Episode 41 – The Grand Naming Ceremony at Ayodhya

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In the previous episode, we witnessed that King Dasharata was blessed with four children, twelve months after the “Puthra-Kaameshti yaaga” was performed. Valmiki Maharishi had beautifully brought out this scene of happiness that was evident all over the world at this divine occasion. We shall see some more additions in this regard in today’s episode and then move on to see how the grand naming ceremony took place at the Ayodhya palace for all these four babies.

Valmiki Maharishi further adds the following:

“Jagupthalancha gandharvaa naruthuscha apsaro ganaaha!

Deva dundhubayo nethuhu pushpa vrishtischa khaath padath!!”

Here, Valmiki Maharishi beautifully explains that during this divine occasion, there were flowers pouring down from the “Aakaasha” (Sky) and the women in the “Deva Lokha” (Heaven) were dancing divinely to celebrate the occasion. Sage Naarada was overwhelmed beyond words! All the Devas were happy that the end of Ravana is coming to an end very soon. All the “Maharishis” (Sages) were happy that at last the “Dharma” is again going to be restored by Bhagawan. All the citizens of Ayodhya were extremely happy that they’ve got their successor after King Dasharata. Of course, King Dasharata knew no bounds of happiness and was overwhelmed with joy that he was at last blessed with children after waiting for almost 60,000 years!

Thus, ten happy days rolled by! Now, the eleventh day was the day when all the four babies were to be named and at that moment, Sage Vashishta (The “Kula Guru” of the great Ikshvaaku Dynasty) enters the palace. He comes inside the room where all the four babies were present and has a look at them. All four were crying profusely! Kaushalya was struggling to contain the crying of the four babies. She was wondering why are these “Raaja-Kumaaraas” (Princes) crying so much! At that moment Sage Vashishtachaarya says to Kaushalya, “Oh Kaushalya! You’ve made a mistake here.. Change the order of the four babies!” Kaushalya didn’t understand for a moment – She had placed the babies according to their birth order – Kaushalya’s child in the beginning, followed by Kaikeyi’s and followed by Sumithra’s twin children. But Vashishtachaarya says to Kaushalya to change the order – To place Sumithra’s elder child in between Kaushalya’s and Kaikeyi’s children. Kaushalya did accordingly and only then the crying stopped!

Now, the naming ceremony!! Vashistachaarya gives names to all the four babies: Here are the names for the newborns!

Vashishtachaarya looks first at Kaushalya’s son! He was amazed and spellbound by the child’s beauty!

“Raamayithi abhiraamena bahushaa tasya chodithaha!!”

Here, Valmiki Maharishi beautifully portrays that Vashishtachaarya was motivated internally to name Kaushalya’s child as “Rama”! (Ramaha: Ramayatheethi raamaha – For all those people who look at him, he expresses his beauty through his physical appearance).

Next, he comes to Sumithra’s first twin child – He named the child as “Lakshmana”! (Lakshmanaha – Lakshmi sampannaha!Meaning, this child is going to have extremely high “Lakshmi Kataaksha”) One might wonder the fact that, Lakshmana was highly disinterested in ruling the kingdom and why did Vasishtaachaarya mention “Lakshmi Kataaksha” for this child. Here is an important point to noteA person’s “Lakshmi Kataaksha” is not the so-called “Wealth” that we accumulate! It is the “Kainkarya-Lakshmi” (“Kainkarya” means doing service to the Lord) that is more important, because money would come today and go away tomorrow – It might not be permanent. However, “Kainkarya-Lakshmi” stays with us permanently as it makes Bhagawan’s heart melt with happiness towards us! Now we can easily understand the context here – Lakshmana, as we all know, was deeply engrossed in the service to Lord Rama at every point in his life – In the forest for fourteen years, he never ate, slept, etc. and at every minute he was at the disposal for Lord Rama to offer his services!

Next, Vasishatachaarya comes to Kaikeyi’s son – He named the child has “Bharatha”! (Bharateethi raajya bharanaath! – Meaning, this child is the one who is going to rule the kingdom!) Again, one might wonder, why did Vasishtaachaarya say this? Wasn’t it Rama who ruled the kingdom? He could have given this name to Rama, or for that matter, even Dasharata, or Aja Maharaaja, etc. But why did he say this to this particular child? Here’s an in-depth meaning: Bharatha was the only person who treated the ruling of Ayodhya as a “Bhaaram” (Burden) – He ruled the kingdom for the fourteen-year period of Rama’s exile, out of extreme compulsion and pressure from his mother! Whereas, the rest of the kings, for instance, Rama himself, or Dasharata or Aja Maharaja or anybody for that matter, never thought that ruling the kingdom was a “Bhaaram”! All of them happily ruled it! This is the inner significance to be appreciated!

And now, the last baby, Vasishtaachaarya looks at Sumithra’s second twin child and names it “Shathrughna”! (Shathrughnaha Nithya Shathrughnaha!Meaning, the one who has won over all enemies!) One might wonder that when have we heard Shathrughna fight a war in his entire life? Of course, Rama and Lakshmana fought numerous wars against the “Raakshasas” (Demons) throughout their lives. But when did we see Shathrughna go for a war? Yes, he went to kill the demon “Lavanaasura” once, and that’s it! If this is the case, which is that greatest enemy Shathrugna won over? Again it’s an in-depth meaning here: Shathrugna won over the enemy of “Rama-Bhakthi” and stood firmly with “Bharatha-Bhakthi” and established to this world, the significance of “Bhaagawatha Bhaktha”. As we had seen in the previous episodes, Shathrugna stood as an epitome of the great concept of “Bhaagawatha Bhaktha” – That is, “Devotion towards the ardent devotee of God”!

Thus, the naming ceremony was grandly celebrated at Ayodhya and the children slowly grow up! Thus for now, let the newborn babies Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shathrugna enjoy their days of infancy! We shall also wait till the next episode for them to grow up a little bit! 🙂

Episode 40 – Lord Vishnu incarnates at Ayodhya!!!

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In the previous episode we had seen the deeper meaning of why the payasam was split into four “unequal” parts amongst king Dasharata’s three wives. In due course we also witnessed the significance of the “Bhaagawatha Bhaktha” (Devotee of the Lord’s devotee) and in the context of the Ramayana, it’s Shathrughna who has that unique distinction of being the “Bhaagawatha Bhaktha”. Thus, we also saw that Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumithra consumed the portions of payasam given to them and accordingly they became pregnant.

Days and months rolled by and six seasons passed by (which means 12 months – 2 months for each season).

“Tathascha dvaadase maase chaithre naavamikethithou!”

Here, “Dvaadasa” means twelve. Hence we can see that the pregnancy period was for twelve months (Also called “Poorna garbham), unlike today wherin we see children being born within ten months or even less than that. Lord Vishnu was waiting patiently to incarnate in this world and He was in his “Jagath-Rakshana-Chinthaa” – meaning, thinking how to protect this world! Simultaneously, as discussed by Lord Vishnu with the Devas and Lord Brahma, all of them were born in “Kishkinta” (A place that is near the modern day place of Hospet-Hampi in the Indian state of Karnataka) in the form of “Vaanaras” (Monkeys). Surya (Sun God) was born as Sugriva, Vaayu (The Wind God) was born as Hanumaan, Indra was born as Vaali, Lord Brahma was born as Jaambhavaan, and so on. All of them took birth in order to be of help to Bhagawaan in His pursuit of the “Avathaara-Lakshya” (Main purpose of the incarnation) of destroying Ravana.

Thus in the Valmiki Ramayana, in the eighteenth “Sarga” (Chapter) of the “Baala Kaanda”, Valmiki Maharishi describes about the birth of Lord Rama. Following are some excerpts from the Baala Kaanda that elucidates the divine birth of the Lord in this world!

“Nivruthethu krathou tasmin hayamethe mahaathmanaha!

Prathivrishya maraa bhaagaan prathijagmur yathaa gatham!!

Samaaptha deekshaa niyamaha pathneegana samanvithaha!

Pravivesha pureem rajaa sabudhya vana vaahanaha!!

Shreemathaam gachhathaam teshaam chadruhaani puraartathaha!

Balaani raagnyaa shubhraani prahrushtaani chakaashire!!

Tatho yagnyeena samaapyethu ruthuunaam shatssamadgayuhu!

Tathascha dvaadase maase chaithre naavamikethithou!!”

Valmiki Maharishi beautifully describes in the above slokas that six seasons have passed now and the entire world is waiting eagerly for the birth of Bhagawan. Finally, in the month of “Chithra” and the auspicious day of “Navami” in the Nakshathra (Star) of “Punarvasu” and “Karkataka Lagna”, the Lord incarnated in the city of Ayodhya, as the son of Dasharata and Kaushalya! He incarnated with the unique beauty that everyone around Him were attracted towards His beauty! The entire world was extremely filled with joy and the Devas were happy that atlast their enemy in Ravana is going to be demolished and in turn the “Dharma” in the world is going to be restored!

Next, in the “Pushya” Nakshatra, Dasharata’s second wife, Kaikeyi delivered a baby – Dasharata’s second son. Next, Sumithra, Dasharata’s third wife gave birth to twin babies during the “Aashresha” nakshathra – Thus finally after successfully performing the “Puthra-Kaameshti Yaaga”, King Dasharata was blessed with four kids.

While this was going on in Ayodhya, there were flowers flowing from the sky, while the divine celestial beings danced with joy! Sage Naarada was spellbound and overwhelmed with tears of joy in his eyes! All the Maharishis were happy that at last the “Dharma” was going to be restored by Bhagawan in this world! All the citizens of Ayodhya were extremely happy that their “Raaja Rama” was born! King Dasharata and his wives were extremely joyous that at last after so many years they had the “Puthra-Bhaagya” (Opportunity to have a son). Thus the entire world was happy with the birth of Bhagawan and his brothers!

Thus, with all this joy and celebrations after the babies were born, eleven days roll by and it’s time now for naming the four babies. It’s time now for the “Naming ceremony” at Ayodhya! What happened during the naming ceremony? What were the names of these four newborn babies? Let’s wait to see in the next episode!

 

 

 

Episode 39 – A deeper meaning of the “Payasam Split” – Significance of the “Bhaagawatha Bhaktha”

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In the previous episode we witnessed the arrival of the “Payasam” and how did king Dasharata split the payasam and gave it to his three wives. We also saw that interestingly he did not make a split of the payasam into three equal parts, but categorically made four splits. But why did he do this way? There is an in-depth meaning to this particular happening. Let’s see it in today’s episode.

As we go further, let’s recall the last sloka we saw in yesterday’s episode:

“Prappadhou prapadouscha avashishtaardham paayasasya amrithopamam!

Anuchintya sumithraayai punareva maheepathihi!!”

Here, Valmiki Maharishi portrays the outward meaning that the last portion of the payasam was given to his third wife, Sumithra Devi, after repeated thinking (Anuchintya sumithraayai punareva maheepathihi).

Here comes the in-depth meaning to this entire episode of the payasam distribution. Sumithra Devi now has two portions of the payasam. Hence she has to deliver two children. Since Sumithra Devi is a highly spiritual soul, she wishes to be blessed with one son who would be a “Bhagawad-Bhaktha” (Devotee of the Lord) and the other son to be a “Bhaagawatha Bhaktha” (Devotee of the devotee). This is how she was blessed with the twin children of Lakshmana and Shathrugna. Lakshmana was immersed into “Rama-Bhakthi” (Devotee of the Lord) and Shathrugna was immersed into “Bharata-Bhakthi” (Devotee to Bharata, who was in-turn Lord Rama’s ardent devotee).

At this juncture there’s an interesting and an important point to be noted by the viewers: The “Bhaagawata Bhaktha” is more significant than the “Bhagawat Bhaktha”, as Bhagawan himself says that He likes the “Bhaagawata Bhaktha” more than the “Bhagawat Bhaktha”. In other words, Bhagawan likes his devotee’s devotee more than he likes His direct devotees. Nammaazhwar in Tamil has beautifully brought this out:

“Arul peruvaar adiyaar tham adiyanerkku aazhiyaan!

Arul tharuvaan avaithinnaan adhu namadhu vidhi vagaye!!

Irul tharuvaan gnyaanathuyil in ippiravi yaan venden!

Marulozhi nee vada nenje vaataatraan adi vanangen!!”

In the above “Paasuram” (Paasuram means verse, in Tamil), Nammazhwaar says to Lord Vishnu, “Till now I’ve been saying that I’m your devotee, but you never looked back at me. Now, when I changed my view that I’m no longer your devotee, but I’m your devotee’s devotee, you came immediately in search of me!!” Hence from this verse, we can clearly see that the “Bhaagawatha Bhaktha” has that special significance to Bhagawan.

In this case also, we can see here that Shathrugna (The fourth son of Dasharata) is the only person who had that special status of the “Bhaagawatha Bhaktha”, because he was the ardent “Bhaktha” (Devotee) of Bharatha, who was the direct devotee of Bhagawan Shri Rama. We can see this significance in the sloka of Valmiki Ramayana itself. Valmiki Maharishi says that king Dasharata handed over the last portion of the payasam to Sumithra Devi, which is the essence of the entire payasam (Paayasasya Amrithopamam), out of which, Shathrughna was born. Hence, we can see here that the portion that Dasharata gave to Kaushalya and Kaikeyi were not the essence of the payasam. It was Sumithra Devi who was given the essence of the payasam, which gave Shathrugna (Bhaagawatha Bhaktha) to this world! Thus we can say that Valmiki Maharishi has indirectly mentioned the significance of the “Bhaagawatha Bhaktha” in this context.

Thus, after Dasharata handed over the payasam to his three wives, they became pregnant and the entire city of Ayodhya heard this good news and celebrations began. Days and months rolled by and the entire world was awaiting the birth of Bhagawan in this world! We shall also await Bhagawan’s birth till the next episode!

Episode 38 – Arrival of the “Paayasam” – The interesting split!

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In the previous episode we witnessed that Lord Vishnu, upon the request of the Devas and Lord Brahma decides to incarnate again in this world in order to restore the “Dharma” (Righteousness) amongst the people. We also saw how He planned to incarnate – In the form of four sons to King Dasharata along with Goddess Mahalakshmi who was to be born as Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka in Mithila Puri (Present day country of Nepal). Today let’s see what happened next and the interesting episode of the arrival of the divine “Paayasam” and how it was split amongst Dasharata’s three wives!

As the “Puthra-Kaameshti” Yaaga was in full progress, there arouse a divine celestial being from the middle of the “Homa-Kunda” (The place where the fire is lit and the offerings as part of the ritual are given to the fire). The divine celestial being had a big golden vessel with the “Paayasam” in it.

“Krishnam rakthaambhara dharam rakthaasyam dundhubhisswaram!

Snigdhahar yakshadharam yasmashruf parama moorthajam!!

Shubha lakshana sampannam divyaabharana bhooshitham!

Shaila shinga samudhyetham vrutha shaadhoola vikramam!!

Divya paayasa sampoornaam paathneem pathneemivappriyaam!

Pravrusya vipulaam dohyaam svayam maayaa maheemiva!!”

Through the above slokas, Valmiki Maharishi beautifully explains the scene of the arrival of the “Paayasam”. The divine celestial being that arouse from the middle of the ritual says to King Dasharata, “Oh Dasharata! I’m very happy with the way you’ve performed the Puthra-Kaameshti Yaaga. And I’m presenting you this vessel containing the ‘Paayasam’. You can split it amongst your three wives and thus you would be blessed with highly respectable sons!”

“Idanthu nrupashaardhoola paayasam deva nirmitham!

Prajaakaram grihaanathvam dhanyam aarogya varthanam!!

Bhaaryaanaam anuroopaanaam asthitethi prayachyavai!

Thaasuktham labhayte puthranaam yathartham yajasenrupa!!”

The above slokas are the continuations of the beautiful descriptions of Valmiki Maharishi, pertaining to the scene of the arrival of the “Paaysam”. From here, once the divine celestial being vanishes after handing over the “Paaysam” to king Dasharata, now it’s upto him to split it and give it to his three wives. He could have split it into three equal parts and given one part to each of them. However, he didn’t do that! Let’s see the interesting way in which the “Paayasam” was split! Vaalmiki Maharishi beautifully portrays this in the following way:

“Kausalyaayai narapathihi paayasaardham dadau thadhaa!”

Here, the reader should be very careful in interpreting: As the first step, King Dasharata splits the entire paayasam into two equal halves. He now has two halves of paayasams – One half in one hand and the other half in the other. The one half that he has in his right hand (“Paayasa – ardham”: Ardham means half), Dasharata gives it to his first wife, Kaushalya. Accordingly, Kaushalya being his first wife drank the portion of the paaysam that was given to her.

“Ardhaardham darauchaapi sumithraayai naraadhipaha!

Kaikeyischa avashistaardham dadhau puthraarthaka!!”

Now, the second step: The remaining half of the paaysam which is still in Dasharata’s other hand, was again split into two equal quarters (Half, when split into two, becomes two quarters). Hence now, he has two quarters in his hands, of which, he gives one of the quarter portions to his third wife, Sumithra. An interesting point here: Why did Dasharata go to his third wife Sumithra, instead of his second wife, Kaikeyi? It’s because, Sumithra was a very pious woman and had great knowledge of the “Shaastraas” (Shaastra-Gnyaana). Now, Sumithra after getting this quarter portion of the paayasam, should have consumed it, but she didn’t. She decided to wait and watch what happens further and how much is Kaikeyi going to get!

Now, the third step: Now Dasharata has one-quarter portion of the paayasam with him. This portion was again split into two equal parts – Two half-quarters. The first half-quarter portion was given to his second wife Kaikeyi. (It is to be noted here that Kaikeyi hadn’t got the payasam yet). Once Kaikeyi gets this portion of the paaysam, she thinks “Anyway, since Kaushalya has already consumed her share of the paayasam she would be delivering the first son. However, Sumithra has not yet consumed her share of the paayasam. So, if I consume my share before she does hers, I’ll be delivering the second son, who would be entitled to be the deputy king of Ayodhya!” and with this thought in her mind, consumes her share of the paayasam.

“Prappadhou prapadouscha avashishtaardham paayasasya amrithopamam!

Anuchintya sumithraayai punareva maheepathihi!!”

Now, king Dasharata has the last portion of the paayasam in his hand. He was thinking as to whom should he give it to – Kaushalya has already got the major portion of it, since she is his first wife and hence it is enough for her. For Kaikeyi, whatever is given already is enough, and she’s unfit to get more! So, it’s Sumithra who is very pious and full of “Shaastra-Gnyaana”, and hence after lot of thinking, King Dasharata hands the last portion of the paayasam again to Sumithra. Now, Sumithra has two portions of the paayasam in her hands. Hence now, she has to deliver two kidsOne child who would be the ardent “Bhakta” (Devotee) of Kaushalya’s son and the other child who is the ardent “Bhakta” of Kaikeyi’s son. That is, one child would be the “Bhagawat Bhakta” (Devotee of the Lord) and the other child would be the “Bhaagawata Bhakta” (Devotee of the Lord’s ardent devotee). Upon this noble thought in Sumithra’s mind, she consumed both the portions of the paayasam together, and this is how she delivered twin children!

There’s further in-depth meaning for this paayasam split. What is that? Let’s see in the next episode!

Episode 37 – Lord Vishnu decides to re-incarnate in this world!

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In the previous episode we saw that King Dasharata in Ayodhya, is ready to commence the “Puthra-Kaameshti Yaaga” at the northern banks of the river Sarayu. He’s about to begin and at this time, all the Devas (Celestial Beings) along with Lord Brahma, represent themselves to Lord Vishnu on the evil activities done by the Demon king Ravana, and request Lord Vishnu to re-incarnate in the world to destroy him. What was Lord Vishnu’s reply? Let’s see today!

As the Devas and Lord Brahma request Lord Vishnu, He accepted their request with a smile and said, “Oh Lord Brahma and Devas, I also think it’s time for me now to incarnate in this world again! It has been a long time since I was born to restore the Dharma again in the world!”

As per His own words in the Bhagawad Gita:

“Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanir bhavathi bhaarata!

Abhyukthaanam adharmasya tadaatmaanam shrujaamyaham!!”

Now Lord Vishnu, having given the assurance to the Devas and Lord Brahma that He would definitely re-incarnate in the world, all of them plan as to how should Bhagawan incarnate – In what form (animal or a human being), where and how? Valmiki Maharishi gives a very beautiful description at this point.

“Tataha Padma phalaa saakshaha krithvaathmaanam chathurvitham!”

Lord Vishnu decides that he would split himself into four different human beings – Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shathrugna, and be born as the sons to King Dasharata along with his three wives – Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumithra. Valmiki Maharishi goes on to stress on this very point – Nobody in this world has the capacity to choose their parents before they’re born, but Bhagawan does that! This is His specialty! He says,

“Pitharam rochayaamaasa tathaa dasharatham nrupam!!”

Thus, Lord Vishnu announces to the Devas and Lord Brahma, “Let King Dasharata get this opportunity! I’ll be born as the son of Dasharata!” But here comes a small clause: Why should Bhagawan be born only to Dasharata? There’s an interesting explanation to this, which I would discuss it at a later stage when the apt context arrives. I request the readers to keep this in mind for now. Re-iterating the question again: Why did Bhagawan choose King Dasharata as his father? All of us know Ravana’s boon from Brahma – Ravana forgot to ask Brahma that he shouldn’t be killed by a monkey (Vaanara) or a human being (Nara) as he considered these living beings to be insignificant. Hence, we infer that, for this reason, Bhagawan incarnated as a normal human being on earth. But why select Dasharata as his father? Let’s wait for the answer on another occasion.

Now, moving on.. Valmiki Maharishi continues in his description:

“Tatho naraayano vishnuhu nyukthaha sura sakthamaihi!

Jaanannapi suraaneevam slakshnam vachanam abhraveeth!!”

Continuing further, Lord Vishnu says that all the Devas should be born as “Vaanaras” (Monkeys) and Goddess Lakshmi would incarnate as Sita Devi. Thus the scene at the Vaikunta comes to an end with the decisions being made collectively by the Devas, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu!

“Ithan dhuruva shaardhoola paayasam deva nirnitham!”

Now coming back to Ayodhya, where the ritual is taking place. Now the “Paayasam” (The sweet nectar) at the end of the ritual should be born. Only with the “Paayasam” distributed amongst the three wives of King Dasharata, will they be blessed with children. What happened next? How does this “Paayasam” arrive? It’s a beautiful description again by Valmiki Maharishi. Let’s wait till the next episode to experience it’s beauty!

Episode 36 – The “Puthra-Kaameshti Yaaga” begins!! Devas request Lord Vishnu to incarnate!

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In the last couple of episodes we witnessed the significance of performing our spiritual practices regularly. Now, we shall continue with what happened further at Ayodhya after the arrival of all the sages and kings from various kingdoms.

“Sambhaaraaha sampriyandhaanthe turakashcha vimuchyathaam!”

Thus, as the horse returned back successfully to Ayodhya, all the other kings and sages who were invited by King Dasharata arrived for the noble occasion.

“Yagnya vaatangadaa sarve yathaa shaastram yathaa vithi!

Shreemaanscha saha pathneebhi raajaa deekshaam upaavishath!!”

Thus, with the blessings of all the sages and the kings who have arrived at the occasion, King Dasharata along with his three wives sits at the “Yaaga Deeksham” (place where the ritual is performed). Thus the “Puthra-Kaameshti yaaga” commences in grand style.

“Saravyaascha utthare theere raaghnyo yagnaa bhavaththatha!”

Here, Valmiki Maharishi says, “Saravyaascha utthare theere”, which means, “The northern bank of the river Sarayu” is the place where the ritual is taking place currently. As Dasharata sits to perform the “Yaaga” (Offering), the ritual commences at Ayodhya.

Let’s leave this story here for sometime and come back to it a bit later. In the middle of all this, all the Devaas (Celestial beings) who were afraid of the wrath and atrocities of the demon king Ravana went and represented themselves to Lord Brahma. All the Devas expressed to Lord Brahma, their fear and distress that they have with Ravana. Lord Brahma was perplexed and he didn’t know how to help them come out of their problem. Hence, all of them approached Lord Vishnu together for a solution.

“Bhagawan thvapprasaadhena raavano naama raakshasaha!

Abhraveen loka karthaaram brahmaanam vachanam tathaha!!”

The above sloka highlights that all the Devas collectively represent their problems that they face with Raavana, to Lord Brahma. The Devas converse with Lord Brahma, “Oh Lord Brahma, it is you who granted the boons to Ravana and it is only because of that, he is torturing all of us. Hence, it can only be you who can suggest a relief out of him!” Upon hearing this, Lord Brahma was concerned. It may be noted here that all the “Raakshasaas” (Demons) including Ravana perform “Tapas” and obtain all their boons from Lord Brahma. However, Lord Brahma replies to the Devas by saying that he is also helpless at this point of time and hence all of them together went to Lord Vishnu for a solution.

“Yethasmin anthare vishnuhu upayaatho mahadhyuthihi!

Shanka chakra gadhaa paanihi peethavaasaa jagath pathihi!!”

As soon as this group arrives at the “Vaikunta”, Lord Vishnu comes in front of them. Vaalmiki Maharishi here gives a beautiful description about the appearance of Lord Vishnu in the above sloka – He is dressed in yellow-coloured attire with the “Shankam” (Shell) in one hand and the “Chakra” (Wheel) in the other. He also possesses the “Gatha” (A type of weapon that was used during a war in ancient times). He also has His two wives – Shree Devi and Bhooma Devi on either sides and He is sitting in his “Garuda Vaahana” (Vaahana means vehicle, Garuda means eagle. Hence, Lord Vishnu’s divine vehicle is the eagle). Upon seeing Lord Vishnu in this form, all the Devas and Lord Brahma worship him:

“Vainatheyam samaaruhya bhaaskarasthoyatham yathaa!

Taptha haataka keyuraha vandhyamaanaha surotthamaihi!!”

Valmiki Maharishi here gives a beautiful comparison on the appearance of Lord Vishnu. He compares this appearance with the “Meru” mountain and he further says that this “Meru” mountain catches hold of the Sun and the Moon. The Sun and the Moon are nothing but the “Sangam” and “Chakram” in either hand of Lord Vishnu. Hence, he says that, upon the “Garuda Vaahana” (Eagle) there sits the “Meru” Mountain and it holds both the Sun and the Moon together in itself. Thus with this beautiful appearance, Lord Vishnu asks the Devas the purpose of their visit. The Devas collectively put forth their request to Lord Vishnu:

“Vishno puthrarthamaagachha krithvaathmaanam chathurvitham!

Tathrathvam maanusho bhoodhvaa pravritham lokha kantakam!!”

The Devas request Lord Vishnu, “Oh Bhagawan! You are the only one who can destroy the demon by name Ravana. For this, you need to incarnate on the earth and take measures to control his atrocities and help us gain freedom from the clutches of this evil Ravana!”

What does Lord Vishnu have in store for the Devas now? What was His reply to them? Let’s look at it in the next episode!

Episode 35 – Why should we perform our spiritual practices regularly? An important message for Shri Ramanavami!

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On this wonderful occasion of Shri Ramanavami day, I extend my warm greetings to all of you who continue to read this blog series worldwide. On this auspicious day, let us together pray to the feet of Goddess Sita Devi and Lord Rama for their abundant blessings to this world to maintain peace and happiness!

At this very important day, we are fortunate to talk about a very important aspect of the Indian Dharma, which is about the regular performance of our “Spiritual Practices”. We had started this discussion during the last episode and I had stressed upon the fact that, irrespective of whatever religion we might follow and whatever spiritual practices we are designated to perform everyday or every year, we are supposed to perform them as per the norms prescribed by our spiritual texts. But there arose a question at the end of yesterday as to why at all should we follow the spiritual practices everyday without fail? What are we going to gain out of it? We shall see the answers today!

One might conveniently pick up an argument from the Shaastras, which says that these regular spiritual practices (Nithya Karma Anushtaana) are not going to take us to the ultimate “Moksha Saamraajya” (Heaven, or Vaikunta), but only the “Bhakthi Maarga” is going to take us there. If this is the case why should at all we do our Nithya Karma Anushtaana, starting from our regular “Sandhya-Vandanam” till “Shraadha Karma” for our parents? Yes. I’m not discounting this argument and it’s perfectly correct – Bhakthi Maarga is such a highly spiritually evolved route to attain the feet of Bhagawan, however, the sins that we have accumulated over a period of numerous births would prevent us from taking the route of Bhakthi Maarga. It is to be noted importantly here that, the job of washing away our sins would not be done by Bhakthi Maarga, and this important job can be performed only by doing our Nithya Karma Anushtaana everyday. If we do our “Varnaashrama Dharma” (Regular Spiritual practices) regularly, then our sins would keep on being washed away. Only if our sins get washed away will we be able to advance ourselves into the “Bhakthi Maarga”. For instance, if there is a beautiful plant that grows on the ground, there would be numerous thorny bushes that would also grow along with this plant. These thorny bushes would absorb all the water from the soil and would prevent this plant from growing. Only if we remove all these thorny bushes from the vicinity of this plant, will the plant flower and blossom. Similarly, we too have to keep removing our sins, which are nothing but the thorny bushes and only then the flower of “Bhakthi” would be able to blossom! Just as we use a spade to remove the thorny bushes from the soil, we use the “Nithya Karma Anushtaana” as the “Spiritual Spade” to remove our sins, which are like a thorny bush. This is the primary reason as to why our forefathers and ancestors have stressed so much on performing our “Nithya Karma Anushtaana” regularly. We should make it a point that atleast for the welfare of our family and our next generation, we should perform our “Nithya Karma Anushtaana”.

Moreover, especially in the case of Brahmins, it is said that there would be no effect for any other spiritual offering that which is done without performing our regular “Sandhya-Vandanam” and it becomes invalid. Let’s keep it very simple: Performing any spiritual offering without doing the “Sandhya-Vandanam” is like adding as many zeroes before 1 (000001), and performing our other high spiritual offerings after doing the “Sandhya-Vandanam” is like adding zeroes after 1 (1,000). Which has more value? It’s for us to think and decide! 🙂

I had just mentioned that we should make it a point that atleast for the welfare of our family and our next generation, we should perform our “Nithya Karma Anushtaana”. Now there might be a question that arises here: For instance, will my mother/father attain the “Moksha Saamraajya” only if I perform the regular annual “Shraadha Karma”? Else, will they not go? The answer to this question is that, our parents are definitely not going to attain the “Moksha Saamraajya” based on what “Shraadha Karma” we do. If they’ve to depend on what we do, then probably most of our parents are not going to attain salvation at all! 🙂 If this is the case, then why should we still do the “Shraadha Karma” once a year for our parents? The simple answer is that, we should be able to attain the “Moksha Saamraajya” at the end of this birth, and atleast for this we should perform this duty to our parents. If we miss this opportunity given by Bhagawan, our sins would never get washed away and when would we be able to transcend to the “Moksha Saamraajya”? Hence, it’s not entirely for our parents that we perform the “Shraadha Karma” annually, but it’s for us to go to “Vaikunta” tomorrow! All of us should remember this important message!

Another question may arise at this stage: During our “Sandhya-Vandanam” or during our “Shraadha _ Karma” for our parents, we offer water, and other different kinds of offerings, depending on the occasion – Will this water that I’m offering, directly go and reach our forefathers and ancestors? The answer is “NO!” All what the Shaastra says is that, “If you offer the water and other offerings as part of the ritual, you have obeyed the rules and regulations of the Shaastra and thus Bhagawan is feeling happy for it”. It is thus to be noted that, only through the happiness of Bhagawan that we are entering into the “Moksha Saamraajya”. Let’s look at a simple example: We go to a bank to do a money transfer. We deposit a sum of money in the form of currency notes – Does the same currency notes reach the other person to whom we transfer money? No! However, just because we obey and follow the rules and regulations laid by the bank to transfer money, the transaction happens. Hence, we should note that it’s the “Effect” that is important here. Bhagawan says, “Shruthissrmithir mamair vaakhyaa!”, which simply means that the principles described in the Shaastras are His instructions for people in the world to follow. If we follow His instructions correctly, Bhagawan is happy. Once He is happy, automatically we would be able to attain “Vaikunta”. However, if we disobey the Shaastra, Bhagawan continues to say, “Aagnyaa chedi mama drohi!”, which means that if someone disobeys the Shaastra, he/she is an enemy to God!

Hence, the important message on this noble occasion of Shri Raama Navami is that, all of us should strive to perform our regular “Nithya Karma Anushtaana” (Spiritual Practices) without defaulting. In the next episode, we shall continue to see how King Dasharata performed the “Puthra Kaameshti Yaaga” with the help of the great Sage Rishyashringa.

Episode 34 – Performing our regular Spiritual Practices – A food for thought!!

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In the previous episode we witnessed that King Dasharata pays heed to the advice given by his minister Sumanthra and his “Guru”, Sage Vasishta to perform the “Puthra-Kaameshti Yaaga” and approaches Romapada, the king of his neighboring state, Anga Desha for bringing Sage Rishyashringa. Accordingly King Romapada was very happy at Dasharata’s request and he directs Sage Rishyashringa to leave for Ayodhya immediately. Thus, we also saw the commencement of the first procedure of the ritual – To let a horse travel across the country and upon its successful return back to the kingdom, the other rituals would start. Accordingly the horse returned back successfully and now Sage Vasishta further advises King Dasharata to extend an invitation to various kings of other states, great sages, etc. to grace the occasion and bless him. Now we are at the juncture to see as to why did Sage Vasishta want Dasharata to do this. Why should he invite everyone? Why can’t he do the ritual by himself? Here’s an interesting and an important explanation in today’s episode!

Let’s see it in this way: Sage Vasishta wanted King Dasharata to invite other people for the reason that, he should receive the blessings of all the great sages and also the kings, and through those blessings he should become a father of a child. This is because; a person would not be able to receive the grace of Bhagawan just by performing his/her karma (duty) alone. This is the reason why even today, we invite all our friends and relatives for a marriage function or a house-warming ceremony, etc. Also, we have the tradition of offering breakfast/lunch/dinner for all those people who come to attend the marriage or whatever function that we conduct. It’s just for the simple reason that “food” is one important aspect that would make people contented, happy and satisfied. Once people are happy, they whole-heartedly bless the occasion and it adds so much of value for those who organize the function.

However, it is important to note here that although the invitation to other people is necessary, the “karma” that we are supposed to perform in this world is also equally important. When I use the word “Karma”, it means our regular and routine spiritual practices that we are supposed to do everyday – Be it any religion or community in this world. The point here is that, irrespective of whatever religion we follow in this world, we should strive towards meticulously following the principles laid down by the respective religion!

For instance, in Hinduism we do our “Sandhya-Vandhanam” (A daily spiritual offering that is done by Brahmins), “Shraadha-Karma” (An spiritual practice that is performed after the demise of our parents), etc. and it is to be noted that these kinds of spiritual practices are to be strictly performed regularly without skipping. This is a very important aspect of the Indian Dharma.

Having said this, there might be different arguments put forth by people in the modern day – Some people say and declare to themselves that they’ve spiritually awakened to such an extent that they are not in a position to do all these daily routine “Karma” and they’ve crossed all these basic stages and gone to the “Gnyaana Maarga” (The path of deep knowledge). Let me tell something here – We’ve never crossed over to all those higher levels yet, and it’s only next to impossible for us to do all that in the present Kali Yuga. “Gnyaana” (Knowledge) is in the place where it should be and we are still somewhere at an extremely lower levels. Hence, as normal human beings born in this world, we are bound to perform our regular spiritual practices everyday without fail.

Moreover, some people propagate that we’ve entered into the path of “Bhakti” (Devotion towards the Lord), and we keep chanting a “Manthra” regularly. Hence we need not do other daily routine spiritual practices. Also, some people propagate that we’ve gone to Varanasi and Gaya (Places in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh & Bihar) and performed our “Shraadha-Karma” for our demised parents once in our lifetime and hence, we need not perform anymore yearly “Shraadha-Karma” that we are supposed to perform – All these kinds of propagations according to me are ways and means of escapism. There is nothing like this in our “Shaastras” (Spiritual texts). It is extremely important that we do our “Sandhya-Vandanam” every day (in case of Brahmins). Also in fact, the “Shaastras” say that a person should do his “Shraadha-Karma” for his parents every year after their demise. This is mandatory, and no “Shaastras” say that we need not perform the annual ritual for our parents once we do a “Gaya Shraadha” in our life.

“Gayayaam pindapradhaanancha prathyartham bhoori bhojanaath”!!

The above line is a “Shaastra-Vaakya” (Sentence from the Scriptures) that emphasizes that every year a person should do the “Shraadha-Karma” for his parents after their demise, even though the “Gaya Shraadha” is done once in his lifetime.

Another argument here might be that, we keep chanting the name of the Lord every time and everyday and thus we are rising in our “Bhakti Maarga” (Path of Devotion) gradually. Let me tell one thing here – Chanting the name of the Lord is very good and there is absolutely no doubt in that. However, no Shaastra says that we’ve to leave behind our “Nithya-Anushtaana” (Daily spiritual practices) and chant the Lord’s name.

Also, many a time, we wrongly understand the meaning of “Complete Surrender to the Lord”. We all think that once we surrender ourselves to Bhagawan, whatever wrong activities we do in this birth henceforth, would never be seen as wrong – There’s nothing like this! Firstly we should note that Bhagawan is not a fool – He knows when and where to punish all of us for our bad deeds.

Hence, it is very important for all of us that we do our daily spiritual practices regularly without fail! At this stage, questions may arise from another corner: Why do we need to do all these regular spiritual practices? Why is there so much of an emphasis on this? Yes, it’s a very interesting question – Let’s wait till the next episode to find out the answer for this!

Episode 33: King Dasharata to perform the “Puthra-Kaameshti” Yaaga

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In the previous episode we witnessed that King Dasharata and the entire city of Ayodhya was deeply concerned because he was childless for a long period of time. Worries were growing as to who would succeed the Ayodhya kingdom after Dasharata. At that moment, one of his able ministers – Sumanthra proposed the idea of doing an “Ishti” yaaga (offering) as a solution to this problem and accordingly Sage Vasishta and all the other great Sages in king Dasharata’s courtroom accepted and approved this idea. In the due course, we also saw a brief history of Sage Rishyashringa who was supposed to be the only person in the world to perform this ritual successfully. How did Dasharata go about it from here? What was his plan of action? Let’s see in today’s episode.

Sumanthra and Sage Vasishta finish their advice by saying that if this “Ishti” yaaga has to be successfully done, Sage Rishyashringa and his wife Shaanta Devi should visit Ayodhya. Accordingly, King Dasharata pays heed to their advice and prepares himself to bring both of them to his palace. He goes to “Anga Desha” (his neighbouring kingdom) and requests “Romapaada” – the king of Anga Desha to send Sage Rishyashringa and his wife to Ayodhya.

“Sanathkumaarao bhagawaan poorvam kachithavaan tathaan!

Kaashyapaschtava puthroosmi vibhaantaka ithishruthaaha!!

Rishyashringairithiggraathaha tasya puthro bhavishyathi!

Naanyam jaanaathi viprendraha Nithyam vithyanu varthanaath!!”

The above slokas signify the advice given by Sumanthra and Sage Vashishta to king Dasharata and accordingly Dasharata too approaches Romapaada – the king of Anga Desha for his help in bringing Sage Rishyashringa to Ayodhya.

“Sapthaashta divasaan raajaa raajaanamidham abraveeth!

Shaanta tava suthaa raajan saha bhathraa vishaampathe!!

Madheeyam nagaram yaathu kaaryam hi mahadhyudhayam!

Tathethi raajaa samshruthya gamanam tasya dheemakhaha!!”

King Dasharata requests his counterpart, Romapaada for his help in this issue and Romapaada was happy to help him. Accordingly he requests his son-in-law, Sage Rishyashringa and Shaanta Devi to pay a visit to Ayodhya and to do the needful to king Dasharata. Thus when Sage Romapaada arrived at Ayodhya, all the sages enter into a huddle of discussion and ultimately came up with a good date for performing the ritual of “Puthra-Kaameshti Yaaga”.

“Tasthvam kim varthase brahman gnyaathumichaamahe vayam!

Pithaa vibhaandakoosvaanam tasyaahamsutha aurasaaha!!

Rishyashringa ithigyaatham naama karmacha me bhuvi!”

Thus, all preparations were going on for performing the ritual. At the final point of the preparation, the procedure normally is to designate a horse (Ashvam) and allow it to run across numerous kingdoms around Ayodhya and finally it would return back. If in the mid-way this horse was captured by any king of any kingdom, this king who had sent the horse should wage a war against the opponent, win over him and bring back the horse. Accordingly, the horse was also let to run.

“Sambhaaraaha sambhriyam taanthe turakascha vimuchyathaam!”

Here, “Turakam” means horse. The horse was made to run and it covered a large area with its travel. Wherever it goes, will anyone dare to touch the horse that is sent by king Dasharata? Nobody did!! Moreover, the entire world knows why king Dasharata had sent this horse – Everyone was eager as to when will king Dasharata be blessed with a son! Hence, the horse came back after its marathon run and the first ritual of this great “Ishti yaaga” was successfully executed!

King Dasharata was extremely happy on the successful return of his horse. Now it’s time to start the main ritual. Hence, Sage Vashishta again guides him to send an invitation to all the kings and the great sages around Ayodhya to come and participate in the grand occasion.

It is to be noted particularly here that, although Sage Vashishta knows very well that upon performing this ritual successfully, Dasharata is going to be blessed with a son, he wants him to invite all the kings, sages, etc. and receive their blessings during the process of this ritual.

Why is Sage Vasishta so particular about this? There is a beautiful in-depth meaning for this move. Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!

Episode 32 – Sumanthra guides King Dasharata

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In the last couple of episodes, we were able to witness the beauty and the significance of the city of Ayodhya, which was the capital of the great Ikshvaaku Dynasty. Valmiki Maharishi had been mentioning numerous good things about Ayodhya, but at the end he says that there is just one worry for the king and amongst the people of Ayodhya – There was no successor for the kingdom, that is, King Dasharata was childless for a very long time. At this stage, King Dasharata, being worried, consults his minister Sumanthra. What was the guidance given by Sumanthra? Let’s see today!

Upon Dasharata’s request for Sumanthra’s guidance, Sumanthra recalls a story that he had heard long back from the yester kings of Sanaka and Sanathkumara. He says that, at this time when the kingdom is in a fix over who would succeed, to get a solution for this problem the king can perform an “Ishti Yaaga”. Here, “Ishti Yaaga” is a form of “Ashvamedha Yaaga” (“Ashvam” in Sanskrit means horse), wherein a horse would be let out and sacrificed in prayers for something to happen. If this procedure is followed with the prayer of wanting a son, it is called “Puthra Kaameshti Yaaga” (A prayer for the want of a son). Hence Sumanthra says to Dasharata that if he has to have a child, it’s better that he performs this “Puthra Kaameshti Yaaga”. However, he also adds that there’s only one sage in this world who can perform this ritual successfully – and that person is Sage Rishyashringa. (Rishyashringa in Sanskrit, Kalaikkotttu Munivar in Tamil). Sage Rishyashringa was the son of Sage Vibhaandaka. Once the ritual is performed successfully, an angel would appear from the heaven and offer a “Havis” (Havis can be equated to a form of a Divine Nectar) and upon offering this “Havis” to Dasharata’s wives, he would be able to have children.

Upon hearing all this from Sumanthra, Dasharata is puzzled. He again asks Sumanthra, “You’re talking about somebody by name Rishyashringa, Vibhaantaka, etc. How and where will I go and find all these people? Where are they?”. At this stage, Sage Vasishta (The “Kula Guru” of the entire Ikshvaaku Dynasty) gets up and gives the identity of Sage Rishyashringa.

“Ashtou babhoovur anisya tasya maathya yasashvinaha!

Drishtihi jayanthaha vijayaha suraastraha raashtravardhanaha!!

Ahoopo dharma paalascha sumanthraha ashtamo hasith!”

In the above verse, Valmiki Maharishi beautifully describes King Dasharata’s courtroom – He says that there would be eight ministers seated on one side and another eight “Kula Gurus” (including Sage Vasishta) on the other side. Dasharata sits among these sixteen people and all these sixteen people are experts in giving the right advice at the right time.

At this time, both Sumanthra and Sage Vasishta narrate the history of this great Sage Rishyashringa: Over a period of time, Sage Rishyashringa was born and brought up in a forest. He doesn’t know anything what happens in a kingdom and in a city. He doesn’t even know what is the taste of good food, desire, etc. He is such a staunch sage without any of these feelings in him. But once upon a time, the king of the neighboring country – Anga Desha wanted to do an offering with the help of Sage Rishyashringa in the want of rain, as his kingdom was facing an acute drought situation. So he sent a few women, who slowly seduced him and brought him to his kingdom. The moment Sage Rishyashringa’s feet touched the kingdom of Anga Desha, it began to pour down and the drought situation was completely eradicated. Thus, the king of Anga Desha was happy and he gave his daughter “Shanta Devi” in marriage to Sage Rishyashringa. Hence Sumanthra says that Sage Rishyashringa is currently living with Shanta Devi in a place, which is in the outskirts of the city of Ayodhya. (Even today we can worship this place. It is called “Shringiberipuram” wherein there is a separate temple dedicated for Shanta Devi and Sage Rishyashringa).

Upon hearing this, Dasharata is very happy. Now, what did Dasharata do after hearing this story from Sumanthra and Vasishta? Let’s wait to find out from the next episode!