Episode # 461 – The famed “Badrinatha-Kshetra” – History and Significance!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed the significance of performing our regular “Tarpanam” and “Shraadham” and this is apart from the “Gaya-Shraadham” that we’ve to perform once in a lifetime. We’ve witnessed for the past couple of episodes, various myths circulating around us, with regards to the regular performing of our monthly “Tarpanams” and yearly “Shraadhams” and how it is important for all of us to adhere to these principles in our life. We witnessed a detailed accord yesterday, with comparisons to certain simple analogies as to how important it is for us to serve our “Pitru-Devatas”, whose “Anugraha” is extremely important for our well-being and a contented life. This is exactly what Sage Naarada is advising Yudishtra too. As the Paandavas enter slowly into the crucial phase of defending the “Dharma”, Sage Naarada feels the importance of Yudishtra and Co. obtaining the divine “Anugraha” of all the “Pitru-Devatas” as they embark into it. Such is the significance of the Gaya-Kshetra and readers should understand this clearly. 

Next in the list, is the famed Bhadrinaatha-Kshetra – We’ve already discussed this in quite a detail in our past few episodes as well. We’ve seen in detail how Bhagawan Krishna and Arjuna originally hail from the Bhadrinaatha-Kshetra, as the Nara-Narayana combine. As Bhagawan Krishna is none other than Bhagawan Narayana and Arjuna is His disciple (Nara), the Bhadrinaatha-Kshetra assumes enormous significance. Normally, it is a practice for a few people to visit the Bhadrinaatha Kshetra immediately after the Gaya-Shraadham is over. There is something called as “Brahma-Kapaalam” in this Bhadrinaatha-Kshetra where, people perform the “Pinda-Pradhaanam” after the Gaya-Shraadham. There is a history behind this as well – Bhagawan Brahma’s fifth head (“Kapaalam”) is being pinched by Bhagawan Shiva, and somehow the head gets stuck to His hands. This is why, Bhagawan Shiva is also referred to as “Bhagwan Kapali”.  Now that the head has got stuck in Bhagawan Shiva’s hands, it can’t be broken at all, no matter how much He tried! This was creating a problem for both of them and in order to release the head from His hand, Bhagawan Shiva and Bhagawan Brahma ran in search of Bhagawan Vishnu all over the world. They finally came to this Bhadrinaatha Kshetra and prayed to Bhagawan Vishnu here. Acknowledging their prayers, with His drops of sweat from His chest, Bhagawan Vishnu frees Bhagawan Brahma’s head from Bhagawan Shiva’s hands and breaks into a hundred pieces! With this, Bhagawan Shiva’s hands were freed and Bhagawan Brahma was also freed from Bhagawan Shiva’s cusp! 

Thus, this “Brahma-Kapaalam” is still there in this Bhadrinaatha-Kshetra and it is near this Brahma-Kapaalam is the “Pinda-Pradhaanam” performed. Now comes the question – How do we obtain the “Pindams” and from where do we get them? Here, the Bhadrinaatha-Kshetra has its own significance – We need not prepare the “Pindams” (Rice balls) like we do in the Gaya-Kshetra. Here in the Badrinaatha-Kshetra, we get the “Pindams” ready-made in the temple premises itself. Normally, the “Pindams” are made using cooked rice and balls of this cooked rice are prepared. However, given the temperature in the location, it is next to impossible for us to boil rice. Since the Badrinaatha-Kshetra is amidst the Himalayas and it is snowy everywhere around, it is very difficult for us to even boil water. Amidst this cold, we’ve to take a “Punya-Snaanam” in the River Alakananda (RIver Ganga) and with the “Wet Vasthram” we’ve to wait for the “Prasaadham” (Pindams) to come from the temple premises. Once it comes, we’ve to hold the “Pindams” in our hands, which itself would be tough, given our hands would be extremely numb due to the freezing cold! This problem is not there in Gaya. Since Gaya is in the plain, the temperature is quite normal and is not extremely cold here. But in Badrinaatha-Kshetra, it is the opposite of what is there in the Gaya-Kshetra! Thus, the “Pinda-Pradhaanam” in the Badrinaatha Kshetra is also equally significant as that of the Gaya-Kshetrea”. 

So for today, let us understand up to this point, and we shall wait till the next episode to continue this discussion further! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 460 – Why should we perform our “Tarpanam” & yearly “Shraadham” without fail? A discussion!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed the continuation of the significance of “Gaya-Shraadham” and how it is important for all of us to perform this procedure once in our lifetime for our ancestors (“Pitru-Devatas”). However, having said thus, it is imperative that we perform our regular monthly “Tarpanam” and our yearly “Shraadham” for our ancestors without fail, even though we’ve performed the “Gaya-Shraadham”. It is a myth in the present day that if we’ve performed the “Gaya-Shraadham”, nothing else needs to be done. It is totally wrong and baseless. Our “Sanaatana Dharma” literature clearly says that of course, the “Gaya-Shraadham” is mandatory and is extremely important, however, this cannot be an excuse for forgoing the other regular “Tarpanams” and annual “Shraadham”. We’ve to continue performing our regular duties, and if some of our readers might have been misled by this above-mentioned myth, we request you to henceforth recommence your regular routines. Also, in the previous episode, we had answered a few other myths as well – Why at all should we perform the “Tarpanam” or “Shraadham” for our departed parents, if they’ve already attained “Moksha” or “Svarga Lokha” or whatever, depending upon their past “Karma-Phalam”? What is the use of us doing all these procedures if these have no connections with our parents reaching wherever they’ve to reach? The answer is very simple – At the end of this birth, tomorrow we should attain “Moksha”, isn’t it? It is for this reason we’re performing all these procedures. If we perform these duties stipulated by Bhagawan, He is going to get happy and with His happiness, we’re going to attain “Moksha”. We’ve to understand this point very clearly. 

Moreover, another question might come here – We’re performing these duties with water, “Thila”, “Pindams” (Rice balls), etc., aren’t we? Are these going to straightaway feed the “Pitru Devatas”? Of course, the answer is “No”! Whatever we offer as water or Thila or Pindams, or whatever, aren’t going to straightaway feed anybody! In fact, we’re disposing off everything once the procedure is over. Then why are we offering all these? The answer is very simple – Whatever we offer in terms of physical entities like water, etc. get combined with the “Mantras” that we chant and transform into food / drink that the “Pitru Devatas” in the “Pitru Lokham” would eat! Sitting on this earth, none of us know what is the type of food that the “Pitru Devatas” consume. It is for this reason, we offer whatever we consume in this earth, along with the “Mantras” that we chant. These “Mantras”, along with our offerings, would transform into the requisite food that the “Pitru-Devatas” consume. For instance, if we go to a bank and transfer some money to a friend or a relative, does the same currency notes go to the other person who is living far away? Only the amount gets transferred and the currency notes that the other person would withdraw from his / her place would be different from what we deposit here, isn’t it? Similarly here also, whatever we offer in the form of water, “Pindams”, etc. as physical entities get transferred into the food items that is edible for the “Pitru-Devatas”. This is what we’ve to understand here. 

Hence, the point is very simple – No matter whatever false narratives float and circulate amidst all of us, the fact remains simple – We should never compromise on our fundamental duties towards our “Pitru-Devatas”, in the form of “Shraadham” or “Tarpanam”. Moreover, many people might even have this myth – “Oh! We’re chanting so many slokas and “Mantras”! We’re already on the spiritual path, with the advice of our Guru / Spiritual Master! We’ve already ascended to a very high level in spirituality! Hence, we’re no more in the “state” wherein we need to perform these kinds of “Shraadhams” and “Tarpanams”!” All these are heights of stupidity! We should first of all realize that we’ve not ascended to any higher levels of spirituality. We’re all normal ordinary human beings, aspiring to walk the path of spiritual growth. We should of course have confidence in us, but over-confidence can be dangerous! Moreover, no “Guru” or “Spiritual Master” in this world would ever advise their disciples that they should forgo their “Tarpanam” and “Shraadham” and walk the spiritual path. This can never happen, and all these narratives are highly misleading! We should not get carried away by all this. 

Of course, obtaining a “Mantra-Updadesha” from a “Sadguru” or a “Spiritual Master” and chanting it constantly is extremely significant. In fact, I’ve written multiple episodes on the importance of obtaining a “Mantra” from a “Sadguru” on multiple occasions and we should consider ourselves extremely fortunate if we’re getting this opportunity. However, this doesn’t mean that we sacrifice our regular spiritual practices and focus on “Mantra-Chanting” only. The inner meaning is very simple – “Mantra-Chanting” on a constant basis will drive us towards “Moksha”, however, this practice would not be able to remove our “Karma” that would be a stumbling block in the middle, which would prevent us from going forward. Our duties like “Shraadham” and “Tarpanam” when performed regularly, would keep washing our “Karma” away, and if we keep chanting our “Mantra” along with this, we would be able to ascend towards “Moksha” easily. It is like this – Imagine there is a plant that produces beautiful flowers or fruits. Of course, we water the plant everyday and ensure that the plant is well-nourished. However, along with the nourishment, we should also keep plucking off all the weeds / poisonous shrubs that might grow near this plant, which would infect this plant and drain all the water / nourishment from it! Our “Karma” is like these weeds and poisonous plants. The procedure of plucking these weeds and poisonous plants is like performing our “Tarpanam” and “Shraadham” regularly. Thus, performing the “Tarpanam” and “Shraadham” would keep plucking away all the weed-like “Karma” and ensure that our “Mantra-chanting” which is like nourishment to the plant in terms of water would gain fruits and flowers, which is like transcending towards the ultimate “Moksha”! 

So for today, let us understand this point very clearly, and let us wait till the next episode to continue this discussion further! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 459 – Is “Gaya Shraadham” a ticket to skip our regular “Tarpanam” / Annual “Shraadham” procedures? A discussion!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed the significance of the “Gaya-Kshetra” and subsequently of the “Gaya-Shraadham” that we do for our ancestors (“Pitru Devatas”), including our parents after they depart from this world. This is something that all of us, as ardent followers of our “Sanaatana Dharma” should perform once in a lifetime, and it is mandatory as per the Vedas. We’ve witnessed how the “Pinda-Pradhaanam” procedure that we perform as part of the “Shraadha Karma” is very important. We perform the “Pinda-Pradhaanam” under the auspicious “Akshaya-Vatam” tree on the banks of River Phalguni. The “Pindams” are offered mainly to our mother, and subsequently to our father and the people of our previous three generations in our family. Apart from this, the “Pindams” can also be offered to those people who have had an unforeseen death due to medical conditions, accidents, suicides, etc. at an early age itself. Finally, the offerings can also be made for animals (“Bhoota-Pindam”) and also for our own self, if at all our subsequent generations might not offer for us when we pass away. Subsequently, after this “Pinda-Pradhaanam” procedure, we’ve to feed Brahmin Pandits (Gaya-Vaalis) who are present there, with a nice and a sumptuous meal. This would conclude the entire “Shraadham” exercise and with this, our “Pitru Devatas” would become extremely happy with our dedication and devotion. 

Of course, performing the “Shraadha Kaaryam” is quite strenuous and is quite expensive as well. One trip to Varanasi / Bhadreenaatha Kshetra and Gaya would cost us more than INR 1.5 to 2 Lakhs with all the procedures that we’ve to perform. We’ve to somehow allocate this funds for our own spiritual growth and do it, just like how we allocate our money for various other activities that we like to do. Many of us wouldn’t realize the significance of the “Gaya-Shraadham” and hence, we wouldn’t give much preference to this, and thus, we would conveniently say that we do not have the financial strength to perform the ‘Gaya-Shraadham”. The point here is that, this “Gaya-Shraadham” should be in our priority list. Just like how we give importance with regards to time and money for our personal and professional development, we should also give the same importance for our spiritual development and upliftment, isn’t it? As a human being born in this world, and as a son to our parents, Bhagawan has drafted a set of duties that we should perform towards our parents, and one of the most important duties is performing the “Gaya-Shraadham”. We should never miss this duty in our lifetime by giving some lame excuses. Some of us might complain that we have underlying health issues and because of this, we’re not able to travel all the way to Gaya to perform the “Shraadham”. All these are mere excuses. Where there is a will, there is a way. Gone are those days when transportation and connectivity were a challenge in our Bhaarata Desha. Now, we have excellent connectivity to Gaya and Varanasi and such things can never be an excuse. Moreover, if we have the willpower and the right intent, nothing in this world can be a hurdle. Hence, readers should think about all these points and do the needful. 

Having said thus, there are certain myths that we also need to understand and overcome. Many people say that if we perform the “Shraadha-Karma” in Gaya, it is implied that we do not need to perform the “Tarpanam” on Amaavaashya days, or the “Tarpanam” that we perform during the beginning of every month, or the annual “Shraadha-Karma” that we do every year on the date when our parents attained “Moksha”. All these are wrong. Even though we perform the “Gaya-Shraadham” once in a lifetime, it is imperative that we perform all the other “Karma” like “Tarpanam”, annual “Shraadham”, etc. as per the rules and regulations. Nowhere in the Vedas it is mentioned that if we perform the “Gaya-Shraadham” once, we needn’t perform any other thing after that. All these are just mere methods of escapism from our duties. Thus, the bottomline here is that, irrespective of whether we perform the “Gaya-Shraadham” or not, we’ve to continue doing our routine “Karma” without fail. We should never miss out on our “Nitya-Karma” which includes our basic “Sandhyavandanam”, etc. and our “Naimitthika Karma” which includes all these “Shraadham” procedures. We should continue performing our regular “Tarpanam” on the “Amaavashya” (No Moon days), every starting day of the month as per our regional calendars, on the days when there is a “Grahanam” (Solar / Lunar eclipse), etc. We should also perform our “Samvatsara-Shraadham” for our parents without fail every year. 

Also, there is another myth that our parents, irrespective of whether we perform the “Shraadham”, “Tarpanam”, etc. would or wouldn’t reach the “Moksha”, depending upon their “Paapa” and “Punya” accounts. If such is the case, who are we in the middle to “send” our parents to “Moksha” or to the “Pitru Lokha”? Of course, every “Atman” travels either to the “Naraka Lokha” or “Svarga Lokha” or “Pitru Lokha” or to the “Vaikuntam”, depending upon our “Karma” records. There is no denying that. Never in any “Shaastra” it is said that our parents ascend to the “Vaikunta” or wherever, only with the “Shraadham” that we perform. However, we perform all these “Karma” because, tomorrow we too should ascend to “Vaikuntam” isn’t it? These are rules and regulations given to us by Bhagawan. If we perform all these “Karma” properly, Bhagawan’s heart is going to melt in happiness that we’re obeying Bhagawan’s orders correctly. It is only with this happiness, is Bhagawan going to give us the ultimate “Moksha”. We should understand this point very clearly. Thus, it is obvious that our ancestors aren’t going to attain “Moksha” with the “Tarpanam” and “Shraaadham” that we perform. All these are performed because we should go to “Moksha” tomorrow after our demise from this world. 

So for today, let us understand and introspect these points very clearly, and let us wait till the next episode to continue this discussion further! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 458 – The “GAYA-SHRAADHAM” – Significance and procedure!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed the significance of the next important “Punya-Kshetra” after the accord on Kurukshetra. Sage Naarada now talks about the “Gaya-Kshetra”, which is extremely important for performing the “Shraadham” for all our “Pitru-Devatas”. We had witnessed the background story behind the Gaya-Kshetra, which is located in the modern-day Indian state of Bihar. We’ve witnessed that Bhagawan Brahma wanted to perform a “Yaaga” by using the Raakshasa called Gayaasura, who was residing in this particular place. However, since Gayaasura was a stumbling block for Bhagawan Brahma, Bhagawan Vishnu had to interfere. In order to ensure the continuity of the “Yaaga” and to make sure that Gayaasura doesn’t create any hurdles, Bhagawan Vishnu keeps one of His divine lotus feet over Gayaasura’s chest, thus, preventing him from getting up and wreaking havoc! This is why the “Vishnu Paadam” (Bhagawan Vishnu’s lotus feet) is very significant in this “Gaya-Kshetra”. Many families have the “Vishnu Paadam” in their “Puja-room” and they perform all the daily rituals for it meticulously. It is also a customary practice for all those people who go to the “Gaya-Kshetra”, to buy a “Vishnu Paadam” (Available in all the nearby shops around the temple, and also inside the temple premises itself) and keep it in our “Puja-Room”. Thus, such is the significance of the “Gaya-Kshetra” and in today’s episode, we shall continue this discussion further. 

Moving on thus, all of us know that the most important “Karma” that we’ve to perform in this “Kshetra” is the “Shraadham”. We’ve already seen a glimpse of this in the previous episode as well, and we shall talk about it in detail. Readers should always remember this constantly – After our demise of both our parents, it is our bound duty as an ardent follower of our “Sanaatana Dharma” to perform the “Gaya-Shraadham” atleast once in our lifetime. This is very important for all of us to do, irrespective of whatever section, caste, etc. we belong to within our “Sanaatana Dharma”. There is this place called “Akshayavatam”, at some distance from the banks of River Phalguni, which flows through the place. This “Akshayavatam” is a tree, under which the “Shraadha Karma” is performed. It is believed that all the “Pitru Devatas” assemble in this particular tree and once we perform the “Shraadha Karma” here, they become extremely happy and provide their divine “Anugraha” straightaway without any question! It is a normal practice that we perform the “Pinda-Pradhaanam” to both our father and mother under this tree, with all the “Mantras” being chanted. Basically, a “Pindam” is nothing but a handful of boiled rice that is kept as a small ball, as part of the offering. More importance is given to the mother, than the father in this customary practice. In this, we first perform the normal “Tarpanam” for our “Pitru Devatas”, followed by the “Pinda-Pradhaanam”. We usually do it for three generations before ours – Our parental, grandparents and great grandparents’ generations. Thus, in general, we offer twelve “Pindams”. 

While we go there, we should remember all the names of people in our grandfather and great grandfather generations, which, unfortunately today, many of us don’t! We might of course remember our grandfather generation people, but if we’ve to recollect those of our great grandfather generation, it becomes tough. Hence, it is better to do some prior research and note down all the names before we embark for the “Gaya-Shraadham”. This is the normal routine, however, we can also offer “Pinda-Pradhaanams” to a variety of others as well – For instance, we can do the offering for people who had passed away in our own “Gothram” as well as our spouse’s. Some people in our family might have passed away at a young age due to various reasons such as diseases, accidents, etc. We can offer the “Pinda-Pradhaanams” to these people as well. Moreover, we can perform the offering to our own self as well. This is the most important point here – Even if our next generation doesn’t offer, we do not need to worry. We can offer them for ourselves and finish it off. 

Also, if there were pregnant women who had passed away in our family, they will also be eligible to obtain our offerings. Moreover, even animals are eligible for this. We can offer the “Pindams” for animals as well, and this is called “Bhoota-Pindam”. Normally, the total number of “Pindams” accounts to 32, which is all inclusive of the above mentioned list. Subsequent to the “Pinda-Pradhaanam” exercise, we normally offer tasty food to all the Brahmin Pandits who are present there. This exercise is called “Brahmana-Bhojanam”, and the entire “Shraadha-Karma” gets fulfilled with this practice. Hence, we should not stop with just the “Pinda-Pradhaanam” alone. We should also feed all the Brahmin Pandits there, who are referred to as “Gaya-Vaalis”. This is of course, a strenuous exercise, but we’ve to do all this once in a lifetime. Such is the importance of the Gaya-Kshetra, and this brings enormous spiritual benefits to all of us and also to our subsequent generations as well! 

So for today, let us understand this point very clearly and if we’ve not performed the “Gaya-Shraadham” till now, we should immediately take steps to perform the same! We shall continue this discussion in the next episode as well! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 457 – The “Gaya-Kshetra” – Significance of the “Vishnu Paadam”!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed Sage Naarada rendering some important advice to Yudishtra upon visiting Kurukshetra and performing the “Jala-Tarpanam” for the “Pitru-Devatas” in this particular place. Sage Naarada emphasizes this point indirectly to Yudishtra, without revealing the fact that the great Mahabharata war is going to subsequently take place in this Kurukshetra-Bhoomi. However, without revealing the future, Sage Naarada advises Yudishtra to go and obtain the “Anugraha” of all the “Pitru-Devatas”, who in turn are going to be influential in some way or the other in the victory that Yudishtra is going to see against Duryodhana and Co. This is where we’ve discussed the significance of a Mahatma’s words and instructions. Unlike all of us, wherein our minds only have a limited capacity of thinking of the present moment, Mahatmas can think of all the three states – Present, past and future. Thus, with the requisite futuristic outlook, Sage Naarada is rendering this advice to Yudishtra, who in turn obeys his words without asking a question. Perhaps, if we were in Yudishtra’s state, we might have asked Sage Naarada thus, “Oh Sage! Why should I go all the way to Kurukshetra, which is thousands of kilometers away from where I am and perform the “Jala-Tharpanam”? I can do it sitting right here, isn’t it? Why should I specifically go and do it there?” Our so-called “intellect” will make us ask such questions, for which, Mahatmas would never directly reveal any answer. If they do so, they would be talking about some future happenings, which we might not even be able to connect! This is why, it is always better to go ahead and obey the words and instructions of the Mahatma, rather than cross-questioning him / her! This is something that all of us must understand as we move forward. 

Advancing further with the discussion thus, I shall talk about just two more “Punya-Kshetras” as we proceed further. After a detailed accord on the Kurukshetra, now Sage Naarada is talking about the “Gaya-Kshetra” and “Prayaga-Kshetra”. We shall see the uniqueness of these two places. We shall commence with the “Gaya-Kshetra”, which is currently in the North-Indian state of Bihar, on the banks of river Phalguni. Sage Naarada explains why this place called Gaya is very important. There was a Raakshasa by the name “Gayaasura”. Bhagawan Brahma wanted to perform a “Yaaga” (Spiritual Offering) by making use of this Raakshasa somehow. If Bhagawan Brahma wants to convince Gayaasura for the Yaaga, he is not going to do it by himself. Hence, Bhagawan Brahma decided to kill him and use his body as an instrument to perform the “Yaaga”. Thus, as per the plan, Gayaasura was killed and the “Yaaga” commences. However, even if Gayaasura was killed, he was threatening to come back to life again! Unable to understand the mystery behind this, Bhagawan Brahma straightaway went to Bhagwan Vishnu in Gaya, who is referred to as “Bhagawan Gathaadhara”. According to Bhagawan Brahma’s request, Bhagawan Gathaadhara pressed one of His legs on Gayaasura’s chest, thus, preventing him from standing up again. 

As Bhagawan Vishnu presses His leg upon him, Gayaasura himself pledges thus, “Oh Bhagawan! Until your divine lotus feet is pressing my chest, I wouldn’t stand and be of any hindrance to the “Yaaga”. However, the moment you take off your feet from me, I will stand up again!” Obeying Gayaasura’s words, until today, Bhagawan Vishnu is pressing Gayaasura’s chest with His divine lotus feet! This is why, Bhagawan Vishnu’s “Paada-Darshanam” (Vishnu Paadam) is extremely important in Gaya. Hence, whenever we go to Gaya, we should worship the most important “Vishnu Paadam”, that is pressing Gayaasura’s chest even today. We can even get small carvings of the “Vishnu Paadam” in the temple, and we shall buy it and keep it in our “Puja-Room”. We should be very careful with it and should perform all the austerities as per the rule-book, because, having the “Vishnu-Paadam” at our home is extremely significant. It is like having Bhagawan Himself residing in our homes! Many of our grandfathers and great grandfathers might be having the “Vishnu Paadam” already with them, and if it comes with generations, we should protect the “Vishnu Paadam” carefully. For those of us who have never had the “Vishnu Paadam” at home till now, we shall always go to Gaya and get it. 

Moreover, apart from this, there is an important tree by name “Akshaya-Vatam”. This is where all of us would go and perform the “Pinda-Pradhaanam” for our departed parents. Thus, apart from the significance of Bhagawan Vishnu, Gaya is an extremely important place for performing the “Pinda-Pradhaanam” for our parents, after they depart from this human birth. As we perform the “Pinda-Pradhaanam”, we should also offer the “Bhojanam” (Food with all ingredients) to the Brahmin Pandits who are there. The Brahmin Pandits who reside there are referred to as “Gaya-Vaalis”, and it is to these people, we should offer the “Bhojanam” after the “Pinda-Pradhaanam” is over. Readers should understand here that the “Pinda-Pradhaanam” is offered separately for both the mother and the father. In fact, the highest importance in this exercise is given to the mother, who has undergone enormous suffering and sacrifice to give birth to us. We can thus understand how much of importance is given to women in our “Sanaatana Dharma”.

So for today, let us understand up to this point, and in the next episode, we shall witness why the “Gaya-Shraadham” is extremely important. Stay tuned for an important accord! 🙂 

Episode # 456 – Why should we blindly obey the words of a Mahatma (Spiritual Master)? An in-depth understanding!!! 

In the previous episode, we had witnessed an important accord given by Sage Vyaasa about Kurukshetra and how it is important that we perform the “Jala-Tarpanam” in this holy place. We’re witnessing this lengthy accord as part of the “Teertha-Yatra” Parva wherein, Sage Naarada is explaining all these points to Yudishtra, and Sage Vyaasa has documented all these details. Thus, the significance of various “Punya-Kshetras” of our Bhaarata Desha have been brought about here very beautifully along with the benefits that we would obtain by visiting each of these places. Of course, due to various constraints, we’re discussing only a few of them here and readers can have a lengthy understanding / reading on their own convenience at a later context. If we look at the Kurukshetra today, of course, at a later stage, Bhagawan Krishna has gifted the Bhagawad Gita to the entire world in this very particular “Kshetra” and for all of us, it is extremely important that we visit this holy place without fail. Even if we’re visiting or not visiting other important “Kshetras”, we should never miss this Kurukshetra at any cost. Even today if we go, there is a special place that is earmarked with a beautiful chariot wherein Bhagawan Krishna and Arjuna are seated upon. This is the very place where Bhagawan Krishna had gifted the “Gita-Shaastra” to Arjuna, and also to all of us. Even today we can see a huge barren land / ground near this Bhagawan Krishna’s chariot, and it is believed that the marque battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas took place at this very place. 

To elaborate the significance of Kurukshetra even further, all of us should understand that it is not only the birthplace of the “Gita-Shaastra”, but also, the birthplace of the famed “Shri Vishnu Sahasranamam” as well! We’re going to witness all these in detail in the upcoming “Parvas” and episodes, but just to fit this into the current context, Bhishmachaarya is going to sing in praise of Bhagawan Krishna, as Bhagawan Krishna Himself is looking on! At the end of the war when the Pandavas emerge victorious, Bhishmachaarya is going to render some important pieces of advice pertaining to the “Raaja-Dharma”, and as part of this explanation, Bhishmachaarya is going to reveal the significance and the inner-truth about Bhagawan Krishna, who is none other than Bhagawan Vishnu Himself in a human form! Thus, the “Vishnu Sahasranamam” (Thousand names of Bhagawan Vishnu) was born in this very place of Kurukshetra only! 

This is exactly why Sage Narada is stressing upon this place repeatedly. In fact, we should understand that Sage Naarada is a “Tri-Kaala-Gnyaani”, which means, a person who is aware of the past, present and the future as well. Sage Naarada obviously knows that this is the very place wherein the battle is going to take place, and the entire Kaurava camp is going to be destroyed here. However, he doesn’t show that out to Yudishtra directly, but stresses that Yudishtra and Co. should pay a visit to Kurukshetra and perform his spiritual duties from here. This itself was a morale-booster to Yudishtra and Co. Thus, the inner meaning to what Sage Naarada is trying to explain is very simple – He guides Yudishtra to obtain the divine “Anugraha” of all the “Pitru-Devatas” from the very place where the fight is going to take place. This would automatically aid Yudishtra to win the war quite easily, as he would clearly have all the “Pitru-Devatas” lending their support and providing their divine “Anugraha” to him! 

Thus, the message is loud and clear – If a Mahatma (Divine Spiritual Master) says something, it might outwardly sound very simple and like a mere story / explanation. However, the in-depth meaning of the words that come out of a Mahatma’s mouth can be extremely significant that many a time, we might even fail to understand even a small percentage of it! This is why we always emphasize that if a Mahatma or a Spiritual Guru is saying something to us, we should blindly obey it without asking back even a single word! This is because, our minds have an obvious limitation to think only about the present moment, and we do not have the capacity to think beyond. Whereas, this is not the case with Mahatmas. Because of their intense power of “Tapas” (Penance), their minds have breached this limitation, and can go to any extent to think about the past and future as well. Thus, if a Spiritual Master is rendering us some advice, it is obvious that He / She is deeply concerned about our past and future too, while doing so. Since, we do not have the capacity to comprehend what our future would be, it is better that we listen and obey our Mahatma’s words without fail, which ultimately would put us on the track to achieve the ultimate goal – “Moksha”! This is exactly what Sage Naarada is also doing here! 

So for today, let us understand up to this point, and in the next episode, we shall continue this discussion further! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 455 – “Kurukshetra” – A sacred place for performing “Pitru-Tarpanam”!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed Sage Vyaasa indicating the significance of the “Dwaaraka-Kshetra”, which is the divine abode of Bhagawan Krishna Himself! Sage Vyaasa brings this in the context of Sage Naarada advising Yudishtra to go to Dwaaraka and meet Bhagawan Krishna in person, along with his wife and brothers. As part of this, we’ve witnessed the significance of “Pancha-Dwaaraka Kshetras”, right from the “Bet-Dwaaraka” in the western coastline of Gujarat, to the “Naatha-Dwaaraka” in Rajasthan, wherein Bhagawan Krishna is famously referred to as “Shri-Nath ji”. Thus, if we witness closely, the entire western part of our Bhaarata Desha, including the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh is a “Punya-Kshetra” as a whole, with enormous amounts of significance. In due course, we’ve witnessed the significance of Pushkar, Mount Abu, Maha-Kaleshwar, Somanath, etc. which are all situated in this western belt. 

Thus, readers should take this as an opportunity to explore and understand these places in-depth and pay a visit to these places to experience the divinity of these places. This is also important because we might be able to read a lot. Apart from this blog page, there is enormous content about these temples and places on the internet, with just a touch of a button today! However, we wouldn’t be able to experience the sacredness and divinity by just reading more and more. For instance, can we enjoy a sweet by just looking at its picture? We should taste that particular sweet and only with this experience we can say that we’re enjoying the sweet, isn’t it? Similarly here also, we can read a lot about all these places, see some nice and scenic pictures of these iconic temples. However, the real experience would come only if we visit these places in person. This is why I’m repeatedly stressing here that all of us should take some time off our busy professional / personal commitments to visit these places and obtain Bhagawan’ divine “Anugraha” through this. 

This is exactly what Yudishtra and the others are going to do now. As Sage Naarada explains about each of these places, Yudishtra is so happy to hear about all the explanations. But Sage Naarada cautions him that he would not be able to get the experience unless and until he pays a visit to these places. Moreover, Sage Naarada stresses upon another important thing to Yudishtra – Whenever we visit a “Punya-Kshetra” like Pushkar, Gaya-Kshetra, and any “Nadhi-Theera Kshetras”, we should ensure that we perform our “Tarpanam” or “Shraadham” for our ancestors (Pitru-Devatas). This is very important as well. When we visit temples, we can perform the “Dhaanam” and other forms of “Dharma” that are apt for those “Kshetras”. However, when we come to the “Nadhi-Theerams”, we should ensure that we perform our “Tarpanam”. This gives enormous spiritual benefits to all of us and in turn, our “Pitru-Devatas” become extremely happy. 

Continuing further thus, Sage Naarada explains the significance of the important “Kurukshetra”, where the massive war is going to take place in the future, between the Paandavas and the Kauravas. Sage Naarada doesn’t disclose that upfront, but he explains the importance of this place to Yudishtra. Sage Naarada explains thus, “Oh Yudishtra! This place called “Kurukshetra” is so significant that even if one thinks / dreams of visiting this place, all his sins would be washed away at that very moment itself! Hence, if you get an opportunity, go and visit this place and perform the “Jala-Tarpanam” (Performing the “Tarpanam” procedure with water) at this place. It would give you enormous spiritual upliftment. Even if you’re unable to visit Kurukshetra, please do not worry! Keep repeating this always in your mind – I want to go to Kurukshetra, stay there for three days and three nights, perform all the “Dhaanam” and “Dharma” and perform the “Jala-Tarpanam” for all my “Pitru-Devatas”! If you keep saying this everytime within yourself, Bhagawan would automatically present you with the opportunity to visit the place!” 

Thus, such is the enormous significance of this place called Kurukshetra! So for today, let us understand this point very clearly and let us wait till the next episode to continue this discussion further! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 454 – The “Dwaraka-Kshetra” – The Divine Abode of Bhagawan Krishna!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed Sage Vyaasa talking about the next “Punya-Kshetra” – The “Arbudha Kshetra” or commonly referred to as “Mount Abu” in the North-Indian state of Rajasthan. Here, Bhagawan Vishnu is in the form of a mountain, just like how we’ve witnessed Bhagawan Vishnu in the form of a huge lake at the “Pushkara Kshetra” or “Pushkar”. We’ve also witnessed that this “Arbudha Kshetra” or “Mount Abu” is one of the brothers of the great Himalayan mountains. Even today, Mount Abu is one of India’s most visited pilgrimage centres and whenever we get time, we should make sure to visit this beautiful paradise on earth. 

Moving on further thus, Sage Vyaasa is now talking about the next “Punya-Kshetra” called “Praabhaasa Theertham” or “Praabhaasa-Kshetra”. This is the place from where Bhagawan Krishna transcended back to Vaikunta at the end of the great Krishna-Avatara. All of us might know this story as to how a hunter mistook Bhagawan Krishna’s toe to be a deer! Mistakenly thus, the hunter hits Bhagawan Krishna’s toe and with this, Bhagawan decides that His divine incarnation in this world is coming to an end. All these places that we’re talking about currently are in the western part of our “Bhaarata Desha”, in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Now, moving further west into Gujarat, and as we attain the western seashore, is the famous “Dwaaraka-Patnam”, which is the capital city of Bhagawan Krishna. Sage Vyaasa gives an extensive accord on the Dwaaraka city and how it was built. The Dwaaraka palace would resemble that of Indra’s palace in the “Swarga Lokha”, and Sage Vyaasa explains this beautifully. I’m not going into this discussion at this moment, because we’ve already spoken at length about this during our previous “Shrimad Bhaagawatha Puraana” project. Readers can have a glimpse of it at their own convenience. Thus, we can see here that Sage Naarada advises Yudishtra to go to Dwaaraka as part of his “Teertha-Yatra” and obtain the divine “Anugraha” of Bhagawan Krishna who is residing there. 

Even today, we have the reminiscence of the Dwaaraka-Kshetra. We call that as “Pancha-Dwaaraka”. The first one is the “Bet-Dwaaraka”, where Bhagawan Krishna is referred to as “Rana-Chod-Rai”. We might be knowing this story – Bhagawan Krishna was running all the way from Mathura, and was being chased by Kaalayavana, who was King Jaraasandha’s brother. Since, Bhagawan Krishna was seemingly “running away” without fighting a war with Kaalayavana and Jaraasandha, He is referred to as “Rana-Chod-Rai” in this place. Next in the list is Gomati Dwaaraka, Dakur Dwaaraka, Kaankroli Dwaaraka and the most important one which is the “Sri-Naatha Dwaaraka”. Here, Bhagawan Krishna is referred popularly as “Shri-Nath ji” and this “Naatha-Dwaaraka” is again situated in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Thus, the five “Dwaaraka-Kshetras” are of extreme significance and all of us should compulsorily pay a visit to these places to obtain the divine “Anugraha” of Bhagawan Krishna! Thus, we can witness here that the western part of our Bhaarata Desha is extremely significant with enormous amounts of Punya-Kshetras lined up one after the other! Apart from the Vishnu Kshetras that we’re witnessing currently, there are Shiva-Kshetras too. There are a few Jyothirlinga-Sthalams such as Somanath, which is extremely revered and respected in Gujarat. Moving further east into Madhya Pradesh, we have the famous “Maha-Kaleshwar” temple in Ujjain, which has enormous significance. The presiding deity here is Bhagawan Shiva in the form of “Maha-Kaleshwar ji”. It is believed to be the center for time calculation during the yester-years. In other words, the local time at this temple was kept as the reference / benchmark for calculation of time at other places. In fact, this place called Ujjain is the birthplace of many eminent scholarly people of those times. 

Moving on further west, Sage Vyaasa explains about the place where River Sindh goes and merges into the ocean. This place is none other than today’s Karachi city in Pakistan. This is an extremely significant place in our “Sanaatana Dharma” literature, but sadly today, this has been completely forgotten. In fact, Karachi is a great “Punya-Kshetra” and was adorned with a lot of temples, which were subsequently destroyed by certain forces, about which it is not worth talking even a single word! Of course, we shall pray to Bhagawan that this place too should regain its spiritual significance sooner or later! 

Next, Sage Naarada is talking to Yudishtra about the famed Kurukshetra-Bhoomi, and how it is extremely significant like Pushkar in terms of “Dhaanam”, “Dharma”, and “Japa”. We should understand here that the Paandavas do not know as yet that the marque battle is going to take place in this very place of Kurukshetra! We’re still very early into the Mahabharata story and the war is far away still! Thus in this way, we’re witnessing Sage Naarada’s conversation going deep into the various “Punya-Kshetras” in the complete northern belt of our Bhaarata Desha. So for today, let us understand up to this point, and we shall continue this discussion further in the next episode as well! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 453 – MOUNT ABU – An important “Punya-Kshetra” of Bhagawan Vishnu!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed the significance of the first “Punya-Kshetra” that Sage Vyaasa is explaining about as part of the “Teertha-Yatra” Parva – The Puskhakra Kshetra, or commonly referred to as “Pushkar”. In this place, Bhagawan Vishnu is in the form of a massive lake full of water. The main significance of this “Pushkara-Kshetra” is that, if one chants the “Gayatri Mantra” sitting on the banks of this lake, he / she attains “Moksha”! Thus, the “Gayatri Mantra” has enormous significance in this place. Moreover, if we’re doing any sort of “Dhaanam” or “Dharma” towards other living beings, it is equivalent of performing an “Ashwamedha Yaaga”. Also, any form of spiritual practice performed in this particular “Kshetra”, gives us benefits of over a thousand times more than the usual. This is why, it is believed that it is only with Bhagawan’s divine “Anugraha” will we be able to visit this “Pushkara-Kshetra” and stay here for a day or two to perform our spiritual practices. Thus, such is the importance of the “Pushkara-Kshetra” that Sage Vyaasa beautifully brings out. As mentioned yesterday, Sage Vyaasa has packed into this “Teertha-Yatra-Parva”, an enormous amount of description about various “Punya-Kshetras” across our Bhaarata Desha and we shall talk about only a few important ones here for the moment. We shall take up the discussion on the others at a later context. 

Moving on thus, Sage Vyaasa talks about a few important rivers that adorn our Bhaarata Desha. We’ve of course, spoken about a few of these rivers, but let us witness what Sage Vyaasa has to say in this context – He commences with the rivers that surround the “Pushkara-Kshetra” – The Rivers Narmada and Tapti flow around the Pushkara Kshetra, which have enormous significance. Moreover, if we look at other places in India, apart from the sacred River Ganges and River Yamuna, we have the set of five rivers that flow through the North-Indian state of Punjab. Apart from this, there is River Saraswati which is believed to be flowing underground due to a curse. The River Saraswati is believed to join the River Ganga and Yamuna at “Prayagraj” in the North-Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Moreover, if we come down to the south-eastern part of the country, we have River Mahanadi that flows majorly through the Indian state of “Odisha”. Further south, we have the Rivers Godavari and Krishna that flow for a vast majority segment in the South-Indian State of Andhra-Pradesh. Further south, we have our River Cauvery that originates in Karnataka, but majorly flows through the South-Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Furthermore in the south, we have the other sacred rivers like River Paalaar, Cheyyar, Vaigai, Tamraparni, etc. in Tamil Nadu and River Pamba is considered to be extremely sacred in the South-Indian state of Kerala. Thus, if we look at every single state in India, there would be atleast one sacred river that flows through it, which is a unique significance that our country has! 

Moving on thus, Sage Vyaasa explains about the next important “Punya-Kshetra” that is again located in the North-Indian state of Rajasthan, quite similar to the “Pushkara-Kshetra” that we’ve just witnessed. This “Kshetra” is referred to as “Arbudha-Kshetra” in those days, and is referred to as “Mount Abu” today. This Mount Abu is an extremely picturesque place situated amidst the Rajasthan desert, and is referred by Sage Vyaasa as the “Brother of the Himalayan mountains”. Bhagawan Vishnu resides on top of Mount Abu and has enormous significance. Even today, Mount Abu is one of India’s most visited pilgrimage centres and whenever we get time, we should make sure to visit this beautiful paradise on earth. 

So for today, let us understand up to this point, and we shall continue this absorbing discussion on India’s famed “Punya-Kshetras”! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 452 – Chanting the “Gayatri-Mantra” at “Pushkara-Kshetra” is extremely significant – Sage Vyasa explains!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed the continuation of the discussion on the significance of taking a holy dip in the famous “Nadhi-Theerams” of our Bhaarata Desha. We had witnessed how these sacred rivers are revered and respected all over the country, in the form of “Kumbh-Melas” once in every twelve years. Different rivers in India have their own ways of being revered and celebrated. If we visit these places during the festive times, we would be able to see lakhs and lakhs of devotees thronging the river beds as part of the celebration. The entire course of the river that runs for hundreds of kilometers would be in a great festive mood! This is the significance of the “Kumbh-Mela” festivals that take place regularly in India. Thus, because of all these significances, every inch of land in our Bhaarata Desha is a “Punya-Bhoomi” or a “Punya-Kshetra”. The countless number of massive temples that we have, the countless number of spiritual masters that this country has witnessed till date, the immeasurable significance of our holy and sacred rivers, truly make us understand that we’re extremely fortunate in this birth to be closely associated with our “Bhaarata Desha” in some way or the other. Many of our readers might be living within this “Punya-Bhoomi”, and many others might be residing outside as well. That doesn’t matter much. But if we have reverence and close association with our “Bhaarata Desha” in some way or the other, this is more than enough for all of us! For those of us who reside abroad, we should make it a point to visit our Bhaarata Desha atleast once in a year or once every six months and experience the spiritual offerings that this great country has! 

Moving on thus, after listening to all of these from Sage Naarada, Yudishtra is now going to embark on the “Teertha-Yatra” along with Bheemasena and the others, except Arjuna. We’ve already witnessed the this “Teertha-Yatra” is happening at a time when Arjuna is still in the “Svarga Lokha” and is yet to return back. As we chug along with whatever Sage Vyaasa has talked about here with regards to various “Kshetras”, I shall just highlight certain descriptions of important “Kshetras” and move on. This is because, the “Teertha-Yatra Parva” is extremely huge and has extremely detailed descriptions of a countless number of “Punya-Kshetras”, which might be difficult for us to comprehend at one stretch. We shall take up a much detailed exploration on this context at a later time, but for now, let us just have a glimpse of what Sage Vyaasa has to say with regards to the “Teertha-Yatra” of Yudishtra. Now we shall witness the first “Punya-Kshetra” that Sage Vyaasa describes – “Pushkaram”. This “Pushkara-Kshetra” is situated near the city called Ajmeer in Central India – Amidst the states of Madhya-Pradesh and Rajasthan. Here, Bhagawan Vishnu is in the form of “Teertha-Rupa”, which means, Bhagawan is in the form of water in a huge lake. Amidst this huge lake, there is a cliff dedicated to Bhagawan Brahma, another cliff dedicated to Gayathri Devi, and another small cliff to Bhagawan Vishnu as well. It is believed that if we chant the Gayathri Mantra at that particular place, we get enormous spiritual benefits and upliftment. 

Moreover, in the “Pushkara-Kshetra” it is believed that Bhagawan Brahma is performing His “penance” towards Bhagawan Vishnu, who is in the “Teertha-Rupa”. The entire lake that is present here is Bhagawan Vishnu in its entire entity. Every drop of water is Bhagawan Vishnu Himself! Thus, Sage Vyaasa is explaining here that if one takes a holy dip in this lake that is Bhagawan Vishnu Himself, it is equivalent of performing a massive “Ashwamedha Yaaga”. If we feed someone sitting at the “Pushkara-Kshetra”, it gives spiritual benefits of over a thousand times! It is very difficult for one to travel to the “Pushkara-Kshetra” . It is very difficult to stay there and perform “Tapas” as well. It is extremely significant if we’re performing the “Dhaanam” (Donation) in the “Pushkara-Kshetra”. Thus, performing any spiritual practice in the “Pushkara-Kshetra” is extremely significant and if we get this opportunity, we’re fortunate enough in this birth! 

So for today, let us understand the significance of the “Pushkara-Kshetra” and let us make an attempt to consciously pay a visit to this “Kshetra” as early as possible in our lifetime. We shall continue this discussion forward in the next episode as well! Stay tuned! 🙂