Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Spiritual Calendar, February, 2017


1st February,2017: Basant Panchami


 Goddess Saraswati

 Basant Panchami is a Hindu festival celebrating Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music and art. It is celebrated every year on the panchami or fifth of Magh (January-February), the first day of spring. Traditionally during this festival children are taught to write their first words; brahmins are fed; ancestor worship (Pitr-tarpan) is performed; Kamdev, the god of love, is worshipped; and most educational institutions organise special prayers for Ma Saraswati.Notebooks, pencils and pens are kept at the Devi's feet for blessings and used by the students thereafter.



  Celebrating Basant Panchami with Joyous Abandon

 The colour yellow has an important role to play. People usually wear yellow garments, Ma Saraswati is dressed in yellow and worshipped with puja and havan, and yellow-hued sweets are relished and distributed amongst families.

The virtuous worship goddess Saraswati for spiritual enlightenment and the white swan of Saraswati stands for sattva or the quality of goodness.

Seasons undergo change and Basant Panchami heralds the arrival of spring.



Sprinkling of Gulal Starts in Vrindavan

 From Basant Panchami the sprinkling of gulal or red coloured powder starts in Braj-Vrindavan and continues up to Holi.In Braj this festival of colours is celebrated for a span of 41 days (foreword on Braj Bhoomi Mohini by Saint Ushaji).

 
 
Saint Usha ji's Yugal Sarkar

At Vrindavan our Sri Yugal Sarkar (the svarupas of Shri Radha-Krishna) are decked with mustard flowers specially brought from Sri Nandgaon and padas of Basant are joyously sung in the evening. 


Mustard Flowers

On Basant Panchami adorn your Thakurji or living presence of Lord Krishna with yellow or mustard flowers. Offer yellow rice (namkeen tahri/sweet pudding and halwa (including the one made of besan) or besan laddus to your Thakurji.
7th February, 2017: Jaya Ekadashi


Lord Vishnu

Jaya Ekadasi is on a Monday and is observed on the eleventh day of Shukla Paksha Magh.Though Magh is an auspicious month for propitiating Shiva, this Ekadasi is auspicious for Vishnu Puja. On this day, Lord Vishnu and Shiva are both worshipped. Keeping the Jaya Ekadasi Vrat gives devotees an opportunity to get rid of their sins and attain salvation.

The legend of Jaya Ekadasi Vrata is explained in the Padma Purana as a conversation between Lord Krishna and Yudhistira.
7th February, 2017: Bhishma Dwadashi


Bhishma Dwadashi

Bhishma Dwadasi, is observed on the 12th day in the month of Magha (January – February) during the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon). Bhisma Dwadasi is also known as Magh Shukla Dwadasi. It is widely believed that Pandavas performed the last rites of Bhishma, the son of King Shantanu and Ganga in Mahabharata, on this day.

It is popularly believed that Bhisma who was wounded and lying on a bed of arrows chose to leave the earth 58 days after the beginning of the Great War in Mahabharata. Bhishma was blessed with a boon that he could choose the day of his death. It is believed that he chose Magh Shukla Ashtami day to leave the earth and merge with Brahman.

On the Bhishma Dwadasi day, Pandavas performed the last rites of Bhishma Pitamah on the banks of Ganga.


There is a popular belief that offering Tarpan and Shradh on the day to ancestors is highly beneficial. Some people also perform Tarpan in the name of Bhishma as he had no children.

8th February, 2017: Pradosh Vrata


 Lord Shiva

 Pradosh means dusk and this fast is kept on the 13th day of each lunar fortnight for propitiating Lord Shiva. With his blessings all desires are fulfilled and one attains spiritual enlightenment. It is said that on this day all gods and goddesses assemble at Mount Kailash to worship Lord Shiva.

Worship of Shiva throughout the night, bathing the Shivalinga with panchamrta (milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey), homa, chanting the Mulamantra (Aum Nama Shivaya) and praying for forgiveness are the other religious observances. At the end of the vrata one must do parana (break the fast by partaking the offerings).

10th February, 2017: Maghi Purnima


Devotees Bathe at the Triveni in Allahabad

Magh Purnima is the full moon day in the month of Magh (January – February) during which the famous Kumbh Mela and annual Magh Mela take place at the Triveni Sangam in Prayag, Allahabad. Thousands of Hindu devotees converge to take a holy dip at the confluence of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati in Allahabad. It is an important day to bathe and for some Hindus, the last date of Magh Snana.

Please take a dip in the Ganges, Yamuna or any other sacred river. There will be a great rush at Goverdhan/Vrindavan and Kamad Giri at Chitrakoot for parikrama or circumambulation. It is believed that Vishwamitra II performed a ritual bath during the Kumbh Mela on a Magh Purnima in 2382 BCE. Maghi Purnima usually falls at the end of Magh and signals the end of the Kumbh Mela. Most Kalpvasis start their return journey from the Sangam on this day.

12th February, 2017: Saint Usha ji’s Punya Tithi


Saint Usha Bahenji

Fondly Known as Bobo Her death anniversary will be observed at Gaura Nagar Colony, Vrindavan. Born on 30th July,1925, Usha Bahenji gained entry into Gauloka (where Lord Krishna forever dwells) in 1992 after Basant Panchami but before Sri Shivratari. In this way both the festivals were unaffected, a truly sublime happening!

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu & Swami Ramakrishna Paramhansa were secular saints of India and inspired Saint Usha ji fondly known as Bobo. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu embraced Haridasji, a Muslim whereas Swami Ramakrishna Paramhansa though a great devotee of goddess Kali, actually practised Islam and Christianity for some months.

14th February, 2017: Angarki Chaturthi

Lord Ganesha

 Sankashti Chaturthi also known as Sankata Hara Chaturthi is an auspicious day dedicated to Lord Ganesha. This day is celebrated in every Lunar month or Hindu calendar month on the fourth day of Krishna Paksha (dark lunar phase or the waning phase). On this day, the devotees observe strict fast. They break the fast at night after having darshan/auspicious sight of the moon preceded by prayers to Lord Ganesha.

Sankashti means deliverance during troubled times, hence observing this fast is believed to reduce your problems as Lord Ganesha symbolizes the remover of all obstacles and supreme lord of intelligence.

Before moonlight the Ganapati Atharvashesha is recited to summon the blessings of Lord Ganesha. Each lunar month in Hindu calendar has two Chaturthi Tithis which belong to Lord Ganesha. The Chaturthi after Amavasya or new moon during Shukla Paksha is known as Vinayaka Chaturthi and the one after Puranmasi or full moon during Krishna Paksha is known as Sankashti Chaturthi.

If Sankashti Chaturthi falls on Tuesday it is called Angarki Chaturthi and it is considered highly auspicious. Sankashti Chaturthi fast is mostly observed in Western and Southern India especially in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
18th February, 2017: Shri Janaki Jayanti/Sita Ashtami


Sita Ashtami, or Janaki Janma, is believed to be the day when Mata Sita appeared on earth as per traditional calendar and Panchangs followed in North India. Sita Ashtami is observed on the eighth day of the Krishna Paksha (waning phase of moon) of the Phalguna month (February – March). Mata Sita is an embodiment of purity and wifely devotion and the consort of Shri Ram in the Ramayana.


Ma Sita

Ma Sita was adopted by King Janaka when he found her as he was ploughing his field.
22nd February, 2017: Vijaya Ekadashi Vrat


Lord Brahma & Narada

It is observed during the Krishna Paksha of the Phalgun Month as per the North Indian calendar. Those who observe this Ekadasi are said to triumph. This fact is highlighted in the Skanda Purana and narrated by Lord Brahma to Sage Narada.


 Lord Rama Wanting to Cross the Ocean

Legend has it that Lord Rama and His army comprising of monkeys and bears was searching for a means to cross the ocean to reach Lanka.That is when Lakshman spoke of a great Saint living nearby, who could provide them with a solution. It is this sage who raved about Vijaya Ekadasi and said that observing it would make Lord Rama victorious.

24th February, 2017: Maha Shivratri


Maha Shivratri

 Maha Shivratri, the night of the worship of Shiva is celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day of the krishna paksha or waning phase of the moon in Phalgun. Along with keeping a fast, cold water and bel patra (leaves of the wood apple tree) are offered to the lingam during the day. The festival is celebrated by traditional offerings such as bathing Shiva in milk, panchamruta (milk,curd,ghee,sugar and honey [the symbols of sustenance]), in quick succession; or anointing the lingam with vermilion (kumkum), white consecrated rice and askshata, (symbols of fertility or creation), when Shiva is worshipped as the god of dissolution.

The three principal reasons for Shivratri are: 


Sadashiv, the Cosmic Form of Shiva

 1] Sadashiv, the cosmic form of Lord Shiva, appeared as 'Lingodbhav Moorti' precisely at midnight on Maha Shivratri. That is why all Shiva devotees keep vigil during the night of Shivratri and do abhishek of the Shivalingam (the form in which Shiva is worshipped). It is the night when Shiva performed the tandava nritya or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction.

Lord Vishnu is Born as Krishna

 It is believed that Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Krishna, was born in Gokul in the middle of the night on Janamashtami, 180 days after Shivratri. Amazingly the circle of one year is divided into two by the festivities of Shivratri and Janamashtami. Marriage of Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati 


Lord Shiva Married Goddess Parvati

2] Lord Shiva was married to Goddess Parvati on Shivratri. Shiva without Parvati is an absolute 'Nirgun Brahman' (formless static God), whereas with Parvati, or purna-shakti, the most complete form of divine feminine energy, He becomes the 'Sagun Brahman' for His dedicated devotees.  

Shiva Became Neelkantham

 3] On Shivratri, Lord Shiva became 'Neelkantham' or the blue-throated one by swallowing the deadly poison, halahala, that came up when the devas and asuras churned the sea to obtain the nectar of immortality. Even a drop of the poison would have annihilated the entire world but Shiva held it in His neck, which turned blue with its impact.Ever since Shivratri is celebrated as a day of thanksgiving to the Lord for protecting us from destruction.


 The Yugal Sarkar

 At highly revered saint Sushila Bahinji's Gaura Colony the festival is celebrated with Thakurji.

26th February, 2017: Phalgun Amavasya


 Day of the New Moon

 Amavasya is the day of conjunction of the sun and moon, on the fifteenth day of the dark half of a lunar month. Amavasya or the new moon, is the last day of the waning moon.

28th February, 2017: Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Jayanti

Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

 Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was born on 18th Feb 1836 in West Bengal in Kamarpukur, some 70 miles from Calcutta. Later Swami Vivekananda, Brahamanada and others became his disciples and set up Ramakrishna Missions, Ramakrishna Maths and hospitals all over India and the world. He lived in this mundane world for 50 years and worshipped Goddess Kali. Swami Ramakrishna also practised Christianity and Muslim rituals to endorse that all religions lead to one God if one is sincerely unbiased, in his commitments. 

A great saint inspired by Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa to  renounce this world was Sri Sri Balkrishan Dasji Maharaj of Vrindavan. He had experienced the highest ideal of religious rapture by relishing Shri Radha-Krishna's madhurya or sweet romance.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Spiritual Calendar, January, 2017


2nd January, 2017 Vinayak Chaturthi



Lord Ganesha

An auspicious day dedicated to Lord Ganesha, it falls on the 4th day of the Krishna Paksha (waning phase of the moon) of a lunar fortnight or on the fourth day after Purnima or full moon. Ganesha devotees observe a fast on Vinayak Chaturthi.

Each lunar month in Hindu calendar has two Chaturthi Tithis. According to Hindu scriptures Chaturthi Tithi(s) belongs to Lord Ganesha. The Chaturthi after Amavasya or new moon during Shukla Paksha is known as Vinayaka Chaturthi and the one after Purnimasi or full moon during Krishna Paksha is known as Sankashti Chaturthi.
5th January, 2017: Guru Govind Singh Jayanti


The Jayanti is a Sikh festival that commemorates the birthday of Guru Govind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs. It is a religious celebration in which prayers for prosperity are offered.

Guru Govind Singh was the 10th Sikh Guru of Nanak. He was born at Patna, Bihar, India, on December 22, 1666.

Guru Govind Singh was the son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, who gave his life to protect religious freedom. He succeeded his father and became a Guru at nine years of age. In his lifetime, he stood against the Mughal Rulers and fought against injustice. In 1699, Guru Govind Singh took five men from the lower caste of society and baptized them as His Five Beloveds. It was his dedication to God, his fearlessness and his desire to protec people from being oppressed that led Guru Govind Singh to establish the Khalsa, a military force of saint-soldiers which he baptized.

Before his death in 1708, he declared the Guru Granth Sahib, which is Sikhism’s Holy Scripture, to be the permanent Sikh Guru.

8th January, 2017: Putrada Ekadashi


Putrada Ekadashi

This Ekadasi is specially observed by married couples for getting healthy children. A popular legend mentioned in the Puranas indicates that a King was able to beget a son by observing Putrada Ekadashi. After bathing early in the morning, the idol of Lord Vishnu should be bathed with curd, milk and water. Prayers should be done using roli, chandan, dhoop and deep.

It is also highly commendable to feed poor children and old people on the day.

The significance of Putrada Ekadashi was narrated to Yudhishtira by Lord Krishna and is found in the Bhavisyotara Purana.

Ekadasi is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is observed on the 11th day of the waning and waxing phase of moon in the traditional Hindu calendar.

10th January, 2017: Pradosh Vrata


Lord Shiva

Pradosh means dusk and this fast is kept on the 13th day of each lunar fortnight for propitiating Lord Shiva. With his blessings all desires are fulfilled and one attains spiritual enlightenment. It is said that on this day all gods and goddesses assemble at Mount Kailash to worship Lord Shiva.

Worship of Shiva throughout the night, bathing the Shivalinga with panchamrta (milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey), homa, chanting the Mulamantra (Aum Nama Shivaya) and praying for forgiveness are the other religious observances. At the end of the vrata one must do parana (break the fast by partaking the offerings).

When the Pradosh Vrat falls on Tuesday it is known as Bhaum Pradosh. It enhances physical health and brings prosperity.

12th January, 2017: Paush Purnima


Paush Purnima Snan

Paush Purnima is the full moon day of the Paush Month. It is considered very auspicious as the Magh Mela and its Snan starts at the Allahabad Prayag Triveni Sangam.

Hindus believe that taking a holy dip at the Triveni Sangam in Allahabad, or any other location of holy rivers like the Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery and Brahmaputra is very auspicious and expiates the sins committed in their lives.

The festivals of Shakambari Jayanthi and Shakambari Purnima are celebrated on Paush Purnima and it is the last day of Paush Navratras.

Our friends in Dubai can mentally do the parikrama or circumambulate Mount Goverdhan. Shri Giriraj is blessed because it here that Lord Krishna spreads His joy and expresses His love. If one does parikrama of the mountain just once he is expiated from all sins. Finally attaining his favoured deity, he goes to Vaikuntha because Shri Radha's Pranvallabha or Lord Krishna adorns the peak of Shri Govardhan.

13th January, 2017: Lohri


Punjabis, irrespective of religion, continue to practice their Punjabi Folk Religion. Respect to the seasons and the natural elements of fire, wind, water and the earth is very important. Lohri is a festival dedicated to the end of the Winter season whereas Teej (known as Teeyan in Punjabi) is dedicated to the rain/Monsoon season and Basant is dedicated to Spring .

Over time, people have associated Lohri to the tale of Dulla Bhatti. The central character of most Lohri songs, Dulla Bhatti was a Muslim highway robber who had converted from Sikhism. He lived in Punjab during the reign of Emperor Akbar. Regarded as a hero in Punjab, he robbed the rich and rescued Sikh and Hindu girls being forcibly taken to be sold in the slave market of the Middle East. He arranged their marriages to Sikh and Hindu boys with the proper rituals and provided them with dowries. So every other Lohri song expresses gratitude to Dulla Bhatti.

14th January, 2017:  Makar Sankranti


Worshipping the Sun God

 Makar Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India. The movement of the earth from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti and as the Sun moves into the Capricorn Zodiac it is known as Makar in Hindi.

Makar Sankranti is also regarded as the beginning of an auspicious phase and any sacred ritual can be sanctified in a Hindu family from this day onwards. Sankranti marks the termination of the winter season and the onset of spring.

At Vrindavan, Rishikesh and Allahabad, millions of devotees will take a dip in the holy River Yamuna or the Ganges on this pious day. Invariably they will give charity to the needy.

Bhagwan Surya-Narayan is considered the ancestor of Lord Ramji and the very first disciple of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavat Gita, and He will be worshipped with joyous abandon.


Shri Radha Vallabha Thakurs in Vrindavan

Today a bhoga of khichdi will be offered to Sri Yugal Sarkar particularly at the Radha Vallabhji Temple at the holy dham of Vrindavan. We must also offer khichdi bhoga to our ishtdev or family deity and liberally donate it to brahmins and the needy.

15thJanuary,2017 Sankashti Chaturthi


Lord Ganesha

Sankashti Chaturthi also known as Sankata Hara Chaturthi is an auspicious day dedicated to Lord Ganesha. This day is celebrated in every Lunar month or Hindu calendar month on the fourth day of Krishna Paksha (dark lunar phase or the waning phase). On this day, the devotees observe strict fast. They break the fast at night after having darshan/auspicious sight of the moon preceded by prayers to Lord Ganesha.

Sankashti means deliverance during troubled times, hence observing this fast is believed to reduce your problems as Lord Ganesha symbolizes the remover of all obstacles and supreme lord of intelligence.

Before moonlight the Ganapati Atharvashesha is recited to summon the blessings of Lord Ganesha. Each lunar month in Hindu calendar has two Chaturthi Tithis which belong to Lord Ganesha. The Chaturthi after Amavasya or new moon during Shukla Paksha is known as Vinayaka Chaturthi and the one after Puranmasi or full moon during Krishna Paksha is known as Sankashti Chaturthi.


16th January, 2017: Birth Anniversary of Shri Radha Baba


Shri Radha Baba

 In 2012-2013, the birth centenary of Sri Sri Radha Baba (16th January 1913-13th October 1992) was  celebrated at His birthplace, Gorakhpur, Kolkatta and Delhi to spread the message of love. In quest of the divine, Shri Shri Radha Baba came in contact with Shri Hanuman Prasad Poddar through Jai Dayal Ji Goenka, a spiritual personality and the founder of Gitapress.

In 1987, highly revered Bobo sent the aunties of Vrindavan, her inner circle of devotees and me for his darshan.Today we feel truly blessed because we had stayed at Gita Vatika for full one week, in the year 1987.

19th January, 2017: Swami Vivekananda Jayanti 


Swami Vivekananda 

Swami Vivekananda (January 12,1863-July4,1902) was the chief disciple of the 19th century mystic Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. He founded the Ramakrishna Missiona and introduced Hindu philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga in Europe and America,. bringing Hinduism the status of a world religion by end of the 19th century.Born in an aristocratic Bengali family of Calcutta in 1863, he came to Ramakrishna and became his disciple while searching for someone who could directly demonstrate the reality of God.Ramakrishna taught him the philosphy of Advaita Vedanta or non-dualism which endorses that service to man is the most effective worship of God.


23rd January, 2017 : Shattila Ekadashi


Lord Vishnu

This ekadashi falls on the eleventh day of Krishnapaksh in the month of Paush.Til means sesame seeds and shat stands for six. The entire offering of six types of sesame seeds on Shat Tila Ekadasi is considered highly meritorious. Reciting the Vishnu Sahasra Nama Stotram (the thousand names of Vishnu) and worshipping Lord Vishnu is a must for devotees.

Please offer til-ladoos to Lord Vishnu, Ganesha, your family deity, the child form of Krishna or Lord Rama at home. As til is considered beneficial for the cold winter months, kindly give sesame seeds to needy students and the poor, this season.

25th January, 2017: Pradosh Vrat


Lord Shiva

Pradosh means dusk and this fast is kept on the 13th day of each lunar fortnight for propitiating Lord Shiva. With his blessings all desires are fulfilled and one attains spiritual enlightenment. It is said that on this day all gods and goddesses assemble at Mount Kailash to worship Lord Shiva.

Worship of Shiva throughout the night, bathing the Shivalinga with panchamrta (milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey), homa, chanting the Mulamantra (Aum Nama Shivaya) and praying for forgiveness are the other religious observances. At the end of the vrata one must do parana (break the fast by partaking the offerings).

26th January, 2017: Happy Republic Day


People throughout India celebrate the nation's Republic Day, which is a gazetted holiday on January 26 each year. It is a day to remember when India's constitution came into force on January 26, 1950, completing the country's transition toward becoming an independent republic.

27th January, 2017: Mauni Amavasya


 
Devotees Bathing at the Sangam in Prayag

We have the famed holy dip in Prayag during the Magh Mela. Mauni Amavasya is the no moon day in Magh(January to February) as per the traditional Hindu calendar followed in North India. Several Hindus keep a vow of absolute silence on this day. According to Hinduism, mauna or silence is an integral part of spiritual discipline. Derived from the word muni, mauna ideally symbolizes a state of oneness with the Self. Silence has also been described by Adi Shankaracharya as one of the three essential attributes of a sanyasi. In recent times Ramana Maharshi popularized silence as a medium of spiritual instruction.


27th January, 2017 :Paush Amavasya
The first new moon day of the New Year attracts a large number of devotees from all over the world.



 
Devotees Take a Dip on Paush Amavasya

Considered auspicious for Hindus, many devotees visit sacred rivers and take a dip early in the morning and offer oblations (tarpan) to their departed ancestors. Hindus offer Pinda and Shraddh karma to dead ancestors.


 Shri Banke Bihariji in Vrindavan

One can hear the Shri Banke Bihari Aarti and the Shri Banke Bihari Ashtak at the www.bihariji.org. The Ashtak is a compilation of eight verses in Sanskrit dedicated to the praise of Shri Banke Bihari Maharaj and composed by Shri Jagdish Goswami when the present temple was being constructed in the 1860’s. Recitation of the ashtak or octet relieves the devotee of worldly worries and above all ensures sharanagati which means he finds lasting peace in the lotus feet of Shri Bankey Bihari.


Swami Shri Haridas

The devotional compositions of Swami Haridas compiled under the heading of Kelimal can be chanted. The word Kelimal means garland (Mal or Mala) of plays (Keli). This volume consists of 110 compositions in Indian classical music and is dedicated to the romantic dalliance of Shyama-Shyam in the nikunja or Nikunj Keli.

Siddhant Ke Ashtadash Pad (eighteen poems of principles): Swami Haridas came to Vrindavan in the sixteenth century AD. when the country had already seen foreign aggressions. The knowledge of Sanskrit and ancient philosophy had become extinct but these times were relatively peaceful as Akbar pursued a path of reconciliation.

During that period Swami Haridas composed these eighteen quadruplets containing the extract of philosophy in Braj bhasha, the language of common man. The complex relationship between the world, soul, creator and maya who runs the world has been explained in simple words. The true nature of the soul and salvation by total surrender to His desire (as expounded in Shrimad Bhagvat Gita and other epics) is also dwelt upon.