Episode 72 – Origin of River Ganga – The most sacred river of India!!

rama-sita

We are currently at a point in the Ramayana story wherein Sage Vishwaamithra is taking the children Rama and Lakshmana along with him towards Mithilapuri The kingdom of Janaka Maharaj and the home of Sita. All along the way, Sage Vishwaamithra tries to engage the two children in the form of stories pertaining to various people and also about the various places and rivers through which they walk along. In the previous episode we saw one such story wherein Sage Vishwaamithra narrates his own history as to how he was born and how did he get that interest in becoming a “Brahma-Rishi”. In today’s episode, we are going to see another important and an interesting story narrated by Sage Vishwaamithra to the two children. Currently, they are passing through the river Ganges and Sage Vishwaamithra narrates the history behind this great river. It would be of immense interest for all of us, as this river of Ganges, is even today considered as one of the most sacred rivers that flow in India. Now let’s go into the story:

“Sagaro naama dharmaathmaa prajaakaamasya chaaprajaha!

Vaidharba dhurithaa naama kesini naamanaamakaha!!”

Sage Vishwaamithra says to Rama and Lakshmana that the river Ganges was brought down by a king by name “Sagara” who was one of the great ancestors of the Ikshvaaku Dynasty. This king Sagara had two wives – Kesini and Sumathi. Both the wives along with king Sagara were childless for a long time and ultimately they approach Lord Vishnu for help in this matter. Lord Vishnu answers their prayers and gives them an opportunity to select between two options: The first optionOnly one son with lot of brilliance and the second optionMany sons, but with less brilliance. Lord Vishnu asks the two wives of king Sagara to choose between these two options. One of the wives opted for option two, and had 60,000 sons! The other one opted for option one, wherein she obtained a son by name “Asamanjas”. But what happened is that, as per Bhagawan’s words this son Asamanjas was a very lazy child with no effort, although he had lot of brain and brilliance. (Even today, we use this term “Asamanjasam” to point out people who are lazy and without putting any efforts to succeed in life!)

Thus, these children grow up, and one day king Sagara wanted to perform an Ashvamedha Yaaga. As we’ve seen before, as part of the Ashvamedha Yaaga, a horse is let to circle around the entire kingdom and if the horse is caught by someone on the way, this king has to go in search of the horse, defeat that person who has captured it and then bring it back. Accordingly, the horse was let go as per the ritual and at one point, unfortunately the horse slipped away from the path and was lost! King Sagara was worried and first asked his 60,000 sons to go and search for the horse. We’ve to remember here that these 60,000 sons were brainless children. They went everywhere, searching for the horse but couldn’t trace it out! At one stage they went underground (Paathaala Lokha) and found Kapila Maharishi sitting there in deep penance. (Kapila Maharishi is at a few places in the Hindu Literature referred to as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu Himself). Unfortunately, this horse that was lost was standing near Kapila Maharishi! Of course, Kapila Maharishi was in deep penance and he did not capture the horse. But these 60,000 sons thought to themselves that it is Kapila Maharishi who has captured the horse. Accordingly, they tried to attack the great saint. Kapila Maharishi was disturbed from his penance, opened his eyes with anger and within a minute, all the 60,000 sons were burnt to ashes! Since this incident happened in the “Paathaala Lokha” (Underground), nobody knew what had happened.

The king was concerned and sent his other son Asamanjas to go and find out what happened to the horse as well as to the 60,000 people who went in search of it. As we know the characteristics of this son “Asamanjas”, there was no effort from him. He just went around and came back and couldn’t find out what happened. King Sagara was disappointed a lot that he couldn’t complete the Yagna and in the course of it, he lost his 60,000 sons. Much later after this, Asamanjas was blessed with a son by name “Amsumaan”. This Amsumaan was a good and an efficient king. He expedited the pursuit and found the horse as well as the 60,000 people burnt near Kapila Maharishi. He asked forgiveness to the saint and requested him to send back the horse. Accordingly, Kapila Maharishi let go of the horse, as per the request of king Amsumaan. Amsumaan further asks Kapila Maharishi if he could do something to bring back the 60,000 people to life again. But the saint replied that he cannot do that, but however suggested him to pray to Mother Ganga for help! He suggested that maybe if the river Ganges comes down to the earth, there is a chance for these 60,000 people to be brought back to life upon sprinkling the water on to them!

Accordingly, as per the instructions of Kapila Maharishi, king Amsumaan sits in deep penance to bring the mother Ganga down to the earth, but was unsuccessful. Much later, Amsumaan had a son by name “Dileepa”. Dileepa was a very wise king as well and he tried his best to bring the Ganges down. He too couldn’t succeed. King Dileepa had a son by name “Bhageeratha”. Bhageeratha continued the efforts of his father and grandfather to bring down the river Ganges to the earth. Pleased by his deep and immense penance, mother Ganges answers him from heaven “Oh Bhageeratha! You are asking me to come down to the earth! But if I come down, I might end up destroying the towns and cities with the immense force of my water flow! So, Bhageeratha, please prepare yourself for this!” King Bhageeratha requested mother Ganga to give him some time and in the meanwhile, he went into a deep penance towards Lord Shiva and requested His help in this regard. Accordingly Lord Shiva offered his help by holding the river Ganga in his head. This is why Lord Shiva is referred to as “Gangaadhara” and “Jataadhara”. It is thus from Lord Shiva’s head, the river Ganges falls to the earth. River Ganges is also known as “Tripagathaa”, which means that she flows in three different directions – Towards the Deva Lokha, Manushya Lokha and Aakaasha (Sky). Thus with this heavy flow, as the Mother Ganga comes down to the “Manushya Lokha” (Earth), she asks Bhageeratha to take his chariot and ride all along and show her the path to flow along. Mother Ganga says that she would follow Bhageeratha’s chariot all the way, wherever he goes. Thus accordingly, Bhageeratha starts his chariot at the “Gangothri” (The present place where the river Ganges originates – Also referred to as “Bindusaras” in the present-day Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. This is a beautiful place even today, and the water here is so pure like glass!) Thus from this place, mother Ganga follows Bhageeratha’s chariot, and thus he takes the Ganges all along until it reaches the Bay of Bengal. It is thus we see even today, that the River Ganges empties itself south of Hoogly in the present day city of Kolkata in India.

In the middle of the journey, Bhageeratha’s chariot passes through the ears of Jambu Maharishi and the Ganges follow this route. It is thus, the river Ganges is also referred to as “Jaanhavi”. Since king Bhageeratha brought it to the earth, it is also referred to as “Bhaageerathi”. Thus, we can see the holiness and the sacredness of this great river called Ganges or Ganga. Thus, “Bhaageerathi”, “Alakananda”, “Jaanhavi”, etc. are the other names of the holy river Ganges and even if we chant these names everyday, it is so powerful that all our sins are washed away in a jiffy!

Thus, Sage Vishwaamithra narrated this entire story to the children Rama and Lakshmana and they proceed further. Where did they go next? What were the events that unfolded after this? Let’s witness in the next episode!

Episode 71 – Sage Vishwaamithra narrates his own story to Rama and Lakshmana

rama-sita

In the previous episode we witnessed that the two children, Rama and Lakshmana convey their wish to Sage Vishwaamithra that they would follow him wherever he takes them along. Upon hearing this from them, Sage Vishwaamithra also agrees to their wish and they again start their journey from the “Siddhaashrama”. Today let us see where did they go further and the subsequent interesting narratives that took place all along their journey!

Thus, the three of them commence their journey from “Siddhaashramam”. For a moment, let us recall their journey in terms of the present day cities in India. The journey commenced from Ayodhya (A city in the present day Indian state of Uttar Pradesh) and proceeded eastwards all along the banks of the river Sarayu (This river exists even today), reach the place where the Sarayu river meets the Ganges and have so far reached the place called Buxar, via a place called Chappra, which is at the border between the two Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. This is where the “Siddhaashramam” is located and the three of them are currently at this spot.

From this Buxar, they proceed northwards now and walk their way towards Patna, in the banks of the river Ganges. (I’m sure, this place would be known to many of us, as Patna is the capital of the present day Indian state of Bihar). They proceed further northwards from Patna and reach the city of “Vishaala”. This Vishaala city in the present day is known as Hajipur, in the state of Bihar. Thus, through the city of Vishaala (Hajipur), they cross the entire state of Bihar and enter into the borders of the present day neighboring country of Nepal. About 60-70 kilometers inside the Nepal-India border, is a place called “Sita-Mari”, which is the birthplace of Goddess Sita Devi. These three didn’t go there, but they cross this place “Sita-Mari” and now proceed in the north-eastern direction to finally reach Mithilapuri, which is the capital city of King Janaka. Hence, it is to this Mithilapuri or Janakpuri that Sage Vishwaamithra is going to take the two children along!

Thus, the three of them commence their journey from Siddhaashrama:

“Uttharaamdishamuddishya prasthaathumupa chakkrame!”

Thus they are now walking towards the northern direction (Utthara Disha) and now they reach the banks of the river Ganges. They halt for that night in the riverbank. It is to be recalled that they had already halted along the banks of the rivers Sarayu and Shrona in their previous leg of their journey. Sage Vishwaamithra narrates stories to the two children wherever they halt. Now when they halt at the Ganges, Sage Vishwaamithra narrates how he was born and how he became a “Brahma-Rishi”. I shall narrate the story in brief for our understanding: The readers should carefully go through the family traditions here, as it might be a little confusing.

The “family tree” starts from Lord Brahma. Kusha was the son of Lord Brahma, Kushanaaba was the son of Kusha and Gaadhi was the son of Kushanaaba. It is only to this Gaadhi, that Sage Vishwaamithra was born! Gaadhi was already having a daughter by name Sathyavati. However, Gaadhi’s wife had a desire to be blessed with a son. (It is to be noted that Gaadhi is a “Kshathrya”. Thus, Sage Vishwaamithra is also a “Kshathrya” by birth, but he wanted to attain the status of a “Brahma-Rishi” later in his life and thus he became a Sage). Thus, Gaadhi’s daughter Sathyavati was given in marriage to the Brahmin Sage Richeeka. (On a lighter moment, we can note here that inter-caste marriage was already popular even in those days!)

As mentioned before, Gaadhi’s wife was having a desire to be blessed with a son. At the same time, the newly married Sathyavati also had a desire to be blessed with a son. Thus both these women approach Sage Richeeka (Husband of Sathyavati) for a solution. Sage Richeeka accordingly prepares two sets of “Charu” (In simpler terms, “Paayasam” or “Nectar”) – One for each! Thus he prepares one cup of “Charu” for his wife and one for his mother in law! The “Charu” that he prepared for his own wife, was intended to give birth to a Brahmin boy and the “Charu” that he prepared for his mother in law was intended to give birth to a Kshathrya prince. However, the mother in law, with her selfish attitude thinks for a moment that the cup of “Charu” that the Sage prepared for Sathyavati would be of a higher quality and order, and thus, without anybody’s knowledge, she quickly consumes the “Charu” that was meant for Sathyavati. Thus we can see here that, the consumption of the “Charu” by the two ladies was inter-changed!

Much later after this, Sathyavati realizes the issue and feels bad and ashamed! Hence she asks her husband (Sage Richeeka)’s forgiveness and asks for a corrective measure. Sage Richeeka refuses to budge to her request and conveys that the son who is to be born to Sathyavati is going to be a person who would be full of “Kshathrya Tejas” and will be an embodiment of anger! Upon hearing this, Sathyavati was stunned and starts crying! She falls on her husband’s feet and requests him to do something to prevent this unfortunate situation! Sage Richeeka thinks for a moment and says, “Oh my dear Sathyavati! This situation cannot be avoided completely, however, I can “postpone” this to the next generation”. This means that, this son with full of anger and ferocity would be born to the son of Sathyavati (The next generation). Thus, Sathyavati and Sage Richeeka were blessed with a son by name “Jamadagni”. Ideally, this Jamadagni should have been born with the anger and ferocity, but since Sage Richeeka “altered” the course a little bit, the son of this Jamadagni, “Jaamadagnya” or “Parasuraama” was born with this extreme “Kshathrya Tejas” and anger. Thus, we can see here that, Parasuraama shared a very close relationship with Sage Vishwaamithra! Thus, Parasurama was the grandson of Sage Richeeka and was supposed to be a Brahmin by birth. But he had all the characteristics of a “Kshathrya Prince” with lot of anger. It is thus due to this inter-change of the “Charu” during the birth!

So far, we’ve seen the story of Sage Richeeka and Sathyavati. Now let’s look into the story of Gaadhi and his wife. Gaadhi and his wife were blessed with a son, who was none other than Sage Vishwaamithra. Since Gaadhi’s wife had consumed the wrong “Charu”, although they were Kshathryas, they were blessed with a son who had an immense interest of being a great saint. It is thus, Sage Vishwaamithra although being a Kshathrya by birth, had the interest of becoming a “Brahma-Rishi” and after innumerable years of deep penance, he obtained this high status!

Thus, Sage Vishwaamithra narrates this story to the children and explained to them that this is how he was born! After this story narration, they proceed further northwards and as they progress, Sage Vishwaamithra narrates subsequent stories. What is the next story? Let’s wait till the next episode!

Episode 70 – How should a “Sishya” conduct himself in front of his “Guru”?

rama-sita

In the previous episode we witnessed that Lord Rama was engaged in a fierce battle with the two demons Maareecha and Shubaahu who were in turn the sons of Thaataka. At the end of the war, the two demons were rendered powerless in front of the invincible Lord Rama and ultimately, Shubaahu was killed and Maareecha was chased away and pounded several miles into the ocean by Lord Rama’s arrows! In the due course of yesterday’s discussion we also saw the in-depth meaning as to why Lord Rama killed one of the demons and let the other one escape. Thus, we should understand from all these episodes of the Ramayana that every event of Bhagawan’s Avatar would comprise of numerous inner significances and greater in-depth meanings, apart from just the “external” storyline. This is the main purpose of writing this blog series too! Of course, a vast majority of us already know the Ramayana storyline as we’ve been listening to it right from our childhood days! What is more important in this context is the inner significance of the main storyline, and this is what I’m trying to bring out from each and every life incident of Bhagawan Shri Rama.

Now, let us move on! Sage Vishwaamithra is very happy that Rama and Lakshmana were able to successfully protect the “Yagna” that he had performed. What are the events that unfolded after this? Let’s have a look today! What was Sage Vishwaamithra’s next course of action? We shall start with the following sloka:

“Prabhaataayaantu sarvaryaam kritha pourvaanthitha kriyou!

Vishwaamithra rishischaanya sahithaava abhijagmadhuhu!!

Mythalasya nara shreshta janakasya bhavishyathi!

Yagnaf parama dharmishta tathra yaasyaamaye vayam!!”

Sage Vishwaamithra’s agenda of bringing the two children with him was over isn’t it? So look at how selfishly he talks now! He says, “Oh Rama and Lakshmana! Thank you for successfully protecting my Yagna for six days and six nights! I’m proceeding towards Mithilapuri for another Yagna arranged by the king Janaka! You may go back to Ayodhya as I proceed towards Mithilapuri!” Upon hearing this, Rama was surprised! He thinks to himself “Ah! This Sage Vishwaamithra has forgotten what Guru Vashishtaachaarya had said before we started from Ayodhya – That, it was only for my good, that my father is sending me with Sage Vishwaamithra! Now his work is over and he’s trying to let go of me from here! But, my purpose of visit is not yet fulfilled – I’ve come with him to marry Sita and that is yet to be fulfilled! So I’ve to convince this Sage Vishwaamithra to take me along to Mithilapuri!” Thus Rama replies back to Sage Vishwaamithra saying that, he and his brother Lakshmana would follow him wherever he goes and this is as per the instructions of their father!

“Yeva mukthvaa muni varaha prasthaanamaparoktathaa!

Uttharaamdishamuddhischa prasthaathum upa chakrame!!

Dehathvaa dhooramatthaanam lambamaane divaakare!

Vaasam chakrum muniganaaha shonaakoole samaanhithaaha!!

“Imausma munishaardhoola kim karao samu paschithou!”

Thus, at this point Lord Rama with folded hands, requests to Sage Vishwaamithra, “Oh ‘Munishaardhoola! (The greatest amongst all Saints) Both of us are here (Imausma) to perform whatever duties you want us to do and as per our father’s instructions, we are ready to follow you wherever you are going and wherever you wish to take us!” Again, we can see here that Bhagawan (Paramaathma) says this to a Samsaari (Jeevaathma). What does this mean? Why are we stressing this over and over again? It is simply for the reason that Bhagawan illustrates through his own life that a “Sishya” (Student) should be of unconditional service to his “Guru” (Teacher). It is only for us to understand this “Dharma” that Bhagawan implements this in his life and sets an example for us to follow!

Upon Rama’s request, Sage Vishwaamithra was so impressed with the child’s “Guru-Bhakthi” and he is convinced enough to take the two children along with him to where he goes next. Now the next set of questions for us to explore is that, where is Sage Vishwaamithra taking the two children again? What are the events that unfolded after this? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!

Episode 69 – Why did Rama kill Shubaahu and chase away Maareecha? The inner significance of this event!

rama-sita

During the previous episode we were witnessing the fight between Rama and the two raakshasaas, Maareecha and Shubhaahu, who were in turn the sons of the demon Thaataka. In the due course of the last episode, we saw that Rama killed Shubaahu and let Maareecha escape by pounding him some several miles away into the ocean! An important debatable question had arisen at the end of the previous episode as to why only one of them were killed and why the other one was allowed to escape by Lord Rama. We shall discuss an extremely important inner significance for this event.

To explain this inner significance, we invoke the “Karma Theory” or “Theory of Actions”. To be very precise, this “Karma Theory” closely follows the footsteps of Newton’s third law of motionEvery action has an equivalent and opposite reaction! Thus, according to the theory of Karma, every action of ours, will have an equivalent and an opposite effect that we need to experience. For instance, if we perform good deeds, the reactions to it would be good, and vice versa.

As many of us would perhaps be aware of this theory of Karma in the Hindu Literature, there are basically two types of “Karma” – “Sanchitha Karma” and “Praarabhdha Karma”. The “Sanchita Karma”, as per the Hindu Literature, is the huge collection of “Karma” that we have been accumulating over the period of numerous births in this world! Subsequently, “Praarabdha Karma” is when a small portion of the accumulated “Sanchita Karma” is taken off and we start to experience the effects or the fruits of this portion. (“Aarabdha” in Sanskrit means, “To begin” and “Praarabdha” means, “Beginning to experience”). This is why in our day-to-day life we face both happy and challenging situations alternatively. Once this set of “Praarabdha Karma” is over, we would again start experiencing the fruits of another small portion of the “Sanchita Karma”, and this cycle is never ending. We also need to remember that, even while we are in this present birth too, we would be accumulating so many good actions and also sins due to our ill actions and all these would go directly into the “Sanchita Karma”. This is why we always are under this cycle of birth and death and subsequently take numerous births in this world!

It is only in the midst of this vicious cycle of birth and death we stand in front of Bhagawan and pray to him for “Moksha” or “Liberation” from this cycle! In that way, we also approach a Spiritual Guru for a solution! Thus, the important lesson to be understood is that, the moment we approach Bhagawan with an unconditional surrender at His feet, Bhagawan responds to our surrender in two ways: The first way is that, whatever “Sanchita Karma” we had accumulated over numerous births prior to this one, are burnt away by Bhagawan, and the second way is that, Bhagawan “pulls us out” of whatever “Praarabdha Karma” that we are currently experiencing in this birth and the various “Karma” that we are going to accumulate in the future days in this birth.

For simplicity, we can categorize these two types into “Poorva-Agam” and “Utthara-Agam”. Poorva-Agam” is nothing but all the sins that we’ve accumulated before we unconditionally surrender to Bhagawan and “Utthara-Agam” is nothing but the sins that we accumulate after we surrender to Bhagawan. We should note here that, even after surrendering ourselves to Bhagawan, we are not immediately going to get the “Moksha” the next day! We ill only get to the “Moksha” at the end of this present birth. Hence, in our remaining days/months/years, until we live in this world, we would still be accumulating more and more sins and all this would go into the “Utthara-Agam”.

Here, we should note keenly that Bhagawan does not deal with the two types of Karma in the same way – He burns away the “Poorva-Agam” completely, and “pulls us out” of the “Utthara-Agam”. This is illustrated beautifully by Upanishads as follows:

“Tadhyathaa pushkara phalaase aapaha nashrishyanthe yeva mevamithihi paapam karma nashrishathe!”

The above Upanishad sentence explains that just as how water droplets do not stand upon the leaf of a lotus plant and are washed away instantly, our “Utthara-Agam” is completely washed away by the grace of Bhagawan! Whereas, just like a small ball of cotton is completely burnt by a fire, Bhagawan, with His grace, burns away our “Poorva-Agam”! It is only to illustrate these two different ways, Lord Rama kills Shubhaahu and chases away Maareecha without killing him. Hence we can see here that, killing Shubhaahu is like burning away our “Poorva-Agam” and chasing away of Maareecha is like washing away our “Utthara-Agam”! It is only to establish this “Dharma” in the world that Bhagawan Himself shows us through this episode of Maareecha and Shubhaahu!

Now moving on, Sage Vishwaamithra is extremely happy and pleased with Rama and Lakshmana for killing the two demons and the “Yagna” ends successfully without any disturbances like before! What happened next? Where did Sage Vishwaamithra take the two children after this? Let’s wait to find out till the next episode!

Episode 68 – Shubaahu is killed and Maareecha escapes!!!

rama-sita

In the previous episode we witnessed that Sage Vishwaamithra along with the two children, Rama and Lakshmana arrive at the “Siddhaashramam” to perform his divine offering (Yagna). Everything is set for the commencement of the “Yagna” and for the next six days, the “Yagna” takes place all through the day and the night without a break. Rama and Lakshmana stay continuously awake for all the six days and nights and protect the “Yagna” from the disturbances of the “Raakshasaas” (Demons).

It was only at the end of the sixth day that the two demon sons of Thaataka, Maareecha and Shubhaahu arrive at the scene of the “Yagna”. Upon getting to know that this child Rama had killed their mother, they fumed in anger and wanted to take revenge against Rama and Lakshmana and also on Sage Vishwaamithra who had brought the two children there. Thus, as the two demons Maareecha and Shubaahu announce their arrival with all their ferocity, Rama and Lakshmana ready themselves to fight and destroy both of them. Valmiki Maharishi brings out the fight that happened between Rama and the two demons very beautifully and also with a huge in-depth meaning to it.

“Chikshepa paramah kruththaha maareechorasi raaghavaha!

Sathena paramaasthena maanavena samaahathaha!!

Sampoorna yojana shatam kshipraha saagara samplave!!”

The two children commence their fight with the two demons. Both Maareecha and Shubhaahu were not able to match the valor of the two children and they start sulking, and within no time both the “raakshasaas” are rendered helpless! Ideally speaking, Rama should have killed both Maareecha and Shubaahu at one shot – But he did not do that! Rama kills Shubaahu, but chases away Maareecha and pounds him several miles into the ocean! Thus we can understand the very important event here, that Lord Rama killed only one of the demons and chased the other one away! Immediately a question would arise here as to why did he do that? Why didn’t Rama kill both of them? If Rama would have killed Maareecha here itself, there would have been no problem at all! Even our blog series would have come to an end by today itself! 🙂 It is only because Rama didn’t finish off Maareecha’s story here, that he became instrumental at a later stage to pull Lord Rama and Sita Devi into trouble with Raavana!

Because of the above questions, one can easily arrive at a conclusion that this is one drawback of the Rama Avatar. You might wonder why am I making such an unwarranted allegation! Let’s connect a few dots and see why this allegation props up! Every time whenever Rama fights the “Raakshasaas”, he would always leave one “raakshasa” to escape! In the entire Ramayana story we can see this happening! Let’s now connect the dots – At a later stage, Soorpanaka, the sister of Ravana comes to fight with Rama and Lakshmana. Ideally she should have been killed, but Rama let her go! After that the 14,000 Raakshasaas come to fight with Rama. Even in that, he kills 13,999 of them, and lets “Akampana” escape from the scene! It was this Akampana who briefed Ravana about Rama and his valor. Thus we can see, at any point during a war, Rama doesn’t kill all the opponents, but let’s someone or the other to escape!

This kind of a problem never existed in the case of Lord Krishna! Just for a lighter moment, let’s look into the life of Lord Krishna! Anybody who came into “Gokula” (Lord Krishna’s childhood dwelling place) never had a history of going back! All the demons that came to attack little Krishna were killed then and there and nobody was allowed to escape! The first to come was “Poothana” and the last to come was “Kesi” – All of them were killed and were shown their place! Koorathaazhwaar beautifully portrays this in his famous text called “Abhimaanushasthavam”. He says, “Oh Lord Krishna! You are like a lamp of fire amidst the ‘Aayar Kula’! All the raakshasaas who came to attack you were like small insects that are mesmerized by that lamp of fire and automatically fall into the lamp and die!” Such was Lord Krishna’s characteristics! In the modern day we see at many places in major cities, something called as a “One-way traffic”! Perhaps, at the entrance of Gokula, there was a signboard signifying “One way traffic”! 🙂 That is, you can go inside, but you cannot come out! This is true even in the case of devotees too! Of course, the Raakshasaas are going to be killed and they are not going to come out unscathed, but what about devotees? Why should we come out of Lord Krishna’s dwelling place, once we enter inside? It’s the place of the divine! Hence, it is a “One-way traffic” even for devotees like us! This is how Lord Krishna ruled Gokula!

But all said and done with all the funny comparisons, there is a very important reason and an in-depth meaning as to why Lord Rama in this context, killed Shubaahu and allowed Maareecha to escape from that place. What is that important reason? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!

Episode 67 – Rama & Lakshmana reach “Siddhaashramam”!!

rama-sita

In the previous couple of episodes we were witnessing that Rama and Lakshmana were passing through the “Thaatakaa Vanam” along with Sage Vishwaamithra, wherein the demoness Thaataka confronted with Rama. He kills her with just a single arrow and in the course of that discussion we also saw the very important “Dharma” of “Pithur-Vachanam” (Being obedient to a father). Now, moving on further let us see where did the three of them proceed to and what happened next.

Sage Vishwaamithra is very pleased with the two children after the killing of Thaataka and they decided to halt at that place itself for that night. Even today, we can worship this particular place of “Thaatakaa Vanam”. This place is located some 40 kilometers to the west of the city of Buxar in the Indian state of Bihar. At this place, we can see a huge statue of Thaatakaa, as a token of highlighting the importance of this particular place. Thus, from this place the three of them proceed eastwards towards “Siddhaashramam” (The present day Buxar, in the Indian state of Bihar). It is only in the middle of this journey did Sage Vishwaamithra offer the important manthras for the various “Asthraas” (We can compare the ancient day “Asthra” to the modern day missiles. Of course, today’s missiles don’t work on manthras, but we can see that many of them work on software programming. Perhaps we might equate these software codes to the “manthras”) Valmiki Maharishi beautifully describes it as follows:

“Thaani dhivyaani bhadram te dadaam asthraani sarvashaha!

Dhanda chakram mahatdhivyam tapadaashyaami raaghava!!

Dharma chakram tatho veera kaala chakram tathai va cha!!”

In the above verses, Valmiki Maharishi says that Sage Vishwaamithra offers very important “Dhivya Asthraas” that are extremely powerful. Some of them were the “Dhanda Chakram”, “Dharma Chakram”, “Kaala Chakram” and so on. Thus, Rama obtained all the powerful Asthras from Sage Vishwaamithra and thus the three of them proceed towards the “Sidhaashramam” and reach there.

“Yesha poorvaashramo raama vaamanasya mahaathmanaha!

Iha raama mahaabaaho vishnur deva namaskruthaha”

Sage Vishwaamithra points out to the “Siddhaashramam” to Rama and Lakshmana and explains its history behind it. He says, “Oh Rama! Look at this beautiful place. This was once the ashram of ‘Vaamana Murthi’ who was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu!

It would be very interesting for us to note the structure of the first line of the above sloka. What does the line say? “Yesha poorvaashramo raama vaamanasya mahaathmanaha!” We can read it as “Vaamanasya poorvaashramaha”! The actual meaning of this line as I had mentioned before is that, this ashram once belonged to “Vaamana Murthi” a long time back. However, the scholars who descended after Valmiki Maharishi in their commentaries, portray this sentence in a more beautiful way as follows: “Rama.. Yesha poorvaashramaha!” which means “Oh Rama! This place is your previous ashram!” It is said this way because, Rama is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and Vamana Murthi was the incarnation of the same Lord Vishnu as well! Thus, this ashram is not only the ashram of Vamana Murthi, but also for Rama as well!

“Varshaanisu bahuneeha tathaa yuga shataani cha!

Varam varadha supreethaha daathumarhasi suvratha!!

Adithyaa devathaanaancha mama chaiva anuyaachitham!

Puthrathvam gaccha bhagawan avidhya mama chaamaka!!”

 Thus, they settle down at the Siddhaashramam wherein Sage Vishwaamithra’s ashram is also located. The three of them prepare themselves for the “Yaaga” (The divine offering). Sage Vishwaamithra readies himself to commence the proceedings of the “Yaaga”, while Rama and Lakshmana stand by him to protect the “Yaaga” from the vicious demons who are constantly trying to disturb it. Thus the offering commences, and it continues on and on for the next six days and nights without a break! Rama and Lakshmana stay awake for all the six days and nights and protect the offering from any kind of disturbance!

It was only at the end of the sixth day that the two sons of ThaatakaMaareecha and Shubhaahu arrive at the venue to disturb the “Yaaga”. What did they do? Were they successful in disturbing the “Yaaga” this time as well? Let’s wait to find out in the next episode!

Episode 66 – Obedience to our parents and teachers – A very important message!

rama-sita

In the previous episode, we witnessed that Lord Rama, as per the order given by Sage Vishwaamithra kills the demoness Thaataka. It was just a matter of one sharp and a pointed arrow towards her. In this context, there is an important “Dharma” that is hidden into it. Let us discuss this important “Dharma” in today’s episode.

To begin with, let’s recall the sequence of the slokas by Valmiki Maharishi and then take the discussion forward from there:

 “Karishyaami na sandehaath thaatakaa vadamutthamam!

Pithur vachana nirdeshaath pithur vachaha gauravaath!

Vachanam kaushikasyethi karthavyam adhishankyayaa!!”

 We are at the context wherein Sage Vishwaamithra orders Rama to kill Thaataka immediately. Of course we looked at this context briefly yesterday, but let’s go deeper into it now. We saw yesterday that Rama, upon hearing Sage Vishwaamithra’s order had a small doubt in his mind, as he gets ready to fight her. Upon Sage Vishwaamithra’ re-enquiry, Rama expresses his doubt as to whether is it the right thing to wage a war against a woman and to kill her. Sage Vishwaamithra tells Rama not to worry about this for the moment, as she is a big danger for the very human existence in this world! At this point in time, Lord Rama tells Sage Vishwaamithra something that is very important for us to look into! He says, “Vachanam kaushikasyethi karthavyam adhishankyayaa!!” It means, “Oh Sage Vishwaamithra! I should not have asked my doubt to you and my sincere apologies for it! You had ordered me to kill Thaataka and it is my bound duty to execute the order without asking a question! Sage Vishwaamithra was extremely overwhelmed by this statement of the little Rama and out of curiosity, tried to console the child that it is fine to ask doubts and there is nothing wrong in it! However, Rama continues in his justification, “Pithur vachana nirdeshaath pithur vachaha gauravaath!” Here Rama says, “Oh Sage Vishwaamithra! Before we started from Ayodhya, my father had instructed me to follow each and every word of yours, without asking a counter question! Now that I’ve asked a counter question to you, I feel that I’ve disobeyed my father’s words and hence I’m seeking your apology for it!” Upon hearing these words from the little child, Sage Vishwaamithra is moved to tears and he embraces the child with him after Thaataka is killed!

Here is an important “Dharma” for all of us to note: Whatever maybe the situation, a son should obey the words of a father and the Sishya (student) should obey the words of a teacher (Guru) without asking any questions! This is a very important “Dharma” for a son and from this episode, Lord Rama illustrates this “Dharma” through his own actions and sets himself as an example for all of us to follow!

After reading this explanation, you might put forth an argument saying, “Oh please! Give me a break! We are currently talking about the Threthaa Yuga! We are now in the Kali Yuga! How do these things apply to us in the current day?”

To answer this question, let me start with an interesting analogy! We shall compare the three main “Yugas”Threthaa Yuga, Dwaapara Yuga and Kali Yuga and see how things went about in each of them! In this context of Threthaa Yuga, Sage Vishwaamithra is the “Jeevaathma” or “Samsaari” and Lord Rama is the “Paramaathma” or “Bhagawan”. Here, we can see that the “Paramaathma” (Bhagawan) is obeying the words of a “Jeevaathma”!! Next comes the Dwaapara Yuga, wherein Arjuna is the “Jeevaathma” or “Samsaari” and Lord Krishna is the “Paramaathma” or “Bhagawan”! Lord Krishna advises Arjuna to fight the war with the Kauravas. However, Arjuna is not ready to do so, and it is thus the famous Bhagawat Gita text was born! Here, we can see that the “Jeevaathma” is not ready to obey the words of Bhagawan! If this is the case in the Dwaapara Yuga itself, we needn’t even ask about the present Kali Yuga – We can easily conclude that nobody is going to listen at all! 🙂 

However all said and done, we should not take this as an excuse to disobey our parents and out teachers! Every “Yuga” is beautiful and afterall is created by Bhagawan himself! How can Bhagawan ever create something that is bad? Of course, Kali Yuga has it’s own beauty and significance. In fact, we should always remember that it is only in this Kali Yuga, it is extremely easy for us to attain the feet of Bhagawan – It is by just doing “Naama-Sankeertan” (Chanting the name of the Lord)! Hence, instead of giving ourselves excuses for not following the “Dharma”, we should make up our minds to follow it! This is the important message for all of us through this episode of “Thaataka Vadam”.

Now moving on, after the killing of Thaataka, the three of them again continue walking! Where did they go next? What is the sequence of actions that took place after this? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!

Episode 65 – Lord Rama destroys Thaatakaa

rama-sita

In the previous episode we discussed the significance of the “Aavani Avittam” day and what is the purpose behind performing the rituals on that particular day. This was a special discussion that stemmed out of the discussion about “Kaamam” (Desire) and “Krodham” (Anger). We saw in the previous episodes that the “Kaamam” and “Krodham” are due to the “Avidhya” (Blemish or senselessness). Since the “Avidhya” is the mother of “Kaamam” and “Krodham”, Bhagawan first destroys the mother, before destroying the sons. Here, the demoness Thaatakaa is nothing but the embodiment of “Avidhya”. In today’s episode, we are going to see how the Rama – Lakshmana combine, destroyed Thaataka.

Before that, we had left at a point wherein Rama and Lakshmana are about to enter the “Thaatakaa Vanam”. Let’s continue from there. As they enter into the place, there is a huge sound of fast flowing water. There are lot of small rivers and streams that run fast and join the river Ganges at different places. Vaalmiki Maharishi brings out the beauty of this scene in an exemplary manner as below:

“Tathah prabhaathe vimale krithaanhikamarindhamau!

Vishwaamithram puraskrithya nadhyastheeram upaagathau!!

Ubhasthaabhya shubhaam naavam Vishwaamithramathaabhruvan!

Tathasshruthraavavai shabdham thoya sambhrama vardhitham!!”

The major significance of our “Bhaarata Desha” (India) is that, every river will have numerous tributaries – This kind of a set-up is quite rare to see in the rest of the world. For instance, the River Ganges, considered even today as the most holy river of the country has innumerable tributaries coming and joining it at various places. The river Yamuna joins the Ganges at a place called Allahabad in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, other rivers like Shrona, Ghantaki, Sarayu, etc. also join with the Ganges. However, after all these rivers join the mainstream of the Ganges, their individual names would disappear and all of them would be called as Ganges! This is why the river Ganges is an extremely significant and a holy river in India and we should worship it. In another episode, I shall talk about the origin of the river Ganges and how it was formed!

Thus, gradually the three of them enter into the “Thaatakaa Vanam”, wherein the demoness Thaataka spots them walking through her kingdom! She comes in front of the three and stands.

“Kashchachithvacha kaalasya yakshini kaamaroopini!”

As mentioned before, this Thaataka was born in the clan of the “Yakshaas”. She was causing mass destruction to the entire area and it is because of the curse of the great Sage Agasthya that she is now suffering with a demonish look and characteristics.

“Karishyaami na sandehaath thaatakaa vadamutthamam!

Pithur vachana nirdeshaath pithur vachaha gauravaath!

Vachanam kaushikasyethi karthavyam adhishankyayaa!!”

Upon seeing Thaataka coming and standing in front of them, Sage Vishwaamithra himself gets scared for a moment and prays for the welfare of the two children. It should be noted here that it was the same Sage Vishwaamithra who convinced king Dasharata by saying “Aham vedmi mahaathmaanam raamam sathya paraakramam”, which means, Rama is an invincible and an extraordinary child and nothing can harm him. Now, upon seeing this huge Thaatakaa in the front, Sage Vishwaamithra himself gets scared. Why is that so? The main reason of Sage Vishwaamithra’s fear is a clear exhibition of “Bhakthi” upon seeing Lord Rama! The highest form of Bhakthi is wherein we fear that nothing should harm Bhagawan and he should be safe always! This is why we have the famous “paasuram” of Periyaalwaar in Tamil that says,

“Pallaandu pallaandu pallaayirathaandu; Pala kodi nooraayiram pallaandu;

Un sevadi sevya thriukkaapu…”

Here, Periyaalwaar sings out of this highest form of Bhakthi and prays that no evil forces should harm Bhagawan and He should live for a long time!

We might be surprised for a moment and might have a feeling that it is we who should pray towards Bhagawan that nothing should happen to us! But why are we praying that nothing should happen to Bhagawan? What is going to happen to Bhagwan? Isn’t it foolish? Isn’t He who has to protect us? Yes. He will definitely protect us and there is absolutely no second question to that! However, the moment we see Him as our own child – This is the point wherein we are completely immersed into the Bhakthi (Devotion) towards Bhagawan! Thus, in this context too, Sage Vishwaamithra feels scared for a moment on seeing the beautiful Rama and Lakshmana!

After composing himself a little bit, Sage Vishwaamithra orders Rama to kill Thaataka immediately! Rama, on his part readies himself to fight her, by taking his bow in his hand, along with the arrow. However Rama has a small doubt in his mind – He thinks to himself, “After my education, this is the first fight that I’m going to do! Is it right to fight a woman?” Sage Vishwaamithra spots that Rama is backing away a little bit and asks him for the reason. Rama asks Sage Vishwaamithra, “Is it right for a Kshathrya prince to fight over and kill a woman?” Upon hearing this from Rama, Sage Vishwaamithra immediately quips, “Do you still think that she’s a woman?” 🙂 Thus, finding solace in Sage Vishwaamithra’s reply, Rama attacks Thaataka – It’s just a matter of one sharp and a pointed arrow! Thaataka falls flat on the ground, dead! Upon seeing this, Sage Vishwaamithra is overwhelmed with joy and happiness! He congratulates Rama on the success and they move on further!

But before we move further along with Sage Vishwaamithra, Rama and Lakshmana, there is a very important aspect to be discussed. What is that? Let us wait till the next episode!

Episode 64 – Significance of “Aavani Avittam”

rama-sita

In the previous episode we witnessed that Sage Vishwamithra takes along the children Rama and Lakshmana via the “Thaatakaa Vanam”. In that, we saw the historical background of that place and how the demon by name “Thaataka” destroyed the beauty of the place and made it uninhabitable. In due course of yesterday’s episode we also saw the meaning of three important terms – “Avidhya” (Blemish or senselessness) “Kaama” (Desire) and “Krodha” (Anger) and how do they affect our every lives every passing day. In today’s episode, we shall discuss about a very important ritual in Hinduism called “Aavani Avittam” and what is the significance behind it.

To be very simple, “Aavani Avittam” is a religious ritual that is performed by the Brahmin community all across India. The significance of this ritual is to chant Veda manthras and replace the old sacred thread (“Saarani” in Hindi“Poonool” in Tamil) with a new one. Different sub-sects within the Brahmin community perform this ritual in different days according to their own tradition. However, a majority of the sub-sects perform this ritual in the month of “Aavani” (A month in the Tamil Calendar, which normally falls somewhere during the English month of August) and in the day when the “Nakshathra” (Star) of “Avittam” falls. This day is a very auspicious day for performing this ritual. Now the second question arises as to why do we perform this ritual. To explain in simpler terms, the primary job of a person who is born in a Brahmin community is to learn and recite the Vedas (“Veda Adhyayanam”). According to the Hindu scriptures, there is a specific date in the calendar year to commence learning of the Vedas and to stop it. However, out of immense interest in learning and reciting the Veda text, people may forget to stop learning it and continue the process even after that particular day.

This meaning can be seen in the “Sankalpa” manthra (The beginning of the ritual) and we shall further explore the meaning of it. The manthra goes like this as follows:

“… Nithyaatheertha akarana praayachithaartham.. Samvatsara praayachithaartham.. Thaishyaam pournamaasyaam.. Adhyaaya utsarjana akarana praayachithaartham…”

The manthra says that the “Veda Adhyayanam” should have ideally been stopped by the “Thai” month (Somewhere around the third week of January) and the “Pournami” (Full moon) day (“Thaishyaam pournamaasyaam”). Here the word “Utsarjana” means, “to stop”. Thus, the above manthra means “Since the “Adhyayanam” did not stop at that day (“Adhyaaya utsarjana akarana”) I’m paying my apologies for it!”(“Praayachithaartham”).

Immediately upon hearing this, someone told me “If this is the case, we needn’t do all these manthras and rituals and there is no necessity behind this!” I was curious and asked him why. He continued his answer by saying, “Only if we had started to learn and recite the Vedas, should we do this ritual…. 🙂 We have not even started to learn the Vedas yet and how can you make us say that we need to stop reciting the Vedas on this day?” 🙂 Such is our situation in the modern day!

There is one more important point to be stressed in this context – Whenever we perform a religious ritual like this, it is advisable that we perform them without eating/drinking anything before the ritual. The ritual might be anything – Right from this “Aavani Avittam” to “Shraadham” to whatever. There is a trend picking up in the modern day wherein people consume coffee before the commencement of the ritual. This atleast is better. There is a worst case too – Some of them consume coffee even halfway while performing the ritual. My point of view on this is that, it is not advisable for us to do this. According to the Shaastras, we should not consume anything while performing the ritual. If we still do it, we should understand that it is equivalent to not performing the ritual at all. We would rather be accumulating our sins, instead of washing them away. There might immediately be an argument that what if the person is diabetic or a Blood Pressure patient? Some might argue that if they do not consume food periodically at the right time, it would deteriorate their health condition. Of course, for those people who have health problems, the Shaastraas gives them certain relaxations. But however, if people who are free of health problems follow those relaxations, then Shaastraas wouldn’t allow that! For instance, we do this ritual called “Shraadham” for our parents after they pass away. The Shaastraas prescribe eight categories of performing the “Shraadam”. The first category of “Shraadham” is the one which people with good health condition, abundant wealth and all other facilities should do and this is the normal way of doing it. However, if we are in short of money, health, etc. the subsequent categories of “Shraadham” talk about exceptions for each of the shortcomings. In the extreme case wherein, a person gets stuck up in a small island and he doesn’t even know the directions around him and does not have any facility to perform the “Shraadham”, there is the eighth category, which says that if you open up your arms and cry, saying that “Oh my dear parents! I’m stuck up in this unknown and uninhabited island and I’m unable to do anything for you!” – This itself is considered to be the “Shraadham”. Upon hearing this, if a person who has all the facilities like money, health, etc. wants to follow this eighth category of “Shraadham”, it is really bad and unfortunate, and the person would have to face dire consequences in life. I shall talk about the ill consequences of not performing these kinds of rituals in subsequent episodes when the right context comes.

Hence, the lesson to be learnt from today’s episode is that, we should start learning our Vedas and scriptures by allocating some time in our daily schedule. Of course I understand that we have our own priorities in our lives, however somewhere down the line, we need to cultivate that interest to allocate atleast a little bit of our time to focus on our rich culture and values. This is extremely important and this is the reason why I’m repeating this point and emphasizing it in many of our episodes.

In the next episode, we shall see the very important event of “Thaataka-Vadham” (The killing of the demon Thaataka) by Lord Rama. Stay tuned!

Episode 63 – Entering the “Thaatakaa Vanam”

rama-sita

In the previous episode we witnessed that Sage Vishwaamithra along with Rama and Lakshmana walk through the “Kaamaashramam”, which was once the dwelling place of “Manmathan” and also known for the significance of Lord Shiva doing penance. Sage Vishwaamithra explains all this in detail to the two children and they walk on further. Where did they go next? Let’s witness today!

While waking on, the three of them reach the next important place called “Thaatakaa Vanam”. It is a dense forest area and is very large. Valmiki Maharishi describes it beautifully in the following sloka, along with its’ history:

“Maladaascha karooshaasha deva nirmaana nirmithou!

Pura vrutthavathe raama male na samabhipplutham!!”

Sage Vishwaamithra thus explains the background of that place: “Maladam” and “Karoosham” were two twin cities that were once very popular in that particular place. There was a female demon by name Thaataka, who is the daughter of Yaksha. Yaksha got his daughter Thaataka married to a person by name “Sundhan”. Both being demons, in due course of time, destroyed the beautiful twin cities and made it a useless and an uninhabitable forest. The entire area around this place, along with the saints who live there were all suffering because of this woman, Thaataka. She had two sons by names “Maareecha” and “Subaahu”. Sage Vishwaamithra says that only if this woman, Thaataka is destroyed, the “Yaaga” will take place smoothly without any trouble.

You might all wonder as to why is Sage Vishwaamithra mentions that the mother should be destroyed first, before the two sons. There is an in-depth explanation to this: In this context of demons, the “Mother” is referred to as “Avidhya” (Blemish or Senselessness). These two sons, Maareecha and Shubaahu are nothing but “Kaama” and “Krodha” (Desire and Anger). Why are we always immersed in the “Kaama” and “Krodha”? It is only because of our “Avidhya”, that is, it is only because we’ve lost the ability of our thinking power. We are all living in a world (Kali Yuga) without the “Shaastra-Vaasana” (Knowledge of our Shaastras and Vedas). Thus, it is only because of this “Avidhya” and lack of “Shaastra Vaasana” we are into the “Kaama” (Desire) and “Krodha” (Anger).

Bhagawan Krishna himself says in the Gita, the following:

“Kaama yeshaha krodha yeshaha rajo guna samudhbhavaha!”

Bhagawan Krishna says, “Oh Arjuna! Please note the two biggest enemies of a human being’s life – Kaama and Krodha!” Hence we can understand the significance of the two factors from Lord Krishna himself. This is why, normally Brahmins perform something called as “Aavani Avittam” once every year. It is a ceremony wherein the sacred thread is changed with a new one and there are a few rituals associated with it. One of those important rituals is the chanting of a manthra as follows:

“Kaamo kaarsheedh manyura kaarsheed namo namah!”

I’m sure that this Manthra is familiar to many of us, since we also do this everyday as part of our “Sandhya-Vandanam”. Let’s explore the meaning of this particular manthra. It means that “Whatever mistakes I commit in my day-to-day life, it is only because of this ‘Kaama’ and ‘Krodham’, and oh God! Please do not blame me for them!” In other words, it simply means that whatever mistakes that happen from my side, is because of the “Kaama” and “Krodha”. I’m no way to blame for it! This particular manthra is chanted on this “Aavani Avittam” day as a “Samvatsara praayachitthaartham” (Means, I’m doing it once annually as a compensation of not doing it daily). Ideally, we should have done this everyday, however, if due to unavoidable circumstances, if we are not able to do on certain days, we compensate it once a year on this day by doing the “Samvatsara praayachitthaartham”, and chanting this manthra a thousand times.

To be more upfront, many of us still do not know the reason why do we celebrate this “Aavani Avittam” day and it’s better that we talk about this in a bit more detail. What is the significance of this “Aavani Avittam” day? Why do we do this every year? Let’s wait and answer these important questions in the next episode, before proceeding further into the “Thaataka Vadham”!