Tuesday, May 12, 2015




Ananda Loke bhajan sung by H.H. Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji

Om Shri Ganseha pic courtesy: Komal Nadkarni
Centres Of Pilgrimages Are Sacred Spaces

6 Nov 2007, 0050 hrs IST,Ashok Vohra

Tirtha or pilgrimage occupies a central place in the rituals and practices of the faithfuls. The word tirtha is derived from the root tri, which means ‘to cross over' - that is, to go up or to go down. The word avatar is also derived from the same root; it means ‘to descend', ‘to come down'. A tirtha is a place on earth where the gods descend and which facilitates the crossing over, enabling ascent of human beings from bhavasagar --or the temporal and ephemeral world of naama and rupa, name and form, multiplicity and diversity, to the eternal abode of oneness, peace, tranquillity and bliss. Tirtha really stood for knowledge as knowledge alone helps us get over ignorance and leads to liberation. It has now come to mean a sacred place which helps one to cross over from the cycle of birth and death to moksha or liberation. The Mahabharata says: “Just as certain parts of the body are called pure, so are certain parts of the earth and certain waters called holy”. These parts of the earth are called tirthas. A tirtha is a ford, a crossing and a passageway by visiting which one could be freed of all sin. The metaphor of a ford or a bridge acts as a linking function, which among other things, brings together and links ideas, concepts, points of view and practices that are different. The bridge is not a stable habitat, you are not expected to stay or stand on it for long periods. It is on the way from somewhere to somewhere, a transition. It connects the past with the present and future. According to Tristhalisetu, a tirtha is a place where “whatever is sacrificed, chanted, given in charity, or suffered in penance, even in the smallest amount, yields endless fruit because of the power of that place... Whatever fruit is said to accrue from many thousands of lifetimes of asceticism, even more than that is obtainable from but three nights of fasting in this place”. The Shiva Purana states that “the punyas earned in a tirtha destroy all sins - physical, mental and those committed through speech. NOTE: At the same time evil actions done in a tirtha yield evil results of which one is not easily absolved”. It also warns not to indulge in immoral deeds in a tirtha because the evil results of an immoral action performed in a tirtha are multiplied manifold. It, therefore, advises that one should be extremely cautious about one's actions in the punyakshetra, the sacred region of a tirtha. Tirthas have the power to cleanse the soul of its acquired sins. A tirtha is not only mokshada or bestower of liberation; it is also sukhda or bestower of happiness. It provides for both mukti or liberation and bhukti or enjoyment. The various tirthas in India are spread out geographically, forming a mahaparikrama or mahapradakshina, the great circumambulation of the entire country. Tirthas, therefore, yield not just spiritual gains; they help individuals familiarise themselves with the geographical vastness, cultural diversity and unity of the country. That probably was the aim of Indian sages in attaching a spiritual significance to each of the tirthas and persuading the populace to go around all of them to attain moksha. NOTE:That is why Mark Twain has rightly observed that the tirthas are “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend”. byAshok VohraThe writer is professor of philosophy, Delhi University. 

Courtesy : Rajkumar Trikannad maam

THE SPEAKING TREE: River Mythologies Tell A Different Story

23rd March 2007 ,V Rajaraman

With most of the world's rivers under threat from pollution and global warming, it would be instructive to revisit our traditional perceptions of rivers as life-givers and sustainers. Spiritual tradition enjoins us to remember in our daily prayers the sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswati, Narmada, Sindhu and Cauvery as a thanksgiving to Mother Nature. In ancient times people held rivers in awe and endowed them with mystical origins. The turbulent Ganga was brought down to earth by Lord Shiva and to humble the pride of Ganga knotted her in his matted locks. The Cauvery began its flow from a 'kamandala' that sage Agastya kept by his side while meditating. Vinayaka, taking the form of a crow, tilted the vessel and the water that spilt from the vessel became the wide and sprawling river. This is one among the many Puranic versions of the origin of the Cauvery. The Cauvery since that timeless mythical day has been flowing through the plains braving the vicissitudes of history. In the process, under the patronage of administrators from the ancient Chola dynasty to recent times, the river has engendered glorious traditions of art, music and literature. The cultural heritage which Thanjavur and Mysore have inherited could rival that of any other in the world. The trinity of Carnatic music, Thyagaraja, Shyama Sastri and Muthuswami Dikshitar, belong to the Thanjavur-Cauvery delta. The mighty temples that dot the banks of the river, many of them masterpieces of architecture, still bear eloquent testimony to what the Cauvery did, not only in fertilising the soil but in nurturing the mind and soul of man.

The tradition continues even today though mutilated by opportunistic interpretations of modernity. The Cauvery watches it all with sagely dispassion from Coorg where she originates in the cool and dense shades of the green mountains and flows into the eastern coast where she meets the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal.

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are at loggerheads over the sharing of the waters of the Cauvery. "Politics is too much with us", as poet William Wordsworth once bemoaned. A little philosophical reflection is necessary to subdue frayed tempers and nerves. Do we belong to a river or does the river belong to us?

I wonder if there would have ever been the glorious Egyptian civilisation if the waters of the Lake Tana in Ethiopia and those of Lake Victoria, much south of Egypt, had been stopped from flowing their respective courses into the Nile Valley of Egypt. And what if China stopped the mighty Brahmaputra flow through the gorges of the Himalayas into the plains of north-eastern India? 'Never ask the origin of a sage or the source of a river' is a familiar adage in India. Rivers are known to rise as though from nowhere, change their course unpredictably or just go into subterranean oblivion like the mythical river Saraswati which continues to baffle geological speculation. To arrogate claim over a river or its waters is to ignore its unpredictability, its vagaries, its potency for destruction as much as our failure to understand its blessings. At the substratum, a philosophical recognition or, still better, a perception of the river is necessary to understand how best to harness its waters; in short how best to use its waters for the benefit of all, for the common good.

Courtesy : Rajkumar Trikannad maam


Origin of Saraswats

Saraswat Brahmins are Brahmins who lived on the banks of the former river Saraswati that once flowed in northern India, joining the Ganga and Yamuna in Prayag. Saraswats are considered among the oldest and most widespread community in India, still preserving their own culture. There is a Shaivite as well as a Vaishnavite sect in Saraswats. Around 1000 BC, the river Saraswati started drying out and the people on its banks started migrating to other parts of India thus forming sub-communities. There are many sub-communities in Saraswats, including: Goud Saraswat Brahmins(found in Majority in Goa,Maharashtra,Karnataka,Kerala) Chitrapur Saraswats Bhalavalikar/Rajapur Saraswat Brahmins Kashimri Saraswats (Kashmiri Pandits) Punjabi Saraswats/Punjabi_Brahmins Sind Saraswats Kutch Saraswats Rajasthan Saraswats Saraswat Catholics saraswat's from uttranchal The story of the migration of this community can be traced from Lower Central Russia. These migratory experiences were written and the scrolls can be found stored in the Partagali Mutt. These scrolls were studied by the Archaeological Survey of India for studying the theory of Aryan migration. The community which was called Saraswat, as in "Saraswati Teeraya yasya tey" (meaning the people residing by the River Saraswati), spread to parts of modern Afghanistan, Punjab and Kashmir. From here, they slowly migrated towards some place in Nepal. In fact, the Kula Devi (presiding deity for the clan) of the Kings of Nepal is the Goddess "Shree Mahalasa Narayani" (a female form of the divine lord Vishnu), whose temple is now located in Mhardol in Goa, India. They then moved to modern Bengal, which was known as "Gauda Desha" in ancient times. From this place, with the blessings of their Guru, a small community comprising of people from Seven-and-a-half (Saadi-Saat) Gothras moved into lower part of India, starting with Goa, and onwards into Karnataka and Kerala. These people were addressed as Gaud Saraswat Brahmins. Lord Parshuram with Saraswat brahmin settlers commanding Lord Varuna to make the seas reced to make the Konkan . In accordance with the theory of the Aryan migration, this community comprises solely of Brahmins who practised various occupations, depending on which their surnames (which is a major source of identification and placement in the caste system in India) were attached, as has been noticed in the early Vedic period.

- From Wikipedia -

Back to the roots

Based on the migratory experiences that came down generations by Shruti and later in written scrolls, we Bhanaps always believed that we are the decendents of the Saraswat Brahmins who lived on the banks of the sacred river Saraswati that once flowed in northern India. Today, though the Saraswati is not a mighty flowing river of glacial waters, whose spate cut across mountains into deep gorges as she made her way down to the plains and into the sea, she is no longer a myth or a flight of imagination. The disappearance of river Saraswati is not a mystery any more. Research done by educationists and historians with the support of ASI & ISRO has revealed evidence beyond doubt that a part of river Saraswati is extant in Haryana. 

The Guru Sankalpa:

It was the Guru Sankalpa that initiated this Saraswati yatra. It was providential that we Saraswats set out on a yatra to find our roots just before the start of the tercentenary commemoration in 2008. Our Adi Guru Shrimat Parijnanashram Swamiji gave us darshan 300 years ago at Gokarn and saved us from being outcast. On 1st Nov 2007, we received the darshan of our “mother”, the river Saraswati, at the Udgam-Sthala in Adi Badri, near Yamuna Nagar in Haryana. Now, at last, with the grace of our Guru Shakti, we have found our roots.

The binding force:

The memorable yatra to the Udgam-Sthala of the river Saraswati was led by our Guru, Parama Poojya Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji, who is our binding force. In the absence of the river Saraswati, it was our Gurus who held the community together, nurtured it and gave it stability. 

Saraswati yatra

The Yatra begins:

The Saraswati yatra began on 30th October 2007. Around 250 Yatris arrived in Delhi by train, flight & road to join this pilgrimage from as far as Australia, USA, UAE, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mangalore, Gokarn, Dharwad, Goa, Pune, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. All the Yatris assembled at the Nizammudin railway station where eight buses were ready and waiting. They were given a warm welcome by the Delhi volunteers.

Multifaceted display:

The enthusiasm of the Yatris had no bounds. During the long 5 hour journey to Kurukshetra, including a stopover for lunch on the way, they were bubbling with eagerness and anticipation. Some sang Bhajans, some exchanged jokes, while others played Antakshari, and some even did mimicry. Each one revealed their hidden talents, just like the animated dancing peacock that shows off the vibrant colours of his feathers – one of the Vahanas of Saraswati Devi, the presiding goddess of wisdom, knowledge, arts and culture.

At Kurukshetra:

On reaching Kurukshetra, P.P. Swamiji gave an introductory address after Deepnamaskar and Samuhik Dhoolbhet. P.P. Swamiji encouraged the yatris to make the most of the opportunity to soak in the grace that was being showered on each one by the Higher Force. The room allocation was carefully planned. H.H. and retinue along with 150 senior Yatris were accommodated in the Neelkanthi Yatri Niwas and the 100 younger Yatris in the Jat Dharmashala, just 5 minutes away. A yatra folder containing a ‘Potli’ of mica-sand from the recently discovered Saraswati river bed site near Kurukshetra along with an article written by Shrikant Talgerimam and the book ‘Footprints of Saraswats’, written by Gajananmam Heranjal was distributed to all the Yatris.

The river bed site:

Yatris visited an archaeological site at Bhore Saidan, 13 kms from Kurukshetra. This is one of the latest discoveries of Shri R. Purohit, the curator of Shri Krishna Museum, and his team along with ASI. As recent as November 2006, at Bhore Saidan in Kurukshetra, the actual river bed of the Saraswati had been identified, where Himalayan minerals and an abundant quantity of mica have been unearthed. The pottery and the terracotta artifacts found at this site were tested by carbon dating method by ASI, which confirmed its age to be over 3000 years. The deposition of different layers of alluvial soil, clay, mica-sand, etc, can be clearly seen with the naked eye. The same mica-sand has been packed in small pouches as memorabilia and placed in the folders handed out to all the Yatris. Geetopadesh site:On the way back, the Yatris stopped for a ‘sound and light show’ at Jyotisar. There, under an ancient banyan tree, which is an offshoot of the very tree that is believed to have witnessed the Mahabharata war and Lord Shri Krishna’s Geetopadesh to Arjuna, the Yatris recited chapter 12 and 15 of the Bhagavad Gita.Several other sites:In the evening, in the benign presence of P.P. Swamiji, Shri Purohit gave an elaborate presentation on the number of archaeological sites and the artifacts excavated in the Brahmavarta region that lies between Saraswati and Drishadvati rivers. He reiterated that the Indo-Saraswati civilization was much greater and older than the Indus valley civilization. He quoted several references to river Saraswati from the Vedas and the Mahabharata and convincingly correlated them with his findings. He gave a beautiful interpretation that the subterranean Saraswati in her Gupt form symbolizes the Shushumna Nadi while the Yamuna and the Ganga represent the Ida Nadi and the Pingla Nadi. The Yatris soaked up the information that Shri Purohit so passionately delivered. The presentation was followed by a question and answer session with Shri R Purohit and Shri D K Hari.

Saraswati yatra (contd...)

The momentous day:

Early morning, on 01st Nov, Yatris climbed into the buses and left for Adi Badri via Yamuna Nagar and Jagadri, about 90 km from Kurukshetra. It was a reverent experience to walk on the same soil, the hallowed ground of Adi Badri, where our ancestors once lived. The sight of Yatris in blue & white attire wearing the sandy-yellow/brown tercentenary caps seemed as though the river Saraswati had surfaced and was flowing along side the sandy banks. Shivaliks to Shrivalli :Against the backdrop of the Shivaliks at Adi Badri is the Udgam-Sthala of River Saraswati. The Srota of the Saraswati River is in the lower Shivaliks from where the waters trickle down through the ridges to join the Som River in the valley. One of the reasons for going there was to collect the Saraswati water in Kalashas and take it to Shrivali to be poured into the Shivaganga, in a way, bringing our ‘mother’ Saraswati to Shrivali and symbolising migration of the Saraswats as well. Udgam sthala:The Srota of river Sarawati had to be directed and channelled to be able to fill Kalashas and the idea of installing a Gaumukh that would bring Poornata to the Jalagrahan ceremony came up. A marble Gomukh, inset in a marble plaque, was installed in an attractive stone wall. The inscription on the plaque is simply divine

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