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“A picture is worth a thousand words.” The picture above shows Hindu women honouring and worshipping Mother Nature in the form of a tree. We have been abundantly blessed as Hindus to have learnt this beautiful act of devotion from our ancestors. Looking at this picture, one is filled with so much gratitude, knowing that these teachings and actions, so simple yet powerful, are reshaping our world.
You may have heard about the 103-year-old Indian woman, Saalumarada Thimmakka, who lives in the Hulikal village of Karnataka. Unable to have children of her own, she made a decision, with her husband’s support, to plant saplings and care for them. She started by nurturing 10 grafted saplings four kilometers away from their village on a bare stretch of land. They planted saplings between the villages of Hulikal and Kudoor, about 80 km away from Bangalore. In all, they nurtured a staggering number of 384 banyan trees. Even after her husband’s passing in 1991 and while still surviving below the poverty line, she continued her noble work and even adopted a son who is following in her footsteps. It is said that she also has dreams of starting a hospital. What an inspiring woman.
Another inspirational act which made headlines last year (July 11th 2016) was the day that India planted fifty million trees, smashing the World Record for such an act!
You may have heard of the term ‘tree hugger’. You may be shocked to learn that the first tree huggers were actually a group of men and women belonging to the Bishnois branch of Hinduism, who, in 1730, died while trying to protect the trees in their village from being turned into raw material for building a palace. They literally clung to the trees, while being slaughtered by the foresters. But their action led to a royal decree prohibiting the cutting of trees in any Bishnois village. Furthermore, the Bishnois inspired the Chipko movement (which means ‘to cling’) that was started in the 1970s by rural villagers in the Himalayan region, particularly women, aimed at protecting trees and forests slated for government-backed logging.
These acts of pure compassion and kindness have inspired people from all walks of life to consider themselves as not separate from nature, but as an integral part of it. They have taught us to view nature as the source of life and not merely a resource; a divine force of which we are part. It is a fact that if the earth suffers, we suffer also. Let these amazing Indian women be our source of inspiration as we work towards creating everlasting, positive change as guardians of our planet. Jai Swaha Mataa!
The panch-akshar mantra, a five-syllabled mantra in praise of Bhagavan Shiva, is one of the five mantras given by Bhagavan Shankar Himself at the time of creation. This ancient formula, Om Namah Shivaaya, a wish-fulfilling mantra, is also found in the Vedas. The word namah means prostrations, adoration or homage while Shivaaya means “the Auspicious One”, that Absolute Reality, the One who is the Indweller in all beings. Literally translated, the meaning of the mantra is “I bow to You, Lord Shiva.”
A brief look at the syllables that comprise the mantra indicates some of the attributes of Lord Shiva. For example:
Na – Naagendra, the One who wears the garland of snakes
Ma – Mandaakini Salila, the One whose hair is adorned by Gangaa Maataa
Shi – Shiva, the Auspicious One
Va – Vashista, who praises the Lord
Ya – One who takes the form of Yaksha
The five syllables can be said to signify the five elements of the subtle body. These constitutive principles are: ether, air, fire, water and earth.
The primordial sound Om, used at the beginning of this and indeed, all mantras, carries many energies for it has inherent in it, the five-fold duties of Paramshiva. These duties are: creation, sustenance, destruction, removal/concealment and showering of favour and grace. The chanting of Om greatly enhances one’s own creative, sustaining and destroying energies and bestows upon us the showers of favour and grace from the Lord.
When the panch-akshar mantra is chanted with Omkaar pranav, it leads one to the heights of spiritual perfection. Every syllable of the mantra activates some part of the body, resulting in the activation of the chakras or energy centres. With this activation, the spiritual aspirant is led out of the state of ignorance to a clearer understanding of his own true nature. The quality of vairaagya or dispassion is developed and one perceives one’s entire being as the manifestation of consciousness, truth and bliss.
This Shiva mantra can also be chanted in the following way, adding to its auspiciousness and efficacy:
Om Namah Shivaaya Shubham Shubham Kuru Kuru Shivaaya Namah Om.
Shiva Puraan, a Hindu scriptural text, advises that special vrat or sacrifice can be performed by individuals who may have particular desires. The worship of Bhagavan Shiva may be conducted in the following way:
Further details on this sacrifice can be obtained from your pundits.
As the Hindu world marks the auspicious occasion of Maha Shiva Raatri on February 24, 2017, it is advisable that all should intensify their efforts to worship Bhagavan Shiva, by making additional sacrifices and drinking in His glories, thereby bringing showers of blessings into their lives.
Bhasmaasur was a powerful king who longed for absolute power. He realised that such power could only be granted by the Lord so he went deep into the forest and performed intense penance for many years. Lord Shiva, pleased with his years of sacrifice, appeared before him and asked, “What do you want, Bhasmaasur?”
“I want power, Lord, such power that if I touch anyone’s head, man or God, with my right hand, he will be reduced to a heap of ashes,” he replied.
“So be it!” said the compassionate Lord and He granted Bhasmaasur the boon he sought. It is often said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This king felt that the world was now in his hands and that he had command over all, including the Divine. He began to laugh.
“I will begin with you!” Saying this, he leapt forward to touch Shiva’s head. The Lord raced away with Bhasmaasur close on his heels. He called on Lord Vishnu for help.
Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a beautiful dancing girl, Mohini, and stepped into the path of Bhasmaasur. Mesmerised by her beauty and charming smile he stopped and spoke to her, “Who are you and what are you doing alone in this forest?”
“I am Mohini. I am alone and I live in the forest,” she replied.
“Will you marry me, O beautiful girl?” he asked her gently.
“Surely, I will. But the person who wishes to marry me must be able to dance,” she answered with a soft smile.
Bhasmasur confessed that he was unable to dance but he could learn from her. To this Mohini readily agreed and began her dance lessons with him. So deluded was he by her beauty that he forgot the boon that he had received and the reason he had asked for it. His only thoughts were to please her so that he could marry her. He managed to follow her steps, imitating her every movement. As she moved, he followed. Faster they moved, and faster, and then suddenly Mohini placed her right hand on her head and Bhasmaasur, following exactly as she did, placed his hand on his head. Needless to say, he was reduced to a heap of ashes.
Moral: Bhasmaasur used his boon for committing evil and this led to his demise. One should never use one’s abilities to harm others.
Jai Shankara Bholay
Saba dayvon mayn dayva niraalay
Jai Bam Bam Bholay
Mahadayva tumanay hee to saba
Dayvon kaa santaapa haraa
Saagara manthana mayn nikalaa visha
Toonay apanay kantha bharaa
Isee leeyay hara praanee tujhako
Tayray naama anayko baabaa
Tayree mahimaa nyaaree
Tayray bhayda anokay sabasay
Kyaa jaanay sansaaree
Too hee hai Kailashapati
Too parvata para dolay……
Sheesha tumhaaray Gangaa Maiyaa
Chandra shikhara pay sohay
Tana pay sarpa vicharatay rahatay
Bhakto kay mana mohay
Usako kaisaa kashta jagata mayn
Naama tayraa jo lay
Victory to You, Lord Shiva.
Your form is most unique.
Victory to You who play the drum.
O Mahaadeva, You removed the distresses of the holy ones
When You drank the poison
Which emanated from the churning of the ocean.
Since then everyone refers to You as
‘Neelkanth’, the blue-throated One.
Your names are many, Lord.
Your greatness is so wonderful.
Who understands this mystery of Yours?
You are the master of Mount Kailash.
Your pastime is on this mountain.
From Your hair flows the river Ganga.
The two-day old moon decorates Your hair.
Your body is adorned with snakes.
Your devotees marvel at this wonderful form.
Whoever recites Your name will be relieved of all difficulties.
The word is not a ‘typo’: being ‘othered’ is a real problem in our contemporary society. ‘Othering’, as defined by Yiannis Gabriel, is “the process of casting a group, an individual or an object into the role of the ‘other’ and establishing one’s own identity through opposition to and, frequently, vilification of this ‘other’”. The meaning of being ‘othered’ may be understood within a neo-colonial framework; for example, within a social context where technocrats’ misgivings about a people, their traditions and associated philosophies outside of their own social network, may inform negative decisions and actions towards those people. However, when people within the same social network engage in this process of ‘othering’ in order to find a false sense of acceptance within the norms and practices of the wider society, then the process of ‘othering’ can lead to equally chilling and worrisome results.
In Trinidad and Tobago, Indians and specifically Hindus have suffered from this phenomenon of ‘othering’ to some extent, by those both outside and inside of their social networks, resulting in ideological contamination and philosophical chasms. Internal ‘othering’ often occurs as a result of persons believing themselves to be qualified in understanding the rules of Sanatan Dharma. The movement of a people and their religion out of India to Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the world have doubled, tripled and rippled out of control, much like dropping a large pebble into a placid lake. On the banks of this lake, gentle ripples are transformed into uncontrollable waves that bash against the soft mud. In this mud our ancestors left their gentle footprints, not pressing hard into the soil, thinking to themselves that their children and children’s children would leave better impressions. Instead, these unforgiving waves, accompanied by silt, dust and debris, lash and cover the great sacrifices and adaptations our ancestors made to keep our religion untarnished and ever glowing in challenging times. Our ancestors were ‘othered,’ but they stood strong; now we are ‘othering’ ourselves.
What does this all mean? Instead of standing in solidarity with one position in the formation of national policy; instead of protecting the rights of children; instead of consultation and unification in the promotion of Sanatan Dharma, subgroups have engaged in what Sigmund Freud refers to as a type of “narcissism of minor differences”. In this scenario, one group believes itself to be closest in symbolic and philosophical proximity to the source and identifies with myopic views to pander to the masses whilst denigrating other groups. Examples of this tendency and its extreme effects can easily be found in recent history – Hitler and the Jews or the Hutus and the Tutsis in the Rwandan genocide.
In this world, organizations are created, sustained and destroyed in accordance with the need to maintain order. We are being asked every single day to accept the myriad of differences in opinions that define our democracy, but more and more, these opinions, preferences and ideologies undermine the stability that a society as complex as ours needs. In music, in literature, in philosophy and in art, too many sounds will make noise, too many words will destroy the narrative, extensive problematization weakens the message and too many flourishes of the brush make a simple portrait an abstract image.
Pt. Varistha Persad
SWAHA Hindu College
From ancient times, through the modern and postmodern ages of technology, music has undergone continuous re-creation alongside the evolution of world societies. Music mirrors life itself and can be considered one of the chief tools of expression for all time. In contemporary societies, there has been the creation of new genres of music as well as radical development across different genres.
Good music is often considered awe-inspiring and emotionally moving. It remains one of the main media of communication among humans and between humans and God. Music has been formally called ‘Dev baani’ or “the language of the gods”. Why is music such a popular form of communication? Music is inspiring; it taps into the creative aspects of man. It gives solace to the hopeless and can even be transformational. Music also possesses a psychological dimension in which the processes of cognition and perception interplay to create positive attributes and expression within the individual. It is no wonder then, that many of the Deities carry their own musical instrument; for example, Bhagavan Shiva plays the ‘damaru’ (drum), Saraswati Mata carries the ‘veena’ (stringed instrument) and Krishna Bhagavan, the ‘baansuri’ (flute).
The question may be posed: How has the development and promotion of Hinduism been affected by the ongoing evolution of East Indian music? The dynamic potential and universal nature of this deeply scientific system of music, created from the ‘saptak’ or seven notes, has initiated transnational interest between the oriental and western worlds. With the many variations that have evolved from this art form, its attraction to everyone is not surprising. Additionally, Indian music has created a global voice for Indian people, who have composed new musical genres with wide international appeal. These genres have resulted in a new mode of expression for ideologies, emotions and attitudes about social issues, politics, religion and other topical trends. Despite the popularity of these new genres, Indian music has retained its essence. It is largely for these reasons that artistes and listeners find music to be a preferred medium of expression.
Music is one of the most promising subjects of scientific research. Its very nature allows for multiple forms of manipulation. This has contributed to the diversity that abounds today with the proliferation of old and new ‘ragas’ as well as new genres of music using contemporary instruments. The use of ‘remixes’ is the origin of this music storm, in which entirely different genres are fused to form new genres. A local example is the chutney soca compositions performed in Trinidad and other parts of the Caribbean.
The existence of traditional and evolving forms of music, side by side, is reflective of a dynamic society where artists can express themselves in a variety of ways. Music is therefore a fundamental element of human expression in the world today.
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