17th SEPTEMBER 2015 VISHWAKARMA – ARCHITECT GOD OF UNIVERSE DIRECTED BY GOD BRAHMA

Vishwakarma Puja 2015 – September 17 (Thursday)

Vishwakarma is known as the divine Engineer since the Puranic age. As a mark of reverence he is not only worshiped by the engineering community but also by all other professionals. This festival is celebrated in the month of September. On this day all the workers in the workshops and offices worship their tools and instruments in front of Lord Vishwakarma, which are generally used in their profession.

This is the puja of Lord Vishwakarma, the main architect of the universe who had fabricated the universe as per the direction of Brahma, the lord of creation.

Vishwakarma Puja is celebrated by all industrial houses, artists, craftsman and weavers. The festival is observed on the Kanya Sankranti Day (September) which follows the Ganesh Puja.

Vishwakarma Puja Legends

Lord VishwakarmaIn Hindu religious texts, he is known as ‘Devashilpi’ or ‘The Architect of Gods’. His mother’s name was Yogasiddha and sister was known as Brihaspati. His father was called Prabhas, the eighth hermit of the legendary Astam Basu. Dadhici Rishi 2015According to mythology, it is Lord Vishwakarma who not only made the universe but also the earth and heaven. It is said that Vishwakarma also created the weapons used in mythological times like the Vajra made from the bones of Dadhichi sage used by Lord Indra. Lord Vishwakarma is considered to be the best worker, the symbol of quality and excellence in craftsmanship. Mythology describes some of Vishwakarma’s creations in vivid details. They include the mythical town of Dwarka, the capital of Lord Krishna. It is also aid that Vishwakarma built the town of Hastinapur, the capital of Pandavas and Kauravas. Vishwakarma also built the town of Indraprastha for the Pandavas. Most important of all creations is Vishwakarma’s “Sone ki Lanka” where demon king Ravana lived and ruled. Lord Vishwakarma is the divine architect of the whole universe. He has four hands, carrying a water-pot, a book, a noose and craftsman’s tools.

Celebrations

Vishwakarma PujaThis festival of Vishwakarma Puja is celebrated with full enthusiasm. It is observed mostly in workshops, offices and factories in the industrial areas. Shop floors in various factories wear a festive look on this occasion. The images and idols of Lord Vishwakarma and his faithful elephant are inaugurated and worshipped in beautifully decorated pandals. The industrial towns in urban area come alive with decorative pandals and loudspeakers. Most factories around the area declare the annual bonus on this day. The puja pandals are usually made within the factory premises. On this day family members of the employees come together to create a bright moment in an otherwise dull and mundane workshop.

The rituals are followed by the distribution of “prasad”. The yearly feast is cooked and the workmen and the owners take their lunch together. People are also seen flying multicolor kites. The sky fills up with all shades and colours. Chadials, Mombattis, Chowrangees, Petkattas, Mayurpankhis, Baggas fly high to establish the skills of the fliers. The sky becomes a war zone with the discarded kites dropping every now and then with the cry of “Bho-Kattaaa” from the distant roofs or parks.

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Vishvakarman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Vishvakarma
God of creation
Affiliation Deva
Consort Vac
Mount Swan
For the Indian caste, see Vishwakarma (caste).

Viśwákarma (Sanskrit “all-accomplishing, maker of all, all-doer”) is personified omnipotence and the abstract form of the creator God according to the Rigveda. He is the presiding deity of all artisans and architects.[1] He is believed to be the “Principal Architect of the Universe “, and the root concept of the later Upanishadic figures of Brahman and Purusha.

In the Vedas[edit]

Vishwakarma is visualized as Ultimate reality (later developed as Brahman) in the Rig Veda,[2] from whose navel all visible things Hiranyagarbha emanate. The same imagery is seen in Yajurveda purusha sukta, in which the divine smith Tvastar emerging from Vishwakarma.[3] In the later puranic period this concept paved the way to the imagery of Padmanabha and Sadasiva.

In the Vedic period the term first appeared as an epithet of Indra, Surya, and Agni. In that time the later developed creator concept of Brahma might have been intertwined with the concept of Vastospati and Bṛhaspati, or Brahmanaspathi[4] In the last phase of vedic period and during the growth of monotheism, this realistic God concept becoming more abstract and one can see Vishwakarma [the invisible creative power] emerged as the supreme god[5] who was perceived as a hotar, the unborn [Aja] creator and name giver of all other gods who have lot of faces, eyes and feet on every side; and who helps Tvashtar,[the visible creative power of viswakarma] in producing all the Heavenly, Earthly and other Celestial realms and preserves them through the exercise of his arms and wings. He sacrificed himself to himself for the evolution of this visible world, thus he is Purusha or Narayana[6] His attributes like Vachaspathy[7] connect him with Brahaspathi (the Guru of Gods). Again, Yajurveda pictured him as the Prajapati[8] and in the Atharva veda he is[9] mentioned as Pashupati. Shwethashwatharopanishad described him as Rudrasiva, the one who is dwelling in all living forms.[10] Na Bhoomir Na Jalam Chaiva Na Teejo Nacha Vaayavaha Na chakasam na chitthasha Na budhi khrana gocharam Nacha Brahmaa Na Vishnuscha Na Rudrascha Taarakaaha Sarvashoonya niralambam Swayambhu Viswakarmana.

According to the above hymn, from Moolastambha purana which is something similar to Nasadeeya suktha It/He was the one who created himself from thyself when there was no earth, water, light, air and akasha,and even the Thrimurthies Later in the post vedic and brahmanic period, the term Vishwakarma is appeared both as the Rsi and the Silpi. In yajurveda the term is seen as one of names of pancha risis. Though the term is an epithet of suryanarayana, one of the seven rays of Surya is also known as Viswakarma. Bhuvana Vishwakarma (Atharva/Angirasa Gothra) is a vedic Rsi who was the author of Rg 10-81,82 suktha, (Prabasa Vishwakarma) was probably a silpi and the son of Prabhas, the eighth hermit of the legendary Astam vasu and Yogasiddha, sister of Brihaspati. He is said to have revealed the Sthapatya Veda / Vastu Shastra or fourth Upa-veda, and presides over the sixty-four mechanical arts.

Vishvakarma [ God ] created five prajapathies — from his five faces such as Sadyojāta,Vāmadeva, Aghora,Tatpuruṣha,Īsāna.[11] They are Manu, Maya, Twosta, Silpy, Viswajna and their respective Rishis are

  1. Sanaga Brahma Rishi
  2. Sanaathana Brahma Rishi
  3. Ahbhuvanasa Brahma Rishi
  4. Prathnasa Brahma Rishi
  5. Suparnasa Brahma Rishi

and created five Vedas:- from his five faces such as RigVeda, SamaVeda, YajurVeda, AtharvanaVeda, PranavaVeda.

In later puranas he is sometimes identified with vedic Tvastar.[12] Silpi Vishwakarma is the designer of all the flying chariots of the gods, and all their weapons and divine attributes. Vishwakarma/Tvostar is also credited with creating the missiles used in the mythological era, including the Vajra, the sacred weapon of Lord Indra, from the bones of sage Dadhichi. He is regarded as the supreme worker, the very essence of excellence and quality in craftsmanship.[13]

Vishwakarma Puja[edit]

Vishwakarma temple in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Since Vishwakarma is the divine engineer of the world, as a mark of reverence, he is not only worshiped by the engineering and architectural community but also by all professionals. It is customary for craftsmen to worship their tools in his name.

Silpy Vishwakarma is attributed a putative birthday by the Hindu religion. The more philosophical minded argue that it is impossible for the original Creator of everything to be born on a particular day. In rig veda he is described as Swayambhu[14] So it is a contradiction in terms since that presupposes another creator for Vishwakarma. The Vishwakarma Puja is celebrated in all parts of India, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam,Odisha, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Dehradun and Manipur.

Even among those who believe that there is a birthday there is no agreement as to when it actually occurs. Visvakarma birthday is celebrated on two days under different names:

  • Rishi Panchami Dinam. “Rishi Panchami Dinam” literally means ‘the day of the solidarity of five rishis.’ Those who celebrate this day believe that Vishwakarma did not have a birthday like the mortals but only a commemoration day in which his five children (supposedly five rishis) came together to declare their solidarity and pray to their illustrious father. This day follows the rules of the Hindu calendar and changes with every year. The five groups among the Vishwakarma community also celebrate this as an auspicious day in commemoration of their patron god at present.[15]
  • Visvakarma Jayanthi. Vishwakarma Jayanthi is celebrated by all industrial houses, artists, craftsmen, and weavers. The festival is observed on the Kanya Sankranti Day (September 17) which follows the Ganesh Puja. It was on this particular day that the forefathers of the present Visvakarma people invented the plough and gave it to humanity. The plough represents both the artisan trade as well as agriculture and therefore becomes the representative symbol of the ancient Indian civilisation. It changed the course of human history altogether. This was a change from ‘local mob culture to universal human culture’ and Vishwakarmas of India pioneered it. Coincidentally, this also becomes the birthday of Rsi/Silpi Visvakarma. So Indians in the past celebrated this day of many illustrious conjunctions as an occasion to honor Vishwakarma and his descendants.

Architectural wonders[edit]

Hindu scriptures describe many of Vishwakarma’s architectural accomplishments.

Through the four yugas (aeons of Hindu mythology), he had built several towns and palaces for the gods. Among them were, in chronological order, Svarga (Heaven) in the Satya Yuga, Lanka in the Treta Yuga, and Dwarka (Krishna’s capital) in the Dwapara Yuga.

Lanka : The City Of Gold[edit]

According to Ramayana, ‘Swarnalanka’ or Golden Lanka was ruled by Ravana during the threta yuga. This is also the city where Ravana held Sita hostage. It is said that when Lord Shiva married Parvati, he asked Viswakarma to build a beautiful palace for them to reside in. Vishwakarma built a palace made of gold. For the housewarming ceremony, Shiva invited the wise Pulastya rishi (The Grandfather of Kubera and also Ravana) to perform the “Grihapravesh” ritual. After the sacred ceremony when Shiva asked Pulastya rishi to ask anything in return as “Dakshina“, Pulastya, overwhelmed with the beauty and grandeur of the palace, asked Shiva for the golden palace itself. Shiva was obliged to accede to Pulastya‘s wish, and the Golden Lanka became his grandson Kubera‘s palace. The city of gold is said to have fallen into Ravanas hands when he overthrew his half brother Kuber.

Dwarka[edit]

Viswakarma is also supposed to have built Dwarka overnight.[16] During the time of the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna is said to have lived in Dwarka, and made it his “Karma Bhumi” (center of operation). This land now located in today’s Gujarat has become a well known pilgrimage for the Hindus.

See also[edit]

Vishwakarma – Lord of Architecture
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Most famous of the Buddhist caves is cave 10, a chaitya hall (chandrashala) or ‘Vishwakarma cave’, popularly known as the
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The Divine Draftsman:

Vishwakarma is the presiding deity of all craftsmen and architects. Son of Brahma, he is the divine draftsman of the whole universe, and the official builder of all the gods’ palaces. Vishwakarma is also the designer of all the flying chariots of the gods, and all their weapons.

The Mahabharata describes him as “The lord of the arts, executor of a thousand handicrafts, the carpenter of the gods, the most eminent of artisans, the fashioner of all ornaments …

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and a great and immortal god.” He has four hands, wears a crown, loads of gold jewelry, and holds a water-pot, a book, a noose and craftsman’s tools in his hands.

Vishwakarma Puja:

Hindus widely regard Vishwakarma as the god of architecture and engineering, and September 16 or 17 every year is celebrated as Vishwakarma Puja — a resolution time for workers and craftsmen to increase productivity and gain divine inspiration for creating novel products. This ritual usually takes place within the factory premises or shop floor, and the otherwise mundane workshops come alive with fiesta. Vishwakarma Puja is also associated with the buoyant custom of flying kites. This occasion in a way also marks the start of the festive season that culminates in Diwali.

Vishwakarma’s Architectural Wonders:

Hindu mythology is full of Vishwakarma’s many architectural wonders. Through the four ‘yugas’, he had built several towns and palaces for the gods. In “Satya yuga”, he built the Swarg Loke, or heaven, the abode of the gods and demigods where Lord Indra rules.

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Vishwakarma then built the ‘Sone ki Lanka’ in “Treta yuga”, the city of Dwarka in “Dwapar yuga”, and Hastinapur and Indraprastha in the “Kali yuga”.

‘Sone Ki Lanka’ or Golden Lanka:

According to Hindu mythology, ‘Sone ki Lanka’ or Golden Lanka was the place where the demon king Ravana dwelled in the “Treta yuga.” As we read in the epic story Ramayana, this was also the place where Ravana kept Sita, Lord Ram’s wife as a hostage.

There is also a story behind the construction of Golden Lanka. When Lord Shiva married Parvati, he asked Vishwakarma to build a beautiful palace for them to reside. Vishwakarma put up a palace made of gold! For the housewarming ceremony, Shiva invited the wise Ravana to perform the “Grihapravesh” ritual. After the sacred ceremony when Shiva asked Ravana to ask anything in return as “Dakshina”, Ravana, overwhelmed with the beauty and grandeur of the palace, asked Shiva for the golden palace itself! Shiva was obliged to accede to Ravana’s wish, and the Golden Lanka became Ravana’s palace.

Dwarka:

Among the many mythical towns Viswakarma built is Dwarka, the capital of Lord Krishna. During the time of the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna is said to have lived in Dwarka, and made it his “Karma Bhoomi” or center of operation. That is why this place in nothern India has become a well known pilgrimage for the Hindus.

Hastinapur:

In the present “Kali Yuga”, Vishwakarma is said to have built the town of Hastinapur, the capital of Kauravas and Pandavas, the warring families of the Mahabharata. After winning the battle of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna installed Dharmaraj Yudhisthir as the ruler of Hastinapur.

Indraprastha:

Vishwakarma also built the town of Indraprastha for the Pandavas. The Mahabharata has it that King Dhritrashtra offered a piece of land called ‘Khaandavprastha’ to the Pandavas for living. Yudhishtir obeyed his uncle’s order and went to live in Khaandavprastha with the Pandava brothers. Later, Lord Krishna invited Vishwakarma to build a capital for the Pandavas on this land, which he renamed ‘Indraprastha’.

Legends tell us about the architectural marvel and beauty of Indraprastha. Floors of the palace were so well done that they had a reflection like that of water, and the pools and ponds inside the palace gave the illusion of a flat surface with no water in them.

After the palace was built, the Pandavas invited the Kauravas, and Duryodhan and his brothers went to visit Indraprastha. Not knowing the wonders of the palace, Duryodhan was flummoxed by the floors and the pools, and fell into one of the ponds. The Pandava wife Draupadi, who witnessed this scene, had a good laugh! She retorted, hinting at Duryodhan’s father (the blind king Dhritrashtra) “the son of a blind man is bound to be blind.” This remark of Draupadi annoyed Duryodhan so much that later on it became a major cause for the great war of Kurukshetra described in the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita.
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“I am the conscience in the heart of all creatures
I am their beginning, their being, their end
I am the mind of the senses,
I am the radiant sun among lights
I am the song in sacred lore,
I am the king of deities
I am the priest of great seers…”
This is how Lord Krishna describes God in the Holy Gita. And to most Hindus he is the God himself, the Supreme Being or the Purna Purushotam.

The Most Powerful Incarnation of Vishnu

The great exponent of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is one of the most powerful incarnations of Vishnu, the Godhead of the Hindu Trinity of deities.

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Of all the Vishnu avataras he is the most popular, and perhaps of all Hindu gods the one closest to the heart of the masses. Krishna was dark and extremely handsome. The word Krishna literally means ‘black’, and black also connotes mysteriousness.

The Importance of Being Krishna

For generations, Krishna has been an enigma to some, but God to millions, who go ecstatic even as they hear his name. People consider Krishna their leader, hero, protector, philosopher, teacher and friend all rolled into one. Krishna has influenced the Indian thought, life and culture in myriad ways. He has influenced not only its religion and philosophy, but also into its mysticism and literature, painting and sculpture, dance and music, and all aspects of Indian folklore.

The Time of the Lord

Indian as well as Western scholars have now accepted the period between 3200 and 3100 BC as the period in which Lord Krishna lived on earth. Krishna took birth at midnight on the ashtami or the 8th day of the Krishnapaksha or dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Shravan (August-September).

The birthday of Krishna is called Janmashthami, a special occasion for Hindus that is celebrated around the world. The birth of Krishna is in itself a transcendental phenomenon that generates awe among the Hindus and overwhelms one and all with its supra mundane happenings.

Read the Story of the Birth of Krishna

Baby Krishna: Killer of Evils

Stories about Krishna’s exploits abound. Legends have it that on the very sixth day of his birth, Krishna killed lady demon Putna by sucking on her breasts. In his childhood, he also killed many other mighty demons, such as Trunavarta, Keshi, Aristhasur, Bakasur, Pralambasur et al. During the same period he also killed Kali Nag (cobra de capello) and made the holy water of river Yamuna poison free.

Krishna’s Childhood Days

Krishna made cowherdesses happy by the bliss of his cosmic dances and the soulful music of his flute. He stayed in Gokul, the legendary ‘cow-village’ in Northern India for 3 years and 4 months. As a child he was reputed to be very mischievous, stealing curd and butter and playing pranks with his girl friends or gopis. Having completed his Lila or exploits at Gokul, he went to Vrindavan and stayed until he was 6 years and 8 months old.

Read About the Radha-Krishna Legend

According to a famous legend, Krishn drove away the monsterous serpent Kaliya from the river to the sea. Krishna, according to another popular myth, lifted the Govardhana hill up with his little finger and held it like an umbrella to protect the people of Vrindavana from the torrential rain caused by Lord Indra, who had been annoyed by Krishna. Then he lived in Nandagram till he was 10.

Krishna’s Youth and Education

Krishna then returned to Mathura, his birthplace, and killed his wicked maternal uncle King Kamsa along with all his cruel associates and liberated his parents from jail. He also reinstated Ugrasen as the King of Mathura. He completed his education and mastered the 64 sciences and arts in 64 days at Avantipura under his preceptor Sandipani. As gurudaksina or tuition fees, he restored Sandipani’s dead son to him. He stayed in Mathura till he was 28.

Read About Krishna’s Thoughts on Knowledge

Krishna, the King of Dwarka

Krishna then came to the rescue of a clan of Yadava chiefs, who were ousted by the king Jarasandha of Magadha. He easily triumphed over the multi-million army of Jarasandha by building an impregnable capital Dwarka, “the many-gated” city in an island in the sea. The city located on the western point of Gujarat, is now submerged in the sea according to the epic Mahabharata. Krishna shifted, as the story goes, all his sleeping relatives and natives to Dwarka by the power of his yoga. In Dwarka, he married Rukmini, then Jambavati, and Satyabhama. He also saved his kingdom from Nakasura, the demon king of Pragjyotisapura, had abducted 16,000 princesses. Krishna freed them and married them since they had nowhere else to go.

Krishna, the Hero of the Mahabharata

For many years, Krishna lived with the Pandava and Kaurava kings who ruled over Hastinapur. When a war was about to break oput between the Pandavas and Kauravas, Krishna was sent to mediate, but failed. War became inevitable, and Krishna offered his forces to the Kauravs and himself agreed to join the Panadavas as the charioteer of the master warrior Arjuna. This epic battle of Kurukshetra described in the Mahabharata, was fought in about 3000 BC. In the middle of the war, Krishna delivered his famous advice, which forms the crux of the Bhagavad Gita, in which he put forward the theory of ‘Nishkam Karma’ or action without attachment.

Krishna’s Final Days on Earth

After the great war, Krishna returned to Dwarka. In his final days on earth, he taught spiritual wisdom to Uddhava, his friend and disciple, and ascended to his abode after casting off his body, which was shot at by a hunter named Jara. He is believed to have lived for 125 years. Whether he was a human being or a God-incarnate, there is no gainsaying the fact that he has been ruling the hearts of millions for over three millennia. In the words of Swami Harshananda, “If a person can affect such a profound impact on the Hindu race affecting its psyche and ethos and all aspects of its life for centuries, he is no less than God.”
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Four Yugas simple scheme – Vedic108science/Wikimedia Commons
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According to Hindu scriptures, all mortal beings are destined to pass through four great epochs in every cycle of creation and destruction. This divine cycle turns full-circle at the end of what is known as kalpa. A kalpa is a yuga cycle, which is a period of 10,000 divine years, and is divided into four ages or yugas (Sanskrit yuga = age/epoch). According to one calculation, one yuga cycle is estimated to be 4,320,000 years, and one kalpa 4,320,000,000 years.
About the 4 Yugas

The four great epochs in Hinduism are: Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapar Yuga and Kali Yuga.
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Satya Yug or the Age of Truth is said to last for four thousand divine years, Treta Yuga for three thousand, Dwapara Yug for two thousand and Kali Yuga will last for one thousand divine Years that equals to 432,000 earthly years.
It is also believed that three of these great ages have already passed away, and we are now living in the fourth one. What these ages exactly mean, and why this division, it’s hard to explain, because they appear too unrealistic to be true for the rational mind.

Read more about the Hindu Concept of Time

Songs of Innocence & Experience!

The four ages symbolize the four phases of involution during which man gradually lost the awareness of his inner selves and subtle bodies. Hinduism believes that human beings have five kinds of bodies, called annamayakosa, pranamayakosa, manomayakosa vignanamayakosa and anandamayakosa, which represent the ‘gross body’, the ‘breath body’, the ‘psychic body’, the ‘intelligence body’ and the ‘bliss body’ respectively.
Another theory explains these epochs of time on the basis of the degree of loss of righteousness in the world.

It says, during Satya Yuga only truth prevailed (Sanskrit Satya = truth), Treta lost ¼ truth, Dwapar lost ½ truth and Kali is left with only ¼ truth. Evil and dishonesty has replaced truth in the last three ages or yugs.

Dasavatara: The 10 Avatars

Throughout these four yugas, Lord Vishnu is said to incarnate ten times in ten different avatars. This is known as ‘Dasavatara’ (Sanskrit dasa = ten). During the Age of Truth, human beings were spiritually most advanced and had great psychic powers. In the Treta Yuga people still remained righteous and adhered to moral ways of life. Lord Rama of the fabled Ramayana lived in Treta Yuga. In the Dwapara Yuga, men had lost all knowledge of the intelligence and bliss bodies. Lord Krishna was born in this age. The present Kali Yuga is the most degenerated of the Hindu epochs.
Read more about the Dasavatara

Living in the Kali Yuga!

We live in the Kali Yuga — in a world infested with impurities and vices. People possessing genial virtues are diminishing day by day. Floods and famine, war and crime, deceit and duplicity characterize this age. But, say the scriptures, final emancipation is possible only in this age.
The Signs of Kali Yug!

Kali Yuga has two phases: In the first, humans — having lost the knowledge of the two higher selves — had knowledge of the ‘breath body’ apart from the physical self. During the second phase even this knowledge has deserted mankind, leaving us only with the awareness of the gross physical body. This explains why we are now more preoccupied with our physical self than anything else.
Due to our preoccupation with our physical bodies and our lower selves, and because of our emphasis on the pursuit of gross materialism, this age has been termed the ‘Age of Darkness’ — an age when we have lost touch with our inner selves, an age of profound ignorance!

What the Scriptures Say

Both the two great epics – The Ramayana & Mahabharata – have spoken about the Kali Yuga. In the Tulasi Ramayana, we find Kakbhushundi foretelling: “In the Kali Yuga, the hot-bed of sin, men and women are all steeped in unrighteousness and act contrary to the Vedas… every virtue had been engulfed by the sins of Kali Yuga; all good books had disappeared; impostors had promulgated a number of creeds, which they had invented out of their own wit. The people had all fallen prey to delusion and all pious acts had been swallowed by greed.”
In the Mahabharata (Santi Parva) Yudhishthir says: “… The ordinances of the Vedas disappear gradually in every successive age… the duties in the Kali age are entirely of another kind. It seems, therefore, that duties have been laid down for the respective age according to the powers of human beings in the respective ages.” The sage Vyasa later on clarifies: “In the Kali Yuga, the duties of the respective order disappear and men become afflicted by inequity.”

What Happens Next?

It is predicted that at the end of the Kali Yuga, Lord Shiva shall destroy the universe and all the physical body would undergo a great transformation. After such dissolution, Lord Brahma would recreate the universe and mankind will become the ‘Beings of Truth’ once again.
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yogavidyabook1.JPG – Yoga Vidya
Yoga Vidya By Lars Martin Fosse
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The Gita is the linchpin of a great epic, and that epic is the Mahabharata, or Great Story of the Bharatas. With nearly one hundred thousand verses divided into eighteen books, it is one of the longest epic poems in the world—fully seven times longer than the Iliad and the Odyssey combined, or three times longer than the Bible. It is in fact a whole library of stories that exerted a tremendous influence on the people and literature of India.

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The central story of the Mahabharata is a conflict over succession to the throne of Hastinapura, a kingdom just north of modern Delhi that was the ancestral realm of a tribe most commonly known as the Bharatas. (India was at that time divided amongst many small, and often warring, kingdoms.)

The struggle is between two groups of cousins, the Pandavas or sons of Pandu, and the Kauravas, or descendants of Kuru. Because of his blindness, Dhritarashtra, the elder brother of Pandu, is passed over as king, the throne going instead to Pandu. (See glossary of names and terms)

However, Pandu renounces the throne, and Dhritarashtra assumes power after all. The sons of Pandu—Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva—grow up together with their cousins, the Kauravas. Due to enmity and jealousy, the Pandavas are forced to leave the kingdom when their father dies. During their exile, they jointly marry Draupadi and befriend their cousin Krishna, who from then on accompanies them. They return and share sovereignty with the Kauravas, but have to withdraw to the forest for thirteen years when Yudhishthira loses all his possessions in a game of dice with Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas.

When they return from the forest to demand their share of the kingdom back, Duryodhana refuses. This means war. Krishna acts as counselor to the Pandavas.

The Gita is found right here, with the two armies facing each other and ready for battle. The battle rages for eighteen days and ends with the defeat of the Kauravas. All the Kauravas die; only the five Pandava brothers and Krishna survive. The six set out for heaven together, but all die on the way, except Yudhishthira, who reaches the gates of heaven accompanied only by a small dog, who turns out to be an incarnation of the god Dharma. After tests of faithfulness and constancy, Yudhishthira is reunited in heaven with his brothers and Draupadi in eternal bliss.

It is within this enormous epic … well less than one percent of the Mahabharata that we find the Bhagavad Gita, or the Song of the Lord, most commonly referred to simply as the Gita. It is found in the sixth book of the epic, just before the great battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The greatest hero of the Pandavas, Arjuna, has pulled up his chariot in the middle of the battlefield between the two opposing armies. He is accompanied by Krishna, who acts as his charioteer.

In a fit of despondency, Arjuna throws down his bow and refuses to fight, deploring the immorality of the coming war. It is a moment of supreme drama: time stands still, the armies are frozen in place, and God speaks.

The situation is extremely grave. A great kingdom is about to self-destruct in internecine warfare, making a mockery of dharma, the eternal moral laws and customs that govern the universe. Arjuna’s objections are well founded: He is the victim of a moral paradox. On the one hand, he is facing persons who, according to dharma, deserve his respect and veneration. On the other hand, his duty as a warrior demands that he kill them.

Yet no fruits of victory would seem to justify such a heinous crime. It is, seemingly, a dilemma without solution. It is this state of moral confusion that the Gita sets out to mend.

When Arjuna refuses to fight, Krishna has no patience with him. Only when he realizes the extent of Arjuna’s despondency does Krishna change his attitude and start teaching the mysteries of dharmic action in this world. He introduces Arjuna to the structure of the universe, the concepts of prakriti, primordial nature, and the three gunas, the properties that are active in prakriti. Then he takes Arjuna on a tour of philosophical ideas and ways of salvation. He discusses the nature of theory and action, the importance of ritual, the ultimate principle, Brahman, all the while gradually disclosing his own nature as the highest god.

This part of the Gita culminates in an overwhelming vision: Krishna allows Arjuna to see his supernal form, the Vishvarupa, which strikes terror into Arjuna’s heart. The rest of the Gita deepens and supplements the ideas presented before the epiphany—the importance of self-control and faith, of equanimity and unselfishness, but above all, of bhakti, or devotion. Krishna explains to Arjuna how he can obtain immortality by transcending the properties which qualify not only primordial matter, but also human character and behavior. Krishna also emphasizes the importance of doing one’s duty, declaring that it is better to do one’s own duty without distinction than to do another’s duty well.

In the end, Arjuna is convinced. He picks up his bow and is ready to fight. Knowing a couple of things will make your reading easier. The first is that the Gita is a conversation within a conversation. Dhritarashtra begins it by asking a question, and that is the last we hear out of him. He is answered by Sanjaya, who relates what is happening on the battlefield. (It is actually more dramatic and wondrous than the previous sentence indicates. Dhritarashtra is blind. Vyasa, his father, offers to restore his sight so he can follow the battle. Dhritarashtra declines this boon, feeling that seeing the carnage of his kinsmen would be more than he could bear. So instead, Vyasa bestows clairvoyance and clairaudience upon Sanjaya, Dhritarashtra’s minister and charioteer. As they sit in their palace, Sanjaya relates what he sees and hears on the distant battlefield.) Sanjaya pops up now and again throughout the book as he relates to Dhritarashtra the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. This second conversation is a bit one-sided, as Krishna does almost all of the talking. Thus, Sanjaya describes the situation, Arjuna asks the questions, and Krishna gives the answers.

Source: Excerpted from ‘The Bhagavad Gita’ translated by Lars Martin Fosse.

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About the Author
Lars Martin Fosse holds a master’s and doctorate from the University of Oslo, and also studied at the Universities of Heidelberg, Bonn, and Cologne. He has lectured at Oslo University on Sanskrit, Pali, Hinduism, text analysis, and statistics, and was a visiting fellow at Oxford University. He is one of Europe’s most experienced translators.
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Mahabharata – ExoticIndia.com
A famous scene from the Mahabharata – ‘Draupadi Chira-harana’. ExoticIndia.com

Subhamoy Das
Hinduism Expert
The innermost narrative kernel of the Mahabharata tells the story of two sets of paternal first cousins — the five sons of the deceased king Pandu (the five Pandavas) and the one hundred sons of blind King Dhritarashtra (the 100 hundred Dhartarashtras) — who became bitter rivals, and opposed each other in war for possession of the ancestral Bharata kingdom with its capital in the “City of the Elephant,” Hastinapura, on the Ganga river in north central India.

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What is dramatically interesting within this simple opposition is the large number of individual agendas the many characters pursue, and the numerous personal conflicts, ethical puzzles, subplots, and plot twists that give the story a strikingly powerful development.

The five sons of Pandu were actually fathered by five Gods (sex was mortally dangerous for Pandu, because of a curse) and these heroes were assisted throughout the story by various Gods, seers, and brahmins, including the seer Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa (who later became the author of the epic poem telling the whole of this story), who was also their actual grandfather (he had engendered Pandu and the blind Dhrtarastra upon their nominal father’s widows in order to preserve the lineage). The one hundred Dhrtarashtras, on the other hand, had a grotesque, demonic birth, and are said more than once in the text to be human incarnations of the demons who are the perpetual enemies of the Gods.

The most dramatic figure of the entire Mahabharata, however, is Krishna Vasudeva, who was the supreme God Vishnu himself, descended to earth in human form to rescue Law, Good Deeds, Right, and Virtue (all of these words refer to different aspects of “dharma”).

Krishna Vasudeva was the cousin of both parties, but he was a friend and advisor to the Pandavas, became the brother-in-law of Arjuna Pandava, and served as Arjuna’s mentor and charioteer in the great war. Krishna Vasudeva is portrayed several times as eager to see the purgative war occur, and in many ways the Pandavas were his human instruments for fulfilling that end.

The Dhartarashtra party behaved viciously and brutally toward the Pandavas in many ways, from the time of their early youth onward. Their malice displayed itself most dramatically when they took advantage of the eldest Pandava, Yudhishthira (who had by now become the universal ruler of the land) in a game of dice: The Dhartarashtras ‘won’ all his brothers, himself, and even the Pandavas’ common wife Draupadi (who was an incarnation of the richness and productivity of the Goddess “Earthly-and-Royal Splendor,” Shri); they humiliated all the Pandavas and physically abused Draupadi; they drove the Pandava party into the wilderness for twelve years, and the twelve years had to be followed by the Pandavas’ living somewhere in society, in disguise, without being discovered for one more year.

The Pandavas fulfilled their part of that bargain, but the villainous leader of the Dhartarashtra party, Duryodhana, was unwilling to restore the Pandavas to their half of the kingdom when the thirteen years had expired. Both sides then called upon their many allies and two large armies arrayed themselves on ‘Kuru’s Field’ (Kuru was one of the eponymous ancestors of the clan), eleven divisions in the army of Duryodhana against seven divisions for Yudhishthira. Much of the action in the Mahabharata is accompanied by discussion and debate among various interested parties, and the most famous sermon of all time, Krishna Vasudeva’s ethical lecture and demonstration of his divinity to his charge Arjuna (the justly famous Bhagavad Gita) occurred in the Mahabharata just prior to the commencement of the hostilities of the war. Several of the important ethical and theological themes of the Mahabharata are tied together in this sermon, and this “Song of the Blessed One” has exerted much the same sort of powerful and far-reaching influence in Indian Civilization that the New Testament has in Christendom.

The Pandavas won the eighteen day battle, but it was a victory that deeply troubled all except those who were able to understand things on the divine level (chiefly Krishna, Vyasa, and Bhishma, the Bharata patriarch who was emblematic of the virtues of the era now passing away). The Pandavas’ five sons by Draupadi, as well as Bhimasena Pandava’s and Arjuna Pandava’s two sons by two other mothers (respectively, the young warriors Ghatotkaca and Abhimanyu, were all tragic victims in the war. Worse perhaps, the Pandava victory was won by the Pandavas slaying, in succession, four men who were quasi-fathers to them: Bhishma, their teacher Drona, Karna (who was, though none of the Pandavas knew it, the first born, pre-marital, son of their mother), and their maternal uncle Shalya (all four of these men were, in succession, ‘supreme commander’ of Duryodhana’s army during the war). Equally troubling was the fact that the killing of the first three of these ‘fathers,’ and of some other enemy warriors as well, was accomplished only through ‘crooked stratagems’ (jihmopayas), most of which were suggested by Krishna Vasudeva as absolutely required by the circumstances.

The ethical gaps were not resolved to anyone’s satisfaction on the surface of the narrative and the aftermath of the war was dominated by a sense of horror and malaise. Yudhishthira alone was terribly troubled, but his sense of the war’s wrongfulness persisted to the end of the text, in spite of the fact that everyone else, from his wife to Krishna Vasudeva, told him the war was right and good; in spite of the fact that the dying patriarch Bhishma lectured him at length on all aspects of the Good Law (the Duties and Responsibilities of Kings, which have rightful violence at their center; the ambiguities of Righteousness in abnormal circumstances; and the absolute perspective of a beatitude that ultimately transcends the oppositions of good versus bad, right versus wrong, pleasant versus unpleasant, etc.); in spite of the fact that he performed a grand Horse Sacrifice as expiation for the putative wrong of the war. These debates and instructions and the account of this Horse Sacrifice are told at some length after the massive and grotesque narrative of the battle; they form a deliberate tale of pacification (prashamana, shanti) that aims to neutralize the inevitable miasma of the war.

In the years that follow the war Dhritarashtra and his queen Gandhari, and Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, lived a life of asceticism in a forest retreat and died with yogic calm in a forest fire. Krishna Vasudeva and his always unruly clan slaughtered each other in a drunken brawl thirty-six years after the war, and Krishna’s soul dissolved back into the Supreme God Vishnu (Krishna had been born when a part of Vishnu took birth in the womb of Krishna’s mother). When they learned of this, the Pandavas believed it time for them to leave this world too and they embarked upon the ‘Great Journey,’ which involved walking north toward the polar mountain, that is toward the heavenly worlds, until one’s body dropped dead. One by one Draupadi and the younger Pandavas died along the way until Yudhishthira was left alone with a dog that had followed him all the way. Yudhishthira made it to the gate of heaven and there refused the order to drive the dog back, at which point the dog was revealed to be an incarnate form of the God Dharma (the God who was Yudhishthira’s actual, physical father), who was there to test Yudhishthira’s virtue. Once in heaven Yudhishthira faced one final test of his virtue: He saw only the Dhartarashtras in heaven, and he was told that his brothers were in hell. He insisted on joining his brothers in hell, if that be the case! It was then revealed that they were really in heaven, that this illusion had been one final test for him. So ends the Mahabharata!

Copyright © 1999 James L. Fitzgerald
Reproduced with Permission of Prof. James L. Fitzgerald, Department of Religious Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
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