worship

Kalash Pooja

Kalash Pooja

My spiritual guide, my Master, recently published a post on Speaking Tree titled “Fasting and Autophagy: Ancient Wisdom and Scientific Research Intersect”. This brought back many memories and I pulled out my long forgotten notes; all the diligent studies I had done to understand the true significance of so many rituals I blindly followed in the past.

I have already written about Lighting the lamp, Prasadam, Idol worship and Bhajans. All these rituals have a profound meaning and done in true spirit and with perfect understanding, they should result in achieving our ‘goal of life’.  Another such ritual which I mindlessly followed was Kalash Pooja. This article is an attempt to understand the true significance of this important ritual.

It is believed that before the creation came into being, Lord Vishnu was reclining on His snake-bed in the milky ocean. From His navel emerged a lotus from which appeared Lord Brahma, the creator, who thereafter created this world.
And Lord Vishnu held Kalash filled with nectar during Samudramanthan (churning of the ocean). All deities are believed to reside in the kalash.

Since then the kalasha is viewed as a symbol of abundance, wisdom and immortality. The Purna-Kalasha is considered a symbol of abundance and “source of life”. It is also called Soma-Kalasha, Chandra-Kalasha, Indra-Kumbha, Purnaghata, Purna-Virakamsya, Bhadra ghata, or Mangala ghata.

We find a kalash in the hands of Hindu deities Brahma, our creator, Shiva our destroyer and teacher, Laskhmi our goddess of prosperity. Every auspicious occasion, be it Gruh Pravesh, Gauri pooja, Deepawali , marriage and  even to celebrate the arrival of a new born, we perform kalash pooja.

I enter this home with a kumbha; fill it with ambrosia and anoint

All those who drink of this heavenly water and protect this home.

I enter this house to dwell in it. ( Atharva veda: 3.13.7-9-5000BC)

The Kalash and its adornment have a very symbolic meaning for every occasion. To welcome the new born Kalash represents material things: a container of fertility – the earth and the womb, which nurtures and nourishes life. The mango leaves associated with Kama, the god of love, symbolize the pleasure aspect of fertility. The coconut, a cash crop, represents prosperity and power. The water in the pot represents the life-giving ability of Nature.

For Gruh Pravesh and other household functions, a silver or brass face of the Goddess is attached over the coconut of the Purna-Kalasha. In this form, the Purna-Kalasha symbolizes the Goddess as the manifestation of mother earth with her water, minerals, and vegetation.

Other interpretations’ of the Purna-Kalasha associate with the five elements or the chakras. The wide base of metal pot represents the element Earth, the expanded centre is water, neck of pot is fire, the opening of the mouth is said to represent air, and the coconut and mango leaves: ether. In context of chakras, the Shira (literally “head”) – top of the coconut symbolizes Sahasrara chakra and the Moola (literally “base”) – base of Kalasha – the Muladhara chakra.

The water in the kalasha symbolizes the primordial water from which the entire creation emerged. It is the giver of life to all and has the potential of creating innumerable names and forms, the inert objects and the sentient beings and all that is auspicious in the world from the energy behind the universe. The waters from all the holy rivers, the knowledge of all the Vedas and the blessings of all the deities are invoked in the kalasha and its water is thereafter used for all the rituals, including the abhisheka. The leaves and coconut represent creation. The thread represents the love that “binds” all in creation.
On some occasions the Kalasha is filled with coins, grain, gems, gold, or a combination of these items instead of water. The coronet of 5, 7, or 11 mango leaves is placed such that the tips of the leaves touch water in the Kalasha. These leaves are known as leaves of deity’s seat. The coconut is sometimes wrapped with a red cloth and red thread; the top of the coconut is kept uncovered. A sacred thread is tied around the metal pot. The Shira is kept facing the sky. The kalash is used for creating seat for invoked deities during the puja ritual. The water inside the kalash keeps this seat pure till the ritual of Pranapratishta (invoking deity into an image, idol, coconut or betelnut). Thus, the invoked deity principle stays for a long period.

Putting a coin is symbolic of sacrifice. Through this medium there is sacrifice of wealth and jiva (embodied soul)’s attachment is reduced. This qualifies the worshipper to benefit more from the sattvikta of puja ritual. A copper coin is put in the kalash. The copper has more capacity to project sattvik frequencies. It helps in emanation of sattvik frequencies present in the water into the atmosphere.

The betel nut kept in the kalash is to enhance sattvik and rajsik components in the water of the kalash. This increases the capacity of the water to emit manifest principle of deity. The betel nut contains particles related to absolute earth element which are useful in binding of sattva particles related to sattva component. This then easily helps in retaining the sattvikta of water for a long time. Five precious stones like pearl, diamond, emerald, blue sapphire, ruby and gold are also added to the water of kalash. The five precious stones and gold have capacity to attract and emit the principles of five superior deities. This benefits the worshipper. But with changing times the use of five precious stones and copper is reduced and replaced by alloys which are spiritually less beneficial.
The consecration (kumbhaabhisheka) of a temple is done in a grand manner with elaborate rituals including the pouring of one or more kalashas of holy water on the top of the temple.

There is a world of depth, meaning and essence to every ritual. Everything that was said and done during our Vedic period had the backing of science, logic and reasoning. It has sadly deteriorated with time and gone into oblivion today. Every ritual I have performed in the past would have fructified if I had done them myself, with full awareness and knowledge, the essence of what I am doing and why. I was always sincere but lacked the jijnasu quality, the spirit of inquiry was missing. Meditation (I have come back to Meditation, I know:) ) has made me aware of this yawning gap between my actions and ignorant actions!

Action is purification of the mind; not for gaining (knowing) the truth. Knowledge of the truth is by inquiry alone; not even a little knowledge is gained by crores of action. Vivekachudamani (5.11)

Sources:

http://ajitvadakayil.blogspot.ie/2013/05/kalasha-symbol-of-cosmic-womb

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalasha

http://bharathkidilse.blogspot.ie/2009/10/kalasha

Bhajans – Singing for Him

Meaning:

The etymology of Bhajan has stemmed from the root word ‘Bhaj’– “to honour, adore.”  Thus, singing Bhajans is a form of active involvement of a devotee in the worship of the Divine. It is the Love, respect and adoration felt by the worshipper towards his/her own personal God. The kind of love expressed for Krishna in Meera Bhajans or the state in which Chaitanya Maha Prabhu sung for His Lord transporting every listener into His divine realm, enabling them to visualize their Lord, through the Bhajans. Singing Adoration, bhajana; in His name forcing him to listen and appear is the essence of a Bhajan.

History and Origin:

 Bhakti, as explained on the Wikipedia, is the technical term meaning ‘portion or share’. Bhajans are a way or means of showing ‘Bhakti’ or Devotion by the aspirant. Bhajans are that part of bhakti where the devotee rapturously sings praise of the Divine and expresses his/her true love, adoration, devotion to the Lord.

 Bhajans first found their mention and place in the Hindu Scriptures in the Sama Veda, the fourth Veda in the Hindu scriptures. They have been informally sung and practiced from the time Devotion or bhakti found vocal expression. They have established a distinctive place different from Sanskrit shloka and Hymns by virtue of their easy flow, simplicity and instant appeal to the common mass. A Bhajan is usually rendered in the colloquial dialect, simple tune accompanied by single musical instrument, touching the innermost chords of every devotee. The rendition is simple, straight from the heart and voices the inner feeling, love adoration of every true worshipper, encouraging the devotee to sing, imbibe and love the Lord through the Bhajans. The fixed tunes, repetition of words mesmerize the listener and help bring an inner transformation. Most Bhajans describe the God’s glories; are interlaced and beautifully woven with anecdotes and episodes from the Lord’s life.

Types of Bhajans:

A dive into the past will reveal the ubiquitous nature of Bhajans in every home and at the core of every ardent devotee’s heart. In the Haridas tradition Bhajans are more popularly known as Kirtans, the way they are addressed by musicians in Southern India. Nirguna bhakti, Vallabhapanthi, Madhura bhakti, Gorakhanathi is some still prevalent traditions of Bhajan singing. Each sect has their own distinctive styles and way of singing.

History reveals that Kirtans or Bhajans started primarily in southern India and spread to the Northern parts. The spearheads of this method of communion with god were Alvars, the Vaishnavites and Nayanars, download mobile Ben 10 game Shaivites in the late 5th century AD or the early 6th Century. The Alvars and the Nayanars eminent singers/saints lyrical, ecstatic, moving devotional compositions were eventually incorporated by the Ramanuja and Madhava philosophical systems.

This period was dominated by the Muslim rulers in the Northern part and only by the middle of the medieval period, somewhere between the 14th to the 17th century did singers/ philosophers/saints like Meera Bai, Kabir, Chaitanya MahaPrabhu, Tulsidas and Tukaram, to name a few, spearheaded the Bhakti movement in the North through their soul searing renditions and melodious compositions in the praise of the Lord. The pivotal message of these saints was to cast aside meaningless rituals and complexities of philosophy and simply immerse oneself in the true divine love for the Divine.

All the aforementioned saints attained salvation singing for Him and Him alone oblivious to all else. With their eyes closed and lost to all else, meditating on the lotus feet or form of the Lord invoking His appearance. They realized through Bhajans and attained Nirvana singing for him.

Even Islam has Sufi music, akin to our Bhajans. Sufi saints attain communion with Allah singing His praise. The central theme behind Sufism is meditation and finding the truth, similar to what Chaitanya Maha prabhu and Shankara, Madhavacharya and Ramanuja philosophy and preaching. Bhajans and Sufi music are thus, the song of the soul.

Because of the simplistic nature of the compositions all the assembled devotees would participate, lose self for a while and achieve that state of communion with the Divine singing along with the eminent saints. Bhajan Mandalis and gatherings became the best stress busters. Everyone came eagerly under one roof keeping aside their petty differences, background and cultural gaps; sat together and unhesitatingly participated in the singing. The lyrics, style, music of the Bhajans gives a feeling of being set free or in a state of bliss; something everyone one longs to experience on a more permanent basis.

Music itself is heavenly and devotional music; divine. Bhajans are thus a complete surrender, expression of love and adoration to Him, through music, the language of the heart. It is said that when Purandara Dasa was barred from visiting the temple he started singing and called out the Lord’s name, in sheer grief and forced Lord Vishnu to appear through the wall. This place is today known as Paduranga Vitthala sthala. .

Meera Bai’s love for Krishna and her utter faith in Him and expression of love and adoration in her every waking moment crystallises in her soulful compositions, and also the many times she forced Krishna to save her, and come to her aide.

All the saints of yore attained salvation through any one method or practice followed to the end with sincerity and faith and complete surrender. Ramakrishna Parmahamsa went into a state of Samadhi merging with Goddess kali singing her name. Meera bai attained Samadhi with her beloved Krishna’s chant on her lips. Till Bhajans don’t come straight from the heart they go unheard by the Lord. Such should be the power of these Bhajans, they should be sung for Him, with Him in the heart and the soul rending music must reach Him and force Him to listen, appear and change the heart of the singer. The essence of the Bhajans must change the heart of the devotee and help him/her merge, surrender to Him, through the Bhajans. Then alone can Bhajans be said to be a Bhajans, songs of the soul, sung for Him.