Category Archives: Vedas

Swāhā versus Swadhā (Gods versus Ancestors)

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.

Om Swadhā Swadhā Swadhā,
Amit Garg

Swadhā Stotram

स्वधोच्चारणमात्रेण तीर्थस्नायी भवेन्नरः। मुच्यते सर्वपापेभ्यो वाजपेयफलं लभेत्॥
स्वधा स्वधा स्वधेत्येवं यदि वारत्रयं स्मरेत्। श्राद्धस्य फलमाप्नोति कालस्य तर्पणस्य च॥
श्राद्धकाले स्वधास्तोत्रं यः श्रृणोति समाहितः। लभेच्छाद्धशतानां च पुण्यमेव न संशयः॥
स्वधा स्वधा स्वधेत्येवं त्रिसन्ध्यं यः पठेन्नरः। प्रियां विनीतां स लभेत्साध्वीँ पुत्रं गुणान्वितम्॥
पितृणां प्राणतुल्या त्वं द्विजजीवनरूपिणी। श्राद्धाधिष्ठातृदेवी च श्राद्धादीनां फलप्रदा॥
बहिर्गच्छ मन्मनसः पितृणां तुष्टिहेतवे। सम्प्रीतये द्विजातीनां गृहिणां वृद्धिहेतवे॥
नित्या त्वं नित्यस्वरूपासि गुणरूपासि सुव्रते। आविर्भावस्तिरोभावः सृष्टौ च प्रलये तव॥
स्वस्तिश्च नमः स्वाहा स्वधा त्वं दक्षिणा तथा। निरूपिताश्चतुर्वेदे षट् प्रशस्ताश्च कर्मिणाम्॥
पुरासीस्त्वं स्वधागोपी गोलोके राधिकासखी। धृतोरसि स्वधात्मानं कृतं तेन स्वधा स्मृता॥
इत्येवमुक्त्वा स ब्रह्मलोके च संसदि। तस्थौ च सहसा सद्यः स्वधा साविर्बभूव ह॥
तदा पितृभ्यः प्रददौ तामेव कमलाननाम्। तां सम्प्राप्य ययुस्ते च पितरश्च प्रहर्षिताः॥
स्वधास्तोत्रमिदं पुण्यं यः श्रृणोति समाहितः। स स्नातः सर्वतीर्थेषु वेदपाठफलं लभेत्॥
॥ इति श्रीब्रह्मवैवर्त्ते महापुराणे द्वितीये प्रकृतिखण्डे नारदनारायणसण्वादे स्वधोपाख्याने स्वधोत्पत्ति तत्पूजादिकं नामैकचत्वारिंशोऽध्यायः ॥ स्वधास्तोत्रं सम्पूर्णम् ।
स्वधा, स्वधा, स्वधा

Ganesha Chaturthi – Aug 21/22, 2020

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.

21 Names of Lord Ganesha

ॐ सुमुखाय नमः / ॐ गणाधीशाय नमः / ॐ उमा पुत्राय नमः / ॐ गजमुखाय नमः / ॐ लम्बोदराय नमः / ॐ हर सूनवे नमः / ॐ शूर्पकर्णाय नमः / ॐ वक्रतुण्डाय नमः / ॐ गुहाग्रजाय नमः / ॐ एकदन्ताय नमः / ॐ हेरम्बराय नमः / ॐ चतुर्होत्रै नमः / ॐ सर्वेश्वराय नमः / ॐ विकटाय नमः / ॐ हेमतुण्डाय नमः / ॐ विनायकाय नमः / ॐ कपिलाय नमः / ॐ वटवे नमः / ॐ भाल चन्द्राय नमः / ॐ सुराग्रजाय नमः / ॐ सिद्धि विनायकाय नमः

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!!!

24 Sages and 24 Gods of Gāyatri Mantra

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).

24 Letters of Gāyatri Mantra:

ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः। तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं भर्गो  देवस्य धीमहि। धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात्॥
२४ अक्षर: १) तत्,२) स, ३) वि, ४) तु, ५) र्व, ६) रे, ७) णि, ८) यं, ९) भ, १०) र्गो, ११) दे, १२) व, १३) स्य, १४) धी, १५) म, १६) हि, १७) धि, १८) यो, १९) यो, २०) नः, २१) प्र, २२) चो, २३) द, २४) यात् |

Om Bhoor Bhuvah Swaha Tat Savitur Varenyam Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayāt.
24 Letters: 1) Tat, 2) Sa, 3) Vi, 4) Tu, 5) Rva, 6) Re, 7) Ni, 8) Yam, 9) Bha, 10) Rgo, 11) De, 12) Va, 13) Sya, 14) Dhee, 15) Ma, 16) Hi, 17) Dhi, 18) Yo, 19) Yo, 20) Nah, 21) Pra, 22) Cho, 23) Da, 24) Yāt.

24 Gods and 24 Sages Associated with 24 Letters of Gāyatri Mantra:

प्रथममाग्नेयं द्वितीयं प्रजापत्यं तृतीयं सौम्यं चतुर्थमीशानं पंचममादित्यं षष्ठं गार्हपत्यं सप्तमं मैत्रमष्टमं भागदैवतं नवममार्यमणं दशमं सावित्रमेकादशं त्वाष्ट्रं द्वादशं पौष्णं त्रयोदशमैंद्राग्नं चतुर्दशं वायव्यं पञ्चदशं वामदेवं षोडशं मैत्रावरुणं सप्तदशं भ्रातृव्यमष्टादशं वैष्णवमेकोनविशं वामनं विंशं वैश्वदेवमेकविंशं रौद्रं द्वाविंशं कौबेरं त्रयोविंशमाश्विनं चतुर्विंशं भ्राह्ममिति प्रत्यक्षरदैवतानी |

प्रथमं वासिष्ठं द्वितीयं भारद्वाजं तृतीयं गार्ग्यं चतुर्थं उपामन्यवं पञ्चमं भार्गवं षष्ठं शाण्डिल्यं सप्तमं लौहितमष्टमं वैष्णवं नवमं शातातपं दशमं सनत्कुमार एकादशं वेदव्यासं द्वादशं शुकं त्रयोदशं पाराशर्यं चतुर्दशं पौण्ड्रकं पञ्चदशं क्रतुं षोडशं दाक्षं सप्तदशं कश्यपं अष्टदशं आत्रेयं ऐकोनविंशं अगस्त्यं विंशमौद्यालकं एकविंशं आंगिरसं द्वाविंशं नामिकेतुं त्रयोविंशं मौद्गल्यं चतुर्विंशं अंगिरसं वैश्वामित्रमिति प्रत्यक्षराणामृषयो भवन्ति |

~ Gāyatri Rahasya Upanishad, sloka #5

As described in the above sloka, names of Devatās (Gods) associated with each letter of Gāyatri Mantra are as follows:

1) Agni, 2) Prajāpati, 3) Soma (Chandramā), 4) Ishān, 5) Āaditya, 6) Gāhrapatya (Agnivishesh), 7) Maitra, 8) Bhaga, 9) Āryamān, 10) Savitā, 11) Twashtrā, 12) Pushā, 13) Indrāgni, 14) Vāyu, 15) Vāmdeva, 16) Maitrāvaruna, 17) Bhrātrivya, 18) Vishnu, 19) Vāmana, 20) Vaishwadev, 21) Rudradev, 22) Kuber, 23) Aswini Kumār, 24) Brahmadev.

And names of Rishis (sages) associated with each letter of Gāyatri Mantra are as follows:

1) Vasishtha, 2) Bharadwāj, 3) Garg, 4) Upamanyu, 5) Bhrigu (Bhārgava), 6) Shāndilya, 7) Lohit, 8) Vishnu, 9) Shātātap, 10) Sanatkumar, 11) Ved Vyās, 12) Shukdev, 13) Parāshar, 14) Paundrik, 15) Kritu, 16) Daksha, 17) Kashyap, 18) Atri, 19) Agastya, 20) Udyālak, 21) Āngiras, 22) Nāmiketu, 23) Mudgal, 24) Vishvāmitra from Angirā lineage.

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.

Understanding Vedic Calendar Part 1

If you ask an Indian or Vedic priest what date it is, he may say something like this: 2071 Vikram Samvat (year number), Srāvana Māsa (lunar month), Jaya Samvatsar (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:

  1. Chaitra (Sun transits from Pisces to Aries, Full Moon in Chitrā)
  2. Vaiśākha (Sun transits from Aries to Taurus, Full Moon in Vishākhā)
  3. Jyeṣṭha (Sun transits from Taurus to Gemini, Full Moon in Jyeṣṭha)
  4. Āṣāḍha (Sun transits from  Gemini to Cancer, Full Moon in Purva or Uttara Āṣāḍha)
  5. Śrāvaṇa (Sun transits from Cancer to Leo, Full Moon in Śrāvaṇa)
  6. Bhādrapada or simply Bhādra (Sun transits from Leo to Virgo, Full Moon in Purva or Uttara Bhādrapāda)
  7. Āśvina (Sun transits from  Virgo to Libra, Full Moon in Āśvini)
  8. Kārtika (Sun transits from Libra to Scorpio, Full Moon in Kārttikā)
  9. Mārgaśīrṣa (Sun transits from  Scorpio to Sagittarius, Full Moon in Mārgaśīrā)
  10. Pauśa (Sun transits from Sagittarius to Capricorn, Full Moon in Pushyā)
  11. Māgha (Sun transits from  Capricorn to Aquarius, Full Moon in Māghā)
  12. 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:

Hindu Calendar