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Bhartiya Culture

Worship of Mother in Indian Culture and Hinduism

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-By Arun Raghuwanshi

The concept of celebrating Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May is very new in India, but tradition of ‘Mother Worship’ is very ancient, and has been part of Indian Religion and culture. In India mother is given a status, if not equal to God than next to god at least, always. Indians are so fond of mother worship that they consider besides their own mother, earth as mother. Also they call their country ‘Bharat Mata’ (India our Mother)/Mother India. It can be easily said that Indians are fond of concepts related to Mother. It is for this reason we see that within last decade mother’s day has become a part of number of existing festivals in spite of being a festival of foreign origin and its presence can be easily felt in modern urban India. A reason may be found in the acceptability of Christian religion, culture and worship of ‘Mother Mary’ as part of the tapestry of Indian religion and culture from British days, along with their own love to worship of God as Mother.

But Indians have always been worshiping mother in various forms:

Mother as God

“If God is our father, why cannot God be our Mother! If we are the children of our heavenly Father, why cannot we be the children of our heavenly Mother!.” This rhetorical question is the basis of why Hindus recognize and accept both male and female aspects of Nature and worship the Supreme Reality in the form of Mother, Father, Friend, Master, Guru, and Savior.

mother-worship-india-hinduism

Thus Lord Krishna declares in the Bhagwada Gita:

“I am the Father of this Universe. I am the Mother of this universe, and the Creator of all. I am the Highest to be known, the Purifier, the holy OM, and the three Vedas.” (BG 9.17).

Based on this is a Prayer of GOD as follows:

“ Twame-wa mata cha pita twame-wa,
twame-wa bandhuscha sakha twame-wa;
Twame vva vidya dravmam twame wa,
twame-wa sarvam mama de-vadeva.”

(Oh God! You alone are my mother, my father, my friend, my brother. You alone are all wisdom and wealth. Indeed, you alone are everything to me.)

Both Hinduism and Buddhism have long traditions of goddess worship. In Hinduism, every deity is accompanied by a female counterpart, or goddess, such as Parvati-Shiva, Lakshmi-Vishnu, Sita-Rama and Radha-Krishna. Many temples are dedicated first to the goddess, who represents the merciful, loving side of the deity. In Buddhism, Tara and Gayatri are both often seen as goddesses of compassion. Such deities are usually considered officially as secondary deities, though popular devotion seems to accord them a higher significance.

Goddess is called Devi and has been worshiped in various forms, Durga, Kali (The Goddess of yogic Transformation), Tripur Sundari (Beauty of the Three worlds), Bhuveneshwari (The queen of the Universe), Bhairavi (The warrior Goddess), Chinnamasta (headless-goddess), Dhumavati (The Goddess with the colour of smoke), Baglamukhi (Goddess of Hypnosis), Mattangi (Goddess of Divine words), Kamlatmika (Goddess of wealth).

Land as mother

Vedas (Ancient Indian Scriptures) are full of praise for Earth as Mother (Atharv-Veda 12.1.62).

O Mother Earth
Let Thy bosom be free
From sickness and decay
May we through long life
Be active and vigilant
And serve Thee with devotion

mother-worship-india-hinduism

The worship of God in the form of Mother is a unique contribution of the Hindu Mind. When a devotee worships God as Divine Mother, he or she appeals to Her tenderness and unconditional love. Such love unites the devotee with God, like a child with its mother. Just as a child feels safe and secure in the lap of its mother, a devotee feels safe and secure in the presence of the Divine Mother. Paramahansa Sri Ramakrishna, one of the greatest Indian sages of modern times, worshipped the Divine Mother Kali during his entire life. He established a personal relationship with Her and was always conscious of Her presence by his side.

The worship of God as Mother has had a significant impact on Hinduism. The position of women in the Hindu religion is dignified because each woman is considered a manifestation of the Divine Mother.

Country as Mother (‘Bharat Mata’- Mother India)

Indians Call country –‘Bharatmata’ (Mother India). Dr. Rajendra Prasad (First President of India) who was presiding the Constituent Assembly on January, 24th 1950, made the following statement declaring Vande Mataram as National Song:

“The composition consisting of words and music known as Jana Gana Mana is the National Anthem of India, subject to such alterations as the Government may authorise as occasion arises, and the song Vande Mataram (National Song), which has played a historic part in the struggle for Indian freedom, shall be honored equally with Jana Gana Mana and shall have equal status with it. (Applause) I hope this will satisfy members. (Constituent Assembly of India, Vol. XII, 24-1-1950) “

The continuing popularity of “Vande Mataram” today is documented by the fact that in 2002 it was voted the second most requested song by listeners on the BBC’s World Service radio.

My obeisance to Mother India!
With flowing beneficial waters
Filled with choicest fruits
With Sandal scented winds
Green with the harvest
O mother! My obeisance to you!
Ecstatic moonlit nights
The plants blooming with flowers
Sweet speaker of sweet languages
Fount of blessings,
Mother, I salute you!

 

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Bhartiya Culture

Impact of Western Society on the Indian Culture

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Impact of Western Society on the Indian Culture

~ Rajalakshmi Joshi

Indian Culture, which is one of the oldest & richest cultures, is now under serious threat as western culture is making its strong base in India and slowly and gradually wiping out the Indian culture. It had already made its presence in Metro’s & now slowly heading towards other parts of India. Westernization has greatly affected our traditions, customs, our family and our respect and love for others.

The concept of joint families is fading fast, and everyone wants to remain aloof. Now nobody is interested in other’s affairs and only cares for himself which is totally contradictory to our Indian culture that teaches us to be a part and parcel of the society, sharing each other’s Joys and sorrows. All our rich values and traditions are slowly dying down, Western Culture is taking its place. People are blindly following it without knowing the consequences. Westernization has given rise to single families.

Marriages are breaking & our tolerance and patience has exhausted. The most affected are our new blooms, which have yet to sprout. They find themselves stressed and isolated in this new atmosphere, since there is no one to take care of them. They no more get the care and love of their Grandparents. They find themselves in crutches to be taken care by others. It is very unfortunate that the new sprouts remain untouched and cut off from our great moral values and sanskaaras. In today’s Scenario both husband & wife are working.

There is no one at home to look after them and to cultivate the sanskaaras in them since our elders who use to give these sanskaaras to their grand children are no longer with them. In many cases it is not deliberate but in majority of cases the children prefer to remain away from their parents which is very unfortunate.

There’s no harm in taking good things from the west, but this does not mean that we should become slave to their culture, and misrepresent our identity. It is understandable that India is a growing country, so it is necessary of knowing all the cultures and their traditions. To some extent it is fine, but it is wrong to pretend and behave like Westerners and discard our own culture. We have to preserve our identity.

It is shocking to see that Indians are forgetting their culture. On the contrary westerners are looking towards Indian spirituality for solving their personal, social and national problems. They are coming to India to find peace through Yoga and Meditation. India has earned a good name in the field of Yoga and Meditation abroad. Our gurus are giving teachings to westerners how to relax & how to keep themselves fit and away from diseases.

It is very unfortunate that today’s generation has very little knowledge about their culture, traditions and roots. This is not their fault but the fault of their parents who do not enlighten them about their roots, rich cultural and heritage. Contradictory to it, Parents feel proud in giving their children western Sanskaras, and they are brought up in western atmosphere. Thus, they are kept miles away from Indian culture.

There is no harm in giving knowledge of other cultures and traditions as Indians have made their presence in every part of world, but it is necessary that they should have knowledge of their own culture, traditions and language. We should also take care that our new sprouts are well versed with Indian culture and its values. It is the responsibility of parents to cultivate our rich culture and heritage in their children.

No doubt the western culture is versatile and teaches self-dependence, but this does not mean that we should forget our culture and blindly follow the westerners. We should always feel proud that we, the Indians have such a rich cultural heritage which is very rare and should be carried forward and cultivated in the minds of our New blooms who are going to be our future.

 

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Bhartiya Culture

Karnavedha Sanskar – Importance of Ear Piercing in Hinduism

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Karnavedha Sanskar - Importance of Ear Piercing in Hinduism

In India, this is called as Karna(ear) Vedha(piercing) ((Sanskrit: कर्णवेध) and is one of the Shodasha Samskaras (16 ceremonies) performed on a human between birth and death.

Ear Piercing or Karna Vedha is an ancient ceremony performed on both male and female in many countries.

This is seen across cultures in almost all continents where human civilization inhabited.

Common between male and females, it is intended to open the inner ears of the child for receiving sacred sounds. This rite has deep mystical and symbolic significance. It is believed that merely hearing sacred sounds has merit in that it cleanses sin and nurtures the spirit.

In China, this Acupuncture and Acupressure is done at a particular point on ear and it is believed to cure or prevent asthma.

Behind the ear lobe there is a natural, small microscopic depression which contains nerve endings linked with diseases like bronchial asthma, cough and tuberculosis.

Chinese science of acupuncture states that the root cause of some diseases lies in the subtle regions of every organ in the body.

Karnavedha Sanskar - Importance of Ear Piercing in Hinduism

When that area is punctured, the related disease is eliminated. Study of this science was done and recorded in the Vedas much earlier and the sanskar of piercing the ear lobes was already implemented on both genders of kids.

The metal (like gold or copper) earrings are believed to help in maintaining the flow of electric current in a human body. It is also believed that ear piercing helps in maintaining the regularity in the menstrual cycle of a girl.

This part of the ear is the intuitive, Third Eye, or psychic point. It is very important that only gold, and not silver, be worn here on the ear lobe. Gold, combined with an amethyst or emerald (which are both traditionally regarded as very spiritual stones), will have an added positive effect on the function of intuition.

Ayurveda researcher and surgeon on ancient India, Susruta (6th century BC) says, “Ears of a child should be bored for protection (from diseases in his opinion) and decoration.” He explicitly prescribes the boring of ears for preventing hydrocele and hernia.

Susruta gives a very cautious procedure of the ceremony. He says that the ceremony should be performed in the sixth or seventh month, in the bright half and on an auspicious day. After the preliminaries the child should be put on the lap of the mother or the nurse. Then the child should be fondled and persuaded by means of toys. Now the surgeon should pull the ears with his left hand and bore them slowly at the natural holes which are visible in the sunlight. If the ears are tender they should be pierced with a needle, if stiff with a probe. After boring oil should be applied to the ears by means of a cotton thread or bougie.

Father of Western medicine, Hippocrates, wrote about ear piercing and earring wearing around 470 BC as a remedy and treatment for menstrual problems. Galen also wrote about the same thing. In ancient times, if there was a deficiency in energy or chi, gold earrings would be placed in a pierced acu-point for stimulation. Silver earrings were used if there was excessive energy.

Ancient people treated diseases of feminine Yin organs via earrings in the left ear and diseases of the male Yang organs via the right ear. The left side of the body is the feminine side and the right side of the body is masculine.

The belly button is the seat of eroticism and sexual passion. It arouses sexual passion. This is why most belly dancers have their belly buttons pierced.

All other modern day piercings like tongue, eyebrows, nipples, sexual organs etc are simply Fad and only to express their taste. They have nothing to do with health or spirituality.

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Ayurveda

A Vegetarian Ethical Diet for Peace and Plenty

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A Vegetarian Ethical Diet for Peace and Plenty

~ R. P. Jain, director of Motilal Banarsidass

Vegetarianism affords an ethical diet for peace and plenty. It is good for health, spirituality, sound ethics, balanced ecology and favorable economics. These are among the reasons a plant-based diet beats meat eating.

In India, the land of AHIMSA (nonviolence) people have traditionally been vegetarian. Hailing from a family of staunch vegetarians, I consider myself fortunate to be living in harmony with the principles of nature. As a follower of Jainism, I strongly advocate a vegetarian diet, which I find superior not only from a moral stance, but also from the health and culinary points of view. Guests at our home, coming from both vegetarian and non-vegetarian backgrounds, are always overwhelmed with what they describe as the unbelievable taste and richness of our vegetarian cuisine.

Sadly, in recent times many Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, especially of the younger generation, are no longer so strict about our precepts and have taken to non-vegetarian food, mostly following the misconception that meat-eating is healthy. Truth must be told; a vegetarian diet is actually much healthier than one based on animal protein. It is argued that there is a lot of protein in meat and eggs, but we do not need so much concentrated protein in our diet. There is plenty of protein in nuts, seeds, pulses and dairy products, which are also far easier to digest.

Vegetarianism supports mental and physical health as well as spiritual cultivation. Fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts and milk products provide a balanced diet, which does not make our system toxic. This is primarily because when an animal is killed, it becomes dead matter. In the case of many vegetables, if we eat part of the vegetable and re-plant another part, it can grow again; it is still a living organism. It is a healthy sign that more and more people in the US, UK, Europe and other parts of the world are taking to a vegetarian diet in modern times, chiefly due to health reasons. There is a growing acceptance in the West that vegetarianism connotes a more positive way of living than flesh eating. In India, the pilgrimage destination of Haridwar still enjoys the status of being a vegetarian city. Even in Japan, known to be virtually 100 percent non-vegetarian, you can now find vegetarian restaurants. My friend Martin Gluckman, who runs the Vedic Society and teaches organic and Ayurvedic cooking in South Africa, hails Indian vegetarianism in the following words: “India has the world’s greatest cuisine and most variety of dishes, boasting to its amazing cultural and spiritual heritage. It has a time tested vegetarian cuisine offering a delight for all senses and the heart.”

An Vegetarian Ethical Diet for Peace and Plenty

India can be proud to have the world’s largest per-capita number of vegetarians (I have read reports of more than 40%). No other country can make such a statement of humanity and nonviolence. The vegetarian culture and lifestyle are India’s greatest achievement and gift to the world. Only in years to come will the true value of this gift be known.” It is important that we remain vegetarian not only for our health and nutrition, but from the points of view of spirituality, compassion, ethics, ecology and economics as well. When we see the end product of meat in the supermarket or leather in the shoe store, there is a long chain of violence that created it. These products endorse and perpetuate violence in our society, which contributes to the terrorism that is rampant across the world. Eating habits reflect upon a human being’s thoughts, speech and behavior. A non-vegetarian diet makes one prone to violence. By moving away from food of violence we can move rapidly toward world peace.

Albert Einstein affirmed, “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” When a helpless animal is killed by a deliberate act of violence, it dies in great dread. Its body is flush with hormones produced by fear. These toxic substances enter the body of the person who eats the flesh and adversely affect his or her body and mind. I have always wondered, how can the carcass of an animal that died in mortal fear give good health and refined, spiritual inclinations to its consumer?

Additionally, meat production is one of the most environmentally damaging industries in terms of pollution and inefficient use of agricultural land. According to a 2006 report from the United nations Food & agriculture Organization, livestock production is responsible for more greenhouse gasses than all the motor vehicles in the world, plus it severely degrades land and water. It is also necessary to remove the myth and argument that vegetarians will not get enough food if non-vegetarians do not eat meat. This is a fallacy. It has been conclusively proven that more people can be sustained on vegetarian food than a diet based on meat. Live- stock occupy over 30 percent of our planet’s land surface, and 33 percent of global arable land is used to grow their feed, pointing to why a meat-based diet requires seven times more land than a plant-based diet. Thus, one of the easiest ways to help restore our environment and feed more people is to stop raising and killing animals for human consumption. We have no right to take the life of an animal when we cannot give it.An Vegetarian Ethical Diet for Peace and Plenty

Economically, a vegetarian diet is preferable to a non-vegetarian diet. The same energy one can get from meat and eggs one can get from pulses and cereals. It actually costs three or four times as much money to produce an equivalent amount of calories from animal sources as from vegetable sources. Some people may worry that self-control and too much care about nature would hamper development and bring about poverty. We know too well, however, that the more we consume, the more expensive things become, leading to the growth of the destitute class. Reckless commercial development also results in economic and social crises, bringing further suffering to the poor.

AHIMSA does not deny economic development; it only exercises self-control, limits our desires. Desires are endless. More and more desires give rise to materialism and extraordinary greed, far beyond basic human needs and sustainable consumption. Greed results in the destruction of the very roots of our life. If we want to prevent the world from becoming a barren desert and our societies from growing into monstrous systems of injustice and suffering, self-control and nonviolence appear as the only reasonable answer – not only for Jains, but for people of any creed. For any spiritual being, the destruction of life, be it in the air, the water or on the ground, is undesirable. But even if you do not subscribe to this principle, you will agree that reckless destruction of life could eventually lead to mankind’s own demise. Jainism is not the only Indian school advocating nonviolence and self-control as central principles. Buddhism and Hinduism equally preach them.

 

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