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The Essence of Puranas – Agni Purana -1

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The Essence of Puranas – Agni Purana

1      Invocation

Shriyam Sarasvateem Gaureem Ganesham Skandameeshvaram,

Brahmaanam Vaahnimindraadeen Vasudemam nammamyaham/                                                                    

(My greetings to Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Gauri, Parvati, Ganesh, Kartikeya, and Vasudeva)

Stated to have been recited by ‘Agni’ (The Fire God) to the illustrious Sage Vasishtha, Agni Purana is among the renowned Eighteen Sacred Puranas of Hindu Belief. In turn, Vasishtha narrated the contents to Vedavyasa, who passed on the same to the learned Suta Maha Muni. As a Sacred Yagna (Ritualistic Sacrifice) dedicated to Lord Vishnu was being performed at the ‘Nimisharanya’ (Nimisha Forest) under the guidance of ‘Shaunaka’, Suta Maha Muni arrived at the Yagna and preached the Agni Purana, which taught the Essence of Parama Brahma Tatwa to all the Rishis who were assembled there and further on to the Gen Next.

‘Agni Purana’ is the essence of Vedas and Upanishads. It underlines the concept of ‘Advaita Brahma Gyan’ (Awareness of Unity of Almighty and the Self). In other words, Human Soul and the Supreme Power are one and the same. Also, the Purana emphasizes on the ritualistic aspects and religious practices related to temples, installation of idols, idol worship, ‘Japas’ (repetitive recitation of ‘Mantras’), ‘Homams’ and ‘Yagnas’, visits to ‘Thirthas’ (Holy Places including Rivers, Worship Spots and ‘Ashrams’ (places where Religious Leaders and Godmen seek retreat,) and so on. Spread over some 383 chapters over twelve thousand “Shlokas’, Agni Purana contains the gists of the Ten Avatars/ Incarnations of Lord Vishnu viz. ‘Matsya’, (Fish), ‘Kurma’ (Turtle), ‘Varaha’ (Boar), ‘Narasimha’ (Man/Lion), ‘Vamana’ (Dwarf), ‘Parasurama’, ‘Rama’, ‘Krishna’, ‘Buddha’ and Kalki. It also gives a detailed account of the Great Hindu Epics of ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Maha Bharata’ as also of ‘Harivamsa’.There are references in the Purana to Physical Features of World, Varnashrama and Ashrama Dharma, Temple Construction, Procedure of Pujas, Achaara Varnana,  Tirtha Mahatmya, Power of Gayatri Mantra, Yoga Practice, Vedas and Puranas, Dhanurveda and Principles of Battle, Duties of Kings, ‘Brahma Gyan’, Bhagavat Gita and Yama ‘Gita’. Shri Lakshmi Stotra, Vishnu Panjara Stotra and Paapa Naasha Stora are other highlights. Being the Preserver of the Universe, Lord Vishnu takes to human form on earth occasionally whenever an evil force takes an extreme presence to upset the equilibrium of human existence and destroys the evil to re-establish and vindicate righteousness. The Lord had already taken to nine such ‘Avatars’ (incarnations) and the Tenth is in the offing as the Contemporary ‘Yuga’ (the fourth and final cycle of Time viz. ‘Kali’ Yuga, preceded by ‘Dwapara’ Yuga, ‘Tretha’ Yuga and ‘Kritha’ Yuga)) would be terminated

2      ‘Dashaavataaras’ (The Ten Incarnations)

Matsya Avatara: As the Universe time drew near to Final Destruction including the ‘Bhulok’ (Earth), ‘Swarglok’ (Heaven) and ‘Bhuvarlok’ (intermediate Region), it was flooded with water. As ‘Vaivaswata Manu’ (son of Surya) was in prayers in River ‘Kirtimala’; he found a tiny fish in the water on his palms which begged him not to throw it as big fish might swallow it. Manu kept it in a pot, but soon the fish grew big  to occupy the ocean and asked him to build a mammoth Ship and transfer ‘Sapta Rishis’ (Seven Sages) and a sample each of flora and fauna. Vihnu in the form Matsya declared that the Universe would be flooded soon, that the ship would be saved along with Manu and others, that He would destroy demon ‘Hayagriva’ and re-create the Universe.           

         Kurma Avatara:As ‘Asuras’ (Demons) and ‘Suras’ (Devas) were on fierce battle for long time, Lord ‘Brahma’ (The Creator) and Lord ‘Vishnu’ (The Preserver) arrived a  truce between the two parties who churned ‘Kshira Sagar’ (the Ocean of Milk) to attain ‘Amrita’ ( Elixir). The mountain ‘Mandara’ was commisioned as a rod for the churning and ‘Vasuki’, the Great Serpent as the rope. Demons grabbed the face of ‘Vasuki’ out of pride and many perished due to the poisonous flames from its several mouths, whereas Devas preferred to opt for the tail of the Serpent out of veneration for Vasuki. Since the Mountain could not be balanced in the Ocean, Lord Vishnu took the form of a Turtle (Kurma) and withstood the weight and speed of the churning. In the course of churning, came out a colossal poisonous fire, named ‘Kalakuta’, which engulfed the whole Universe. Lord ‘Eswara’ swallowed the Great Fire and kept it in His Throat and thus came to be known as ‘Neelagriva’ (The Blue Throated). Eventually, a number of Objects emerged as a result of the churning but the Demons rejected them all as they were only bent on ‘Amritha’ and none else. Among the Objects were: ‘Sura’ (The Divine Drink), ‘Parijata’ the Tree bringing heavenly fragrance by its flowers since opted by Indra for his Garden; ‘Koustubha’ the Holy Jewel adorning Lord Vishnu’s chest, the Celestial Animals viz. ‘Kapila’ the Sacred Cow, ‘Uttchaiswarya’ the Divine Horse and ‘Iravata’ the Elephant used by  Indra; ‘Apsaras’, the Heavenly Dancers; Lakshmi ther Goddess of Wealth, who preferred to be the Consort of Lord Vishnu and finally emerged ‘Dhanvantari’- the God of Medicine, along with the most awaited ‘Amritha’, which was sought to be grabbed by Demons and Gods alike. To sort out the confusion, there appeared a dazzling damsel ‘Mohini’ (The Unique Enchantress)-who was Lord Vishnu Himself-and both Suras and Asuras accepted her as an arbitrator and ‘just’ distributor of Amritha. Mohini made both the parties wait for their turn and served Devas first and declared that the stock of Amritha was all consumed and disappointed the Demons. One of the Demons, Rahu- pretended to be the Moon God and consumed Amrita; on conceding the protests of Sun and Moon, Mohini cut his head. But since he managed to take sips of the Life-giving Drink, Rahu  survived and in fact managed to secure a boon that  he could devour both Sun and Moon and hence the Solar and Lunar Eclipses. As a result of the drama Demons were defeated and Devas retained power in Heaven thus vindicating the Divine Position of Devas.  

 Varaha Avatar: Sage Kashyapa and his wife Diti gave birth to ‘Hiranyaksha’, who in turn pleased Lord Brahma, and managed a boon that no force on Earth could destroy him in battles. He conquered all the three worlds, viz. the Earth, Heaven and the Under-World. In fact, he dragged Earth into the depths of the Ocean and there was complete chaos in the Universe. Lord Vishnu had to take the form of a boar, which after a prolonged battle destroyed the demon and restored Earth by lifting it by His tusks. The Balance of the Universe would have been completely upset if Earth were not saved along with the virtues of Mankind, the Holy Scriptures and the very concept of Righteousness and Godliness.                                                                                                            

Narasamiha Avatar:  As his elder brother Hiranyaksha was killed by Lord Vishnu, ‘Hiranyakashipa’ desired to avenge the death. But he realized that unless he pleased Brahma (Lord of Creation) with rigorous meditation and sacrifice, he would not receive the boons that he wanted. Finally, Brahma acceded to all of his wishes that he could not be killed by any human being or beast, by night or day, in the sky or on the Earth or in water. Having secured the boons, the Demon became all powerful and tormented one and all, especially those who prayed to Lord Vishnu. In fact, he insisted that he alone should be prayed to. He attacked Sages, destroyed ‘Yagnyas’ (Sacrifices) and temples and sought to terminate the Good and the righteous. But his own son, named ‘Prahlada’, was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu from his childhood. Hiranyakashipa tried all means of cajoling, threatening and finally used various methods of killing him. Yet, each time that he sought to destroy the son, he was saved and Prahlada’s devotion became more intense than ever. Finally in a fit of desperation, the father asked the son: ‘Many a time, I tried to murder you, you are saved! Where is your Vishnu? You say that he is everywhere! Can you show him to me in this pillar? ’The son replied coolly that He is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent! Enraged by this reply, the Demon struck the pillar and there emerged Lord Vishnu in the form of Narasimha (Half-Man and Half-Lion), kept the Demon on His lap and tore him into pieces. As per the prescription of the boon received by the demon from Lord Brahma, the annihilation happened neither by a human being nor a beast, not at a time when it was night or day (viz. dusk time) and neither on earth, sky or water! In this Incarnation, Lord Vishnu had thus not only saved Prahlada, as also established a firm victory of Goodness over Evil, Virtue over Sin, and Permanent over Ephemeral!                                                                                           

Vamana Avatar: ‘Bali’, the grandson of Prahlada, was a Demon King in the lineage of Hiranyakashipa, who became all powerful and was most dreaded by ‘Devas’. He drove Devas away from Heaven, who fled away to Lord Vishnu for refuge. Vishnu assured Devas that Bali, who was in fact a benevolent King although dominant, would be humbled and that they would be restored to Heaven soon.. Eventually, the Lord was born to Kashyapa and Diti and grew as a midget (‘Vamana’). As King Bali was performing a Ritualistic Yagna (Sacrifice), he declared that on the occasion nobody would be turned out without fulfilling their wishes. Vamana arrived and asked for a ‘small boon’, viz. a three feet of land to be given as a ‘dakshina’ (a fee) to his Guru (Teacher). The Guru of Demons, Sage ‘Shukracharya’ suspected that the dwarf was a fake and might perhaps be Lord Vishnu Himself. King Bali said that if the dwarf were the Lord Himself, then the posterity would remember the King as a donor to the Lord. Thus saying the King asked Sage Sukracharya to sprinkle the holy water from a vessel to commence the ritualistic proceedings. Guru Sukracharya still tried to prevent the act of donation and entered the vessel in a miniature form so that the holy water could not be sprinkled. Vamana was clever enough to pierce a piece of grass into the curved mouth of the vessel and thus pricked into one of the eyes of Sukracharya by doing permanent damage to the eye. As the action of donating the three feet of land was complete, Vamana assumed a huge body and occupied one foot with Bhuloka, (Earth), another with Bhuwarloka and still demanded a third step for Swarloka. Thus King Bali had no other recourse to shift himself to ‘Patala’ (Under World). Lord Vishnu was immensely pleased with Bali’s altruism and gave him the boon to bear the title and powers of Lord Indra, the King of Heaven.                     

Parasurama Avatar: As per the ‘Varna Dharma’ of Hinduism there are four categories of castes of which the first category is of ‘Brahmins’ practising ritualistic prayers, Sacrifices, religious preaching, temple-running etc. Next category comprises ‘Kshatriyas’ or the Warriors and Kings, whose duty is to protect all other classes of people, especially the Brahmins. In this background, Kshatriyas had over a few generations neglected the interests of the three ‘Varnas’ and became despotic and cruel. It was at this time, that Lord Vishnu came to mortal life as the son of Sage’ Jamadagni’ and ‘Renuka’ and assumed the name of ‘Parasu Rama’ or the one with an axe to punish the evil. ‘Kartaveerya’ was the contemporary King who was an ill-famed and cruel tyrant, with thousand hands. He not only subjected his own people with oppression and brutality but became a terror among his neighbouring Kingdoms too. He had a few boons from Lord Dattatreya which were misused and tormented one and all. On one occasion, the King visited the Ashram (the Hermitage) of Jamadagni and was impressed with the Holy Cow, ‘Kamadhenu’, as the cow could fulfill all desires of human beings. The King had forcibly taken away the Cow, despite Jamadagni’s protests. Parasurama waged a war with the King and cut off his thousand hands. His sons retaliated by killing Jamadagni and destroyed the Hermitage, when Parasurama was away. As a sequel, Parasurama had not only killed the progeny of Kartaveerya, but also hunted and shattered the totality of the Kshatriya clan by waging some twenty one wars to avenge the killings of his father and followers. Eventually, Parasurama retired and lived at Mount Mahendra. He returned again to Earth only in the subsequent ‘Yuga’ (the second in the Time-series of human existence, viz. Threta Yuga’).

 Rama Avatar: Lord Vishnu’s next incarnation was that of Rama. He was born into ‘Surya Vamsa’ (the ancestry of Sun God) to ‘Dasaratha’ and ‘Kousalya’, while his brothers were born to his step mothers as ‘Laxmana’ to ‘Sumithra’, ‘Bharata’ and ‘Shatrughna’ to ‘Kaikeyi’. As the boys grew up, Sage ‘Viswamitra’ asked for the help of Rama to protect the Yagna (Sacred Ritual) from Demons, as they tended to spoil the Ritual by pouring blood into the ‘Agni Kunda’ (the Fire Pit). Dasaratha was most reluctant to depute Rama for the purpose as he was still in teens and said that he was prepared to defend the Yagna himself. Viswamitra insisted only on Rama and Dasaratha had to agree; Rama was accompanied by Laxmana too, as he was not only the closest among his brothers, but also devoted to Rama. The Yagna was performed successfully and Rama killed a dreadful ‘Rakshasi’ (demoness) named ‘Tataki’ and demon by name ‘Subahu’; Rama also threw away thousands of miles off the high Sea another demon named ‘Maricha’ by the power of his arrows. As a symbol of his appreciation to Rama, Viswamitra taught how to use valuable ‘astras’ ‘(Divine Arrows) to destroy enemies, in addition to those which were already taught to him by his own Guru ‘Vasishtha’, another Great Sage in the court of King Dasaratha. On way back to Ayodhya, the Capital of his Kingdom, Viswamithra took Rama to the Capital City (‘Mithila’) of another King namely ‘Janaka’. The latter announced a ‘Swayam Vara’ (Self-choice of a husband by a daughter; in this case Lady Sita), the criterion of eligibility for a suitable suitor being that ‘Shiva Dhanush’-a Divine Set of Bow and Arrow, belonging originally by Lord Shiva Himself- to be fixed and broken. Rama succeeded in breaking the ‘Shiva Dhanush’ and married Sita, who was basically Goddess Lakshmi, the spouse of Lord Vishnu Himself. Alongside, Janaka performed the weddings of his other daughters to Rama’s other brothers, viz .Lakshmana to ‘Urmila’, Bharata to ‘Mandavi’, and Shatrughna to ‘Shrutakirti’. On way back to Ayodhya after the joyous weddings, Rama had an encounter with Parasurama, another incarnation of Lord Vishnu Himself, as Prasurama was annoyed that Rama broke the Shiva Dhanush. But Rama sought to convince Parasurama and more significantly the entire world that he was indeed the Avatar of Lord Vishnu. As there was a seeming threat posed by Parasurama, Rama broke another powerful Set of Bow and Arrows, viz. ‘Narayana Dhanush’ as given by Parasurama. On return to Ayodhya, Dasaratha declared Rama to be the ‘Yuvraj’ (heir apparent).The entire Kingdom and all the citizens felt highly overjoyed and ecstatic at the great news, as even by then, Rama was considered as a role model for humanity and a ‘Maryada Purush’( an exceptionally noble and lovable person). But, the youngest wife of Dasaratha, Kaikayi, opposed the proposal and as instigated by her maid servant ‘Manthara’, reminded the King of two of his boons to her that were due to her when she nursed him after a battle with a demon in the past. She asked for fulfilling her boons that Bharata, her elder son, be made the heir apparent and that Rama be consigned to forests for 14 years. Dasaratha had no choice but to concede her requests. Rama obeyed the paternal wishes, as conveyed to him by Kaikeyi, since Dasaratha had already swooned after hearing the undue demands. Rama was accompanied by Sita and Lakshmana.Subsequently, Dasaratha died of heart attack. Bharata was away from Ayodhya to Mithila, as pre-planned by Kaikeyi, and on return, felt hurt by the terrible turnover of events, reprimanded his mother, refused to become the King, kept the throne unoccupied as he was only a caretaker, that too when asked by Rama whom he met in the forests, and carried back Rama’s ‘Padukas’ (wooden footwear) to Ayodhya to be cherished on the Royal Throne.

Meanwhile, Rama and Sita, accompanied by Lakshmana moved on to ‘Dandakaranya’ (Thick interior of Forests) and lived in a hermitage, named ‘Panchavati’ on the quiet banks of River ‘Godavari’. In course of time, a Rakshasa woman, by name ‘Surpanakha’ approached Rama and desired to marry her. Rama said that his wife was already with him but perhaps another male viz. Lakshmana might agree to do so. Lakshmana got Ram’s coded message and slit Surpanakha’s ears and nose. The latter desired to avenge the insult and prevailed on her brother ‘Khara’ to attack Rama and Lakshmana with his full army. The demon and his men were all killed in the battle and Surpanakha approached the mighty King of Lanka, viz.the ten headed and most dreaded ‘Ravana’ to retaliate. Enraged by the series of the deadly events, Ravana ordered Maricha to take the form of a Golden Deer to entice Lady Sita, so that Rama would chase it and thus abduct Sita. Rama killed the deer but shouted Rama’s name aloud as a ploy and Lakshmana left Sita alone and went in search of Rama. Meanwhile ‘Ravana’ succeeded in abducting Sita and took her away to Lanka. The Great Kite ‘Jatayu’ intercepted Ravana to rescue Sita but Ravana killed Jatayu. While dying, Jatayu informed Rama and Lakshmana, who were searching for Sita, that Ravana abducted Sita. Wandering in the forests, Rama made friends with ‘Sugriva’, the illustrious Monkey Chieftain, along his supporters, especially the Illustrious ‘Hanuman’, who had become Rama’s instant devotee and unfailing follower. Sugriva was being harassed by his elder brother ‘Vali’, who was a powerful and tyrannical King of ‘Kishkintha’. Rama helped Sugriva to kill Vali and made him the King of Kishkintha. Sugriva sent his Monkey soldiers far and wide to locate Sita. Finally, Hanuman crossed the Sea and met Sita in a garden of Ravana under an Ashoka Tree. He identified himself as a devotee of Rama with the help of his golden ring that was given by Rama himself as an identity. Hanuman created havoc in the Ashoka garden and killed many Rakshasa soldiers. Ravana’s son, ‘Meghanadh’ had to utilize his prize ‘Brahmastra’ (the Divine Weapon of Brahma) to control Hanuman and present him in the royal court of Ravana. King Ravana ordered that Hanuman should be taught a lesson by scorching Hanuman’s tail. In turn, Hanuman destroyed palaces, public places and a large part of Lanka’s Capital and finally returned to Kishkintha to report the presence of Sita, who was being pressurized to marry Ravana as also the happenings of his visit to Lanka.

   Rama, Lakshmana, Sugriva, Hanuman, the giant Bear Jambavanta, and the massive Monkey- Brigade reached the shores of the Sea and built a gigantic ‘Ram Sethu’ (Bridge) across the Sea, inscribing the name of Rama on each rock and let it float! Having crossed the Sea, the ‘Rama Sena’ (Rama’s Army) was composed and formulated to surround the entire Island of Lanka. One of Ravana’s brothers, ‘Vibhishana’, who was a man of principles and morals tried to reason out with Ravana not to combat with Rama on the flimsy grounds of obsession with Sita, but he left the party of Ravana to join Rama, where there was ‘Dharma’ (Justice and Truth). In the fierce and long drawn battle that ensued, Rama killed Ravana’s monstrous brother ‘Kumbhakarna’ and his outrageous son Meghanadha, alias Indrajit. The all powerful Ravana himself had to be wrecked by Rama by utilizing the massive Brahmastra while the entire Rakshasa community was destroyed by Rama’s followers. After a long lapse of fourteen years, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana returned to Ayodhya, accompanied by the memorable Hanuman, Sugriva, Vibhushana and innumerable fellow warriors of the Rama Vijay (Rama’s Victory) to witness Lord Rama’s Coronation.The popular ‘Rama Rajya’ (Rama’s Administration) was a bench-mark as per Hindu Mythology, witnessing the practice of Dharma in full force. The ideals that were followed were as per Scriptures of the Yore and reached peaks of human existence of Justice and Nobility.                                                                                             

   Krishna Avatar: The eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu was of Krishna, belonging to the ‘Yadava’ Community which was traced back to the ancestry of Lord Brahma. The lineage of Brahma commenced from his son ‘Atri’ onward to- Soma-Pururuva-Ayu-Nahusha-Yayati-and Yadu. Thus Krishna was born into ‘Yadava Vamsa’ to ‘Vasudeva’ and ‘Devaki’ in Mathura. Devaki’s wicked brother ‘Kamsa’ was the tyrant King, who heard a Divine Voice from the Skies that Devaki’s eighth son would kill him. Thus he imprisoned his sister and husband and killed each of the babies born to them. Kamsa took extra precautions to ensure that the eighth child ought not to vanish from the prison. Somehow Vasudeva managed to sneak out the child to safety on a stormy midnight into the cradle of a child just born to ‘Nanda’ and ‘Yashoda’ at ‘Gokul’ across the river ‘Yamuna’ and the couple brought up the child as their own. The baby since exchanged and brought back to the prison flew away from Kamsa’s hands trying to kill that baby too, who flew away from Kamsa’s hands and thundered from the sky that the real child, Krishna was safe in Gokul. Having spotted the house where Krishna was safe, Kamsa deputed several demons to somehow kill the child; the demons that turned up thus included ‘Pothana’, ‘Arishta’, ‘Vrushabha’, ‘Keshi’, ‘Dhenuka’, ‘Gardabha’ and so on and Krishna killed them all. Krishna also overpowered a poisonous snake, ‘Kaliya’, in a poisonous pond as he entered the pond chasing a play ball with his friends. Krishna humbled Lord Indra, who rained incessantly at Gokula since the inhabitants of that place did not offer prayers to the Rain God, ‘Varuna’, by lifting a huge mountain, ‘Govardhana’ by his little finger. As Krishna and his elder brother ‘Balarama’ grew up, Kamsa invited them to Mathura on a so-called friendly visit, with the malicious intention of killing them. On their entry into the city, Kamsa let loose a mad elephant, which was killed. Kamsa also arranged a duel with tworenowned wrestlers, but Krishna and Balarama killed them too. Finally Krishna destroyed Kamsa and got rid of a terrible King bringing great relief to all concerned. Close to the end of Kamsa, another mighty devil named ‘Jarasandha’ challenged Krishna and sought revenge for Kamsa’s (his brother in law) death. Jarasandha too was killed by Krishna. Yet another enemy of Krishna, named ‘Sisupala’ met his extermination later.There was another momentous occasion, when Krishna and his spouse, ‘Satyabhama’ fought a deadly demon, ‘Narakasura’. It was destined that Satyabhama would terminate the Rakshasa, since Krishna pretended unconsciousness on the battle field to enable her to take the lead-role of killing the ‘Asura’. The Victory Day was celebrated as ‘Deepavali’, the Memorable Festival of Lights. This occasion also led to Krishna’s presenting a boon to Satyabhama and her request to Krishna to fetch the celestial flower, Parijata, from the Garden of Lord Indra in Swarga). The Story goes on that unfortunately the Parijata Tree brought from Swarga was planted in the Garden of Rukmini, the senior consort of Krishna and led to jealousies and quarrels in Krishna’s intimae family affairs! Moreover, Narakasura imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of various Devas, Gandharvas, and Yakshas-all from celestial families and Krishna married them, besides his own eight Royal Queens! Besides, Radha the beloved of Krishna led to the concept of ‘Ras-Leela’ or Group Dances and singing by Gopikas (the girls infatuated with Krishna.)  

   The Chapter on Harivamsa makes references to Krishna’s many sons. But, the Stories of ‘Pradyumna’ and ‘Aniruddha’ became popular. Through Rukmini, the Principal Consort of Krishna, Pradyumna was born, but as soon as he was born, a Rakshasa named ‘Shambhara’ abducted the child and threw him in a Sea. A fish swallowed the child but a fisherman caught the fish and out of its stomach emerged Pradumna. Eventually, Pradyumna killed Shambhara and married ‘Mayavati’. Aniruddha was born to the couple and Krishna felt happy. Aniruddha and ‘Usha’ were in love, but ‘Baana’; an evil-minded King did not approve the wedding and fought with Aniduddha. Finally, Krishna vanquished Baana and made Aniruddha and Usha happy.                                                                                                                                                      Closely linked with the Avatar of Krishna is the Story of ‘Maha Bharata’, the Great Indian Epic of Ancient India. In fact, the Mahabharata Epic is but an excuse to enact the drama of ‘Pandavas’ and ‘Kauravas’, of which the Central Role is of Krishna himself. Pandavas represented nobility, justice, valour and idealism, where as Kauravas stood for evil, jealousy, meanness and injustice. Krishna sought to depict the good and bad qualities distinctly and reveal that Truth triumphed finally and decidedly.

In the lineage that originated from Brahma to Atri down to Yayati, the latter had two wives viz. Devayani, who had two sons named Yadu and Turvusu, while Sharmishtha had three sons named Druhya, Anu and Puru.  Krishna was born into Yadu Vamsa, whereas Kuru into Puru Vamsa. King Shantanu was in Kuru Vamsa and he had two wives, Ganga and Satyavati. Bhishma was born to Ganga, whereas Chitrangada and Vichitraveerya to Satyavati. Chitrangada died early and Vichitraveerya was sickly. Meanwhile, Bhishma conquered the King of Kasi and brought three of his daughters, Amba, Ambica and Ambalika with the intention of having them wedded to Vichitraveerya, his younger brother.The three daughters demanded that Bhishma should marry them since they were conquered by Bhishma, but Bhishma took a vow that he would be a bachelor always as he promised his father to facilitate Kingship to the progeny of Satyavati.The eldest daughter, Amba became furious and killed herself in ‘Yoga Agni’as she was not married to Bhishma ( In her subsequent birth, Amba was reborn as Sikhandi, a transgender who killed Bhishma subsequently). Since there was a crisis of family lineage to be perpetuated, Bhishma requested Vedavyasa to bless Ambica and Ambalika into bed.The girls did not initially agree and sent their ‘Dasi’, a servant maid and thus was born ‘Vidura’.On the persuasion of Bhishma the sisters followed into the bed later; Ambica closed her eyes in the union and thus begot a blind son named ‘Dhritarashtra’, while Ambalika paled away in the union with the fright of Vyasa and thus had ‘Pandu’ as her son with congenital skin disease. Dhritarashstra was married to ‘Gandhari’, who also preferred to close her eyes with cloth as a respect to her husband. They got hundred sons, most important of them being ‘Duryodhana’ and ‘Dussasana’. Pandu married Kunti and Madri. Even before her wedding, Kunti was blessed with a son, Karna, by the grace of Sun God, and after marriage she begot Yudhishtara through God Dharma (God of Justice), Bhima by ‘Vayu’ (God of Wind) and Arjun by God Indra. By the grace of Aswini Gods were born to Madri and they were named Nakula and Sahadeva. As a result of a curse by a Sage, Pandu died untimely and ever since then, Pandavas became fatherless and grew under the care of their paternal uncle Dhritarashtra the blind King.( Vidura, the son of a servant maid born to Vedavyasa was disqualified to become the King and thus became the Chief Adviser to the King.) The hundred strong progeny of Dhritarashtra headed by Duryodhana grew up as the spoilt and much pampered children and developed hatred towards their Pandava cousins, day by day. Karna was disowned by Kunti since she was an unwed mother b   ut tried out an experiment to test a boon given by a Sage and invoked Sun God resulting in her pregnancy and birth of a boy; she packed off the child in a box floating in a river and a chariot driver, ‘Suta’ and his wife Radha brought up the child as their son. Karna had joined Duryodhana. The Kauravas and Pandavas had a common Guru (Teacher), Drona Acharya, to train them in the art of archery and military skills. Invariably, Pandavas excelled Kauravas in the training sessions and that was an added angle of jealousy to Kauravas, which eventually turned out as hatred. As Bhima was an expert in physical duels and the art of using mace in duel-fight, Duryodhana got envious. Similarly, Arjun was an expert in archery and used to draw praise from Drona. Duryodhana sought to pit Karna in the art of archery, but Guru Drona did not allow Karna in the classes, as Karna was not a Prince, as all others were. At once, Duryodhana being the heir apparent to the Throne declared Karna as the Prince of a subordinate State of the Hastinapura Kingdom and made Karna eligible to join the elite of Princes. In course of time, Kauravas tried several means of terminating Pandavas. The evil minded uncle of Kaurava sons, ‘Shakuni’ had been an active party in all such wicked actions. In fact, there was a group of four villains- ’Dushta Chathushtaya’, comprising Duryodhana, Dussasana, Shakuni and Karna- who were responsible to somehow destroy Pandavas.  They arranged a mansion made of shellac to inhabit Pandavas and tried to put it on fire overnight. Lord Krishna, who had all along been on the side of Dharma (Justice) and of Pandavas, had forewarned them of the evil plans of Kauravas to burn the mansion and got them transferred safe through a tunnel leading to a village nearby. Pandavas were disguised as a Brahmin family and rented a small house. Kuaravas, including the King and the citizens, believed that Pandavas were ablaze in the mansion. Even in disguise as Brahmins, the five Pandava sons and mother Kunti lived on and rescued the entire village by Bhima from the menace of a Rakshasa, named ‘Bakasura’, who demanded a villager a day as his food. In course of time, they attended a ‘Swayamvara’ (Bride seeking to secure a suitable bridegroom) of Draupadi, the daughter of King Drupada and among all the aspirant-suitors only Arjuna was able to smash up a fish revolving fast in a circle placed above the head level and seeing down of its reflection in a water flowing down under. Kaurava sons and Bhishma also attended the function and recognized Pandavas. Kaurava sons were dismayed, but gave great relief to Bhishma and all the well-wishers of Pandava. But, Arjun’s victory of winning Drauapadi’s hand posed a problem since Arjun could not marry ahead of his elder brothers. The puzzle was sorted by Bhishma in consultation with the Sages, Draupadi and elders concerned that she should marry all the Pandava brothers in a lot. Following the Wedding, Bhishma advised King Dhritarashtra to give half of the Kingdom to Pandavas. Thus Yudhishtara became the King and gradually annexed many Kingdoms and became powerful and wealthy. Pandavas celebrated ‘Rajasuya Yagna’ (Royal Sacrifice) and elected Krishna as the Chief Guest of the Grand Function. Sisupala, another King and cousin of Krishna objected that the honour to Krishna, whom he defeated in successive wars. But the reality was that his mother requested Krishna to spare Sisupala for one hundred mistakes, before he was destined to die in Krishna’s hands finally and thus Krishna hid himself from the wars with Sisupala and suffered him thus far. On reaching the hundred mistakes, Krishna terminated Sisupala. As Pandavas were at their climatic position, Kauravas felt highly jealous and as advised by the wily Shakuni, invited Dharmaraja for a Game of Chess, in which Shakuni played foul.Dharmaraja lost not only the Kingdom, but also Draupadi, who was forcibly brought into the Royal Court by Dussasana in the presence of Dhritharashtra, Bhishma, Drona and all the gentry; she was insulted and sought to be disrobed. Further, Dharmaraja was made to agree that Pandavas would spend in the forests for twelve years and an additional year in ‘Ajnatavas’ (in disguise and not to be noticed or identified by Kauravas or anyone else), failing which, another twelve years of forest life would be re-imposed!  After completing the Forest life for twelve years, Pandavas (with the exception of Kunti who stayed with Vidura) took refuge in the Kingdom of ‘Virata’ in disguised forms viz. Dharmaraja as King Virat’s Brahmana- Adviser and companion to play chess, Bhima as the Royal cook, Arjuna as the trans-gender dance teacher of the King’s daughter, Uttara; Nakula and Sahadeva as trainers in the Royal stable of the King’s horses and Draupadi as the Queen’s Principal Maid. During the disguised stay of Pandavas, Bhima weeded out Keechaka one night without trace, even as the King himself was not unhappy about his brother-in-law’s villainy and over-control. In the meantime, Kauravas attacked Virat’s Kingdom and forcibly took away thousands of cows of King Virat’s. Arjun had then decided to take away the disguise of Pandavas, as the period of one year of ‘Ajnatavas’ was just concluded. In fact, all the Pandavas revealed their own identities. Arjun had defended Virat’s Kingdom single handed and frightened away Kauravas by his powerful arrows and finally utilizing just one ‘Sammohan Astra’, the Divine Arrow putting the entire Kaurava Army unconscious. Not realizing the real identity of Pandavas, King Virat and family as also the subjects of the Kingdom extended apologies to Pandavas. The Princess Uttara was married to Abhimanyu, the son of Arjun.  Back to normalcy after suffering the Forest life for twelve years and the disguised existence for one year, Pandavas demanded their share of Kingdom again. In fact, Bhima, Arjun and Draupadi refused to pardon the innumerable misdeeds of Kauravas and wished to take revenge on the battle field, but for the restraint imposed on them by Dharmaraja. Lord Krishna was deputed for peace talks. Kauravas on the other hand refused to part with even a pin worth of land, let alone five villages for Pandavas. Thus the epoch-making Great Battle of Maha Bharata became inevitable. Kurukshetra was the historic war- field, where the battle lines were drawn and the composition of both the fighting parties were identified. As per options offered by Krishna, Duryadhana secured large number of soldiers and Arjuna agreed to be Krishna’s charioteer, without fighting himself.  Elders like Bhishma and Drona had to fight on the side of Kauravas, though reluctantly, since they had been loyal to King Dhritarashtra. As several grandfathers and uncle figures, close relatives and cousins were faced on the opposite side for a bloody war, Arjuna got bewildered and made a scene of his inability to fight and jumped out of his chariot. Krishna had then delivered his immortal ‘Gita Pravachan’ (The Discourse of Gita) which constituted the Quintessence of Holy Hindu Scriptures. He explained in detail that the death of stalwarts like Bhishma and Drona or close relatives of Pandavas or of anybody else, would merely mean the destruction of their physical existence but their Atma (Inner Soul) is indestructible as ‘It’ would don another body in the never-ending cycle of life, according to the Register of their previous lives viz. ‘Sanchita’ or the Stored Results of their actions in earlier births and of ‘Prarabdha’or their own destinies which would shape their future. Arjuna was just an instrument in the drama of Life. The real quest of life is to attain the Union of individual Atma or the Inner Soul with ‘Paramatma’, the Super Soul. This is what ‘Gyana’ (Knowledge or Awareness) is all about and what Yogis (Sages) have all along endeavored to achieve through the ages. Arjuna was thus pacified and was asked to do his Dharma (Duty).In the fierce battle that followed for eighteen days, there was destruction all aroundfrom both the sides of warriors. Bhishma, the war-veteran and Commander-in-Chief withdrew from the battle as he was faced with a trans-gender, named Sikhandi, whom Bhishma refused to fight with and thus fell a victim but did not die; he had the boon to live as per his choice-day and preferred to live through the entire duration of the battle and waited for ‘Uttarayan’, i.e. the first day of Solar journey upwards the northern direction. Drona, the next Commander stopped fighting at the false news confirmed by Dharmaraja, (ever known for his utterances of Truth only) in hushed tone that his son Aswatthama (meant actually named after an elephant) died. Drona was thus killed by Dhrishtadyumna without resistance. Karna who was the next Commander of Kauravas was arrowed to death by Arjuna, as the former could not remember the secret ‘Mantras’ (stanzas) while releasing arrows favoring specific Gods to invoke special powers; Karna’s amnesia was the resultant curse by a Sage which let him down to Arjun’s arrows. The Final chapter of the Great Battle of Mahabharata, the Legendary Epic was scripted by a powerful and climactic duel of maces between Duryodhana and Bhima. As Duryodhana defended his position for long, Krishna gave a gesture to Bhima to hit the opponent on his thighs as the former’s body was made sturdy all over excepting the thighs; Gandhari, mother of Duryodhana had the power of fortifying any part of a body by opening her ever closed sight just once but Duryodhana hid the loins and thighs and hence were vulnerable.Thus ended the sordid tale of Duryodhana, who was the Prime Villain of the Epic. Dharmaraja was made the King again to Hastinapur Kingdom and after him, the Dynasty carried on the Kingship by Parikshit, the son of Uttara. Lord Krishna who had firmly re-established Dharma on Earth, not only by his own fascinating deeds to vindicate ‘Nyaya’ (justice) and Nobility, but also by using Pandavas as instruments to bring success to His efforts. Once again He proved through His Avatar (Incarnation) of Lord Vishnu that each time human existence gets disturbed by evil forces, He would appear as an earthly figure and rectify imbalances of the Universe.

Buddha Avatar: As there was an ongoing battle of Devas and Asuras for long time, Devas approached Lord Vishnu to revive ‘Dharma’ and ‘Nyaya’ and beseeched Him to take human form once again. The Lord said that ‘Mayamoha’ would soon take birth as Buddha to one Sudhodana. But the illusions that would be created in the name of Buddha would be such that many evil persons would call themselves as Buddhists and undo all the Golden Traditions established in Vedas and other Scriptures. The misleading ways would advocate materialism in detestable manner and finally end up in the last phase of ‘Kali Yuga’.. [Note: While Agni Purana had thus prophesied the sinful and irrecoverable era ahead, Buddha himself was stated to have provided a silver-line in the quest of Truth and Dharma. He preached the concept of Self -Realisation and recommended the right path to this Goal. He found that the basis of evil was unhappiness and desire, while the means of overcoming the evil is the attitude to secure freedom from material happiness. He preached the eight fold path, viz. the right view, the right intention, the right speech, the right thought, the right livelihood, the right action, the right mindfulness and the right concentration. Another significant preaching of Buddha was to follow the principles of ‘Ahimsa’ (non-violence) and ‘Samyam’ (Restraint). But in the post-Buddha period, varied interpretations of Buddhism were adopted to suit some of the following generations, including the practice of low and misleading Tantras]

Kalki Avatar: Agni Purana also prophesied the Final Avatar of Lord Vishnu as Kalki, to be born to ‘Vishnuyasha’. He would be fully armed to destroy the disbelievers of God and perpetrate sins and criminal acts and re-establish Dharma (Virtue) and Nyaya                     ( Justice) and revive the concepts of four ‘varnas’( castes,) viz. Brahmana ( the nobility), Vaisya (the business class), Kshatriya ( the Warriors and Defenders) and Others.The revival of the four ‘Ashrams’ ( Stages of Life) too would happen viz. Balya (Childhood), Grihastha ( the family person), Vanaprastha ( the senior and religious class) and Sanyasa ( Seekers of Truth and death-awaiting).  [Note: The popular belief is that by the close of the fourth phase of Kalki Yuga (era) as against the first phase now, Lord Vishnu would take the ‘Avatar’ (Incarnation) riding a flying white divine horse, brandishing a sword, destroying the Evil and reviving the Virtue, thus heralding a completely New World Order following the Great Destruction and evolving a Fresh Cycle of Creation.]

3      The profile of Universal Creation

Agni narrated the Story of Creation to Vasishtha as follows: Prior to Creation, Vishnu the Eternal and All Pervasive created Water and there was no day, night or time.He materialised ‘Prakriti’and with its interaction with Prakriti created ‘Maha Tatwa’and from the latter emerged ‘Ahamkar’ (the feature of the Self and Ego). Ahamkar was of three forms viz. ‘Vaikarika’ or Satvika, ‘Thaijasa’ or Rajasa and ‘Bhutadirupa’ or Tamasika. From Tamasika Ahamkar, there was the Tanmatra of ‘Shabd’ or Sound which produced ‘Aakaash’ (Sky); from Sky was generated the Tanmatra of ‘Sparsh’or the Touch which in turn created ‘Vaayu’ (Air). From ‘Vayu’ the Tanmatra of ‘Rupa’or Form, enabled the emergence of Agni (Fire). From Agni, the ‘Rasa’ Tanmatra created ‘Jal’ (water).From water the ‘Gandha Tanmatra’ or the feature smell created Bhumi or Earth. Such is the chain reaction from Sound to Touch to Form to Rasa to Smell-all the creations of Tamasika Ahamkar. From the Rajasika/ Tejasika Ahamkar, Ten ‘Indriyas’ or physical parts got created while the most significant physical component is ‘Manas’ or Mind viz. the eleventh Indriya is the product of Satvika ‘Ahamkar. Then the ‘Swayambhu Shakti’or the Supreme Energy generated water. He sowed a Seed (virility) into the Water and on the Water Surface, and there floated a Golden Egg or the Brahmanda, from which emerged Lord Brahama. The Golden Egg opened in two parts, one as Heaven and the other as Earth, the connecting link being the Sky. Brahma then created Earth in Water and ten directions, besides ‘kaal’ (Time), ‘man’ (mind), ‘kaam’(desire), ‘vani’(speech), ‘krodh’(anger) and ‘rati’(passion). Then emerged Vidyut (Lighting), Thunder, Clouds, Rainbows, Words and Anger. He created from His Body the Texts of Vedas (Rig, Yajur and Sama) mainly to make sure and also enable Yagnyas and other Sacred Ceremonies. He created the four Sanaka brothers, the manifestation of anger as Rudra; and  the seven sons from His Powers, viz. Marichi, Atri, Pulasthya, Pulaha, Kratu, and Vasishta. Brahma materialised half of his body as Purusha (male) and the other half as ‘Stree’ (Female). The ‘Srishti’from the females led to that of ‘Prajas’. Human Creation was made possible by the first Manu called Swayambhu Manu and his wife Shatarupa; the couple gave birth to two sons Prayamvrata and Uttanapaada and a daughter Devahuti who married Sage Kardama. Agni Deva then described the lineage of Swayambhu Manu who included the illustrious Dhruva and Chakchusha Manu, Prachetas , Daksha Prajapati, Ashtaa Vasus (viz. Aap, Dhruva, Soma, Dhara, Anila, Anala, Pratyusha and Prabhasa), and Eleven Rudras (stated to be the main Rudras besides thousands and more) viz. Hara, Bahurupa, Triambaka, Aparajita, Vrishakapi, Shambhu, Kapardi, Raivata, Mrigavyaadha, Sarpa and Kapali).Thus Agni Deva described Prakriti / Maha Tatwa Srishti or Brahma Sarga, the second one was known as Tanmatra Srishta called Bhuta Sarga, the Third Srishti is ‘Vaikarika’ or Aindraka Sarga. The Fourth Srishti is called Mukhya Sarga or ‘Sthavara’ Srishti of ‘Vriksha, Parvat adi’/ Trees, Mountains etc. The ‘Tiryagyonya’Srishti of ‘Pashu-Pakshis’or animals and birds is the Fifth Srishti. The sixth Srishti is of Deva Sarga (Urthva Strota/ higher); the seventh Sarga is Manava Sarga and the eighth Sarga is Anugraha Sarga based on Satvik as well as of Tamasika-orientation. The ninth variety is Nitya Sarga or the usual Srishti

4      Procedure of ‘Puja’ to Ganapati, Shiva, Chandi, Vishnu or Surya

n the context of normal Puja, the ‘Puja Mandap’ (Platform) may be arranged for worship to Dhata and Vidhata as also Ganga and Yamuna in the Dakshina (South), then to Shankhanidhi and Padma nidhi, Dwara Lakshmi, Vaastu Purusha, Adhara Shakti, Kurma, Ananta, Prithvi, Dharma, Gyana, Vairaagya, and Aishwarya. Then puja be performed to Adharma (Vice), Ajnaan (Ignorance), Avairagya (Worldly attractions), and ‘Anaishwarya’ (Extreme Poverty) by visualising the Lotus Parts of root, stem, lotus flower, kesar powder and the lotus-ears. Then worship the four Vedas, the three Gunas of Sat-Rajo-Tamas, the Shaktis viz. Vimala, Utkarshini, Jnaana, Kriya, and Yoga. Puja should be done to Prahvi, Satya, Isha, Anugraha, Durga, Sarasvati, Ganesha, Kshetrapala, Vasudeva (Samkarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha). Continue the Puja to Hridaya (heart), Shira (head), Shikha (tuft), Kavacha,(shoulders),  Netra (Eyes) etc.as also to Shankha (conchshell), Chakra (the wheel), Gada (mace), Padma called ‘Astras’; to Srivatsa, Koustubh, Vanamali and Lakshmi, Pushti, and Garuda. Puja should be performed to Dikpalakas viz. Indra, Agni, Yama, Nirruti, Varuna, Vaayu, Kubera, Ishana, Brahma and Ananta.

Having observed the above, Ganapati Puja may be initiated to accomplish all the desires. The Anga Nyasa may commence with:

Ganamjayaya Swaha-Hridaya; Eka dumshtraaya hum-shir; Achala karniney namo namah-shikha; Gajavaktraaya namo namah-Kavacha; Mahodaraaya chandaaya namah-netra; Sudundahastaaya hum phat-Astra.

This will be followed by puja of the main petals of Lotus viz. Gana, Guru, Guru-Paduka, Shakti, Ananta and Dharma. Then, puja be performed to the nine Peetha-Shaktis viz. Tivra, Jwalini, Nanda, Bhogada, Kamarupini, Ugra, Tejovati, Satya and Vighnanaashini. ‘Asana’ of Chandana may be offered with the Beeja Mantras: ‘Yam’: Shoshaka vayu; ‘Ram’: Agni; ‘Lam’: Plava (Prithvi) and ‘vam’: Amrita. The Ganesha Gayatri may be rendered next: Om Lambodaraaya Vidmahey Mahodaraaya Dheemahey tanno dantii prachodayaat. Then the limbs of Ganesha be worshipped with the following ‘naamaas’:

Ganapati, Ganaadhipa, Ganesha, Mahodara, Gajavaktra, Lambodara, Vikata, Vishna naashana and Dhumrvarna, besides Indra and Loka paalaas. 

Shiva Puja is initiated with worship to Nandi Deva, followed by Durga, Yamuna, Shiva Ganas, Vaani, Shree, Guru, Vaastudeva, Adhara Shakti, and Dharma. Then Puja should be performed to ‘Nava Shaktis’, viz. Vaama, Jyeshtha, Roudri, Kaali, Kala-vikarini, Balavikarini, Balapramathini, Sarvabhutashamani, and Kalyanamayi Manonmayi. Shiva Puja is then commenced with the Mantra HAAM HAM HAAM SHIVA MURTAYENAMAH by Anga Nyasa of the Pancha Mukha ( Five Faces of Shiva with the Mantra viz.: HAAM ISHAANAAYA NAMAH, HEEM VAAMADEVAAYA NAMAH, HUUM  SADYOJAATAAYANAMAH, HAIM AGHORAAYA NAMAH, HOUM TATPURU -SHAAYA NAMAH/  Then worship only to Shiva by the Mantra HOUM SHIVAAYA HOUM/ ; HAAM HAUM SHIVAAYA NAMAH (Avahana) with Sthapani Mudra, Sannidhaapani Mudra, and Samnirodhani Mudra and NISHTHURAAYAI KAALKALYAYAI PHUT  with Khadga Mudra to toss away obstacles.Then perform ‘Amritikaran’by saying: Hridayaya namah (heart representing Chetana Shakti), Sirasey Swaaha (Siras representing eight-folded Ishvaryas); Shikhaayai vashath (Shikha representing Vashitva/ complete control); Kavachaaya hum (kavacha / shield representing Abhedya Teja or indestructible radiance); Netraabhyaam voushat (Shiva’s intolerable valour destroys all obstacles) and Astraaya Phut. Thus the Lord’s physical parts are distinguished with Hridayaya namah, Shirasey swaaha, Shikhaayai vashat, Kavachaaya hum, Netraabhyaam voushat, and Astraaya Phut and while uttering the words perform ‘Panchopachaaraas’ or five services viz. ‘paadya’ to his feet, ‘achamana’ with Arghya /water, Durva leaf, Pushpa, and Akshata kept on the head of the Idol             ( Linga). Then the devoteed should proceed with ‘Abhisheka’/ ‘Abhukshan’ first with water, milk, curd, ghee, honey, and sugar to the ‘Pancha Mukhas’ viz. Ishana, Tatpurusha, Aghora, Vamadeva, and Sadyojaata with the respective Mantras viz.

Om Ishaanah Sarva Vidyaameeshwarah Sarva Bhutaanaam Brahmaadhipatirbrahmano Brahaa Shivomestu Sadaa Shivom; Om Tatpurushaaya vidmahey Maha Devaaya dhimahi, tanno Rudrah prachodayaat;Om Aghorebhyothaghorebhyah, Sarveybhyaha Sarva sarvebhoy namastestu Rudra Rupebhyah/; Om Vaamadevaaya namo Jyeshthaayanamah Shreshthaaya namo Rudraaya namah Kaalaaya namah Kalavikaranaaya namo Balavikaranaaya namo Balaaya  namo Bala Pramathanaayanamah Sarva Bhuta damanaaya namo Manonmayaya namaha; Om Sadyojaatama prapadyaami Sadyojaataaya vai namo namah, bhavey bhavey naatibhavey bhavaswa maam bhavodbhavaayanamah/

 Further bathe the Vigrah/ Linga with chandana, kesar etc.and clean it with a clean Vastra; never keep the ‘Mastaka’(top) of the Linga without flowers and perform the ‘Upacharas’ or services viz. Paadya, Achamana, Arghya, Gandha, Pushpa, Dhupa, Deepa, Naivedya, Achamaneeya, Katodvartan, Tambula, Mukhavaasa/ mouth-freshener, Darpana, Durva, Akshata etc. Recite the Mula Mantrahundred and eight times and pray as follows:

Yatkinchitkurmahey Deva sadaa sukrut dushkrutam,

Tanmey Shivapadasthasya hum khah kshepaya Shankara,

Shivo daataa Shivo bhokta Shivah Sarvamidam jagat,

Shivo jayati Sarvatra yah Shivah sohameyvacha/

(Deva Shankara! We surrenderb at the most propitious feet of Yours for protection. Whatever good-bad deeds that we have so far commited may please be cancelled and discarded. HUM KSHAH! Shiva is the Daataa / donor; Shiva is the Bhokta / the acceptor; Shiva is the whole Universe; Victory be to Shiva always; whatever is Shiva is Shiva / myself! 

Surya Puja commences with worship to Nandi, Pingala, Ucchaiswara, and Aruna , followed by Prabhuta, Vimala, Soma, Prathah Sandhya and Saayam Sandhya, Para Sukha and Skanda; further followed by Pujas to Nava Shaktis viz. Deepta, Sukshma, Jaya, Bhadra, Vibhuti, Vimala, Amogha, Vidyuta and Sarnathomukhi. Then ‘Asanam’(seat) is to be arranged by the Mantra: Brahma Vishnu Shivaatmakaaya Shouraaya peethhaya namah/ Then other ‘Upachaaraas’ (Services) are offered to Surya Deva as follows: Om kham Khakholkaaya namah: Deva Suryodbhbhavaaya namah;  Om hraam hreem sah Suryaya namah-iti Puja; Om Aaam namah-hridayaaya namah; Om Arkaaya namah-sirah pujayami.

Similarly Puja should be performed to Agni: Om Bhurbhuvah swah Jwalaanyai shikhaaai namah, Om hum kavachaayai namah; om netra bhyaam namah; om rum Arkaastraaya namah. Agni puja may be followed by the Pujas to Surya’s two wives viz. Sangjna Devi and Chhaaya Devi, to Chandra, Mangal, Budhha, Brihaspati, Shukra, Shani, Rahu and Ketu along with relevant services like ‘Asana’ etc.

Vishnu Puja is initiated with offering ‘Aasanam’ by the Mantra: Om Shreem Shreem Shridharo Harih Hraam/ This would be followed by Murti Puja with the Trailokya mohana Mantras viz. Om kleem Hrishikeshaya namah and Om hum Vishnavey namah/ The Anganyasa Mantras are as follows: Om Aam Hridayaaya namah, Om eem shirasey namah, Om Uum shikhaayai namah, Om aem kavachaaya namah, Om aim netrabhyaam namah, Om Astraaya namah, Om Chakraayanamah, Om gum Gadayai namah, etc. covering Shankha, Khadga, Sharanga Dhanush, Paasha, Ankusha, Musala, Shri Vatsa, Koustubha, Vanamala, Maha Lakshmi and Garuda. This Puja would further continue with Stutis of Vishnu and Lakshmi; and relevant Mantras to: Om Gum Ganapatayenamah, Om hreem Gauryaimamah, Om Shreem Shriayai namah, Om hreem Twaritayai namah, Om Aim kleem soum Tripuraayaanamah. The Puja would contain all the relevant services including Arghya, Paadya, Achamana, Madhuparka, Snaana, Vastra, Yagnopaveeta, Abushana, Gandha, Pushpa, Dhupa, Dipa and Naivedya all dedicated to: ‘Om Namo Bhagavatey Pundarikaakshaaya.’  This kind of all- comprehensive Puja should indeed bestow the ‘Chaturvidha Purusharthas’ of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha to the devotees

5      Shri Lakshmi Stotra and benefits

Mahatma Pushkar informed Parashurama that Lord Indra being desirous of retaining Devi Lakshmi in Indraloka for ever in the Form of Rajya Lakshmi. His eulogy to Devi Lakshi was as follows:

Namasye Sarvalokaanaam jananeemabdhi sambhavaam,

Shriyamunnidra Padmaaksheem Vishnu vakhasthala sthitaam/

Twam Siddhistwam Swaaha Sudhaa twam Lokapaalini,

Sandhya raatrih prabhaa bhutirmedhaa shraddhaa Saraswati/

Yagna Vidya Maha Vidya Guhaa Vidya cha shobhaney,

Atma Vidyaa cha Devi twam vimukti phaladayini/

Aanveekshaki Trayee Vaartaa dandanitis twameva cha,

Sowmya sowmyam Jagadrupam tawaitatddevi puritam/

Ka tatwanya twaamrutey Devi Sarva Yagna mayam vapuhu,

Adyhaastey Deva Devasya Yogichintyam gadaabhrutah/

Twaya Devi parithayktam Sakalam Bhuvanatrayam,

Vinishtapraayamabhavat twayedaaneem samedhitam/

Daaraah purtaasthathagaaram suhruddhaanya dhanaadhikam,

Bhavateytanmahaabhaagey nithyam twadveekshanaannrunaam/

Shareerarogya maiswaryamaripaksha khsayah sukham,

Devi twadrushti drushtaanaam purushaanaam na durlabham/

Tweamambaa sarvabhutaanaam Devadevo Haih pitaa,

Twayatad Vishnuunaachaamba Jagad vyaaptam charaacharam/

Maanam kosham tathaa kosdhtam maa gruham maa paricchhadam,

Maa shariram kalatram cha thyajethaah Sarva paavani/

Maa putraan maasahrudvargaan maa pashua maa vibhushanam,

Thyajethaa mama Devasya Vishnor vakhasthaalaaley/

Satyana samashauchaabhyaam tatha sheelaadibhirgunaih,

Kulaaisvaryescha yujjantey purushaa nirgunaa api/

sashlyaghyah sa guni dhanyah sa kuleenah sa buddhimaan,

sa surah sa cha vikraanto yasatvayaa Devi veekshitah/

Sadyo vaigunyamaayaanti  sheelaadyaah sakalaa gunahah,

Paraanmikhee Jagaddhaatri yasya twam Vishnuvallabhey/ 

Na tey varnaayutam shattaa gunaan jimhaapi vedhasah,

praseeda Devi Padmaakshi maasmaamssatyaakshih kadaachana/                                                                                                                                    

(My reverential salutations to you the Mother of Universe! Maha Lakshmi! You were materialised fom the Ocean, with magnificent eyes that are resplendent and are like opened up Lotus flowers occupying the chest of Vishnu; You are the hall-mark of Purity and the personification of propitiousness. You are the Siddhi, Swaha, Swadha, Sudha, Sandhya, Ratri, Prabha, Bhuti, Medha, Shraddhaa and Sarasvati.You are the Yagna Vidya, Maha Vidya, Guhya Vidya, and the Provider of Atma Vidya. You are the ‘Anveekshani’ or the Darshana Shastra, Trayi or the Form of Three Vedas viz. Ruk-Yajur and Sama; the ‘Vaarta’or the three most significant professions of human beings viz. Krishi / Agriculture, Goraksha or the security of Cows,Vanijya or business and Danda Niti or the Art of Defence and Attack. You are the Form of ‘Saumyata’ or of poise and composure; since You are ever-present; You are also the most charming and esteemed.  Are you not the singular woman sporting a mace called Kaumudi to defend the virtuous and punish the Evil! You are the Yagnamayi whom Yogis and Maharshis pray to and cogitate about. It is by your grace and magnanimity that the whole World got revived after its erstwhile destruction and is looking full and on-going. With your kindness that all the human beings and their families are fine and the womanfolk, children, households, and existence in general is contented and smooth enough with ‘Dhana-Dhaanyas’. Once your merciful looks are available, persons are healthy, wealthy, contented without enemies and hindrances.You are indeed the mother of all and  vishnu is the father, controlling and preserving the ‘charaachara Jagat’ comprising the moveable and immoveable Benigs. You are our self-esteem, our Treasure-Hold, Anna Bhaandaar or Food-reservoir, the entire house-hold, our well being and families; do keep us safe and satisfied Devi! Those whom you leave away, their truthfulness, stability, virtuosity are all deserted instantly. Your benevolence would turn a miserable being surfeit with riches, a vicious entity into an ideal being worthy of reputation, courage, and perfection. A remote glance of yours would bring about a mind-blowing transformation of a human being. Even Brahma woud fail in esimating your qualities and how else marginal beings could possibly do! Mother, my earnest prayer to you is to bless me and never ever leave me enven by mistake!).            

   As Indra Deva made a Prayer as above, his ‘Indratva’ lasted long with a steady throne and enjoyed great reputation. Mahatma Pushkar affirmed:

Evam stutaadadow Shreescha Varamindraaya chepsitam,

Susthiratvam cha Rajasya sagraamavijayadikam/

Swastotra paatha shravana karthruunaam Bhukti Muktidam,

Shri Stotram satatam tasmaat patthecha shunuyaanarah/

(As Indra praised Devi Maha Lakshmi with her ‘Amsha’ as Rajyalakshmi, his Kingdomwas safe and his enemies were routed in the battle between Devas and Danavas. Those who read and hear this Maha Stotra of Devi Lakshmi would secure prosperity and happiness and as such Mahatma Pushkaraa advised Parashu Rama to the entire humanity to make it a ritual of reading Devi Lashmi’s Stotra as often as possible and definitely on Fridays each week

Om Tat Sat


(My humble salutations to  the lotus feet of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Mahaswamy ji and also my humble greatulness to  Brahmasree Sreeman V D N Rao ji  for the collection)


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