Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Spiritual Calendar: March, 2017

5th March, 2017: Holashtak Begins



Holashtak

Holashtak witnesses the arrival of Holi. Looking at the literal meaning of Holashtak means eight days before Holi, that is Holashtak. Basically, we can see that holi is a festival of nine days instead of a single day. On the day of Dhulendi this festival comes to an end with colours and gulal.

6th March, 2017: Lathmar Holi in Shri Radha Rani’s Barsana


 Barsana's Lathmar Holi

Men from Nandgaon, the land of Krishna, arrive to play Holi with the women of Barsana and hope to raise their flag over Shri Kishori ji's temple. But, instead of colours they are greeted with sticks by the gopis. Thus Holi in Barsana is called Lathmaar Holi. The men are smart enough and come fully padded, knowing fully well that they will not be allowed to retaliate on this particular day. In this mock battle they try their best not to be captured. However,those who are unlucky are forcefully led away and get a thrashing from the women. Further, they are made to don a female attire and dance in public.


Lord Krishna Dancing Before the Gopis

 Renowned poets like Surdas, Nand-Das, Kumbhan-Das and others have beautifully described how Lord Krishna was forced to wear a sari and make-up, and dance before being set free by the gopis.

7th March, 2017: Lathmar Holi of Nandlala’s Nadgaon


 Lathmar Holi of Nandgaon

 The following day, the play of Holi manifests itself in Nandgaon, Krishna’s village. Men of Barsana retaliate by invading Nandgaon and drenching the women in colours of kesudo, naturally occurring orange-red dye, and palash. Whereas the women of Nandgaon reign supreme over the men of Barsana, beating the invaders in joyous abandon in yet another day of Lathmar Holi.But the beatings are much gentler, since Radha’s side remains the more powerful one during Holi.

Nandgram is the village of dark-hued Krishna's foster father, Shri Nandrai ji. Highly revered by Vaishnavas, the place invokes their devotional service. Bhaktimati Usha Bahenji says, “ Delightedly, Sri Krishna-Balram along with their sakhas daily go to graze cows, the wealth of their tiny village. Their mother splendidly decks the two brothers, packing chhak or their midday meal.”

10th March, 2017: Pradosh Vrata


 Lord Shiva

 Pradosh means dusk and this fast is kept for propitiating Lord Shiva. With his blessings one's desires are fulfilled and one attains spiritual enlightenment. Generally people observe the Pradosha Vrata on every trayodashi tithi (13th lunar day falling in Krishna and Shukla Pakshas) in the evening. Please offer plain water and bel patra to Lord Shiva. The bel patra or leaf of the wood-apple tree represents the three eyes of lord Shiva and the three gunas.

12th March, 2017:Holika Dahan


 Bhakta Prahlad is Safe During Holika Dahan

 Bonfires are lit on the eve of Dhulendi, on Holika Dahan. After this observance prayers are said and praise is offered. The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape of young Prahlad when demoness Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Holika was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu, escaped unhurt.

12th March Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Jayanti


 Shri Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

(1486-1533) the celebrated Vaishnava saint and mystic, and chief exponent of the Gaudiya Vasihnavism movement in eastern India. Theologians of his school claim that Chaitanya was fair-complexioned because he was Radha's incarnation, yet internally he was Krishna. Since Lord Gauranga appeared nearly 600 years ago on Phalgun Poornima, our own Saint Ushaji used to bow to Him in Vrindavan on every Holi.
 
He specifically worshipped the forms of Radha and Krishna and popularised the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha mantra. ISKCON established by Prabhupad ji is popularizing the famous Naam-sankirtan of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Hare Ram Hare Ram, Ram Ram Hare Hare
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare ||

12th March, 2017: Appearance Day of Shri Hari Baba


 Shri Hari Baba

The main attraction which drew everyone to Shri Maharaj, a saint of the early twentieth century was the bhakti bhava of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the propagation of sankirtan. Impressed by his strict discipline of self-denial and conscientious observance of sankalp, Bhaktimati Usha Bahenjii had once raved, "He was a such a great devotee that the earth was blessed, the era was honoured and followers were enlightened by his calibre. Several festivals of Vrindavan were graced by his presence."

12th March, 2017: Appearance Day of Shri Anand Dasji Baba of Vrindavan


 Shri Anand Dasji Baba

 Highly revered Shri Anand Das ji Baba, a great devotee of Lord Hanuman, was a close associate of Manohar Baba. His dedicate devotion is renowned the world over.

13th March, 2017: Dhulendi on Phalgun Purnima, Dol Utsav


 Holi is Played All Over the Country

 Holi celebrations peak in Vrindavan as well as in the temple of Bihariji. As per tradition, Bihariji does not play Holi on this day but merely watches the devotees playing Holi.

16th March, 2017: Sankashti Chaturthi


 Lord Ganesha

 Sankashti Chaturthi also known as Sankata Hara Chaturthi is an auspicious day dedicated to Lord Ganesha. This day is celebrated in every Lunar month or Hindu calendar month on the fourth day of Krishna Paksha (dark lunar phase or the waning phase). On this day, the devotees observe strict fast. They break the fast at night after having darshan/auspicious sight of the moon preceded by prayers to Lord Ganesha.

Sankashti means deliverance during troubled times, hence observing this fast is believed to reduce your problems as Lord Ganesha symbolizes the remover of all obstacles and supreme lord of intelligence.

Before moonlight the Ganapati Atharvashesha is recited to summon the blessings of Lord Ganesha. Each lunar month in Hindu calendar has two Chaturthi Tithis which belong to Lord Ganesha. The Chaturthi after Amavasya or new moon during Shukla Paksha is known as Vinayaka Chaturthi and the one after Puranmasi or full moon during Krishna Paksha is known as Sankashti Chaturthi.

20th March, 2017: Sheetala Ashtami


 Ma Sheetala

 Ma Sheetala is worshipped on Sheetala Ashtami. She is the goddess of small pox, who is always accompanied by Jwarasura. Devotees do not cook food in the house, they are prohibited to light the stoves. Food is cooked the before day and eaten on Sheetala Ashtami which is famous in North India.
 
23rd March, 2017: Celebrating Dharam Bahenji’s Birthday


 Dharam Bahenji

 Dharam Bahenji (2nd April, 1927 till 25th May, 2001) was a famed saint of Vrindavan who was born on 2nd April, 1927 and left for Golok (the abode of Lord Krishna) on 25th May, 2001.


 Giridhar ki Meera

 Right from the age of six Dharam Bahenji used to fluently chant the Bhagavad Gita and at the tender age of eleven wrote the renowned play 'Giridhar Ki Meera,' a beautiful composition on Meera, the bhakti poet-saint of Rajasthan.

She was a teacher in Delhi ( BA , Prabhakar ) but after meeting Saint Ushaji in 1950, she shifted to Ambala. This was pre-destined because the arrival of Sakha ji (a siddha from Golok) had become a regular practice from 1954 onwards.


 Saint Ushaji & Sushila Bahenji

Hence the trio of Ushaji-Susheelaji-Dharamji used to relish the lilas or playfull dalliances of Lord Krishna, as friends.

When Usha ji renounced the world for settling in Vrindavan on 17th November, 1959, Dharam ji joined her job in Delhi. In fact, her divine experiences with Thakurji reveal that a sort of Vallabhacharya -Tulsidas- Surdas Bhakti-Yuga was re-enacted in Bobo's era as well. When great devotees of Krishna are born they generally come together as a parikar or divine group so that the time on earth is not wasted in worldly affairs but spent in singing the glories of the Lord. For example we had Bhai Poddarji-Radha Baba-Sethji of Gorakhpur.

24th March, 2017: Pampochani Ekadashi Vrata


Lord Vishnu

Ekadashi is the Goddess that arose from Lord Vishnu to fight and defeat demon Mura. When she defeated the demon, Lord Vishnu was pleased.The fast of Papamochani Ekadashi expiates the sins of devotees. Literally paap means sin and mochani stands for the remover.

Papamochani Ekadasi is observed on Chaitra Krishna Paksha Ekadashi in the North Indian Calendar.This is the last of Ekadashi vratas of the Hindu Year. The legend of Papamochni Ekadasi is mentioned in the Bhavishya Uttara Purana as a conversation between Lord Krishna and Yudhishtira. Charity and fasting are important aspects of the vrata.

25th March, 2017: Shiva Pradosh Vrata


Lord Shiva

Pradosh means dusk and this fast is kept for propitiating Lord Shiva. With his blessings one's desires are fulfilled and one attains spiritual enlightenment. Generally people observe the Pradosha Vrata on every trayodashi tithi (13th lunar day falling in Krishna and Shukla Pakshas) in the evening. Please offer plain water and bel patra to Lord Shiva. The bel patra or leaf of the wood-apple tree represents the three eyes of lord Shiva and the three gunas.

28th March, 2017: Shradh Amavasya


 
New Moon Day

It is an indic name for the New Moon day which is the darkest day of the lunar cycle. People perform Shraddha and Tarpan rituals while some devotees observe a fast on this day.

28th March, 2017: Chaitra Navratris Begin


 
Goddess Durga

The Navratris begin and the new Panchang is read before Sri Banke Bihariji in Vrindavan.

As per astrological predictions there are two major solar influences each year. One is the Dakshinayana period when the Sun crosses the Equator moving towards the southern hemisphere, heralding the start of winter. The second is the Uttarayana period when the Sun crosses the Equator moving towards the northern hemisphere, indicating the onset of summer. These two periods are cited as the sacred time for worshipping the Mother Goddess and celebrating Navratras. Ram Navratris is celebrated in the Chaitra Month, and the Durga Navratri in the first nine days of the light half of the Ashvin Month.

29th March, 2017: Matsya Jayanti


Matsya Avatara

The appearance day of the Matsya Avatara of Lord Vishnu is observed on the third day of the waxing phase of the moon of Chaitra (March – April). Preserving all life forms in a boat during the deluge, the incarnation establishes the concept of Manus for each Great Yuga coupled with the task of recovering the lost Vedas.

There is only one temple in India dedicated to Lord Matsya – Nagalapuram Veda Narayana Swamy Temple near Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Matsya and the idol has the head and torso of Lord Vishnu and golden human-like feet.

31st March, 2017: Vinayak Chaturthi


Lord Ganesha 

The fast is kept to please Lord Ganesha. Ganesha is called Vighanharta and a puja begins with the worship of Lord Ganesha.

Each lunar month in the Hindu calendar has two Chaturthi Tithis which belong to Lord Ganesha as per the Hindu scriptures. The Chaturthi after Amavasya or new moon during Shukla Paksha is known as Vinayaka Chaturthi and the one after Puranmasi or full moon during Krishna Paksha is known as Sankashti Chaturthi.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Spiritual Calendar, February, 2017


1st February,2017: Basant Panchami


 Goddess Saraswati

 Basant Panchami is a Hindu festival celebrating Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music and art. It is celebrated every year on the panchami or fifth of Magh (January-February), the first day of spring. Traditionally during this festival children are taught to write their first words; brahmins are fed; ancestor worship (Pitr-tarpan) is performed; Kamdev, the god of love, is worshipped; and most educational institutions organise special prayers for Ma Saraswati.Notebooks, pencils and pens are kept at the Devi's feet for blessings and used by the students thereafter.



  Celebrating Basant Panchami with Joyous Abandon

 The colour yellow has an important role to play. People usually wear yellow garments, Ma Saraswati is dressed in yellow and worshipped with puja and havan, and yellow-hued sweets are relished and distributed amongst families.

The virtuous worship goddess Saraswati for spiritual enlightenment and the white swan of Saraswati stands for sattva or the quality of goodness.

Seasons undergo change and Basant Panchami heralds the arrival of spring.



Sprinkling of Gulal Starts in Vrindavan

 From Basant Panchami the sprinkling of gulal or red coloured powder starts in Braj-Vrindavan and continues up to Holi.In Braj this festival of colours is celebrated for a span of 41 days (foreword on Braj Bhoomi Mohini by Saint Ushaji).

 
 
Saint Usha ji's Yugal Sarkar

At Vrindavan our Sri Yugal Sarkar (the svarupas of Shri Radha-Krishna) are decked with mustard flowers specially brought from Sri Nandgaon and padas of Basant are joyously sung in the evening. 


Mustard Flowers

On Basant Panchami adorn your Thakurji or living presence of Lord Krishna with yellow or mustard flowers. Offer yellow rice (namkeen tahri/sweet pudding and halwa (including the one made of besan) or besan laddus to your Thakurji.
7th February, 2017: Jaya Ekadashi


Lord Vishnu

Jaya Ekadasi is on a Monday and is observed on the eleventh day of Shukla Paksha Magh.Though Magh is an auspicious month for propitiating Shiva, this Ekadasi is auspicious for Vishnu Puja. On this day, Lord Vishnu and Shiva are both worshipped. Keeping the Jaya Ekadasi Vrat gives devotees an opportunity to get rid of their sins and attain salvation.

The legend of Jaya Ekadasi Vrata is explained in the Padma Purana as a conversation between Lord Krishna and Yudhistira.
7th February, 2017: Bhishma Dwadashi


Bhishma Dwadashi

Bhishma Dwadasi, is observed on the 12th day in the month of Magha (January – February) during the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon). Bhisma Dwadasi is also known as Magh Shukla Dwadasi. It is widely believed that Pandavas performed the last rites of Bhishma, the son of King Shantanu and Ganga in Mahabharata, on this day.

It is popularly believed that Bhisma who was wounded and lying on a bed of arrows chose to leave the earth 58 days after the beginning of the Great War in Mahabharata. Bhishma was blessed with a boon that he could choose the day of his death. It is believed that he chose Magh Shukla Ashtami day to leave the earth and merge with Brahman.

On the Bhishma Dwadasi day, Pandavas performed the last rites of Bhishma Pitamah on the banks of Ganga.


There is a popular belief that offering Tarpan and Shradh on the day to ancestors is highly beneficial. Some people also perform Tarpan in the name of Bhishma as he had no children.

8th February, 2017: Pradosh Vrata


 Lord Shiva

 Pradosh means dusk and this fast is kept on the 13th day of each lunar fortnight for propitiating Lord Shiva. With his blessings all desires are fulfilled and one attains spiritual enlightenment. It is said that on this day all gods and goddesses assemble at Mount Kailash to worship Lord Shiva.

Worship of Shiva throughout the night, bathing the Shivalinga with panchamrta (milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey), homa, chanting the Mulamantra (Aum Nama Shivaya) and praying for forgiveness are the other religious observances. At the end of the vrata one must do parana (break the fast by partaking the offerings).

10th February, 2017: Maghi Purnima


Devotees Bathe at the Triveni in Allahabad

Magh Purnima is the full moon day in the month of Magh (January – February) during which the famous Kumbh Mela and annual Magh Mela take place at the Triveni Sangam in Prayag, Allahabad. Thousands of Hindu devotees converge to take a holy dip at the confluence of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati in Allahabad. It is an important day to bathe and for some Hindus, the last date of Magh Snana.

Please take a dip in the Ganges, Yamuna or any other sacred river. There will be a great rush at Goverdhan/Vrindavan and Kamad Giri at Chitrakoot for parikrama or circumambulation. It is believed that Vishwamitra II performed a ritual bath during the Kumbh Mela on a Magh Purnima in 2382 BCE. Maghi Purnima usually falls at the end of Magh and signals the end of the Kumbh Mela. Most Kalpvasis start their return journey from the Sangam on this day.

12th February, 2017: Saint Usha ji’s Punya Tithi


Saint Usha Bahenji

Fondly Known as Bobo Her death anniversary will be observed at Gaura Nagar Colony, Vrindavan. Born on 30th July,1925, Usha Bahenji gained entry into Gauloka (where Lord Krishna forever dwells) in 1992 after Basant Panchami but before Sri Shivratari. In this way both the festivals were unaffected, a truly sublime happening!

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu & Swami Ramakrishna Paramhansa were secular saints of India and inspired Saint Usha ji fondly known as Bobo. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu embraced Haridasji, a Muslim whereas Swami Ramakrishna Paramhansa though a great devotee of goddess Kali, actually practised Islam and Christianity for some months.

14th February, 2017: Angarki Chaturthi

Lord Ganesha

 Sankashti Chaturthi also known as Sankata Hara Chaturthi is an auspicious day dedicated to Lord Ganesha. This day is celebrated in every Lunar month or Hindu calendar month on the fourth day of Krishna Paksha (dark lunar phase or the waning phase). On this day, the devotees observe strict fast. They break the fast at night after having darshan/auspicious sight of the moon preceded by prayers to Lord Ganesha.

Sankashti means deliverance during troubled times, hence observing this fast is believed to reduce your problems as Lord Ganesha symbolizes the remover of all obstacles and supreme lord of intelligence.

Before moonlight the Ganapati Atharvashesha is recited to summon the blessings of Lord Ganesha. Each lunar month in Hindu calendar has two Chaturthi Tithis which belong to Lord Ganesha. The Chaturthi after Amavasya or new moon during Shukla Paksha is known as Vinayaka Chaturthi and the one after Puranmasi or full moon during Krishna Paksha is known as Sankashti Chaturthi.

If Sankashti Chaturthi falls on Tuesday it is called Angarki Chaturthi and it is considered highly auspicious. Sankashti Chaturthi fast is mostly observed in Western and Southern India especially in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
18th February, 2017: Shri Janaki Jayanti/Sita Ashtami


Sita Ashtami, or Janaki Janma, is believed to be the day when Mata Sita appeared on earth as per traditional calendar and Panchangs followed in North India. Sita Ashtami is observed on the eighth day of the Krishna Paksha (waning phase of moon) of the Phalguna month (February – March). Mata Sita is an embodiment of purity and wifely devotion and the consort of Shri Ram in the Ramayana.


Ma Sita

Ma Sita was adopted by King Janaka when he found her as he was ploughing his field.
22nd February, 2017: Vijaya Ekadashi Vrat


Lord Brahma & Narada

It is observed during the Krishna Paksha of the Phalgun Month as per the North Indian calendar. Those who observe this Ekadasi are said to triumph. This fact is highlighted in the Skanda Purana and narrated by Lord Brahma to Sage Narada.


 Lord Rama Wanting to Cross the Ocean

Legend has it that Lord Rama and His army comprising of monkeys and bears was searching for a means to cross the ocean to reach Lanka.That is when Lakshman spoke of a great Saint living nearby, who could provide them with a solution. It is this sage who raved about Vijaya Ekadasi and said that observing it would make Lord Rama victorious.

24th February, 2017: Maha Shivratri


Maha Shivratri

 Maha Shivratri, the night of the worship of Shiva is celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day of the krishna paksha or waning phase of the moon in Phalgun. Along with keeping a fast, cold water and bel patra (leaves of the wood apple tree) are offered to the lingam during the day. The festival is celebrated by traditional offerings such as bathing Shiva in milk, panchamruta (milk,curd,ghee,sugar and honey [the symbols of sustenance]), in quick succession; or anointing the lingam with vermilion (kumkum), white consecrated rice and askshata, (symbols of fertility or creation), when Shiva is worshipped as the god of dissolution.

The three principal reasons for Shivratri are: 


Sadashiv, the Cosmic Form of Shiva

 1] Sadashiv, the cosmic form of Lord Shiva, appeared as 'Lingodbhav Moorti' precisely at midnight on Maha Shivratri. That is why all Shiva devotees keep vigil during the night of Shivratri and do abhishek of the Shivalingam (the form in which Shiva is worshipped). It is the night when Shiva performed the tandava nritya or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction.

Lord Vishnu is Born as Krishna

 It is believed that Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Krishna, was born in Gokul in the middle of the night on Janamashtami, 180 days after Shivratri. Amazingly the circle of one year is divided into two by the festivities of Shivratri and Janamashtami. Marriage of Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati 


Lord Shiva Married Goddess Parvati

2] Lord Shiva was married to Goddess Parvati on Shivratri. Shiva without Parvati is an absolute 'Nirgun Brahman' (formless static God), whereas with Parvati, or purna-shakti, the most complete form of divine feminine energy, He becomes the 'Sagun Brahman' for His dedicated devotees.  

Shiva Became Neelkantham

 3] On Shivratri, Lord Shiva became 'Neelkantham' or the blue-throated one by swallowing the deadly poison, halahala, that came up when the devas and asuras churned the sea to obtain the nectar of immortality. Even a drop of the poison would have annihilated the entire world but Shiva held it in His neck, which turned blue with its impact.Ever since Shivratri is celebrated as a day of thanksgiving to the Lord for protecting us from destruction.


 The Yugal Sarkar

 At highly revered saint Sushila Bahinji's Gaura Colony the festival is celebrated with Thakurji.

26th February, 2017: Phalgun Amavasya


 Day of the New Moon

 Amavasya is the day of conjunction of the sun and moon, on the fifteenth day of the dark half of a lunar month. Amavasya or the new moon, is the last day of the waning moon.

28th February, 2017: Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Jayanti

Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

 Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was born on 18th Feb 1836 in West Bengal in Kamarpukur, some 70 miles from Calcutta. Later Swami Vivekananda, Brahamanada and others became his disciples and set up Ramakrishna Missions, Ramakrishna Maths and hospitals all over India and the world. He lived in this mundane world for 50 years and worshipped Goddess Kali. Swami Ramakrishna also practised Christianity and Muslim rituals to endorse that all religions lead to one God if one is sincerely unbiased, in his commitments. 

A great saint inspired by Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa to  renounce this world was Sri Sri Balkrishan Dasji Maharaj of Vrindavan. He had experienced the highest ideal of religious rapture by relishing Shri Radha-Krishna's madhurya or sweet romance.