Significance of Holi

Hiranyakashipu is said to be an asura demon, who is fond of wealth. Hiranya means gold. Kashipu means food and clothing. He is clothed in gold and riches.

Hiranyakashipu symbolises the asuri tendencies rising where there is fondness for wealth in the form of gold, exotic food and extravagant clothing. The notion of supremacy, controllership and ‘invincibility’ that arises with the power that wealth brings.

Prahlad is the son of Hiranyakashipu symbolising devotion to the highest power, here Vishnu. When prosperity grows, devotion to God in any name and manner is the only way to keep this tendency in check in the initial stages. But if the tendency is not reigned through devotion then it ultimately brings a fierce end to prosperity, the person and family.

Hiranyakashipu’s sister is Holika, an asurani, female demon. She represents attachment born out of aviveka (non discernment) in the environment of ‘Gold’. Gold means aggrandisement of wealth. Wealth is empowering by nature. The empowering capacity is equated to ‘Shakti’ which is the ‘female’ aspect of creation. When this Shakti is misplaced it is finally the cause of doom. Holika dahan is celebrated a day before Holi, to symbolise that final victory is imminent if aviveka is destroyed in the fire of viveka which is lit by knowledge.

Holi, a festival for the followers of Sanatana Dharma, is a celebration of victory of Devotion over the lure and the power of the ephemeral. The victory of daivi divine force over asuri demonic forces within and outside. In whose heart Bhagavāna / God resides, for them the true master of creation comes at calling. And all the vibrant colours of life play sportively with merriment.

Happy Holi everyone 🙏🏼

©️ Deepti Vishwanath

Why is it difficult to define a Hindu and Hinduism?

Man’s attempts to figure out his existence has been ceaseless since time immemorial. This has resulted in the formation and dissolution of various ideologies and religions around the globe. These ideologies and religions have also majorly determined the systems of societal habits and shaped pursuits which can accommodate the struggle for survival. Many devastating wars have been fought and conquests claimed to establish dominance by usurping the existing systems. Sometimes in the name of religion and sometimes in the name of advancement; the common force has been to dominate. And the need to dominate, psychology suggests, springs from insecurity. Insecurity has direct relevance to existence. It implies a fear of losing one’s existence.

The oldest known literary compilation in the world is The Veda. Wherever Veda got transmitted, there it influenced human thinking so deeply that it shaped the identity, culture and ways of living for those people. The knowledge therein remained irrefutable even to the wisest. And it’s content ever attractive, since it spoke on life. This made it popular in society as it spread through word of mouth. But, as humans, people also want quick, easy solutions and applications. They do not have time, leisure or inclinations to engage in growing the understanding first, which should propel the life direction. They are left with the choice to accept what is told and fall risk to becoming rigid, and prey to blind faith. Or another choice remains, is to just reject it, and keep searching for different ways and methods, untried before, fuelling newer ideologies with an attempt to restructure society.

A society which had embraced the Veda’s way of life, over time, shows all the three firmly established. Currently seen as well there are people who have the availability of the correct knowledge and understanding of the Veda with which they lead their life.  Then there are people who have blind faith on prevailing systems with which they lead their lives. And then there are the new systems emerging every now and then with a defying vision to direct lives. There are people who understand what their roots uphold, and they are happy to abide in it. There are people who have no understanding what their customs and rituals or festivals truly meant but they blindly follow it, and there are people who are rebellious about it and try to restructure their life with a recent or experimental ideology. It is this amalgamation which makes it difficult to define Hindu and Hinduism.  For all of them come under the vast canopy of The Veda.

Geography was not concretely laid out when The Veda ruled the thought. As time advanced, and man globally continued to find meaning to his existence, intermingling with other regions became accessible. The ‘force of domination’ on geography became essential. For once you travelled to another land, your survival and insecurities had to play up and find their ground! Geographies tried to become distinct and people started to group to preserve their ideologies which sustained their predecessors.

Bhārata was the name of the area where the Veda ruled the life. And in the knowledge of the Veda, is the knowledge of one’s existence. Thus, these sets of people had a very low sense of insecurity, almost none. And hence they did not feel any need to dominate. To the extent that they did not even feel the need to travel to another land except to trade! Worse still, so lacking the sense of insecurity was, that even the need to defend when attacked was sparse! But, Bhārata was advanced due to the liberal way in which Vedās had educated man. This became a focus of many invasions. Every invasion brought with it new diverse ideological thoughts, customs, habits to be integrated in the mainstream. The fallout was that the method which educated the correct understanding of The Veda got intercepted by diverting energies to giving explanations to the non conformers. This added layers of contextual reasoning and integrated it to the main body of knowledge. Making it more and more difficult for the blind believer to get educated. The distance between the three sections, knowledge based, faith based and defiance based kept growing. And in the present, the latest invasion of Britishers almost broke the link of transmission of correct understanding of the Veda! Making it very difficult to define or even explain who is a Hindu and what is Hinduism especially to the one who have been integrated to this land by their ancestors but were not rooted here in the times when knowledge prevailed life!

Our ancestors in the form of great visionaries struggled hard to uphold and teach the correct understanding of The Veda. Only because it is that system of thinking, following which one knows the Truth of one’s existence, which alone ends all insecurities and miseries. There is death of the urge for violence and birth of compassion. This is Hinduism and the knower of it, A Hindu!

Wishing everyone a Happy Sankranti! Invoking the grace of Surya Devata to shine once again upon Bharata! Only this time, the lands have merged! Sarvebhya sukhino bhavantu! May wisdom prevail in all the beings! OM.

© Deepti Vishwanath. 🙏

15.1.2020

Pic courtesy – google.com

Festival of India -Sankranti

Makar Sankranti – 14 January, 2017
Time of Uttarayana.

Vedic customs and tradition is greatly based on the lunar movement. Because Sun is an important aspect to a Vaidika (now commonly referred to as a Hindu) as Sun is considered the first ‘visible’ source on whom, life in all forms is dependent. It’s recognition as thus, is expressed as gratitude in various forms of prayers, worships. And many occasions are celebrated keeping this fact in view.

The movements of various planets, the Moon and the Sun have been deeply and accurately studied by the Vaidika thinkers. This has been integrated in life in the form of celebrations as various festivals throughout the year. Keeping the Vaidika goal of Moksha as primary, the festivals were all occasions to celebrate one’s life as a human while not forgetting the main purpose of human existence.

Makar Sankranti is one such festival. The day is considered as an important celestial transition of Sun entering Makar (Capricorn). The transition is called Sankranti. Thus there are 12 Sankrantis in a year. But two are considered important. The Makar Sankranti and the Mesh Sankranti (Sun entering Aries) also called Baisākhi, falling in April. Amongst these two also, Makar Sankranti is more widely celebrated with different names in almost all the States throughout India.

Makar Sankranti marks the time of the year with longer days, smaller nights. This phase is called the Uttarayana – the time when the Sun is appearing to move Northward, towards Uttara. Longer days represents more day time for performing the essential deeds for one’s upliftment towards the higher direction (symbolically Uttara means upwards). Thus, the festival marks the time when the seasons will allow more conduciveness to Man to get out of his lethargy and indolence (which the preceding seasons may have predisposed) and engage in activities which will hasten him towards his goal of Moksha. It is also symbolically significant as the Harvest time which means material benefits as well. How you have utilised your time last year, you Harvest it now and begin sowing new seeds for another Harvest, or the Harvest you desire (amongst Artha, kāma and Dharma purusharthas).

Celebrated variously throughout, a serious student of Vedanta, will use this time to reinvoke his efforts for knowing Brahman. Which Sun symbolises as ever effulgent light, the dispeller of darkness (ignorance). Through Śravana -Manana-Nidhidhyasana. And the festival brings the opportunity to engage in such karmās as Dana (of various kinds) to the deserving people, Japa, Tapas And the Sun worship in the form of Chanting the Gayatri Mantra to resolve within to live a more ‘conscious and brilliant a life’ as the ‘Sun’ does. It then also offsets any misdoings or wrong -doings that may have been done unconsciously during the time just gone. And so Lohri precedes Sankranti. Burn away, physically and mentally all your past non essential collections, to begin afresh the next day.

Wishing everyone beforehand so that we can start the day fresh with knowledge.

Harihi Om Tat Sat! 🙏