Papers
Why is Kumbh Mela
Ishwar Chaturvedi
 
Kumbh means a pitcher and Mela means fair. It is a pilgrimage of faith in which people gather at a sacred river for bathing. The pilgrimage is held for about one and a half months at each of these four places where it is believed that drops of nectar fell from the Kumbh (pitcher) carried by Gods after the sea was churned. It is also the day on which the sage Manu, son of Brahma and the first man on the earth, appeared on earth to begin the human race. It ends on "Moni Amavasya" in the month of Magh.

Maha Kumb comes after a gap of 12 years. It is held every third year at one of the four places Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik and Ujjain by rotation. Maha Kumbh Mela is held at each of these four places every twelfth year. Ardh (half) Kumbh Mela is held at only two places, Haridwar and Allahabad (Prayag), every sixth year. The rivers at these four places are the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar, the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges, the Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati at Allahabad (Prayag), the Godawari at Nasik, and the Shipra at Ujjain. The festival is the biggest gathering on Earth.

There is no method of ascertaining the number of pilgrims bathing in the rivers on most auspicious days. In 2001, 40 million gathered on the busiest of its 55 days; around 70 million people participated in the 45day Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayag in 2007; in 2010 at Haridwar it was between 30 and 70 million; 2013 Maha Kumbh Mela began from 14 January at Prayag. About 100 million people attended. The next Kumbh Mela will be held at Nashik on the bank of the river Godavari in 2015. The Kumbh at Ujjain is also called "Simhastha".
Hindu Rituals and Routines
Balakrishna Menon
 
Balakrishna Menon (Balan) was born on 8 May 1916 in Ernakulam, Kerala in a devout Hindu family of Parukutti Amma and Vadakke Kurupath Kuttan Menon. Upon his birth, his father called for an astrologer, who stated that Balan's birth was an auspicious one. He was destined for greatness. He studied Science at Maharaja's College at Ernakulam and Liberal Arts at St. Thomas College, Thrissur. He graduated from Madras University in 1939 and went on to do graduate study in English literature from Lucknow University.
He began his career as a journalist with The National Herald, where he felt he could influence political, economic and social reform in India. While working there, he went to meet Swami Sivananda at the Swami's Ashram at Ananda Kutir,in Rishikesh to write an article criticizing Hindu monks. Instead, his life was changed forever as he got interested in the Hindu spiritual path. He took sanyas deeksha (monkhood) from Swami Sivananda on Mahashivratri day on February 25, 1949, and was given the name Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati i.e. the one who is blessed with permanent happiness. He stayed at Sivanada Ashram, Rishikesh, for several years. Swami Sivananda saw further potential in him and sent him to study under a guru in the Himalayas, Swami Tapovan Maharaj.
Swami Tapovan Maharaj was a hard teacher. He said that he would only say everything once, and at anytime he could ask questions to him. Even with these extreme terms, he stayed with him for 8 years. Being a journalist at heart, he wanted to make this pure knowledge available to all people of all backgrounds, though Tapovan Maharaj had initially advised against it. Through gentle persuasion and a promise that he would, as the Ganges River, take the knowledge to the plains for the benefit of all Indians, he left the Himalayas in 1952 with Tapovan Maharaj's blessings to teach the world the knowledge of Vedanta, became a Hindu spiritual leader and teacher, inspired the formation of Chinmaya Mission in 1953 to spread the message of Vedanta. The organization founded by his disciples and led by him has over 300 centers in India and the world over. He died on 4 August 1993.
He had written several books on Hindu religion including a comprehensive commentary on Bhagwat Geeta. Hindus pray to their Gods and Goddesses every day with rituals. He has explained them in this paper.
VEDAS
Compiled by: Ishwar Chaturvedi
 
Vedas are the earliest most sacred literary books of Indo Aryan civilisation. They are the original scriptures of Hindu teachings having spiritual knowledge of life. Its philosophical teachings are the highest religious lessons to mankind. Vedas mean knowledge and wisdom. Their rules are social, domestic, religious ways of living. Their rituals cover birth, marriage and death obligations. They are the thoughts of sages at different stages of religious, social and political evolutions. They are the earliest documents. Their origin is unknown. There are various opinions about it. As the ways of writings developed much later than the evolution of mankind, it is believed to be the words of Gods verbally passed on as hymns from one generation to another by seers and sages.

In Sanskrit Veda means knowledge. Vedas are large texts originating in ancient India. Compiled in Vedic Sanskrit, texts are the oldest scriptures of Hinduism in Sanskrit literature Vedas are apauru?eya (not from human). They have been directly revealed. What is through hearing is sruti. Written text is sm?ti..

Vedic texts or srutis are the following four metrical known as Sanhitas:
1. Rigveda has hymns for reciting by hotr.
2. Yajurveda has hymns for reciting by adhvaryu or acting priest
3. Samaveda has hymns to be sung by udgat?.
4. Atharvaveda has spells and incantations; charming and speculative hymns.

First three are acts of sacrifice called yajnan in Vedic religion. Individual verses in these are known as mantras. Some selected Vedic mantras are still recited at prayers, religious functions and other auspicious occasions in contemporary Hinduism.

The various Indian philosophies and sects have differing views on Vedas. Schools of Indian philosophy which cite the Vedas as their scriptural authority are classified orthodox (astika). Others, like Buddhism and Jainism, which did not regard the Vedas as authorities are referred to by traditional Hindu texts as "heterodox" or "non-orthodox" (nastika) schools. Also, Sikhism and Brahmoism, many non-Brahmin Hindus in South India do not accept the authority of the Vedas. Certain South Indian Brahmin communities such as Iyengars consider the Tamil Divya Prabandham or writing of the Alvar saints as equivalent to the Vedas.

In the Himalayan range near the shrine of Badri Nath, there is a cave called "Vyas Goofa" in Bhim Tal on the bank of river Saraswati coming down from the mountains. It is said that Lord Krishna, incarnation of Lord Vishnu, asked Vyas Krishna Dwaipayana, generally known as Ved Vyas, after the battle of Mahabharat in 1500B.C. to write Hindu scriptures with the help of Lord Ganesh. Ganesh agreed to write on the condition that the Vyas had to speak without any break. As this was impossible, Vyas gave the condition that Ganesh had to understand the meaning of the hymns and verses before writing. Both agreed. Writing began. There is an episode about river Saraswati. The noise of its fall from the mountain ridges was deafening. Sage Vyas asked it to flow quietly. It did not listen to him. He cursed it to become an invisible river throughout its flow down the mountains. Noise was gone. Vyas and Ganesh could write in peace.

RIG VEDA

Vedas are collection of spiritual verses and mantras. Rig Veda is the first of the four Vedas with mantras of truth. It had twenty one divisions in the time of Maharishi Patanjali. Now there are three. SHAKHAL sect is the only one now with right intonation of recitation. Vedas have a special way of chanting of hymns which creates vibrations for good atmosphere. One recitation of poems is called Prakiti Paath (perfect musical chanting). Other is the wrong recitation which is called Vikriti Paath. The hymns are now from Shanti Sukta, Swasti Sukta, Saraswati Sukta, Rashtra Sukta, Sangyana Sukta, Manyu Sukta, Brahamamaspati Sukta, Samhita Paath, Mantras from Pada Paath, Karm Paath, Jatta Paath and Khand Paath.We pray to God in Suktas for wisdom, inspiration for good deeds, simplicity of nature, service to society and country, good health and thoughts, elimination of bad thoughts, dedication, discipline, determination and desire for continuous learning. There should not be earthquakes, wars, famines, distress. Peace and stability should be all around us. Our life should be that of the Sun emitting warmth and love.

ATHARVA VEDA

It had initially nine branches. Saunakiya and Paippalada are the two left now. This Veda is the commentary of spiritual and non-spiritual subjects. It tells about medicines, agriculture, science, management, administration, meditation, introspection, dealing with enemies and several other matters of social and family life. Respect for mother land, peace and harmony in living, protection of environment, preservation of nature and its resources are in Prithvi Sukta. Reciting of Mantras are prayers to different Gods for good luck; healing of mental and physical sickness; long and healthy life; protection from sins, evils, bad thoughts, poverty, nature's calamities, fear; good administration and management; development of commerce, trade, agriculture; kindness to universe. Prayers are for good and healthy animals, birds, vegetation, plants, air, water so that people live with healthy, prosperous, active life doing good deeds. Parambrahma is the source of joy, happiness and satisfaction for all. He can be pleased by good deeds, prayers and learning. Everyone must be treated as our kin with lice and kindness. We must always remain obliged to the Creator of the world who has given us Sun, Moon, Planets and strength to live on the earth. His main mantra is Omkar. We must recite this in our prayers.

YAJUR VEDA

It has two versions called Shukla and Krishna Yajur Veda. Yajur Veda initially had fifteen branches. Now only Kanva and Madhyanandan remain. Ved Vyas put Kanva branch under Rishi Kanva. It has at present mantras for recitation from Vishnu, Uttar Narayan, Rashtra, Saraswati, Shakti and Bhadra Suktas. Also recited with mantras are Pad (placing), Kram (serial number), Jata (roots), Dhan (inventory). These are prayers of Lord Vishnu who covers the entire universe in his three steps; is the creator and preserver of all creatures; has put all planets in their respective places; prescribed Yagyas (offerings) for himself and other Gods and runs the universe. Mantras are requests to Lord for pure water; vegetation; physical and mental resources; environment; education; inventions; powerful arms and strength to soldiers for success in wars; cows with abundant milk, fast horses, strong oxen; beautiful bright talented women with sharp intellect, good health, pure heart; work and peace for all; rains for good crops; educated, learned disciplined, determined, spiritual, friendly, kind, emotional, helpful people working for good of every creature.

Madhyandina branch is also very important. High and low notes are recited in it with movements of hands; enunciations through Murdhanya, Thakars of Shakar and Jakarocharan, Ricar of Ricarocharan and Gokar visuals. It has mantras from Ishavas Upanishad; Suktas from Parmatma, Jata Pathah of Uttarnarayan, Vedic Dhan Pathah, Rashtra Prathana etc. Rishi says that God is in all animate and inanimate objects; nature's resources are for everyone for respectful enjoyment without attachment; we should desire to live for hundred years doing good deeds for salvation of soul. Those who despair and commit suicide go to hell. Those who face the good and bad of life go to heaven. God is like nectar in all living creatures, mountains, rivers, seas and oceans. He is the promoter of the world. We must remember always this and work for development of society and country. These prayers are the essence of mantras.

Another branch is Krishna Yajurveda. It had 86 units. Now only four are there. Taittririya branch with soft and melodious vocal renditions of mantras is the most important. It has mantras for making offerings to Gods of Agni, Sun, Lakshmi, Rashtra. It has rules for students for living family life after completing studies. Since Sun and Agni God are important for family, they are to be worshiped every day for longevity, health, fame, wealth and strength. One has to be truthful; reverent to parents like Gods; respectful to all; studious; courteous to guests, saints, teachers; helpful to poor, needy; donor for good causes. When there is a doubt in choosing right from wrong, advice is to be taken from learned persons, sages, seniors and teachers.

SAMA VEDA

Sama Veda is the musical composition. It is the origin of Indian music. During the period of Maharishi Patanjali, it had 1000 branches. Only Gautami, Jaimani and Ranayani remain now. Vocal renditions are from Agney, Indra, Parman, Aranya Parvs and Setu Sam Uddaya Gan Path. Sages have prayed through these mantras to different Gods for their blessings. Prayers to Agni are for removal of darkness, ignorance, presence in our homes, destruction of demons, welfare and enlightenment of family; to Indra are for protection from evil forces, sufficient rains for good crops, prosperity; our commitment to grow and preserve different variety of grains, for sharing of food with all creatures.

Ranayani renditions are mostly done in Karnataka. Musically recited mantras are from Agney, Ritu,Yagya, Saarathi, Arudak Vahan Girih, Margeya, Saraswat, Vishnu, Shri Sukta, Vinayak, Devya, Brahma, Varchas, Mahavaishnav, Ayusha, Aajya, Rourav and Van Devya sects. Sages pray to Gods for freeing mankind from lust, anger, greed, attachment, envy, enmity; making us virtuous, strong, prosperous; welfare, spiritual and religious development; sufficient water, food, wealth; good, powerful cattle; saving from famine, earthquakes, wars. Sam Veda Rishis teach to forgive; overcome anger and greed; be truthful and honest for happiness, peace and salvation.

Sam Veda is the main source of Gandharva music. One form of Ranayani is Govardhanya of Kashi with seven modes of music. Mantras in this are recited musically. These are from Shanti,Payas, Maha Vaishanav Tathantar; Vamdeva; Ahmeyava Rourav; Varavantiya; Jarahodi; Udbakshi and Setu sects. Through these mantras, Rishis have prayed to Agni, Som and Indra. Rays of Agni are messengers of God and give us energy for the good of all. Soma and Indra are friends of Agni. Soma gives calm and happiness. Indra gives strength. Their combined powers are the source of our acts. We must pray to them for blessings.