Antyesti (Funeral Rites)

Antyesti means “last sacrifice”, and refers to the funeral rites for the dead in Hinduism. This rite of passage is one of traditional Saṃskāras in the life of a Hindu. It is also referred to as Antima SanskarAntya-kriyaAnvarohanyya, or as Vahni Sanskara.

The details of the Antyesti ceremony depends on the region, caste, gender and age of the dead.

The Antyesti rite of passage is structured around the premise in ancient literature of Hinduism that the microcosm of all living beings is a reflection of a macrocosm of the universe. The soul is the essence and immortal that is released at the Antyeshti ritual, but both the body and the universe are vehicles and transitory in various schools of Hinduism. The human body and the universe consist of five elements in Hindu texts – air, water, fire, earth and space. The last rite of passage returns the body to the five elements and its origins. The roots of this belief are found in the Vedas.

 

Traditional practices

The last rites are usually completed within a day of death. While practices vary among sects, generally, his or her body is washed, wrapped in white cloth, if the dead is a man or a widow, or red cloth, if it is a woman whose husband is still alive, the big toes are tied together with a string and a Tilak (red, yellow or white mark) is placed on the forehead. The dead adult’s body is carried to the cremation ground near a river or water, by family and friends, and placed on a pyre with feet facing south.

The eldest son, or a male mourner, or a priest – called the lead cremator or lead mourner – then bathes himself before leading the cremation ceremony. He circumambulates the dry wood pyre with the body, says a eulogy or recites a hymn, places sesame seeds or rice in the dead person’s mouth, sprinkles the body and the pyre with ghee (clarified butter), then draws three lines signifying Lord Yama (Lord of the Dead), Lord Kaala (Lord of Time & Cremation) and the dead spirits. Prior to lighting the pyre, an earthen pot is filled with water, and the lead mourner circles the body with it, before lobbing the pot over his shoulder so it breaks near the head. Once the pyre is ablaze, the lead mourner and the closest relatives may circumambulate the burning pyre one or more times. The ceremony is concluded by the lead cremator, during the ritual, is kapala kriya, or the ritual of piercing the burning skull with a stave (bamboo fire poker) to make a hole or break it, in order to release the spirit.

All those who attend the cremation, and are exposed to the dead body or cremation smoke take a shower as soon as possible after the cremation, as the cremation ritual is considered unclean and polluting. The cold collected ash from the cremation is later consecrated to the nearest river or sea.

In some regions, the male relatives of the deceased shave their head and invite all friends and relatives, on the tenth or twelfth day, to eat a simple meal together in remembrance of the deceased. This day, in some communities, also marks a day when the poor and needy are offered food in memory of the dead.

Cremation ground

The cremation ground is called Shmashana in Sanskrit, and traditionally it is located near a river, if not on the river bank itself. Those who can afford it may go to special sacred places like Kashi (Varanasi), Haridwar, Allahabad, Sri Rangam  and Rameswaram to complete this rite of immersion of ashes into water.

 

Modern practices

Both manual bamboo wood pyres and electric cremation are used for Hindu cremations. For the latter, the body is kept on a bamboo frame on rails near the door of the electric chamber. After cremation, the mourner collect the ashes and consecrate it to a water body, such as a river or sea.

Shaving the male relatives of the deceased or even the lead mourner are no longer necessary. As time moves on, certain practices are deemed unnecessary to be continued, showing that our faith is now transitioning itself into a religion that has practicality, freedom and leniency imbued within.

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A Blessing From The Gods

O’ gods
May you hear me
And grant these gifts
Upon myself!

Shivan! Our Father, may you grant me much wisdom and prowess!
Shakti! Great Mother, may you grant me encompassing love and patience!
Karthikhey! Great Warlord, may you grant me immeasurable strength!
Ganesh! Obstacles Remover, may you grant me immense intellect!
Hanuman! Loyal Lord, may you grant me well endurance!

Lakshmi! Wealth Provider, may you grant me enough to survive and donate!
Vishnu! Great Preserver, may you grant me skills to protect the weak!
Kaal Bhairav! Merciless Lord, may you grant me merciless determination and good times!
Brahma! Creator, may you grant me talents!
Saraswathi! Knowledge Provider, may you grant me great thirst for knowledge!

Shani! Supreme Judge of deeds, may you grant me secure days ahead!
Kama! Lustful Propagator, may you grant him intimate prowess!
Parashuram! Wrathful Avenger, may you grant me expert efficiency!

Hail, my gods! Hail, my goddesses!
May you watch over me and all humanity
See me come to no harm
And grant me, your blessings!

Om!

Geetha Upadesha

Whatever has happened, has happened for good…

Whatever is happening is also for good…

whatever will happen, shall also be good…

What have you lost that you cry for?

What did you bring, that you have lost?

What did you create that was destroyed?

What you have taken, Has been from here…

What you gave has been given here….

What belongs to you today,

belonged to someone yesterday and will be someone else´s tomorrow…

Change is the law of The Universe.

The Bhagavadgita

15 Facts of Lord Bhairava

Lord Bhairava (Sanskrit for “frightful”) is a Hindu deity, a fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva associated with annihilation. Lord Bhairava originated in Hindu legends and is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike. He is worshiped throughout India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Facts:

  1. Lord Bhairava is the wandering form of Lord Shiva and they guard the cardinal points.
  2. There are 64 Bhairavas in total. These 64 Bhairavas are grouped under 8 categories and each category is headed by one major Bhairava called Kala Bhairava, who is the supreme ruler of time of this universe as per Hindu scriptures.
  3. Goddess Bhairavi is the consort of Kala Bhairava.
  4. In all Hindu temples, there will be a Lord Bhairava idol. Bhairava is the protector of temples. In Lord Shiva temples, when the temple is closed, the keys are placed before Lord Bhairava.
  5. Bhairava is also described as the protector of women. He is described as the protector of the timid and in general women who are timid in nature.
  6. Lord Bhairava protects his devotees from dreadful enemies, greed, lust and anger. Bhairava protects his devotees from these enemies. These enemies are dangerous as they never allow us to seek God within.
  7. Normally in Lord Shiva temples, idols of Lord Bhairava are situated in the north facing, southern facing direction.  He appears in a standing position with four hands.
  8. His weapons are drum, a noose, trident and skull.
  9. In some forms of Bhairava, there are more than four hands. He appears without dress and with a dog. His weapons, dog, protruding teeth, terrifying looks, garland with red flowers all these give him frightening appearance.
  10. Lord Bhairava likes red flowers, ghee lamp, unbroken coconut, honey, boiled food, fibrous fruits etc.
  11. If a Bhairava idol is facing west, it is good; facing south is moderate; facing east is not good.
  12. The right time to pray to Lord Bhairava is midnight. The most appropriate time is Friday midnight.
  13. Worshiping him destroys enemies. It is also generally believed that worshiping Lord Bhairava gives prosperity, success and good progeny, prevents premature death and solution to debts and liabilities.
  14. Kala Bhairava is conceptualized as the Guru of the planetary deity, Lord Shani (Saturn).
  15. Lord Bhairava is the main deity worshiped by the Aghora sect / Aghoris.

Lord Bhairava

Lord Ganesha’s Attributes

Remover of Obstacles

Lord Ganesha is the Lord of Obstacles, both of a material and spiritual order. He is popularly worshiped as a remover of obstacles, though traditionally he also places obstacles in the path of those who need to be checked. His task in the divine scheme of things, is to place and remove obstacles. It is his particular territory, the reason for his creation.

 

Buddhi (Knowledge)

Lord Ganesha is considered to be the Lord of letters and learning. In Sanskrit, the word buddhi is a feminine noun that is variously translated as intelligence, wisdom, or intellect. The concept of buddhi is closely associated with the personality of Lord Ganesha, especially in the Puranic period, when many stories stress his cleverness and love of intelligence.

 

Aum

Lord Ganesha is identified with the Hindu mantra Aum, also spelled Om. The term oṃkarasvarupa (Aum is his form), when identified with Lord Ganesha, refers to the notion that he personifies the primal sound.

 

First chakra

According to Kundalini yoga, Lord Ganesha resides in the first chakra, called Muladhara. Mula means “original, main”; adhara means “base, foundation”. The muladhara chakra is the principle on which the manifestation or outward expansion of primordial Divine Force rests. Lord Ganesha has a permanent abode in every being at the Muladhara. Lord Ganesha holds, supports and guides all other chakras, thereby “governing the forces that propel the wheel of life”.

Animal Sacrifice in Hinduism

Practices of Hindu animal sacrifice are mostly associated with Shaktism, and in currents of folk Hinduism strongly rooted in local tribal traditions. Animal sacrifices were carried out in ancient times in India. Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, and some Puranas forbid animal sacrifice.

 

Practice

It is a ritual that is practiced today and is mentioned in Medieval Hinduism too. It is important to note that the practice of animal sacrifice is not a required ritual in some sects of Hinduism. The majority of practicing Hindus today choose not to participate in or acknowledge the practice.

Methods for sacrificing range from decapitation, strangulation, to a spike being driven into the heart of the animal.

 

Hindu Mythology

The Ashvamedha ritual – in which a horse is sacrificed – is mentioned in the Vedic texts such as the Yajurveda. In the epic Ramayana, Lord Ram performed the Ashvamedha sacrifice for becoming the Chakravartin Emperor. In the epic Mahabharata, Lord Yudhishtra performs the Ashwamedha after winning the Kurukshetra war to become the Chakravartin Emperor. The Mahabharata also contains a description of an Ashvamedha performed by the Chedi King Uparichara Vasu, however, no animals were sacrificed. The rulers of the Gupta empire, the Chalukya dynasty, and the Chola dynasty all performed the Ashvamedha.

Agnisomiya was the simplest of all Soma sacrifices in which animal sacrifice played an important part; it required that a goat be sacrificed to Lord Agni and Lord Soma preceding the day of offering of nectar to the gods. These rituals didn’t focus on the killing of the animal but as a symbol to the powers it was sacrificed.

In the Bhagavad Purana, Lord Krishna tells people not to perform animal sacrifices. Animal sacrifices are forbidden by the Bhagavad Purana in the Kaliyuga, the present age.

 

Animal Sacrifice in Contemporary Hindu Society

Animal sacrifice is a part of some Goddess Durga puja celebrations during the Navratri in eastern states of India. The Goddess is offered sacrificial animal in this ritual in the belief that it stimulates her violent vengeance against the buffalo demon.

The Rajput of Rajasthan worship their weapons and horses on Navratri, and formerly offered a sacrifice of a goat to a goddess revered as Goddess Kuldevi – a practice that continues in some places. The ritual requires slaying of the animal with a single stroke. In the past this ritual was considered a rite of passage into manhood and readiness as a warrior.

The tradition of animal sacrifice is being substituted with vegetarian offerings to the Goddess in temples and households around Banaras in Northern India.

Animal Sacrifice is practiced by Shaktism tradition where ritual offering is made to a Devi/Goddess in Southern Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. It is most notably performed in front of Local Deities or Clan Deities.

In some sacred groves of India, particularly in Western Maharashtra, animal sacrifice is practiced to pacify female deities that are supposed to rule the groves. Animal sacrifice is also practiced by caste Hindus to placate deities at temples. The goddess temples in Assam and West Bengal in India and Nepal where this takes place involves slaying of goats, chickens and sometimes male Water buffaloes.

Animal sacrifice is practiced in some Eastern states of India and Nepal. For example, one of the largest animal sacrifice in Nepal occurs over the three-day-long Gadhimai festival. In 2009 it was speculated that more than 250,000 animals were killed while 5 million devotees attended the festival.

Indian Hindu devotees watch as a buffalo is beheaded by Hindu priests at Goddess Durga temple in Cooch Behar town on the occasion of the Durga Puja festival. The sacrifice of live animals is performed to appease the Goddess Durga and to shower blessings on the community, despite protests from animal rights groups.

Arjun’s Penance to Lord Shiva

Mount Indrakila, in the mighty Himalayas, was a tranquil abode to many sages who conducted prayers and performed severe penances the gods.

One day, the sages saw a stranger walking towards their abode. They noticed that even though the stranger was wearing sage’s saffron clothes, he looked nothing like one. He was tall, well-built and was carrying weapons. On seeing the golden hilt of the sword, they recognized the stranger to be the Pandava prince, Arjun.

One of the sages whispered, “The Pandavas were banished from their kingdom, after losing a game of dice with Duryodhan. But what is Prince Arjun doing here?”

Arjun walked silently to a secluded spot and sat down to make a Shiva linga from mud to perform severe penances to Lord Shiva. He didn’t stop his penance for anything. After a few months, the earth around him was unable to bear the heat of his penance and started emanating black smoke around him. The smoke spread throughout Mount Indrakila, and the sages fled to Mount Kailash.

They approached Lord Shiva, who was sitting beside Goddess Parvati, and pleaded to intervene. Lord Shiva smiled and replied, “Please go back to Mount Indrakila. I will resolve your problem.”

After the sages left, Lord Shiva could see doubts clouding the Goddess Parvati’s’ face. He asked her, “What is troubling you? Don’t hesitate to ask.”

Goddess Parvati asked him, “Why is Arjun performing such severe penance?” He replied, “Because he wants blessed weapons for the impending war.” She still had her doubts and asked, “Do you believe that he will use the weapons wisely?” “Well, we will have to find that out,” he replied.

Lord Shiva told her about his plan to test Arjun. He disguised himself as a Kirata Chief (Kirata is a clan of mountain dwellers), and asked Goddess Parvati and some of his followers to dress up as Kirata women.

When they were nearing Mount Indrakila, Goddess Parvati pointed at a wild boar at some distance and said, “That does not look like an ordinary boar.” Lord Shiva looked at it and said, “You are right. That looks like the Asura, Muka. He seems to heading towards the sages to disrupt their prayers.”

Lord Shiva took an aim at the demon with his bow and arrow, but the demon sensed the presence of Lord Shiva and fled. Lord Shiva chased him to the sage’s abode, and as soon as the sages saw the boar charging towards them they started running, screaming for help.

Muka ran to the spot where Arjun was performing his penance. Arjun sensed the boar’s presence and opened his eyes. He took up his bow and arrow to kill it. When Lord Shiva also reached the spot, he said, “Stop! That is my prey. You cannot kill it.” Arjun was not able to recognize Lord Shiva in disguise and replied, “I will not put down my bow. If you are a true hunter take your aim and kill it.”

Both shot their arrows at the boar. As soon as arrows pierced, the animal resumed its original demonic self and died. The Kirata women watching the demon fall down to his death, started dancing and celebrating.

But it was not clear who had struck the boar first, and neither party was ready to concede defeat. The Kirata women argued, “He is lying, O chief! You killed the boar before him.” Arjun did not like to be insulted so challenged the Kirata chief for a duel.

Soon, arrows started flying between Arjun and Lord Shiva. They hurled their best arrows at each other, but neither of them was hurt. Suddenly, Arjun realized that his quiver of arrows was empty. Lord Shiva smiled at him and offered, “You can borrow some arrows from me.” Hearing this, the Kirata women started mocking Arjun.

Arjun angrily threw his bow at the hunter, who caught it, tore the string and flung it away. Not able to control his anger, Arjun took his sword, and charged him with all his might. The sword dissolved into flowers as it struck the hunter. Everyone was surprised to see the miracle, and the Kirata women cheered their chief.

Refusing to lose, Arjun picked up a tree with his bare hands and hurled it at the hunter, who dodged it easily. Unable to concede defeat, he decided to pray to Lord Shiva for strength. He sat down in front of the linga and started chanting “Om Namaah Shivaya” and placed a garland on the linga.

Soon, he felt strength infuse his body. Happy that his prayers had been heard, he turned towards the Kirata hunter and said, “Lord Shiva had blessed me with strength. Come, let’s see who wins now.” But then, he saw the linga was placed next to where the hunter was standing.

When Arjun realized that the Kirata chief was none other than Lord Shiva in disguise, he bowed in front of him and said, “Please pardon me, Lord. I didn’t know who I was fighting.” Lord Shiva replied, “O valiant prince, you have appeased me with your devotion. I grant you this Pashupata, the blessed arrow to aid you in your war.”

Years later, during Mahabharata, Arjun used the Pashupata arrow to defeat Karna.

Lord Shiva’s gift to Arjun

Lord Shiva & Mohini

Mohini is the only female avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu. She is portrayed as an enchantress, who maddens lovers, sometimes leading them to their doom. Many different legends tell of her various exploits and marriages, including union with Lord Shiva.

Mohini also has an active history in the destruction of demons throughout Hindu texts. In the Vishnu Purana, Mohini defeats Bhasmasura, the “ash-demon”. Bhasmasura invokes God Shiva by performing severe penances. Lord Shiva, pleased with Bhasmasura, grants him the power to turn anyone into ashes by touching their head. The demon decides to try the power on Lord Shiva himself. Shiva runs terrified. Lord Vishnu, witnessing the unfortunate turn of events, transforms into Mohini and charms Bhasmasura. Bhasmasura is so taken by Mohini that he asks her to marry him. Mohini agrees, but only on the condition that Bhasmasura follows her move for move in a dance. In the course of the dance, she places her hand on her head. Bhasmasura mimics the action, and in turn, reduces himself to ashes.

After Lord Vishnu deceives the demons by his female form, Lord Shiva wishes to see the bewildering Mohini again. When Vishnu agrees and reveals his Mohini form, Lord Shiva runs crazily behind Mohini, while the abandoned wife Goddess Parvati looks on in shame and envy. Lord Shiva is overcome by Kama (love and desire).

Lord Shiva grabs Mohini’s hand and embraces her, but Mohini frees herself and runs further. Finally, Lord Shiva grabs her and their “violent coupling” leads to discharge of Lord Shiva’s seed. Lord Shiva impregnates Mohini, who gives birth to Lord Ayyappa. They abandon Ayyappa in shame.

The legend highlights Vishnu’s protests to be Mohini again and also notes that Ayyappa is born of Vishnu’s thigh as Mohini does not have a real womb. Another variant says that instead of a biological origin, Lord Ayyappa sprang from Shiva’s semen, which he ejaculated upon embracing Mohini. Lord Ayyappa is referred to as Hariharaputra, “the son of Vishnu (Hari) and Shiva (Hara)”, and grows up to be a great hero.

Lord Shiva chases after Mohini

Lord Shiva chases after Mohini

Brahmacharya and It’s Virtues

Introduction of Brahmacharya

Brahmacharya literally means “going after Brahman (Supreme Reality, Self or God)”. In one context, Brahmacharya is the first of four Ashrama (age-based stages) of a human life, with Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (forest dweller) and Sannyasa (renunciation) being the other three Ashramas.

The Brahmacharya (bachelor) stage of one’s life, up to 25 years of age, was focused on education and included the practice of celibacy. In this context, it connotes chastity during the student stage of life for the purposes of learning from a Guru (teacher), and during later stages of life for the purposes of attaining Moksha (spiritual liberation).

In another context, Brahmacharya is the virtue of celibacy when unmarried and fidelity when married. It represents a virtuous lifestyle that also includes simple living, meditation and other behaviors. In the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist monastic traditions, Brahmacharya implies, among other things, the mandatory renunciation of sex and marriage. It is considered necessary for a monk’s spiritual practice. Western notions of the religious life as practiced in monastic settings mirror these characteristics.

 

Brahmacharya as a Virtue

Brahmacharya is a form of self-restraint which is regarded as a virtue. For a married practitioner it means marital fidelity (not cheating on one’s spouse). For a single person it means celibacy.

It is known that the virtue of Brahmacharya leads to the profit of Virya. This Sanskrit word, Virya, has been variously translated as virility and, by Vyasa, as strength and capacity. Vyasa explains that this virtue promotes other good qualities. Other ancient and medieval era texts of Hinduism describe the fruits of this virtue differently. Many great sages explained that Brahmacharya must be understood as the voluntary restraint of power.

Within the Upanishad’s verses there are mentions of Brahmacharya as a sacrament and sacrifice which, once perfected, leads to realization of the soul or Self (Atman), and thereafter becomes the habit of experiencing the soul in others. It is believed that Brahmacharya leads to the increase in Jnana-Shakti (power of knowledge) and Kriya-Shakti (power of action).

The great epic Mahabharata describes the objective of Brahmacharya as knowledge of Brahman. Brahmacharya leads one to union with the Supreme Soul or Self. By subduing desire, the practice of self-restraint enables the student to learn, pay attention in thought, word and deed to the Guru (teacher), and discover the truth embodied in the Vedas and Upanishads.

According to the epic, the practice of studying and learning requires the “aid of time,” as well as personal effort, ability, discussion, and practice, all of which are helped by the virtue of Brahmacharya. A Brahmacharya should do useful work, and the earnings he obtains should be given away as Dakshina (“fee,” “gift of thanks”) to the Guru. The epic declares that Brahmacharya is an essential part of the path in perfecting perseverance and the pursuit of knowledge.

Lord Chitragupta

Lord Chitragupta

Lord Chitragupta

Lord Chitragupta is a deity that is responsible with the task of keeping records of actions and deeds committed by humans on earth. Based on their actions on earth, Lord Chitragupta will have to decide for humans to either enter heaven or hell upon their death. Chitragupta is the son of Lord Brahma, The Lord of Creation.

According to a popular tale in the birth of Lord Chitragupta, when Lord Brahma gave the land of the dead towards Lord Yama, the Lord of death, Lord Yama would constantly get confused when the souls of the dead arrived to him and he would at times send the wrong souls to heaven and hell. Lord Brahma instructed Lord Yama to keep better track of the humans but Lord Yama argued that he could not possibly keep track of the innumerable amount of people within earth so he could decide to place them in heaven or hell once they are dead. In order to solve this issue, Lord Brahma decided to meditate for many thousands of years. Finally, once he opened his eyes, a man stood before him holding a pen and a paper in his hands.

Lord Chitragupta is sometimes known as the first man to use alphabets. He is known to be incredibly meticulous, and with his pen and paper he tracks down every action of every sentient life form, building up a database and record of them over the course of their life so that when they die the destination and fate of their soul can be easily decided.

Items associated with Lord Chitragupta are the paper and pen, ink, honey, betel nut, matches, mustard, sugar and sandalwood. A prayer is often performed to Chitragupta in reverence of the four virtues he is seen to embody: justice, peace, literacy, and knowledge. Part of the Chitragupta prayer also includes writing down how much money you make in your household, and how much you need to make to survive in the following year, while making offerings of turmeric, flowers, and vermilion.

MantraOṃ Shri Chitraguptaay Namaḥ