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The Divine Sharad Purnima

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harvest moon painting-artist unknown

Look up tonight and if you are in the Northern hemisphere under clear skies you will find an unusually bright golden full moon looking down at you. It is after all Sharad Purnima, the divine full moon night. The night of the autumnal Harvest Moon in the Hindu lunar calendar.

Sharad Purnima or Kojagiri Purnima is celebrated across India, a tradition that goes back to ancient times. It marks the change of seasons and is basically a harvest festival. A time to wish for plenty and pray to Laxmi the Goddess of Wealth for abundance.

Hence the custom of observing a vigil through the night in the worship of the Goddess. In Sanskrit, `Ko jaagarti’ means, ‘ who is awake? It is believed that on this night, Goddess Lakshmi moves around asking `Ko jaagarti’. She looks for people who are awake and blesses them wealth and prosperity.

Hindus fast on this day avoiding solid foods and break the fast at midnight with milk.The practice of drinking cold milk during this fast has its roots in Ayurveda. Sharad ritu ( autumn) brings in very hot days and cool nights. During such weather, ‘pitta’ or acidity becomes predominant in our body. Consumption of milk & rice flakes is a good remedy for ‘pitta’.

It is also believed on this night due to the closeness of the moon to the earth the moon beams hold special healing powers. Hence the milk is kept in the moonlight before being consumed.

Another popular legend speaks of Krishna inviting the gopis, milkmaids of Vrindavan to the play the Maha Raas with him on the full moon night of Ashwin.

Drawn by the mesmerising sound of Krishna’s flute the gopis left their homes in the middle of the night to join him in the woods. So intense was their love for him that they paid no heed to social taboos at the time. Krishna was in turn so moved by their love for him that he assumed as many form as there were gopis and danced the dance of love with them. This occasion is celebrated with great joy in the temples of Vrindavan.

In Bengal this festival is called Lokkhi Puja, and offering are made to Goddess Laxmi. In Orissa, it is celebrated as Kumar Purnima in honour of Kumar the handsome son of Shiva, who was born on this day. In Maharashtra it is known as Kojagiri Purnima and family and friends gather around under the open skies and enjoy the moonlight.

Even without the religious significance this is a very special festival. A full moon night celebrated for it’s own sake. A night to savour the changing of seasons.

Kojagiri milk

                                                                                   Happy Kojagiri !!!

Navratri-Nine Nights of the Goddess

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The festival of Navratri began last night. For nine nights to come, the Mother, the Goddess,  the supreme Devi will be celebrated and worshiped in all her names and forms across India.

In her all encompassing avatars of Durga, Laxmi and Saraswati she will reign over our hearts and minds.

She is Shakti, the nameless, formless energy that continuously manifests as the ever changing Cosmos. She is the creative feminine principle. She is the Divine Mother. Just as she holds up the cosmos, she sustains us too. Nurturing us and holding our hands as we navigate our lives. To her we turn for courage and comfort.

And to her we turn to find ourselves.

Although the festival of Navratri is a joyous celebration marked by elaborate pujas, feasts and dancing through the night, it has a deep spiritual significance.

For the first three nights we worship the Goddess as Durga, the warrior goddess who armed with her many weapons destroys all evil. We pray to Durga that she many transform all that is petty and limiting within us, and dispel the ignorance and darkness that envelopes us. For it is only when we are freed of all negativity that we can open our hearts and lives to all things positive.

It is then that we are ready to welcome Laxmi, the Goddess of Abundance.  For the next three days we pray to Laxmi that she may fill our open hearts  and lives with wealth, both material and spiritual.  For it is only when we have tasted abundance and experienced the expansive nature of the Universe that we become ready to receive knowledge and learning, the greatest wealth of all.

This brings us to the last three days of Navratri which are devoted to Sarswati, the Goddess of Learning and Arts. She is also the goddess who holds the secret to the highest knowledge, the knowledge of the Self. We pray that she may grant us that knowledge.

The nine nights are then a journey of the Self towards itself. And, even if we take but just a step, we have at least begun the journey.

Happy Navratri to you !!

Image                Dancing to her tune- Men and women dance the Garba.

                                                                                     

The Many Faces of Ganesha

…Literally!

What I love so much about Ganesh Chaturthi is the creative expression of the many artists who make the idols. The way they fashion their god lovingly, in a form that speaks to them

There is no dogma here, no rights and wrong. Just love and devotion.

Some lovely images, thanks to WhatsApp!