El Festival Holi

 

thumbnail (5)Holi comúnmente conocido como el festival de los colores, es un momento muy importante dentro del calendario Indio. Celebrado más que todo en el Norte, Este y Oeste del país, y también en países donde hay grandes comunidades Indias, Holi es sinónimo de alegría y entusiasmo.

Aunque las leyendas de Holi están relacionadas directamente con Dioses hinduistas,  en la India Holi es una fiesta para todos, y ahí reside parte de su importancia y su belleza, ya que resalta una de las cualidades más bonitas que tiene esta tierra sagrada, el respeto y la unidad de todas las religiones. Durante Holi la gente se reúne en las calles de sus vecindarios, entre familia y amigos para jugar algo parecido al carnaval en Venezuela donde se lanzan agua de colores ya sea con cubos desde la terrazas, pistolas de agua o con pequeños globos. También la gente se arroja polvos del color de las flores que trae consigo la primavera, ya que el festival marca la llegada de esta estación al país.

thumbnail (3)

Holi como festividad tiene 2 eventos principales, el primer día es llamado “Holika Dahan”, el cual se celebra este año 2018 el 1 de Marzo por la noche.

Según la tradición hinduista, durante el “Holika Dahan” se enciende una fogata que  tiene como significado la total transmutación de la fuerza negativa, ya que según cuenta la historia la demonia Holika, hermana del rey malvado Hyranyakashipu, padre del niño santo Prahlada fue quemada en una hoguera en la que ella se sentó con el niño en sus piernas para asesinarlo. Ella iba cubierta con un manto mágico protector, donde el fuego de la hoguera no la quemaría. Como Prahlada era un ardiente devoto del Señor Vishnu, el segundo Dios de la trilogía hinduista, él le rezo para que lo salvara de la muerte, entonces Vishnu conmovido por la devoción del pequeño envió una ráfaga de aire que hizo que esta tela mágica callera de los hombros de la demonia a sus hombros y de esta manera ella fuera consumida en la hoguera y el no. Por eso se dice que el Holi celebra la victoria del bien contra el mal, significado de muchos festivales en la India.

thumbnail (7)

Al dia siguiente por la mañana es entonces celebrada la gran fiesta de los colores, derivada de la historia del gozo y el amor con el que Krishna llenaba de colores a Radha (su consorte) y a sus amadas Gopis. Esta travesura de Krishna la cual ocurrió en la India hace más de 5000 años se convirtió en la manera en que la gente juga Holi hoy en dia en la India y alrededor del mundo.

thumbnail (2)

Ahora bien, aunque el festival me parece hermoso, ya que me emociona ver a la gente feliz, deslastrada de mucho de sus sufrimientos y sobre todo de tantos tabúes y pudores personales, me causa mucha gracia que yo siendo tan juguetona, nunca le haya agarrado el gusto a meterme en ese rio de gente lanzándose cubos de agua de color los unos a los otros, y que siempre haya preferido permanecer como una feliz espectadora que se rie y toma muchas fotos desde alguna terraza!

En Holi la gente se pone ropa vieja y como aprendí de una amiga, se colocan aceite de coco en la piel y en el pelo como uno de los trucos para que luego  el color salga del cuerpo rápidamente. Con la globalización ha crecido en el mercado la demanda de colores y hoy en día ya no sabes bien que producto te arrojan en la calle, si colores sintéticos que a veces pueden ser tóxicos y tardar tiempo en salir de la piel, o los pigmentos naturales que se han usado en India desde tiempos inmemoriales. A pesar de los pequeños riesgos que la festividad pueda tener grandes y chicos, hombres y mujeres juegan como niños  y atraen con su propuesta colorida a cientos de turistas a la India cada año.

thumbnail (1)

Así que de repente el año que viene me lanzo a jugar Holi y se me quita la timidez, se vendrían conmigo?

Barsana-Lath-mar-Holi

Feliz Holi para todos!

Tarini Ma Dagnino

What is Maha Shivaratri and who is Lord Shiva?

MAHA SHIVARATRI

mahashivratri-puja-1280x720

The Hindu holiday Maha Shivaratri, celebrated this year on February 13th, is one of the most spiritually powerful festivals in the entire year. Maha Shivaratri means ‘The Great Night of Shiva,’ and devotees honor the holiday by observing a complete fast for 24-hours and also staying awake all night, meditating and chanting devotional hymns to Lord Shiva.

But who is Lord Shiva?

First and foremost, Shiva is an embodiment of the Supreme Consciousness, the timeless Divine Reality that is the true Self of all beings and the Substratum of all phenomena. Shiva is known as ‘the deathless One,’ ‘the Immortal,’ ‘ the unlimited Being,’ ‘the One beyond time.’ The name Shiva is synonymous with the Atman, our infinite Divine Self.

It is interesting to explore the symbolism hidden in the form of this great deity.

Shiva new 2

Shiva’s trident (or trishul) represents his dominion over the past, present, and future, as well as in his mastery of the three gunas, the cosmic qualities that pervade all of creation, namely tamas (laziness or dullness), rajas (self-centered activity), and sattva (spiritual purity).

The rudraksha beads Shiva wears signify detachment and discrimination. The japa mala in Shiva’s left hand symbolizes concentration on the divine name, and constant absorption in the Supreme Reality.

Shiva sits on a tiger skin, which symbolizes the conquest of the animal tendencies. Shiva’s drum symbolizes the primordial sound, as well as the words of the Vedas, the sacred scriptures. The snakes around Shiva’s neck symbolize the ego, which once mastered can be worn as an ornament.

The small female face at the top of Shiva’s head belongs to Ma Ganga, the Goddess embodied in the sacred River Ganges, which is said to flow from heaven to earth via Shiva’s matted locks. The legend of the descent of the Ganges from heaven to earth symbolizes the flow of divine grace to the world through the Avatars, and the incessant flow of the scriptural teachings, which pass divine wisdom from one generation to another.

shiva-lord-shiva-wallpaper_138536375230

One of the names of Shiva is Nataraja, which means the Cosmic Dancer. He is the Consciousness dancing in every atom of the universe, the actor in each character, the divine Being hidden within each one of us. According to this conception, Shiva is the only power, the supreme will that maintains and directs the entire universe. And if we want to dance with Shiva, we simply have to ask him, because He is always ready to enter our hearts and show us the cosmic dance.

Shiva_as_the_Lord_of_Dance_LACMA_edit

The scriptures also say that Shiva is a member of the Hindu trinity comprised of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. What does that trinity symbolize?

It is an obvious fact that everything in the universe has its moment of creation, is then sustained for some time, and is finally destroyed. Those three qualities of creation, sustenance and destruction are considered by Hindus to be fundamental functions of God. The Rishis, the ancient sages of India who gave us the basic principles of Hindu philosophy, visualized three separate names and forms for those three functions: 1) Lord Brahma, the Creator; 2) Lord Vishnu, the Sustainer; and 3) Lord Shiva, the Destroyer.

Brahma-Vishnu and Shiva

Unfortunately, when Westerners hear that Shiva is the Destroyer, they sometimes think this might mean that Shiva is somehow bad or evil, since destruction is a potentially harmful quality. But this is not at all the case; it is merely a Western misunderstanding. For what is it that Shiva destroys, exactly? To put it simply, Shiva destroys our ignorance and our ego — that is his primary work! And when the ego is destroyed, what is the result? Enlightenment! Many saints in India have attained full God-Realization through the worship of Lord Shiva. So, not only is Shiva not evil or bad in any way, he offers us the supreme treasure of life, namely, God-Realization.

It could be said that while Lord Brahma creates our desires, and Lord Vishnu fulfills our desires, Lord Shiva destroys our desires, thereby giving us Realization of the Divine Self that is beyond all desires. For this reason Shiva is honored as Maha Deva, ‘the Great God,’ and Deva Deva, ‘the Lord of Lords.’

In addition to his role as the Destroyer, Shiva is also shown as the husband of Shakti (also known as Parvati), the Divine Mother. But what is the symbolism in the relationship between Shiva and Shakti?

Shiva & Parvati

One of the fundamental teachings of Hinduism is that all things in the universe are made of a combination of Consciousness and the creative energy of God. The creative energy of God is responsible for creating the entire play of names and forms, the vast, mirage-like illusion encompassing all manifestation, whereas Consciousness is the primary Reality, which witnesses God’s creation, while remaining untouched by any duality. Those two components, Consciousness and the Creative Energy of God, combine to form the sum and substance of all things.

So how do those concepts connect to Shiva and Shakti? The Rishis have given us the form of Lord Shiva as a symbol of Consciousness, and the form of Shakti as a symbol of God’s creative energy.

You can see that resting in the hair of Lord Shiva is the crescent moon. This symbolizes the fact that Shiva is not merely an individual or even a deity; he represents the omnipresent Consciousness, vast like the sky. The word ‘shakti’ in Sanskrit, the language of the ancient Hindu scriptures, literally means ‘energy.’ So while Shiva represents Consciousness, Shakti represents the creative energy of God. The marriage of Shiva and Shakti therefore symbolizes the union of Consciousness and creative energy, that union being the basis for all manifestation. So, behind the numerous stories about Shiva and Shakti in the Hindu scriptures there is a profound significance, a mystery which quantum physicists are exploring even today.

Shiva Y shakti 2

Above all, Lord Shiva symbolizes the Supreme Consciousness, also known as Brahman, the Absolute. When we worship Shiva, we are not merely worshiping one deity among thousands of other Hindu gods. We are worshiping the one Supreme Reality which underlies all names and forms, and which is manifest within all deities, and indeed, within every atom of the universe. It is none other than the Atman, the Divine Self, the true identity of all beings.

One way of understanding the various gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon is to see them as being facets of a great divine diamond, the diamond of the Supreme Consciousness, which includes all deities and yet is beyond all forms. Although the facets may be slightly different from each other in shape and appearance, and glow with subtly different hues, they are all inseparable aspects of the one Divine Totality, which is behind and beyond all forms. The various Hindu deities are all windows into the Absolute.

Shiva is not merely one of the facets; Shiva is a name of the entire Diamond.

divine diamond

And where is the center of that Diamond? The center of that divine Diamond is in our hearts. The Supreme Being which pervades and transcends the entire universe dwells within us, as the silent pure Consciousness at the very root of our minds. And our true identity is the totality of that Diamond.

To realize this great truth fully and directly, is the lofty goal of Hinduism. It is an experience open to each and every sincere seeker.

To make this great discovery of our oneness with the all-encompassing Divine Diamond, we must dive deep into the Silence that precedes the thought ‘I’. That Silence is pure Consciousness, which remains forever untouched by any thought or perception. It is none other than Shiva, the deathless One. Never has it taken birth; never can it die; never can it suffer. Permanent, changeless and indivisible, that Silence alone truly exists. That alone is what we truly are.

And when we discover this great truth through meditation, and come to experience that Divine Self directly and permanently, the false ego-identity dies, and the timeless Reality is revealed as our only true identity. This revelation is called Enlightenment, Nirvana, God-Realization, or Self-Realization. It is the great goal of life. We will then behold the one Divine Self within all manifestation, and naturally become embodiments of Love and compassion towards all beings, who will be seen as expressions and embodiments of our own Divine Self.

May this Maha Shivaratri be an opportunity for all of us to take a giant step closer to that great goal known as God-Realization.

download (5)

 

What is Diwali?

diwali-celebrations-58ddb69b5f9b584683717b96

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a very important and beautiful Hindu festival. You could say Diwali is to Hindus what Christmas is to Christians. The literal meaning of Diwali (or the Sanskrit word Deepavali, as the holiday is called in Southern India), means a row of lights, and it is celebrated everywhere with fireworks and decorative lamps. In 2017 Diwali is being celebrated on October 18th, but its date varies each year as it depends on the Hindu lunar calendar.

Similar to the way that many people from around the world, including non-Christians, celebrate Christmas in their own way, because the spirit of the holiday is so infectious, so it is with Diwali. Many countries celebrate Diwali as an official holiday, including Fiji, Guyana, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Bali, in Indonesia, is famous for its performing arts that depict many stories from the Hindu epic, The Ramayana, in their own unique style. Abroad too, the Indian diaspora celebrates the festival with great gusto. In certain places in the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand, the celebrations are so enthusiastic you might think you were in India! We just had our Diwali celebration here at Amma’s NY ashram a few days ago, and last Sunday we joined both Hindus and Sikhs for a huge Diwali festival in Hicksville, NY, which occupied several city blocks.

sanur-village-festival-area-dance

Meaning of the holiday

Diwali has its origins in one of the greatest epic texts of the Hindus – The Ramayana. As the story goes, after slaying the ten-headed demon Ravana in Lanka, Lord Rama returned to his kingdom in Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman. Rama’s triumph over Ravana is a sign of good triumphing over evil, and symbolic of the victory of the Divine Self (Atman) over the ego in each one of us. The return of Rama and Sita to assume their rightful places as King and Queen of Ayodhya symbolizes the eventual dawn of God-Realization within each soul and the arrival of a new age of righteousness and prosperity on the earth, and is thus a cause for great celebration. Just as the people of Ayodhya lit up their homes with lights in welcome to their returning Lord, and expressed joy and merriment, so we do today.

Rama-returns-to-AyBBBodhya

There is an interesting aspect to the underlying legend. The slaying of Ravana is celebrated on the day after Navratri by the burning of his effigy, which is shot by a flaming arrow, reminding us of Lord Ram’s own archery skills, which he used to slay Ravana. The day celebrating that event is called Dussehra or Vijayadashmi (literally, ‘Victory on the 10th day’). Diwali occurs 21 days after Dussehra. It is said that after Rama slayed Ravana in Lanka (now Sri Lanka), he then returned to India over the footbridge that he and his army had built, and walked to Ayodhya, arriving there to a rousing welcome on the 21st day after the death of Ravana. Now comes the most amazing part – if you look at Google Maps and ask how long it would take to walk from Sri Lanka to Ayodhya, it says 21 days!

Furthermore, NASA has discovered a stone bridge, now underwater, between India and Sri Lanka, in exactly the same location as the bridge spoken of in the Ramayana. Surely, this is not a mere ‘legend’!

sethu-build-by-ram

Regional Differences

In the spirit of Hinduism, which allows each individual to choose from a pantheon of Gods and approach the Almighty in whatever way each one sees best, the story behind Diwali is open to interpretation, depending on the various regions of India.

In Western India, Diwali signifies the day Lord Vishnu prevailed over the errant King Bali and banished him to the netherworld. It must be noted here that Lord Ram is considered the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu – the Preserver of the universe. Lord Vishnu’s wife Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, is also worshipped with great fervor on this day.

laxmi and ganesh

In the East – Bengal, Odisha, Assam – and in the northeastern state of Bihar, Diwali is also known as Kali Puja. It is believed that the Goddess Kali slayed the demon Bakrasura on this day to save the world. Fourteen lamps are lit and prayers also offered to ancestors to welcome them for their blessings. Odisha celebrates Diwali much like Bengal, but perhaps with greater pomp in places like Jagannath Puri. The Goddess Lakshmi is also worshipped on this day, and her blessings sought. Houses are cleaned in preparation for her arrival and doors are kept open in welcome.

In Southern India it is believed that on the day of Diwali, Lord Krishna, along with his consort Satyabhama – and some say the Goddess Kali – slayed the demon Narakasura.

Other religions also celebrate Diwali

This auspicious day is celebrated by three other religions as well – Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism. This is not surprising, as these three younger religions share many aspects of Hinduism, and surely their adherents want to be included somehow in the month-long celebration taking place around them. No child wants to miss playing with fireworks, no matter what religion the family follows! Everyone wants to be included in the fun – the decorations, the shopping, the food, the entertainment and the general celebratory air that lasts a whole month in the countdown to Diwali. Since about 80% of India’s population is Hindu, the celebrations are around every corner.

Sikhs celebrate Diwali as the day of the release and homecoming of their Guru Hargobind from imprisonment by the Moghul Emperor Jehangir. The Golden Temple in Amritsar is specially decorated on this day in jubilant celebration. For the Jains, Diwali is considered a very important day, as it is believed that Lord Mahavira attained Moksha or Nirvana on this day. Buddhists celebrate this day because it is the day Emperor Ashoka gave up his kingdom and took up the path of non-violence and peace, his eventual enlightenment making him a Buddha.

Five Days

Although the festivities start a month before Diwali, and include a period of austerities and prayers for the ancestors, the main festival of Diwali is actually celebrated over a five day period. It starts on the thirteenth day of the waning moon, known as Dhan Teras, when everyone buys whatever they can afford as a good omen of future prosperity. People buy small steel kitchen utensils, gold, silver, jewelry, or even a car or a house!

Then there is Diwali in the South, or “Chhoti Diwali” as it is known in the North, which is celebrated the day after Dhan Teras. In Western India it is considered a very inauspicious day, while it is celebrated with gusto in the South!

The day following Diwali is celebrated in style by Gujaratis as their New Year, while others celebrate the day in different ways. It is a day marking the bond between husband and wife in Maharashtra and elsewhere, or a time for going to Hanuman temples for blessings.

During this whole holiday season, everything is spruced up and embellished. Entrances of homes are decorated with beautiful rangolis (patterns made with colored sand or powder on the floor); colorful flower garlands are hung over doorways lit with lights, last minute shopping is done, and there is delicious food and entertainment of all kinds.  Some people even take advantage of special travel packages and take exotic vacations to celebrate.

Diwali Home Decoration Ideas Photos Home Decorating Ideas For Diwali 2015 Best Set

Diwali is a celebration of life and all that is good. And it is a powerful reminder of the great goal of life, the attainment of God-realization, which occurs through the eradication of the ego, symbolized by the slaying of Ravana by Lord Rama. Let us all welcome the return of Rama and Sita to the Ayodhya of our hearts, and live in joyous celebration of the Divine!

98d8c3429a111e5c6c7e1dbc7c3c2879