Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Swami Ayyappan

“Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa” !!!
These are the first words that come to our mind, when we think of Lord Ayyappan. He is also called Manikantan (since there was a ‘mani’ or bell/bead around his ‘kanda’ or neck, when the king Rajasekara Pandiyan found him) and Hariharasudhan (son of Hari (Vishnu) and Haran (Shiva)).

History of Lord Ayyappan’s birth

Birth of Lord Ayyappan:
There was an ‘asura’ princess called ‘Mahishi’ who was filled with anger and revenge against the gods, for playing trick and eventually killing her brother ‘Mahishasuran’.  ‘Mahishi’ started her ‘thavam’ (a kind of meditation). When Lord Brahma appeared at the end of the ‘thavam’, she asked for complete invulnerability, which was refused. She planned a trick. She asked for invulnerability against all men except to the one born to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Her boon was granted. After all, it is against nature that two men would give birth to a child. ‘Mahishi’ was confident that she cannot be defeated and started conquering the world with all her might. However she didn’t know what Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva had planned for her.
Prior to this was another ‘asura’ named ‘Bhasmasura’. He did his ‘thavam’ towards Lord Shiva, who had granted him the ability to turn anything that he touches into ash. He was a constant trouble maker to the rishis and gods. When Lord Shiva could not handle it beyond a point, he requested Lord Vishnu’s help. Lord Vishnu took the ‘Mohini’ avatar. ‘Bhasmasura’ naturally attracted to ‘Mohini’, engaged himself in a dance sequence with her, in which he repeated the steps that she performed, at the end of which he placed his hands on his own head and turned into ashes.
Lord Shiva had an encounter with Lord Vishnu, disguised as ‘Mohini’. Due to the inevitable attraction, they had a boy child, who later on was called ‘Lord Ayyappan’.
Mahishi Mardhana
Now, Mahishi’s killer is born. How does he actually get linked to her? How does he kill her? In the first place the new born needed a place to grow. The gods now decided to answer the prayers of the childless king Rajasekara Pandiyan of the Pandalam dynasty. While the king was hunting in the forest one day, he heard a baby cry. He found the baby (that was born to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva) on the banks of the river Pampa and named him ‘Manikantan’. Since then the baby grew in the palace.  
When the queen had a second son, the minister/diwan corrupted the queen’s mind by saying that it is improper for ‘Manikantan’ to be the king’s successor, when her own son is alive. Together they staged a drama that the queen was unwell and need the milk of the tigress to cure her. ‘Manikantan’ was sent for this deadly assignment. He took it as an opportunity to kill ‘Mahishi’ and accomplished the same.
The Panchabhutas of Lord Shiva followed Manikantan into the forest. Mahishi and Manikantan had a terrific battle in the banks of the river ‘Azhutha’. At the end, Manikantan mounted on the chest of ‘Mahishi’ and danced so vibrantly and eventually killed her at ‘Erumeli’. Apparently, Mahishi was married to the son of Trimurthis in her previous birth. Due to a curse, she was born in the ‘asura’ family in this birth. With Lord Ayyappan’s dance and her eventual death, she was freed of her curse and attained ‘moksha’.
Sabarimala Temple:
Manikantan returned to the palace after defeating Mahishi. Lord Devendra disguised as a tigress, with Manikantan sitting on him and several other angels from Lord Indra’s office as other tigresses magnificently walked to the palace. Everybody was shocked. The king, who then knew about the evil plot of the queen and diwan, fell on Manikantan’s feet and remorsefully asked for apology. The Lord was pleased by the faith and the devotion of the king. He accepted the apology and said that he would grant him a boon. The king requested for constructing a temple and beseeched the lord to suggest a suitable place for the same. Manikantan aimed an arrow, which fell in a place called Sabari. Thus the construction of Ayyappan temple started at Sabarimala hills.


The Pilgrimage

Ayyappa Vrutham:

Only men are allowed to observe the vrutham and it is followed for 41 days. This is the most vital step towards the pilgrimage. The idea is to follow the discipline continuously for a specific period so that it becomes a habit. The mudra mala around the neck commences the vrutham. This mala signifies that Lord Ayyappa had a mudra around his neck, when he was first taken by the king. The devotees wear only black, blue or saffron dhotis. Refraining from the routine human life, they try to lead the life of sadhus. Eating non vegetarian food, drinking, smoking, involving in physical pleasures are a strict NO! Even dressing up, cutting the hair or the nails and wearing slippers are not to be done. They take bath twice a day before they chant the prayers. It actually makes sense when we understand that such a practice is to detach themselves from material desires and take a step forward towards heavenliness.

Pilgrimage :

The real purpose of the Sabarimala pilgrimage is to realize “Tat-Tvam-Asi”, which means “That You Are”. The pilgrims carry a travel kit with them called ‘Irumudi’. There are two compartments in the ‘irumudi’, the first one has things to offer and the second one has the things needed for travel. In the olden days, when travel was not so feasible, the devotees used to carry blankets and sometimes vessels to cook, on the way. The Guruswami or the leader of the group of pilgrims, who has been to Sabarimala for nearly 18 years, prepares the ‘irumudi’ and places it on the head of the pilgrim. 

The 18 Steps:

The Pilgrimage to Sabaraimala is said to be complete when the pilgrim climbs the holy 18 steps or the ‘pathinettampadi’.  Only those who have undergone the 41 day rigorous vrutham climb the steps. Though girl children before their puberty or women after their menopause are allowed inside the temple, entry to the 18 steps is restricted to only men and boys, who take up the 41 day vrutham. Each step in the Sabarimala represents each value. The first five senses symbolize the five senses, namely, Vision, Hearing, Smell, Taste and Touch. The next eight steps indicate the ‘ashta ragas’ or the eight moods, that is , Love, Anger, Avarice, Lust, Pride, Unhealthy Competition, Jealousy and Boastfulness. The next three steps stands for the ‘gunas’ or the inborn qualities, which are, Satva (perspicuity, discernment), Rajas (activity, enjoyment) and Thamas (inactivity, stupor). The last two steps represent Vidya (Knowledge) and Avidya (Ignorance).


The ‘makarajyothi’ is the light that is said to appear atop the ‘Ponnambalamedu’ hill near the Sabaraimala temple.  It also signifies the appearance of Sirius star. Some people believe that Lord Ayyappan descends on the hills of Ponnambalamedu during this time. The ‘makaravilaku’ is the deepam that is shown to Sabaraimala Ayyappan when the ‘makarajyothi’ appears.
This also includes another festival called ‘Thiruvabharanam’, where the Ayyappan idol is decorated with the jewels brought from the Pandalam palace ceremoniously. It is surmised that when Manikantan left the Pandalam palace, the king requested that he should be decorated with the jewels and the lord accepted that it could be done on only one day. This is done every year on the day of ‘Makarasankaranthi’ (14th January), the day when the Lord Ayyappa’s idol was installed on the temple.

There are more than 50 million devotees that visit the Sabarimala temple every year during this time. The traditional route to the shrine usually covers Erumeli, Kalaketti, Azhutha, Karimala, Pampa and Sabarimala.

Find products for Sabarimala pilgrimage & more @ www.pujacelebrations.com

- by Dhivya Karthic

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Karthigai Deepam – Festival of lamps

Karthigai Deepam is one of the ancient festivals of Tamil Hindus. It is usually celebrated on the day of the ‘karthigai’ star or on the day of ‘pournami’ (full moon day) during the tamil month, ‘karthigai’. While the festival is celebrated for three days, it is a common practice to light up atleast one or two lamps throughout that month.

In ever y household, several oil lit lamps (agal vilaku) are lit, on the evening of the festival.  People make sweets like ‘aval pori’, ‘nellu pori’ (snacks made essentially from puffed rice), ‘appam’ (sweet pancakes), etc.  Offerings like ‘adai’ (a type of dhokla, made using rice and pulses) and vellam (jaggery) are  made to the lord.

Birth of Lord Muruga – Karthigai star

Scientifically it is the day(‘karthigai’ star of the tamil month ‘karthigai’) when the moon comes in conjunction with the constellation called ‘Karthigai’, also called as Pleiades. It is a formation of six stars. Mythologically, these six stars are considered as the six nymphs who reared the six babies from ‘Saravanap Poigai’ (a pool in the Himalayas, from where the divine child, Muruga, emerged). Later, the six babies merged into one, forming the six faced ‘Muruga’. Since he was broughtup by the karthigai nymphs, Lord Muruga is also called as ‘Karthigeya’. On this day, oil lamps are also lit in the temples. 

Bharani Deepam
Now is story time. According to Indian Mythology, it is believed that lighting a lamp in the temple every day is very sacred. Several ages ago, there was a rat, which meddled with the thread in the temple lamp. Fortunately, the lamp started to burn brightly, lighting up the whole place. The rat, seemingly presumed to have gotten the goodness of lighting a lamp in the temple, was believed to be reborn as ‘Narabali’ Chakravarthi, in his next birth. If such is the effect of lighting an oil lamp in the temple for a day, that too accidently, what would it be if you do it for a year?
On Bharani deepam (on the day of ‘bharani’ star of the ‘karthigai’ month, that, falls on the day before the ‘karthigai’ star) people who cannot afford to go to temple every day, put 365 threads together in a big lamp and light it as a single fire and place it in the temple, thus obtaining the benefits of lighting a lamp every day for that whole year.

Thiruvannamalai Deepam – Maha Deepam
Another story now? Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had a fight about who is greater among the two. They went to Lord Shiva to solve their issue. Lord Shiva said, “The one who could see the tip of my head and the tip of my toe first will be considered great”. Lord Shiva magnified him so largely that his feet were somewhere deep down the waters and his head was even above the sky. As soon as the contest was on, Lord Vishnu chose to go down the water and see his feet first. He was several thousand feet down and still could not see Shiva’s feet. He decided not to try anymore and came back. He accepted his defeat. Meanwhile Lord Brahma chose to fly up and see the tip of Shiva’s head. He too travelled so many thousand feet up and was not even close to his hair. At this time, Lord Brahma saw the ‘Thazhampoo’ (a flower that is commonly called as Screw pine) near the hair of Lord Shiva. Lord Brahma thought for a moment. He returned back to Lord Shiva and told him that he had seen the tip of his head. Lord Brahma had also brought ‘Thazhampoo’, (who had already accepted his bribe), as his witness. Lord Shiva became so furious and cursed Lord Brahma, that he would not have any temples in the earth. To ‘Thamzhampoo’ he said, he would not wear her any further. When ‘Thazhampoo’ pleaded, Lord Shiva finally accepted to wear her only on shivaratri night pooja. Apart from that, ‘Thazhampoo’ is never offered to Lord Shiva.
Since both of them failed, Lord Shiva himself appeared as a ‘jyothi’ (a form of fire) in front of Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. It is a symbol of this ‘jyothi’ that ‘Maha deepam’ is lit every year on the hill top of Thiruvannamalai, on the day of poornima (full moon). There is a belief that Lord Shiva himself is present in the ‘jyothi’. People in and around the hill, fast from morning and break their fast only after they see the ‘Maha Deepam’ in the evening.

Chokka Panai
‘Chokka panai’ is the bonfire that is lit at homes and mainly in temples, on the day of ‘karthigai’. It is generally regarded to eliminate the bad attributes in the society. While the Shaivaites believe that it is a smaller version of ‘Thiruvannamalai Maha Deepam’, the Vaishnavaites believe that it is to commemorate the incarnation of Vishnu as ‘Vamana’ and often call it as ‘Vishnu Deepam’.

For purchasing beautiful diyas, pooja books etc, visit www.pujacelebrations.com.

- by Ms. Dhivya Karthic

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Diwali - The Festival of Lights

Diwali or Deepavali, famously called as the festival of lights. As the name suggests, it is a festival that lights up our surrounding, physically and emotionally. Though people in various parts of India, have different meanings and celebrate in different ways, nevertheless, it is always a grand.

In Tamilnadu, Deepavali festival marks the death of the demon,’Naragasuran’. It is told that at the moment of death, Naragasuran realised his mistakes and requested Lord Krishna to let people celebrate his death as the victory of good over evil. It is his last wish that we celebrate as ‘Diwali’.

On the day of Diwali, everybody at home wakes up early in the morning. The eldest woman in the family applies warm sesame oil on the head and then applies ‘nalangu’ – a paste of turmeric and wet lime, on the feet of the other women in the family. We are supposed to take bath in hot water and use ‘shikakkai’ – traditional herbal hair care powder which was originally used as shampoo. This holy bath is called the “Ganga Snanam”, equivalent to taking bath in the river ‘Ganges’.

Immediately after the Ganga snan, we wear new clothes and get blessings from elders. We then have to taste the sweets, savouries and the ‘diwali legiyam’ – a homemade medicine to protect the stomach from any indigestion due to feasting that occurs later that day. Visiting the temple and distributing of sweets goes without saying.

Diwali is never complete without crackers. As soon as the ganga snan and the tasting of sweets are over, the fire work starts and goes on even till night. The excitement and the enthusiasm is never ending. 

Celebrate Diwali with products from Puja Celebrations. Order them @ www.pujacelebrations.com

- by Ms. Dhivya Karthic

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Navarathri Golu - Ms. Nandaki, Velachery

Simple & elegant Navarathri Golu at the residence of Ms. Nandaki Venkatesan, SPIC Nagar, Velachery

The dolls have been arranged using 5 Steps Compact Plastic Golu Padi.
For more details on dolls/bommai, Golu Padi, Gift articles, please visit our online store Puja Celebrations

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Navarathri Golu

"Navarathri Golu" is an integral part of Navarathri festival. It represents the divine presence of Goddesses Lakshmi, Durga & Saraswathi in the household during the celebrations.

Log on to Puja Celebrations for golu padi, dolls, returm gifts & all products required to celebrate Navarathri!!

Festivals of India - Diwali

The only festival that brings light in our lives and makes us feel that our lives are bright is the festival I'm gonna talk abt.. Yeah you're  right.. Its nothing but DIWALI.... As we all call diwali as festival of lights.. Its also the festival of victory over darkness and evil.... It is celebrated mainly by Hindus but, jains and Sikhs also celebrate it by a different way...
Often jains celebrate a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira and Sikhs celebrate it as bandi chhor divas.

  The word diwali has its origin from the Sanskrit fusion "DEEPAVALI" which has two words in it I.e deepa( light or lamp) and avali(series or line).. Thus the two words complete the meaning of deepavali which means a "row of lights"....

  Diwali dates back to ancient times in India, as a festival after summer harvest in the Hindu calendar in the month of karthikai...

   Historically, the origin of diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of diwali.

Some believe it to be the celebration of marriage of goddess lakshmi devi with lord Vishnu. Whereas in Bengal the festival is dedicated to mother Kali... The dark goddess of strength.. It also commemorates the return of lord rama along with sita and lakshmana from his 14 year long exile and vanquishing the demon king ravana... In joyous celebration of the return of their king, people of ayodhya illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas and burst crackers... There are many more stories connected to this day like.. Goddess lakshmi's birthday.. Lord Vishnu was in his fifth incarnation as vamna and rescued lakshmi devi from king bali... The pandavaa returned after 12 years to the kingdom..

Diwali is also associated with wealth and prosperity...

On the first day lakshmi pooja is  celebrated and it is given great importance in India... Houses and business premises are  decorated.. Entrances are made colour full with lovely traditional motifs of rangoli to welcome goddess 'lakshmi devi'. To indicate her arrival, small foot prints are drawn with rice flour all over the house.. Lamps are kept burning throughout the night.. Believing this day to be auspicious, women purchase gold or silver.
  On the day before diwali naraka chathurthi is celebrated.. This falls on the second day of the festival.. The history behind celebrating this festival is.. It is believed that  MAHAKALI devi killed the most wicked evil NARAKASURA... On this day, it is believed that laziness and evil which creates hell in our lives is abolished and shines lights on our lives..
  On the day of diwali... People wake up early in the morning, and apply oil and the elders in the house perform aarthi to all the younger ones.. Then they are asked to have bath with gram flour. Then, pooja is done and a wide variety of delicious sweets and food are made... At night people burst crackers and to kill the darkness and evil...

Thus, diwali brings light, joy, happiness in everyone's life and kills darkness And evil.... So it is called the "FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS" :) :) :) :)

- by Venkatesh Bharadwaj