Shree Mahalaxmi Mandir, Pune Serenity Personified.

shree Mahalaxmi Mandir, Sarasbaug, Pune –  A Hindu temple, a revered structure where the boundary between humans and the divine dissolve.  This temple allows one to release themselves from an illusion of complexities of life and move towards the knowledge and truth of life.

Architectural details – The layout of the temple

Shree Mahalaxmi Mandir was consecrated on the 15th February 1984.  This temple is carved in the Dravidian style of architecture. This magnificent architectural marvel goes beyond brick and mortar and imbues ritual purity and has a magical effect on the devotee.

The exquisite external appearance and minute interior details entice even atheists to observe and be astounded by the ambiance created by this temple.  The Mahalaxmi Mandir is laid out pertaining to directions, based on a concept called ‘Vastu Shashtra’, which means ‘science of architecture’. 

The rudimentary structure has a dome on the top which is pyramid shaped.  This pyramidal structure descends down to form the principal part called ‘Vimana’.  The Shikhar of the Mahalaxmi Mandir is 55 feet tall, 24 feet wide and the length of the temple roof is 54 feet long. The temple is constructed in a way that this topmost structure is perfectly visible from any point outside the temple.  It is believed to bring luck and prosperity to those who view it from outside the temple right before they enter or after they leave the temple premise, on the completion of the darshan.

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The ‘Mandapa’ is an underlying grid which is the foundation of the entire temple.  The hallway of Mandapa is be-decked with pillars that lead the way to the ‘Garbhagriha’ (i.e. womb chamber).  The Garbhagriha is a small shrine room located at the very heart of the temple.   Within, the symbols of ‘Tri Shakti’, Goddesses Shri Mahasaraswati, Shri Mahalaxmi and Shri Mahakali are placed.  These idols are six feet tall and have been carved out of pristine marble.  Around this womb is a circumambulatory path where various rishis, munis idols are carved. Saint Dynaneshwar, Saint Tukaram, Saint Tulsidas, Saint Jalaram, Saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Saint Kabir Das, Saint Sur Das, Sri Ramdas Swami, Saint Guru Nanak, Saint Ramakrishna Paramhans, Saint Basaveshwar, Saint Sri Mirabai – twelve such saints can be worshipped by the devotees.  

When the Aarti is performed, a big bell hanging from the center of the ceiling is struck. The positive waves created by this bell allows the devotees to be fully attentive to the deity. The aroma of camphor and incense invade the entire space.  The soft warmth of the diyas and the chanting of religious mantras soothe the entire space.  The devotees find a sanguine solution as they lay their gratitude, their problems, their whole being. One attains peace of mind. It is not just the bell that resonates and brings peace of mind. Every subtle object or carving possesses a divine belief behind it, everything ultimately enabling the devotee to become totally pious. The temple is a beatific environment within which to meditate, with its strategically located mandapa, perfectly spaced pillars, and meticulously and scrupulously carved figures. 

The Tri Shakti   

The three deities worshipped at Mahalaxmi temple are Shri Mahasaraswati the Goddess of learning, Shri Mahalaxmi the Goddess of prosperity and Shri Mahakali, the Goddess who liberates mortals from time and death. 

Goddess Laxmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity.  Laxmi is elegantly dressed, prosperity-showering golden-colored woman, signifying the importance of economic activity in the maintenance of life. She holds a lotus in her hand, a symbolism of fortune, self-knowledge, and spiritual liberation. 

Goddess Saraswati the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, art, wisdom, and learning.  The goddess Saraswati is a beautiful woman dressed in pure white, seated on a white lotus, which symbolizes light, knowledge, and truth.  The color symbolizing purity, search for true knowledge, insight, and wisdom.

The name Kali means Kala or force of time.  The Dark appearance of Kali represents the darkness from which everything was born.  As she is also the goddess of Preservation, Kali is worshiped as the preserver of nature. 

The architectural excellence seen in the temple is of sublime virtue. Its beauty is enhanced solely by the soulful structures. Florid decorations surrounding the premises enable the devotees to dwell in serenity, maintain their composure and focus their attention on the Lord, eventually hoping to win his benevolence.

For more details please visit http://www.mahalaxmimandirpune.org/About.

The voice behind this article is Ashwini Gaikwad, Content Writer, Investronaut.

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Diwali:​ That of the rich and that of the poor.

The cell phone beeps –  “ Maa ka phone aaya” is a harsh ringtone that is a contradiction to my mom’s pleasing personality. I peel open my eyelids – it’s 5 am and she has called me to wake me up like she has been doing on Diwali every year.  I hear the excitement in her ‘hello’. It is my first Diwali away from home. I don’t know if I feel good about being away from my family or not.   “We miss you too love. Get up, crawl out of your bed and make a conscious choice to be happy.  Happiness won’t find you, you need to find it!” Mom’s voice softly coming over the line dispels my feelings of being low.

Each time I find life getting down,  she manages to turn the tables in my favour! I promise her that I will dress well and call her later to wish and chat with the rest of the family.  I hurriedly get out of the bed, grab my sneakers and rush to the garden across the street.  An early morning stroll through the open green spaces will definitely lighten my mood. 

As I step out I see the sky emblazoned with different colours.  I sit on the cement benches stretched along the back of the garden.  Red, purple, yellow flowers grow alongside a pond.  On the other bank of this pond is a low lying compound wall, behind which the poor, the downtrodden, the underprivileged, the unfortunate community, of our society resides here in their tiny huts.  Children dressed in their worn-out clothing sit there and wait with their mothers to give them something to eat. I then got to thinking.  

Diwali is the festival that celebrates good over evil.    In the 21st century poverty is one of the biggest societal evils.  What does Diwali mean to the underprivileged?

Diwali. The festival of lights. 

Every year millions of firecrackers explode, casting their light in the night skies.  ‘Diwali’ seems to mean differently for different strata of society in this ‘modernised’ world we are in today.  One stratum belongs to the rich; it’s a grand world.  The other belongs to the poor; it’s a vast world.  These worlds of the rich and the poor seem to overlap but never really merge.  Or do they? Every Diwali the rich paint their happiness all over the sky for the poor to watch.  

It is now time for us to realize what we have done to the poor people.  Money that we donate to them will last them for a few moments. The food and leftover from our tables will keep them fed for a few more hours. Every Diwali many show their compassion for the underprivileged by gifting them crackers. Many others show their compassion by sharing sweets. They donate sweets on one day and wrongly believe they have satisfied the hunger of the needy!  The ones who can’t deal with the subtlety and are even more compassionate and donate money. After all, money is what the richness is all about! 

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Money, sweets and crackers – is this what the poor are asking for? Many believe it is. I do not.

The compassionate fail to recognize that the very same crackers they burst during this season were made by the hands of these kids. Excesses in food and sweet, during this festival, finds its way into garbage bins. Whilst the empty stomachs of these poor people who long for a fistful of food remain hungry. 

Instead, if we spend an hour with them, it will impact them and us alike, for a lifetime. The simplest thing we can do would be spending a day with them and understand what their real problems are.  

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But this doesn’t fully answer the original question.

What is the meaning of Diwali for the underprivileged people?

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These poor kids light up our skies every Diwali.   The rich are under the complete control of this Ravana of the 21st century and every Diwali he laughs when the crackers we

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burst plunge someone’s life into darkness.  The poor know our wants but we don’t bother about their needs.  Through the factories, they risk their lives. Diwali in their world was about the lamps that drove away the darkness and not about the crackers that have driven intense darkness in their lives.

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As Diwali brings its unique joy of celebration,  maybe it not the right time to decide if banning crackers, donating food and money to the needy is the way one should celebrate it.  But if not now then when will we consider the unending plight of the underprivileged! Maybe next year or some other time…or maybe never!  This year let us closely connect to the people in need and understand the ways in which we can help them find their happiness.   

Happiness shared is happiness multiplied.  Let’s distribute happiness this Diwali season! 

 

The Navratri Story: An artisan who personifies Maa Durga through his art

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The artisan is perched at the edge of his studio; behind him are rows and rows of Maa Durga idols.  The rain has ebbed a bit.  Outside as the sun lies low on the horizon the luminescence effect of the rising sun throws an ephemeral glow on the faces of the Durga idols.  The artisan is keen on getting the biggest idol crafted today.

The art of crafting an idol. 

Myriad thoughts run through his mind. “Do my hands craft out these beautiful idols? And do the colours I use bring life to these lifeless eyes?  Of one thing I am certain: I don’t carve these idols; I don’t bring life to the lifeless; these idols take a shape on their own”.  

With a wooden base, he craft the basic structure of the idol with bamboo. Using straw and ropes he fashions the shape of the idol.  With fresh clay sourced from Ganga, he mixes it with rice husks till it is hard enough to hold yet pliable enough to mould. The body of the idol lovingly takes shape under his hands.   The face remains.  This is part of his work he loves the most.

The detailing: Artisan brings life to the lifeless 

The artisan continues, he creates a mould of the idols face, nostalgically remembering the making of a similar mould in the years gone before.   Mixing the past with the present creating the future, rapt in attention, he sits there quietly and carves the face of the clay Goddess. 

His fingers trail down the cheek of the freshly moulded goddess, caressing it, smoothing it.  The sweet smell of wet clay helps him etch a smile onto the face of the goddess. He adds a few finishing strokes to the large drawn out eyes.  There it is; the face looks soulful; radiant in a way he has never seen before.  Remarkable is the end result when you put your heart into something you love doing!  

Around the corner, a small shack is stacked with glittering crowns, arms and legs.  The artisan moves to his collection of a variety of zaris, beads, mirrors, motis and starts accessorizing.  A goddess is a mother, a woman, a warrior.  Keeping this universal role that the mother goddess plays in perspective, the artisan starts threading the beads, motis, mirrors accordingly.

Triumph of good over evil

A few meters away is the artisans home.  His 12 – year – old daughter, whom he lovingly addresses as Durga, walks in to help her father.  She looks up at him and asks curiously “Baba, why do we worship the Goddess Durga?”  The artisan, still engrossed in his craft, replies “Dear Durga, as your name suggests, it’s the warrior aspect of the Divine Mother.  Durga means something that is inaccessible, invincible or who can be a redeemer in situations of utmost distress.  Mother Durga represents strength, morality, power, and protection.  She protects humankind from dark forces like selfishness, jealousy, hatred, anger, and ego.  She is an embodiment of the feminine force and creative energy.  It is believed that she is the supremely radiant goddess who destroys the evil forces and brings peace.  These are the reasons why we worship Mother Durga.”  

“Baba, why do they say that a woman shouldn’t touch the goddess?” It was first time in a while that the artisan’s hands stopped working.  He looked upon his little daughter and said, “ It is said so because people believe that they want to keep the women into a mould. But, you my little girl, you are set free to do whatever you feel like doing.  I want you to touch every idol your baba makes. I want you to feel the art.  I want you to break the shackles that are put upon women and recognize your own worth.  Maa Durga is a woman herself. She will never object to children, whether they be girls or boys.”

The artisan’s little girl hugged him with a trusting smile. Her baba has never lied to her. As the sun goes down and the darkness engulfs the area of the studio, the artisan smiles with content for understanding the true meaning of worship.  He is not breaking the traditions but indeed preserving them in the best way he knows.  Every girl, woman we come across is in some form or the other a symbol of love, strength, weakness, motherly – care. She must be worshipped next to every divine goddess. 

Conclusion 

As the artisan heads back home with his little girl, skipping behind him, trying to keep pace, he sees her stumble.  He rushes to help her when she stops him saying“ No Baba. Please, don’t help me.  I want to fall and rise on my own. I’m the Durga of tomorrow.  Maa Durga has given me enough strength.”   The artisan has created a difference.  His well-put thoughts are now deeply engraved on his daughter’s mind.  He sees his daughter stand up all by herself.  And behind her rises the shadow of Goddess Durga; the one that’s coming from an idol standing tall far behind her.  Such is the blessing of the Mother.  She comes home for a short span but empowers each individual.  

The voice behind this article is Ashwini Gaikwad, Content Writer, Investronaut.

Gauri Ganapati- The festival of Maharashtra

Temple - Gauri Ganapati Article ImageLike Durga Puja is to Bengalis and Raavan Dahan is to North Indians; similarly, Ganapati festival is to Maharashtrians. As September comes, every Maharashtrian starts preparing for the festival. It is celebrated by families, communities, societies, and in public places as well. Although celebrated across Maharashtra, Pune and Mumbai record the grandest celebrations of this festival. The life-like spectacular story models, decorations, Dhol-Tasha, immersion ceremony (Visarjan) everything makes for an enthusiastic environment all through those ten days.

Everyone welcomes Lord Ganesha like he is one of their own; like a respectable family member. For those seven to ten days, every household welcomes this deity by preparing sweets (especially modak), decorating the house, and offering majestic puja every morning and evening.  Some families even organize Aarti competition like who recites the most ancient, unknown aarti, or how many aartis can one recite.

There are some households that welcome Lord Ganesha’s sisters, Jeshtha Gauri and Kanishtha Gauri. Every little thing about the festival is celebrated like a fun activity and creativity. Be it bringing in the deity, installing the deity at home or in public, offering everyday Puja and bidding farewell to him afterward. Some families bid him farewell in just one day, some after five days, some along with his beloved sisters Gauri which is after seven days, while some after ten days. 

Many ancestral homes follow this tradition of Gauri Pujan where the sisters of Lord Ganesha come to celebrate their homecoming. Like Ganapati, Gauri Pujan is also a pompous celebration by itself. 

The two sisters of Ganapati Bappa, Jeshtha Gauri and Kanishtha Gauri are welcomed by imprinting kumkum and haldi footsteps and chanting, “Mahalakshmi Aali, sonyachya paulanni aali.” Along with the Jeshtha Gauri, accompanies her toddler son as well. While some families install toddler son, some families install both son and daughter. Once settled, the Gauri sisters are then decorated by draping new sarees, garlands, jewellery etc. They are then offered a big feast consisting of 18 items; one of which is the sweet beetle-leaves which is considered as a prasaad or naivedya for that day.  Apart from the big feast, The Gauri sisters are offered different snack delicacies like Shev, Chakli, Chivda, Anarse etc. (Snacks that most Indians prepare for Diwali). 

Some suggest a story that, ’Ganapati has two homes- One in Kailas, which is his parents’ place and the other one which is his devotees’ place. The story suggests, once there was a fight between father and son, that led Lord Ganapati to leave. After leaving, he came and resided in his devotee’s home. But, after a few days, both the parents and Lord Ganesha started missing each other. In order to make amends, Lord Shiva, Father of Lord Ganesha and Gauri, requested Gauri to go and bring back their son. So, the Gauris set to bring back Lord Ganesha. While they were at his devotees place, Lord Ganesha, Jeshtha Gauri and Kanishtha Gauri were so overwhelmed that they promised to return every year to accept the devotees’ services. And from then on, every year Lord Ganesha returns to his beloved devotees to accept their services to him.’

Most commonly Ganapati Bappa resides in his devotees’ home for five days. They offer their prayers, conduct their religious duties and after bidding him farewell, visit the different pandals to watch the uniqueness and majesty it depicts. Of all the cities of Maharashtra, the cultural city Pune is most famous for the decoration and life-like shows. Apart from the Ganesha exhibits, Pune is famous for the farewell procession as well, which is known as Visarjan. The main attraction of the Visarjan is the traditional art forms and the Dhol Tasha Pathak which has a record-breaking time of 32 hours. In Mumbai, it goes beyond 36 hours. 

The festival was first publicly initiated by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, to unite all the cultures and castes during his rule. As the kingship receded, the festival found its place in selective homes (Brahmin families). However, during the British Raj, Lokmanya Tilak resumed this tradition with the same purpose as Shivaji Maharaj. As the festival became public, the spirit of devotion and piousness resonated all through the world. Although it might be a festival, both the leaders Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Lokmanya Tilak knew that festivals are the only instances which can unite the masses. Therefore, it was one of the successful strategic moves that these patriotic leaders acted upon to create a better society. 

Today, although we are not repressed by some foreign rulers, there are some lingering societal problems like gender inequality, illiteracy, domestic violence, adultery etc. that need to be addressed. Public Ganapati pandals try to address such problems through their skits, spectacular exhibitions and majestic arrangements. In regard to this objective, the Ganapati festival has become a good way to invoke social awareness. While we enjoy the spirits of this festival, we should also empower each other by being a responsible citizen to make a better society, just like every pandal tries to spread this message.  

-Written by Snigdha Keskar

Raksha Bandhan- Decoding the festival for brothers and sisters

Temple - RSP Rakhi Article ImageRaksha Bandhan is a Hindu festival, that celebrates the caring relationship between brothers and sisters. It is celebrated on the full moon (Purnima) of the month of Shravan.  This year it falls on the 26th of August 2018. As the name suggests Raksha Bandhan is the bond of protection between brother and sister. It encompasses the warmth shared between the siblings and reminds them of the strong relationship they share. By tying  a raakhi the sister asks her brother for his protection and love. The brother, in turn, accepts the raakhi, confirms his love and affection, and presents the sister with an assurance of protection along with gifts and sweets.

The traditional significance of the elements of Rakhi Purnima 

Every element of this day has a special significance. In our culture, whenever we have any spiritual significance, the first thing we do is to prepare the ‘Aarti Thal’ and honor each other by putting a ‘Tilak’ on the forehead, offering sweet and circling the ‘Arti Thal’ over the individual. 

The Rakhi:

Rakhi is the sacred thread that reminds the wearer of his commitment, his promise and responsibilities. Interestingly, the  ‘Rakhi’ surfaced around the time when India was ruled by kings and queens. When soldiers were on the battlefield, most would not see their families for years. It is said that the sister of a captain on the battlefield, sent this sacred thread to remind him about his responsibilities and his duty towards his family. Motivated by this simple gesture, the captain fought vigorously to win the war and got back to his family. From then on, Rakhi has become a sign of love, affection and reminder of the commitment of protection. 

The Tilak: Putting dried KumKum or wet Kumkum is a prayer offered to God saying, ‘Let the receiver of this Tilak be blessed with colourful happiness and abundant prosperity.’ Putting rice grains after the KumKum asks that the receiver have ample food for his lifetime. 

Offering Sweets: Offering sweets signify that the one eating this sweet shall always have a sweet speech and no ill thought shall touch his mind, body or soul. Likewise, he shall also be kind and generous to others. Every word that comes out of his mouth shall be a goodwill, prayer or a blessing. 

Circling of the Arti Thal:

Every Arti Thal has an oil lamp in it. When an individual is encircled by the Arti Thal, it signifies a prayer for the long life of an individual. The oil lamp, Kumkum, rice and the sweets, therefore, signifies that the receiver’s life be blessed with abundant goodwill, colourful happiness, sweet memories and a long prosperous life. 

As we understand the beautiful significance of the elements of Rakhi Purnima, there are stories from history too associated with this festival.

More than a brother-sister bond

Rani Karnavati, the Queen of Chittor, sent the sacred thread to Emperor Humayun when she realized she could not defend her kingdom after the demise of her husband. Touched by this gesture, Emperor Humayun along with his cavalry left to protect Chittor and The Queen. 

Another story dates back to 300 BC when Alexander of Macedonia set on a mission to conquer India. Outraged by his crusade, the then King of India, King Puru, vowed to execute Alexander. Shaken by his fury, Alexander’s wife sent a Rakhi to King Puru asking him for the gift of her husband’s life. Respecting the bond of sacredness and the pious relation of sisterhood King Puru pardoned Alexander.  

For ages now, we have been practicing this festival by celebrating the love-hate relationship between a brother and a sister. The significance of the rituals, the way this day is celebrated, all of this reminds us of the relation of brother and sister. But, in today’s scenario, Rakhi Purnima has a different perspective. The occasion involves the pledge of a lifetime practice of moral, cultural and spiritual values. The values and the sentiments attached to the rituals of this festival are worth inculcating by the whole human race, the sentiments of harmony and peaceful coexistence. The festival of Raksha Bandhan assumes all forms of Raksha or protection, of righteousness and destroyer of all sin. 

-Snigdha Keskar is a content writer at Investronaut, a firm dedicated to providing organizations with business, products and services consultation.

Take spiritual control of yourself this Shrawan Maas

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As the monsoon sets in with its first shower, we see nature changing its backdrop and we can look forward to a pleasant time of the year. Our surroundings turn verdant, lush and fertile. It is during this time  that  the holy month of Shrawana enlightens us with its spirituality and holiness. 

The fifth month of Hindu calendar, is famously known for different vratas and pujas. Many blogs and articles focus on what to eat, drink or do in this month. However, lets understand why we do all these things in this month only and why this month has such an important place in our devotional calendar.

Climatic Significance:

With the change in weather, and unavailability of beneficial food options, our ancestors set out some spiritual rules for these times. As the then era stipulated a spiritual and religious lifestyle, the dietary habits became a part of religion. Gradually, the way of living changed and these rituals became a significant part of religion. The period comprises four months which is called  Chaturmaas, of which Shrawan is at the start of this period. However, with the changing lifestyles, this period was limited  to Shrawan. As a result, Shrawan is considered as the most significant time of the year and Hindus dedicate themselves to Vratas, fasts and Pujas. 

Spiritual Significance:

Another reason for Shrawana to be observed as the holy month is that all the spiritual festivals occur in this month. The spiritual festivals  Shrawani Somwar, Mangala Gauri, Guru Purnima, etc. all happen to fall in this month. In spiritual terms, the universe, the air, the atmosphere, everything is known as Shiva Tattva. Shiva is the ultimate consciousness. There is no one, who can step out of Shiva. Our ancestors have signified this concept as Lord Shiva who symbolises the unfathomable divine universe. As the atmosphere changes, the Shiva Tattva is activated that adds to the spiritual awakening of every existing being. In order to communicate this message to the masses, our ancestors translated it in spiritual terms which is why this month is dedicated to Lord Shiva and carries utmost importance. 

Mythological Significance:

The month of Shrawana is important in association with mythological stories as well. The most important story in Hindu mythology is Samudra Manthan which had taken place during this month. To describe the event in short, a dispute between the gods and demons for immortality caused the churning of the ocean which then led to the retrieval of fourteen gems from the ocean. Thirteen of them were equally distributed amongst the gods and demons, but, the fourteenth one was  poisonous fluid called, Halahal. The poison was very fatal and it could lead to an apocalypse. Lord Shiva drank the poison and held it in his throat; which attributed to Lord Shiva’s throat turning blue. To reduce the impact of this poison, every god and demon offered the holy water of Ganges to him. In memory of  this event, all the devotees also offer the water of Ganges to Lord Shiva. 

Fasts and Rituals:

Of all the days, the Mondays of Shrawana are considered the most important ones. The Shivmuth Puja is said to aid a better married life and is to be done for five consecutive years after marriage. There are particular grains and pulses that need to be consumed during this month. Likewise, every Monday has a specific grain associated with it which is called as Shivmuth Puja. On the first Monday, a fistful of rice is offered as an abhishek (grain by grain falls on to the Shivling) in the morning and an equal amount is to be consumed by the devotee for the whole day. On the second Monday, sesame is consumed; on the third, green gram or moong is consumed; and on the last Monday Jawas or flax seeds are consumed. 

All these pulses and grains have an effective benefit on the human body during the times of monsoons, and therefore this vrata has been designed accordingly. 

Another vrata is the Shrawani Somwar wherein people fast for getting a good life partner and for a good married life. As Shrawan is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is solely committed to his only wife Sati for eternity (Read our Adishakti article for this), our ancestors have symbolised all the fasts and rituals in Shrawana to bringing peace and tranquility in married life. There are many stories associated with this vrata that explain the procedure of the Vrata. A day long puja is to be done, and all rice, lentil, sesame or such food grains and pulses are to be consumed in this Vrata.

Likewise, there are many vratas in this auspicious month, however the Shivamuth Vrata and Shrawani Somwar Vrata are followed significantly. 

Delving into the rituals associated with Shrawan, can be an interesting subject. The more we delve, do we will realise that all these rituals are in fact, for our health benefits. So, even though it may sound little cliched, following Shrawana and the associated rituals will  make us strong and contented in the spiritual sense. 

Art of Living through Yoga

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Ahead of World Yoga Day, which is on 21st June, lets try to understand the basic idea of Yoga. The more common practise that we know of yoga, has driven the whole world towards it, like some mystical form of the Holy Grail. Yet, Yoga is not limited to exercise alone. This 5,000 year old wellness pursuit is the art of living that ignites positivity in everyone.

Yoga is a beautiful forum to explore, practise and experience the universe through oneself. Ashtanga Yoga, has been misinterpreted as eight ‘limbs’ in yoga. However, Anga in Sanskrit it means sections or levels. Thus, ashtanga actually  translates to  eight levels of yoga. It demands a complete control of the mind, body and soul, once you start evolving through it. It includes mastering the control of your inner self, your body and creates a positive attitude through yourself. Many know Yoga as a self-healing process and  it helps in curing different ailments of the body. It allows you to recognize your true potential and  spiritually awakens your soul. Of course, this is  all true. However, in order to achieve this exalted state, entirely, it should be practised in a systematic manner.

The Eight Stages of Ashtanga Yoga

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YAMA: Yama means moral observance that helps one to attain harmony with the universe. Yama is a result of five liberal principles that when practised regularly, will direct you towards being in harmony with the universe. When one masters these principles, unknowingly, you attain the next level of Ashtanga Yoga.

NIYAMA: Niyama allows you to  attain  harmony with your body through another five principles of moral observance. In a way, it intends to purify the inner elements of the body. When we speak about the body, it does not mean the physical form but, the identity of an individual in the universe.

Yama and Niyama are two fundamental facets of Ashtanga Yoga that work in unison to emancipate oneself. Therefore, when you start practising Yama, in a way, you start practicing Niyama as well. The 10 principles of moral observance to be in harmony with universe and yourself are an initiation towards bringing a positive shift in your life.

Link for 10 Principles of Yama and Niyama:

ASANA: If you Google Ashtanga Yoga,  the images thrown up, show people in  impossible poses, flexing and toning their bodies. Asanas are, in fact, a mirror to learn about yourself. But, Asana is just a stage amongst the other eight stages that comprise  Ashtanga Yoga. When you start practising Asanas, you learn unknown things about the body and about yourself as a whole.

Unfortunately, when one commences  learning yoga, the first thing you learn are the limitations of your body that can deflate  your ego. It forces one to have  feelings of inadequacy and mental intolerance. However, it is at this time when you have to be consistent and self motivated. As you move through these three stages onto the next, you will have taken the  first step towards  better living. When you practise Asanas, you learn a lot about your body. You are more aware of your body and you gradually start focusing on your existence.

PRANA: Prana here means the awareness of pranic energy. It is the art of regulating your breath, learning how to use breath to your benefit. Breathing is something that we do naturally. However, we have never learnt a systematic form of breathing. When you learn how to regulate your breath, your body starts responding in a completely different manner. It washes out the impurities, accepts only what is best for the body and processes it accordingly.

PRATYAHARA: The ultimate control of the five senses of the body means Pratyahara. The fundamental objective of this stage in Ashtanga Yoga, is to stop abusing the body – physically, emotionally or mentally. Getting addicted to food, toxic substances, ill thoughts, self-doubt are some ways how we abuse ourselves.

Pratyahara teaches us to end these addictions and take control of ourselves. Remember, when our elder folk used to preach – ‘your body does not control you’? In a way, sometimes,  too much dependability on our physical being has led us to abuse it dangerously. When one practises Pratyahara, this dependability is reduced and we attain the next stage of Yogic livelihood.

DHARANA: Once you have mastered all these stages, Dharana teaches you to control your mind. The above stages teach you to attain satisfaction one by one, gradually streamlining us towards one single point which is The Mind. It helps us in our focus, keeps our undivided attention on things that matter, and takes control of our restless behaviour, which reflects in our lifestyle as well.

DHYANA: ‘Maun’ which is eternal silence, is something that you learn to master in Dhyana. Just as different poses of the asanas comprise  ‘Asana as a stage’, Maun is that facet which comprises Dhyana. When you consistently practise Dharana, you gradually  reach towards Dhyana. Dhyana or meditation helps us to achieve silence in our mind.

SAMADHI: When you have established Dhyana for a very long time, you reach the stage of Samadhi. As this is the final stage of Ashtanga Yoga, many repudiate from this stage. Mostly, because it is misunderstood as the end of living. However, this is the most pure, unblemished stage of Yog Sadhana. Samadhi leads to control of  life and death. You can choose to live or die when you have mastered all the seven stages in Yog Sadhana.

Many of us attempt to master Ashtanga Yoga and all its stages simultaneously, because of which, we forget the significance of a methodical manner. Ashtanga Yoga is a method that gives a new way of life to those who practice it. So, on this World Yoga Day, lets understand the importance of a Yogic lifestyle whilst also using it as a form of exercise alone.