The day when Parashuram, the 6th incarnation of Vishnu was born. He was invincible.
The day when Pandavas received Akshay patra from Krishna. This is the vessel which never ran out of food. Pandavas survived their exile in forest thanks to this Akshay patra. The vessel was inexhaustible.
The day when Sudama visited his long lost “best friend” Krishna after so many years and his life was changed forever by Krishna. His old dilapidated hut transformed into a palace. With Krishna’s blessings, Sudama’s wealth and joy was immeasurable.
The day when Lord Ganesha started writing the epic Mahabharata as dictated by Ved Vyasa. And Ganesha wrote non-stop for three long years until he finished writing the entire Mahabharata! Ganesha was unstoppable.
The only day in the whole year when both Sun (soul) and Moon (mind) are exalted (strong).
Akshay Tritiyatimingsfor 2022: Begins May 2 @ 4:48 pm PST and ends on May 3 @ 7 pm PST.
What to do on Akshay Tritiya? You do things on Akshay Tritiya that you want to grow in your life. Give donation to the Gurus. Share knowledge, books and teachings. Start new projects, buy a new house, embark on an important journey or make plans (buy tickets) for one, start a new spiritual practice, seek blessings of the Gurus, do chanting and meditation and yoga. Plant seeds, touch the Earth, eat dosa, walk bare feet on the beach, do yagyas…Whatever makes you happy 🙂
May this Akshay Tritiya bring inexhaustible joy, health and wealth in your life.
Navrātri (9 nights): The auspicious festival of Navrātri, the 9 nights of the Goddess is celebrated 4 times a year at the junction of 4 seasons. One of those is the Gupta Navrātri. This is celebrated at the beginning of Magha lunar month in Jan-Feb.
Why the Night? Night is the time of Tamas. Tamas is needed as much as Sattva and Rajas. We need a combination and balance of all 3 Gunas. If there were no Tamas, we will have no sleep at night. We feel refreshed and rejuvenated in the morning, thanks to the restful inactive period of the night. Hence, the Navrātri, the 9 nights of the Goddess invite us to go within, be inactive, give a rest to our faculties so we can experience Mother’s nectar.
Saraswati: Saraswati is the Goddess of learning, knowledge, wisdom, arts, music, speech and intelligence. Vasant Panchami is dedicated to the worship of Mā Saraswati. Vasant Panchami also marks the beginning of Spring, as per Vedic calendar. In India, usually a child begins formal education on the day of Vasant Panchami. As per one belief, Mā Saraswati is considered the daughter of Lord Shiva and Mā Durga. As a result, Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Ganesha and Karthikeya are considered her siblings.
Gupta Navrātri2022 timings: First Navrātri begins on Jan 31 at 9:45 pm PST and the Last (9th) Navrātri ends on Feb 9 at 9:40 pm PST
Vasant Panchami (Saraswati Pujā)2022 timings: Starts on Feb 4, 2:15 pm and ends on Feb 5, 2:19 pm PST.
How to honor the Goddess? One can do following things during Navrātri: Fasting. Maun (silence) i.e. do silent meditation these days or at least refrain from talking too much. Chant Devi mantras (see the list below). Perform yagyas (Vedic fire rituals). Honor the fire principle. Durga Saptashati is especially powerful during Navrātri. See the video at the bottom of this article.
We are in the middle of 16-day period of honoring and remembering our ancestors, known as Shrādh or Pitri Paksha, There is a difference in the way we give offerings to Gods versus how we give offerings to our ancestors.
Offerings to Gods through SWĀHĀ: When we chant vedic mantras and then make an offering to the fire God (Agni dev), we say “Swāhā” at the end and then give offering. Why do we say Swāhā and what does that mean? The word Swāhā comes from ‘Su’ and ‘Āhve’. Su means good and Āhve is an invitation. Hence, through Swāhā we invite the Gods who are embodiment of goodness and Dharma and request them to accept our offerings. According to Shiv Purāna, Daksha prajāpati (progenitor) had many daughters. One of them was Swāhā and she was married to Agni dev (fire God). It is said that Agni dev accepts food only from his wife Swāhā. And according to another legend, all the Gods have appointed Agni dev as their provider of food. In other words, all the Gods will accept food only from Agni dev. So this means if we want to offer anything to the Gods, a) we offer it to Swāhā, b) then Swāhā accepts from us and gives it to Agni dev and then c) Agni dev accepts that offering from Swāhā and gives it to the respective Gods.
Offerings to Ancestors (Pitris) through SWADHĀ: Daksha prajāpati (progenitor) had another daughter named Swadhā who was married to the Pitri dev (lord of ancestors). The Pitris or ancestors accept offerings only through their wife Swadhā. Hence, we use the word Swadhā instead of Swāhā when we offer anything to the ancestors. Another legend says that Swadhā devi is manas putri (mind-born daughter) of Brahmā.
Merely by chanting the word Swadhā 3 times, we can connect with that shakti, with that power who is so close to our ancestors and will clear out our karmic debt to the ancestors. One can also chant the Swadhā stotram that I have given below.
All days during this fortnight of Pitri Paksha are important for honoring ancestors but especially Ashtami (8th lunar day), Trayodashi (13th lunar day), or when Moon is in Magha Nakshatra and most importantly Amavasya (New Moon) – these days are even more potent and our offerings will reach our ancestors and we will receive their blessings.
Life is full of obstacles. From the moment we wake up, we have to take care of bodily needs such as hunger and thirst. Not only do we face obstacles in worldly affairs such as livelihood, relationships etc, we also face obstacles in our sadhana and spiritual work that we do. And we face obstacles connected with our body as well – disease and old age. If we look at the life of Ganesha, his very existence represented obstacles. But he turned it around. He transformed every single obstacle into a huge blessing. For instance, soon after his birth, Ganesha’s head was cutoff by Lord Siva. In exchange of his own severed head, he received the head of an elephant which represents wisdom. That is why Ganesha is known as Vighna Hartā, the remover of obstacles.
Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated as the appearance day of Lord Ganesha. It falls on the Shukla Chaturthi (4th lunar day of bright half) of Bhadrapada month every year. Ganeshotsav (festival) ends after 10 days on Ananta Chaturdashi (14th lunar day) with immersion of Ganesha statues in flowing water. Here are Timings for Ganesha Chaturthi, 2020:
US Pacific: Aug 21 (Fri) 10:34 AM till Aug 22 (Sat) 7:30 AM
India: Aug 21 (Fri) 11:04 PM – Aug 22 (Sat) 8:00 PM
Australia AEST, Sydney: Aug 22 (Sat) 3:34 AM till Aug 23 (Sun) 00:30 AM
Ganesha was born on Chaturthi. So Chaturthi Tithi represents obstacles as well as removal of obstacles if we surrender to Ganesha. If we start some new project or journey on Chaturthi for example, we may face obstacles but we could turn those obstacles around into the biggest of blessings if we keep Ganesha in our minds and in our hearts. Every Chaturthi (4th lunar day) belongs to Ganesha and is auspicious for fasting and chanting Ganesha mantras.
Mythology: Once up on a time, baby Ganesha was hanging out under the sky at night. It was the Chaturthi Tithi. Chandra (Moon) saw this baby with elephant head and made fun of his appearance. Chandra was immensely proud of being very beautiful himself. Lord Ganesha cursed Chandra that whoever looks at him on this day (Chaturthi), will have some Mithya Dosha or false accusation against them. So it is advised never to look at Moon on Chaturthi Tithi. Instead, it is highly recommended to worship Ganesha on Chaturthi. It is also very beneficial to chant 11 or 21 or 108 names of Ganesha.
Om Sumukhāya Namah / Om Ganadhishāya Namah / Om Umā Putrāya Namah / Om Gajamukhāya Namah / Om Lambodarāya Namah / Om Harasunavey Namah / Om Shurpakarnāya Namah / Om Vakratundāya Namah / Om Guhāgrajāya Namah / Om Ekadantāya Namah / Om Herambarāya Namah / Om Chaturhotrai Namah / Om Sarveshvarāya Namah / Om Vikatāya Namah / Om Hematundāya Namah / Om Vināyakāya Namah / Om Kapilāya Namah / Om Vatave Namah / Om Bhāl Chandrāya Namah / Om Surāgrajāya Namah / Om Siddhi Vināyakāya Namah
On Ganesha Chaturthi, people make statue of Ganesha with clay and do Prana Pratishtha of this statue. Prana Pratishtha means invoking the Divine energy to enter into this statue and turn this piece of clay into a living deity. Then worship this deity (which is not just a statue anymore) for the next 10 days and then immerse it in flowing water on the 10th day. This process of immersion is called Visarjan. We create beautiful things and then let them go. No attachment. That is the law of nature. Here is complete Puja Vidhi for Ganesh Chaturthi: Here.
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha!!! Ganapati Bappa Morya, Mangala Murti Morya!!!
Upanishads are part of Vedas and are known as Vedānta (‘anta’ means ending). They are philosophical discussions on the nature of ultimate reality, which is known by various names: Ātman, Brāhman, Om, Pranav, Parabrahma, Supreme Consciousness etc. There are over 200 Upanishads surviving today. One of them, Gāyatri Rahasya Upanishad is a dialog between sage Yājñavalkya and lord Brahmā. This Upanishad talks about the secrets and divine power of Gāyatri Mantra.
There are 24 letters (akshar) in Gāyatri Mantra. Each letter of Gāyatri Mantra is associated with a different Shakti (divine power), different Devatā (God), different Rishi (sage), different Tattva (element), different Mudrā, different Avatār (incarnation) and even different flower. All these are elaborated in Gāyatri Rahasya Upanishad. Here in this article I am presenting one sloka (verse) from that Upanishad, as translated by my Gurudev Pandit Sriram Sharma Acharya in his monumental work 108 Upanishads (Title: १०८ उपनिषद्, सरल हिंदी भावार्थ सहित).
Devatās (Gods) and Rishis (Sages) are very intimately connected with each other. Through their penance and deep meditation, Rishis awaken the shakti of Devatās. These Rishis were highly enlightened beings who realized wisdom of the Vedas through their intense meditation. Simply chanting Gāyatri Mantra takes us closer to these Rishis as well as Gods and gives us a taste of nectar of their wisdom and blessings.
If you ask an Indian or Vedic priest what date it is, he may say something like this: 2071 Vikram Samvat (year number), SrāvanaMāsa (lunar month), JayaSamvatsar (year name based on 60-year cycle). There are many additional details such as Tithi (lunar day), Vārā (solar day), Paksha (lunar phase etc) but in this article we will only learn about how the year and the month are derived.
YEAR: In the year 57 BC, Vikrama Samvat era was founded by king Vikramāditya of Ujjain following his victory over the Sakas. King Vikramāditya’s life is also connected with the concept of Sādhe Sati but that is a topic for another article. So if we start Vedic calendar in 57 BC, then year 2014 in Gregorian calendar will translate to year 2071 (57 + 2014) in Vedic calendar. There are other Vedic systems for calculating year but Vikram Samvat is the most common.
MONTH: There are 12 rāśis (signs) and there are 12 lunar months. Names of each lunar month depends on two things: a) which signs the Sun transits through that month, b) which Nakshatrā (constellation) Full Moon takes place in during that month. For example, when Sun transits from Pisces into Aries, the name of that lunar month is known as Chaitra because the Full Moon during that month takes place in the Nakshatrā of Chaitra. Next, when Sun transits from Aries into Taurus, that lunar month is called Vaiśākha because Full Moon during that month takes place in Vishākhā Nakshatrā. And so on. There are some exceptions to this rule but in its simplest terms, this is how lunar months are derived.
12 Months in Lunar Calendar:
Chaitra (Sun transits from Pisces to Aries, Full Moon in Chitrā)
Vaiśākha (Sun transits from Aries to Taurus, Full Moon in Vishākhā)
Jyeṣṭha (Sun transits from Taurus to Gemini, Full Moon in Jyeṣṭha)
Āṣāḍha (Sun transits from Gemini to Cancer, Full Moon in Purva or Uttara Āṣāḍha)
Śrāvaṇa (Sun transits from Cancer to Leo, Full Moon in Śrāvaṇa)
Bhādrapada or simply Bhādra (Sun transits from Leo to Virgo, Full Moon in Purva or Uttara Bhādrapāda)
Āśvina (Sun transits from Virgo to Libra, Full Moon in Āśvini)
Kārtika (Sun transits from Libra to Scorpio, Full Moon in Kārttikā)
Mārgaśīrṣa (Sun transits from Scorpio to Sagittarius, Full Moon in Mārgaśīrā)
Pauśa (Sun transits from Sagittarius to Capricorn, Full Moon in Pushyā)
Māgha (Sun transits from Capricorn to Aquarius, Full Moon in Māghā)
Phālguna (Sun transits from Aquarius to Pisces, Full Moon in Purva or Uttara Phālguni)
Chart below shows each of the 12 Lunar months and corresponding months in Gregorian calendar (Source for diagram: http://hinduism.iskcon.org)