Poojas - Meaning

Skanda Sashti

The Story of Skanda Shasti is the story of the birth of Skanda or Kumara and the fulfillment of the purpose of His divine incarnation. "Tormented by the asura ( demon/anti God) Tarakasura, the devas with Indra at their head went to the world of the self born the creator" (Kumara Sambhava 2.1) The creator said " only the spark of Shiva can produce the hero who will defeat the powers of the evil" Unfortunately, Shiva The king of yogis was lost in a deep state of meditation and samadhi. None of the Devas dared to disturb him... least of all convince him to create a progeny.

Upon Brahma's suggestion, they sought the help of Parvathi and Kama (the god of love). Parvathi agreed to help and engaged herself in severe penance to attract Shiva's attention. Kama also agreed to help and engaged himself in the suicidal mission of arousing Shiva from His state of Samadhi. Kama shot his arrows of love at Shiva who was eventually disturbed and the fire of anger from his third eye burnt Kama into ashes.

The penance of Parvathi and the sacrifice of Kama paid off. Shiva was aroused from his Samadhi. However, none could bear the sparks of His fiery seed. It fell into the mouth of Agni, and afterwards received by Ganges, who in turn threw it into Sara Vana ( forest of arrow like grass). Thus Saravanabava was born. He was also Skanda - Shiva's power of chastity preserved through penance. Skanda was raised by the six mothers of the divine constellation of Krithikai (pleiades) . Karthikeya divided himself into six babies to be nursed by six mothers. When Parvathi came and gathered all the six babies, He became Shanmukha - the one with the six faces and one body.

Shanmukha became Kumara - the powerful virile adolescent who was also the beautiful and the handsome ( Muruga) . He was made the General (Deva Senapathi) of the God's army. "....Of the army generals I am Skanda."..(The Gita). Skanda received from his mother Parasakthi an all powerful Vel (lance). Hence He is also Sakthi Velan. He engaged the armies of Simhamukha, Surapadman and Tarakasura on a six day battle and vanquished all of them on the sixth day. The Asuras were annihilated and the Devas were liberated. The sixth day (Sashti) of the waxing moon ( sukhla) in the month of Ashada ( Oct/Nov) is celebrated as Skandha Sashti.

Indra was restored to his kingdom and gave his daughter Deivayanai or Devasena in marriage to Skanda. In order not to discriminate between the rich and the poor, Muruga also married Valli the gypsy damsel. (Source: www.templenet.com)

Pavitra Utsavam

Nitya Naimitya Dosha Vivartanam -The purification Ceremony.

In the course of performing the daily & periodical ceremonies & festivals at the temple, occasional lapses occur despite every effort to maintain correctness. Pavitrotsavam aims to seek pardon of the deities for such unintentional lapses.

The purifactory function of Pavitrotsavam is performed once a year. In Tirumala, for Lord Venkateswara, the ritual lasts 3 days starting on Sravana suddha sukla dasami (the tenth waxing lunar day in the month of Sravana). At Srirangam Ranganatha temple, a much more elaborate festival is conducted lasting 10 days in the solar month of Avani (Simha). In our temple, it commences on Friday 18th (Subha Muhurtha day) and continues on Sat 19th with 108 Kalasa pooja with Homam, Chanting of Vedas and Sunday 20th with Maha Poornahuthi.

Karthigai Somavaram

Somavara Vratam: One of the name of Lord shiva is soma - saha uma. For the Lord someshvara Who wears the soma, the moon crescent on the matted hair, on the somavara day (Monday), this festival is observed.

Why Karthikai Somavaram?

Though all Mondays can be observed as vrata there are special mondays when it is much more emphasised like the shrAvaNa somvAr and kArthikai sOmavAram. According to skandha purANa, on the Mondays of the month kArthikai (mid Nov to mid Dec) this vrata is specially observed.

Our Temple Celebrates Karthikai Somavaram on Four Mondays with Visesha Abhishekam for Lord Shiva (5.30pm), followed by Alankaram & Deeparadhana. The fourth Somavaram is special with 108 Sangu Abhishekam...

Way of observing

Getting up at the dawn one meditates on the Supreme Shiva. After taking bath and having done the morning twilight salutation, praying the Auspicious and Graceful Lord shiva, one salutes & respects couples who are devotees of the Lord, chaste and loving as the Divine couple pArvati-paramEshawara. Saluting these couples, offering them feast, the observer of this vratam eats only one time food that day. If unable to do the worship, then one goes to the temple and salute and pray the umA-maheshwara. Anointing the Lord with panychAmR^itam and other pleasant substances, hailing the Lord offering bilva leaves, offering the nice food to the Lord and after sharing it with the kind hearted devotees, one eats the food. A devote may also fast completely on this day.

Glory of Vrtam

One who observes this vratam would get to enjoy many pleasures in this world and finally would reach the kailAsham. The moon observed this vratam and got his "moonness". He saluted the Lord gauri- shankara and requested that this vratam be called soma vAra vratam (One of the names of the moon is soma. One of the name of Lord shiva with goddess umA is also soma) and whoever follows this vratam should get their wishes materialised by the grace of the Lord and finally get the liberation.

Hanuman Jayanthi

Sri Hanuman, the son of Vayu Deva or the Wind-God, epitomizes knowledge, devotion, strength, humility, siddhi and courage. He is symbolized for his unwavering dedication to righteousness, unstinting performance of entrusted duties, and unfailing talents in serving his master Sri Rama. He is given the role of a guru in several South Indian traditions, for his uniting Rama with Sita is likened to that of a teacher helping an individual soul realise the divine.

He symbolizes the pinnacle of bhakti, and is also seen as an avatar of Shiva.

Vaikunta Ekadasi

Vaikunta Ekadasi, the Ekadasi of Vaikunta (the abode of the Vishnu) falls on the 11th day of the Sukla Paksha (the waxing phase of the moon) of the Dhanur (Margazhi in Tamil terminology) month - the ninth of the Hindu Lunar Calendar. Hindus consider it a very auspicious day and observe it as a day of prayer and fasting.

According to legend, the gods and demons churned the divine ocean for Amrita on the day of Vaikunta Ekadasi, following which Shiva consumed the poison that resulted. Hence Shaivaites consider this Ekadasi as the Nanjunda Ekadasi. It is believed that whoever dies on this day will achieve Moksha.

Makara Sankaranthi

The Sun enters the Makara raasi (the zodiac sign of Capricorn - the goat from Cancer), on Sankranti day, signifying the onset of Uttarayana Punyakalam. the northward journey. Lord Surya on His dazzling chariot that has thousands of spokes and magnificent wheels, and driven by seven horses (seven colours of the spectrum) begins His journey northward into the Makara Rasi, filling our lives with light and getting rid of the darkness. This light not only fills our material life and helps our plants grow at seeding time, but also gets rid of our "internal" darkness, showing the path of self realisation - moksha.

On this day, devotees prepare a dish made of green grams, rice and jaggery (sarkkarai pongal) - representing Lord Narayana, Laxmi and Their Divine love. The festival reminds us that we need to establish that Divine Love within ourselves and give a direction to this "chanchala buddhi" and fix it our Lord Narayana, who brings light in our lives.

Traditionally, sesame oil is used in making sweets and dishes, particularly on this day. It is believed that sesame seeds are used for purificatory purposes. So generally special offerings of til (sesame) rice and corn (first harvest) are offered and distributed, especially preparations of rice kitcheri with sesame and corn are a preferred offering to the Lord on this day. In different parts of India slight variations (gauna - local traditions prevail) but the general observance is much the same. In the South of India, Pongal - new harvest festival is celebrated with much joy & celebrations.

Kites – kites are seen soaring high in the sky on the day of Makara Sankranti. This is symbolic of the existence of mankind, with the kites depicting the human lives and the manza depicting the eternal bond between us and the divine self. People however seem to correlate the soaring kites with their high spirits on the eve of Makara sankranti. Competitions held with kites of all sizes and shapes and the sharp edged manza draw people on the terraces and in open grounds to witness the riot of colours (Source: www.salagram.net).

Pongal

The Sun enters the Makara raasi (the zodiac sign of Capricorn - the goat from Cancer), on Sankranti day, signifying the onset of Uttarayana Punyakalam. the northward journey (from equinox). Lord Surya on His dazzling chariot that has thousands of spokes and magnificent wheels, and driven by seven horses (seven colours of the spectrum) begins His journey northward into the Makara Rasi, filling our lives with light. We pray that this light not only fills our material life & helps our plants grow, but also removes the "internal" darkness, showing the path to self realisation - moksha. Let us celebrate the effulgence of this Sun!

In south of India, this day is celebrated as Pongal, the harvest festival - the Tamil equivalent of Thanksgiving. It is held to honour the Sun, for a bountiful harvest. Families gather to rejoice and share their joy and their harvests with others. The Sun is offered a "Pongal" of rice and milk, sweetened with brown sugar (Chakkaraipongal)

On the day of Pongal, early in the morning, everyone bathes and wears new clothes. Family members jointly draw the kolam (rangoli) with rice flour, some coloured & elaborate with artistic symbols of cosmic interest. Within the kolam, typically, a fireplace is built with decorative pot to cook the Pongal. It is set up in direct view of the Sun (East). The climax is the spill over of pongal during cooking, a propitious symbol of abundance. Sometimes, firecrackers are lit to signify the moment. Once the pongal is ready the offering is made to Lord with prayers, followed by sharing of prasadams amongst friends and relatives.

On a full scale it is a three-day festival of nature-worship. It includes feeding the birds that are part of the beauty of nature & offering thanks to the cattle (Mattu-Pongal), which plough the fields & give milk. Jallikkattu is a sport involving bulls, similar to bull-run, celebrated by young men as a part of 3-day Thai Pongal.

In some parts of India, for Makara Sankaranthi, sesame oil is used in making sweets and dishes. It is believed that sesame seeds are used for purificatory purposes. So special offerings of Rice kitcheri with sesame and corn are offered to the Lord on this day.

People fly kites on Makara Sankranti day. This is symbolic of the existence of mankind, with the kites depicting the human lives and the manza depicting the eternal bond between us and the divine self. People celebrate the soaring kites in the sky with their high spirits on this wonderful day of new beginnings.

Thai Poosam

Thai Poosam celebrates the conquest of demon Tharakasura by Lord Subrahmanya. According to the legends, Lord Shiva & Parvathi asked their second son, Subrahmanya, (Lord Murugan as he is known in Tamil) to destroy the wicked demon who was troubling the Rishis and Saints. He took with him twelve weapons, eleven of which were given by his father, Lord Shiva and the Vel (Spear) given by his mother. He fought a battle in which he destroyed Tharakasuran on Poosam nakshatra (star) day in the Tamil month of Thai and hence Thai Poosam is celebrated in all Murugan temples. Besides India, Murugan temples in Singapore, Sri Lanka & Malaysia celebrate Thai Poosam in grand manner. Serious devotees pierce their bodies, engage in fire-walks and walk for miles with Kavadi in penance to prove their intense devotion and thanks giving!

Our temple will have a more sedate procession where milk pots (Paal Koodam) can be carried by devotees, then offered in Abhisekam for the Lord.

Maha Sivaratri

“deho devaalaya: prokto jeevo deva: sanaatana: |
tyajedajgyana nirmalyam soham bhavena pujayeth ||”

According to Arsha Dharma, Maha Shivarathri is an important religious event, coming every year on Magha Bahula Chathurdasi. It is called Maha Shivarathri Day. Shiva - meaning the most auspicious, is worshiped with special pujas and abhishekas during the day and all night long on this day. Puranas (example, Garuda Puranam) proclaim that Maha Shivarathri is very auspicious; staying awake through out the night (Jaagarana) and worshipping Lord Shankara is particularly pleasing to Him. By this, all our past sins are absolved and Moksha is blessed.

“Namaskara priyo Bhanu:” This means: Namaskara pleases Lord Surya (Sun God) the most. Everyday after bath whoever worships Lord Surya, they will be blessed with good health.

“Abhisheka priyo Shiva:” This means: Abhisheka pleases Lord Shiva the most. Performing Abhisheka to Lord Shiva with six different dravyas, such as Milk, Yogurt, Honey, Ghee, Sugar and Water while chanting Sri Rudram, Chamakam and Dasa Shanthi specially pleases Him. Each dravya used in His Abhisheka blesses a unique quality. Milk is for purity and piousness. Yogurt is for prosperity and progeny. Honey is for sweet speech. Ghee is for victory. Sugar is for happiness. Water is for purity. The Archana (Upachara Puja) that follows abhisheka is also very auspicious.

The origin of Maha Shivarathri: Our scriptures call this depth of night as Pralayam. It is said that Shiva’s consort Parvathi Devi worshipped Him with Stotras during Pralaya time and pleased Him. After this, Parvathi requested Sadashiva that this period of night when she was able to worship and please the Lord be called as Shivarathri. Maheshwara agreed to this request and said whoever worships Him during this night will obtain His full grace.

Here is a story from Skanda Purana narrating the significance of Shiva worship on Shivarathri. Once upon a time, a Boya Hunter who owed money to his King went to the forest for hunting without paying his debt. There he set up traps and waited on the top of a tree. While waiting, he plucked the leaves and dropped them below. As time passed, four deers were trapped in the net and the Hunter was about to kill them. At that time, they all pleaded to let them off for that day and promised to return the next day. The Boya Hunter obliged their request and the animals returned the next day exactly as promised. The Boya Hunter was shocked and was so impressed with their honesty. But at the same time was ashamed of himself, since he left the kingdom without paying his debt to the King. Years later, the Boya Hunter died and his soul reached Kailasa. He wondered how he got there. A voice appeared and told him that he unknowingly plucked Bilva leaves from the tree and dropped them on the Shiva Lingam below all night without taking any food or water on a Shivarathri night, and thus made it to Kailasa. Such was the power of worshipping the most merciful and generous Sarveshwara on Shivarathri. One can get salvation of Moksha by staying awake on Shivarathri night and worshipping Lord Shiva knowingly or even unknowingly ! Skanda Purana has many more interesting stories on the greatness of Bhagvan Shiva and Shivarathri.

Additional links on Lord Shiva :

www.sivanandadlshq.org
www.swami-krishnananda.org
www.himalayanacademy.com

mAtA cha pArvatI devi pitA devo maheshvaraH |
bhAndavA shiva bhaktAshcha svadesho bhuvanatrayam ||
- shankara bhagavatpAda

Sri Satguru charanam
Om tat sat.

Sri Ramanavami

Sree Raama Raama Raamethi
Rame Raame Manorame |
Sahasra Naama Thatthulyam
Raama Naama Varaanane ||

Aapadaamapa Harthaaram
Daatharam Sarva Sampadaam |
Lokaabhiraamam Sree Raamam
Bhuyo Bhuyo Namaamyaham ||

On Chaitra Sukla Navami (the ninth day of the bright half of Chaitra) 'Sree Ramanavami' is celebrated. Sree Rama was born on this day and years later on the same day Rama married Sita. Hence, 'Sree Sitarama Kalyana Mahotsav' (wedding) is performed in the abode of Sitarama Temples everywhere.

"Wherever four Hindus live, Rama and Sita will be there" so said Swami Vivekananda, one of the foremost harbingers of modern national renaissance of Bharat. Conversely, wherever Rama and Sita live, the people there will live a Dharmic life. In Sydney, we’re blessed with a Sri Rama/Sita Mandir at the Balaji Complex at SVT, Helensburgh.

Every hill and rivulet of Bharath (India) bears the imprint of the holy feet of Rama and Sita. Sri Rama reigns supreme to this day in the hearts of our people, cutting across all barriers of province, language, caste, sect or even countries. Even the tribes living in isolated valleys and jungles have names like Mitti-Ram and Patthar-Ram. In some other tribes, every name carries the proud suffix of Ram, such as Lutthu Ram, Jagadev Ram, etc. In many northern parts of Bharat mutual greetings take the form of Jay Ramjee Ki. Why is Rama so intrinsic?

Sri Rama is identified with all goodness and great qualities of heroic manhood that expressions such as 'Us me Ram nahi hai' (there is no Rama in him) - meaning that a person has lost all manliness and worth - have become common usage. And when a Hindu quits the world stage, he is bid God-speed in his onward journey with Ramanama satya hai or Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram, Patita Paavana Sita Ram. In fact, the latter couplet has become India’s bhajan par excellence, popularized by Mahatma Gandhi.

Sri Rama's story, Ramayana, has been sung and resung in all the languages and dialects of India & abroad. The tradition of writing epics centering round the saga of Rama's achievements started by Valmiki in Sanskrit and was continued by Tulsidas in Hindi, by Kamban in Tamil, by Ramanujan in Malayalam, by Krittivasa in Bengali and Madhav Kambali in Assamia and in fact, in almost every Indian language. The epic continues to be portrayed in songs, dance, drama and films everywhere.

The various tribal groups too have sung the story of Ramayana in their dialects. Sri Rama, Lakshmana and Janaki mirror the ideals for millions of tribal boys and girls. The Khamati tribe in Arunachal Pradesh, which is Buddhist, depicts Ramayana as the story narrated by Buddha to his first disciple, Ananda, and carries the universal message of Buddha. How deeply significant that every group and sect even in distant and far-flung parts of Bharatavarsha should have found a radiant reflection of its own ideals in the form of Sri Rama!

The comparison of Sri Rama's fortitude to Himalayas and the grace and grandeur of his personality to the ocean - 'Samudra iva gaambheerye, dhairye cha Himavaan iva' - portrays how inseparably his personality has been blended into the entire national entity of India.

Where in lay the secret of this unique greatness in Rama's personality? He is called Maryaada-Purushottama - the great one who never deviated from the norms set by Dharma. In the eyes of the Hindu, the touchstone of human excellence is Dharma. Devotion to Dharma came first in Rama's life and considerations of his personal joys and sorrows came last. It was his supreme commitment to putra-dharma (duty of a son) that made Rama smilingly depart to the forest for fourteen years at the bidding of his father. And this he did on the very day he was to be anointed as the future emperor of Bharat. He would not budge from the path of Dharma - righteousness - even when his own preceptor, his parents, his brothers and the whole body of his subjects tried to dissuade him. He upheld the supremacy of Dharma in every one of his human relationships and hence became an ideal son, an ideal brother, an ideal husband, an ideal disciple, an ideal friend, an ideal kind and even an ideal foe.

The one and supreme concern of Sri Rama's life was the welfare of his subjects. He would forsake everything else to uphold his kingly duties - the Rajadharma.

The following couplet conveying this idea is cited often:

Sneham dayaam cha soukhyam cha yadi vaa Jaanakimapi|
Aaraadhanaaya lokasya munchate naasti me vyathaa||

To such a one, how could power and pelf hold any fascination? When Bharata came to him in the forest and implored him to return to Ayodhya and become the emperor, Sri Rama firmly refused. Here was enacted a scene unparalleled in the annals of world history - each of the two brothers trying to out-argue the other to make him accept the emperorship of a great and mighty kingdom.

Sri Rama's role as one of the first and foremost national unifiers of Bharat is also unique and extraordinary. He embraced Guha, the forest King and ate in his house without the least hesitation. No sense of high or low ever touched his all-embracing love of his people. He even enjoyed a fruit tasted and offered with devotion by Shabari, a tribal lady in the far south.

The Vanaras or the forest-dwellers too felt that Rama was their own. He endeared himself to them so intimately that they became, in fact, his chief allies against Ravana. All over Bharatavarsha, the dear, little squirrel with its three brown stripes bespeaks the devotion to Sri Rama even among the animal world. Along with the Vanaras, a solitary squirrel had played his humble part in carrying sand for the construction of bridge to Lanka and Sri Rama's caressing of the little one on the back had left those indelible stripes for all future generations.

Sri Rama's intense adoration for the motherland has been immortalized by a legendary couplet which is playing on the lips of millions even to this day: Janani janmabhoomischa swargaadapi garreyasi (the mother and the motherland are to me greater than the heavens themselves).

The story of Rama is not that of a single towering personality dwarfing all others. The other characters like Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata and Hanuman too shine in their own greatness. All of them are so closely interwoven with Sri Rama's life and achievements that it is well-nigh impossible to think of any one without the other. In fact, the most popular picture of Sri Rama, i.e., of Sri Rama Pattabhisheka includes Sita, Hanuman and all his brothers. And in the bringing out of the greatness of all these partners of his life-drama, Rama's instinctive recognition of their merit and virtues played no mean part. He would always be the first to openly appreciate the unique and noble traits in others' character. Even for Kaikeyi, who was responsible for his banishment to forest, Rama had only words of kindness. And as for Ravana, the abductor of his wife, Rama's unstinted praise of his erudition and prowess at once lifts the story of Ramayana to heights unsurpassed in the annals of human history.

Sri Rama is revered as the seventh avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu.

No wonder, the story of Sri Rama has crossed the boundaries of India and inspired many a distant people, their culture and literature such as in Thailand, Indonesia & other parts of Asia. Indonesia – a predominantly Muslim country - continues to adore Rama and Sita as her great cultural standard-bearers, and Ramayana as her national epic par excellence.

The birthday of Sri Rama (Sri Ramanavami), indeed, signifies an event worthy of remembrance by every one, whatever his country, race or religion. It reinforces within us the time honored sublime values of human culture and civilization. (Reproduced with minor changes from www.mypurohith.com)

What is Sahasra Kalasa Abhishekam?

The term Sahasra Kalasabhisekam comprises three words, sahasra (thousand), kalasa (pitchers or vessels), and abhishekam (consecration by holy water, liquids and other materials). These vessels may be of gold, silver, brass, copper or even earthenware.

In Vedas, Lord Vishnu tells Brahma that propitiation in the form of ablution with 1001 vessels, provided with sacred things and filled with holy water, pleases Him (Vishnu) exceedingly. Whoever witnesses Vishnu during this ablution with 1001 pots, with faith and devotion, obtains the fruits of bathing in the sacred rivers like the Ganges, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri. The ceremony is equivalent to the great festivals such as Kumbha Mela on the banks of the holy Ganges River.

The benefit of the abhishekam for the devotee is
(1) kamyartha - for material results such as prosperity, removal of obstacles, etc; or
(2) pradhana - for easing the deficiency in conducting the services or the architecture of the temple, or for removing problems of the entire community/world afflicted with major calamities, or
(3) prayaschitta - atonement for any omissions and commissions in the course of conducting religious services.

Alankaram (decorations), archana (offering prayers), and homas (offering through the holy fire) are the various forms of conducting the ceremony. Usually, it may last 1, 3 or 5 days. In Tirupathi, it is performed every Wednesday of the week for the Lord, mainly for kamyartha of the devotees sponsoring the service. At SVT, all four forms, Kumbha, Mandala, Bimbha and Agni Homam, of the abhishekam will be performed.

The kalasabhishekam process starts with building a platform of the required size for the arrangement of kalasas in the Yajnasala. Each kalasa will occupy the space of one hasta (18 inches) on a square shaped platform meant to accommodate all of the kalasas. The three abodes are assigned from the center to the periphery, namely Abode of Brahma, Abode of the Divinities, and Abode of the Human. The arrangement and the number of pots differ on each abode, as well the filling of the pots with materials and liquids.

To the sixty-four main kalasas are added herbs, flowers, waters of rivers and oceans, 24 different soils, gold, silver, and precious gems. The significance is that God in virata swarupam (manifested form) pervades in everything without exception including the pancha bhutas - the five elements that make up the universe: air, fire, water, earth and ether. Also added in separate kalasam are the mantras representing all deities.

The Abhishekam reinforces that everything is His swarupam or manifestation. Part of the ghee (clarified butter) used for ashtakshari homam becomes sampate argyam; that ghee is offered on the kalasas and their contents for purification. The content of all the kalasas (1001 in all) are then used for the abhishekam amidst the chanting of suktas, and the Vedas as the culmination of the function.

Thus the Kalasabhisekam signifies an absolute surrender to God of one’s possessions with the ultimate goal of reaching Him directly.

Thought of the week | Being maddened with pride, people think that they are doing everything and do not depend upon Him. - Sri Sarada Devi