Day 1 of Diwali Festival of Lights: Dhanteras

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Today, November 13th 2012, marks the beginning of the 5 days of Diwali.  The first day of the Diwali is known as Dhanteras or Dhantrayodashi, which falls on the 13th day of the month Ashvin according to the Hindu calendar.  The name comes from the root word Dhan or Wealth.  Dhanteras is known as an opportune day for Hindus as they celebrate by buying precious metals such as gold or silver for good luck in the coming year.  It is not surprising then that today is the day Hindus worship the revered Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth. For many Hindu businesses today marks the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Many worship this day through Lakshmi Puja, which is a Hindu tradition of placing lighted clay pots outside their homes in hopes that she may pay their home a visit and bless them with prosperity in the coming year.  These lamps are left burning on doorsteps throughout the night in order to light her path.  It is believed that Lakshmi only visits homes that are clean and to those who are hard-working and deserving of acquiring and preserving wealth.  She does not visit the lazy or those that keep their homes uncleanly.

Worship with Hindus across the globe in worshipping Lakshmi by placing a small lamp upon your doorstep with offerings of saffron paste, flowers, sweets, fruits, and/or rice.  Today is a day for peaceful worship and offering upon the beautiful Goddess Lakshmi.

It is also believed that today, an incarnation of Vishnu known as Dhanvantari, was born.  Vishnu as Dhanvantari is known as the physician of the Gods.  So in addition to Lakshmi, pay special devotion to Vishnu as Dhanvantari by paying homage to his birth.

Hindu Lord Ganesh: Remover of Obstacles

Hindu God Ganesh has ascribed to many roles over time.  His most marked role is that of Vighneshvara, or Lord of Obstacles, within the Hindu Religion.  This applies to both material and spiritual aims.  Besides the primary remover of obstacles he is also thought to place obstacles in the way of those in need of guidance.   If one is expressing themselves in less then ideal ways, Ganesh may bring those to light by bringing about hindrances that may enlighten them.

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Another such role is that of Lord of letters and learning.  Ganesh is renowned for his divine intellect and wisdom.  He is thought to be a teacher of the divine with his inherent cleverness and vast intelligence.  He is worshiped often by devout Hindus whenever they are embarking on a new endeavor, such as buying a house or starting a new business opportunity.  They pray for his guidance in that their new beginning may be successful.

It would not be a stretch to say that virtually every Hindu home has some sort of statue or montage to Lord Ganesh.  He is worshiped by everyone, whether rich or poor, all over India.  They collectively believe that he is a granter of success, prosperity, and protects against hardships that may arise.  Most beseech upon him at the beginning of every prayer, important events, or religious ritual.  It is even said that musicians, dancers, and artists call upon him at the beginning of every performance, undertaking, or event.  One of the most influential invocations is the following mantra:

‘Om Shri Gaṇeshāya Namah’ translated asOm, salutation to the Illustrious Ganesha’

Most Hindu households give offerings of sweets to their beloved Ganesh which is why he is often depicted holding a basket of delicacies.  Although the birth of Ganesh is the most often celebrated holiday worshiping Ganesh, he is often revered during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.  This is mostly due to his everyday influence in the lives of Hindus nationwide.  Diwali is a celebration of the plentiful qualities of life, of which Ganesh is often a largely believed guidance through them all.

Chakras, Colors & Hindu Gods: A Closer Look at the Hindu System

Chakras, their colors and position on the body

Chakras, their colors and position on the body

The word chakra is derived from Sanskrit, meaning “wheel”, or “circle of life”. They consist of seven main energy centers found in the body and is associated with a variety of colors, symbols and Hindu gods. In Hinduism, the continuous flow of energy throughout the chakras is referred to as “Shakti”. The concept of chakra was first mentioned in the ancient sacred Hindu text, The Vedas, but also plays an important role in Tibetan Buddhism.
Chakras are located along the spine and influence different nerve systems, organs and glands with their energy. These vortexes of energy are originated from Brahman, according to Hindu beliefs. It is presumed that as Shakti flows from one chakra point to another it exhausts the body and soul. The energy that becomes coiled in the base of the spine (root chakra) is called Kundalini. The spiritual goal is to awaken and release the Kundalini in order to attain a greater consciousness and merge it with the Infinite consciousness of Brahman. Through meditation and Kundalini yoga, the energy can pass back up the spine until it reaches the top of the head (crown chakra), producing a mystical experience.

“Kundalini yoga consists of active and passive asana-based kriyas, pranayama, and meditations which target the whole body system (nervous system, glands, mental faculties, and chakras) to develop awareness, consciousness and spiritual strength.” –Yogi Bhajan

Chakras & Colors:
1. Muladhara: The Root Chakra – located at base of the spine. Associated with red. It affects your confidence, trust in life and self-esteem. It is from here that our base instincts arise; the need to survive or the fight or flight reflex. Hindu God –Lord Ganesh and Brahman.
2. Swadhisthana: The Sacral Chakra – located below the navel. Associated with orange. It affects sexual desires, attractions and the need to procreate. Other emotions, such as, anger, fear and hatred stem from this chakra. Hindu God –Lord Vishnu
3. Manipura: The Solar Plexus Chakra – located at the bottom of the breast bone. Associated with bright yellow. It affects the lower back, digestive system, liver and gall bladder. Feelings that are associated with this chakra, include, determination, self-acceptance and will power. It is here that instinctual emotion translates to more complex emotions. Hindu God –Maharudra Shiva
4. Anahata: The Heart Chakra – located at the center of the chest. Associated with green. Feelings associated with this location are love, compassion, emotional security, forgiveness and loving kindness. Hindu God –Ishvara
5. Vishuddha: The Throat Chakra – located at the throat, over the larynx. Associated with blue. It is the source of our ability to communicate, and express creativity and individuality. Hindu God – Sadashiva
6. Ajna: The Third Eye Chakra – located at front of the head in between eye brows. Associated with indigo. The mind, as the sense organ and action organ are associated with this chakra. Feelings associated with this chakra are spirituality, awareness, and sense of time. Hindu God -Ardhanarishvara –an androgynous form of Hindu god Lord Shiva and Parvati, also known as Devi and Shakti
7. Sahasrara: The Crown Chakra – located at the top of the head. Associated with purple, or gold. It is from this chakra that all others emanate. It relates to pure consciousness. In Hindu literature, it is known as “the supreme center of contact with God.” Here liberated ones abide in communion with the Self. Hindu God – Lord Shiva

The Hindu Gods and Chakras

The Hindu Gods and Chakras

“Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other”. –Henry David Thoreau

Legends of Hindu Goddess Kali: the Dark One

fierce form of Devi hindu goddess Kali

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According to Hindu teachings, Kali is Goddess of time or change, but is most notably known by non-Hindus for her darkness and violence.  Much like Shiva in the form of Bhairava, her earliest incarnation was that of an annihilator of evil within the world.  She is often depicted in grotesque fashion as her terrifying eyes and shrieking expression horrify. Kali is referred to as ‘the black one’ as she is thought to have been the first creation before light itself and her very presence is said to convey death and destruction.

Within her most famous Hindu legend she comes to the aid of Hindu Goddess Durga and her assistants as they attempt to slay the demon Raktabija.  They attempt to wound him with various weapons but come to find that with every drop of blood they inflict he only multiplies in form.  His duplicates overwhelm them and they call upon Kali for aid.  Instead of Kali being summoned, however, Durga herself manifests into Kali’s form.

‘Out of the surface of her (Durga’s) forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly Kali of terrible countenance, armed with a sword and noose. Bearing the strange khatvanga (skull-topped staff), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in a tiger’s skin, very appalling owing to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out, having deep reddish eyes, filling the regions of the sky with her roars, falling upon impetuously and slaughtering the great asuras in that army, she devoured those hordes of the foes of the devas’

Kali slays the Raktabija by sucking every last ounce of blood from his body and devouring his duplicates.  She rejoices in victory and dances upon the fallen in triumph.  Her ferocious celebration is said to have consumed her fully, unable to stop herself from stomping on the slain.   In order to snap his consort Kali out of her violent elation, God Shiva laid down amongst the dead beneath her feet.  The instant her foot touched her beloved Shiva she was able to calm herself.  This is why Kali is often depicted standing atop Shiva.

Although Kali is often seen as a terrifying and vicious slayer of demons, in union with Shiva she is said to help create and destroy worlds.

Shiva as Bhairava: Annihilator of Evil

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Hindu God Shiva, The Destroyer, comes in many forms.   One such important form and his most fear invoking is that of Bhairava, the annihilator of evil.   This fierce form is manifested when demons make themselves present and are in need of destruction.  Shiva in this form is often depicted draped in serpents as jewelry, wrapped bare naked in tiger skin, and decorated in a ritual adornment of human bones riding atop his divine vehicle, a dog named Shvan.  His frightful characteristics as banisher of evil are almost indistinguishable from Hindu Goddess of Death Kali.   He is seen with devastatingly angry eyes, sharp teeth, and carrying a noose, trident, and skull within his hands. In this form he is said to embody the very essence of fear itself, often forcing those who come upon him to confront their most terrifying sources of fear

The origination of Shiva as Bhairava is said to have been by Shiva himself in order to chastise Brahma, the great creator of the Universe.   Legend has it that Brahma lusted after his own daughter and created four heads in order to constantly be able to see her. His desires for his daughter caused her shame and she is said to have ascended to the heavens in escape.  Brahma then created a fifth head and insisted on her letting him live with her.  Upon hearing of this, Shiva used his sword to rid Brahma of his new fifth head.  Seeing this as an act of killing, Shiva was punished to walk the earth as a beggar carrying around the fifth head of Brahma until he was forgiven of his sin, in which case the skull of Brahma would finally fall from his hands.  Many did not recognize Shiva in his naked and violent beggars form as he howled and danced in madness.

Finally one day as Shiva enters the holy city of Varanasi, the skull falls from his blackened hands and he is rid of Brahmas curse.