Bhagavad-Gita: 18 Chapters in Sanskrit
Download Bhagavadgita-all 18 chapters in Sanskrit, English, transliteration and word for word translation.
Bhagavadgita Pages in English, Chapters 1 to 18
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USA EST in Balaji Temple-பாலாஜி கோயில்
The Balaji Temple published this rare photo of Balaji on Ugadi day, March 24, 2020.
BALAJI MANDIR, BRIDGEWATER, NJ
Hindu Temple & Cultural Society of USA, Inc.
Sri Venkateswara Temple (Balaji Mandir) & Community Center
(Non-Profit Tax-Exempt Organization.)
1075 Route 202/206, Bridgewater, NJ-08807
Ph: (908) 725-4477
, Balaji Temple Bridgewater NJ
With this booklet, you may take a leisurely walk
Among gods, goddesses, people, priests, volunteers…
You may gawk at the gods and goddesses; you may point your fingers;
You can Ah and OO; you may admire their fake jewelry and the hairdos;
You may even dance in front of the Lord of Dance. No offence is taken by gods.
They are glad you are here.
The Floor Plan is the centerfold. Please make any comments or corrections.
I hope you like the tour guide and make all the stops, stoops, and peeks.
The custom forbids you to enter into the Sanctum Sanctorum.
If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to write me.
The email is in the pamphlet.
Veeraswamy Krishnaraj, M.D; F.R.C.P (
JANUARY 1, 2020
I could not visit the temple on the first day of 2020. Best wishes to all. Couple of weeks later, my wife and I visited on Sunday the 19, 2020.
January 1, 2019
It was a pleasant day. There was no bite, but a nip in the air. The temperature was in the double digits, and to be exact 53º F. More than 100 people were standing in the queue and about 50 people standing inside the tent at the humongous parking lot of Sanofi US at 1041 US Highway 202/206 Bridgewater NJ 08807. I sighted about five school buses on the site discharging the devotees or boarding them on the way to the temple, which is about a five-minute drive by the bus.
This year's attendance for Darsan was bigger than the recent years. Most of the temple visitors were young with families. This year I saw fewer senior citizens. The children hopping and jumping off the bus queue too far away for safety had to be corralled and brought back to the line. The volunteers kept things buzzing and on time. The temple authorities have now become adept at organizing, managing and servicing the devotees. There were more volunteers this year than before. My wife and I parked our car and got on the line. I wandered away to take pictures and rejoined her to board the bus to the temple. At the entrance to the Sanofi, there were patrol cars with police officers keeping the traffic flow smooth. The devout crowd by nature were disciplined and followed the rules. That made the officers' job that much easier. At the entrance to the temple on route 202/206, there were two patrol cars and a few officers directing the traffic.
The yellow school buses were packed with devotees, no standing allowed. We got off the bus at the Cultural Center. The huge hall had a mother lode of coat hangers. The devotees shed their winter coats, and the shoes on the floor near the racks. There were many instances of lonely single shoes whose partners wandered away, propelled by the careless feet of the devotees.
Leaving the Cultural Center, we took the connecting corridor to the temple, walked up the steps to the Hall of Shrines and joined the Darsan Queue. Umpteen Retractable Belt Stanchions were in place regulating the crowd movement in the Hall of Shrines leading the devotees to the central shrine and inner sanctum of Balaji for 'Sameepa Darsan.' (= சமீப தரிசனம் = Sameepa Darsan = Beholding or auspicious sight of the deity at close quarters.) We joined the queue on our left and squarely faced Ganesa in his shrine. We paid our worship and homage to the Lord of New Beginnings and proceeded on our circumambulatory path stopping at the many shrines on the way to the biggest of all, the Shrine of Balaji. All the deities wore their best Alankaram today with their shiny plates, thanks to the priests. These are the shrines we visited on our way: Ganesa; Ambika; Siva; Skanda; Satyanarayana; Sri Devi; Bhu Devi; Durga; Lakshmi, Durga, and Sarasvati; Lakshminarayana; Radhakrishna; Ram Parivar; Anjaneya; and The Navagrahas.
The devotees wound around a seven-fold queue, corralled by the Retractable Belt Stanchions, to reach the sanctum. Yes, we obtained 'Sameepa Darsan' of Sri Venkateswara. I could see his physiognomy of supreme tranquility and immense satisfaction, that I never saw before on anyone. The Alankaram was superb, thanks to the astute and punctilious priests. My five-second Darsan from entry to exit, too short in my book, was over before I knew it under the watchful eyes of the volunteers. We exited and joined the Prasada crowd for Tirtham, Sadari, and a prasadam of Laddu in a plastic cup. I was standing in the Hall of shrines savoring my Laddu. An eagle-eyed volunteer with bonafide credentials hanging around her neck came to me and said something. Since I did not hear her well, I hesitated. She in her soft voice told me again not to eat the Prasadam in the Hall of Shrines. Of course, it is disrespectful to drop crumbs of Laddu on the floor. Children may slip on the butter-laden Laddu on the floor and make an unintentional Shastanga Namaskaram (eight-limbed prostration). My wife joined me. After a while, we hit the beeline to the makeshift indoor cafeteria and joined the chow line.
Once the spiritual hunger was satisfied, and the fire in the belly quenched at the cafeteria, we boarded the bus on the near side of the temple and reached the Sanofi Parking lot. The queue was longer for the bus to the temple. It was wonderful to have obtained 'Sameepa Darsan of Sri Venkatesvara.
December 29, 2018
I have been visiting Bridgewater Balaji Temple for decades. I looked but didn't see. The deities and the shrines follow the convolutions of Tamil OM ஓம். Balaji AKA Sri Venkatesvara (#1 = M = ம்) occupies the center of the OM depicted by the M ம். His consorts are just behind him at the beginning of the first convex curve: Sri Devi or Lakshmi and Bhu Devi (3-4). His sister Durga occupies the 5th position. Ram Parivar occupies shrine nine, lateral and to the front of 8. There are three large shrines: 1. Venkatesvara, 9. Ram Parivar, and 14. Shiva Lingam. The entrance to the Hall of Shrines has the humongous doors between 11 and 12 to the front: the Navagrahas and Ganesa. I hope you see the Tamil O ஓ) in the configuration of the shrines.
Jan 1, 2018: It was a cold day. The temperature was in the single digits. There were about 60 people standing in the cold and about 40 people standing inside the tent at the humongous parking lot of Sanofi US at 1041 US Highway 202/206 Bridgewater NJ 08807. I sighted about five school buses on the site discharging the devotees or boarding them on the way to the temple, which is about a five-minute drive by the bus.
This time I saw more children than in my previous New Year day visits. Even babes in arms were there, braving the cold. The bus took us straight to the temple at 1 Balaji Temple Drive, Bridgewater, NJ-08807. The school bus drivers greeted us with ‘Happy New Year’ wishes. We got off the bus at the Cultural Center to the right of the Temple, from where we took the connecting corridor to the temple.
We joined the Darśan Queue 30 people deep and stepped into the Sanctum Sanctorum, where the volunteers gently suggested to the devotees to leave the premises and not to linger at the sanctum. I spent about five seconds at the sanctum, not enough in my book and could not take in Balaji in that short period.
Since I am an octogenarian, I was looking for compatriots of my age. None seen. One gentleman aged about sixty with grey hair looked at me intently. We were in a sea of young people.
After taking Darśan of Balaji in his glory, my wife and I joined the Queue for Sadāri, Tīrtham and Prasadam. Prasadam of Laddu, about an ounce in amount in a plastic cup was delectable.
We made a beeline for the cafeteria, temporarily housed on the second floor of the Cultural Center. They served readymade tiffin, such as Yogurt rice, Tamarind rice… There were about 200 people in the cafeteria. We exited the building, caught a bus in the freezing cold and landed back in the Sanofi Parking lot.
January 1, 2017 Happy New Year to all.
Hindu Temple & Cultural Society of USA, Inc.
Sri Venkateswara Temple (Balaji Mandir) & Community Center
(Non-Profit Tax-Exempt Organization.)
1 Balaji Temple Drive, Bridgewater, NJ-08807
Ph: (908) 725-4477
My wife and I visited the Balaji Temple. A few days ago they had a formal and ceremonial opening of the humongous Auditorium. That was a very cold day. We could not make it. On November 18th at 6 P.M. there is a fund raising dinner at the dining hall with stage performance of musical instruments.
We saw a busload of boys and girls obviously from the local school visiting the temple. There were school counselors instructing and guiding them around the shrines. I saw them enjoying delectable Prasadam.
The above is from Temple Calendar 2017
The temperature hovered above 40° F. The wind chill factor was minimal or absent. It was a good day to be out, esp. when it was a New Year Day. The sun was shining. My wife and I arrived in the Sanofi-Aventis parking lot on 202/206 in the mid-afternoon. There were about 300 people waiting on a long queue. There was no trace of snow left behind from the recent snowstorm. The grass was green, the trees were barren of leaves, the birds were chirping. The children were romping on the grass with mothers chasing after them so they did not get too close to the moving buses. Six buses left chock-full of devotees. We waited only for about 15-20 minutes, before we boarded the yellow school bus. The woman driver wished us Happy New Year. We entered the temple premises at 1 Balaji Temple Drive, Bridgewater, NJ 08807 on route 202/206. One bus driver had a personal Hundi ( = உண்டி = Hundi) on the dashboard as seen in the picture . As the nose of the bus faced the temple premises and other rising structures behind and in front of the gopuram, we could see the panoramic view of the temple buildings and the trees spread before us. The driver swerved to the left and took us on a winding road adjoining the rising structures and came to a stop behind the temple and the five-tent makeshift. To the left of us close to the highway, we saw priests’ quarters. (The temple has a dedicated cadre of priests, whose presence contributed to the spiritual atmosphere, apart from that of devotees.) Yes, inside the tents, there were wall to wall people, rather pole to pole people. People were jostling each other to get to where they wanted to go. There were only three places to go: To the temple for Dharsan, Cafeteria, and the exit towards the bus.
Inside the tent, there were racks for hanging outer garments, and event flooring for walking and shoes, most pairs stayed inseparable and loyal to each other. That was amazing. I thought it would be a chaos. The right shoe stayed married to the left. That was loyalty even in the kingdom of shoes. A few singleton shoes lost their companions. They must have felt lonesome.
The five-tent enclosure was heated with portable gas cylinders. There was really no need for heating. The temple authorities were prepared for vagaries of weather. We sauntered towards the north entrance to the temple. The north entrance was an open space before and recently, it has been enclosed with walls and glass doors. Going through the north door, we saw the gift shop to the left and the elevator straight ahead. My wife and I were greeted by a volunteer-attendant with eyes peeled for senior citizens and the handicapped. The elevator volunteer immediately took one look at us and seeing the grey-haired pair immediately sent us into the elevator with two teenage volunteers. The two young women smiled at us earnestly, took us up the elevator and helped us join the queue with about 30 people ahead of us for Dharsan and about 300 people behind. With creaking joints, aching back, incoordinate muscles and waddling gait, I needed that break.
My guestimate was there were about three hundred people behind us in the main hall of shrines (circumnavigating souls around the perimeter of all shrines), the antehall, the staircase and the approach to the stair case. That was service, pure and simple. We were in the sanctum in less than five minutes. We entered the sanctum on our right side and exited on our left side.
There were two people in the Sanctum Sanctorum urging the hovering devotees to move and make room for others waiting in line. I had a brief look at the Lord of the Hills, mainly at the benign smiling countenance. I took a quick up and down look taking in as much as possible. Sooner than I entered I exited being careful to go down the steps from the sanctum. At my age, my feet don’t go where I want them to go. Quickly, I was near the station that offered sacred water (தீர்த்தம்), caṭāri (சடாரி), and prasāda of delectable Laddu in a plastic cup. This is where the devotees picked up the fruit bags given for Archana.
My wife and I took a dash to the sanctum and had the second fill at Dharsan. This time we took the circumambulation receiving at the respective shrines Dharsan of Ganesa, Ambal, Lingam, Skanda, Satya Narayana, Sri, Bhudevi, Durga, Lakshmi, Durga and Sarasvati, Radhakrishna, Ram Parivar, Anjaneya, and Navagrahas. Sri or Mahalakshmi was glowing in gold from the Kavaćas (= கவசம்).
Exited the building to join the devotees in the tent. The aroma of snacks was inviting and we bought some samosas, Murukku… and took the bus back to the parking lot. I sat at the wheel and my wife at the passenger seat, eating what we bought at the cafeteria.
It was a nice day. Balaji cast his smile on us. We ate the prasāda. Our visit to the temple was a welcome relief and a break from the daily routines.
Balaji Temple is expanding.
Is it proper to do Arcaṉā (அர்ச்சனை) in the name of a deity?
அர்ச்சனை arccaṉai, arcanā. Worship. அருச்சனை
There is never a need for Arcaṉā in the name of a deity. Only when you have a want and an appeal, Arcaṉā (ceremonial worship) is becoming. Therefore, it must be done with the utterance of the name of the supplicant.
Though you may not reveal your name for any reason, the Archakar (arucchakar = அருச்சகர்) may suggest, " Here, you may worship for the welfare of a fellow temple visitor. I perform Arcaṉā for the welfare of all people. If you have any special needs, I will include it in the prayer and supplication." That preceding stance is the proper one for the officiating priest. Performing an Arcaṉā with the thought you have no supplication to the deity is contempt. No act should be performed with no solemn vow (Saṅkalpa = Mental resolve, solemn vow, determination.) Arcaṉā for the welfare of the world can be a noble motive.
Sakti Vikatan 11/22/2016
January 1, 2016
Hindu Temple & Cultural Society of USA, Inc.
Sri Venkateswara Temple (Balaji Mandir) & Community Center
(Non-Profit Tax-Exempt Organization.)
1 Balaji Temple Drive, Bridgewater, NJ-08807
Ph: (908) 725-4477
My wife and I arrived at the Sanofi Campus in the early afternoon. After exiting the highway, we were greeted by a caravan of cars ahead of us, 50 deep before we could go into the parking lot. It moved and soon we were greeted by the security guard directing the cars to empty parking spots. We took a few minutes to find a parking in the lot and soon joined the tail of the queue four people wide and 60 people deep. There was a white tent for those seeking refuge from the biting cold registering in the mid-thirties. We did not wait too long before we boarded the school bus. About five buses received devotees.
The short ride to the temple took us to the back of the temple besides the five tent receiving station. We entered the receiving tent, shed the shoes and the jackets and quickly proceeded to the basement and the left side of the temple where the gift shop was located. The queue took a serpentine route up on the staircase in the left section of the building. When we climbed up the steps, we were greeted by a volunteer, who directed all the devotees into a large anteroom, where the queue folded upon itself several times. The winding queue then came back to where the volunteer stood. We proceeded into the Hall of Shrines, wherefrom at the entrance we could see the Lord of the Hills. The queue circumnavigated the shrines from left to right. On the way, we offered prayers to Lord Ganesa; Goddess Ambika; Lingam; Skanda, Valli and Devayānī; Satya Narayana; Sridevi, Bhudevi, and Goddess Durgā behind the main shrine; Goddesses Lakshmi, Durgā, and Sarasvati; Lakshmi Narayana; and Rādhā-Krishna shrine on the left side of the main shrine. More to the left of the hall is the large shrine of Ram Parivar; to the front and the right the Anjaneya; and then the Navagrahas. We took about twenty minutes from Lord Ganesa to the Navagrahas. The last, the best and the largest shrine in the center is that of Balaji in his inimitable form. We were allowed to go into the shrine to obtain a good Darśana of the Lord of the Hills. There was an attendant inside the Garbhagṛiham, who gently persuaded the lingering devotee to move so others obtain Darśana. The Lord looked his greatest with garlands, Kavaćas, sword... The priest was in the innermost shrine and an eight-inch tall granite barrier wall on the floor separated the innermost shrine from the inner shrine from where the devotees can view Balaji. Some scraped a little dust left over by the devotees from the steps leading to Inner Sanctum and applied it to the forehead. That devotees' dust from under their feet is sacred, purifying, curative and liberating. The men fell like sticks on the floor while doing the eight-limbed prostration (Ashtanga namaskaram). The ladies did the truncated form. Most of the familiar faces of volunteers I knew by appearance are not there anymore.
After the Darśana, we joined the queue to obtain sacred water, Sadāri, flower (for the ladies) and a container of sweet Laḍḍu.
In the parking lot, I saw a car with a Christian cross hanging from the rearview mirror. There were some Christian devotees of the Lord of the Hills. It is common knowledge that other religions have devotees of Lord Venakatesvara. Such is his greatness, generosity and grace.
Only about 10 percent of women were wearing the saris. The rest were wearing women's pants to ward of cold, Punjabi style women's dress... I saw handicapped devotees riding on the wheel chair pushed by the near and dear. This year despite the cold weather in the mid to upper 30s, there were more devotees than the prior years. We exited the temple via the closed cafeteria to the tent, where prepackaged snacks and beverages were available for a nominal price. We bought rice preparations and other snacks, which were of good quality.
A humongous building to the right of the House of Shrines is rising up with steel girders and cement blocks. I understand from the[VK1] Temple Web site that a Cultural Center is under construction, which includes:
A state of the Art Theater
600 Fixed seats capacity
40' X 60' Stage
Sound and Lighting equipment
a 300 seat capacity multipurpose hall for small functions
Modern kitchen facilities
Those who recite and listen to Tiruppavai will receive Grace and Bliss from Bhagavan.
The Dross, the Seers, and the Gopis
"Dross from your feet is the cure for my fever," so says Krishna. The gross sight of dross knocks the sages off their feet.
Krishna was shivering, mumbling and shaking. His eyes were rolling. He was delirious. He is afflicted with hyperpyrexia (high fever). Could this be one of Krishna Lilas? Only He knows. He is having chills. He is Bhagavān, the Disease, the Cure, and the Healer. He tells His compatriots that dross from under the foot from the best of His devotee will cure His fever and orders them to get it. Dross = dirt, dust, or scrapings (from the foot) The first and the foremost devotee, they are looking for. Out comes the answer: Vyāsa. They make a bee-line dash to Vyāsa and demand dross from his foot. He is so upset by the demand he shuts his ears and says சாந்தம் பாபம் (peace, sin).
He further says, "What an injustice, what an atrocity, what a preposterous suggestion, what a sacrilege! Krishna eating my dross. Who made this suggestion? This is gross and crass."
The messengers retort," He wanted your dross yesterday. He would be without fever if he ate your dross yesterday. Krishna suggested this remedy. Are you going to part with your dross now?"
Having heard such an unbelievable story, he leaves for Dvārikā to see Krishna Himself. In the meantime, Krishna is shaking with chills. Knowing it serves no purpose to further entreat him, they leave to see Uttavar, who upon hearing the request falls in a faint; they take a long time to resuscitate and get him back on his feet. He trembles like a wind-blown leaf and says, how could anyone make such a demand from me? I will go to Krishna myself."
Vyāsa and Ottava are standing in front of Krishna trembling in silence with anxiety etched on their faces. Krishna is sitting on the golden lion-throne with a raging fever. The messengers now go to Gopis in Gokulam and make a similar plea. Immediately all 16 lakh Gopis (16 X 100,000) go into a frenzied activity of scraping their feet for a ball of dross and come up with umpteen pots. Krishna needs one drop of a dross from one devotee; what He gets is 1.6 million pots of dross. The Gopis load their precious cargo on eight carts and send them to Dvārikā. Krishna is sitting on the throne mumbling and trembling with fever. Vyāsa and Uttavar are standing by His side on wobbly legs with unscraped dross. A foul odor assaulted the keen olfactory senses of the seers and the rest. All see the odorous pots of dross unloaded in front of Krishna. Vyāsa and Uttavar are flabbergasted at the gross of sight of odorous dross.
They addressed in sheepish tone, "O Krishna, what kind of Viparita Achāram (விபரீத ஆசாரம்--perverse conduct) is this? Is this some kind Lila of yours? It is hard to understand your demand. Please illuminate us."
Krishna apparently in a delirium (but in truth in total health unbeknownst to us) from fever tells in a tremulous voice, "O sages, I know you both and the Gopis. I will tell you the true state of your being. "You both think that it is a perversion of established religious practice to offer dross from your feet to Paramātmā who is superior to all living beings. You consider such a loathsome act will earn you a place in Pātāla (perdition). You refused to part with your dross in your self-interest.
The Gopis also have the same attitude as yours. "We should not demean Krishna by offering our dross; that earns Pāpaṁ (sin) and a place in hell."
Then why did they offer their dross (although it will earn them a place in hell)? Their thinking is, "Though we may fall into a hellhole and may suffer many miseries, our dross will cure his fever. Let Krishna eat our dross and enjoy cure of his fever. Though His survival depends on our destruction, that is our wish and our way."
The twosome Greats (The Seers never saw it coming.) having heard the explanation wondered whether such an unselfish devotion exists in this world. They said, "They neither witnessed, nor heard of it before."
This is the story indicating the depth of devotion of Gopis to Krishna.
This is a story from Sri Vaishnava literature. Krishna Himself says that the dust under the foot of devotee is purifying, curative, liberating... End of story.
Some rules: Devotees should desist from obtaining daršana (
தரிசனம் taricaṉam =Auspicious sight of the deity, perception, view)) during periods of
1) alaṅkāram (அலங்காரம் =adornment)
naivēttiyam ( நைவேத்தியம் = Offering to the deity),
3) Screening of Inner Sanctum (Do not open the screen to peep and peek at the deity.)
Other prohibited injunctions: Do not bathe in hot water on the following days:
1. Amāvācai (amāvāsyā =அமாவாசை) New moon, as the time when the sun and the moon
dwell together; 2. Sunday; 3. saṅkrānti days = சங்கிராந்தி, saṅ-krānti = Beginning of a month; 4. Day when Birth happened in the house; 5. Day when Death occurred in the house.
Source: Sakti Vikatan 11/2016 வி.ராமமூர்த்தி, சென்னை-87 V. Ramamurthy, Chennai-87
விரதம் = Vows
பலன்கள் = Benefits
ஏகாதசி = ēkātaci = 11th Lunar day.
Fast in honor of Viṣṇu on ēkātaci
மன சாந்தி கிடைக்கும். Tranquility of mind is acquired.
பிரதோஷம் = piratōṣam = Evening
பாவம் நீங்கும். Sins extirpated.
பௌர்ணமி = paurṇami = Full Moon
ஐஸ்வர்யம் பெருகும். Augmentation of prosperity.
சங்கடஹகர சதுர்த்தி = Sangkatahakara chathurthi = Removal of obstacles, observed on the 4th day of Krishna Pakṣa or waning moon. Ganesa is the object of worship.
தீய எண்ணம் நீங்குதல். Departure of evil thoughts.
அமாவாசை = Amāvācai = New Moon
குல அபிவிருத்தி ஏற்படும். Continued growth of progeny.
சஷ்டி = ṣaṣṭhī = Sixth lunar day
மகப்பேறு வாய்க்கும். Opportunity to bear a son.
கார்த்திகை = Kārththikai = Full-moon day in the 8th Lunar month, Kārttikai.
கல்வி விருத்தி உண்டாகும். Educational advancement.
- கே.முருகானந்தம், திருச்செந்தூர். K. Murganantham. Sakti Vikatan 11/8/2016
January 1, 2015
My wife and I arrived at the Sanofi Campus parking Lot in the afternoon. A good crowd gathered and lined up for a 4-5 minute bus ride to the temple. The yellow school buses were waiting to take in the devotees for the trip. It was cold and windy. It was a romping weather for the polar bears and their babies. People appeared to have piled several layers of clothing, which, I bet, they peeled like onions once they went home. By the way it takes a tough onion to bear this weather. The bus driver was a woman bidding New Year Greetings, as they devotees had to abandon the warmth of the bus by the white tent. Onion = Slang. a person: He's a tough onion.
A huge white tent sat on the frozen grounds with extension to the temple entrance by the side door and a Dwarapalaka of the terrestrial kind greeted us at the entrance. Hot air was streaming from outside into the tent at various points to keep the devotees in comfort. Floor covering in the tent kept our naked feet from freezing.
Gas fired heaters in the portico spewed hot air and the double doors opened into an anteroom with the gift shop on the left side, elevator to the front and the beginning of a queue winding along the passageway to the staircase.
The Dwarapalaka, upon sighting an old geezer (that I am) and my wife, immediately took us up the elevator, which is meant to transport the elderly, women and men with babes in arms, the handicapped… He took us along with others straight to the head of the queue. We were in the Inner Sanctum within a minute. Remember, there were a few hundred people behind us.
The Lord of the Hills was standing there in His divine glory wearing a Cherubic Face, flowers, garlands, protective plates (Kavaćas = கவசம்)... His Nāmam was impressive. At the Sanctum Sanctorum, I lingered a bit, not long enough to disrupt smooth flow of foot traffic. In a few minutes, I received Tīrtham, Sadāri (caṭāri = சடாரி), Prasāda (பிரசாதம் piracātam = Favour, kindness, grace) of Laḍḍu in a container. God’s grace though invisible translates into a sacrament of Laḍḍu for immediate satisfaction. We are used to seeing, smelling, feeling, eating… For immediate realization, His grace takes the form of a delectable Laḍḍu.
I rejoined the Queue with the help of a volunteer at the top of the staircase, though the tail of it was at the back entrance of the temple. The first deity for worship on the left was Lord Gaṇeśa; I offered a two-minute prayer, applied my hands over the flame and on my eyes hoping to get the light of wisdom and his blessings. I attended 12 shrines allotting 2 minutes at each shrine for worship and picked up the queue for the second Darśana of the Lord of Hills. Believe it or not. As I moved along, I counted the devotees from the tail to the head of the queue, the range being 400-600─a guestimate. That was a serpentine queue going up from the basement to the floor of the shrines, where the queue folded upon itself like Śēṣa, the head showing up in the Inner Sanctum, which is the largest of all shrines housing the Lord of the Hills.
They were a disciplined crowd. Most of the young women wore Kurtas, which complimented the frames of the wearers. In some, the rolling midriff was uncomplimentary. Sorry I could not help but notice it. The ones wearing the Saris were either visiting matriarchs, Sari diehards or inveterate sticklers for custom.
Many men wore Kurta Pajamas with the split sides billowing in the wind.
There were very many mothers and fathers holding babes in arms. I never saw this many babies in the temple in the previous years. Haphazard swaddling was so evident that I did see exposed hands and feet dangling free to the inclement elements. Let me give some pointers to good swaddling. Yes, I am qualified to offer good advice to young Indian-origin (all) moms in the US, where there is, most often, no Grandma for support and succor. The Chinese moms are adept in the art of swaddling the babies.
TIGHT SWADDLING IS A NO-NO.
Swaddle the baby loosely, when your are out with the baby in the cold weather.
Do not swaddle and put the baby in the crib. It may lead to asphyxia (suffocation) and death.
By the way, as a pointer, let me tell you the US Woolworths department stores were bought out by the ubiquitous Wal-Mart. You may see them still in other countries.
I saw one father holding the baby in one arm precariously, the baby bag in another arm and walking down the steps. He should have had a Kangaroo Baby Carrier to carry his little Joey in safety and comfort.
When we came back to the tent, some distressed souls were looking for their footwear. They did not find them where they shed them. Each footwear migrated by propulsion, aided by the stomping feet of the devotees. One soul located one footwear but the other was not to be found. Should he have tied the shoe laces together? Should he have hid them in his coat pockets? Ugh, not sanitary. He deployed his scouting skills to locate the other. It took a good 5-10 minutes to bring the errant pair together. He was not the only one under this predicament. I developed a system to shed and locate my shoes and winter outerwear in a jiffy under these conditions. I ain't telling. Not even my wife knows my little secret.
We ate some delicious Tamarind rice and Yogurt rice. It was a pleasant experience to have visited the temple.
January 1, 2014
Happy New Year to all. This is the Year of the Horse. So let us celebrate Hayagrīva, the incarnation of Vishnu.
Hyagriva is a moniker for knowledge and wisdom, white in color, with a horse head and a human body. That qualifies Him for a Sacred Chimera.
More on Divine Hyagriva later. (Hyagriva or Horse-necked or Horse-headed (Hyasiras)
WORSHIP OF IMAGES
Here is what Sri Ramakrishna says about image worship at home and in the temple. Sayings 322-332.
322. While raising a building, the scaffolding is indispensable; but when the work is completed, no one feels the necessity of it. So also image-worship is necessary in the beginning, but not afterwards.
323. As a man begins to learn writing by drawing big scrawls before he tries to write a smaller hand, so a person must acquire through power of concentrating his thoughts by fixing the mind first upon forms, and then, after succeeding therein, by fixing it upon the formless.
324. A marksman learns to shoot by first having big objects to shoot at; and as he acquires more and more facility in shooting, he aims more and more easily at the smaller marks on the target. So when the mind has been trained to focus on images having form, it is easy for it to do so on things having no form.
325. As a toy fruit or a toy elephant reminds one of the real fruit and the living animal, so do the images that are worshipped remind one of God Who is formless and eternal.
326. The Master once said to a disciple of his, ''You were talking of images made of clay. There arises a necessity for them too. These various forms used for worship have been provided to suit the needs of different men at different stages of spiritual evolution."
327. The mother so arranges food for her children that each one gets what agrees with him. If she has five children and she gets a big fish to cook, she makes different dishes out of it, and gives each one what suits him exactly. One is given rich Polao with fish; another, of weak digestion, only a little soup; and so on, according to the digestive power of each. (The same in the case with the various symbols and disciplines prescribed for spiritual aspirants.)
328. A disciple: One may believe that God is 'with form'. But surely He is not the earthen image that is worshipped.
The Master: Why call it an earthen image? The Divine image is made of the Spirit.
329. The Master once said to Keshab Chandra Sen, who was a great iconoclast in his days: ''Why do these images rouse the idea of mud and clay, stone and straw, in your mind? Why can you not realize the presence of the eternal blissful, all-conscious Mother, even in these forms?''
330. If a worshipper is convinced that the images of the Deity in the shape of various Gods and Goddesses are verily divine, he reaches God by their worship. But if he holds them to be nothing better than mud and straw and clay, to him the worship of such images does no good.
331. If there is anything wrong in image-worship, does He not know that all worship is meant for Him? He will surely be pleased to accept the worship, knowing that it is meant for Him alone. Love God; that is the duty nearest to you.
332. When one sees God, one realizes that everything, images and all, is a manifestation of the Spirit. To him the image is not made of clay but of Spirit.
As usual, my wife and I went to Bridgewater Balaji Temple for Dharsan on the New Year's day (2014). The school buses with devotees on board were busy plying between the huge Sanofi US office parking lots on Route 22 Bridgewater and the parking lot behind the temple. The crowd was moderate to heavy. The buses did not have to wait looking for passengers. There was security at the boarding station. The crowd, disciplined and devout, greeted each other with Happy New Year. No broken beer bottles or squashed beer cans were seen in the vicinity because Indians are sedate celebrators of the New Year. No one had the haggard looks of hangover from the night before. Actually, they were too sedate and sagacious for the occasion. No one was wearing the gaudy 2014 eyewear. No one was tooting or hooting. It is a common perception among the locals that Indians are not demonstrative of their feelings to the strangers.
We were appropriately dressed for the weather. There were no zipping and whipping winds by the grace of Vayu Bhagavan. Varuna the Lord of the Sky showered his grace on the devotees by keeping the snow away. It was to pour down as white fluff a day later. It was a three-minute drive by bus to the temple grounds for disembarkation. There were signs telling the visitors that the premises were under video surveillance. Yes, the devotees were on Candid Camera. We were greeted by ushers with warm smiles and receiving hands. The portable heaters were blowing hot air into the tent interior keeping the devotees warm. The outside temperatures were in the teens and twenties F. The big quadrangular tent on the Northwest side had coat racks on one side, and the food stall on the other side. The tent grounds were covered by a commercial-grade overlay, so one did not have to tread on rough frozen grounds with bare feet. Because of my age and stiff spine, I don't bother wearing shoes with laces. We shed our slip-on shoes and overcoats and proceeded along the tented and padded pathway to the area of the temple housing the gift shop. Yes, along the way, there were hot-air belching machines keeping the devotees warm, and manned by attendants. In the open-air foyer before entry into the building, there were about five outdoor heaters on poles with radiant heat. The administration made it a point to keep the devotees warm, cozy and comfortable as much as possible. You cannot ask for more. A woman was scurrying around in the temple keeping the floors clean and clear of debris. We went up the winding staircase, two-people wide, to the inside foyer where Archana fruits... were sold. Then the foyer opens into the main hall where the Central Deity in all his glory, pomp, presence and circumstance opens your eyes wide. His is an imposing presence in the true sense of the word. He was ready, willing and eager to see his devotees come and greet him and receive Dharsan, bliss, grace and Prasada. At least, that is what I read on his face.
The volunteers directed us to go left starting with the shrines of Ganesa, Ambika, Lingam and Nataraja, Ayyappa, Skanda and consorts, Satyanarayana, Sridevi, Bhudevi, Durga, Lakshmi-Durga-Sarasvati, Lakshmi-Narayana, Radha-Krishna, Ram Parivar, Hanuman and the Navagrahas. Wherever there was a standing oil lamp, devotees applied the palms briefly over the flame and applied the palms to the eyes. That is receiving the Light of Knowledge and blessings from the deity. At each deity's location, there were sacred ash, kumkum...which the devotees took with the ring finger and applied it on the forehead. Forehead is the location of the third eye of wisdom and Ajna Chakra. I did offer prayers at each shrine. This multi-denominational Hindu temple houses and accommodates deities favored by Vaishnavites, Ganapatyas, Kaumaras, Saivites, Saktas... Before the devotees came for Dharsan, the dedicated priests, under the power of Mantras and Slokas, gave him the ritual ablutions, put vestments, decorated him with flowers and garlands, fitted him with accouterments and protective plates (Kavacas) in silver. My words fail to capture the beauty and Grace of the Lord of the Hills. They did wake him up from his Yoga-Nidra early in the morning when his devotees were still in bed. We took the winding queue right along the crowd-control posts and belt barriers and stepped into the Sanctum Sanctorum. I saw the devotees touch the sanctorum steps, gather a little dust left behind by other devotees. Obviously, the dust under the feet of the devotees is purifying and elevating. I went in, saw and exited in a matter of 8 seconds, all under the watchful eyes of two sari-clad women prompting the devotees to keep moving. Two seconds I had to see him as I passed before him. I could not take in everything. His face, Namam and flowers were resplendent. I did see his feet. People could stand, sit and watch him in his full-dress spectacle and divine regalia in the gathering hall on the overhead TV monitors. We walked over to the Prasad section, where we received flavored Tirtham (Cardamom, Cloves and Camphor laced water), Sadari, and Prasada (sacrament) of Laddu. Sadari is a crown-like structure with Vishnu's feet sitting on a pedestal. See the description below. All this from the beginning of the circumambulation of the shrines, the entry queue and the exit queue to the end of the Prasada line took about 25 to 30 minutes. The men performed 8-limb prostration, and the women did the truncated version of the same. I sat on a chair for some time to rest my old weary bones, creaky joints, sore muscles, aching back... and used that time to eat the delicious Prasada of Laddu and look at the TV monitors showing the Lord of Hills. A distinguished-looking gentleman of advanced age with hemiparesis, a white mane and a walking stick sat on a chair skipping one chair by my side. He kept smiling at me, which I reciprocated. There was no way he climbed up the stair case to the Hall of Shrines upstairs from the basement entrance. There was an elevator for handicapped people to ride.
Śatāri = சடாரி = Another name for Vaiṣṇava Saint Nammālvār. (The feet-bearing crown is named after Nammalvar or Satari.)
சடகோபன் caṭakōpaṉ , n. Śaṭha-kōpa. Nammāḻvār, a Vaiṣṇava saint, as one who subdued the evil humor.
Catam or Satam = Evil humor of the body that destroys the innate wisdom of the soul at birth.
Śatāri = சடாரி = சடகோபம் = caṭakōpam , n. Śaṭha-kōpa. Small metal head-cover on which Viṣṇu's sandals or feet are engraved, and which is placed over the head of worshippers in Viṣṇu temples.
Definitions: Tamil Lexicon Madras University
Nammalvar, the Srivaishnavas believe, was the incarnation of Visvaksena, the Commander in chief of Vishnu. At various times he was regarded the incarnation of Kaustabha jewel of Vishnu or Vishnu Himself. Srivaishnava devotees receive the feet of Vishnu on their head in the form of Sadari. Nammalvar is the premier Srivaishnava saint-poet who had visions of Sriman Narayana and in whom Sriman Narayana revealed Himself as the devoted poet-singer. Sadari is the corpus of his devotional work (Tiruvaymozi) with Nammalvar holding the feet of Narayana on his head. Receiving Sadari with bowed head and humility is getting the essence of His devotional poetry, attaining and holding onto the feet of Sriman Narayana for the express purpose of Mukti (liberation).
We exited the temple building via the canteen to the receiving tent, where we bought Samosas, Yogurt Rice and Tamarid/Lemon Rice. They were of good quality for a modest price. The Samosa was delicious.
Hyagriva is endowed with four lotus hands, one giving knowledge, one holding a book and the other two holding a conch and a discus. Vishnu is associated with the sun and so is Hyagriva. Krishna says in BG 8.9, He is sun-colored (ādityavarṇaṁ). This Horse-God pulls the sun across the Orbit, helps dissipate darkness (ignorance) and brings light (knowledge).
Hyagriva comes to the aid of gods defeated by the Danavas (Asuras or anti-gods, the cousins of Suras). Hyagriva comes riding in his chariot drawn by a thousand steeds mercilessly crushing the Danavas or Daityas.
He is a composite God. Siva is in the middle of his head. Brahma occupies his heart. His mane is the rays of the sun (Marichi). His eyes are the sun and the moon. His legs are Vasus and Sandhyas. The gods reside in his bones. His knees are Varuna and Maruts. His tongue is fire. His speech is Satya. Hyagriva, the deified aggregate of all gods and a Super Sacred Chimera retrieved the Vedas, and is the knower of Vedas, a protector, and a repository of knowledge. He is sun and light and thus a remover and dispeller of darkness and ignorance. One day in the future, Vishnu is going to ride high on the white horse as Kalkin.
Asva in Sanskrit is the everyday horse, but Hya is a racing (fast) horse.
Poseidon, Athena, and Aphrodite had association with horses. Poseidon was the god of horses. Athena is also known as Athena Hippia (horse) and celebrated as the inventor of the chariot. Horses were sacred to Aphrodite.
Yoga-Hyagriva presents himself in a Yoga pose in Tiruvantipuram. Lakshmi Hyagriva joins ranks with Lakshmi Narasimha to indicate Vishnu's incarnations.
If you were to become an animal, what animal would you like to be? A Horse, a Tortoise, a Boar, a Fish, a Lion...
A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course
Go right to the source and ask the horse
He'll give you the answer that you'll endorse.
He's always on a steady course.
People yakkity-yak the street and waste your time of day
But Mr. Ed (Hyagriva) will never speak unless he has something to say.
A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And this one'll talk 'til his voice is hoarse.
You never heard of a talking horse?
Well listen to this: "I'm Mister Ed".
A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
Go right to the source and ask the horse
He'll give you the answer that youíll endorse...
Divine Hyagriva kills Demon-Hyagriva.
The Saktas (Mother Goddess worshippers) have a different story about demon Hyagriva, the son of Kasyapa, who obtained a boon from Durga that only a (Divine) Hyagriva could kill him (the demon). The Demon-Hyagriva attacked and defeated the gods left, right, back, front and center. The timorous gods went to Vishnu, who after a long engagement declared his inability to kill demon-Hyagriva, went to Vaikuntam and did meditation with his head supported by the bow. The diffident Devas went to him again but found him in deep Yoga-Nidra. Would you wake up a God from his sleep? The priests do it all the time. Unable to awaken him, they engaged the services of termites to cut the bow supporting Vishnu in Yoga. Should they not be pulled up for asking lowly termites to cut the string without thinking of the consequences? The cut bowstring flailed uncontrollably to relieve the built-in tension, whiplashed and cut the head of Vishnu. Obviously, the gods did not have a forethought. Or may be, they intended to administer a rude awakening, with disastrous results as in this case. How can you awaken a headless god? Somebody has to pay for this grievous error. No one really paid anything. It was meant to be so.
With their wits shocked and sundered, the desperate gods went to Durga seeking help. Durga advised the gods to attach a horse's head to the headless body of Vishnu, who upon resurrection with head of a horse, would kill the Demon-Hyagriva. The cross-species head transplantation (Xenograft or Xenotransplant) was performed by Brahma, the God of Creation and a Vedic Scholar. Now, I see the course and inevitability of events. The decapitation of Vishnu had to happen so he could get a horse's head, so he could kill the Demon-Hyagriva. Vishnu-Hyagriva killed the Demon-Hyagriva. This fulfills the demon's wish that only a Hyagriva could kill him. The demon never expected the creation of another Hyagriva: a fatal mistake the demon made while asking for the boon of immortality. Vishnu always finds a way to take down his opponents or his devotee's enemies. Take the case of Prahalada and his tormenting father Hiranyakasippu, whose brother was killed by Lord Boar.
Demons Madhu and Kaitabha stole the Vedas from Brahma. Vishnu took the form of Hyagriva and killed the demons and recovered the Vedas.
You heard the expression, ''Heard from the horse's mouth.'' More on that later.
The Golden Eye, the Golden Hair, Prahalada and Vishnu
Hiranyakasha (the Golden Eye), a daredevil demon took the Earth to the bottom of the Cosmic Ocean. Vishnu took the Avatar of Lord Boar (Varaha) to bring the earth back to its place. The Golden Eye blocked Vishnu and thus sustained death by Vishnu after a thousand years of battle between Vishnu and the Golden Eye (who hid the Earth in the bottom of the Ocean).
The Golden Eye had a brother by name Golden Hair (Hiranyakasipu), who never forgave Vishnu for causing death of his younger brother with the golden eye.
By doing severe penance, the Golden Hair obtained a boon from Brahma, that said he will not die neither during the day nor during the night, nor on the ground, nor in the sky, nor by any creation of Brahma, nor by any weapon, nor by a human being and nor by an animal, any entity, demigod, demon, snake... You may ask why Brahma keeps giving boons to the demons, when he fully knows that they are up to mischief. This is the way it goes. When a person, god or demon performs severe penance, fulfills all the requirements for a boon, Brahma is obligated to offer boons, however inimical they are. It is like a test. If a person scores high, he deserves an award. It is like an entitlement. When severe and demanding conditions are fulfilled, the boons are the natural fruits of the effort.
He had no rival and obtained suzerainty over all living beings, gods...
Hiranyakasipu had a son by name Prahalada, who became a devotee of all-pervading Vishnu. He refused to recognize his father as the Supreme Lord of the universe. He was put through many abuses, tortures and punishments to change his mind, but none worked. The Golden Hair asked his son, whether Vishnu exists in the pillar. The Golden Hair, as he lacked a Golden Tongue, spoke the most blasphemous words to his son.
"O my foolish son Prahalada, Misfortune awaits you. You were always gloating about the Supreme Being other than me. You say He is a transcendent all-pervasive controller of everyone. All-pervasive: I don't see him anywhere. I don't see him around here. Is he (hiding) in the pillar? "
Prahalada said, "He was, He is, and He will be." Such profound statements come from the devotees of Vishnu.
The Golden Hair turned red in his eyes, seethed with anger and broke the pillar with his mace. Vishnu in the form of Narasimha (Man-Lion) appears out of the broken pillar to defend and protect his devotee from the rushing unruly Golden Hair. Vishnu chose the appearance of Man-Lion in the spirit of conformity with the boon by Brahma. Man-Lion is neither human, nor an animal but a Chimera. He appeared from the pillar at the twilight hour (neither day nor night) and not from the ground. The Man-Lion appeared at the door's threshold, neither inside nor outside, takes the Golden Hair on his lap, which is neither Earth nor sky, used his nails as weapons, rips his abdomen open, disembowels the dreaded demon and kills him. The Man-Lion's fury did not abate with supplication coming from gods and his consort Lakshmi. Finally, it abates with prayers from his devotee Prahalada.
Srirangam has a shrine for Hyagriva.
What has horse anything to do with knowledge? Then why do they say, ' Heard from the horse's mouth?'
The eighteenth incarnation or Avatara of Solar Vishnu is Hyagriva or Horse-necked or Horse-headed (Hyasiras). Remember this horse was not bullheaded.
Sage Agastya asked Vishnu, "O Lord, If you are pleased with me, it is incumbent upon you to tell me how the ignorant people and vulgar creatures can get liberation?" (Sage Agastya meant people like me.)
Vishnu answered him as follows:
This question was posed to me before by Siva, Brahma and Durvasa. My answer will be my boon to you. I am the creator, preserver, and destroyer of everything. (You better believe it.) I am Trimurti, beyond all gunas, and the soul of all living beings. My nature is of Purusa (the Supreme Being) and Pradhana (prakrti, matter, 2nd logos). My cosmic form split into Purusa and Pradhana; the former is the Great One beyond all Gunas, greater than the Greatest; the latter is made of gunas and worlds.
When the Karma is resolved through Yama (DONT's, restraints, forbidden acts), Niyama (DOs, permitted acts, observances) and Tyaga (renunciation), salvation is obtained. I am Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva (Yes, all rolled into One.) . I am above all gunas (modes), the soul of the universe and living beings. Sattvic actions, generosity, and renunciation guarantee liberation. One should observe Yama and Niyama as follows.
(1) Yama: sexual abstinence (celibacy), ahimsa (noninjury), no lies, no theft, no greed.
(2) Niyama: meditation on Brahman or Isvara; silence (mauna); study of Vedas (svādyāya), Upanishads, and moksa-promoting books; repeating of mantra OM; Tapas (ascetic practice); Sauca (clean body and mind) ; Santosha (contentment); Isvara Pranidhāna (submission to God, God-Pleasing actions).
Liberation depends on Sat and Asat (good and evil karmans or acts). Jnana, spiritual knowledge bestows all Siddhis (perfection). By meditating on the eternal form, man obtains liberation, though he may be a sinner. The worshippers of Sakti are the liberated souls and never suffer in life on earth. Lord Siva became the leader of all Siddhas by worshiping Parasakti (Supreme Sakti). He became Ardhanarisvara with his Sakti form as part of his body. Abrahma as the leader of Devas became a Siddha by worshiping her. Goddess Tripura guarantees worldly enjoyment and liberation to her devotees. You will attain liberation by reposing your desires, breath, mind worship, rites and soul in Her. This is what I have to say to you and all for the welfare of all.
Agastya bowed and asked the Lord, "Please tell me the nature of your form, its power and your sports." The Lord answered, This divine sage Hyagriva is a partial incarnation of Mine (Vishnu). He will tell you whatever you want to know." Thus saying the Lord disappeared from in front of pot-born Agastya.
Once Hyagriva Hari, the Lord of the universe took leave and disappeared, sage Hyagriva and Agastya went back to their hermitage. Agastya offered a high seat for Sage Hyagriva and spoke, "O Siddha of Siddhantas, please tell me the manifestation of the Great Goddess, her forms, sportive activities and pastimes."
Sage Hyagriva answered:
The Goddess has no beginning and is the support of everything in the universe; Sat and Asat karmans are her forms; meditation is the only way she is perceived; meditation and Vidyas make her limbs with her heart as her base; she manifests to the ones who attained oneness with her by performing sacred rites. She manifests herself as Sakti and Prakrti to those who perform meditation of god Brahma.
More on the Divine horse.
There is a Personified divine horse by name DadhikrA, which is associated with Vishnu, morning sun, light and knowledge and mentioned in Rgveda. He was created by heaven and Earth or Mitra and Varuna, the latter being the tutelary deity of horses. Horse is symbolic of fragrant mouth (Knowledge) and cures halitosis of Avidya (ignorance) upon invocation of DadhikrA (Dadhyan). This is known as MadhuVidya, the honey-sweet doctrine. The following concept is challenged by this doctrine. There are two entities (Duality) in the world, the knower and the known; in other words consciousness and object; Consciousness and object are demarcated and circumscribed entities in the sense one cannot take the place of another and serve the alternate function.
Now hear from the horse's mouth. Honey-sweet doctrine continued.
Sage Dadhayan Atharvana says these (two spheres consciousness and object) are linked by a third entity. The First Entity, the consciousness is Adhyatma (the individual soul, the perceiver, we the people); the object is Adhibhuta (the world of objects). The linkage between this two spheres is provided by Adhidaiva (Brahman, God), which is the divine force like gravity that keeps these two entities linked together in an undemarcated unity. Consciousness is phenomenal subject (we the people) and Adhyatma; object refers to the phenomenal world of objects and Adhibhuta. The Adhidaiva (God) is the facilitator of experience between the perceiver and the perceived object. Thus there is a continuous dynamic flow between myriad perceivers and myriad perceived objects, like the ocean waves flow into each other. This experience, this knowledge is explicated by Sage Dadhyan. This knowledge is the essence as the honey is the condensed essence of the nectar from all flowers. Thus, it is called Honey Knowledge (Madhu-vidya). Honey is essence of the sap of countless flowers. The knowledge is thus the Honey Knowledge of the perceiver. This experience, this knowledge, this honey abrogates the demarcation between the perceiver and the perceived revealing the inner essence, which will not come into being without the participation of transcendent Adhidaiva and thus this confluence is a triune entity made of the soul, the world of objects and Brahman.
Fifth Brahmana, Brhad-Aranyaka Upanishad talks about this Honey-Knowledge.
The earth and all living beings are mutually dependent, even as bees and honey (flowers and bees for pollination) are. Brahman is the Self in each, in the earth and in the individual. The water, the fire, the air, the sun, the moon, the quarters, the lightning, the cloud, the space, the law, the truth, the mankind, and the self are like honey for all beings, and all beings are like honey for all the above entities. Shining immortal person Brahman exists in all these. This Lord is the hub which holds the spokes and the rim together. The chief of lesser gods (Brahman is the God of all gods.) Indra threatened Sage Dadhyan with decapitation, if he revealed the honey-knowledge (Madhu-Vidya) to Asvins, who themselves went ahead and cut the head off (of Sage Dadhyan) in a hurry to get knowledge, transplanted the head with that of the horse, received knowledge from the fragrant mouth of the horse and put his own human head back in its the place of horse's head after receiving the Madhu-Vidya. Thus, the Asvins heard the Madhu-Vidya from the horse's mouth. Now you know what it means to hear from horse's mouth. 'From the horse's mouth', 'on good authority; from the original or a trustworthy source: I have it straight from the horse's mouth that the boss is retiring.'
The future Avatara of Vishnu is Kalkin, a Brahmana or Ksatriya riding a white horse.
BG Verse. Krishna Bhagavan says: 10.27: Know Me, among horses to be Ucchaisravas born along with the nectar. Of the elephants, I am Airavata. Of men, I am king.
Ucchaisravas is the long-eared horse, which came out of the churned ocean. Lord Vishnu claimed ownership of Ucchaisravas, a white horse with a black tail. You see it abundantly made clear that horse is a symbol of Vishnu who is omniscient.
Horse worship was prevalent in Iron and Bronze age in Pagan Europe.
To the south and southwest of the temple building, the ground is dug up for temple expansion. A handout by the temple talks about Projects in Progress.
1. Temple Expansion. Expansion of Siva and Rama Prayer halls, expansive new Alankara Mandapam, dedicated Yoga Sala, all new amenities and architectural features.
2. Cultural Center. 20,500 sq.ft. facility with 600-seat auditorium, stadium seating, balconies, expansive dining area, flexible classrooms for Vidyalaya & lectures and additional multi-functional covered areas. This facility will complement the temple architecturally and will supplement the Kalyana Mandapam inside the temple.
3. Cafeteria and kitchen. Expanded cafeteria with modern kitchen and service areas, additional dining in the courtyard.
4. Additional parking. Additional parking areas, beautification of the temple grounds.
You may make contributions to the temple by going into this link: http://www.venkateswara.org/Membership_1.htm.
Copy and paste the link in a browser.
Have a Happy New Year 2014.
January 1, 2012: Happy New Year to all. Let the Grace of Balaji descend on you, your family, friends and acquaintances. As usual, I was drawn to the Balaji Temple by the inexorable magnetism of Lord of the Hills. The sky was cast in clouds, which was appropriate in the sense that Krishna is of the color of dark blue clouds as described by the Alvars of Tamil Nadu. I wish I saw the images of Alvars in the temple who wrote 4000 songs (Divyaprabhandam) in praise of Vishnu in His Avatars. These Alvars were realized Souls coming from all castes in Tamil Nadu. Of the Alvars, the leading one was Nammalvar, who described Vaikuntam (வைகுந்தம் = Vishnu's heaven) in a vivid account. The temple has carvings of some verses in English of Bhagavadgita on the Granite face.
The devotees, young and old and in-between, came to the humongous Sanofi-Aventis parking lot adjacent to the Temple. It was a great convenience that draws devotees from far and wide, apart from the obvious Lord of the Hills. Nowadays parking is at a premium in big cities. The elders of the temple were wise to have chosen such a convenient place for the temple with the adjacent parking on holidays. Their genius is showing and obvious in every step of the way outside and inside of the temple.
शलवार क़मीज़ Śalvār Qamīz
The young ladies full of moxie in their carriage, tender twelve year olds, the teens with Chiclet-white teeth and McClean smiles (Tamil poets call the chiclet-white teeth a row of jasmine buds.) and the young married women wore what they regarded the fashion statement, the modern शलवार क़मीज़ Śalvār Qamīz. It is Persian for pants; It is Arabic (qamis) for shirt. Some men also wore the same outfit. No, I don't wear it; I don't touch it; I don't see grace and beauty in it. You have the god-given right to wear it and flaunt it. No one looked dishy in this dreadful dress. Śalvār climbs in a spiraling fashion from the ankles to the hips. Because the Śalvār is tight at the ankle and wide at the hip, all that excess cloth above the ankles gives the baggy look and bulges out like sails from the body heat. The shirt is hanging loose at its split ends, which would be scrapping the food on the tables as the wearer walks between tables in the restaurant. The preponderant favorite was still the ubiquitous shirts and pants among men and boys. Forgive me, ladies. Śalvār Qamīz is not my favorite. Why should you care for what I say? You might as well tell me, "Put up or shut up." OK, I got the message. The Hindu goddesses look great in Saris and blouses. Most of the ladies in Śalvār Qamīz appeared baggy and draggy and by no means jiggy wearing these culturally alien dresses. ("Here you go again", so say the ladies.) Blame me for wearing shirt and pants, culturally alien dress for an India-born naturalized US citizen. It is a three-piece outfit. Śalvār is a loose pajama, wide at the top and the waist, tight at the ankles and loose and baggy in-between; Qamīz a long shirt with long side splits reaching the knees; the scarf rests over the shoulders and the front of the upper body. They attest to the fact the outfit is convenient to put on and take off. I am unable to say whether the ventilation is superior. With this alien dress, you are in with the crowd. The sari demands some basic knowledge of pleating, tucking, wrapping, wearing the end over the shoulder and walking with grace. I suggest that ladies don't walk on high heels wearing a sari. Have you seen the gracious Indian dancers walk the walk on the dance stage when they do the swan, the deer, the peacock, the elephant...? They have demonstrated the deftness in wrapping the sari from each ankle to the waist in a tight fashion so much so they appear full of grace. Very few ladies passed the test of grace in this alien outfit; grace is the sine qua non of Indian womanhood. This outfit looked more like an expensively made pajama-shirt-shawl foisted on uncritical young people, who turn a blind eye to traditional dress and sport wide open eyes at superugly outfits.
For it to look good on a person, one has to be a perfectly emaciated social X-ray living in a Statusphere. I borrowed these euphemisms from The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe.
There is style, grace and identity in wearing the Sari, which tells you are from South Asia. Now I am seventy-five years of age, set in my ways, likes, dislikes.... Please forgive me for my views. Have you seen the learned ladies sent to Washington D.C as Indian Ambassadors? They wear the Indian signature saris. Any other wear would not represent India. I prefer they wore cotton saris. Consider the umpteen ways one can wear it, wrap it, tuck it, pleat it, throw the end over the shoulder, pin it and look great.
I am sorry to observe that some ladies (including girls) did not wear the Tilakam, an essential element in elegance. The days of dot busters of New Jersey are gone and forgotten. It is safe once again to wear the Tilakam. Some feel that Tilakam exposes their identity and attracts unsolicited attention in places where they would want to blend in and be part of the milieu. I identified one problem with wearing Tilakam over a period of decades in the same spot on the forehead; that Tilakam spot becomes pigmented not only from the pressure applied but also from the irritation caused by Tilakam itself. People concerned with it may try hypoallergenic lipstick as Tilakam. If hyperpigmentation is a concern, people have to give it up.
Some don't like to stand out in the malls with a sari invariably an elaborate outfit under the circumstances. I do agree with and respect their feelings. My wife most of the time wears a sari to visit the temple and switches to the western dress in the temple bathroom for shopping. The Tilakam stays on the forehead all the time. In the 1960s, it was a common occurrence in the west that the Indian women with saris and Tilakams were abruptly stopped, buttonholed and appreciated for their saris and Tilakam. Now saris and Tilakam are so common nobody bats an eye. As a child, and an young adult growing up in T'Nagar in 1950s, I am used to women wearing Tilakam ( = तिलक பொட்டு
)so much so a bare forehead looks anomalous to me. Take a note, it is the third eye of wisdom. If you don't wear it, you are hiding your wisdom.
Now back to the parking lot. The devotees parked the cars and lined up to board the school bus. Some chose to walk the distance. They appeared young and fit. The American bus drivers, both black and white, were all smiles to see the Hindus celebrate a Christian calendar holiday in an Indian temple, wearing Persian and Muslim outfits, speaking in many languages, dialects, and inflections with misplaced stress on syllables (Techno-logy instead of 'tek nol"euh jee/') and carrying handbags made in China and bought in Walmart. Such is the generosity and magnanimity of the Hindu mind. The Americans not in the know of the two classical languages of India and the world (Tamil and Sanskrit) and their derivatives invariably ask the question, "Did you just speak Indian?" Englishman speaks English; naturally Indian must speak Indian. Indians speak for example Tanglish, Teglish, Hinglish, Gujlish, and other polyglot Masala. Some rare breed of Indians speak Kinglish as opposed to Cockney. Indian English dialect has its own peculiarities. I heard British-origin Indians speak Cockney; my auditory apparatus is not attuned to its sound. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_English
One day there may come a time in the USA, the shopping malls will be crowded with shoppers speaking in foreign tongues and buying fair price goods made in China and to accommodate them the cash counters are serviced or manned (or managed; I found a gender-free verb not having 'man' in it: serviced) by polyglots. No one spoke a word of English in the mall so much so the mall owners have to set up a desk, 'English Spoken Here.' Anticipating that eventuality, English would become the qualifying language for citizenship. At present a working knowledge of English is expected with exceptions. My mother took and passed an oral test in Tamil on United States history and government; the answers were in single words, my wife being the interpreter of the questions.
The Indians with their Sari-clad parents and in-laws make a pilgrimage in droves and drips to Costco, Walmart, and Target every day and every weekend to buy clothes, provisions, electronic equipment and wide-screen TVs. I found several times the family descends to Costco soon after obtaining Darshan at the Balaji Temple. The buyers by half in Costco on Route 27 are Indian (South Asian) Diaspora; the Orientals make half of the other half; the rest are the white, the near-white, the off-white, the indeterminate, and the black speaking in many unfamiliar tongues. At a given time, there would be about 50 to 100 languages spoken there. You can confidently call Costco on Route 27 as second only to the United Nations in the number of languages spoken.
Is there fun to have? Is it a holiday? Mention Holiday. The Indian is ready, willing and ardent to take advantage and make most of it any day, anywhere, anytime. The bus drivers and the devotees exchanged pleasantries. One entrepreneurial bus driver had a duck-taped jerry-rigged gratuity box made out of cardboard stuffed with greenbacks and change strategically placed at the exit.
I have this talent for complaining. I am sure you noticed it. I put my nose where it doesn't belong. The school bus, as the name suggests, is for school children and not for adults with long legs, bad backs, arthritic knees and hips and grouchy disposition. Really, I am not complaining; it is better to have an school bus, than no bus at all. Walking that distance would make my joints creak and complain; I might even croak, kick the bucket and buy a one-way ticket to Vaikuntam; of course, Vaikuntam is no guarantee for an old decrepit geezer like me. I saw a few people with derrieres, the size of the back of an auto-rickshaw or the Nano. They were ill at ease on the bus, sitting sideways on one butt. Again it is better to have a ride than no ride at all. Now you have an idea: I am a kvetching curmudgeon and a niggling nag.
The bus drove off the main road on to the temple property; it was a dizzying experience when the bus wound its way on a serpentine route on the right side of the temple even at slow speed and disgorged the grateful devotees near the entrance to the white tent. What were the temple authorities thinking? I think they had Adisesha on their collective mind, when they laid the serpentine bus route to the back of the temple. That is when I noticed the temple has extended the parking lot all around the temple, except in the back. Again, I must congratulate the temple officials for their forethought in putting the tents up. What if it rained or snowed? That day, I did not see the sun play peekaboo with the clouds; it was a thick grey sky through and through. We were gently nudged by the volunteers to shed and deposit the shoes and the jackets on the floor and coat racks. I had this suspicious thought dawn on my mind. Do I really want to put my coat on the rack? I was not afraid someone would swipe mine. I was more afraid that lice or bedbugs would jump from coat to coat and take a ride with me on my coat to my house and take up a residence rent-free. No, I ain't worried about lice and bedbugs living rent-free in my house. What if they start a family and have their own babies? On second thought, I was happy to remember that I sport a bald pate. People call me by my other name: Bald Pate (short for Baldwin Pate = மொட்டைத்தலை moṭṭai-t-talai). You can't tell I am bald; I wear a hairpiece (Hello Desis, a hairpiece is what you call a wig.) that conceals my baldness. Once you have a bald pate or shaved head as it is the fashion now, you are unlikely to get louse on the head. I was watching for anyone scratching his scalp because of wandering and blood-sucking lice or bedbugs. I am glad to report no one was doing it. Phew, that was a relief for a hypochondriac like me. Now I could walk into the temple leaving my nitpicking worries aside.
Made in the USA
I never go out with my expensive light-weight Italian shoes--Yes, they are light on the feet but heavy on the wallet. You tell a man and a woman by the shoes they wear. I try not to wear leather shoes or leather belt; many times non-leather goods are hard to come by. The shoes I wore to the temple were made in China, solid, heavy, well-fitting and most of all of man-made material.
Just a reminder: Krishna is a Vegetarian. If you wear leather-free shoes, He welcomes it. I saw one or two men wearing leather jackets inside the temple premises. Probably there should not be an objection. The drums that are struck inside the Hindu temples in India are made using leather. We all wear leather belts and carry leather wallets and bags, leather this and leather that to the temple. I suppose it is alright. The gods and goddesses wearing silk coming from zillions of dead silkworms have already set an example and precedence of wearing animal-origin clothes. Siva is depicted sitting on tiger skin for meditation. I believe they should start wearing cotton and give up the shining silk and animal skins, and sit on cotton mats. Some would regard my statement a sacrilege and presumptuousness. I am with Gandhi on this against wearing silk; I am a minority voice in my family, nation and the world; it is not a crusade for me. In Hindu religion, questioning god is very acceptable and not discouraged. Nowadays a person, Yogi or no Yogi, would be arrested if he uses tiger skin to sit on and meditate. You have every right to call me sanctimonious. I do wear both leather and non-leather belts and shoes. I prefer non-leather goods. Yes, my wallet is made of fabric.
As the process of harvesting the silk from the cocoon kills the larvae, sericulture has been criticized in the early 21st century by PETA. Mohandas Gandhi was also critical of silk production based on the Ahimsa philosophy "not to hurt any living thing." This led to Gandhi's promotion of cotton spinning machines, an example of which can be seen at the Gandhi Institute. He also promoted Ahimsa silk, wild silk made from the cocoons of wild and semi-wild silk moths. Ahimsa silk is promoted in parts of Southern India for those who prefer not to wear silk produced by killing silkworms. Ahimsa silk is also known as peace silk. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk
I understand that peace silk is low-grade compared to silk from reared and killed silkworms.
This is called in modern parlance Environmental Veganism whereby people- animal lovers- reject the use of animal products. Its main thrust is "the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals." Of course it is extreme; milk and milk products do not involve any cruelty to animals. Vegans are encouraged to ensure they have sources of vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids from plant oils. A vegetarian is simply someone who lives on vegetation. For more info. go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veganism. I have no problem with people ingesting animal products such as fish oil for health reasons.
Note below entered on April 12, 2017
Pleading with Kothandarama for extirpation of sin of killing silkworms by Maharishi Saliyar.
https://www.dinakaran.com/Aanmeegam_Detail.asp?Nid=4713&cat=3 (issue dated March 31, 2014)
பட்டீஸ்வரத்தில் உள்ளது கோதண்டராம சுவாமி திருக்கோயில். ராமபிரானை வந்து வணங்கிய மகரிஷிகளுள் சாலியர் என்பவரும் ஒருவர். பட்டு நெசவுத் தொழில் செய்து வந்ததால் இவர் பட்டுச் சாலிய மகரிஷி என அழைக்கப்பட்டார். பட்டு நெசவுத் தொழில் செய்து வருபவர்களுக்கு ஒரு தோஷம் எப்போதுமே இருந்து வந்தது. அதாவது, எண்ணற்ற பட்டுப் புழுக்களைக் கொல்வதால் உண்டாகும் தோஷம்தான் அது. இந்த தோஷத்தைப் போக்க விரும்பினார் சாலிய மகரிஷி. ராமபிரானை பட்டீஸ்வரம் திருத்தலத்தில் தரிசித்தார். ‘‘எம் குலத்தைச் சேர்ந்தவர்கள் தொழில் நிமித்தம் பட்டுப் புழுக்களைக் கொல்ல வேண்டியிருக்கிறது. இதனால் ஏற்படும் தோஷத்தைத் தாங்கள் போக்கி அருள வேண்டும். அதோடு, எம் குல மக்கள் அடிக்கடி வந்து உங்களை வணங்குவதற்கு வசதியாகத் தாங்கள் இங்கேயே கோயில் கொள்ள வேண்டும்’’ என்று பணிவுடன் கேட்டுக் கொண்டார். அவருடைய வேண்டுகோளை ஏற்றுக் கொண்ட ராமர் இங்கேயே தங்கி நெசவாளர்களின் தோஷத்தைப் போக்கினார்.
Translation of Tamil Passage.
Kothandarama swamy Temple is in Pattisvaram. Many Maharishis came to the temple offering prayer to Ramapiran. Sāliyār was one among them and went by the name, Sāliya Maharishi. His day job was to weave silk into cloth. There was always a sin associated with silk weavers. It was the sin of killing innumerable silkworms. Sāliyā Maharishi wanted help to extirpate this sin. He obtained Darśan of Ramapiran in the Pattisvaram Temple and addressed God, "People of my Kulam kill daily innumerable silkworms. The resulting sins accumulate. Help us expiate these sins and confer on us your blessings. For the benefit of my compatriots, consider staying here in this temple." Rama accepted his supplication and stayed there to remove the sins of the silk weavers.
Is there anything not made in China? Half the things I own and the computer I am using now were made in China. Yes, Linsanity-fame Jeremy Lin is made in the USA and the new phenomenon in Basketball. There is a lot of LINphilia in the air.--February, 2012. The rest were made in South Korea. I hear the tunnel-boring machines for the Chennai underground Metro were made in China. Even items with American corporate names were made in China or elsewhere. When I go shopping, I look for a label "Made in the USA." That said, USA label is very rare indeed nowadays.
In the shop, I turn the merchandize upside down, sideways, and crossways, look at every nook and corner and at last find an unwelcome puny label, "Made in China." The counter clerk gets suspicious, seeing me give the merchandize a thorough spin and overhaul, walks over abandoning the customers clutching the plastics and the items for purchase and with a stern look of disapproval addresses me, "May I help you." What she said is a trope. What she really meant to say to me goes like this: "What do you think you are doing, you little Schmuck of a Jerk, rolling the merchandize like a ball?" I meekly say in a low non-threatening voice, "I am looking for 'Made in the USA' label." Curt and quick comes the answer, "You look you came out of 1930s." How did she know that? What she really meant to say goes like this: "Listen to me you old, uncouth, ugly, dingy brown Geezer. Put the merchandize down and go back where you came from. Did she mean my mother's womb or my country of origin, She probably meant the latter. (I know I heard that many times before .)
I am shook up by this woman, three times my size with matching jugs and posterior and a foot above me. The devil made me say this and describe her as accurately and politely as possible; I am not responsible for what I said just now because that is the way she looked. Please don't blame or flame me for this. I avert my eyes, reluctantly swallow my bruised, battered and plastered pride, quietly and gently put the merchandize down on the table and glide away imperceptibly before she calls the security. Obviously the security watching me on the screen in the basement must have alerted and sent the blessed ample lady to ambulate towards my location and challenge me.
If you have the gnawing, erosive and terminal curiosity to see ample ladies and men - I like all kinds of people-, please visit, http://www.wallcoo.net/paint/beryl_cook_csg/index.html
I am looking for a shop that would sell only merchandize made in America, which is a pipe dream in this day and age. It was not all a wasted day for shopping. I bought some Jersey-fresh vegetables, obviously grown in New Jersey. I bought stuff made in the USA on line, to affirm my loyalty to Made-in-USA because our president Mr. Barack Obama tells us to buy 'Made-in-America.' Later, I found out a similar stuff made elsewhere outside the country selling for sixty percent less. The American merchandize is excellent in quality but costs more. The cheap stuff from outside the USA is reasonably good, acceptable for budgetary reasons. Now I am in a dilemma, which every shopper faces nowadays.
"Mr. D'Agostino, Please Move Closer to Me."
For the people not in the know, D'Agostino is a grocer.
Old timers would remember this commercial: "Mr. D'Agostino, Please Move Closer to Me." Likewise, in geological terms in 150 million years, give or take a few million years, the Atlantic Ocean will narrow greatly to a point of total obliteration, Indian Ocean and the Atlantic will merge to form Indo-Atlantic Ocean, North America would collide with Africa in a more southerly position, South America would wrap around the Southern tip of Africa, the Pacific Ocean will widen and Pangaea Ultima would form. America would move closer to us and it will be only a hop, a skip and a jump from India to America and vice versa. You can see America across the ocean from India, as you can "see Russia from Alaska." You may not need passport, Visa and other requirements. If you don't believe it, see the map. If you have the sturdy feet, you may be able to walk over from India to America over land without getting your feet wet.
Now back to the Temple. When I entered the walkway between the gift shop and basement assembly hall, there were only a few people. It was early in the day. There would be flash mobs now and then. The rule-bound volunteer gracefully asked us to walk up and down the empty aisles instead of giving us the shortcut. The walk was good for my heart and bad for my joints. As I approached the staircase, the Dvarapalaka (द्वारपालक = துவாரபாலகர் tuvāra-pālakar) guarding the entrance was a tall gentleman, a no-nonsense sergeant-at-arms, stern and sturdy in his voice, and commanding in his presence. He barked orders: 'Keep To Your Left'--hey, the devotees had already worked up a sweat and an impatience to obtain Darshan--, knowing very well the devotees can sometimes be wayward and disobedient. His stern voice kept the flow up and down the staircase a cinch. In America, we are used to keeping to the right. This gentleman-sergeant must be from Old School and new to America: Keep-To-Your-Left.
Darś-ana (दर्शन in Sanskrit = தரிசனம் = taricaṉam in Tamil) means “to see” in Sanskrit and Tamil. Vision of a deity; sight of a great personage; seeing and adoring the idol; Doctrine; Philosophical System.
In the Hindu ritual tradition, it refers to seeing the sacred. This typically corresponds to seeing the sacred in the image of a deity while at temple. It is believed that, in beholding the image of a deity, onlookers absorb through their eyes the powers of that deity. Darśana hence is believed to have the capacity to bring good fortune, well-being, and grace to those who participate in the act.--Wikipedia
The devotees walking up and down the staircase quickly made mid-course corrections on hearing the sergeant-at-arms. Another Dvarapalaka was at the entrance to the main hall of the temple. He was directing us to our left towards Ganesa, the Lord of New Beginnings. By this time, I saw the benign face and glittering Namam of the Lord of the Hills. The gatekeeper at the entrance to the main hall, had an eye on the humongous front doors. There were clear signs that barked a stark message not to open the heavy Mahogany doors. Hey, the devotees open them for no good reason. The doors are there to be opened and closed: So why not open them and let the frigid air in. If one exits there, he had to walk around to reach the bus. One would certainly miss the dharsan (தரிசனம்), the main event of the day.
At this point in time, my wife deserted me (of course temporarily) and went on her own way. I was not ready for a wild-goose chase. She always manages to disappear in the temple and also in the house. I gave up and went on my way. I paid my obeisance to Lord Ganesa, cupped my palms over the flame of the standing lighted oil lamp with a wick and applied them to my eyes hoping I would get an iota of His Wisdom and Grace. I made a pre-arranged ambit around the main sanctum visiting Ambal; Lord Nataraja; Sivalingam; Lingam; Lord Ayappa; Muruga, Devayanai and Valli; Satyanarayana; Sri Devi; Bhudevi; Durga; the sanctum of Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati; the sanctum of Laksmi-Narayana; the sanctum of Radha-Krishna; the sanctum of Ram Parivar; Hanuman; and the Navagrahas.
My wife and I joined the tail end of the queue to obtain Dharsan of the Lord of the Hills. My wife gave the fruits to the priest and made ourselves known by our Gotra, stars and names. I always tell my wife to perform Arti in the name of God, so she doesn't have to reveal my Gotra. She won't listen. Don't ask me what my Gotra is. It does not sound bombastic. It is not in the empyreal and elite club of Sapta Rishis. It is neither Vaidika nor Laukika. It is probably a non-descript low-grade no-nothing, fit for disposal in a dumpster. It is just a name for a nameless one with no Y-chromosome linkage to Rishis who were born of Brahma millions, billions, zillions of years ago. It always puzzles me how a person can trace his Y chromosome to Kasyapa thousands, millions or zillions of years into the misty past. To me, it sounds like delusional self-aggrandizement to rank and honor without compelling scientific evidence. Don't start me on Sutra, Shaka, and Pravaras. What Gotra does an Englishman and for that matter an Eskimo claim? When others announce their Gotra as Jamadagni, Bharadvaja, Gautama, Atri, Vasistha, Kasyapa and Agastya, claiming an unbroken lineage from and male-line linkage with Rishis eons ago, my soul sinks, my heart murmurs, my body withers, my feet wobble, my eyes and my tongue go dry, my brain freezes, my speech goes silent, my mind goes numb, my thoughts evaporate into the Ether and my ego attenuates. I am a no-nothing low life without the highfaluting credentials. How am I going to face the Lord eye to eye? Yes, now that my ego is shattered and reduced to cosmic dust and dissipated in the wide Ether, I am ready to face the Lord of the Hills at His Feet. I don't know where I really emerged from: the mouth, the upper arms, the thighs or the feet of Virata Purusha (विराट पुरुष). I am quite happy with the feet. Some of my caste members in India proudly announce they emerged from the shoulders or arms, quoting and referencing me to Wikipedia article. Let them go shoulder to shoulder with the Lord. I would rather stay at the feet of the Lord, as the Alvars always wanted to be at the Lord's feet. Some insist they emerged from the mouth of Virata Purusha, Indra and Agni being their mouth-born siblings, cousins, or forefathers.
Below I am laying out the Yugas and Kalpas as depicted in the sacred texts. Accordingly, Brahma lives 311.04 trillion (earth) years. My understanding is that Brahma is past his middle age now--155.02 trillion years plus. Sun was formed 10 billion years ago; it is middle-aged now. Earth was formed 4.54 billion years ago. It appears Brahma is much older than the sun and the earth. He is the Creator, so He must be that old. It is asserted that Saptarishis, and their progeny to this day claim an unbroken lineage from Brahma going back millions, billions, or zillions of years before the sun was formed. Brahma's whole life time has 504,000 Manvantras. Life on earth, according to present science, appeared on its surface within one billion years after its formation 4.54 billion years ago.
Brahma's sons in each Manvantara were the Saptarishis, to whom the twice-born trace their heredity or Y-Chromosome lineage and linkage. In other words, in one Brahma's day, Brahma creates 14 sets of Sapta Rishis, one set every 308.57 million years. Thus, the twice-born can trace their origin back to 308 million years backwards. Humans branched off from Chimps only 5-7 million years ago.
A short history of humanity. A portion of this is from Wikipedia.
The genus Homo diverged some 2.3-2.4 million years ago in Africa from Australopithecines. Scientists have estimated that humans branched off from their common ancestor with chimpanzees about 5–7 million years ago. Archaic Homo sapiens, the forerunner of anatomically modern humans, evolved between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago. Homo sapiens arose in Africa and migrated out of the continent some 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. Modern Indians (both Indo-Aryan and Dravidian groups) are a hybrid population descending from two pre-historic, genetically divergent populations, one of which, referred to as the 'Ancestral North Indians', 40,000 years ago and the other, called the Ancestral South Indians', 60,000 years ago. The intermingling of ANI's and ASI's happened in the same period as the ANI's first appeared, 40,000 years ago.
Anatomically modern humans evolved from archaic Homo sapiens in the Middle Paleolithic, about 200,000 years ago. The emergence of anatomically modern human marks the dawn of the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens, i.e. the subspecies of Homo sapiens that includes all modern humans. The oldest fossil remains of anatomically modern humans are the Omo remains, which date to 196,000 years and include two partial skulls as well as arm, leg, foot and pelvis bones.
Other fossils include Homo sapiens idaltu from Herto in Ethiopia that are 150,000 years old and remains from Skhul in Israel that are 90,000 years old. Wikipedia
Comment by Veeraswamy Krishnaraj.
Now that we the modern people live on this planet only for about 200,000 years, the Dravidians came to India 60,000 years ago and the Indo-Aryans came into India 40 thousand years ago, there is a problem reconciling ourselves to origin of Saptarishis millions, (
billions or trillions) of years ago giving rise to progeny bearing their patronymic Gotras.
The invention of Zero in India took place before 400CE. Its use must have been in existence from an earlier period. Vishnu Purana, composed around 320CE, deals with Yugas and Kalpas, going backwards to millions, billions and trillions of years. Let us assume that the Zero was in use in India since 200CE. If that is so, we have to assume that the concept of Yugas and Kalpas were nonexistent before 200CE and calculated and put into writing in the Puranas after 200CE. Brahma, Sapta Rishis, and Gotras were incorporated and woven into the stories found in the Puranas after 200CE. The religious experts are ready and willing to challenge me by advising me on the existence of Yugas before this Kaliyuga:
, andDvāpara Yugas. See the table of Yugas below.–Veeraswamy Krishnaraj
Gotras go the way of Gomūtra (गोमूत्र )
In a court case "Madhavrao vs Raghavendrarao" which involved a Deshastha Brahmin couple, the German scholar Max Mueller's definition of gotra as descending from eight sages and then branching out to several families was thrown out by reputed judges of a Bombay High Court. The court called the idea of Brahmin families descending from an unbroken line of common ancestors as indicated by the names of their respective gotras impossible to accept. The court consulted relevant Hindu texts and stressed the need for Hindu society and law to keep up with the times emphasizing that notions of good social behavior and the general ideology of the Hindu society had changed. The court also said that the mass of material in the Hindu texts is so vast and full of contradictions that it is almost an impossible task to reduce it to order and coherence.--Wikipedia
Each Manu and Sapta Rishis have their term (and power) lasting for 71.42857 cycles through a set of four Yugas (one Maha Yuga or Chatur Yuga) and in human terms for 308,571,428 years. Each Manvantara (308.57 million earth years) has his own retinue of descendants, seven Rishis (Sapta Rishis) and their Brahmana descendants, gods, Indra, Ghandharvas...
Brahma's entire life (311.04 Trillion years) is only one Nimesha (निमेष = winking of the eye) of Krishna and Siva. Brahmas come and go, but Krishna and Siva live for ever. When Brahma dies, there is a great deluge and the universe is destroyed. A new Brahma is born and the recapitulating life cycle begins again. A new crop of Saptarishis come into being and sire the Gotras.
It appears as if the skin color of Krishna was symptomatic of the deterioration of Dharma from Krita to Treta to Dvapara to Kali Yuga.
In Kali age, the Dharma-cow has short stubby legs, only one-fourth its original length in Kreta Yuga.
Table: The Yugas
1 day of Divine Year is equal to 360 Years of Mortals. Earthly years in Green.
All in Divine years. for Conversion to years of Mortals, multiply by 360.
Yuga Sandhya (Pre) Yuga Sandhyansa (post) Total: Divine/Earthly Krita 400 divine years 4000 400 4800 X360 = 1.728M Treta 300 3000 300 3600 X 360 = 1.296M Dwapara 200 2000 200 2400 X 360 = 864,000 Kali 100 1000 100 1200 X 360 = 432,000 In all 4 Yugas Total number of years in Maha Yuga = 4.32 million years
All these Yugas as depicted below are in years of the Mortals or Earth years.
Age of Perfection
Age of Triad
Age of Doubt
Age of Vice
Maha Yuga (total)
Please note that this Kaliyuga started at midnight of 02/18/3102 BC and will end in about 426,886 years with the dissolution of earth according to sacred texts.
Science tells in another billion years the surface of the Earth will likely become too hot for liquid water to exist, ending all terrestrial life.--Wikipedia
Note: AUM is space filler of empty boxes.
Kali Yuga lasts for 432,000 years; this is a magical number in many cultures. Early settlers in Iceland in 8th and 9th centuries established settlements 432,000 Roman feet apart in terms of cosmic relationship.--Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, Page 94.
These Yugas are cyclical in nature starting from Krita Yuga. Lord Krishna was on earth by the end of Dvāpara Yuga. As you notice in the table, Krita Yuga is the longest, four times longer than Kali Yuga, the Treta Yuga three times longer and the Dvāpara Yuga is only twice longer.
Brahma's Life and Times
Brahma’s Life Span: 100 Brahma years (311.04 Trillion earth-years.)
Sun's short life is 10 Billion years; Brahma's one day and one night last 8.64 billion earth years.
Table: The Kalpas
. A Kalpa is a 1000 times one Maha Yuga.
Man or earth years
4,320,000,000 (4.32 Billion)
Day and Night
8,640,000,000 (8.64 Billion)
259,200,000,000 (259.2 Billion)
3,110,400,000,000 (3.1104 Trillion)
311,040,000,000,000 (311.04 Trillion)
Brahma's day precedes a night of equal duration. There are two thousand Yugas or periods in Brahma's one day and one night, which last (4.32 billion years X 2) 8.64 billion earth-years. His Kalpal one-day (4.32 billion years) consists of one thousand cycles of all four Yugas. A day and night of Brahma are 8.64 billion years and two thousand cycles of all four Yugas. There are fourteen Manvantaras in one Brahma's day. Each Manvantara has its own Manu, Indra, and Rishis. Manvantara means period of Manu and there are 14 Manus in a Brahma’s day, 5040 Manus in one Brahma year (14 x 360 days) and 504,000 Manus in one Brahma's lifetime of 100 Brahma years. Brahma and the attending Manus and Rishis come and go, but Maha Vishnu remains forever.
Each day of Brahma (4.32 billion years) is divided into 14 parts (308,571,428 Yrs each).
To restate these figures in another way, each Manu has his term and power lasting for 71.42857 cycles through a set of four Yugas (one Maha Yuga or Chatur Yuga) and in human terms for 308,571,428 years Each Manvantara (308.57 million earth years) has his own retinue of descendants, seven Rishis (Sapta Rishis), gods, Indra, and Ghandharvas. It is like change of administration in Washington, when a new president is sworn in. When the day's work comes to fruition, Brahma retires for the night with an infinitesimal amount of soporific called Tamas (One of the Gunas or modes). When he retires, the whole universe (the three worlds, Bhu, Bhuvah, and Swah) is absorbed into him. These worlds are consumed by fire emitted by the serpent God, Lord Sankarsana and the heat is intense and felt in the world above. It gets so hot in the upper Maharloka, the abode of Bhrgu Muni, that he moves to a higher and safer location namely Janaloka. The oceans swell and swallow all three worlds. In the midst of all this devastation, Lord Hari, surrounded and praised by Sri, Bhu, Rudra, Sanatkumara and others, the usual residents of Janaloka, reclines on His Snake-bed in the ocean with His eyes closed as if sleeping and unconcerned, but in reality in meditation and full awareness (Yoga-Nidra = sleep meditation with full awareness, one of the Vishnu's Yoga māyās.)
Brahma is past middle age now. That means Brahma had been around at least 155 trillion years. In Brahma's life, there are two halves. In the beginning of the first half, the Lord and the Vedas appeared in the first millennium of the Kalpa called Brahma Kalpa.
The seventh Manu, Vaivasvata, reigns over us now. The future 8th Manu is Savarani with the 8th Indra being Bali according to the promise made to Bali by Vishnu as Vamana, the Dwarf.
Six Kalpas are gone now, meaning 25.92 billion years. "Our earth was formed 4.54 billion years ago and life appeared on its surface within one billion years."--Wikipedia.
The name of next kalpa is Padma Kalpa because the lotus flower grew out of the navel reservoir of water of Bhagavan Vishnu. The first millennium of the second half goes by the name Sveta Varaha Kalpa, because the Lord incarnated as a White Hog or Boar, lifting the earth from the Rasatala, one of the netherworlds; Hiranyaksa hid the earth in the netherworld. He is now in the second half of his life and the duration of the two halves of life of Brahma (311.04 trillion years) is less than one nimesa (less than one second) for the beginningless Lord, the Soul of the Universe (Vishnu).
Time resides in Vishnu and thus He is not under its sway.
When Brahma goes to sleep in the (Brahma's) night, all planetary systems below his abode, Brahmaloka, are inundated with water. He dreams about Maha Vishnu who directs Brahma to rejuvenate the universe again.
A Nimesha of Krishna (blinking of eye of the duration of 0.4 seconds) is equal to a lifetime of Brahma (311.04 trillion years).
Now back to temple. Within about 8 minutes, I was in the inner sanctum with my wife leading me. Every time, I see Him in His resplendent glory in this temple, I feel I am in the very presence of the Lord.
The flagpole: Credit Himalayan Academy
Before you present yourself to the Lord of the Hills, you leave your ego at the Sacrificial platform (Balipidam) and flagpole (or Dvaja-stambha = துவசத்தம்பம் = கொடிமரம் = ध्वज स्तम्भ = Flagpole). Flagpole is erected in the sight of the Lord. According to some the bottom third of the flagpole is Siva, the middle Brahma and the top Vishnu and other configurations are also mentioned. Since it is made of a metal shell around a wooden pole and the tallest structure in its vicinity, it is also a lightning arrester. It is a connector between the earth and the heavens and between man and God. It also stands for spine and Kundalini Chakras. The two ropes on the flagpole indicate the Pingala (right; sun) and Ida (left; moon) Nadis of Kundalini Yoga. Others say the square at the base is Brahma; above that is the eight-angled platform of Vishnu; the tall structure above this is the Rudra (Siva) portion of the pole. As you notice different sects have different perspectives and interpretations. The last one is also the configuration of Lingam.
The temple layout exemplifies the human body: The Inner Sanctum Sanctorum is the head; the great hall is the body; the tower represents the feet; the flagpole is lingam.
On the Sacrificial Platform, we sacrifice all our animal qualities: Ego, anger, hatred, jealousy etc. Once this divesture is made and grace descends on us, we become the Pure soul or Atma. The conquered beings (We the people) surrender at His feet. In Hindu mythology, the defeated demons become the vehicle for the conquering deity. Devi (Durga) rides on the lion who was the defeated demon Mahisasuran.
The soul in its zoomorphic form (Pasu = Spiritually unenlightened individual; Bovine.) stands, sits, concentrates and meditates on the deity right before the Shrine of the deity. That is why the priests ask you not to walk between the zoomorphic soul (example rat, bull, and peacock of Ganesa, Linga, and Skanda shrines) and the shrines of the respective deities. Zoomorphic soul is the Vahana (vehicle) and Mulasthanam is the shrine. It is said that energies emanate from the shrine. The energy on the right is Pingala and the left Ida. To obtain their benefits, the men stand on the right side of the shrine and the women on the left side.
Note: Nandi or the Bull is the theriomorphic form of Siva.
Pati-Pasu-Pāsa Triad: Siva-soul-bondage. Saivites say the flagpole represents Pati (Siva); the flag, Pasu (the impure bound soul, we the people); and Pāsa, the ropes of bondage. Thirty-three joints in the flagpole are the connections of 33 spinal vertebrae containing the Susumna or the spinal cord with Susumna, Pingala and Ida Nadis (Channels). Many temples have the flagpole and sacrificial platform inside in line with the Inner Sanctum.
Just be aware your ego is thin, wobbly and flimsy, while His EGO is thick, stable and sturdy. That being the case, it is better that we leave our ego at the door. Our ego is no match for the Universal EGO of the Lord. As we are the amsa or fragment of the Lord, our ego is a fragment of HIS EGO. To drive home this point, the devotees break the coconut of our ego into two halves and surrender the shattered ego to the Lord.
According to Dr. Sabharathnam, an expert in the Saiva Agamas, “The etymological meaning of dhvaja (flag) is that which cuts asunder the soul’s triple bonds (anava, karma and maya), raises the soul to the highest level of perfection and brings about oneness with Siva.”
The Lord of the Hills was in full divine regalia with his shining silver Kavachas (கவசம் = कवच = armor plates), brilliant eye-catching Namam, and the flowers, mostly white. His face reflected His inner peace, tranquility, self-assuredness and His willingness to stoop to our level to confer Grace. We were right in the Sanctum Sanctorum. I cupped my hands over the flame of the lighted lamp sitting on a stool and applied it to my eyes. By this time, my wife fell behind me, lingering in the sanctum to have a good and long look-see against the persistent verbal goading from the lady volunteers to move. I must have been in there in the Sanctum for about 8 seconds in all: Three seconds out of 8 seconds to walk up to the Lord, 2 seconds before him and 3 seconds to exit the sanctum. How much can you take in two seconds, face to feet or feet to face? In another 5 minutes, we received the sacred water, the Sadari, the Prasadam of Laddu.... The beauty about this temple is that the satellite shrines surround the main shrine of Balaji. The shrines of Sri and Bhu are behind the main central shrine.
I recently visited Tirupati where in the sanctum a passel of devotees physically pushed me into the sanctum and the young bouncers employed by the temple pushed me out unceremoniously. If the bouncers do it outside the temple premises, they could be arrested for assault and battery. If they do not do the pushing, the recalcitrant devotees will never leave the sanctum. I suggest they install Moving Platforms as in the Airports so there is no need for shoving people in and out. The devotees are not accommodating and disciplined enough even for that solution. While we were waiting in the queue patiently near the sanctum, we were suddenly held up by the arrival of a VIP and his coterie, some with assault rifles. They enter the temple by the Mahadvaram, an entry gate for the powerful, the privileged and the Super-Rich. The uniformed men with rifles stayed behind. The VIP and his family took their time to linger in the sanctum absorbing all the grace of the Lord of the Hills without the indignity of being molested or pushed around by the volunteers or the paid bouncers. I am pretty sure that the VIPs performed special Arati to the Lord of the Hills. I have a question. These VIPs enter into the sanctum at a moment's notice to the Temple authorities. Would they gain entry into Paramapadam or Vaikuntam at a moment's notice? I think not. The doors at the heaven would be shut.
Ārati = ஆரத்தி āratti = Waving the lighted camphor or oil-fed flame in an elliptical circle before the deity, the apogee of the flame at the level of the eyes of the deity and the perigee as low as possible.
True Srivaishnavites of impeccable credentials go to Paramapadam or Vaikuntam to join Sri Krishna, His consorts, and Nityasuris. I would like to know how many of these VIPS who gained preferential instant entry into the Sanctum in Tirupati while other souls wait on line for hours, go to Vaikuntam upon their death. I would say percentage-wise, it must be only a few. These VIPs, by virtue of what they do, how they do and how they got there in the first place, would not gain entry into Vaikuntam. They can impress man but not God. Chitragupta, the chronicler of deeds of all people including VIPs would say to the VIPs,”You did fool people to gain fast entry into Tirupati’s Sanctum Sanctorum. I am looking at your mile-long rap sheet; there is no way you are entering Paramapadam.”
July 5, 2017 goo.gl/Z2pUqt
The Queue System sees changes in Tirupati.
The earlier system of ‘stop-hold-allow’ had led to a crunchy situation in the inner portals of the ‘Sampangi Prakaram’ and also in the queues.
The number of lines from ‘Mahadwaram’(main entrance) is now two and not four.
While the first line goes round the Ranganayakula mandapam, the other runs alongside the Dwajastambham. Both the lines merge at ‘Vendi Vakili’.
Superintending Engineer Ramachandra Reddy told The Hindu that the changes were made after exploring several options for about two months.
Ramp height reduced
“Now, about 80,000 pilgrims can have darshan every day. The height of the wooden ramps, on which the pilgrims have to walk from ‘Vendi Vakili’, has been reduced and redesigned for easy movement of pilgrims.
March 12, 2014: Since I wrote this piece in January 2012, some good souls got the sense to have a better Queue system. This is the report.
Realizing the importance of the holy Hindu temple located on Tirumala hills near Tirupati town of Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh state in India, and also keeping the safety and comfort of half-a-million people visiting the temple daily an effective queue system is suggested in the present study available at "source" above. The salient points of the new queue system are - 1) to create separate entry and exit gates to the temple, 2) maintenance of single person queue throughout and 3) introduction of steps at the nearest location of the God where the persons will have darshan of the Lord Venkateswara.
July 9, 2014: Another Update. thehindu.com
All devotees visiting Tirumala can have darshan of Sri Venkateswara Swamy after a two-hour wait in the queue line within one month if the plans formulated by the Endowments Minister Pydikondala Manikyala Rao worked out.
A software was being deployed in Tirumala to allot a specific time of darshan to each devotee and accordingly the devotee would have to join the queue line at a stipulated point about two hours in advance, the Minister told newsmen after offering prayers in the ancient Sri Lakshmi Venkateswara Swamy temple at Devunikadapa.
A three-tier system was being introduced in Tirumala and he examined its efficacy, Mr. Manikyala Rao said. The system would be convenient to the devotees as they would clearly know the time when they have to join the queue line. Rather than endlessly wait in the queue, the devotees could utilise the time to visit other temples and come to have darshan within two hours of joining the queue line, he added.
The Endowments Minister announced constitution of a committee headed by a retired High Court Judge and submit a report on encroachment of nearly 28,000 acres of endowment lands in the State. Temple properties and lands were under encroachment and several cases were pending in courts and tribunals, Mr. Manikayala Rao said. The Government would take appropriate action on receiving the committee's recommendations, he added.
I came back to the front of the main hall to sit on a chair. The chairs were occupied by young men with sturdy legs, straight backs, determined chins and roly-poly butterball butts, which they were resting on chairs meant for age-worn people like me. I was standing on my wobbly legs by the chairs for about 15 minutes. No one would stir or stand to offer me (with grey hair and other signs of old age) a seat so I can rest my old weary bones. The chairs are meant for the infirm and the old. There should be a sign stating that the old and the infirm have priority seating as posted in New York City buses. It just simply does not occur to them that the chairs are meant for the old and disabled people. If he meets one who signs his paycheck, at once his rump rises and he greets him with an obsequious body language with a servile tone in his voice. But he never gives the seat for an old man. One young buck got out of the chair, as soon as his spouse and child showed up. Before an agile youth with troglodytic tendencies could steal the seat, I hustled to the chair. That was the time I engaged in the pleasant pastime of watching people. In between, I stole a glance of the Lord of the Hills. I must admit that the devotees were very disciplined and appeared devout. The ladies in Saris glided by unobtrusively with ease and grace. The young mothers were toting the tots, as they were doing it from the dawn of human civilization. They were all sitting in undefined family clusters. The children behaved and sat with legs in W position, the men and women sat cross-legged, some men sat in lotus position and some with the knees up and supported by hands. Some men did Shastanga Namaskarams; ladies did the truncated form (Panchanga Namaskaram) of the same, applying the toes, the knees and the forehead to the floor. An elderly but sprightly gentleman in his octogenarian look and stoop sauntered before me catching my eyes with the look and familiarity of brothers in arms. The unflappable priests were going from here to there with lighted lamps, fruit bags etc, dodging the errant and wayward devotees, who sometimes literally stood in the path of the priest in the perimeter of the hall and buttonholed them to take blessings from the lamp flame.
Shastanga Namaskarams = Feet, hands, knees, chest, head, eyes, mind (Manas), and word (Vac).
Prostration with eight parts of the body.
Panchanga Namaskaram = Toes, knees and forehead to the floor (Five body parts) in worshipful homage to the Lord.
My wife took up on the invitation of the Sanctum Volunteers that the devotees are welcome for another round of Dharsan by joining again the tail end of the Dharsan queue. She could not get enough of the Lord of the Hills.
This year, the temple did not serve the rice Parasada free of charge: Tamarind Rice, Yogurt Rice.... but gave about 50 to 100 Gms of free delectable Laddu in the cellophane packets in the Sadari (சடாரி) line. With our economy on crutches, I assume the temple authorities decided they would dispense with free Prasada of rice. They decided to offer catered food for a price inside the tent. That was really a good idea. The temple has many projects in the offing and needs every penny towards that goal.
I don't know whether the catered food came from a professional kitchen, private homes or individuals. The devotees could afford to buy the fare. Whenever I went to the temple on Saturdays, the Prasada of hot sweet Pongal glistening with clarified butter was out of this world, so delicious I sometimes partook my wife's portion. I resisted the temptation to go for a second round because I might be discovered by the dispensing priest. As a student, I used to go to Siva-Vishnu temple in T'Nagar, Madras three blocks from my house once in a while to offer prayer and receive delectable Prasada of Tamarind rice and Sundal (சுண்டல் cuṇṭal = boiled and spiced pulse).
Now the bad news. We joined others in the reception tent. The ladies at the chow table eagerly and vociferously led us to the food stall coupon counter. It is not like the 'Fly now and Pay Later." It is Buy now and Eat later. It is a good idea anyway. I bet some devotees would hurry to catch the bus and forget to pay for the food. It did not occur to me that this overly officious invitation is a disappointment in the making. The sample fares were laid bare on the table in the foam containers for the patrons to see. The Tamarind Rice caught my fancy. I always loved Tamarind Rice (புளியோதரை puḷi-y-ōtarai), that was made properly. We bought three items: Coffee, Tamarind Rice and Yogurt Rice for $1, $2, and $2 in all. The coffee was super-supreme. I loved it. A Tamil knows his coffee and rice preparations. I know the joke that is coming: You forgot to mention Iddli and Masala Dosai. I noticed many times people from the North ask me where I am from. I say, "Chennai." Immediately out comes the quip, "I love your Iddli and Sambar, Vada, Masala Dosa." The first thought that comes to them on meeting a Madarasi or Chennaite is Iddli. Iddli is the synonym for a Chennaite. I took one spoonful of the Tamarind rice, hoping it will titillate my taste buds. My taste buds felt violated because the tamarind Rice was a crude mixture of raw uncooked tamarind sauce without any necessary Vaishnava-approved condiments, cooked but dry rice and a few half cashew nuts. I took the Tamarind rice home and did my best to make it edible. I just simply could not throw away the Prasadam. I took a spoonful of Yogurt rice; it was passable. At once it occurred to me that the fare was deftly but hastily prepared to violate the taste buds by a nincompoop, a professional or non-professional caterer (?) who had no regard for its quality, taste and the devotees, esp. when it is served in the name of the Lord of the Hills. He did not invest his pride in his product. He was not eating it anyway. So what does it matter if he serves bad food as Prasada (Sacrament) in the temple premises? To serve that kind of abysmally inferior fare in a temple is regrettable indeed. Employ a food taster before you sell them. Keep the quality high and hygienic at a reasonable price.
अन्नम् ब्रह्म - "annam brahma" means "Food is Brahman (God)".
Do not humiliate or despise food. Life is food. Body is eater of food.
Taittiriya Upanishad. III.7.1 & III.8.1
In accordance with Veda, the Tantra holds food to be sacred and knowing that food is Brahman ordains the offering of it to Mahadevi. --Hymn to Kalikapuradi -Stotra.
The sweet Prasada prepared by the Balaji temple priests and given to devotees is consistently good and hygienic. It is a common occurrence on Saturdays that some devotees bring food from their own kitchen to the temple as part of Vrata (விரதம் = व्रत = vow) and distribute them to other devotees as they come down to the basement. Their quality and hygiene are suspect and so the outside food should never be allowed. Having eaten them, I can attest to their inferior or variable quality. I once ate a mini-Vadai (சின்னவடை;
Cake offered to manes at the end of a Šrāddham)looking like mini-donut without the glaze strung on a rope like a garland. It was not edible at all. I have seen food left on the table without any attendant present. Any diarrheal disorder resulting from such food would be an unwelcome outcome. I came down with diarrhea after having eaten unhygienic food from outside sources in another temple. In another temple, I saw a squadron of flies landing on food and taking off under the watchful eyes of a human squadron leader assigned to cook, cater, supervise and in this instance exercise nonchalant attitude to the flies because they don't eat much anyway to cause a loss. Yet again in the same temple, we received Prasada of broken cashews with white worms in the nooks and crannies. No one will die eating these worms. I know the protein content of the cashews is enhanced by the dead or wriggling worms. That is not the reason why a Prasada (பிரசாதம் piracātam = Prasāda = प्रसाद) is dispensed in the temples. I have a suggestion. If you want to give Prasada in the sanctum after Arti, I recommend giving pre-packaged raisins. The raisins, acceptable to me, sometimes are gritty between the teeth because of invariable contamination with fine particles of sand. I know of a temple that hands out manufacturer-packaged small packets of raisins. That looks appealing. Most of the nuts in a representative random sample in my experience are infested with worms, which remain inside with no apparent telltale worm holes. I open all the nuts and look at the halves, a few of which have the worms.
The outside food is not made of good but cheap ingredients as a nominal accompaniment to the vow. The temple does not have the time and expertise to control quality and guarantee hygiene and safety of the distributed outside food in its premises.
Among informed Indians, there is a compulsion about knowing who made the food, who serves the food, what food is served, what establishment sells the food etc. In my medical school days, I saw many "Brahmana hotels" serving food. Some of us would not go to any hotel to eat but only to clean eateries. You have seen the waiters and servers carrying 4 Lottas (லோட்டா lōṭṭā , n. 1.a small metal pot, generally of brass.) in each hand with the fingers dipping into the water. I have seen errand boys bringing coffee from the coffee shop to his boss in another location. On the way, the boy stops and sips the coffee before the boss has the after-sip (of the coffee).
While I was relishing the unrelishable, I heard a gentleman say, "They (meaning the Temple authorities) have organized this event very well." Obviously, this must be his first time. That is a well-deserved encomium showered on the temple officials, the priests, the volunteers, the bus drivers and the cleaning crew. I pray Balaji continues to bless them in their endeavor.
Jan 1, 2011: Happy New Year to one and all. The grace of Lakshmi Narayana be upon you. This year, the New Year Celebrations in the Balaji Temple went very well. The devotees came in droves, bunches, packs and lone hands. There were clouds hiding the sun and mercifully no rains. The ambient temperature in high 40s and low 50s with no dreaded wind chill factor was almost balmy to encourage the young devotees come in short sleeves. Some mature women and men (including me) on pension, Social Security or on a visit from India came in wearing caps, long sleeves, handy head scarves, and heavy outerwear with pockets bulging with gloves just in case the weather turned inclement, the temperature plunged and the wind turned frigid. The heavy accouterments gave them a ten degree stoop so much so they wore reverence in every ponderous step they took. Some had devotion, reverence, anticipation and age etched on their faces, adorned with horizontal Saivite white tri-stripes right along the forehead creases, eye-catching red Kumkums, ascending Namams.... Some wear these sectarian marks over the trunk and upper limbs; that gives them an air of divinity, as they invoke god with Mantras, Yantras, Pranapratishtha, Mudras and Nyasa.
Some wore Saris in typical Iyengar style. Every time I see a Sari-clad women in America, my imagination runs amuck trying to figure out the place of origin, the caste and other particulars of the gracious wearer. Every style is distinct and full of grace; it is a wonder what they can do with a nine yard miracle of a sari. The women from different castes, the north, the south, the east, the west and every place and state in between have their own way of wrapping the sari in myriad styles so much so it brings out every time the unconscious, unintended, irrepressible spontaneous grace to the wearer, be she a jaunty tribal or a coquettish Bollywood star. There is no way you can wrap this thing wrong in the hands of an Indian women. Even the white women wearing Sari and Bindi (பொட்டு) suddenly undergoes an enhanced gracious transformation. Of course, the pale hands need the expertise of trained, delicate and dexterous South Asian hands to pleat, tuck, wrap and arrange that marvelous whole nine yards of a Sari with immaculate precision so as to enhance the sinuous lines.
The arrangements in the temple complex was superb. The officials, the priests and the volunteers made it all happen. That is the grace of the Lord of the Hill, who stands in the main shrine with irrepressible mirth, ready, willing and going out of his way to confer His blessings.
DHANURMASA PUJA 5:30AM.
SARVA DEVATA HOMAM 6:00AM.
ABHISHEKAM TO ALL DEITIES 7:30AM.
DEVOTEES WILL BE ALLOWED TO ENTER THE MUKHAMANTAPAM TO GET SAMEEPA DARSANAM OF SRI VENKATESWARA, AFTER THE ABHISHEKAM.
Let me point out an episode from Kena Upanishad. Things happen because Brahman was behind gods and earthlings pulling strings. The gods with little 'g' were gloating and crowing over their victory, and the defeat of the Asuras, forgetting the essential fact that Brahman was behind it. They could not have done it without his invisible participation. Dr. Radhakrishnan points out that the Vedic gods (Indra, Agni, Vāyu...) were supplanted by Brahman, who knew the bravado and conceit of the Vedic gods. Brahman disguised as a Spirit (यक्षम् = Yaksham) and appeared before the Vedic gods to strip them of their conceit, who could not figure out who this Yaksham was. Agni, upon prodding, went to The Spirit and introduced himself as to his identity and challenged the Yaksham.
Agni (god of fire): Who are you? I am Agni, Jāta-vedas.
Jāta-vedas = owner or possessor of all that are born or created.
Yaksham: Greetings. What are your special powers?
Agni: I can burn everything in my path on this earth.
Yaksham: Here is the blade of grass; burn it.
Agni rushed headlong with a million tongues of fire but could not burn it. In defeat, he retreated and went back to his colleagues saying, "I don't know who That is."
Vāyu, the god of wind came in front of the Spirit.
Yaksham: What power is there in thee?
Vāyu: I can blow anything on this earth.
Yaksham: Here is a blade of grass. Go blow it.
Vāyu went in circles, gathered up dust in swirls, storms and funnels and rushed at great speed, but could not blow the blade of grass and retreated back to the fellow gods. Indra being the chief of gods went towards Brahman to take a measure of the Spirit but the Yaksham disappeared before he could confront It. By chance, Umā the daughter of Himavat happened to be in the neighborhood. Indra queried her about this strange phenomenon. Umā being the embodiment of wisdom (knowledge with Grace) identified the Yaksham as Brahman. It is worthwhile to remember that Umā is the sister of Parvati, the Consort of Siva. Here is the clue that Siva and Vishnu are coming into their own, supplant the Vedic elemental gods and assume the supremacy of the universe, according to the West.
Umā: That Yaksham is the Brahman; you bask in His victory and glory. (The victory and glory are His; the gods (and men) gloat and crow over His victory, as if it is theirs.)
Indra surpasses all elemental gods: Agni, Vayu.... Indra alone (and not the lesser gods) knew the Yaksham was Brahman, with the help of Umā. Siva and Vishnu surpass all gods. Brahman or Parabrahman is the incorporeal Supreme Brahman without attributes. He is pure consciousness without a body. Vishnu and Siva are Sabda-Brahmans with attributes like body, qualities....They are also known as Isvara. The entity Vishnu-Siva (Harihara) as seen in the montage is the fusion of two entities in one body. This is called in medical terms non-identical Chimera (two genetic cell lines in one body) with two colors, one on either side of the body. This is a scientific fact. http://www.katewerk.com/chimera.html
HariHara in sectarian terms is the coming together of Sri Saiva and SriVaishnava traditions in Hindu religion. Harihara Putra is the product of the merger of these two great sects.
The West in their infinite analytical wisdom says that when Vishnu and Siva came into their own, the Vedic elemental gods were superseded and supplanted by them (Vishnu and Siva), so much so they incorporate the elemental gods in themselves as a fragment (amsa) of their infinitely humongous Selves.
The devotees landed at the humongous Sanofi-Aventis parking lot adjacent to the Temple. A caravan of buses-I counted five of them- carried the devotees to and from the temple. The first indication of auspiciousness was seen at the spontaneous reciprocal greetings of Happy New Year by the bus drivers and the devotees, who wore a million bright smiles on their faces,-which compensated for the sunless day- though the drivers were working on the New Year instead of spending time with family and friends. The West always called us Indians the dour people. Today, I saw no sign of it. Judging by the registration plates on the cars, the devotees came from far and wide. The tri-state area had a dominant say in its attendance. New Jersey, home of Little India claimed its first and foremost place.
The ride was under five minutes. I saw one humongous tarpaulin tent and a small adjacent sister tent to the left of the temple. The devotees as if drawn by a suction machine or the magnetism of the Lord of the Hills hurried their steps into the big tent. There were freestanding coat racks. The earthen floor outside the temple building and inside the tents was carpeted with bright leaf-green artificial turf to protect the bare or the socked feet of devotees and the cold marble floors of the temple from goo, grime and dirt. This was a good idea. The devotees, after they shed their shoes and heavy outer garments, entered the basement of the temple, climbed up the staircase and entered the main hall. It was a serpentine ascent to the main hall. The queue starts in the basement. The devotees bought fruits for Archana. Before the main event (Dharsan of Lord of the Hills), the devotees made devotional rounds on all smaller satellite shrines and joined the queue to obtain Dharsan (to see and to be seen).
Thank God, the officials dispensed with coconuts. My recommendation is to give up coconuts for good. Breaking them is a big hassle. They don't break the way you want: two nice hemispheres with white endosperm or meat--two halves of hairy brown shells, one with a tuft (குடுமி). Of course, the usual Caribbean coconuts sold in the temples were given a slipshod global shave exposing the three wink-not open eyes starring at you without the tuft. Some wholesale merchants have machine-carved a groove in the coconut's equator, so a symmetric even breaking is promised but not guaranteed. What is a coconut without a tuft? Not a ceremonial coconut. Let me tell you what the tuft means. It is not just coconut fiber. It stands for the tuft of hair on the head. It means many things to many sects. You have seen Brahmanas, Hare Krishnas and others wear tufts on their heads sitting exactly over the posterior fontanel area. The tuft is symbolic of knowledge (Jnana); the sacred triple-thread (yajñōpavīta = பூணூல்) worn over the shoulder is Vedanta (Vedas) in one such tradition. In Saiva tradition, hair-tuft is the corporeal equivalent of Tirodhana or Veiling Power of Siva, wherein Siva conceals Divine Knowledge and Grace until the soul sheds its impurities (Mala = மலம்). Lokadharmini (உலோகதருமினி) is a mode of initiation in which the hair tuft is left in place for the worldly minded Siva disciple. Sivadarmini (சிவதருமினி) is a mode of initiation wherein the tuft is removed indicating acquisition of spiritual knowledge. This does not mean all those souls sporting bald pates (fashion statement) on New York City streets are spiritually accomplished Sadhakas and Siddhas (சாதகர், சித்தர் = साधक, सिड्ध ). The slanted tuft with a floppy tail prevents penetration of Divine Light into the worldly aspirant--Lokadharmini. Removal of the tuft (as in a pate) allows spiritual knowledge to descend into the soul of the aspirant.
The area of the tuft on the head corresponds to Bindu center inside the head. For more details go to Tuft.
Imagine the unpleasant surprise as the coconut breaks with a discharge of foul-smelling heavy slurry. Some devotees in their forgetfulness present a whole coconut to the officiating priest, who sends the devotee back to the coconut breaking area. The whole coconut represents your ego. Breaking it means you are breaking your ego before your god. God's Ego is Supreme; Supreme does it remain eternally; temple is not the place for two egos to come head to head. You know who wins in this jostling of the egos. So much for the coconuts.
Once you enter the hall of shrines, you see Sri Venkatesvara occupies the biggest and the most central shrine. You wind your way to the inner sanctum and obtain Dharsan. You see him in His full resplendent glory all decked out in scintillating jewels, armors, weapons, flowers, clothes. His effulgent face, gracious feet and everything in between are feast to the eyes. These external markers are indicative of his auspicious qualities: Jnana1 (Knowledge), Sakti2 (Absolute Power), Bala3 (strength), Tejas4 (splendor), Virya5 (Energy), Aisvarya6 (sovereignty, opulence), Saulabhya7 (Easy Accessibility), Sausilya8 (Gracious Condescension), Vatsalya9 (parental love), Krpa10 (Compassion), Audarya11 ( Generosity), and Bandhuttva12 (Friendship). No wonder, He is a happy God and keeps everyone happy. A contrarian comes along (not in the temple; an outsider) and says, "What do you mean? Look at the misery, the war, the famine.... What is He doing standing there and letting all these things happen under His watch? God is NOT great." I am reminded of Christopher Hitchens, the unapologetic, intelligent, articulate atheist of our times. Go to Wikipedia and enter his name in the box and see him pop up on the screen. It is our Karma that keeps us in misery and bondage. Vishnu is endowed with such good qualities so that we may emulate him, thus accumulate good Karma, eventually become Karma-free (Good Karma and bad karma must become Null Karma for salvation.) and obtain Moksa. In Hindu religion, even atheists get liberation, once he or she espouses honesty, integrity, kindness, compassion, charity (all Sattvic qualities) to fellow beings. Sattva (सत्त्व = சத்துவம்) is God and God is Sattva. The Sattvic qualities become the god of the good atheist, whether he acknowledges it or not. An undeclared, undocumented or self-professed atheist of Sattvic nature has better chances of getting liberation than a Tamasic self-described devotee.
The devotees tumbled down like falling trees on the floor before Sri Venkatesvara, their whole being biting the dust from under the feet of fellow devotees. That is a kind of Atma Samarpanam, the dedication of the soul (the body, the soul, and the mind). This is humility in its stark naked form. You cannot get to be any more of a humbler tumbler. It is a public demonstration of abrogation of hubris and haughtiness in plain view of other devotees and the Lord. In Srivaishnava tradition, serving the devotee obtains more merit and is of greater value than serving the Lord of the Hill Himself. This is where service before self becomes the Mantra. The devotee-servitor is Adiyen of the Lord (அடியேன் = humble slave, servant; We the people); serving the devotee-servitor makes you the servitor of the servitor (அடியேனுக்கும் அடியேன்). Thus, all those volunteers are the servitors of the servitors and are bound to go to heaven (பரமபதம், வைகுண்டம்) upon severance and departure from the body (Videha Mukti = विदेह मुक्ति). SriVaishnavites do not believe in Saivite Jivan Mukti, that is liberation (Moksa) while alive with a body--Corporeal Liberation. The deserving Saivites once they attain Jivan Mukti continue to live so as to bring the residual Karma to a Null Entity; once Karma comes to a zero sum, they can choose when and where they depart from the body. This is like an Early Admission of a High Schooler to an Ivy League college, while he or she has not completed the studies yet, (has not) passed the exams and (has not) graduated from High School. Students with highest grades only can obtain early admission. So is the case with Jivan Muktas.
The men do the prostration with eight limbs biting the dust: the head, chest, body, hands, knees, feet, mind and speech. You have to submit and sacrifice these eight entities (which make man) to the Will of God.
The ladies do it in a prone, elegant, graceful and compact way: The toes, the knees, the head and the opposing palms held close to the head come in to contact with the floor. It appears the female of the species are long on devotion and short on ego. That is why they with the short ego are not long on prostration (unauthorized, unofficial, possibly inaccurate tidbit).
After you exit the inner sanctum you have to fall in to another queue to receive the Holy Water, Sadari, and Prasada of raisins. (Thank god, they served raisins and not the broken cashew nuts which are invariably infested with little white worms. All nuts are susceptible to worm infestation. Before you eat the nuts, look for the telltale boreholes usually at the poles of the nuts.) The devotees who presented the fruits for Archana pick them up here. Don't expect your own fruits come back to you. After this pleasant gracious encounter with Nedumal (நெடுமால் = Vishnu), I saw the devotees go down the steps to the cafeteria to receive a free prasada of rice and yogurt with pickle, Tamarind rice and Kesari. The fare was good. The long exit led to the coat racks. The sister tent was the waiting area for boarding the bus back to the parking lot.
நெடுமால் = நெடு + மால் = Long or Tall + Great Man (God) = Vishnu. Mal also means wind, mountain, plenty, cloud, palace, illusion, blackness.... He has all the elements of Nature (Achit) in Him; He is the Lord of the Hills; He is plenitude; He is of the color of the dark nimbus clouds; His shrine is the palace; He casts Maya or illusion on ignoramuses; He is Black like collyrium (colly = black, soot).
After the extraordinary Dharsan and rounds of other deities, I sat on a chair. If I sit on the floor, I need a crane to lift me up or a Bobcat (Bobcat utility vehicle) to scoop me up. My body is fading faster than my brain. I know it is the old age: the joints creak; the bones hurt; the muscles do not obey the cortical commands; the ears go silent; the eyes go blurry; the hair goes thin and grey, if any are left; there is a disconnect between brain and speech and all other functions; my mind proposes..., my body disposes; my body wants, my chemistry defies; memory fades; the metabolism goes wacky; the prostate grows; the brain shrinks; Lichen, fungi, tags... grow on the skin; nails become brittle and grey; dehydrating skin changes colors faster than a discarded banana peel; the head goes nodding as I watch TV; TV dramas and the likes with knotty plots are too complicated to follow; Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry-fame), Governor Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Van Diesel, Jason Statham, Matt Damon... are easier to follow; animals on TV draw more attention than people; even the city sirens both the wailing kind and the seductive kind go unheard and unnoticed; your family wonders and worries about your Alzheimer-like symptoms....
A lady professor, volunteer and fellow devotee took a break and sat by my side on another chair. Her youthfulness and mental sharpness were telling. We had a nice illuminating conversation about deities in Bhoga, Yoga and Ugra forms, Antahkarana....
July 25 2009: 10th ANNUAL INDIAN-AMERICAN FESTIVAL as held on July 25th & 26th 2009 at Garden State Exhibit Center Somerset NJ 08873 USA and organized by The Hindu Temple and Cultural Society of USA, Inc. 780 Old Farm Road, Bridgewater NJ 08807. The admission to the events was free. The temple staff brought out a snazzy All Color Festival Souvenir given away free to the attendees.
The Festival Logo, the temple staff declared, is 'United We Stand' with Indian and American flags.
This was a real big event for the organizers, the temple and the community. It was held in a humongous hall with a ton of vendors participating in the festival. There were stalls for arts and crafts, jewelry, clothes, dress, insurance.... There was one stall selling freshly pressed and filtered sugarcane juice. Behind the entertainment area was the food court. The performance stage was huge with lighting and sound systems.
The stage performance kickoff started with National Anthems (US and Indian). At one point there was a presentation of local elected officials, office holders and aspirants on the stage. Henal Shaw and Matthew Young from Bridgewater High School received HTCS Bridgewater Educational Scholarship 2009 awards. The entertainment was by far the best geared up for the occasion. Tots just out of diapers staged their dance performance to the glee and glow of parents and audience. It was all dance, dance and dance by tots, teens and in-betweens. In the past years, the dancers bravely and patiently danced on the stage in the temple grounds with the sun beating down on them and beads of perspiration mixed with mascara running down their tender faces. The members of the audience tried to dodge the sun by shifting from one chair to the next under the tent. Now it is all changed. It was AC through and through. The sun decided to stay out.
Balaji temple Logos.
The stage and the performers were adroitly managed by the emcees. The judges were assiduous in watching and scoring the performance. There was a good mix of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Bhangra, Rajasthani, Hindi and Garba performed by individuals and groups. The get-up-and-go of the participants was palpable. The quality of performances was extraordinary and the credit goes to the organizers, the Dance Schools and choreographers. Bharatanatyam dominated and claimed its preeminent place on the stage. The stories from timeless Indian mythology were a delight to watch as they unfolded before your eyes. The dance schools, teachers and the performers seem to have a fascination in portraying Lord Krishna in their presentations. His presence is easily recognized by His perennial youth, hairdo and flute.
The audience seemed to have enjoyed the presentations, remaining very disciplined and appreciative. Their appreciation remained muted sometimes when it came to hand clapping and encouragement of tots, teens and in-betweens. There were very little Ahs and Oohs and yet the small fry deserved them. We ( me included) are to a certain extent dour and sour dough not willing to rise to utter exclamations. My eyeball estimate was that there were about a thousand or more in the audience and the shopping stalls. As the day went by, the crowd was waxing. The ladies clustered around jewelry and clothing stalls. I saw a few clusters of whites in the front and right watching the performance. There was of course a constant influx and efflux of patrons. The parking was free. There were acres of cars parked all over the grounds in the parking lots.
There was a play area for the children. I didn't see any clowns walking on stilts. It was a welcome pleasant evening at the festival.
The Temple has received approval for construction of The Cultural Center which will sit on 20,500 sq.ft and have state of the art Theater/Auditorium with 470 to 643 seats, a mechanical platform, green rooms, sound systems, lighting, class rooms, library, kitchen, dining room and the whole nine yards.
The main feature is the Temple expansion towards the flagpole, besides the priest housing, and direct entrance from and exit to Route 202/206.
Jan 1, 2007: The New Year Celebration started with the invocation of all deities including the principal and central Deity Lord Venkatesvara for the welfare of the people of the world. The devotees of South Asian Origin, some non-Asian spouses, and other celebrants came by the busloads. The administration of the Temple arranged a 5-minute short bus trip for the devotees from the Sanofi-Aventis parking lot adjacent to the Temple. The magnetic Lord Venkatesvara, the adjacent main Highway, the convenient humongous rented Sanofi-Aventis parking lots, convenient bus trips, the genial nature of the priests, volunteers, administration, and the in-house eatery contributed to the mega-turnout of swelling throngs of devotees. The constant drizzle seemed to have had no effect on the turnout, which was actually greater than previous years. The wait in line was sweet and short (10-20 minutes). The highlight of the day was the privilege of receiving Dharsan of Lord Venkatesvara in the Sanctum Sanctorum. This was no ordinary Dharsan. Lord Venkatesvara was an exhilarating, spine-tingling, awe-inspiring, benignant and supremely satisfied divine Being dispensing grace to His devotees. The accouterments, the floral arrangements, the wonderful Maalas, the weapons, the discus, the conch and the rest vied with each other to look their best; they all sparkled only because He was wearing them. The Lord made the priests look good at what they do. That Face, that Supreme Face shone like a million suns with self-assured radiance and a distinct irrepressible gracious smile because of ever-present Sri abiding on His chest. There were many Archana Sponsors for Lord Venkatesvara and other deities. The line snaked from the basement of the temple to the first floor like coils of Adisesha and ended up at the Sanctum Sanctorum. It looked like the Empyreal Highway to Heaven (Vaikuntham, Paramapatham-- வைகுந்தம்). The young, the old, the infirm, men and women on crutches and wheelchairs, and moms with babes in arms came into the sanctum with devotion etched on their faces. Many, young and old, scraped the dust off the sill of the doorway to the Sanctum and applied it to the forehead as a mark of humility, respect and devotion. The dust of the devotees' feet is sacred in Vaishnava tradition. Of course the devotees performed stick-like eight-limb prostration (Ashta-Anga-namaskaram) that made them look that much taller from the toes to fingertips. Humility expressed by prostration makes the devotees look taller than while standing. Taller did they look before the Divine EGO (AHAM), when their ego was down on the floor in eight-limb prostration. The children even without prompting from parents performed Sashtanga Namaskaram before the Lord. After Dharsan, the never-ending 70-people long Sesha-serpentine queue slithered to the tables of priests and volunteers who dispensed Tirtham, Sadari, and Prasadam of raisins. That is where the devotees picked up the Archana coconuts and apples. As far as I know, there were no untoward incidents, all because of grace of the Presiding Deity, Lord Venkatesvara. End of report.
Note: Tanjore Aiyampettai Chakravakesvarar Temple: The legend says that Tirumal worshipped Amman (Sakti) and received his discus.
Nammalvar, the Srivaishnavas believe, was the incarnation of Visvaksena, the Commander in chief of Vishnu. At various times he was regarded the incarnation of Kaustabha jewel of Vishnu or Vishnu Himself. Srivaishnava devotees receive the feet of Vishnu in the form of Sadari. Nammalvar is the premier Srivaishnava saint-poet who had visions of Sriman Narayana and in whom Sriman Narayana revealed Himself as the devoted poet-singer. Sadari is the corpus of his devotional work (Tiruvaymoli) and Nammalvar holding the feet of Narayana on his head. Receiving Sadari with bowed head and humility is getting the essence of His devotional poetry, attaining and holding onto the feet of Sriman Narayana for the express purpose of Mukti (liberation).
The lay out of the floor plan is at the end of the article. Print this article and take it with you to the temple for your use. Your suggestions are welcome.
Here is an article giving you some basic information about Balaji Temple, Bridgewater, NJ. This material is intended for the use of all visitors, both Hindus and Non-Hindus. The pictures except for the Temple Tower are not photos of temple sculptures.
This material is neither official nor unofficial but my own presentation of the Temple. Welcome to the Bridgewater, NJ Balaji Temple, whose presiding deity is Venkatesvara, the Lord of the Hills, one of the many names of Vishnu. The temple celebrated Kumbhabishekam in 1998 (installation, purification, consecration ceremony). The flagpole (Dhvajastambham) near the entrance to the temple is in line with the main deity. The Hindu Holy Trinity consists of Brahma, the Lord of creation, Vishnu, the Lord of preservation and Siva, the Lord of destruction; these correspond to birth, life and death in an individual or the cosmos. Inside the temple there are shrines housing many deities clustered around the Central Deity. The Bridgewater Balaji Temple is truly a multi-denominational temple within Pan-Hinduism celebrating most deities: Ganesa, Mother Goddess, Siva, Vishnu besides syncretic Ayyappa, regional Murugan and His consorts, Satyanarayana, a personification of Tapas and austerity, the giver of prosperity to individual, family, friends, relatives, and community, and one of many manifestations of Vishnu. Satyanarayana Viratam (religious vow, fasting...) observance invites and invokes Ganesa for removal of obstacles, Lakshmi for prosperity, Vishnu, Siva and Parvati, the Sun god, grantor of good health, Indra, the nine planets and Ashtadikpalas, the eight guardian angels of directions. If you want to observe Satyanarayana Viratam, make enquiries within the temple. Lord Venkatesvara is worshipped in his youthful form and splendor; thus He is Balaji (Bala + Ji = youth, child, infant + honorific way of addressing god or an elder). The original Venkatesvara Temple is in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India and serves as the prototype of the deity in the Central Shrine. The eponym Venkata means many things. Vem + Kata = Dire sins + redeeming power = destroyer of sins of those who worship Him. Vem + Kata = Ambrosia + plenitude = Giver of wealth. Ven + Kadan = Burn + debts = Paying off debts. The temple is built according to traditional South Indian style. The tower is a pyramid facing the rising sun (East) and housing at its base is the entrance door. You may notice a tall flag-staff (Dhvaja-stambha) in front of the main entrance and the central shrine. This is where the devotees relinquish and abandon their ego and the negative thoughts. There is only one EGO in the universe and that is HIS.
The temple entrance is guarded by Dikpalas, the guardians of the four quarters. The tower, its many stories, and the inner shrines are an example of recursive pattern of self-same fractals. The Chola-style tower is decorated with semi-divine beings, sometimes holding weapons. You may notice an elevated broad walkway (Prakaram) around the temple complex; this is meant for circumambulation of the temple starting on your left. Don't be overwhelmed by the thronging gods, goddesses, priests, volunteers, and devotees in the temple. Even the children appear very disciplined inside the temple. I never saw children running around and playing hide-and-seek inside the temple. They seem to sense the holiness and sacral ambience of the temple. It is a festive day everyday here when family and friends come to worship. You may not find a holier and nicer place than this on this day. Here you will find even nicer priests. You will see obeisant devotees bend their heads receiving the Sadari on their heads. Don't be afraid to take the holy water from the dispensing priest, drink it and apply the remains on your head, and be suffused with divine grace. Don't forget to relish the Prasada (rice, butter and brown raw sugar cooked and served to the Lord). You will invariably notice the devotees apply their flat palms to the flame in the tall standing oil lamps and apply the palms to their eyes. The Deity is the Light of lights. Light is knowledge. You certainly want that light in your eyes, so you can see the truth with your eyes. The Lord is the Light in the sun, the fire, the moon, the stars, the heart and the eye.
Take a look at fig. 1a. It is Garuda, the mount of Vishnu, the larger one in silver and the smaller one in stone. Let me tell you the less known story of how Garuda saved his mother Vinata held as a hostage and slave by his step mother, Kadru, who demanded that if Garuda delivered the Nectar of Immorality, she would release his mother Vinata. Kadru knew it was impossible to bring The Nectar because it was in heaven heavily protected by guardians, two fire-breathing serpents and a spinning wheel with razor-sharp spokes. Garuda destroyed the guardians and disabled the serpents by flinging dust in their eyes, flying between the spokes, retrieved the Nectar and rescued his mother.
Take a look at the fig.17a the thousand-headed Sesa. It is the theriomorphic serpent form of Vishnu. Garuda, the snake-eating bird and Sesa are friends and serve Vishnu. Sesa is the humongous serpent that supports the whole universe on its hood. Sometimes the earth feels the tremors, when Sesa moves its hood. The longitudinal body of Sesa and its coils are symbolic of endless revolutions of time. A commonly held belief is that Sesa is the theriomorphic form of Balarama, the brother of Krishna (Vishnu's incarnation). Sesa, meaning Remainder, in an act of renewal, destroys the universe by its fiery breath, all under the supervision of Vishnu.
A verse to live by: Bhagavan Says, "Abandoning all duties, surrender unto Me only. I shall deliver you from all sins. Do not lament." --Bhagavad Gita. Sarama Slokam C18.V66
Don't be confused when you look at the different sectarian marks on the forehead and other parts of the body of the priests and visiting votaries. Just an important note: The Catholic Rituals are imports from India. Watch what the priests do and you will know what I mean. Go to TILAKAM http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/tilakam.htm for more information on the sectarian marks. These are the external marks of their affiliation to a particular sect. There is one God, Brahman who is Pure Consciousness and manifests as gods and goddesses or Ishta Devata, deity of your liking. He is One and many are His manifestations. Take a Broadway play; you may see one actor playing many roles; you know in your mind that he is one person playing many roles. The same is true of Brahman and the subsidiary gods. Would you be satisfied with a nameless, formless generic god (Brahman)? Would you buy a generic car with no name and with only wheels, roof, steering wheel and an engine? Certainly not. You want a brand name car loaded with options. The same is true of gods: a brand name god with great benevolence. You may choose one god from among many gods for worship. This where Henotheism comes in: believing in one god without disbelieving in the existence of others. You may even worship all deities who emerged from that nameless and formless Brahman. Lord Venkatesvara is the Central Deity. This is not the picture of the deity in the temple. See the Floor plan. He is #1.
As you enter the temple, you see the largest shrine wherein abides Balaji. The Presiding central deity is carved out of black granite or red igneous rock standing on a lotus pedestal. The first thing that strikes is the white sectarian mark on His forehead. It is called Namam or Tiruman. He sees intently at His devotee; His physiognomy is one of joy, comely smile, inner tranquility and outer happiness.
He has wavy curly hair. He has four arms, two posterior and two anterior. The posterior upper arms are held up, the right one holding the Discus and the left one holding the Conch. The right anterior lower hand is bent at the elbow and held in a supine position with the open palm pointing to His feet; the hand position is known as Varada Mudra Hasta pose (Boon-giving hand). The left anterior lower hand is straight down, prone, bent at the wrist and resting lightly just below the left hip in Katya Vilambita Hasta which signifies that the Lord protects and blesses His devotees. (Katya = panegyric; Vilambita = hanging; Hasta = related to hand) = Hand that protects the devotees who sing His panegyric or pay homage. Note that the left thumb is parallel to His hip. His divine consort Lakshmi rests on His right anterior chest, indicating Her special status. You heard the expression, "I hold you in my (spiritual) heart." Now you know His consort's place. Holding of the weapons is not for His protection but for the protection and reassurance of the votaries. He is God ; He does not need any protection. WYSIWYG principle (What You See Is What You Get) applies here. When the devotees see the weapons, they are reassured that He does the fighting for them to kill the demons in us. He is the armed SuperCop keeping peace in this unruly world. Then you may ask with justification, "Why all this suffering, wars, unrest....?" Suffering results from Karma. He dons the Yagnopavitra (sacred thread), necklaces, waist girdle, snake-shaped armlets and anklets. The Surya Katari (golden sun-sword) stands in front of His legs in the middle, hanging from His belt. He sports Kavachas (Cuirass or armor; gold or silver plates) on various parts of His body. He loves to wear Vanamala, garland of wild flowers and Tulasi seed Mala (Sacred Basil garland). The devotees express their Bhakti (devotion) to Vishnu in many ways. They chant His many names, fall prostrate at His feet, sit and meditate, do small services around and inside the temples. The priests do the ablutions, and put the robes, decorations, garlands on Him; after waving the lights before Him, the priest brings out the light on a plate. People cup their hands on the flame and apply the Light to their eyes and head, invoking the Spiritual Light of Wisdom to descend on them. This is followed by Thirtham / Tirtha / nIr (தீர்த்தம் = நீர் = sacred water used in worship) which is dispensed from the silver spoon for sipping and application over the head. Then comes SadAri, which is made of silver, looks like a crown and has the emblematic footwear of Vishnu at the top. The priest applies the Sadari on the head of the devotee who takes it with bent head and humility. Receiving the dust of His feet on the head is a mark of submission to the will of Vishnu and a sign of devotion and Prapatti (taking refuge in God). Would you be afraid to receive and consume the consecrated Host from the Catholic priest? In like manner don't be afraid to consume Prasadam given by the priest. The Prasadam comes in two forms: 1) cooked rice, butter and unrefined raw sugar, 2) raisins, nuts…. Let me explain the meaning of Prasadam. It is like Host and yet is different. Prasadam is Divine Grace or favor. Prasadam is the remnants of food served to deity and later distributed to the devotees. By eating Prasadam, one is infused with His Grace and favor, which is receiving divine wisdom and spiritual consciousness, weakening the materialistic existence, expunging the sins, going to His kingdom, heaven, Vaikuntham or Paramapadam (Vaishnava heaven) and attaining eternal life in close proximity to Bhagavan.
OM NAMO NARAYANAYA. OM NAMO BHAGAVATE VASUDEVAYA. HARI OM. OM SRI RAMAYA NAMA.
#2 Ganesa in the Floor Plan. Lord Ganesa: As you go past the second door into the main hall of shrines, you see on your immediate left, a shrine housing Lord Ganesa, who is the god of wisdom and has an elephant face, a pot belly, a broken tusk…. He is the Lord of beginnings and Siddhidatta, the Giver of success. Ganesa means the Lord of Ganas, the heavenly hosts. He appeared like any other anthropomorphic baby at birth. Things happened; the elephant head took the place of the human head by transplantation, performed by Vishnu under extenuating circumstances to bring him to the present form. Please go to Ganesa http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/GANESA.htm to learn why He has an elephant face. OM SRI MAHAGANAPATAYE NAMAH
Mother Goddess Ambika: Ambika = Mother. Right behind Lord Ganesa you will see another shrine housing Ambika (#3), who is the Mother of Ganesa. She is the divine consort of Siva. She goes by many names: Parvati, Gauri, Uma, Sati, Kali, Durga…. Ambika's birth is out of this world. Find out how and why. There once was a buffalo-demon who was more powerful than gods and so was always attacking them. He is appropriately called a buffalo-demon. Have you seen an angry, testosterone-charged buffalo bull-dozing its way in a rough-and-tumble ram-through? (Recently on TV, I saw a few buffalos in the African plains running helter-skelter from charging ambush of tigers on the hunt. (Ambush or streak of tigers and pride of lions) One calf accidentally fell in to the near-by river, chock-full of crocodiles. One tiger was pulling the calf by its front foot and a croc was pulling the calf into the river by a hind foot. As this tug of death was going on for the calf, buffalos by the hundreds appeared from out of nowhere and hedged the tigers between them and the river of crocs. The calf was pulled out of the water by the tiger from the deathly mouth of the croc. In the mean time in a show of strength by numbers, a testosterone-charged angry buffalo charged one tiger with its horns and threw him in the air. Landing hard, the humiliated tiger and the rest of the ambush of tigers with their tails tucked in humiliation between the hind legs simply streaked away like pussycats. The rescued calf joined the herd) The demon had a boon that conferred guarantee against death from god or man. The gods had to come up with a solution. They assembled, put their heads together and created a Force from their Tejas (power, splendor, male energy). (What a sight to see when all these gods, some having four heads, doing the head bunt to come up with a solution.) The splendor emanating from the gods coalesced, congealed and created a divine woman who had amassed all the power of all the gods. The demon and the boon stipulated that the demon was immune from death in the hands of god or man (and NOT a woman); now you know his attitude towards woman. Ambika was her name, who could vanquish any man, god or demon. Eventually, She did defeat and kill the demon and the enemies of gods. The Jains (an offshoot from Hindu religion, just like Christianity is an offshoot from Judaism) adopted Ambika as their own deity. One should remember that these demons (Passion, Anger, Greed…) afflict us and the goddess helps us vanquish these demons.
Siva in the Form of Lingam (#5): As you go past Ambika, you will see a bigger shrine housing Lingam (an Obelisk) and a miniature sitting bull statue (#4) in front of the shrine facing the Lingam and having its ears cocked up. Nandi (happy one, bull) is His Vahana (transport); Coomaraswamy suggests that Nandi is the theriomorphic form of Siva. Linga means sign, symbol. Lingam = Li + gam = to dissolve + to go out. He is the ultimate Reality into whom the living beings dissolve and out of whom they emerge again. It is the recycling of the soul with a body.
The question comes up why Lingam is the way it looks. Let me explain. If there is smoke, there is fire. The smoke is the sign that fire is present. When you see Washington Monument, you think of Washington, though the monument does not look anything like Washington. The monument, everyone decided, should be stupendous and elegant to honor the First President of the young nation. Just like Washington Monument is an abstract form of President Washington, Linga is an abstract form of Siva and a generative principle. Siva, according to Saivites, is the First God; He is the Father of all beings; He is the First One to say, "Aham" meaning I, the First I in the Universe. There was no one else in the universe except His Sakti (Power by His side). Thus, 'Siva and Sakti' is a unitary force from which the First I (through Sakti) became He, She, and It, which cover everything in the Universe; I or One became many. Lingam is an obelisk well grounded in a labial vestibular pedestal and the aniconic form (Niskala) of Siva. The three white stripes, sandalwood, red dots, and the serpent at the base of the lingam have significance. Go to http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/lord of dance.htm LORD OF DANCE
#5a depicts Lord Nataraja, the Lord of Dance. #5b depicts Siva and Parvati in anthropomorphic form mounted on a silver bull. Take a look at the table. Sivalingam is present in all the elements; there is one temple for each element celebrating Lingam in its elemental form.
Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva form the Holy Triad. In most of the temples, Siva is portrayed as Lingam, His abstract Form. Only in pictures, he has anthropomorphic features. www.bhagavadgitausa.com/primer_in_Saiva_siddhanta.htm
Here is a pictorial depiction of Lord of Dance with its symbolic meanings of various features of dance frozen in metal. Enlarge image to read the fine print.
Just behind the Linga Shrine in the corner, you will see syncretic Ayyappan, divine being born of Hara and Hari also called Hariharan or Harihara Putra (Hari-Hara son). He has all the spiritual qualities of both Vishnu and Siva. He was divine by birth, royal by upbringing and spiritual in pursuit. He was found by king Rajasekhara during a hunt; since the king had no son, he took him and raised him as his own. The king belonged to Pandalam Dynasty which ruled parts of South India between 1200-1500 CE. He was known for his bravery, asceticism and spiritual enlightenment. He disappeared near Sabarimala and a temple exists now in His name. Ayyappan #6 in the floor plan; #7 another Lingam behind the main shrine of Lingam; #8 Lord Murugan and His Consorts (Powers). #9 Murugan and consorts mounted on Silver Peacock.
The image next to Lord Ayyappan is that of Lord Murugan with His consorts Valli and Devayanai, who are in the shrine behind the Lingam Shrine. Murugan or Skanda is the brother of Ganesa with the elephant face. In North India He is known as Skanda, Kanthan in Tamil. He carries a spear, thus Vel Murugan. Vel = spear; Murugan = youth. He has six faces; there are many legends associated with the six faces. In Palani Temple, He is portrayed as shaven with a staff and bears the name, Dandayuthapani, the bearer of the staff. The spear is the piercing spear of spiritual wisdom. The spear destroys the demons in our mind and gives liberation to the virtuous and the devoted. Murugan's mount is a peacock and He is seen here sitting on it with His consorts. Shanmuga's (Murugan) six heads are symbolic of divine power, wealth, fame, strength, detachment from passion, and knowledge.
(Next to the shrine, you will see huge silver bull on which are mounted Siva and Parvati, on your way out of the corridor behind Linga Shrine. This is #5b in the floor plan. Here you see elephant-headed Ganesa, Siva, Parvati and Murugan from your left to right. The ever-present bull is sitting below them. Aru padai Veedu: There are six holy temples in six places in Tamil Nadu for Murugan. The most famous composition on Murugan (Kanthan) is Kantha Puranam by Sivachariyar.
Lord Satyanarayana (#10) is another form of Lord Vishnu who is commonly worshiped by Hindus in their homes along with family and friends. The worship is performed usually on a full moon (purnima) day of the month. People worship by reciting the gracious story of the Lord which was once told by Lord Vishnu himself to sage Narada for the benefit of mankind. The Lord's grace is described in a Hindu book called Skanda Purana. He has four hands like Lord Vishnu; however, his fourth hand does not hold a lotus rather it is extended upward to bless people. By Hindunet.org
#11 and #12 are Sri Devi and Bhu Devi, the consorts of Sri Venkatesvara of Balaji Temple.
Take a stroll past all deities until you go behind the Central Shrine in the hall. When you face the smaller shrines, they are behind the back wall of the Central Shrine. On your left is the shrine of Lakshmi, also known as Sri Devi; on your right is the shrine of Bhudevi. Both are the consorts of Lord Vishnu residing behind the Central shrine. Sri Devi is the goddess of wealth (Goddess of El Dorado) and prosperity and Bhudevi is the goddess of earth. Look at the elaborate hairdo of Bhudevi.
Durga #13: Go past Sri Devi and Bhudevi, you will see a white statue of Durga (warrior goddess) sitting on a lion and holding many weapons in Her many hands. She and Kali are the other manifestations of Ambika, the consort of Siva. Mantra: Om Sri Durgayai Namah http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/durga.htm. for more details. http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/Kali.htm. Next to the Coconut breaking station, you will see three metallic statues in a small shrine. The central one in the higher pedestal is Durga, the warrior goddess with Lakshmi to her right and Sarasvati to her left. Sarasvati is the goddess of learning, arts and sciences and holds Veena, a stringed instrument.
These three goddesses form a configuration which helps the human soul get rid of the Malas (impurities), gain spiritual knowledge and attain liberation or Moksa. Durga is a demon killer (Kriya Sakti). Demons are the Tamasic (Dark) demons in our mind: Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, Matsarya (desire, anger, greed, delusion, pride, and envy). Once Durga kills these demons, Lakshmi (Ichcha Sakti) takes over the mind and helps us get rid of Rajasic Vikshepa (False perception; distraction; to and fro oscillations of the mind; gales of desire blowing in the mind) which are hard to remove from the mind. Lakshmi helps man acquire the Will Power (Ichcha Sakti) and get rid of remnants of desire and false perception by Upasana (worship). What is left is ignorance meaning spiritual ignorance. Spiritual enlightenment is infused by Sarasvati (Jnana Sakti). The eradication of impurities, desires and ignorance with the help of these three deities is celebrated for nine days and nine nights, 3 days and 3 nights for each deity (Navaratri = nine nights). It takes nine days and nine nights to defeat these demons. Nine manifestation of Mother Goddess (Durga, Bhadrakali, Amba, Annapurna, Sarvamangala, Bhairavi, Chandika, Lalita, and Bhavani) are celebrated over nine nights. The tenth day is Vijayadasami, meaning victory (over the demons of the mind; realization and emancipation) on the 10th day. It is celebrated in the beginning of summer and winter. In Puranas, the demons are described as living beings. Mantras: Om Sri MahaLakshmyai Namah. Om Sri Durgayai Namah. Om Aim Sarasvatyai Namah.
Read more on the desires of the mind and spiritual ignorance and their personification as the buffalo demon morphing into an elephant or vice versa etc; desire is compared to an animal. DEVI MAHATMYAM. www.bhagavadgitausa.com/devi_mahatmyam
3.38: As the smoke envelops the fire, as the dust covers the mirror, as the womb covers the fetus, so passion (desire) obscures the wisdom.
Bhagavad Gita C3V38.
Removal of Avarana and Vikshepa. Avarana = Veiling caused by spiritual ignorance. Vikshepa = oscillating mind of desires, scattering, tossing, throwing, discharging. Spiritual Ajnana, Avarana and Vikshepa are linear elements. Ignorance and Avarana are like a cataract in the eye preventing Light (of Wisdom) reaching the eye and brain (soul). This veil or cataract prevents the Light of Sat and Cit of Brahman from reaching the soul. They are impediments to spiritual progress. In the absence of spiritual wisdom (Saktinipatam = descent of Wisdom as in Saiva Siddhanta) coming into the soul, the mind jumps from one desire to the next illustrated by the morphing of the desire-demon from an elephant to a buffalo. When one desire is killed, another desire pops up in its place in an endless fashion. It is the whipping gale of desire, its many variants, permutations and effects. On a philosophical note, Vikshepa Sakti is driven by Ajnana (ignorance) and desire. Mind is the stage wherein the Vikshepa demon jumps from one desire to the next in an endless fashion. One desire morphs into another one when you kill the preceding desire. It is removed by Nishkama karma, action without expectation of rewards or desireless action. As in cataract extraction, you remove this ignorance by Avarana Bhanga (removal of the veil [cataract] by Upasana, worship). To illustrate this concept of eradication of the clonal colony of desires, Mahalakshmi sucks the marrow dry and drinks the last drop of blood of the demon (of desires) so he does not shed any more blood and make more clones of himself (desires) arising from the dripping blood. Mahalakshmi presides over this stage and overcomes Rajasic Avarana and Vikshepa. The end result is enlightenment. Note: Ancient Indian seers had an idea of cloning. Whenever the demon shed a drop of blood, that drop of blood became another demon (desire).
Sharada Navaratri -- Newsletter from Siva Vishnu Temple Lanham Maryland October 2012
Monday Oct. 15 - Tuesday Oct. 23, 2012
Sharada Navaratri, as it is called since it occurs during the fall season (Sarad Ritu) is one of the most popular Hindu festivals spanning a period of nine nights. The Goddess in the form of the Universal Mother is commonly worshipped during the nine nights and ten days and hence it is also known by the name of Devi Navaratri. Three aspects of the Divine Mother, namely Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped during the nine nights, the tenth day being celebrated as Vijaya Dashami. It is considered auspicious to start new ventures, especially in the field of education, on Vijaya Dahsami. Reading the Durga Sapta Sati (also known as Devi Mahatmyam) and Ramayanam is also common during the Navaratri. Special Pujas are scheduled in the temple during the ten days. Devotees are encouraged to participate personally in the Sahasranama Archana daily.
The next shrine shows Lakshmi-Narayana, the manifestation of the Central deity Vishnu and the goddess of fortune. This conjoined form of Lakshmi and Narayana (Vishnu) depicts that in the Supreme State, Vishnu is one with His Sakti (power) Lakshmi. They are one Supreme Being without distinction. Narayana means He in whom abide the waters (of creation). Remember the amniotic fluid surrounding the unborn fetus. Similarly, His waters of Creation are called the Causal Ocean. Universes emerge from His sweat pores. Narayana is no other than Vishnu, the Presiding Deity of the Temple. Just a note: Vishnu has at least 1008 names. The priests chant His 1008 names (Sahasranama). I bet your parents, friends and family have special endearing names for you; thus you have many names. Because He is the Supreme God, the devotees chant His Mantra to invoke Him: "Om Namo Narayanaya." It means, Om, Prostrations to Lord Vishnu or Narayana. See Lakshmi-Narayana #16: the couple with crowns.
The next shrine is that of Radha-Krishna (#17). Here Krishna is the Supreme Soul of the universe and Radha is the individual soul. The love that the individual soul has for the World Soul and their interrelationship is portrayed here as that between Krishna and Radha. All individual souls (Monads) emerged from the World Soul; we are related to him every which way you can think of. The individual soul pines for the Greater Soul and wants to merge with Him-liberation from the world of misery. In its highest form, it is called Krishna Prema--Love of Krishna. #17a is the Sesa the humongous cosmic serpent in silver, described in the beginning.
We are in one way pulled by the forces of material world and in another way pulled by the spiritual force of the Great Soul. This is like love. The magnetism between man and god is compared to love between man and woman; in this instance it is called Krishna Prema (love of Krishna). Gitagovindam glorifies this relationship in songs which can be compared to the Hebrew Song of Songs. The Christian Church says the sensual imagery of the Biblical "Song of Songs" symbolizes Christ's love for His Bride, the Church. Ref: Woodroffe, Garland of Letters, page 182- 183. Krishna is one of the Avatars of Vishnu. Go to http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/Gitagovindam
Rama is the central persona of the Great Epic, Ramayana. Rama (#18) is an incarnation of Vishnu and this scene shows from left to right Hanuman on his knee with both hands held together in homage and reverence, Lakshmana the brother of Rama and his constant companion, Rama in the middle and Sita, Ramah's wife. Ramachandra = Rama beautiful like the moon. Rama was a prince ready to ascend the throne; palace intrigue by his step-mother deprived him of his kingdom, and He was banished to the forest. During his stay in the forest in South India his wife Sita was abducted and taken to Ceylon, the modern Sri Lanka. Hanumat, the leader of ape-like beings joined Rama with his troops and helped Rama locate and recover Sita from the demon-king Ravana. If you have seen the movie, Planet of the Apes, you will have an idea of who Hanumat looked like. In the battle, Ravana died; Rama rejoins His wife. Hanumat or metronymic Anjaneya (named after his mother) became the most revered devotee of Rama. The foursome are called Ram Parivaar (Rama's family). The meditation Maha Mantra of Rama and Krishna is as follows: Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare; Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare. #18a = The Silver elephant, the mount of Rama.
The next shrine that you see is the Shrine of Hanumat or Anjaneya (#19) right across from the Rama's Shrine to the right. You can recognize Him by His physiognomy as described earlier. He is heavy-jawed and so named Hanumat. You see him carrying a mountain peak in His hand and is poised on a flight to see Rama in the battle field. Ramah during the battle was exhausted and so needed a tonic to fight battle fatigue. Anjaneya flew to Himalayas and not knowing the herb needed for recuperation, broke the mountain top where it grew and brought it to Rama, who recovered from eating the herbal medicine. There is no devotee as sincere as Hanumat is. He is the epitome of devotion to Rama and thus, has a place in the House of Worship and in our hearts. His Mantra is Om Sri Hanumate Namah.
Swami Vishnu Devananda says: Hanumat is the perfection of devotion. He is the greatest and the most selfless devotee of Lord Rama. In the Hindu tradition, he is considered to be a semi-deity, for he is the son of the wind-god and an Apsara, Anjana. He possess strength and courage.
You will see a raised platform with a cluster of figurines in the north-east corner of the temple premises. These are the Navagrahas-nine planets, which are under the purview of the Mother Goddess and other deities. It is the Hindu belief that the planets have an impact on an individual's life, the community and the nation. They are clustered around the Sun and all of them are facing in the four directions, not seeing each other. Here in the picture the configuration appears different.
Their configuration and relative positions are according to Agamas. The Sun is in the Center. #20 to the right
The following figures are not in the temple. This is the famous dance of Siva. His right ear ring fell on the floor while He was dancing. In a fluid movement, he picked up His earring with His right toe from the dance floor and put it on his right ear. See the ring on the right big toe. See the grace, fluidity, the dynamic pose and the still head in all his movements. The dwarf under His foot is Apasmara Purusha, an embodiment of spiritual ignorance. He is the Yogi of all Yogis. He has a third eye of wisdom in the middle of the forehead. Sometimes, fire emits from his third eye. His eyes are the Sun, the Moon and the Fire. Saiva Siddhanta philosophy is one of the most celebrated one in the world of religions. Primer in Saiva Siddhanta
He is white as snow and His wife is black like eye-lash liner (Mother Goddess Kali). Mahakali is the one who swallows Time, and the Mother of all beings and gods. Daksina means "south, gift, right." Yama is the Lord of death and lives in the south. He is afraid of taking Kali's devotees to Yama Loka, the abode of death, so She is called Daksina Kali. The other explanation says that She offers the gift that guarantees liberation. The third explanation says that She is Daksina Kali because she plants her benign right foot on Siva over his chest where the heart is. She places her dangerous left foot on the demons and the wicked who succumb to Her wrath. Kali in the cremation grounds (Smasana Kali) has Her left foot forward in the company of ghosts, ghouls, jackals, and fearsome companion Mothers. (Mothers: Think of Charlie's Angels with skills like deathly Martial Arts.) Another plausible explanation suggests that south-facing Daksina-Siva or -Bhairava adulates and worships Kali. The town where there is Kali temple is called Daksinesvar. When you ask devotees which Kali they prefer, the informed ones prefer Kali with left foot forward (Vama Kali), because a devotee rises above the good and the bad, renounces the world and achieves liberation quickly. Her third eye strikes terror in the demons and the wicked. The three eyes represent triads: the sun, moon and fire; the past, present, and future. Third eye stands also for eternal wisdom. The demons are the demons of the mind as said before. By this time, you would have noticed that there is a lot of symbolism in Hindu imagery.
Balimaharaja usurped the kingdoms of Heaven and earth., thus angering gods. No one could vanquish him. Gods complained to Lord Vishnu that Bali vanquished them, took and ruled the heavens. Vishnu is the God of gods. He listened and devised a plan to conquer him without blood-shed, because Bali was His devotee. He took birth (incarnation) in a Brahmana family; He was a dwarf and his name was Vamana, who most likely suffered from Growth Hormone Deficiency. In this case, Vishnu willed that He became a dwarf to dupe, whoop and scoop. His size fooled the king. Lord Vishnu knew that Bali was a generous King. He asked the king for a piece of land equal to three strides of His feet. Little did Bali know the trick up the sleeve of Vishnu. Bali's Chief priest Sukra warned the king not to accede to His request. Bali being a generous and magnanimous king, agreed to donate land equal to three strides to the dwarf. Immediately, Lord Vishnu expanded to High Heavens and beyond, measured the earth in one stride, the heavens in the 2nd stride and had no land for the third stride. He demanded Bali for the third stride of land. He had no land and pointed to his head as the land. Immediately Vamana put his foot on Bali's head and pushed him down to the Nether world. (See the inset: Vishnu measured the earth and heavens and Bali ready to offer his head as the third piece of land.) Bali was not killed and the Lord made him the king of the nether world and restored the Heavens to the gods. This is one of the most celebrated Avatars (Incarnation) of Vishnu, because there was no violence. When you go around the main shrine, you will see little statues depicting the Avatars of Vishnu. By the way, Vishnu is a strict Lacto-Vegetarian. He does not accept animal sacrifice. He is a thoroughly benign God of Vaishnavites and all humanity.
Here are the important Vaishnava Mantras. Please go to Srivaishnava mantras for more details.
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