Kartik Nahaan-Immersion In The Pond Of Devotion

On November 25, 2015 the Hindu world will embark upon the annual pilgrimage to the water courses in celebration of Kartik Nahaan . This festival marks the culminating event in a series of celebrations that span a period of almost three months and like all auspicious events, is observed essentially, to draw man closer to his true nature.

According to mythology, Kartekai , the son of Shiva and Parvati, having  defeated the demon Tarkasur,  took a cleansing bath in the River Ganga to purify himself. This event took place in the full-moon day in the month of Kartik (October-November) and a blessing was given that whoever worships and immerses himself in any water course  on this day, will be free of all impurities.

Far from being a mere allegory, this scriptural episode bears direct relevance to our own spiritual condition. The immersion into the vast expanse of water symbolises inner cleansing of negative qualities. We all seek to attain victory over the six enemies (lust, hate, anger, greed, envy, pride) which, quite often control the reins of our lives, giving direction to our actions, shaping our judgements and defining our relationships.

Of deeper significance, this bath represents our individual and collective efforts to attain the state of non-duality where each individual soul merges with the Lord Himself, realising that there is no difference between him and the Supreme. With the defeat of Tarkasur, who symbolises the illuminator of duality, there flows a river of spiritual fertility in the form of tranquility, serenity, faith, endurance, control of the senses and renunciation of selfish actions and desires.  With such abundance, there is the experience of illumination and enlightened vision. In such a state of oneness, one perceives every living being as Divinity personified.  Equality and equanimity mark all his relationships, and so too his appreciation, love and consideration for all.  Elements of empathy, kindness, unity and compassion become the hallmarks of the purified individual who swims in the flow of the Gangaa.

From a metaphysical stand-point, within the subtle body of man, the Gangaa is symbolised by the ‘Ida Nadi’, one of three channels of bio-energy that directs our lives towards devotion. The individual who intensely pursues the path of devotion according to scriptural injunctions, also takes a dive into the purifying stream of the Gangaa.

While it is advisable that everyone must embrace the opportunity to engage in this process of inner cleansing, it must be emphasised, however, that we should not await the festival of Kartik Nahaan to rid the accumulated scum and moss from our lives.

In fact, this dive into the Gangaa is essential at every moment of our existence. Constant striving to rid ourselves of negativities and merge with Divinity should be our daily quest as we journey across the abyss of life. The flow of our lives should be flowing unceasingly with the Gangaa, slowly but steadily.  In addition, each year as we celebrate the festival of Kartik Nahaan, we should be flowing further and further until we come to the source of the rivers and unite in oneness with Divinity.  Gangaa Maataa awaits with open hands to welcome us all.


Sunita prayed dearly to Mother Lakshmi every day for nothing but good health for her mother and for her father to mend his ways. Divali night was also the night of her birthday and her only wish was to visit a temple with her parents.

When she requested her father’s permission to go to the mandir he became infuriated and locked her in her mother’s room. Then he yelled, “Lakshmi Mata has never done anything for my family so no one will worship her! She is just an idol”.

Very disheartened, Sunita fell to her mother’s feet and begged her to go with her.

As soon as her father left on his regular pursuit to the village bar, they headed for the nearest temple in the community. It was all so exciting to enter a temple alongside her mother. On their way, many thoughts flooded her mind.

The place was filled with light from the array of deyas. A bright smile flashed across her mother’s face on entering a temple after eighteen years. Sunita boldly asked her mother, “Ma, why did you all stop coming to the mandir?”

Her mother replied, “On Divali night, eighteen years ago I was returning from temple and I was in labour.  As your father tried to tend to me and drive the car we got into an accident. Since then your father stopped praying because on that night I was crippled for life”.

Sunita, shocked by what she heard, wiped her mother’s tears. She lifted her and carried her into the temple. On entering, the breeze began blowing and the bells began ringing loudly as they approached the altar. Sunita was surprised by the pundit’s expression on seeing her mother. He rushed over to them and said “You’ve finally returned after so many years. The most ardent devotee of this temple has returned”.

The pundit was overwhelmed with joy. He said, “Tonight is the night when Lakshmi Mata answers all of our prayers, Divali is really a most auspicious night”. Suddenly, the Lakshmi murti began glowing and there she appeared in human form. Sunita’s mother reached to her and touched her feet.  Lakshmi Ma said, “You were my most ardent devotee and because of one incident in life you gave up on your devotion.  I’ve been waiting for your return but you never came. “

News of her healing quickly spread through the village. Even the father came and bowed at Lakshmi Mata’s feet.  She smiled and as she disappeared she said, “To my devotees, my blessings are always with you, as light always prevails over darkness”.


By Kavisha Koorban, Swaha Hindu College


Shedding light on the selection of the Divali date (2015)

diwali-lampWhy is there confusion about the date of Divali every year? SWAHA believes in enlightened ritualism, and strives to educate the public on the rationale behind our Hindu festivals and practices. Annually, there is some confusion among the Hindu community and the wider public as to why there is a lack of agreement on the dates of certain religious festivals – especially Divali. We believe that by publishing an explanation for date selection, there would be a greater awareness of how and why a given date is chosen.

The first and foremost principle is that the dates for Hindu festivals calculated for India cannot be used in Trinidad and Tobago, or for any other city the world. The earth is an oblate spheroid (flattened sphere) with different time zones and variable length days in different cities. Given the latitude and longitude of a particular city, global astrological factors as well as local factors such as local sunrise and sunset are used to determine the date and time for religious observances. This means that a date for a religious celebration must be calculated and determined for each major location around the world. India is almost nine and a half hours ahead of Trinidad and Tobago. Even if this time difference is accounted for and Indian religious dates are adjusted, they still cannot be used, as the local factors (such as sunrise, sunset etc.) in Trinidad and Tobago still have to be taken into account.

Secondly, Hindus use a lunisolar calendar, meaning that the calendar is based on the moon’s celestial motion around the earth. In this calendar, a central concept is that of a lunar day or tithi. A lunar day is not like a 24 hour mean solar day that we are all familiar with. Instead, these lunar days are of variable length. Therefore, one lunar day may extend beyond a 24 hour solar day, or two lunar days may fit within one 24 hour solar day. Therefore, in combining these lunar days with our 24 hour solar calendar days, it is evident that there will not be a one-to-one correspondence. Because of this, there would be apparent variation in the length of Hindu festivals from year to year according to the solar calendar, but it would be correct according to the lunar calendar.

Thirdly, there are various systems of Hindu astrological calculation that are currently utilised. Some are based on ancient general formulas and rules-of-thumb that give approximate planetary positions. Other systems adopt a scientific, data driven approach and use modern methods of observation and calculation. SWAHA subscribes to the latter view, and we utilise calculations based on data from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Ephemeris (positions of planets at a given time). These calculations lead to accurate planetary positions in accordance with astronomical observation as opposed to older methods of calculation that can produce large errors. Discrepancies therefore arise in calculations depending on which system is used, and this impacts the resulting selected dates for religious observances.

Divali is observed on the night of the new moon lunar day (amavasya) in the dark half (krishna paksha) of the month of Kartik. In Trinidad and Tobago, the new moon lunar day starts at approximately 11:53am on Tuesday 10th November 2015 and ends at approximately 1:47pm on Wednesday 11th November 2015. Therefore, if Divali were held on any other day in Trinidad and Tobago, activities essential to the observance of Divali such as the performance of puja and the lighting of deeyas in the night would be out of the new moon lunar day period. It is therefore the position of SWAHA that Divali should be observed on the evening of Tuesday 10th November 2015.

A Simple Recipe for Success

CaptureIn conversation with Ms Shivrani Prabhudial, President’s Medal winner and active member of Swaha

 Academic success is nothing new for Shivrani Prabhudial. In fact, she gained eight distinctions at the CSEC level in English, Mathematics, Principles of Business, Principles of Accounts, Spanish, Additional Mathematics and Biology. On gaining her Level 1 CAPE results and learning that she copped second, fourth and fifth place in Accounting, Management of Business and Economics respectively was of no surprise to family and friends. In total, she achieved eight distinctions at the CAPE level resulting in the prestigious honour of an Open Business Scholarship and of course, the President’s Medal.

Shivrani has always been a quiet and humble person, doing her duty tirelessly day in day out. When asked for some words of advice for the younger generation, her recipe for success was simple: work is worship and duty is God. She remarked that self-effort and determination are crucial to success. It is okay to make mistakes; actually, only through mistakes can one learn and develop new knowledge and skills. Mistakes should be seen as stepping stones to success. She highlighted the vital role that time management plays in any type of success. More importantly, Shivrani noted that it is essential to make time for ALL aspects of life: mental, physical, social and of course, spiritual.

The spiritual dimension of Shivrani’s life was always assigned a central and significant place. From very young, Shivrani has been an active member and participant of the Gyaan Deepak Kirtan Mandali, centre of Swaha International. She religiously attends all functions and never misses its weekly Sunday morning service. This is quite clear from conversations with her since she often quotes lessons gleaned from discourses delivered by His Holiness, the Paramacharya of Swaha, Pundit Hardeo Persad. She has managed to successfully apply in her daily life the many valuable lessons taught at temple. She sees the Swaha Gyaan Deepak Kirtan Mandali as another home and credits the teachings learnt there as one of the reasons for her success. Shivrani emphasises the focal role that her Guru (spiritual guide/teacher), Pundit Hardeo Persad, has played throughout her life so far. She reminds us that he has always highlighted the importance of doing one’s duty and, at this point in her life, the most significant aspect of her duty is that of being a good student.

Shivrani also credits the varied support systems that have enabled her success. In her own words, “One needs to have many support systems in this journey to President’s medal and indeed, I certainly had them.” She specifically recognises three forms of God in her life all of whom have moulded her journey. Firstly, the Supreme in the forms of Lord Ganesh and Mother Saraswati who bestowed knowledge with insight, a necessary tool for such success. Secondly, God in the form of her revered Guru, Paramacharya of Swaha, Pundit Hardeo Persad. Lastly, God in her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ramdial Prabhudial, who have always provided unstinting support, encouragement and motivation. Shivrani hastens to add that praise and thanks must be given to the Principal and teachers of the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College for their dedication and hard work.

It goes without saying that Swaha is extremely proud of this young scholar. She presents a good role model for the young ones. One of the most salient lessons to be learnt from her success is the importance of balance in one’s life. Shivrani maintains that it is key to find time for all aspects of life: physical, social, mental and above all, spiritual. In fact, the spiritual aspect should never be ignored. Swaha salutes and congratulates Ms. Shivrani Prabhudial. May you continue to be blessed with insightful knowledge.

The Ganesh Festival: Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution of the Universe

We all love this time of year when we have the opportunity to create Ganesh ‘murtis’ of our own, love and worship them for a few days and then in that final great celebration we immerse these ‘murtis’ back into the elements. However, how many of us appreciate the immense lessons on the cycle of life and the universe embedded in this simple act? We act as agents of creation, sustenance and dissolution but cannot deal with our own lives, our impending death or the inevitable loss of our loved ones. We sit through lengthy discourses on ‘maya’, Hindu philosophies and participate in rituals without understanding what they really represent. Our understanding of consciousness, the body, the soul, the real and unreal still remain abstract to many Hindus and the reason why remains pertinent.

The Ganesh ‘murti’ mimics the biological aspect of human existence and as we use the various elements to fashion, mould and decorate this beautiful ‘murti’, we do the same with our bodies. The real act of detachment comes on that final day when all our hard work, our education, our wealth, beauty and material acquisitions wither away into the vastness of the ocean. We spend years acquiring material wealth and most of us leave without a true understanding that we have starved our soul, our divine being trapped in the body. We need to remember that when we worship the ‘murti’, we are worshipping the divinity in the ‘murti’.

Lord Ganesh is also paradoxical. He is large-bellied in form yet very controlled and contented. He is large in size and worshipped first but is very humble and devoted to performing his duty. He rides on the smallest vehicle – the mouse – but balances his weight to get to his destination. His mouse, which represents greed, is under perfect control by Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed form of God. His large ears become deaf to unpleasant sounds. His long, strong trunk can not only break down trees but also pick up a needle off the floor.

Lord Ganesh is that form of the divine that helps us redefine and question our existence in this world. He is the symbol of He who has discovered Divinity within Himself. How many of us, after immersing our ‘murtis’ into the ocean leave materialism and ignorance behind? Year after year, do we uncover our true purpose and orient ourselves more with our Divinity? Let this annual celebration be the opportunity to do so and live longer, more fruitful lives in service of the Divine. Jai Shree Ganesh!

By Pt. Varishta Persad