Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dhanurmasam in Vaishnava Sampradayam

Vaishnava Sampradayam

Vaishnavas are just like Brahmins. But, they worship Lord Lakshmi Narayan instead of Lord Shiva. Vaishnava sampradaya means the traditional practice and lifestyle of those who follow the doctrine of Vaishnavism. Lord Vishnu is their God and they believe Him to be the superior Almighty of all Gods.


Vaishnavism is based on the doctrine and school of thought which preaches that Lord Vishnu or Sriman Narayana is the Supreme Power and Saviour of this universe and you can attain moksha or peace and tranquility by worshipping and obtaining his grace.

Sri Ramanujacharya is the Founder of this Vaishnavism.

What is Dhanurmasam

Dhanurmasam is a month considered to be very auspicious for worshipping God and possessing his grace and attaining moksha. Vaikunta Ekadasi falls in this auspicious month which is considered as a very great time for directly reaching God through winning his grace. This Dhanurmasam is called so because it is the month during which Sun is in the Dhanus Rasi. A rasi is known as an astrological sign. It is held in astrology that Sun passes through 12 rasis in one year. So, each rasi is equal to one month. There are 12 months and 12 rasis in one year.

The month during which the Sun remains in the Dhanus rasi is known as Dhanurmasam. 

Normally, this Dhanurmasam falls during the period of 16th December to 14th January, every year. This period is very auspicious for Vaishnava sampradaya people.

Importance of Dhanurmasam

During dhanurmasam, Andal or Goda Devi, one of the 12 Vaishnava Alvars, worshiped God with true devotion and utter love and married Him on the culminating Bhogi festival day(the final day of dhanurmasam). Andal literally means one who ruled over God with her pure and innocent, untainted love towards Him. She wore the flower garlands to verify whether they are good-looking or not and then only offered to God.

She worshiped God by composing 30 hymns on all 30 days praising His glory in her own Tamil Language. It is a kind of taking a spiritual bath herself in God's grace all those 30 days and winning His Love and heart through a marriage.

So, this month is considered as very auspicious by all Vaishnavas for performing puja or the worship to attain Salvation from all worldly problems.

You may view the full story of Andal Clicking this link.

How to Perform Dhanurmasam Puja

Dhanurmasam is to be performed on all the 30 days starting from the day Sun entering the Dhanus rasi and ending on the day prior to the sun entering the Makara rasi.

The day Sun enters makar Rashi is celebrated as Makar Sankranti.

One should get up early in the morning and after bathing, wear pious clothes and cook the Pongal for offering to God. Prior to that, the house and neighborhood need to be cleaned and a feeling of the religious atmosphere is to be created for experiencing a better spiritual feeling and divine happiness. You may decorate your house with flower garlands and mango leaves, etc. House entrance needs to be taken more care of. The door entrance wooden frame bottom portion (threshold or doorway) can be decorated by applying turmeric paste and spots of kumkum or rori. Rangoli is done in front of the door entrance to bring a beautiful look to your house entrance. There is a tradition of placing Gobbillu in the rangoli throughout the month of dhanurmasam. It gives a religious and spiritual atmosphere to your house.

I am dealing with only the Vaishnava method of doing Dhanurmasam in this article. So, to know more about Sankranti or Makar Sankranti for a general public, you may visit this link -

Preparation of Pongal

Pongal is made up of rice and moong dal. For one cup of rice, you may add a quarter of moong dal or even less. Cook it in a cooker just like cooking your daily rice. After it gets cooked, you will have to top it with the black pepper and cumin that are fried in ghee. Then, you will place it before God.

Worship at Dhanurmasam

Worship God with your regular prayers. The sanctum sanctorum should be kept clean and auspicious. You may decorate both the seat of God and God himself with flower garlands and flowers. You may also worship with loose flowers while chanting hymns. Read the 30 hymns (or pasurams) composed by Andal known as Thiruppavai with devotion if you can afford lengthy time at worship.

Generally, most devotees recite one pasuram or hymn each day (related to that day) and then offer agarbatti sticks' incense and then show the oil lights to God. So, on the first day, you will recite the first hymn, the second day the second one and like that.

Thereafter, offer the Pongal to God.

After doing this, you will light the Kapur or camphor and show it to God reciting the mangalasasanam.

You will have to recite the 29th and 30th hymn while waving a hand fan to God with a towel or any artificial leaves to provide cool air while taking rest.

Then, you will take the offerings of prasadam to eat yourself and to distribute to others.

This is the way of doing it all the 30 days.

On some special days during this month, some extra dishes are also prepared like Sweet Pongal, curd rice, tamarind rice, etc along with the normal daily Pongal.

You will find the days mentioned in the Tiruppavai book mostly. Generally, the special auspicious days are considered to be day 1, 3, 9, 16, 24, 27, 28, 29 and 30.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Malala Yousafzai | The Youngest Noble Peace Prize Girl from Swat Valley, Pakistan

Malala Yousafzai has become a household name today in all corners of the world. She has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize award recently for her great service at such a tender age of only 17 years. This shows how special and different she is amongst those billions of people.

You may wonder why I am talking about this now after so many days of her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. I have been thinking of blogging about some inspiring people since many days. And now, I thought why not start with this our little girl Malala, the lovely daughter of our whole world.  I got this idea the other day when I was watching the Nobel Peace Prize celebrations (re-telecast) aired on VH1 during which she was there giving inspiration to the audience about her activities. So, I am here writing about her.

Malala Yousafzai has grabbed news in limelight since the attack on her by the Taliban militants in 2012, even though she has been very much active since her childhood on social activities. Let us have a look at her life till now to understand what is special in her.

She was born in the year 1997 to a Sunni Muslim Pashtun tribal family in Swat valley, a popular tourist spot of Pakistan. Her father is a school owner running a chain of schools there. He is a poet and educational activist himself. So, naturally, she got much of her education under him. She got interested in politics and social activities since her childhood.

The Taliban militants were predominant in Swat valley since her young age, banning social rights to women and girls like the freedom to speak, right to education and going to public places, etc. They suppressed them too much rigidly. Yousafzai got much disturbed about all this. Even at such tender age, she was worried about her fellow students and their miserable conditions.

When she was in 7th class, she began speaking publicly about these atrocities through her blogs. With her father's consent, she wrote blogs for BBC website during the year 2008, keeping her identity anonymous as per the advice of the blog administrators. In those blogs, she blogged about the atrocities of the Taliban militants- how they banned television, music, and schools for girls and women and how they created a fear complex among them. There were too much insecurity and terror for them in Swat valley and around. She publicly attended one or two press conferences also where she talked about these issues and stressed the need for restoration of rights to girls and women.

In 2009, there were two battles between the army and the Taliban militants in the Swat valley known as the First Battle of Swat and the Second Battle of Swat.

During this period many schools have been destructed and there was a rule of terror all over the areas. The entire place took to a deserted look as all schools and establishments have been closed and people fled from the regions to safer places. Those who stayed could not move freely and had to hide for their lives. Yousufzai described all these incidents in her blogs and later in articles of New York Times. A documentary was filmed by New York Times based on her reports.

Through this documentary, she got more publicity and the militants were angry with her and her father. Her father got a death threat from the militants to restrain from the social activities. With this threat, Mala's courage and determination increased and she decided to become a politician to serve the people and save them from the oppression.

Malala continued her struggle against the oppression of girls and women by giving public speeches and interviews without fear. Her father also supported her in all her activities. She began gaining popularity internationally.

She was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize in 2011, even though it was awarded to some other one. She became famous as an advocate of human rights and girls' rights for education.

Pakistan Government awarded her with National Youth Peace Prize in December 2011. A school was named in her honor and a campus for IT was set up on her request in the Swat Degree College for Women.

The Taliban militants got much frustrated at all her activities and her increasing popularity.

So they decided to kill her.

One day on October 2012, when she was in her school bus, they shot at her after asking for her by her name as per the news. She was shot in the head seriously which damaged her brain, neck, and the shoulder also very badly.

Her condition was very serious and even after the operation, the chances of her survival were doubtful. So she got shifted to the United Kingdom for better treatment in Queen Elizabeth Hospital of Birmingham. She was in a coma for one week. Her treatment continued for 2, 3 months. Then slowly, she recovered and got discharged from the hospital in the first week of January 2013.

Malala Yousafzai continued her campaign after she became normal from Birmingham itself.

The attack made her more popular among the whole world and all governments of the world realized the need to make Girl-Education a statutory law.

Pakistan government also introduced the Right to Education Bill for the first time in their history. They also announced a huge reward for any information leading to the arrest of the attackers who shot her.

In July 2013, Malala appeared at the United Nations Summit and addressed an elite group of educationists and leaders of the world on the right to education.

Her speech created much waves and awareness among top leaders.

Then, in the subsequent months, she met Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama also along with his family members and inspired all of them with her mission.

She has been awarded many awards and prizes for her works. She started Malala Charity Fund to help the girls and women all over the world.

In October 2014, Malala got the Nobel Peace Prize as recognition of her great services at such a  tender age of 17. She is the youngest ever to receive this great honor.

Now, from the above, we are able to notice some rare qualities in her which make her a special child worthy of applause.

  • She has undergone a lot of mental tension and physical torture and in spite of that, she did not get afraid of the circumstances that surrounded her nor did she feel insecure.
  • She cared for others more than herself in that tender age of her which itself is great quality
  • She wanted to do something to make her people live a secured and happy life instead of indulging herself in her own enjoyments of life.
  • She developed the guts to face circumstances for the betterment of her people.
  • She took the problems into public limelight by boldly discussing the atrocities made on girls and women community by the militant groups. 
  • She did not care even for her life and continued her mission even after the brutal attack on her life by the militants.
  • She suffered all the pains of the wounds and operations conducted on her brain and body in her fight for life for such a long period of 3 months and did not lose courage and hope.
  • All these incidents only made her more determined and strong by doubling her willpower to fight more vigorously for the cause of human rights and education for women setting aside all her own personal enjoyments that others would have preferred at this prime teenage period of her.
Malala Yousafzai is a special girl prodigy of our present world who should be taken as an inspiration by all of us in making our world a better place to live.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Voter Enrollment Agonies and Suggestions to Election Commission

Each year and time to time, the Election Commission announces voter enrolments are being made and interested persons may apply for it either online or off-line.

But it is not so easy as the CEO may be thinking of it.

Whether it is a fault of the Election Commission staff or the media; the message mostly does not reach to the needy public in time.

I do not know what are the algorithms of the Election Department that they consider or adopt in reaching to the public. They might be getting assured that they have done their job by making some public announcement on loud speaker in the colonies or by giving an advertisement in some newspaper.

But are they sure that the newspaper in which they have given ad reaches all the intended public definitely and they will receive 100% response?

No, I think.

An image of public announcement in Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad dated 14/12/2014

People buy their own choice of newspapers and the election commission does not take pains to insert the advertisement in all newspapers of that region. So, the information will not reach even 25% of the would be enrollers.

Coming to public announcements on loudspeakers in running vehicles hired for the purpose, there are many glitches.

The first thing is, the voice is not clear. Most of the words are not clear to the listeners who may try to hear from their apartments.

The second point is, the announcing vehicles do not take the pains to stop a while at frequent distances and then run the tape announcing the message. They keep on moving hastily and the tape is uttering sounds not clear to the listeners.

I think the best way to reach public is by stopping at every 100 meters or 200 meters of distance and at all junctions of roads while announcing public notices like these so that public can clearly understand what is being announced.

This should be done well in advance of starting the camp or enrolment drive so that people have ample time to get any documents ready and respond timely.

Another way to reach public best suited is, to distribute pamphlets. This will ensure that everybody is reached to convey the notice or message.

It should not be done through newspaper boys. Some staff should be delegated for proper distribution to all corners.

Having enough said about public announcements and distribution of pamphlets, now I come to the point of staff of the election commission or the agents and volunteers entrusted with the job of enrolments and collection of application forms from intended voters.

On my personal experience, I have undergone much trouble in applying for my enrolment to voters list for two years and even now, I am unable to get myself enrolled in the proper sense.

Two years back, I was residing at some other locality and after six months efforts of approaching various poll booths and municipalities, I got my name appear in the Puppalguda voter list near Manikonda.

But unfortunately, I had to shift from there due to some family problem which was unavoidable.

At that time, only my name was included in the List of Voters and I was not provided with Voter ID card. I was informed that it will take more time to get the cards.

So, I went to Manikonda after one month or so, from Secunderabad, to get the card and even then it was not available.

We have shifted to a place from where I can not travel all the 30 km in buses and autos to take the voter card if it is available. So I left it and thought of applying for a change of voter residence and for the fresh amended card.

From the new place, I applied again in Form 8 online for the change of address and I was required to submit the hard copy of the application also to somebody. So, running from booth to booth nearest to my locality since many days prior to the elections held in Telangana, and till now, I am unable to submit it as nobody took my application form saying they do not deal with it or that they don't have any information of it.

I have shown the notice of above imprint and also a copy downloaded from the CEO net that showed names and addresses of Booth Level Officers in my constituency to the places I went for depositing my hard copy. They informed me, even on yesterday, that they had no intimation for collecting the papers. So, I returned back.

I was able to submit my application for Graduates Constituency at the Mandal Tehsildar office. They informed me that perhaps municipal office may collect my other applications.

Why I am blogging all this is to inform about the agonies of the voters and the public to have their right to vote or for any other thing and how they are being treated.

Everyone can not run from booth to booth or Municipal Office to Mandal Office for all these things. Even I am tired of all this now, as I am above 60 years old.

I hope the concerned administration may view or come to know of the agonies of the public like me and may make some improvements in their working styles and administration.

Some Useful Tips to Election Commission
  • Polling booths may be located at every half-kilometer radius of localities so that any person may need to walk only half km. to reach his polling booth, not more than that.
  • Aged persons and unable persons may be provided transport facility for voting.
  • A separate queue may be provided for old people and disabled persons so that they can easily cast their votes without having to stand for much time in queues.
  • Voter enrolment announcements, if any, should be made in advance with ample time through public announcements with the help of loudspeakers at each 100-meter distance of localities and through clearly audible voices and through the distribution of pamphlets to each residence in advance.
  • Booth Level Officers should be made accountable for any lapses in their duty. If anybody accepts responsibility, he should deliver it perfectly; otherwise, he should not take responsibility.

Monday, November 3, 2014

This is Not My Kind of "Swachh Bharat" Dear

My thoughts and dreams of  Swachh Bharat may not be like this.

I think of Swachcha Bharat to be always neat and clean.

Not that of some temporary, whirlwind clean drives.

It is not this type of an emergency cleaning drive that is launched to welcome a VVIP to your colony or mohalla.

This is just like you are cleaning your home and revamping furniture to invite your boss to your house.

Don't Try to Fool People

I do not like such showbiz actions.

If he returns to you the next day, or by chance after some minutes, he will see the real picture of you.

This kind of maintaining or showing cleanliness for others is not to be treated as if you are conscious of cleanliness.

By doing so, you are just fooling yourself and others.

It is only a showbiz and drama to impress people for some selfish motives.

I like the everlasting and evergreen Swachh Bharat for which we daily contribute time and energy in keeping our homes, workplaces, and the living environments neat and clean that present a beautiful and satisfying joy to our own souls.

It should be done for our own sake, for our health, our family's health, and our own happiness and satisfaction. 

Not for impressing your boss or neighbor or some VVIP.

Why don't you feel the need for swachchhata or clean hygienic living place?

Why don't you realize the importance of it?

Why don't you care for your own health and your family's health?

If you keep your home and the environment around your home neat and clean, it is for your own benefit. You are not doing any favour to anybody. So do not think that you are sacrificing your time and energy by keeping things clean.

It is for you that you should maintain cleanliness. So do not indulge in showbiz. Be sincere in maintaining cleanliness.

It is the duty of health departments and civic bodies as well as the public to sincerely contribute to neat and clean hygienic environment if they want Swachh Bharat. or Clean India.

Do Away with Brooms
  • The sanitation department should honestly do their duty. They should do their work with responsibility and if any problems are there, they should report to their team leaders regarding the problems.
  • The departmental heads or inspectors should see that their staff are well equipped for performing their duties in cleaning or removing garbage from one place to another.
  • Occasional spot checks should be conducted on daily basis at all points so that the staff can feel that their work is being evaluated and their problems are also being witnessed by the heads.
  • The public should contribute their own share by keeping the garbage at fixed points for easy handling by the sanitation staff. They should cooperate and do not show authority on the sanitation people.
  • The administration can install garbage bins on roads and in lanes into which the garbage can be thrown by the public while they are on move on roads. This will keep the streets clean if the public shows responsibility and puts the garbage into those bins.

If all of us can follow the above-cited methods and be conscious always about hygienic living, I think there may not be any need for sweeping of the roads daily to clean the roads.

Only you need to use your brooms when there are heavy rains, winds, cyclones, and downpours.

Otherwise, there will not be any need for the brooms in your daily use. 

Thereby the energy of sanitation staff can be utilized for more meaningful purposes.

So, contribute to healthy India by participating in the "Swachh Bharat Abhiyan" or the "Clean India Movement" in an honest mood.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan | Clean India Movement | Is It A Farce?

Swachh Bharat?
What is it?

Is it something like the images of Narendra Modi holding a broomstick himself and cleaning some places in New Delhi going viral? Or is it something like the iconic star Aamir Khan holding the broom? Or some other diplomats like Priyanka Chopra posing with some brooms?

What is it? What do you think Swachha Bharat is?

Or is it simply yourself taking a selfie holding one broom and pretending to clean your roadside?

The great personalities may be stepping forward with some good intentions to be a role model for others to get inspired to keep their home and environments clean and hygienic.

But what about the administration?

Where is the presence of real good administration and mentally prepared, disciplined public?

Mere Messages Does Not Create Cleanliness

Today I got some message from HP DBTL early in the morning at 5:29 am. while my alarm was ringing to wake me up. When I saw the message I thought it could be regarding some special offer to procure my second cylinder either free or at a discounted price since the message was from HP Gas and started with the words "our honorable PM Narendra Modi".

But LOL!!! It was the same message that I got the previous day from our Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation 2, 3 times requesting to contribute 100 hours per year on cleanliness and asking me to send this message to all my other contacts.

And, this time it was from our state's honorable minister for petroleum and natural gases.

Do you think you can keep the city or country clean by merely circulating messages? No... Not at all. Messages are read and deleted.

Mere messages and alerts do not work here.

Most people do not like somebody guiding their actions at all.

Only Sincere Actions Work

Everybody should work from the basic point of cleanliness.

What is cleanliness? Can anybody correctly tell?

Most of us think to keep clean means cleaning your place after making it dirt. Is it true or not?

But that is not maintaining cleanliness. 

Cleanliness implies keeping your habits clean, civilized and hygienic.

I am always conscious of cleanliness and I never allow my family members to squatter the waste on floors or around my house. Never. Never would I do things like that. I always maintain my places clean and never give chance for sweeping and collecting the rubbish afterwards. So only we need to make it cleaner with a wet cloth or mop. That is all what we need to do.

Most of us need to learn all these things by watching at people who are very conscious of each and every point of this field.

Mahatma Gandhi was a great person who practised and lived the life he preached. People were moved by his way of life and felt ashamed of themselves to be present in front of such a great ideal person.

What I want to tell is why do we make it dirt and rubbish at all? Why not think before acting?

Why should we make our places, first of all, rubbish and then think of cleaning the rubbish?

Six Simple Tips for Maintaining Cleanliness

Let us develop some simple habits of keeping our rooms, roads and neighbourhood neat and clean. Here are some tips to keep it clean.

  • Do not throw wastepaper or other rubbish around you either in rooms, offices or on roads while even on journeys.
  • Keep the waste in the dust bins provided or in some polythene bags and disperse the waste when the dust collector comes to collect it.
  • During journeys also, you should not throw the waste on roads or on rail tracks. It should be kept with you till the end of your journey and handed over to the dust collector or dropped in a garbage bin.
  • Throwing water while washing and spitting at whichever place you may find are very bad habits. 
  • Wash the hands or anything at the specific places provided for the same purpose and keep all surroundings dry and clean.
  • Spitting in wash basins and washing it with the water is okay. But leaving it unwashed or spitting at any other place you may find vacant is a very bad habit. If wash basins are not there, you should spit in the earth place that may be available in your backyard or at deserted places on the way where it can easily dry up and leave no traces. But never on roads and walls of buildings or compounds.

The above tips are for keeping your places clean so that there will be no need for sweeping with brooms at all.

You only need to remove the dust with the help of vacuum cleaners or water soaked clothes or Mops.

Now, coming to the duties of our Municipal corporations:

Our municipal corporations need to do much more than just sending messages to keep it clean.
  • Provide public garbage/dustbins at frequent distances for people on roads to discharge waste which are designed just like the post office letter boxes so that they are easily operational and hygienic also. 
  • Collect the waste from homes and establishments and the public dustbins timely and regularly.
  • Educate the garbage collectors/pickers to carry the waste in their hand pulled carts carefully without spilling it all throughout the way to be flown by air squattering all over the roads and entrances of homes which is the case presently at all places.
  • The intermittent dumping points should handle the garbage properly so as to dispose it quickly within hours and should not be left there for more than 2, 3 hours as seen presently by me at some places.
  • Many other ways of keeping clean are there like preventing overflowing of drains through regular checkups and through regular repairs and maintenance of leaking pipes, broken roads, etc.
So, once again, coming to the point of Swachh Bharat. Swachh Bharat is not simply achieved by one person or groups of persons trying to spread the message. It is a combined effort of both public and municipal administration with true intention and determination of keeping the surroundings neat and clean before it gets rubbish.

Swachh Bharat or Clean India is possible only when both our public and the administration strive for it sincerely. Public should honestly try to keep their home, workplaces and public places including neighbourhood neat and clean through good, civilized habits being conscious of others. 'Prevention is better than curing' should be the policy of all of us so that no need arises for cleaning it afterwards.

There will not be any need for brooms or broomsticks if all of us follow above tips.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Made-In-India | Promote Indian-ism

Promote "Made in India"

Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day speech rightly and timely stressed the need for promoting Indianism by calling investors for "made in India" products. His Independence Day speech mostly focused on making our country a manufacturing hub and developing the lives of our poor common man.

Till now much attention has been given to making our country an IT hub.

Thereby, the manufacturing sector has somewhat been ignored or given step-motherly treatment in our lust for IT.

Narendra Modi is now taking a bold and timely step to drag the attention of all industrialists to concentrate on promoting the concept of "Made-In-India" goods and services.

It can be a great twist for attaining self-sufficiency and economic development of our country.

Our country has enough technology and resources to be capable of producing all types and kinds of goods required for our needs. But due to the convergence of MNCs and the Metro style of living, our people have been mostly tilting towards consumption of western countries' products since a decade or so. They have become a bit of blindly getting attracted towards the foreign glamour and bash living standards.

This kind of craziness is not to be found in other countries. All of them love their own culture, traditions, heritage, and lifestyles and are not dragged madly towards foreign lifestyles and cultures.

Those countries' people mostly try to preserve their own heritage and cultures and their country's prestige and reputation.

But our people, mostly new generations, are becoming averse to our heritage and living-styles and getting more easily attracted towards western culture and lifestyles.

Due to this change in lifestyles and habits of our younger generations, our country's products are getting less demand in the markets whereas foreign brands and products are being increasingly consumed by our people.

This is a great drawback for our industries as their products do not attract sufficient market.

Our PM's call to MNCs should correct this position.

Much attention requires being given by our businessmen to concentrate on production of good quality indigenous products especially in the sectors of electronic goods and textile products, which control a major share of the market demand.

True patriots of our country and our heritage should contemplate on this problem very seriously and find some solutions.

A kind of "Modifying' our country throughout each point and level of the economy is required. Our attitudes and lifestyles should also be overhauled and revamped completely to bring back everything to Indianism.

Please try to understand the values of our heritage and traditions and the inner essence and science of those practices and lifestyles.

Our culture and heritage are so great since thousands of years back which inspired all other parts of the world.

Our Science, Maths, Philosophy, Astrology are all so great and superior to all other countries.

We must be proud of our heritage and culture and adapt them and show our greatness to foreigners instead of imitating their lifestyles.

Show Indianism in all your actions, thoughts and lifestyles.

Become an embodiment of "Made-In-India" personality.

Tell people how great your country is and spread the cult of Indianism.

"I Love My India"

Friday, August 15, 2014

Independence Day and Real Independence in Life

Most of us are very proud to shout loudly and say that we are Independent.

Our country attained Independence from British Raj, after a long struggle of freedom fighters and on the loss of many great heroes' lives and loss of much property. Much blood has been spilled all over the corners of our country for many years and the unforgettable Jallianwala Bagh well is the witness of our people's sacrifice.

Our great Father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, with the cooperation of many great selfless heroes fought barehanded with those rulers who were armed with many sophisticated weapons and attained freedom for our lives from their tyranny.

Now, we are happy to feel ours an Independent country and reap the fruits of all their bloodshed.

We simply commemorate their sacrifices on a single day like this and feel quite satisfied that we have done our duty to thank them. Some of us may not be doing even this small favor to our heroes. We enjoy a holiday delighting ourselves with picnics, parties, sweets, and chats.

Our duty is over. Done much to pay our homage. Is n't it?

But, even so, I feel somehow that we are still not Independent.  

Are You Independent in the True Sense?

All around, I see the shadows and gallows of western culture, fashion, lifestyle haunting our people, especially our younger generation. It appears that they are still in the shackles of foreign rulers and not got freed from them.

Our Indian country has a great culture, great heritage, art, science, music everything which is never lower than other cultures. Then why do we get attracted towards other glamorous lifestyles instead of promoting our lifestyles and culture? Why are you so weak and easily fall prey to those artificial things leaving your own country or region's high valued natural lifestyles which are far more superior than those western styles?

You will get much more satisfaction and comfort by following your own heritage and lifestyle instead of mimicking other countries.

Try to learn the greatness of the lifestyle and culture of your country and your native region and practice it always. Be proud of your country, your state, your city, your village, street and home and have the guts to shout loudly and say that you are a guy from your place and you love and be proud of what you are. 

Free yourself from the bondage of western lifestyles and be proud to live as an Indian.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Chutney Recipes Made From Peels of Vegetables

Chutney is a side dish most popularly used with tiffins and meals all over India. In modern culture, sauce and jam are trying to take over the place of chutneys. But still, most people like the age-old chutneys like idli chutney, Pudina (mint leaves) chutney, Dhaniya (coriander leaves) chutney, ginger chutney, etc.

All above chutneys and many more chutneys have their own special tastes and are quite healthy also. There are many blogs dealing with these chutneys.

But, I am presently concerned with some green, healthy chutneys most of which may not be known to the modern generation and which may not be found on the internet.

The Importance of Green Vegetable Chutneys

These green chutneys are made from the fiber (skin) of green vegetables and leaves which are beneficial for a better blood circulation in our human bodies.

The skins/peels and leaves of these vegetables contain fiber, calcium, potassium, and iron much needed for our body.

Most of us simply do not the value of it and so, without hesitation, throw away the skins of bottle-gourd, ridge-gourd, or the outer leaves of cabbage, etc. which should not be thrown away like that.

But one should know that consuming as much of fiber as possible is essential for the health of our body.

Starch, proteins, and oils stick to our body cells and cause indigestion and gastric problems.

Consumption of fiber prevents these smooth substances from hampering our digestion and creating fat.

Fiber-rich food enables a free circulation flow and thereby controls indigestion and any accumulation of sticky material in the body.

That is the reason behind the need for an intake of as much fiber as possible through the consumption of some vegetables and fruits along with their skins and by using the edible vegetable skins in preparation of chutneys.

Preparation Tips for Fiber-Rich Green Vegetable Chutneys

Here are some easy tips to prepare such fiber-rich green chutneys as described in the following paragraphs.

1) Ridge Gourd Chutney

Wash the ridge gourd and peel the skin with a peeler. The skin peels may be cut into medium pieces so as to be smaller than the grinding jar size. If you want, you can make chutney of the entire gourd. In that case, you may not peel skin separately. You can cut the whole gourd into small pieces along with its skin. But, if you are making a curry of the gourd and do not know about utilizing the skins, this is the method for utilizing them by making chutney. You keep ready some red dry chilies (3 to 4 chilies for a half kg. gourd peels), mustard seeds, and Cummins.

  • Now, light the stove and place the hollow pan (kadhai) on the flame. Pour one tablespoon oil and heat it. 
  • Then add the chilies, mustard, cumin seeds, and fry till the mustard makes the splitting sound. 
  • Next, add the cut pieces of gourd or gourd skin and fry for some time say 2 minutes. 
  • Then, remove the pan from flame and leave it to cool. 
  • After 3 to 5 minutes, you can grind it. 
  • Put the fried material into the jar, add salt, turmeric powder and  5 to 10 grams of tamarind as per your likings and grind the mixture into a paste adding some water for a better grinding. 
  • One minute is enough for grinding. A little bit roughness is good for health. 
  • Now your chutney is ready to serve. Remove it into a bowl having a tight-lid. You can store it for 2, 3 days in your fridge for your daily consumption.

2) Bottle Gourd Chutney  

Use the same procedure as above. Cut the gourd along with skins or peel the skin separately to make curry with the inner material and chutney with the outer skins. It is advisable to add some pieces of the inner material also to the skins (say 100 grams or so) for good taste of chutney. Then fry in the frying pan as above along with red dry chilies, mustard, and cumin. Fry for 1 or 2 minutes and cool and grind in the mixie along with tamarind, turmeric powder, and salt.

This chutney may consume less water than Ridge gourd.

Remove the chutney from the grinder into a container and serve as per needs.

You can store this chutney also for 2, 3 days in a tight-lid container.

3) Cabbage Chutney

Wash the outer leaves of cabbage by separating them from the whole cabbage upto three or four layers. The remaining cabbage does not need washing. Now cut the leaves into small pieces and also some portion of the cabbage to meet requirements. The balance cabbage may be used for preparing your curry as usual.

The cut pieces for making chutney should be fried as per above-mentioned procedure along with the red chilies, mustard, and cumin.

Then cool it and grind in the mixie adding salt, turmeric, tamarind.

Your chutney is ready for serving.

4) Spinach or Any Leafy Vegetable Chutney

These whole leaf vegetables are also good for making chutneys.

  • Cut the roots portion of these leafy plants and throw them away.
  • Now wash the usable portion. Cut them into pieces. Quantity will depend on your needs and tastes. 
  • Chilies can be increased or decreased according to requirement. 
  • Fry the cut pieces of these leafy vegetables as per the same procedure as above along with chilies, mustard, and cumin. When you fry them, the quantity reduces to one-fourth or so. 
  • Then cool the material and grind along with salt, turmeric, and tamarind as above chutneys.

For full details of preparation along with images, you may visit another article at 

All these chutneys are very healthy besides being very tasty and spicy. You can use them with breakfast, tiffin or meals items.

How to Eat the Chutneys Recipes

Just like you use sauce or jam, use these chutneys in lieu of them or along with them as an extra dish. What you do is simple take a loaf of bread, burger or donut, etc. and touch the chutney with it so that some chutney sticks to it. Then swallow the loaf like anything else. You will feel the difference. A spicy taste will enter into your mouth enhancing your appetite. You will definitely enjoy the taste. Not only for these western food stuffs, but many Indian breakfast stuffs like Idli, Dosa, Vada, Upma, Puri, Paratha, etc. all can be enjoyed with these chutneys joyfully. I and my family members enjoy it very much with our breakfast Idlis very often. It tastes so good, you can't imagine.

For those who eat rice, mix the chutney, one or two spoonfuls into a plate of well cooked rice, so that the chutney mixes fully into the whole rice evenly. Now eat the rice with a spoon just like you eat biryani, lemon rice, tomato rice, etc. It will be very good in taste.

Important Points to note

  • The quantity of chillies, salt and tamarind, etc. depend upon the quantity of chutney prepared.
  • Water for grinding may be added in two trips so as to make the chutney as solid or liquid as per your choice and for better grinding also.
  • Take care that items do not get too much fried or burnt while frying. The vegetable skins, leaves etc should not get fully cooked or fried. They should be less than half fried so that natural elements of fibre and leaves remain intact to secure health benefits.
  • Do not grind for more time. First grind for 30 seconds, then add water and grind for 30 seconds. It can be enough.
  • The ground paste should contain some rough particles in it to be healthy. So do not grind excess.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tobacco Kills: Quit Smoking

Tobacco and Cigarette are very dangerous to health. In spite of the thousands of cases witnessed in our everyday lives, people are simply ignoring the fact and continuing their addiction to this life-taking habit. I am very much concerned and agitated at the thought of the consequences waiting for them.

Why don't you, indulging in such habits, try to understand the hazards and the consequences you might have to face if you continue your stubborn attitude like this?

  • You must be coming across the warning "cigarette smoking is injurious to health" or the other one that tells "tobacco kills" many times in your life.
  • As it is a very serious matter to be concentrated, especially if you are a chain smoker or going for smoke many times in a day, it is now time to think over the matter and look for reducing the smoking habit and finally quit it.
  • It may be difficult to make up your mind.
  • But you must think of your family members and your dear and near ones if you love them truly and honestly.
  • Whenever you go for purchasing these things, the thought of your family should strike your mind and heart. You must control yourself for their sake.
  • Can't you sacrifice something for your loved ones?
  • You are being asked only to leave this bad and harmful habit for their sake. Not to sacrifice your life.
  • You must take it seriously and not a joke. The warning is not for simple awareness but for serious contemplation. So Quit Smoking before it is late.
In spite of the many awareness programs and advertisements regarding the bad effects of smoking, people are going on continuing this practice and there are many more new entrants every day according to the statistics, even though some people are quitting also.

Do you ever know that a burned cigarette produces thousands of chemicals and some of them very poisonous? And when you put it into your mouth and inhale the smoke, hundreds of poisonous gases enter into your body causing much damage to your throat, lungs and the whole system of your body?

It is a scientifically proven fact that the smoke inhaled from the burned cigarette contains many poisonous agents that pass into your lungs such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, the carcinogen and even radioactive metals that stick to your cells- all these causing cancers and many other deadly complications in your body.

The following links can give you a detailed report of the hazards of smoking recently confirmed by US Surgeon General and other researchers,

Do you know that smoking is injurious not only to you but to your near and dear ones also? Whenever you smoke and release the coils into the air it spreads around your vicinity in your homes and at outside places and it may enter into the bodies of your family members and friends thus causing injury to them. You must have come across this fact in the above-linked reports of medical experts.

Many types of research have shown that radiation also plays an important role in causing cancer to tobacco consumers. Radiation is the result of fertilizers used by tobacco growers to increase production. This radiation of tobacco leaves produces radionuclide and radium which is more dangerous as per American researchers. Here is a link to the articles dealing with this fact published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

I once again stress the need for re-thinking on this need for quitting smoking. Why this unhealthy habit? It only sucks your health and money. You can have some healthy food and fruits etc. with this money and build up your health instead of deteriorating it and that of your near and dear ones.

Next time, when you go for lighting a cigarette think of the warning seriously. Even though it may be a simple slogan for the manufacturers of tobacco products so that they can sell those products, it is not so for you. It is a very serious matter that may cost your life and create problems for your family.

So wake up and do something before "Tobacco Kills".

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Telugu New Year----Ugadi Festival - Ugadi Pachadi

What is Ugadi?

Ugadi is the New Year's Day for most of the southern Indians. People of South India celebrate their new year according to the sixty-years-based Calendar with a particular name allotted to each of the sixty years. After completion of the sixty years, the cycle again re-starts in the same sequence. So, on the first day of each year, they celebrate the new year's day by exchanging greetings and enjoying special dishes and going on outings with friends/ relatives.

Literally, Ugadi or Yugadi means the start of an age or generation.

Generally, the calendar's cycle of sixty years is one age. Yug resembles this cycle. Adi means starting point. So, the first day of each cycle of 60 years can be considered as Yugadi. But, Each year and each cycle of 60 years are considered to be bringing some changes in our lives for betterment and so each starting day of the year, as well as the cycle, is celebrated with new hopes and new determinations as Ugadi.

The Date for Celebrating Ugadi Festival

Normally, this festival falls in the second half of March, (or sometimes in the first week of April) on the first day of the Telugu Calendar, ie. on Chaitra suddha Padyami. The actual English Dates may change each year.

There are twelve months in Telugu Calendar also like the English Calendar. The Telugu Calendar starts with Chaitra Masam (the month of Chaitra). Each month ends with the whole New Moon day and starts with the Day-After the New Moon Day.

On this first day of the first month of the Telugu calendar of each year, this Ugadi festival is celebrated. It is the period of the Spring Season in India with greenery spread all over the environment making it very beautiful to enjoy outings and picnics.

How to Celebrate Ugadi Festival

On this Ugadi day, people get up early in the morning and take a full bath; most people applying some oil to their heads and all over the body. They normally take bath with hot water and shampoo and soaps nowadays.

Traditional people give their children a very healthy bath by applying the shikakai powder to their heads and applying black grams or green grams flour to their entire body. It is believed that this kind of bath keeps them healthy and strong.

After taking the bath, they wear new clothes or best available clean clothes and prepare the Ugadi Pachadi, a kind of chutney with several tastes and offer it to God before eating it. Then they go to temples and take the blessings of God.

Ingredients for Ugadi Pachadi 

Ugadi Pachchadi

This Ugadi Festival recipe is prepared by mixing the pieces of raw unripe mango, ripe banana pieces, neem flowers/ buds, jaggery, green chili pieces and a little bit of salt- all mixed in the liquid paste of tamarind. All ingredients can be seen in the above image. The tamarind is soaked in a cup of water and the paste-like juice is extracted for mixing all ingredients.

It is a mixture of all the tastes representing the varying moods and feelings of life.

It is a kind of importing the lesson to the newer generations that life is a mixture of varying tastes which they should face with equal patience to live happily in this world.

So, people eat this dish first before eating anything else on this day.

It is a belief that life will be well-balanced throughout the year if this Ugadi Pachadi is consumed at first on this day.

For a more detailed knowledge regarding the preparation of this Ugadi Pachadi, you may view my article at the following link:

Celebrating Ugadi Festival Day

People enjoy throughout this day happily with their family and friends by exchanging new year greetings and sweets. Newly married sons and daughters will be especially spending this festival day with their parents along with their spouses and children. The Sons-in-law will be the most welcome persons on this festival with special treats and gifts to them by their in-laws. They enjoy this festival with free liberty and great respect from their in-laws.

The neem tree with small white flowers
Temples get overcrowded on this day with devotees thronging continuously to get the blessings of God and to hear to the "Panchanga SravaNam" by the temple purohit. It is a kind of studying and knowing about the happenings of good or bad events that may occur during that year and about the rashiphal and effects of stars on human life during that particular year. It is a customary practice of people on this day to read or listen to this almanac and predictions of good or bad results of the year.

Many cultural events are also organized on this festival continuously for 3 days or 9 days according to practices. The 9-day celebrations culminate with Sri Rama Navami.

Stage dramas and musical programs are held at many important temples and cultural centers in both urban and rural areas also. National level artists also give performances. People throng the venues with great enthusiasm and interest and whole evenings and nights are spent at these venues enjoying the fine melodies of life.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Holi: A Festival of Colors and Emotional Bondage

Holi is known as the 'Festival of Colours'. It is one of the most popular Hindu festivals celebrated all over the world nowadays. But mostly it is celebrated by all Hindus in India and Nepal through social gatherings on a large scale by playing with colors and offering sweets and spending with friends and relatives in great joy and happiness. 
Colors for Holi

Holi festival starts with the burning of Holika on the eve of phalgun Purnima each year which is treated as the last day of the year as per the solar based Hindu calendar followed mostly by North Indians. The new year begins for them on the next day itself. So it is celebrated as a festival of Spring and colors to mark the end of gloomy winter and beginning of a new year with new hopes and joy.

As per English Gregorian calendar, this festival normally falls in the first half of March every year.  

The Stories Behind Holi Festival

There are many stories associated with the celebration of this festival.

The Story of Female Demon Holika

It was a belief that Holika was the sister of a great demon king Hiranyakashipu, the father of Prahlada. Prahlada was a devotee of Lord Narayana. Hiranyakashipu did not like this. He had conquered all world with his strength and forced all to worship him and got destroyed all temples and beheaded those not following his orders. Prahlada was not afraid of him and continued his devotion to Lord Narayana. So after trying all kinds of punishments to change his mind, he orders his sister Holika to burn him in fire by sitting herself in a pyre of fire holding him on her lap. Holika had a gift of fire not destroying her. But due to Prahlad' s devotion towards God, when she sits in the fire holding him, he gets saved and she dies as her magical power gets lost. The demon king also gets killed after some period by the God in the shape of Narasimha ( half Lion and half Human shaped God). To celebrate this victory of good over evil, the festival of Holi started to be celebrated by all people.

The Story of Putana, Another Female Demon 

It is believed that Lord Krishna's maternal uncle Kansa was a demon and Krishna took birth to kill him and other demons. So Kansa tried all his means to kill Krishna even when he was a child. He sent the demoness Putana to feed poisonous milk to Krishna to kill him. But Lord Krishna knew her intention and when she came in a human form to breastfeed him, he sucked out all her blood along with the milk and killed her. So to mark this death of evil demons, Holi came to be celebrated.

The Story of Kamadeva or Manmatha (The Cupid or Love God)

It is said that once Kamadeva tried to unite Lord Shiva and Parvathi by using his cupid arrows when Lord Shiva was depressed and left all his duties in the aftermath of being ill-treated at Daksha Yagna by His consort Sati's father. As the whole world was in danger, Kamadeva used his cupid arrows. But Shiva got very angry and burnt him into ashes. Thereafter, he cools down on Kamadeva wife's request and gives rebirth to him. Later Shiva marries Parvati who was Sati in a previous life. So Holi is celebrated as a cupid festival.

The Story of (fair) Radha and (black) Krishna 

According to another story, Lord Krishna became black due to the drinking of the poisonous milk and as he was a naughty child, he used to question his mother Yashoda repeatedly regarding the reason for his being black and Radha being very soft and fair.She got frustrated with his repeated questions and told him to go to Radha, if he is so worried at her being beautiful, and apply any kind of color to her face to satisfy himself. Accordingly, Krishna went to her and played colors with her. This incident also gave rise to the celebration of Holi with colors for many days by young women and couples.

How to Celebrate Holi

Burning the Holika Bonfire

The previous night celebration is known as "Holika Dahan". 
Dry leaves and branches of trees and bushes are collected at some empty centers of roads and colonies and a replica of demon Holika is placed on them. These huge pyres are normally kept ready by starting the collection of material from 15 days prior to Holi itself so that the pyre becomes big by the day of Bonfire. They may even add some dry shrubs and branches so as to make it a big fire with high flames visible to all around. The pyre is lit on the evening before midnight of Purnima falling prior to the actual day of Holi festival. People experience the joy of burning the demon Holika and shout the slogans of "Ra..Ra..Ra... Holi Hi..." and some of them may dance against the play of erotic songs around the fire. They eat sweets also to mark the end of bad days and evil.

Playing With the Colors

The next day, which is the actual day of Holi, people get ready early in the morning to play with colors. Women also are free to enjoy this day without any restrictions to play color along with men. By 8'o clock or even earlier in the morning, they start from their houses to play the colors on the streets and in their neighborhood houses.

Most people go around in groups and mobs with buckets of colors mixed in water and with the pumping sprays to sprinkle the color water over the bodies of people.

People wear old clothes for this purpose of playing with colors. Some women and children keep buckets of colored waters at their doorsteps or on terraces and balconies and sprinkle water on passers-by and enjoy the occasion. Some people avoid colors and stay back at homes. But they play with dry colors by applying the colors, mostly called avir or abir on the foreheads and sprinkle dry gulal powder slightly on bodies as a custom. (The red powder is "avir" and the rose one is "gulal" in the above image.) The play with colors continues normally up to noon. Then they return homes and take full bath washing those colors from bodies. Some people used to play with paints and oils and grease also previously. But they have become civilized nowadays and stopped from doing so even though some close acquaintances take pleasure in playing with paints even now.

Celebrating the Festival

A famous sweet "Gujiya"
People wear new clothes after taking bath and take food along with sweets. Many special dishes are prepared on this occasion. The most important of them being gujiya, matari, potato chips and papads, ordinary salt puri and sweet puri, kheer and many other dishes of veg and non-veg as per their likings.

Many people attend temples along with children and family and the temples will be overcrowded with devotees mostly at evening wearing colorful dazzling clothes. Then they pay visits to their neighbors and friends' houses and those people also come to their homes and meet each other with love and joy, eat sweets and savories at each other's house and enjoy the occasion fully up to midnight. When they go for visits, they take the avir also with them and apply it to the foreheads of family members there. In return, they also do the same thing.

The "Holi Milan" as it is called, the visiting of each other's house, continues for many days after the festive day is over as it will not be possible to pay visits to all the homes in one single day. So they pay visits as per their convenience and exchange greetings.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Maha Shivaratri | A Most Popular Hindu Festival of Religious Faith

Maha Shivaratri is one of the most important festivals celebrated by Hindus and, especially by the Shaivites in particular, which displays their utter religious faith and spirituality.

This auspicious occasion falls every year on the fourteenth day or Chaturdashi day of New Moon fortnight during the Hindu month of Magha ( it is Phalguna or Phaagun for north Indians). It is generally in the middle of February or the beginning of March month as per the English calendar.

The Stories Behind Maha Shivaratri

It is believed that Lord Shiva is very much fond of this night and he appeared in the linga form (just like a pillar with no form) during this auspicious night. So people began worshipping him in this form from that day every year to celebrate this great occasion.

Another story is that when the milky ocean was being churned to obtain nectar by the angels and devils so as to attain immortality, poison got produced from the ocean before the nectar, and Lord Shiva came to the rescue by swallowing the poison on this night and saved the people of earth from poison. So to celebrate this occasion, they started celebrating this Maha Shivaratri on this day.

There are many more stories regarding the reasons for observing this festival on this day like Goddess Parvati observing penance on this day to please and cool Lord Shiva who was performing pralaya tandava (dance) for the destruction of the whole world and another story narrating that the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati took place on this day.

Whatever, the story behind this, this Maha Shivaratri is considered as an auspicious day and whoever keeps penance or performs puja on this night with true devotion to God is said to attain moksha by getting relieved from all sins and with no further birth.

How to Do Shivaratri Puja

On this day, people get up early before morning and bathe in the holy waters before sunrise wherever they are in reach of holy rivers like Ganga, Jamuna, Saraswati, Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, etc. and other holy lakes and ponds of temples. A dip in holy waters is regarded as most important on all Hindu festivals for purifying the body and soul. Wherever there is no access to such places, they may bathe in their homes and purify themselves.

  • After taking the bath, they wear clean clothes and most of the devotees flock to the temples taking holy water, milk or green coconuts.
  • They apply the holy ash or vermillion to their foreheads before going to temples or on reaching the temples (if the same is not kept at their homes).  
  • In the temple, the devotees perform abhisheka (the act of bathing a divine being) to the Shiva Linga by pouring the water, milk, and coconut water.

  • Abhisheka is done with curd and ghee also. 
  • After bathing the Shiva Linga with all these holy waters, Vermillion, sandalwood powder, turmeric, and kumkum are applied to the Shiva Linga and worship with flowers and bel leaves.
  • After worship, some special puddings, sweets, fruits, and honey are also offered to God as Naivedya.

Most devotees keep fast on this whole day. They may take fruits and milk, etc. But some keep severe fast taking only water.

Worship is done by chanting the panchakshara mantra " Namah Shivaya" throughout the day.

During the night, they perform the Abhishek (pouring holy waters) either one time or four times with equal gaps.

Throughout the whole night, they keep waking and listening to or chanting the Shiva Purana and other hymns in praise of Lord Shiva. They may watch movies also based on the stories of Lord Shiva.

The Panchakshara Mantra and Slokas of Lord Shiva

The Shiva Panchakshara Mantra is made up of five Sanskrit vernaculars of 'na' ma' shi' va' ya'. When it is pronounced in a combined form it is spelled as "Namah: Shivaayah" by adding 'h' in spelling ma with shi and adding another h at the end.

It is believed to increase the effect of the panchakshara mantra by adding "om" in the beginning and "namaha" at the end, so the full mantra is chanted as follows:

"Om Namah Shivaya Namah" by adding the 'Omkaarnaada'  which is the essence of creation and, 'Namah' as offering reverence to God.

For Hindi and Telugu versions of Shiva Panchakshari lyrics and their meanings in English text, view at this link.

The panchakshara slokas are based on each of the five letters in the mantra "Namah Shivaya"

Shiva Panchakshara Stotram  ( slokas)

1) Nagendra haaraaya trilochanaaya
    bhasmangaragaya maheshwaraya
    nityaya suddhaya digambaraya
    tasmai nakaraya namah shivaya
2) mandakini salila chandana charchitaya
    nandishwara pramatha natha maheshwaraya
    mandara mukhya bahu pushpa supujitaya
    tasmai makaraya namah shivaya
3) Shivaya gauri vadan aravindaya
    suryaya dakshadhwara nashakaya
    shri neelakantaya vrishdhwajaya
    tasmai shikaraya namah shivaya
4) vashishta kumbha udbhava gautam adi
    munindra dev archita shekharaya
    chandra arka vaishvanara lochanaya
    tasmai vakaraya namah shivaya
5) yaksha swaroopaya jata dharaya
    pinaka hastaya sanaatanaya
    sudivya dehaya digambaraya
    tasmai yakaraya namah shivaya

It is the belief and confidence of the devotees that chanting of the Shiva Panchakshara mantra and the slokas with full faith and devotion leads them to self-realization and Moksha.

The sound "om" is considered as the original sound vibrating all over the universe controlling the creation, protection, and destruction of the whole universe. "Namaha" means 'not me' or 'not I'. It tells the fact that ' I ' or 'WE' are not the performers of actions or the enjoyers of results. It signifies that God is the performer and enjoyer of each act and its result.

For more details regarding stories of Shivratri and celebrations in various places of India and other countries, you may refer to other website clicking this link

"Om Namashshivaaya"             

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pongal | Makar Sankranthi - A Festival of Hindu Culture and Traditions

Makar Sankranti is one of the most important festivals of Hindus celebrated all over India. It marks the beginning of Uttarayana or traveling of Sun towards the north.

Sun enters in the Makar Rashi on this auspicious day.  So, it is named as Makar Sankranti.

"Makar" means the zodiac sign of Capricorn and "Sankranthi" means the act of entrance.

Uttarayana is considered as a very auspicious period by the Hindus. This first day of Uttarayana is celebrated as Makar Sankranti. This festival falls on 14th January of each year as it is based on the solar calendar.

Makar Sankranti is celebrated traditionally by taking dips in holy Ganges water or other rivers and offering prayers to Sun and Shiva or Vishnu.

It is a belief that all sins get washed out by taking a bath in the holy rivers on this auspicious day and our soul directly reaches heaven after death.

On this festive occasion, people wear new clothes, cook Khichdi or Pongal with new rice adding some green gram dal or black gram dal. Some North Indians mix vegetables also in it.

They offer it to God and then consume it. All temples will be overcrowded this day with devotees offering special pujas.

Pongal Festival in Southern India

In Southern India, this festival is celebrated mainly for full four days as Bhogi, Thai Pongal or Sankranthi, Mattu Pongal or Kanuma, and Mukkanuma or kanum Pongal.

Bhogi and Bhogipallu Festival

The first day is celebrated as Bhogi. On this day people wake up early in the morning and take oil bath. They lit a fire in front of their houses dropping all waste clothes and other waste materials into it. It is a kind of shredding the old and beginning a new life. It makes the surroundings also neat and clean. Homes are washed neat and clean and door entrances are decorated by applying turmeric and kumkum at the bottom side of door frames. Rangolis (kolam or muggu) are drawn with colorful rice powder and lime mixed powders or chalk pieces or paints. Competitions also take place between neighbors in drawing the most beautiful attractive designs of rangoli.

In the center and corners of Rangoli, they place big pumpkin flowers over cow dung balls and dance around the rangoli singing Sankranthi songs. 

Houses with children celebrate this day by showering a mixture of Bhogi pallu or gooseberries(local berries), flowers, coins, rice, etc. on children's head to protect them from evil eyes or sights.

The whole scene looks very beautiful. These decorations of rangoli are done on all four days.

Sankranthi (Big Festival) or Thai Pongal

The second day is celebrated as Sankranthi big festival also known as Thai Pongal or Pongal. The Pongal dish is prepared on this day and offered to God. The temples are thronged by devotees. This is actually regarded as a harvest festival. Harvesting is over by this time and all homes are full of new grains. The Pongal is prepared with these new rice. The daughters and sons-in-law come home and get treated with love and affection and receive gifts from parents and brothers.

Mattu Pongal or Kanuma

The third day is celebrated as Kanuma or Mattu Pongal. Mattu Pongal is a Tamil word. 

This day is for worshipping the cattle. Cattle are of major help in agriculture. So as a thanksgiving, they are especially worshipped on this day by bathing them and decorating with love and respect. It is considered on Kanuma day by some traditions, especially in Andhra, that eating something prepared of black gram dal is a must on this day. Generally, people prepare vada (or 'Garelu' in Telugu) and eat them after offering to God. It is also thought by some that one who does not bathe on this day and does not eat vada will take birth as a crow in his next birth.

Mukkanuma or Kanum Pongal

The last day is Mukkanuma. On this day people enjoy picnics or eating special dishes in homes along with relatives or friends.

A sambar type preparation that is known as 'kolambu' in Tamil and 'pulusu' in Telugu languages is prepared which contains season's fresh vegetables and a bit of jaggery also besides toor dal and tamarind.

Due to this dish, this day is known as Mukkanuma.

Mukka means a piece of vegetable in the Telugu language. Some say mukka is a bit of Vada which is bitten on this day that has been prepared the previous day and so the name Mukkanuma.

On the whole, Sankranthi is a festival of mainly four days for most Hindus celebrated to mark the completion of harvesting season and thereby thanksgiving to God and cattle. Sons-in-law have their prominence during this festivity.

Vaishnava Sampradayam: Dhanurmasam

But, for the Vaishnava sampradaya people.this festival of Sankranthi is for one full month. They celebrate this occasion as Dhanurmasa.

Dhanurmasa is the period starting from the day of Sun entering the constellation of Dhanur Rasi or Sagittarius and ending on the day when Sun enters the constellation of Makar Rashi or Capricorn.

This is the period from 16th December to 14th January on most occasions.

During this one month, they wake up early mornings and after bathing, prepare the Pongal which is the dish of rice and green gram dal. After cooking, it is flavored with Ghee, black pepper, jeera(cumin), cashew nuts, etc. by burning slightly in Ghee on a light flame and mixing in the Pongal.

Puja is done to Vishnu Bhagwan by rendering Thiruppavai stanzas or 'pasurams'.

Thiruppavai is the creation of Goda Devi also known as 'Andal', 'Nachiyar' or "Chudi Kodutha Nachiyar".

She is one of the 12 Alwars or saints of Vaishnava sampradayam who lived at the start of Kaliyuga. She is the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi coming to earth to preach people how to attain happiness and supreme bliss through true worship and devotion. She worshipped Lord Vishnu in the shape of Ranganathaswamy and Sri Krishna. She used to offer flower garlands to God after testing them by wearing and looking into the mirror to ascertain that they are good. She rendered 30 pasurams or stanzas by reciting one on each day for thirty days during this dhanurmasam. In the end, she pleased Lord and married Him.

So, Vaishnava followers in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, celebrate this Dhanurmasam very traditionally. Pongal is prepared by wearing sacred clothes(washed and dried separately without touching them) or silken clothes. The dish also is prepared without touching other things. Pooja is performed and this Pongal is offered to God with true love and devotion. Then it is taken as prasadam. There are some special days during this month on which days sweet Pongal is prepared (with rice, green gram dal, and jaggery) in place of hot Pongal including the last day of Sankranthi. In the sweet Pongal, kismis(raisin) and elaichi(cardamom) are added in place of black pepper and cumin as topper mixing.

Many social events also take place on these days like kite flying, cockfights, bullock cart races, and bullfights or Jallikattu.

People bet on these events and earn money even though such gamblings are prohibited at many places. Cultural programmes and music concerts are also held at temples and public places and people enjoy the season very much in a holiday mood.