to let his son go but fearing the curse of the rishi he allowed him to go to Bharatavarsha (India). At that time Govardhana was 103 km long, 64 km wide and 26 km tall. The hill warned him that if he ever put him down he would not budge from that place. The sage agreed and carried him in his right hand through the air. As they passed Vrindavana, Govardhana knew that this was the place where Lord Krishna was going to spend a part of his life. He wanted to stay there so he made himself very heavy so that Pulastya was forced to put him down. He begged the mountain to climb back on to his palm once again but he refused. The sage was angry and cursed him that he would daily become smaller by the size of a seseme seed. This has come true and today it is just a ridge 8 km long 25m high. It has been declared illegal even to pick the tiniest pebble from this.

I had been there before and knew that that there was no hill anymore. However just to quench their curiosity we went to the temple there and saw the little mound that was all that was left of the hill. The temple to Govardhan was beside the beautiful Mansi Ganga. But the rest of the place was kept in a very dirty condition. This always saddens me and I hope the westerners of Giridhari Dham would take up the cause.

From there we went to another Yogananda Trust for widows at a place called Radha Kund. This was indeed a beautiful Kund where many people were taking baths. The street leading to the Kund was filled with shops all selling tulsi malas of every size and description. This was apparently a cottage industry here and every house in the village had tulsi bushes and made the malas themselves.

That evening we had our final arati in our guest house. It was a touching scene for all of us and we felt bound to each other by the strong rope of our love for our Beloved Blue Boy of Brindavan. May that bond remain forever in the heart of all the gopis who had come on this pilgrimage.


O Radha! Beloved of Krishna! Lead us Shyam, the dark darling of the world!

Radhe! Radhe!

Shyam Milade!



Diwali is one of the festivals of India which is celebrated all over India in all the States. The word itself is a condensed form of the word Deepaavali which means a row of lights. This festival has even been mentioned in the Padma Purana which is a very ancient scripture. All Hindu festivals have only one theme and that is to lift the human being from his present state of ignorance into the state of enlightenment which is his birth right. Most people including Hindus don’t realise this truth because very often this truth is buried under a heap of rituals and superstitions which have gathered and smothered the central idea over a period of thousands of years. Diwali is one of those festivals which openly blares out this truth since light is always a synonym for enlightenment. However due to the love of the Hindus for encasing truth with allegorical stories, this fact has again been hidden in a wealth of Puranic stories which in themselves are no doubt most interesting but which tend to deteriorate from the main purpose of the festival which is to point out to the human being that his sole purpose in having taken on a human body is to make sure that he returns to the source from which he has come. Like the source of a river which is very often hidden in bushes and brambles, making it almost impossible for the seeker to find it, so also the source of our Being is hidden beneath the wealth of external things that covers it. Moreover, our senses are outer- oriented so we find it well-nigh impossible to direct our attention inwards and discover the interesting fact that the source of our life lies within ourselves. The brambles and bushes we have to remove are the various ideas and theories about our origin and about our creator as well as all the information which is constantly buffeting us from the outside world. Once this is removed the effulgence of that creator will burst out in all glory from inside us. In Hinduism, the one, immutable source of all creation is the Brahman and That is also the light of all lights, beyond the darkness of ignorance. It is Its light that illumines the entire universe and enables us to behold the glory of Its own creation. It is nothing but our own inner self.

Diwali at Vanamali Ashram

The Bhagavad Gita says: “The sun does not shine there, nor the moon, nor stars or fire.”

What does this mean? Just as the light of a small candle pales into insignificance before the light of the sun, so also all the lights of this universe cannot be compared to even to a spark of the effulgence of the Brahman. That effulgence is ever burning within us and all around us. All we have to do is to remove the darkness of many births passed in ignorance and allow that light to burst out in all its glory. IT is ever enshrined in our hearts but the brambles and bushes of our abysmal ignorance cover IT. If that light was not within us, no amount of external lights would allow us to see this world of multiple phenomena which is actually a shroud which covers the face of the creator. Diwali is the festival of lights in which we are told to remove this ignorance by lighting the lamp of wisdom within us. This festival is celebrated on the night of the new moon. The new moon signifies the darkness of ignorance in which all of us are enshrouded.

Since it’s such an important festival for the whole of India all the religions in India except the Abrahamic religions have woven a story about it into their own scriptures. It is celebrated by several other religions including Jainism, Sikhism and numerous folk religions. They have different mythological versions of the same tales. Jainism, India’s sixth largest religion, hails this as the day on which Lord Mahavira, the last of the twenty-four Thirthankaras (Great Teachers) attained ‘Nirvana’ (enlightenment). While most traditions surrounding Diwali go back thousands of years, one of the most recent traditions associated with it is the one in Sikhism. Sikhs celebrate Diwali as the occasion on which their great teacher Guru Hargobind Ji was released from the captivity of the Mughal ruler Jahangir from the fortress of Gwalior along with several Hindu kings. The Hindus have in-cooperated it into the lives of both their great avataras – Rama and Krishna.

In North India Diwali is celebrated for four and sometimes even five days.

The first day falls on the 13th night of the dark half of the lunar month of Kartika which falls on 26th October this year 2019 and is known as Dhanteras. “Dhan” means wealth and “teras” means 13. Normally it comes two days before Diwali. There is a tradition that on this day Shiva played dice with his wife Parvati, so on this day people play cards and other gambling games. Our ancient sages were great psychologists and they knew that the urge to gamble is as strong as the urge to drink in humans. So they curbed this instinct throughout the year and gave full freedom to it on this one day and gave a divine twist to it by saying that Shiva and Parvati played it on this day so that the players would at least think of the divine pair on this day!

The second day is known as Naraka Chaturthi. This year it falls on the 27th October. Chaturthi means fourteen and Naraka is a demon. It was on this day that Lord Krishna killed the demon called Naraka and released the sixteen thousand one hundred princesses that had been incarcerated by Naraka. They begged Krishna to marry them since even their parents would refuse to take them back after having stayed for some years with a notorious womaniser like Naraka. Of course, the chances of their ever being accepted by any man was out of the question. Lord Krishna was one who never let down anyone who approached him with devotion and therefore he accepted them and took them with him to his own city of Dwaraka. There he was welcomed by the citizens with rows and rows of lights and hence on the night of Diwali we should light the lamps and imagine that we are also citizens of Dwaraka, welcoming him after his glorious victory over the forces of evil as depicted by Narakasura. The esoteric significance is given below.

Krishna rescues the princesses

The word naraka means hell and Krishna is the enlightened human who kills this demon, Naraka. He destroys the hell of misery we have created for ourselves within our minds due to our lack of understanding of our true nature. He frees the spirits of positivity which have been shut up within the prison of our ignorant mind and marries them (allows them to unite with him). The enlightened being will destroy the hell of ignorance in his mind which in turn throws open the door to many positive qualities which have been jailed inside. His true nature or home within himself has now been lit up with all positive qualities.

Symbolically we light thousands of lamps in our houses trying to remove the darkness of the night outside but our hearts are still choked with the darkness of intolerance, fear and hatred. In fact this darkness has covered the whole world defying all attempts by right minded people. The festival of Diwali celebrated every year is a continuous reminder to us to kill this demon and set free the positivity which is enshrined in us.

On this day, Hindu merchants in North India open their new account books and pray for success and prosperity during the coming year. They do puja to Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and invite her into their homes. New clothes are distributed to the poor and of course to all members of the family.

This year Amavasya, or the new moon in the month of Kartika falls on the 28th of October. This is said to be the darkest night of the year. This is the third day of Diwali. On this day devotees worship Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity when she is in her most benevolent mood, ready to fulfil the wishes of her devotees. It is said that this was the day on which she was born and also the day on which she married Vishnu.

The same theme is repeated in the Ramayana. Rama kills the demon Ravana and returns to his own city of Ayodhya along with his wife Sita after fourteen years in exile, on the night of the new moon. The citizens await his return and welcome him with thousands of little lights. Here Ravana is the epitome of the unbridled ego which has to be vanquished by Rama, the man of enlightenment. Rama rescues his beloved wife Sita who is the epitome of all positive traits like purity, spirituality and unadulterated love. Re-enactments of the Ramayana, the story of Lord Rama, are part of the celebrations in some areas.

The 4th day is known Bhaidooj in North India in which married girls return to their ancestral homes in order to celebrate with their brothers. This year it falls on the 29th October.

Again and again the theme of the ignorant mortal who is covered with abysmal nescience is repeated every year in the hope that one day the light of clear reason will prevail and humanity will realise that the solution to all its problems can be found by clearing the ignorance in their own hearts. The divine Self is ever residing in our hearts and ever ready to give us all help if we turn to Him. Since He has given us a certain amount of intelligence, He allows us to make our own choices until the day dawns then we realise that we are truly incapable of making the right choices and then we turn to Him out of our own free will. At that time He will come running to our aid like Krishna did to help the princesses who had been jailed for many years.

Firecrackers are a must for Diwali. Apart from the fact that people especially children love crackers, there is a scientific reason. Diwali comes straight after the monsoons when a lot of insects and mosquitos are flying around. The fumes produced by the firecrackers will kill or repel many of these unwanted insects. Above all Diwali is the victory of our noble emotions over our negative tendencies.

May this Diwali allow each one of us to cast off the shackles of ignorance which have tied us down for lifetimes, free us from the choking chains of the demonic ego of Naraka and allow us to attain union with Krishna, the Purushottama, the Supreme Person, who alone can engulf us in the glorious light of eternal freedom which is ever existing in our hearts.

Hari Aum Tat Sat



The festival of Onam is the most important celebration in the state of Kerala in South India. Like all Hindu festivals it has both a historical and spiritual basis. It is celebrated immediately after the monsoons, in the Kerala month known as Chingam- August/September. This year, 2019, it falls on the 11th September.


Lord Vishnu is the harmonizer in the Hindu Trinity made up of Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the harmonizer and Shiva, the destroyer. Vishnu is supposed to have taken ten incarnations to uplift the world and free it from the thralldom of adharma or unrighteousness. The whole festival of Onam centers round the story of the fifth incarnation of Vishnu known as Vamana. But unfortunately this part of the Onam festival was forgotten during the days of the British rule. Now with the revival of Hinduism this story is slowly being brought into prominence.

The fascinating story of the legendary king called Mahabali is closely connected with the Onam festival. Let us go back in history to the Titan known as Hiranyakashipu who was Mahabali’s great-grandfather. He was indeed a true asura  (demon) who had sworn to erase the memory of Vishnu from his land and told everyone that he was both king and god (le roi et dieu). His son, Prahlada was a great Vishnu bhakta (devotee) and when Hinranyakashipu tried to kill him, Vishnu took the incarnation of Narasimha (man-lion) in order to save him. The modern city of Ahobila in Andhra Pradesh is the place where Narasimha is supposed to have incarnated himself. There are temples there to all the different aspects of Narashimha. Strangely enough Lord Vishnu took two incarnations to bless this family even though they belonged to the asuric (demonic) clan.

When Prahlada took over the reign of the land he put an end to all adharma (unrighteousness) and the land flourished and everyone had devotion for Vishnu. His son was Virochana who was also a great Vishnu bhakta.  Bali was his son and he too inherited this deep love and devotion to Vishnu.  His guru was Shukracharya who gave him all the knowledge necessary to become the greatest ruler of this earth. He had inherited his father’s kingdom which was in the Deccan plateau, now known as Andhra Pradesh and he had extended it to include modern Maharashtra and even towards the north-eastern states. The land prospered and flourished under his rule and everyone loved him. However too much affluence always corrupts people’s minds and soon they started to fall from the ancient Vedic concepts of dharma and good behavior. King Bali felt sad at this insidious corruption that was creeping into his realm and with the advice of his guru Shukracharya, he decided to hold one hundred Ashwamedha Yagas (special fire ceremonies) in order to bring the citizens back to the Vedic way of life.


Onam Festival

In the meantime the gods under their king Indra went to Vishnu and begged him to do something about this kingdom that had been flourishing with noble people at one time and had now become totally corrupt. Vishnu agreed and took birth in a Brahmin household on the full moon day of the month of Shravana (August/September) under the star known as Shravana which is called Thiruvonam in Malayalam (the language spoken in Kerala). Soon after his birth he took on the form of a seven-year old boy. The little boy was called Vamana due to his dwarfish size. He was invested with the sacred thread and given all the accoutrements of a Brahmachari or a celibate student. He held a begging bowl in one hand and a leaf umbrella in the other and was asked to go and beg for his food as is customary for a Brahmachari who had just been invested with the holy thread. At that time King Bali had just completed his 99th   Ashwamedha Yaga and was preparing for the 100th.  Vamana set out purposefully towards the palace but it is said that at every step he took the whole of the earth shook as if to proclaim his future grandeur. Such was the splendour emanating from Vamana, that when he reached the court where the king, sages and other great souls were assembled, King Bali, even though he was the emperor of all the worlds stood up to welcome him. He rose from his throne and went forward to receive him and gave him a seat of honour. The king felt his heart surge with love for this small boy and told him to ask for anything he wanted and he would surely give it to him. His guru Shukracharya had some suspicions about the boy’s identity and called the king to a side and warned him not to agree to Vamana’s request since he suspected that he was none other than Vishnu sent by Indra to cheat him. When he heard the name “Vishnu”, Bali’s heart jumped with joy and for the first time in his life he disobeyed his guru and told him that he was indeed honoured to have Vishnu come and beg from him and he would certainly give him whatever he wanted. He asked the child what he wanted. Actually Vishnu loved him very much but he had decided to put him down so that the land would revert to its former glory so with a side-long glance Vamana said that he wanted only three steps of land. Bali roared with laughter and said, “I thought you were an intelligent boy but I see now that you are only a child. You have come to the palace of one who owns the whole earth and you are stupid enough to ask for only three steps of land”.
Vamana gave a mysterious smile and replied, “Only the person who is satisfied with what he has can be said to be truly content. In fact, such a person is indeed a king. What is the use of having more than one really needs? What would I do with it? I want only three steps of land”.


The king agreed and proceeded to solemnise the promise with some water which he took in the palm of his hand as was customary. He was all set to pour it into Vamana’s little palm when he was stopped by Shukracharya, his guru (spiritual guide).

 “Oh King!” he said, “This little boy is none other than Vishnu who has been sent by the gods to defeat you. It is some trick. Do not give him anything!”
The king replied, “I deem it a great honour that Vishnu, the great god of all the worlds has come to beg from me. Moreover, I will never go back on the promise I made to anyone even if it means death for me!”

Vamana was very happy to hear these wonderful words coming from the mouth of this asura , who he felt was truly his devotee. Suddenly, the little body of the dwarf started to enlarge until it became a gigantic figure whose head could not be seen since it soared above the earth. With one step he measured the whole earth and with the other, all the interim space. Then in a thunderous voice he boomed, “Where is the third step that you promised me O Bali!”

Without turning a hair the king whispered, “O Lord if you will only return to your original size you can place your little foot on my head and thus enable me to keep my promise of giving you three steps of land”.

Vamana promptly returned to his original size and placed his sacred foot on the bowed head of the great king who was determined to keep his promise despite all odds. He pressed his little foot down on the crowned head of the king and sent him along with his retinue to the nether world where he was installed as the sole emperor. Vamana blessed him and said, “From now on you will be known as Maha-bali (the great Bali)! You are indeed a noble soul and will be known as one of my greatest devotees even though you have been born in the clan of the asuras (demons). I have great admiration for you and I promise that I myself will become your gate keeper and see to it that no enemy shall ever conquer you”.

Mahabali then begged him to be allowed to return to the land he loved at least once a year. Vamana agreed and it is said that Mahabali returns every year on Thiruvonam day to his land to bless his people. Of course, he is always accompanied by Vamana who comes before him to make everything ready for his arrival. Because of this both the asura king Mahabali and Lord Vishnu as Vamana are welcomed by the Keralites during Onam. This makes Onam a unique festival in which the victor and the vanquished are both worshipped at the same time.

The British derided us since they said we had no written historical records. This statement is true in one sense because our history goes way back to the times when the written word was unknown. Western history is only a boring account of all their kings and heroes, written by people who lived long after the kings were dead and gone. Our history which goes beyond the so called historical times, was captured in the hearts of the people. It is to be found in the very cells of the people of this country so that it was always a living thing and not a set of moth eaten books left to rot in a library! It was woven into the very fabric of our lives and every festival we have is a celebration of some part of our history. Our history was told and enacted through the centuries by the bards and the various “kathas” (story telling of the Puranas) that take place in temples so that despite the continuous foreign invasions it was kept intact in the heart and mind of the nation. It is a living thing bringing joy to all those who listen to it even though these incidents took place centuries ago. It’s not a boring account of people who died eons ago and whose lives are only to be found in the pages of a book! Our history still continues to inspire us to perfect ourselves as the heroes and noble kings of ancient times.  Even though these stories are considered as mythological due to foreign influence the fact is that they all have some basis in our ancient history.

Now when we look at the stories woven round the festival of Onam we will come up with a practical problem. First of all the history of Kerala does not record a king called Mahabali. Secondly Vamana was the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and Kerala is supposed to have been carved out of the ocean by Parashurama who was the sixth incarnation. So how can we clear this discrepancy?


For this we will have to delve into the past history of Kerala which goes back a few thousand years. Parashurama was the son of the great sage called Jamadagni. Once the powerful king Kartavararjuna came to his ashram and totally destroyed it and killed the sage in the process. His son Parashurama was incensed and swore to avenge the death of his father and started an ongoing process of decimating all the haughty kshatriya (warrior caste), rulers of the country. At last he came to his senses and stopped the senseless slaughter. He was anxious to get divine pardon for his crimes. He was told that the only way was to donate land to Brahmins and provide a safe place for them to live as they had no one to protect them since all the kshatriyas had been killed. He did intense tapas to Lord Shiva at the place called Gokarna which was then the tip of this country. Shiva told him to placate Varuna, the Lord of the waters who would be able to give him some land. Varuna was pleased and told him to throw his axe as far as he could into the ocean and reclaim the land from the sea. He threw his axe with all his might into the ocean and the land called Kerala was born. (It is to be noted that the coast line of India has been changing during the centuries. Sometimes the sea claimed some of the land and sometimes it threw up the land due to seismic movements in the bottom of the sea.) Parashurama then brought thousands of Brahmins from Andhra Pradesh, the land of Mahabali and established them in this new land and gave them everything they needed. He also made many Shiva and Durga temples in the land so that it became a beautiful, spiritually charged place. Afterwards many artisans and other types of workers came to the place.

Historically we know that the Narasimha avatara took place in the town called Ahobila in Andhra Pradesh and therefore Vamana’s avatara would obviously have taken place there, since that was Mahabali’s country which was his legacy from his great-grandfather, Hiranyakashipu.  However the fact is that the Brahmins who came from Andhra Pradesh brought with them the memory of their great king Mahabali who had promised to return to their land once a year on the birthday of Vamana which falls on the star called Shravana in the month of Chingam (August/September). The Malayalam name for Shravana is Thiruvonam so this is how the festival of Thiruvonam started in Kerala even though Mahabali was never a king of Kerala!! Their history travelled with them!

As the centuries rolled by, people forgot where they had come from and started to believe that Mahabali was indeed one of their kings and that Vamana had taken his incarnation there in the country of Kerala. To corroborate this belief they built a temple to Vamana, known as Trikkakara in the town of Trippunithura in the Ernakulam District of Kerala. The name is derived from the word “Trikkal” or “holy feet” of Lord Vishnu as Vamana when his feet touched the earth. The idol of Vamana was installed in this temple centuries ago possibly by Parashurama himself. It was called Trikal-kara at one time, meaning the place of the “holy feet” but degenerated into Trikkakara.   

This is the historical background of the festival of Onam which is celebrated to honour the fifth incarnation of Vishnu known as Vamana and to show the greatness of the king who kept his promise even though he knew that great harm might come to him. This is the attitude which all rulers of any country should have, to keep the welfare of their people before their own and to keep the promises made by them to the citizens of the country they rule!

Hindus follow the lunar month made up of twenty-eight days. On each day of every month one star will be in ascendance. A lot of importance is given in our horoscopes to the star on which we are born. That is what decides our physical and mental qualities. The word Onam is a shortened form of Thiruvonam which is the Kerala version of the star known as Shravana in Sanskrit. As mentioned earlier, Vishnu in his form as Vamana was born on this day, the full moon day of the month of Shravana on the star called Shravana or Thiruvonam. On the eve of Onam when the star known as Uttradam (Uttaraphalguni) is in ascendance all Hindu houses in Kerala invite Lord Vishnu in his form as Vamana to come and bless their house. A pyramidal clay figure with four sides and a flat top is made and this is known as Trikkakarappan or the Lord of the temple of Trikkakara who is Vamana. This unique four-sided figure is supposed to represent the four stages in the life of the human being. In modern days when people have no access to clay, we find that these structures are made of wood and sold in shops. The little idol of Trikkakarappan is placed on a banana leaf on which mystic symbols have been drawn with rice flour. It’s normal to make two smaller versions of Trikkakarappan and keep them on either side of the main idol. These three idols are supposed to represent the three steps of land taken by Vamana.

The festival begins ten days before Thiruvonam on the star called Hastha or Attham. From that day onwards, children collect wild flowers and make lovely floral arrangements outside the house. This is called a “pookkalam.” Each day of the ten-day festival is represented by a special “pookkalam”. Originally the pookkalam consisted of ten concentric rounds. These ten circles were meant to represent the ten avataras or incarnations of Lord Vishnu. On the first day called “attham” the “pookkalam” would only have one round, the next day it would become two rounds and finally on Tiruvonam day it would have ten rounds. On the first day the round would be made of one single colour, on the second day two colours and so on till the final day when ten colours were used. Nowadays this tradition is rarely followed, and more importance is given to the design and variety of flowers. People buy bunches of flowers in the market and make huge “pookkalams” of every size and shape and even use coloured powders as they do in the “rangolis” (designs made with coloured powders) in N. India.

One of the most famous events during this season is the Aramula snake boat race. The boats are long and sleek and have the head of a snake carved in front. There are about two hundred rowers and the incredible thing is the way they keep to the rhythm that is beaten on a drum by the man standing at the head of the boat. If even one person makes a mistake the boat will falter and they will lose the race. Hence this is a true picture of how a country can prosper only if all the citizens row to the rhythm played by the head. The race starts from the famous Sri Krishna temple at Aramula.

This is the glorious tradition of the land of Kerala and every Onam is a fulfillment of the promise made by Vamana to help them provided the rulers kept their promises to their citizens like Mahabali. Unfortunately the recent events in Kerala have shown that the present rulers are far from being the greatest. In fact they are doing their best to disrupt the spirituality of this land and are bent on harming the Hindus exactly as Hiranyakashipu, the great-grandfather of Mahabali had done long ago. Let us hope that with the blessings of Vamana the beautiful land of Kerala will revert to its past glory, and the people will get a set of rulers who will keep up the tradition of the Great Bali -Mahabali.

Hari Aum


Ganesh Chaturti
Vinayaka Chaturti


The Sanatana Dharma is the most ancient religion in the world. It is a way of life that has existed from very ancient times. Great sages known as rishis were the ones that gave this knowledge to us. They discovered that the material world and its evolution was controlled by a subtle spiritual energy called prana. In lower forms of life, evolution is a mechanical process but they found out that in the human being there is a possibility to consciously cultivate this spiritual energy or prana in order to give a boost to evolution. Biologists are now becoming aware of something called selective evolution which is what the rishis who knew about it, told us a long time ago. They did not write long treatises on such abstruse subjects. Instead they resorted to symbols and parables that could easily be understood by the common man. Thus we find that the Hindu scriptures are full of such symbols, analogies and allegories. These are most scientific and have been shaped through abstract conceptions of the external environment.

Our Puranas (books on the stories of the gods) are studded with stories of an amazing variety of gods and goddesses who are the dynamic representations of this abstract Truth as given in the Vedas. These stories are not fairy tales but they are the reflections of the revelations of the rishis. The rishis realized that it was imperative to create ideals of perfection for the society in order to help it evolve to higher states of consciousness. Their language is couched in mysticism since that was the only way in which these great esoteric secrets could be communicated to the normal human being whose mind is conditioned by names and forms from birth onward. The Puranic stories are like abstract paintings that suggest a different dimension to the mind and enable it to comprehend the intangible ideas that are expressed through these forms.

Vyasa is the great sage or rishi who is the author of the eighteen Puranas. He was a master story teller. He said that stories serve as pools in which the reflection of Reality can be caught. The subtle essence of Reality can be caught only through allegories, symbols and stories. They have to be read with the sensitive heart of an artist and not with the carping intellect of the scientist. If we listen to them with the innocence of a child they will open our hearts to a vast vista of mysticism and romance for which the human heart actually craves. Vyasa saw the totality of nature, both her outer physical phenomena as well as her inner invisible psyche. The forms of the various gods and Ganesha in particular are the visible signs for expressing the invisible. One who meditates on these symbols will be able to penetrate the subtle psychic presence in them and attain a comprehensive view of the totality of the cosmos. He will also be able to dive into the recesses of his own psyche and get higher spiritual experiences. This is the truth underlying the often bizarre forms of the Hindu gods as in the case of Ganesha. They translate the Infinite in terms of the finite and the spiritual in terms of the material. By fostering our faith in the symbols and forms of the deities we can establish a rapport with the deity that will daw us closer to the Supreme, of which they are reflections.  In this unique way Vyasa succeeded in getting the incomprehensible Supreme, reflected in the liquid poetry of the Puranic literature and created a myriad forms or altars for worship which would be suitable for different personalities. The mind of man has to learn to focus on some form that inspires him before proceeding to the formless.


Ganesha is the first letter in the alphabet of symbolic forms devised by the rishis. He is the most popular of the gods in the Hindu pantheon. Even votaries of other gods have to pay obeisance to him before starting their rituals to their own chosen deity. Hindus start all religious ceremonies and even worldly affairs of importance by breaking a coconut to Ganesha. He represents the power of the intelligent will unfolding the spiritual life from the world of matter. Hence he is associated with the Mooladhara Chakra at the base of the spine which denotes the element “earth”. He is said to be god of gravity that is the base of all existence. Anyone who wants to get into the Hindu fold has to supplicate Ganesha first.

The figure of Ganesha has a deep spiritual significance. It symbolizes the idea of the emergence of life from earth and the unfolding of consciousness from matter. His dual form of animal and human points out to us that we too can aspire to a supra mental level even though we have come from an animal background. The apparently ludicrous figure of Ganesha mounted on a small mouse is actually a representation of this theme and meant to give an impetus to the human being to realize his own inner divinity.

Now let us first see what the word Ganesha or Ganapati implies. The word “gana” comes from the root “gan” which means to count. “Ganya” means limited and “aganya” means unlimited or infinite. “Ganya” includes the whole of manifold creation, everything that the human intellect can comprehend. Therefore Ganapati is the Lord of all finite things. He is also Ganyaapati – Lord of everything in creation. The “aganya” or Infinite has taken on a finite form as Ganapati or Ganesha in order to uplift humanity out of these finite forms.

The ganas are the subtle creative powers and elements that cause diversity and create obstructions in the universe. Since he is Ganapathy or the leader of the ganas, we have to contact him so that these obstacles can be removed. He not only removes obstacles from our physical life but also from our spiritual life. When a devotee takes a wrong path, he also places obstacles in our way so that we are forced to take a different path which is better for us.

There are many accounts of the birth of Ganesha. The most popular one comes from the Shiva Purana. Once when Shiva had retired to the high Himalayan peaks for his meditation, Parvati felt a bit unsafe when she went for her bath to the pool since she had only two female attendants. In those days there was no soap so she had smeared a mixture of turmeric, sandal powder, mud and various other unguents over her body. Before she got into the water she scraped this out and made a beautiful figure of a boy. Parvati is Prakriti or Nature which is latent with infinite creative potency. It gives birth to life that emerges and evolves and eventually turns into consciousness in the human being. So she breathed life into the figure of the boy she had made. She made him stand at the door of the path leading to the pond and told him to obstruct anyone who tried to enter. When Shiva returned from his meditation he found his way barred by the child who absolutely refused to let him in. Shiva sent his ganas to rout the boy but they were defeated and eventually Shiva himself came and cut off his head. Parvati was distraught to see the headless torso of her boy and threatened to destroy the whole world if her son was not restored to her. Shiva immediately sent the ganas to cut off the head of the first creature they found who was sleeping with his head turned to the north. As it happened they found an elephant and brought his head and Shiva fixed it on the torso. The priests muttered some mantras and the body came to life. The body was that of a boy and the head of the elephant. Parvati was delighted to see her son alive even though with the head of an elephant. When his trunk is turned to the right his figure is a representation of the mantra Aum when written in Sanskrit ॐ.  She took him on her lap and christened him “Vinayaka”, the one who is born without a sire. This happened on the fourth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadra (August/September) and hence this day is celebrated as his birthday.

The most striking thing about Ganesha is his elephant head. There is a deep esoteric reason for this. The elephant is the largest of the vegetarians in the animal world. In fact it is the most powerful and massive creature on earth. It is long-lived, vigorous, has a large brain and an excellent memory. They can be trained to become great friends of the human being. Animals that are feared by men and beasts alike are all predators and flesh eaters. No one fears a vegetarian giant. This is one of the reasons that the elephant was chosen as a most auspicious symbol in Hinduism. Most houses in India have an idol or picture of Ganesha at the front so that they can pray to him before going out.

An elephant’s tusk is the most amazing instrument known to man. Human ingenuity still has not been able to devise such an instrument. It is capable of lifting huge logs of wood as well as of picking up a small pin lying on the ground. With this trunk, Ganesha is capable of removing every obstacle in the path of his devotee. His large ears act like antenna to receive all possible sounds and thus he can easily gauge every situation. In an esoteric sense he can discern the real from the unreal. His huge belly is a symbol of the whole universe. Everything emerges from the cauldron of his belly. His small eyes show his ability to make minute observations.

The fact that the insignificant mouse is his vehicle is the most enigmatic portion of his figure. According to Hinduism, consciousness is ingrained even in the grains of sand. It turns into intelligence after passing through many rudimentary forms. The mouse is a fitting symbol for this. It is a creature of the earth and lives in burrows and holes in the ground. Its body touches the earth all the time. It cares only for the satisfaction of its palate. It has a primitive intelligence encased in ignorance and is restless, avaricious and worried. On the other hand the elephant is the symbol of power and wisdom. The fact that Ganesha rides on such a creature shows that the liberated man keeps his worldly desires completely under control. The picture of Ganesha mounted on a mouse shows that the human being has the power to be calm and majestic and reach the infinite but continues to be a rat and rush about in the rat race of life, fighting and squabbling over trivialities. Thus his whole image is a graphic picture of the immense possibility of the human being to reach the heights of consciousness.

The breaking of coconuts in front of Ganesha in order to remove all obstacles on our path is a special offering to him. This has an esoteric significance as is usual with all Hindu rituals. The coconut represents our prarabdha karma or the karma of our past lives for which we are either being rewarded or punished now in this life. When we break the coconut we should have the mental attitude that we are offering this load of karma to him and begging him to deliver us from them. The outer fibrous covering of the coconut represents the gross body which carries a lot of desires and attachments. Before breaking the coconut we have to remove this fibre of attachments. Then we break the hard shell which is our ego and then expose the white kernel of our pure desire to be united with him. Finally the sweet water of our love is poured over him. In S. India we always break a coconut before we start on a journey or before we start some new enterprise. 

Normally the fourth day of the bright half of every lunar month is believed to be the day for Ganesha and is known as Siddhi Vinayaka Chaturti. The fourth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada (August/September) is the most important of these and is known as Mahasiddhi Vinayaka Chaturti. This is the day on which Parvati created Ganesha. It was on this day that his first birthday was celebrated in Kailasa.  This year 2019 Ganesha Chaturti falls on the 2nd September. The festival is conducted for ten days especially in Maharashtra. The final day this year is on 12th September when the figure of Ganesha that has been worshipped for ten days is taken in procession and immersed in the ocean or river or tank.

The Mahabharata gives the mythological story of this festival. The Pandava king, Yudhistira once asked Krishna the reason why people who do many good deeds get no rewards. Krishna replied that Ganesha was the deity who had been specifically created for giving benefit to those whose good deeds had not been rewarded. He recommended that the fourth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada should be kept aside exclusively for the worship of Ganesha especially by those who suspected that their good deeds were not being recognised.  

A simple method of worship is as follows. A small shrine should be made facing East or N. East and if possible the Ganesha yantra should be drawn or kept on the ground. A copper vessel containing Ganga jal or consecrated water should be kept on top of the yantra. A coconut from which most of the fibre has been removed should be placed on top of the pot containing water. The head of the coconut should have just a bit of fibre pointing upward. A red thread should be tied round it and whole rice grains should be scattered over it. An idol of Ganesha preferably made of mud should be kept in front of the pot. In the morning the devotee should take a bath and prepare the things for the puja which should be kept on one side of the altar. These are a ghee lamp, incense, camphor, water, flowers, fruits, dhruv grass and some “modakams” which are sweet balls made with rice and jaggery which Ganesha likes very much. The devotee should then sit in front and meditate on him and beg him to come and take his place in the idol she has kept in front. After this she should pour a few drops of water over him and on his feet. Then a small cloth should be offered to him. Then some flowers and dhruv grass should be offered at his feet. Each time you offer a flower or grass you should chant one of his names. If this is too difficult, you can offer one flower or grass with the Vedic mantra “Aum Gam Ganapataye Namaha!”  This should be done eighteen times. After this is over, you can wave an incense stick before him and then show the lamp and offer some drops of water and finally the prasad which can consist of fruits, modakams and whatever else you like to offer. At the end of this you should present some betel leaf and nuts to him. Finally you do the arati with camphor and prostrate before him. At the end of the puja the prasad should be distributed to all those who are present.

This puja should be done for three, five or ten days depending on your convenience and on the last day the idol should be immersed in some water. Another novel idea which many people are doing now is to keep the mud figure in a mud flower pot and fill it with mud and water and plant a flower in it. Thus it will not pollute any water and you will get a special flower in your garden with Ganesha’s blessings. 

This festival had been celebrated in Maharashtra for centuries in private homes but the great Marathi ruler Shivaji made it a public event in order to foster nationalist sentiments among his subjects while they were fighting the Mughuls.  Later when the British banned political rallies, this festival was revived by the great leader Lokamanya Bala Gangadhara Tilak who made it into a national festival. He hoped that when people came together to celebrate the birth of a god they would forget their differences and stand united as the citizens of one country- India. He was one of the for-runners of the Indian national movement to free the country from the British. Today Ganesha has become so popular that the festival is celebrated all over the world.

May Ganesha’s blessings flow over all those who read this and may he remove all the obstacles in their path!

Aum Ganeshaaya Namaha!

Birth day of Lord Krishna

Krishna and Rama are the two great avataras or incarnations of Hinduism. They are both said to be the incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

The theory of the avatara, or the descent of God into human form, is one of the established beliefs of Vaishnava theism. Avatara means “descent,” and this descent is a direct manifestation in humanity by the Divine to aid the human soul in its ascent to the divine status. It is a manifestation from above of that which we have to develop from below. The avatara comes to give the outer religion of humanity an inner meaning, which will enable it to grow into divine status. The ordinary person has to evolve and ascend into the god- head, but the avatara is a direct descent into human form. The first is a birth from ignorance into ignorance under the shroud of maya, or the cosmic veil of illusion, and the other is a birth from knowledge into knowledge, with all powers intact and a full awareness and consciousness of his supreme status. He is thus a dual phenomenon, for he appears human and is yet divine. This has to be, for the object of the avatara is to show that human birth with all its limitations can still be the means for a divine unfolding. If the avatara were to act in a super- human way all the time, this purpose would be nullified. He might even assume human sorrow and suffering, like Sri Rama, in order to show that suffering itself may be the cause of redemption.  Krishna however is unique because even in the hours of deepest sorrow and travail, he showed himself to be a complete mas

ter of the situation, thus exemplifying the truth of how one who is established in unity with the Divine can remain unaffected in the midst of pain and sorrow. Hence, this avatara in the form of Krishna is known as purnavatara, or the complete descent of the entire divinity into the form of humanity.


He was born at midnight on the 8th day (ashtami) of the dark phase of the lunar month of Bhadra, under the star known as Rohini about five thousand years ago. The traditions of the Hindu faith are kept alive for thousands of years. Even today his birthday is celebrated all over India on this very day. This year 2019, “Sri Krishna Jayanti” falls on the 23rd August.  The date differs slightly from year to year since we follow the lunar calendar.

No other single person has influenced the course of India’s religion, philosophy, art and literature as Krishna. The Sanskrit word krishna has two meaning. Krishna means dark. It also has another root and that is “karsha” which means to entice or enchant. Both these meanings are true of the great incarnation known as Krishna. He was dark in colour and had the capacity to enchant everyone. The story of his life has thrilled the hearts of all those who have been fortunate enough to have heard it. That is why despite the fact that

he existed more than five thousand years ago, the tale is still as delightful and exciting as it was during his own life time. In fact you find that his devotees are increasing all over the world.


He was born on the eighth lunar night at midnight in a dungeon belonging to Kamsa, the king of the Yadavas in the city of Mathura. He was the eighth son of

his parents Devaki and Vasudeva who were scions of the Yadava clan. So the number eight has great significance in his life as well as for all his devotees. Kamsa was a wicked king and he had been warned that he would meet his end at the hands of the eighth child of Devaki and Vasudeva. So he had clapped the parents in the dungeon. However when the baby was born his father had been divinely told to take him to the cow-herd settlement called Gokula. Miraculously Vasudeva found that the dungeon doors opened of their own account and he was able to transfer the baby to the house of Nanda, chief of the cow-herds whose wife Yashoda had just delivered a baby girl. The babies were exchanged and Vasudeva brought back the girl-child to the dungeon in the same miraculous fashion.

Krishna grew up in Gokula and later in Vrindavana till the age of twelve. Kamsa sent many people to kill him but he defeated them. At the age of twelve, he went to Mathura, where he killed his uncle Kamsa, thus freeing the Yadavas from the rule of the tyrant. He grew up to be a hero, valiant and invincible, and gradually assumed leadership of the Yadava and Vrishni clans, even though he did not accept the title of king. He defeated many of the tyra

nt kings and made the Yadavas into one of the most powerful forces of that time. He founded his new capital on the island of Dwaraka, on the western seacoast of India, which was then known as Bharathavarsha, and played an important part in shaping the cultural and political life of his times. Though he did not take up arms, he played a decisive part in the great war of the Mahabharata.


As a man, he was a Mahayogi, the greatest of all yogis, totally unattached, having complete mastery over himself and nature, capable of controlling the very elements, if need be. His miracles were only an outflow of his perfect unity with God and, therefore, with nature. The spiritual gospel that he taught is known as the Bhagavata Dharma and is chiefly expounded in the Bhagavad Purana, Bhagavad Gita and the Uddhava Gita. The simplicity of his teachings were such that it could be followed by any man, woman, or child, unlike the Vedic teachings, which were meant only for the elite.

His most famous teaching is contained in the Bhagavad Gita which was the advice he gave to his friend and cousin, Arjuna at the commencement of the great battle known as the Mahabharata war. Arjuna begs Krishna to help him out of his dilemma. His problem was a particular one related to his special need. Krishna’s answer is the whole of the Bhagavad Gita and cuts at the root of the human problem which is one of ignorance. Ignorance of the nature of our own selves, ignorance of the nature of the Supreme Being and ignorance of the nature of the

universe that we inhabit. He teaches Arjuna the technique of action, known as Karma Yoga which is so important to us to practice in our daily lives. This is why the Bhagavad Gita is still as fresh and applicable to modern life as it was when it was first given to Arjuna five thousand years ago.

The charm of his avatara is the perfection with which he played every role he was called upon to play. He was a staunch friend, a dutiful son, an exciting lover, and a model husband, not to just one but to all women who desired him. There was none who called to him with intensity to whom he did not go with speed! “However a man approaches me, in that same manner do I go to him,” was what he declared. In whatever guise people looked upon him—as son, friend, lover, or husband—he went to them in that very form in which they visualized him and satisfied their desires in the way that was most meaningful to them. At the same time, he sublimated their desires and thus fulfilled their earthly lives and led them to eternal bliss. There was no one who approached him, whether saint or sinner, in hatred or fear or love, who did not attain liberation. The difference between a Kamsa, who tried to kill him, and a Kuchela, who worshipped him, is slight indeed. One approached him with hatred and the other with love, but both thought of him constantly and were thus rewarded with moksha, or liberation.

Thus, Krishna is not only the sat-chit-ananda, the “existence- knowledge-bliss” of the Absolute, without any diminution or contamination of his perfection, he is also the Uttama Purusha, the perfect person, amid all imperfect situations. He is the eternal boy, the paragon of masculine beauty, who always retained his spiritual nobility, absolutely unaffected and unperturbed in every situation, be it amid the poverty and hardships of the cowherd settlement, the rigors of a hermitage, the seductive charms of dancing beauties, the gory scenes of the battlefield, the self-destructive holocaust of his own kith and kin, or the peaceful interludes with his friends. As he himself taught, Krishna lived in this world of duality as the lotus leaf in water, absolutely untouched and unaffected by the environment, always a witness of the situation, never a victim.

The story of a divine manifestation is always filled with mystery and defies all attempts at human analysis. The river of time collects much flotsam and jetsam on its way, and the story of the Lord’s life has been embellished with a wealth of detail, perhaps true, perhaps imaginary. Fact and fiction, truth and fantasy are entwined. But the final test of truth is time itself. It is the true touchstone. It deletes the dross and retains the gold. In and through the seemingly redundant detail that has woven itself around the story through the centuries, it retains its breathtaking beauty, for it is dominated by the powerful influence of Krishna’s enchanting personality in which the wisdom of the seer is mingled with the charm and simplicity of a child and the glory of God gushes forth in an inexhaustible fountain of love and wisdom.


Lord Vanamali

All the festivals in Hinduism are meant to attain bhakti (devotion to God) as well as mukti (liberation from mortal existence.) On Janmashtami day we normally take a bath in the morning and worship Lord Krishna. We are supposed to fast the whole day up till 12 midnight when he is born. The main pujas start in the evening and continue till midnight. Normally a small cradle is kept and the idol of baby Krishna is kept in it and covered until midnight when the cover is thrown aside and the baby is revealed. The whole evening a special puja is done to the Lord using his 108 names (Krishnashtotara) . Many types of special preparations that are thought to be relished by the Lord are prepared and offered to him. Of course some butter, milk and curds preferably in mud pots are specially offered since these are his favourites. After that it is the custom to read the account of his birth from the Bhagavad Purana and then keep singing bhajans till midnight. At that time the cover is taken off the cradle and baby revealed. Everyone takes the opportunity to rock the cradle and gaze at the precious baby inside. The prasad is distributed and the fast is broken at midnight.  

On this day, the day of his birth, let us all pray to him to take away our negative qualities and lead us to eternal bliss as he led so many people during his lifetime.

Jai Sri Krishna!



For the Ordinary Man Its Importance in Daily Life

The topic here is whether “Jnana Marga” or the “Path of Knowledge” can help the ordinary man in his daily life.  Hinduism does not differentiate between secular and sacred. Everything is sacred, everything is divine. Therefore there is no such thing called an “ordinary man”. Everyone is divine and hence everyone and everything is “extraordinary”. The three major paths or “margas” in Hinduism are “jnana, karma and bhakti” – the path of knowledge, the path of action and the path of devotion. To try and differentiate between them is like trying to make a braid or plait for a girl without using three strands of hair.  All three strands are imperative to make a good braid as any girl would know. Taking away one strand would cause the whole plait to come undone. Our lives are made up of knowledge, action and devotion so they cannot be easily separated. It is absurd to say that we need only “kar ma and bhakti” in our daily life and “jnana” is unnecessary. On the contrary the whole problem with the world today is lack of “jnana” or true knowledge. We are ignorant of the true nature of God, the nature of the world and of our own selves. We grope in the darkness of this triple ignorance and are confronted with a thousand problems all stemming from the same cause.
The two major and belligerent religions of the world are great followers of the “bhakti marga”. They are prepared to sacrifice their precious lives for the sake of their God. Luckily none of our Hindu gods command us to do this. Even if they did do so, the Hindu would not follow because our religion is founded on “jnana” or knowledge. This is the major and most dramatic difference between Hinduism and the Abrahamic religions. They follow an exclusive God, exclusive to those who follow him and those who are devoted to him and believe in him. Those who don’t believe are condemned as heathens and heretics and sent to eternal hell! The one God of the Hindus on the other hand is an all-inclusive, timeless, spaceless entity that is available at all times, to all people regardless of whether they believe in Him or not. He is not dependent on our adoration or belief because He is omnipotent, omniscient and ever full – with no dependence on anything whatsoever. Because He is totally full (poornam) he has no demands. He does not care whether you believe in Him or not just like the sun does not care if you believe in his existence!! He is the Lord of all things, both animate and inanimate and therefore the same to all creatures. Since He is “Supreme Fullness” it stands to reason that He is present in all things at all times. Therefore He is ever present in every human being. He is the inner witness of all actions not just of the human being but of all creatures and of the whole c osmos. In fact He is the director, producer, stage manager and actor in the drama of human lives and the drama of universal existence. Without Him nothing would exist. Everything exists and is supported by Him as the fish exists and is supported by the water. At the same time it is important to understand that the water has nothing to do with the fish and will continue to exist with or without the fish. This understanding is called “jnana”. This is found only in Hinduism.

Both “bhakti” and “karma” have to have their basis on this knowledge. “Bhakti” and “karma” devoid of “jnana” leads to fundamentalism which is the probl

em with the world today. When “bhakti” or devotion is based on ignorance of the nature of the God that one is worshipping, it will certainly lead to fundamentalism.

“Jnana” is the foundation of both “bhakti” and “karma”. Without “jnana” the other two will be like the proverbial blind leading the lame. They will both fall into the ditch together. Thus the implication in the subject matter of this debate is faulty- “Can “jnana” help the ordinary man to lead his ordinary life following his ordinary pursuits?” I have already said that nothing in life is ordinary. Everything is extraordinary. Can a miracle be called ordinary? And Life on this planet is indeed a miracle so it can never be ordinary.

Without a solid foundation of stones a house cannot be built. If the foundation is shaky the whole edifice will fall down one day or other. In fact this is one of the reasons that Hinduism has survived the onslaughts of these two aggressive religions that have sought to suppress and depress and stamp it out for the last six hundred years.

Now let us look at the technical reason why “jnana” is a must for all of us in our normal lives. The two most powerful emotions that guide our lives are fear and anger. These two were fundamental to our survival during the cave-man perio d. They are the basis of the “fight or flee” response. Even a weak man can fight with great ferocity if he is angry and we all know the saying the “fear gives wings to our feet!” So these emotions were essential to the cave man for survival. However in this age these very emotions that have allowed us to survive for centuries are the ones that are hastening our destruction.

 Let us examine the root cause of our fears. We will find that “ignorance” is the root cause of all our fears.  We fear the darkness because we cannot see what is going on. We fear disease and death because we do not know the causes for them and we do not know what happens to us after death. When we delve deeper into the cause of our fears we will find that it is caused by our great and passionate love for our body. Everything that gives us pain or even pleasure for that matter has something to do with this body. Our attachment to our body is so strong that our greatest fear lies in losing it. Hence “death of the body” is the most fearful thing for both strong and weak. This fundamental fear of all hu

manity is the one that weakens us and this is the fear that is attacked first by Lord Krishna in the Sreemad Bhagavad Gita. The fear of death is real only as long as we identify ourselves with the body. Once we see that this identification is senseless and we are far greater than this temporal body, death can no long hold us in its thrall. We realise that it is only the body that dies and never the “atman” or the real “Self” which was never born and therefore can never die. If this knowledge is impressed on us from childhood we will become fearless an

d blissful individuals who are capable of facing any situation, dilemma or crises in our lives.

As long as we imagine God to be some object sitting somewh
ere in Heaven, totally disconnected from us, we will be prey to a thousand fears for we do not know His intentions, we do not know the nature of the world and we certainly don’t know our own natures. Thus most of us live out our lives faced with a thousand fears ending in the death of our beloved bodies with which we had associated ourselves for the whole of our lives on this planet.

“Jnana marga” of Hinduism tells us that God is not a separate entity from us who has incarcerated himself in some inaccessible heaven but that He is a living, throbbing and most intimate reality that exists inside each of us, and who is the basis of our daily lives. Like the fish in the water, we also would not be able to exist for more than a few minutes without this support. Once this knowledge is established in us we will have no fear of anything or anyone. Our fears are always about an “other” or an object that lives separate from us. We are not usually frightened of our own selves. “Jnana” impresses upon us the fact that there is no “other”; there is only one single divine entity that exists in all creatures just as there is only one string that holds the whole necklace of pearls together and gives it shape, beauty and utility. Therefore the very basis of fear is senseless. Can we fear ourselves? Hence “jnana” is most important for the

Lord Vanamaliordinary man in his daily life. Without a proper foundation of “jnana” our life will become a fearful thing, always fluctuating between the dualities of good and bad, happiness and unhappiness. We will always be a wretched victim of the circumstances. “Jnana” teaches us to become the victors and never the victims!

Hari Aum Tat Sat


The Science Behind

Ancient Hindu Practices

                    Vanamali Mataji


The universe is run according to certain scientific laws and unless we follow these laws we are bound to end up by being unhappy. This is the problem with human beings today. Our unhappiness is caused by our inability to follow natural laws based on science. Hinduism is the only religion in the world which is based on the scientific laws of Nature that is why there was never a controversy between science and religion as was found in the west. However there is a mis-understanding that Hinduism is hopelessly unscientific and based on a bundle of superstitions. This grossly unfair idea was subtly inserted into the Hindu psyche by the westerners who first came to India because they were completely at sea to understand a religion which seemed to be totally different from their own standard conceptions about God, Nature and man. The rishis of ancient India knew that there was no dichotomy between these three — Nature, God and man as was supposed by Semitic religions. The religion known as the Sanatana Dharma which they gave to the country of their origin was totally based on scientific validities. They did not preach or propagate a religion, but a way of life into which was imbedded the truths of Nature which were the truths of science. But they also knew that if they tried to give scientific validity for all their extortions, they would not be understood at all by most people. In ancient times if anything had to have validity it had to have a background of spirituality and moral ethics. Therefore they exhorted their followers to do certain actions which would give them spiritual benefits and did not disclose the true facts to them that these commands were actually based on science. Today however we live in a science oriented world and anything, if it has to be accepted by the masses has to have scientific validity. Thus all the ancient so-called Hindu superstitions, when looked at from a scientific angle have disclosed the fact that all of them without exception are based on certain scientific truths by following which we will get better health and be able to function as better human beings. So today Hinduism is on a better wicket than any other religion since it is the only religion which is based on science. Here we will take a few examples of the commonly used actions and ideas in Hinduism and prove that they are indeed based on science.

Namaste or folding the palms in greeting

Let us first take the common Hindu practice of greeting each other by folding the hands together and saying “Namaste”. This is of course an action which is normally done when we go to a temple and face the deity. It shows a high degree of respect and acceptance of the fact that we are facing something which is divine. This same action is done when we meet somebody and this implies that we are bowing to that divine which is present in that person however great or lowly, big or small, he or she might be. This is recognition of the divinity present in every human being whatever be his caste or religion. This forges a bond between us and the person on a transcendental level and not just on the physical level.

Secondly, the modern science of reflexology has recognised the fact that the tips of the fingers carry nerves to all parts of the body and hence when we join our palms together every time we meet someone, the fingers touch each other and stimulate these pressure points so that the corresponding parts of the body become more alive.

Another point to be remembered is that the habit of shaking hands is really not such a healthy habit since the person may be carrying some germs which will be passed on to us by the contact.

The dot or line on the forehead

In ancient days all Hindus, males and females had a dot or a mark between their eyebrows. People may think that this is only a sort of spot which enhances the beauty of the face. No doubt it does do this but again there is a scientific reason behind this. The spot between the eyebrows is known as the ajna chakra or the third eye, in modern parlance. This is the spot where the mind has its abode during the day. During the night it reposes in the anahata or heart chakra. These chakras are whorls of energy and some of them correspond to the endocrine glands which have been recently discovered by western science and which they feel have a lot to do with the balance and health of the whole body. Of course our rishis were well aware of this fact a long time ago and they asked people to wear some sort of dot on the ajna chakra. When we are applying the kum-kum (vermilion powder) our finger automatically presses this chakra and energises the mind, which become alert. Moreover whenever a person looks at us, their gaze is immediately drawn toward the dot which is our third eye. This again activates our chakra and makes our mind more concentrated so that we can listen or talk to the other person in a better manner. The kum-kum or vermilion which is used by women is not a synthetic product as it is now. The process of making it is quite elaborate and is done very well in the south, especially, Kanchiupuram and Madurai, both in Tamil Nadu. It is actually a mixture of turmeric and lime and is exposed to the rays of the moon for a fortnight before it is ready. This mixture again passes through the skin and beautifies the skin.

Nowadays of course people no longer know the reason for this and they use synthetically made powder or to make things easier, dots and other shapes made of some synthetic material. Of course even then if the dot is kept in the right place it will still have some value but sometime people place it high above the forehead and not on the chakra which of course, has not much efficacy.

There are three types of material which used to be used in olden times for making these dots and all three correspond to one of the three gunas which are sattva, rajas and tamas.

  1. Vermillion Powder
    The vermilion powder has been discussed already. This is related to the worship of the goddess and stands for rajas or the quality of kinesis or action. Shakti is responsible for all action in the universe. She is always personified as a goddess with various names. Naturally her colour should be red, the colour of energy and beauty.
  2. Sandal paste
    This is made out of sandal wood and is very cooling and soothing to the mind when kept on the forehead. Sandal paste has the quality of sattvaor balance and harmony and Vishnu is the god connected with this quality. All Vaishnavites (devotees of Vishnu) wear sandal paste on their forehead.
  3. Vibhuti or Bhasmam (ashes)
    This has the quality of tamas or inertia and is connected with Shiva, the destroyer in the trinity. This vibhuti has many medicinal qualities and can be applied to cuts, wounds, itches etc, and has immediate effect. However these ashes have to be made in a certain way. A few days before Shivaratri one has to make round cow dung cakes with fresh cow dung and place them inside a pile of rice husk. This has to be set on fire. Rice husk does not burn like firewood but will keep smouldering for many days. On Shivaratri day, you have to carefully take out the cow dung cakes which will be remaining intact in shape inside the smouldering fire. These have to be carefully taken out and powdered. In fact it will turn into powder as soon as you touch it so it has to be handled with great care. This is to be offered to Shiva on Shivaratri day and some of it should be used for abhishekam (poured over the lingam). This has to be mixed with the rest of the vibhuti and kept in a safe place to be used daily or as and when it is necessary.

Thus we see that the use of different types of dots or lines on the foreheads of Hindus all have a great esoteric and scientific significance.

Toe rings worn by married women

It is normal for married women to wear toe rings on the second toe of both feet. This is put on their toes by their husbands and is about the only time a husband touches his wife’s feet. This custom has a deep scientific principle underlying it. An essential nerve connects this toe with the uterus and passes on to the heart. Wearing a ring on this toe stimulates this nerve and strengths the uterus. It helps to regulate the blood flow and normalize the menstrual cycle. In this way it ensures a safe and good pregnancy. It also sustains the foetus while it is in the womb. The toe ring is always made of silver, never of gold. Silver absorbs polar energies from the earth when the foot is pressed down and passes it to the body.

Ringing of bells in temples

It is a practice amongst Hindus to ring the bell before entering the sanctum. Bells are also rung during the pujas (rituals). The sound made by bells which are made of certain specific metals cause sounds which set up vibrations in or brain and surroundings. The sound spreads in waves to the ecosphere and keeps echoing into space, like the waves set off in a pond when we throw a stone into it. They will keep on till they reach the banks. The sound of the bell also results in an echo which will last for 7 seconds which will have positive effects on all the seven chakras.

Why do Hindus circumambulate (go round) temples?

Temples are always strategically placed at those places where positive energy is abundantly available from the magnetic and electric wave distributions of north/south pole thrust. The main idol is placed in the core center of the temple, known as Garbhagriha or Moolasthanam. In fact, the temple structure is built after the idol has been placed. This Moolasthanamis where earth’s magnetic waves are found to be maximum. Moreover the idol itself is made of certain metals or stone and before putting it in place, a Yantra or mystic design made out of copper is placed under it. The copper plate absorbs earth’s magnetic waves and radiates it to the surroundings. This Yantra will keep on emitting vibrations which are activated by the ringing of the bell. These vibrations emanate from the idol in concentric circles and like the sound of the bell this energy whorls keep spreading out to the outer walls of the temple and even beyond. The devotee who is going round the temple is engulfed in this energy field and gets maximum benefit the more times he goes round. That is why people make vows to do 108 times and so on. Some people do this with their whole body touching the ground. Naturally they get extra benefit not only of the vibrations emanating from the sanctum but from contact with the earth which is also emitting energy.

Why do Hindus eat with their hands?

There is a deep science behind this particular Hindu custom for which we are despised by the westerners. Food is a gift from God and eating is an art in which all the five senses have to be involved in order to get maximum benefit and pleasure. The five senses are sight, smell, taste, sound and touch. Western culinary techniques take into consideration the first three of these senses but totally disregard the other two. It is deeply conscious of the fact that food should look good and be artistically arranged and it should smell good and of course taste good. But they make no use of the other two senses of sound and touch. This is like using only three fingers instead of all five. If the hand is to be of use we must use all five fingers. Similarly if eating has to be a fulfilling action it has to take all five senses into consideration. So in Indian cooking no meal is complete unless we serve something which produces a sound like crunching. AND most important we will never be able to relish the taste of any food completely unless we use the sense of touch and feel the food with our fingers. God has given the human being five fingers to use as spoons and forks and all children automatically use their hands to put food into their mouth. Western parents have to forcibly insist that the child uses an artificial aid instead of the ones given by god to shovel food into his mouth!

Why are Hindus asked to sleep with their heads to the South?

The human body is actually a huge magnet which attracts the beams from the Earth’s magnetic fields located in the South and North Poles. When we sleep with our head towards the north, our body’s magnetic field becomes completely asymmetrical to the earth’s magnetic field. This forces our heart to work harder in order to overcome this and leads to a rise in blood pressure and general discomfort. Our bodies also have a significant amount of iron in the blood. When we sleep with head to the North, the iron from the whole body starts to congregate in the brain and can lead to headaches, cognitive decline and brain degeneration.

Why do Hindus to pierce their ears?

Recently modern science has discovered that the lobes of the ears are extremely sensitive and has nerves leading to the auditory system and nervous system in the brain. When we are worried we should slowly massage our ear lobes and along the sides and we will immediately feel calmer. In ancient India piercing of the ears was a scientific process and known only to some special goldsmiths. They knew the exact point to be pierced by which our hearing, intellect and nervous system would be fortified. It also helps to develop creative powers. In ancient India both males and females used to pierce their ears. Sometimes you find that when doctors do this, even though they anesthetise the spot and supposedly do it in a very hygienic way, it often happens that the hole will not heal naturally and sometimes breaks out in a small nodule.

Importance of the Peepul Tree and Tulsi plant

The peepul tree is a huge tree which spreads out in branches and has beautiful leaves which shake and quiver at the slightest breeze that passes through them. It doesn’t seem to have much use since it has no flowers or fruit but the Hindus consider it holy. This again rises from the great botanical knowledge which the rishis had about all types of vegetation. They told the common people that it was holy and encouraged them to plant these trees in the village and care for them because they knew that the peepul is the only tree which produces oxygen at night. All other types of vegetation give out carbon dioxide at night. The quivering leaves obviously have a role to play in keeping the oxygen going throughout the night.

The tulsi (holy basil) is another plant which is considered holy by the Hindus. It is closely connected with the worship of Vishnu and his incarnations. Again the rishis knew well of the medicinal and healing properties of the plant and that is why they linked its name with one of the chief gods in the pantheon and insisted that every garden should keep a tulsi plant which should be protected and taken care of at all times. It is a remarkable antibiotic and if used daily in tea or simply chewed it will stabilise the health and balance the body system. If kept in the compound close to the house, it prevents insects from entering the house. Even snakes don’t like to go near a tulsi plant. Thus in ancient days people were encouraged to grow lots of tulsi around their house.

Why do Hindu women wear bangles?

In olden days even men were encouraged to wear bangles of copper or shell. The wrist is a very sensitive part of the human being. When a doctor wants to check your pulse he will automatically lift up your wrist. When bangles are worn on the wrist, the constant friction increases the blood circulation. Electricity passing out through the outer skin is reverted to one’s own body through the action of the circular bangles which make sure that the current is kept within the body and does not pass out of it.

Thus we see that almost all the so-called superstitious customs which Hindus are prone to do, have their basis in some scientific or medical truth. Western science did not pierce beyond the veil of the obvious which could be experienced by the five senses. Hinduism on the other hand always strove to reach beyond the obvious to the transcendental. Hence we find that almost every act in Hinduism has a deep spiritual meaning as well conferring physical benefits.

Hari Aum Tat Sat

Raksha Bandhan

Aug 24, 2018 · 7 min read

The Sanatana Dharma is the only culture that has placed such a premium and importance on a simple thing like the tying of a thread. At one time India was known for the production of the best organic cotton threads in the world. These threads were used both for the weaving of cotton cloth which was famous all over the world but they were also used for spiritual purposes. A thread is known as a “sutra” in Sanskrit. It means that which binds things together.

The Indian culture made use of many types of substances like, copper, silver, mercury, gold etc in order to transmit energy to others or to the environment. A thread was the simplest of all things that was capable of transmitting energy if it had been dipped in some turmeric powder and energized with mantras. If the appropriate mantras, suitable to the occasion were chanted over the threads they were found to be able to keep these positive vibrations for a long time. In fact if properly made they could retain the energy for a whole mandala of forty-two to forty-four days. Hence we are advised not to take off these consecrated threads for this amount of time. Even then we should not cut them with a sharp instrument but take out the knot carefully or burn it slightly so as to take it out. This thread has then to be put round a bush or tree or thrown into flowing water like a river or stream.

When you go to a temple especially temples to the goddess, you will find threads wound round and round the peepul trees growing in the temple compound. These denote the various vows made by the devotees which were tied round the tree and gave positive responses. Threads are also used in various other ways.

The most important of these threads is the “yajnopaveetam” or the thread worn by all Brahmins across their shoulder. This is given at the time of the initiation of a young boy into the sacred Vedas and to the Gayatri Mantra. Actually, there is a lot of esoteric meaning behind the tying of this sacred thread. The string tied round Brahmin children is a pledge made by them to continue with their practice of the ancient dharma or moral values of their culture. It binds them to a lifetime of practicing the values of harmony and peaceful coexistence. It is something they wear to help them to remember that they are now born into a new life. They have to remember the fact that they have a deep bond with the divine and the responsibility to keep up the sacred traditions of their culture and pass it on to the new generation. This bond is revived every year by taking on a new sacred thread which is ceremonially put by the priest across their right shoulder. This ceremony should not be taken lightly as a ritual of not much consequence but as a sacred covenant made with God to live a life of purity. It is actually a promise to live in accordance with the laws of nature and to help purify the elements as well as those who live on this earth made up of the elements. In S. India Brahmins change their sacred thread on Raksha Bandhan day.

In most rituals it is considered auspicious to have a copper or silver pot with Ganga water to be kept at the side. In South India these pots are totally covered with an intricate design of threads criss- crossed and tied by the priest. This is a special technique and is supposed to denote the complex nature of the “nadis” or nerves in the human being. The “mangal sutra” is a yellow thread tied by the groom round the bride’s neck at the time of marriage. A golden symbol was also put on the thread that had been dipped in turmeric and over which mantras had been chanted by the priest before the ceremony. This again denoted solemn covenant made by the husband to look after his wife. A married lady always wore it round her neck.

In olden days when people were suffering from some depression or disease, they did not go straight to the doctor as is done now but they went to the temple priest and asked him to make a special thread for them which he would tie round the wrist to the accompaniment of certain mantras. This was called an “abhaya sutra” or string to ward off fear. The tying of a thread which has been blessed by a priest or great soul has a great significance in Hinduism. The priest would bless the thread using mantras and tie it round the wrist of the devotee who needed protection from evil forces. Black threads are tied round a baby’s wrist or waist to keep off evil eyes.

At the beginning of a fire ceremony or even a puja or ritual, the priest will always tie a consecrated red thread round the wrists of the people who are taking part in the ceremony. This is called a “kankana sutram”. By this the devotee pledges his devotion to the deity and the deity in turn protects the devotee from all harm. As I mentioned this should not be taken out for one full mandala.

The festival known as Raksha Bandhan falls on the full moon day of the Sanskrit month of Shravan which normally comes in August. This year 2019, it was on 15th August. The word “raksha” means to protect and the word “bandhan” means a bond or tie. The whole ritual centers on the tying of a cotton thread round the wrist of a person. This thread is known as a “raakhi”. The original esoteric meaning of this important custom has been forgotten and now you find many types of fancy bracelets are being used as “raakhis” which have not been consecrated with mantras. With the passage of time this has become a day to promote fraternal love between siblings especially brothers and sisters. The sisters tie the “raakhi” round the right wrist of their brothers, who promise to protect them at all times. The sisters in turn pray for the well-being of their brothers. Girls even tie “raakhis” round the wrists of their boy-friends but the rule is that one can never marry the person on whose wrist you have tied a “raakhi” since he has automatically become your brother. The raksha bandhan ceremony as is performed in most houses is symbolic of the everlasting bond between brothers and sisters even though they may live in different continents and oceans may separate them.

This particular day has been popularised by the great poet Rabindranath Tagore to promote a feeling of unity and commitment to all the members of the society and includes a solemn promise to protect each other in times of calamity. Actually this consecrated thread can be tied round the wrist of anyone who needs protection not necessarily a brother. In olden days wives used to tie talismans on a thread blessed by the priest and tie it round the wrist of their husbands before they set out for war. In the Mahabharata war you find that all the great heroes had this thread tied on them before they set out for the battle every day. The symbolic act of tying this thread protects your loved one from all dangers. In fact you are actually putting an armour of protection round them. Draupadi is supposed to have tied it round Krishna, Sachi, the wife of Indra is supposed to have tied it round Indra’s wrist when he went to fight with the asura Vritra and Lakshmi round the wrist of Mahabali etc.

The most popular mantra that is to be chanted while tying the string is this

“Yena badho Baliraja, danavendra Mahabala,
Tena twaam abhibhadnaami raksha ma chala, ma chala.”

“May this thread that protected the mighty asura king Mahabali, protect you always.”

On the morning of Raksha Bandhan day one should prepare oneself both physically and mentally. One should take a bath and sit in meditation for a while and make a vow to observe a life of purity in thought, word and deed. In the villages it’s normal to put imprints of hands on the sides of the entrance door of the house and stick raakhis on them. Thus, the main aspect of Raksha Bandhan is the surrender of one’s own self to God for He is indeed the true brother whose strong arm alone will protect you from all harm at all times.

This fact has been totally forgotten by most people in these times. Of course even though it is nice to have some fun during all festivals, yet it must be remembered that all Hindu festivals have deep scientific and spiritual meanings behind them. These esoteric meanings should not be forgotten. The raksha is meant to be a protection for the person on whom it is tied. It has been potentised with the power of the mantra and the turmeric powder that it has been dipped in and when it is tied with faith by mother or wife or sister or priest, it forms a bond between the divine and the person on whom it is tied and surely it will protect them from all harm. This is the attitude by which we should tie it and receive it.

Hari Aum Tat Sat