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Hindu Festivals
Adyar Gopal Parivar
An extended family of Adyar Gopal
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This website is a renovated website of Adyar Gopal Parivar. I am Dr. Mohan G Shenoy inviting you to visit and explore the website.
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By Mohan Shenoy

        Praarabdha (praa-rab-dha) is fate. 'It is praarabdha that determines our life'.

        This is the concept in Hindu style of living. Who do we hold responsible for what we go through in life, good or bad? Who is accountable for our well-being and happiness or misery and wretchedness? Who casts the shape and size of our body, frame the emotions and feelings of our mind, measure the knowledge and wisdom we attain, and keep us in either darkness or in the light? Who is it that gives us body and brains, builds us rivers and mountains, opens and closes a day, provides us with rest and sleep in the night?

        Is any one responsible for our diseases and disabilities, for our desires and yearnings, for the direction that our life takes, the path that we tread towards maturity and old age? What stops us, if at all, from living a happy and full life, a life of fulfillment, a life of plenty and prosperity?

        And finally why do we get old and weak, and what causes our death?Is a road accident causing either injury or death, the making of the victim? Why does a certain baby die of diarrhoea and dehydration, while another one lives a life without such diseases? An airplane crashes and hundreds of passengers die, but one who cancelled his travel because he reached the airport late survives. How could he get lucky and escape the violent death in a plane crash? One couple is happy and prosperous while the next door neighbour is miserable and is always in debt. How and why these two couples lead such different lives?

        Why did the king order that the enemy spy be killed by the elephant stepping on his head today, while yesterday he had ordered the thief who stole the fruits and vegetables from a farm, be hanged? On the third day the king was kind and in a jovial mood and he merely let another thief who snatched the gold chain from a woman be subjected to the chopping off both of his arms? But another spy and two other thieves ran away and simply vanished, thus escaped the punishment that the king would have imposed on them. What is it that let them off scot-free in this fashion?

        A battle ends in the defeat of the local chieftain. The triumphant king orders every man, woman, and child in the enemy territory be slaughtered and their belongings be looted by his soldiers. He has done a cruel and despicable act, yet he goes back to his state capital and suffers nothing for his wrong deeds. Is the king going to be punished for his sins? Another king is very kind to his subjects, and is adored by the poor and rich alike for his good nature, yet his brother rebels against him and kills him in cold blood, and usurps the kingdom to become the ruler. How and when will the brother be punished for his crime of murder?

        There are deaths by lightening, by floods, by earthquakes, by tsunamis and by riots followed by police firing. What brings on these calamities and these deaths? Why do some people suffer from cancer, suffer severe pain and morbidity and die in spite of getting the best and complete set of treatment, through various systems of medicine? Why many escape from this dreaded disease called cancer? Why do some people acquire the habit of drinking, gambling, etc. suffer from complications of drinking, or lose all their wealth and become paupers, and some times die of the complications or commit suicide? Why do others lead a normal life?

        Through ages, these questions have been haunting man. It was not possible to explain these by merely offering the theory of cause and effect, or action and reaction. The big questions were why do some children die, why don't they grow to adulthood? What brings on death early in some and late in others? What happens in one's body that he suddenly goes into a long and deep sleep(death). Why doesn't he answer when called, why does he not respond to painful pricks, and why does the body speedily decompose? How does a baby grow in the mother's womb, why does the child get born at the end of about nine months, and who takes care of the baby if the mother dies during child-birth? How do some children lose their parents early in life, while other children are fortunate to live with their parents for a pretty long time?

        The ordinary people would answer these  questions usually with 'I don't know'. But there are quite a number of people whom we call intellectuals in every society. These elderly advisors can not say 'I don't know', for it will be a shame for them to say so. They are really well-learned, having studied various Siddhaantha(s) and Shaastra(s). These people took great pains to learn different vidya(s) and roamed the hills and forests, plains and seashores, and walked thousands of miles seeking knowledge and wisdom. They would not sit idle until they find an answer to these questions.

        Yet, they were human and they could fathom only that much (as much as they could learn and understand about these puzzles). They had to answer their king, or otherwise he will behead them. They had to answer the chieftains, landlords, army commanders, businessmen, householders, men and women, and every one. They could not back down, or run away from their responsibilities of being wise men and learned advisors. These situations brought on a sense of urgency in the minds of the intellectuals thereby they were forced to give an answer now, or else.

        The intellectuals all over the world were constrained to come out with theories to explain all kinds of events and occurrences. There are equally eager people to find out from the intellectuals, explanations and answers to the problems the public face. From the time of Vedas and Upanishads men have been thinking of one formidable force that rules the universe and oversees the events and happenings on earth, and elsewhere.

        The wise men named this entity God and began to preach his qualities and properties. Many prophets followed and agreed that it is God that is responsible for all the things that go different way in the world. The great intellectual who invented God and began to explain how God created the universe, created man and woman, created day and night, the sun, the moon, the stars, populated the earth with people. How he controls the lives of people and how he punishes them for bad behaviour.

        After God, came the souls. God's soul and man's soul. Some people believe that the animals have souls, but the plants don't. Some say that even plants have a soul. Fortunately no one says that the rocks have souls. But there are people who believe that God is present in every atom, in every person, animal, bird, fish, plants and even rocks. Initially many wise men decided that they should worship the phallus, the male genitalia and they constructed a phallus with stone, or mud, or with wood and began to worship it. They called it Shiva Linga(Shiva=god, Linga=phallus). The Shiva Linga was probably the first idol of God, ever used by man. Many wise men differed with this theory. They said God has no form, nor any shape, nor any size. That he is omnipresent, omniscient, and all mighty (Almighty).

        Some wise men said that they do not know much about Him but He is there every where. The Souls, God's, man's, how much are they different, how far can God go, and how far can man go, is all explained by the Vedas and Upanishads, the Bible, the Kuran etc.

        Then came Nature, to be explained, the nature of sun, the nature of the moon and the stars, the forests, the mountains, the animals, the plants, every thing was explained with various theories and calculations. There were disputes and competitions, as to which theories were correct and which theories were wrong, and why. There were killings and destruction to uphold one theory, and dominate over other people who sincerely believed in a different theory or practiced another belief.

        People grouped themselves and organised hierarchy to perpetuate their respective theory and said that they are practicing this as their religion. The word religion came into existence, and each family began to associate with one religion or the other for the sake of getting support. It turned out that the members belonging to one religion would hate the members of another religion just because they did not want to be ruled by the opposite religionists. There would be wars and these wars would go on for a 'thousand years' so to say and kill or maim man, woman and child in the name of God, their God and not God of another religion. God of another religion is no God at all, they would say.

        Over the years, a subject known as Science got developed. Science was based on the concept of 'we see, we hear, we believe.' We won't believe, if we do not see, hear or feel, the scientists would say. Science was not able to explain every thing, and it could not wish away God, Soul, Nature, or for that matter, life, death, and many events and happenings in the universe and especially on earth, among men, among families, among the society, and in the sky too. The scientists had to contend with the mind and behaviour of people, their faiths and beliefs.

        Science could not make a man happy in all aspects, all avenues, all situations, and all the time. Man has been unhappy and suffering in spite of the advances in science. Science has been progressing with great strides, such as exploding the atom bomb, sending satellites around the earth, landing man on the moon and inventing the computer. The food situation has improved to a great extent since the last century because of scientific advances in agriculture. Agriculture got mechanised and very large fields could be tilled, watered, seeds sown, and the produce harvested by one or two men. Even now in India and in many countries, a large number of labourers are needed to do the same work that mechanised farming would need only a couple of labourers.

        Movements of people and materials has seen a revolution after trains were invented, internal combustion engines powered the motor vehicles, gigantic ships and tankers sailed across seas and oceans from one continent to another, and various engine systems flew a variety of aircraft in the sky.

        Childhood diseases got controlled or abolished by vaccinations and preventive measures, the various infections were cured by antibiotics and anti-viral drugs, daring surgical interventions were undertaken after extensive animal trials to treat and cure hundreds of thousands of diseases, congenital or acquired, and drugs such as anti-diabetics and anti-hypertensive which gave succor to millions of patients and prevented early deaths or disabilities.

        Until recently there have been large and extensive epidemics of small-pox and polio, diseases that killed or maimed hundreds of thousands of people in different parts of the world. In every epidemic over 40% of the population died and about 35% of the survivors suffered complications and got disabled in life. These two diseases have now been almost totally eradicated. This is a great turn that civilizations have taken because of scientific inventions.

        Tuberculosis was the cause of deaths of a large number of people until, in the middle of the twentieth century, anti-tuberculosis drugs were invented. Now Tuberculosis is confined to causing morbidity to a small percentage of the population and deaths are also in smaller numbers than before.

        Leprosy, the most dreaded disease has been cut down to size and anti-leprosy drugs have caused leprosy to stage a vanishing act. In the communication field, telephone and recently mobile or cellular phones have revolutionized the calling and the talking.

        For entertainment, first the radio became the hallmark of broadcasting news and music, talks and discussions, and when transistor radio was introduced, the radio could claim to have taken a giant step in improving reception and the sound of radio broadcasts. Invention of the microphone and the speakers has given relief to the talkers and singers alike.

        Now, no one need shout to let others hear what they say or sing. Next came television that has been an important gadget in every home.

        Cinema has given a big boost to all kinds of art, be it acting, singing or dancing. Photographic films have been of use not only in producing images of likeness, but also in producing motion pictures. X-Ray technology has streamlined the treatment of fractures and bone diseases. Presently imaging techniques have advanced to such innovative methods like the computerised tomography and magnetic resonance imaging.

        Mechanization of manufacturing and miniaturisation of machinery have yielded results to produce consumer goods by greater speed and refinement.

        Computerization has spread to each and every field of manufacturing and even to marketing products. In the past it was firewood that provided fuel to cook food in homes and other places. Large fires were needed to cook food for hundreds of guests in temples and Mathas. Next came the kerosene oil which brought about some cleanliness in the kitchens, and some relief from smoke to women folks. Later the liquefied petroleum gas was introduced and gas stoves became a great help for cooks preparing meals for both small and large functions. Electricity was also used in cooking with various kinds of heating coils that provided heat for cooking, heating water, and even providing room heat in winters in many countries, where initially steam was being used in radiators spread around the rooms. It is not possible to list each and every instance where science and scientific instrumentation has brought a paradigm change in the lifestyle of every man, woman and child in the world.

        Although science has brought relief to man, it has not been able to answer all the questions that were asked in the beginning of this chapter.

        But before these scientific advances brought about changes in favour of revision of our concepts with regards to God and Soul, there have been various theories put forth by the wise men of ancient times and medieval times as well, to explain the events and happenings in the world.

        One major theory was that of rebirth.The Hindu thinkers offered the theory of the soul which they theorised to never perish. Bhagavat Geetha which is a part of the great epic Mahabharatha, has verses that sermonizes that a man merely changes his body when he dies. His soul is free from death or destruction, does not turn to ashes by fire or get wet by soaking in water. Dying is like a man changing his clothes and that by dying a soul changes its body. What happens when a person dies? The Hindu sages said that the soul leaves the body and enters a new one, of a baby in a womb.
        The second theory that was offered was that of Karma. Karma is work, action and performance. What we perform sticks to us. It accumulates in the soul. It is either good work or bad work, also called 'paapa' (bad deeds, bad thoughts, etc.) and 'punya' (good deeds, good thoughts, etc.).

        These paapa and punya are carried with the soul when it leaves the body at the time of death and taken to the new body which has to suffer the results of the paapa and enjoy the fruits of punya in the new birth. What we perform in the second birth is carried to the third birth and so on until one day all the punya and paapa are exhausted and the soul becomes pure.

        The pure soul can go near God and either get to become one with God (as per one theory) or remain close to God permanently (as per another theory). The soul that has attained the vicinity of God or has become one with God does not ever again return to the birth cycle. Of the many branches of Hindu thought, Vedanta has been the most popular among the present day intellectuals. They theorise that Nature is a mere illusion. There is nothing but consciousness and consciousness is God. We the men are all God and we have been suffering from this illusion called Maaya.

     Once we get rid of this Maaya, by attaining Self-consciousness, then we are one with God.It is a very attractive idea that has been developed from a fantastic blame game. In this blame game we blame ourselves for all the ills and for all the joys in life. We are afflicted with ajnana (lack of knowledge). We simply do not know that we are God himself. We have been tricked by the Maaya into believing that all events and happenings are real. Oh, they are not real!The ideas of rebirth and Karma have received wide support in Hinduism. All that we do, gets stuck to our souls. If we do good then we accumulate punya, and if we do bad, then we accumulate paapa. We enjoy with our punya and suffer on our paapa, in the cycle of rebirths.

        The king who slaughtered the people in the area he conquered will suffer in his next birth, so one need not do any thing now towards retribution for his actions. Let a man commit all kinds of crimes, murders, thefts, frauds, cheating, terrorising innocent people, etc., and no one has to raise his voice or engage himself to punish the fellow. This criminal will be punished in his next birth, because he is going to carry all his paapa with him when he dies and enters another body at another place.

        The bliss called 'Ananda', of being in the vicinity of God is unbelievably pleasant and joyful. A man who commits many paapa will take hundreds of births to suffer the consequences of his actions, while a man who does good things and helps people will keep a low balance of paapa if any. He will increase the balance of his punya and ultimately enjoy all the punya in his births soon enough to go near God to enjoy the eternal blissful state.

        There have been concepts of a place called a heaven very high in the sky, to wherein special souls that have a lot of punya in their accounts will move. They enjoy the fruits of all their good deeds in heaven. There is another place called the hell to where the souls who have a large balance of paapa will move. In the hell these paapa-ed souls will languish in steaming oil baths, get cut with huge saws, fed to lions as food, and burnt in raging fires. The souls in heaven will have greenery all around, while those in hell would roll in muck and garbage of the worst kind. The souls in heaven will have hundreds of beautiful angels on waiting, provide with every conceivable happiness to the good souls, while those in hell will have giant eagles gnaw and pull at their open wounds and eat their flesh, the pain of which could be very severe. There will be no water to drink and nothing that could be called food, because these paapa-ed souls will be given burnt grass to eat and drain water to drink. So dear folks don't fret over what the cruel king did to his enemy subjects, because he will suffer for his actions in either in his next birth or in hell, for a long, long time.

        The third Hindu theory is that of Ayush (life span) having been prescribed in the books of God. This theory states that every man, woman and child have their ayush written down in the book that is maintained in the heavens. The god of death, Yama will send his dootha(s) (dootha=servant) to grab the soul of the person whose ayush has expired and send it back to enter another body or take it to either heaven or hell according to his balance of paapa or punya.

        Therefore no matter how much one tries, he will live only to the extent of his ayush and not a second less or more. It is no use grieving over the fact that a man has died, because he has died due to the expiration of his ayush. He is bound to die at this time. All the events and happenings in one's life are prescribed even at the time of birth. The soul brings with it all the paapa and punya account and thus facilitates the dictation of the events and happenings in the life of the person just born. This is called praarabdha or fate. One's fate is prescribed at birth time and hence he or she will suffer according to his or her fate.

        Many people believe that if they wear an arm-band with a casket of tin or copper containing some 'prasada' obtained after a special puja or worship performed at a temple and blessed by the deity, through the temple priest of course, then any evil that is giving them problems get neutralized. These problems can be any thing from bringing back a faithless husband to his wife, or protect a child from night-mares causing the child to scream in sleep, or wetting bed.

        These amulets and talisman are like anticipatory bail to keep the bhootha(s) meaning ghosts and demons from attacking. There are people who believe that if a man has chest pains which are usually due to heart disease, and if he wears a specially consecrated neck-chain containing different kinds of precious stones then he might be spared of death due to heart attack.

        Many highly educated people wear a ring studded with a precious stone that the Astrologer says is matching his Raashi and stars to bring quickly any good times that are delayed and deferred because of the influences of rogue planets and stars. There is no logic behind these claims and undertaking such remedies will keep the real tinder masked by the smoke of superstition. And when these beliefs are struck down by their failure and reality is dawned on the victim of these frauds, then it propbably will be too late to take proper modern course or action.

        The worst kind of offering made to any female deity like Shakti, Kali, or Durga is the blood of a young boy or a girl. There are some tantriks (sorcerers) who ask the client to bring in a young person who will have to be killed and his or her blood mixed with the rice that is going to be offered to the deity in order to please the deity. The deity thus pleased will grant the boon the client is asking for, such as the location of treasure buried in the ground or hidden somewhere, birth of a son to a childless couple, cure a serious disease such as cancer,etc. This is a criminal activity practiced even today in some parts of India.

        There are certain tantriks who collect human bones, or bones of different animals and birds and put them in a earthen pot, cover it with a lid and decorate it with flowers, Then they will dig a hole in the ground and bury the pot in it. They chant manthra in strange syllable and varying tones to enchant the gods and goddesses to act on their behest and grant the boon the client asked for, which is usually the death of a person in the house near which they buried the bones.

This maatta (black magic) is performed secretly after midnight on amavasya (new-moon day), and at a time when the occupants of the house are fast asleep. If there is a dog, it will be first drugged to sleep. Often the bones belong to a young human victim who was specifically sacrificed on purpose.

        Reports of these stories of Maatta being practiced in many parts of India are found in the newspapers even in the 21st century. It is believed that the Graha(s) (planets) invoked by the tantrik, seize the targeted person and afflict injury or cause death. On the other hand, there are tantriks, who by sheer calculations of the planetary and stellar positions, by puja and chanting of mantra(s), and by meditation, can locate the place where these pots are hidden. Then they will remove them from that location, and cause the termination of their ill effects and thus claim to have protected the supposed victim. This activity is performed only in the middle of the night when the ghosts and pisacha(s) come alive, the tantrik claims.

        But the real reason is that the darkness helps the tantrik to bring with him, hidden in his long dress, a similar charmed pot. By making sure that no one is observing, the tantrik puts the pot in the place, where he will pretend to have found it later.

        Earlier this tantrik or a different tantrik who was consulted by the supposed victim had explained the cause for his recent problems. The tantrik will claim that some one has planted a maatta pot in his home and this pot is causing all his difficulties.

        One other belief of the Hindus is that the gods will grant their wish following a commitment to offer gifts, or to perform penance. The most common penance is to shave one's head clean if the wish is fulfilled. The common gifts are small idols of the god made of silver or gold. There are those who give a golden replica of an eye, if the wish was to cure some eye disease, a replica of a throne, if the wish is for fertility, a replica of a cow, a coconut, or a plough if the wishes were for prosperity, pass in an examination or a good agricultural yield.

        A very common commitment is a vow made by the mother, at the time of some serious illness of her child. If the wish is not granted then, there is no provision for retribution or compensation from the god. At times the mother will invoke the blessings of a dozen gods and fulfill the vow made to the last prayed god only, if the wish gets answered. It is presumed that the gods who were worshipped prior to the last one failed to deliver the wish.

        Another common wish is to grant the birth of a male child, for which the usual commitment is to present the god with a gold necklace, a ring, or a visit to his shrine on foot. If the deity is in a temple on a hill, then there are people who promise to walk up the hill and not use the bus or car for transportation up the hill, if their wish is granted. There are many other such beliefs which appear illogical to rationalists.

        It is difficult for us to believe in the principle of fate being responsible for our good and bad times. Just because the people in the ancient times said those things about God, soul, Nature, heaven, hell, rebirth, Karma etc. with the warning that all of these theories were put forth by God himself, then it becomes even more difficult to contradict these theories.

        But, rational thinking makes one believe that our life is dictated by our decisions and choices, or by the decisions and choices made by our parents and other close relatives, and also by the environment in which we grew up.There are many natural conditions and situations which affect our life. We lead a life that is the result of our own choices. There is no such thing as a fate that has been already prescribed.

        There is no such thing as a soul that travels out of the body upon the death of a person. The consciousness and the life a person possesses, is the one that has been transferred to that person from the mother during the initial stages of development of the embryo. The embryo is the result of the fusion of mother's egg and the father's sperm. The life has come from mother alone, but the body is from both the mother and the father.

        The body dies upon death and the life ends then and there. There is no life after death and no rebirth. Rational thinking does not permit us to believe that there is what is known as Karma theory which results in paapa and punya being stuck to the soul.

        When a king slaughters the innocent people in the conquered enemy territory, then it is a sad fact. The king will not suffer because of what he has done. There is no fate that is going to affect his life because of his actions. He is not going to go to hell either. It is only a wishful thinking that he will suffer for giving pain to so many people. But it is unlikely that he will suffer for his bad actions.

        It is just a law of nature that man and animals get killed either due to what choices people make or decisions they take in the matters connected with these events and happenings, by the ravages of the nature, by accidents, and by specified or unspecified circumstances. The ravages of the nature have nothing to do with fate and any one who happens to be present at the place and time of the natural calamity, will get injured or die.

        The life of a child depends upon the choices its mother makes regarding its food, its language, its speech, its health etc. The decisions made by both the parents contribute to the education and learning skills that are developed by the child.

        When the person, himself/herself makes choices regarding the career, about the life partner, and many other opportunities offered in his or her life, then the life will turn in that direction. Health of mind and body also is set upon the choices we make with regards to food. A vegetarian will have different kind of health of mind and body than a non-vegetarian.

        Choices regarding religion and social characteristics are however minimal since the community in which the birth has taken place has already put down rules about these. Our choices are limited because of the laws of the land. Much of our chances of joining the army or airforce is curtailed due to inherent dislike of fighting. One might not become a barber because one hates hair. It is one's choice.An immigrant with lack of local language would have to work as a janitor in the country where he has migrated seeking jobs and livelihood. He might have been a respected government officer in his own native country, and yet due to circumstances and many of the subtle choices he made, he has to work as a janitor in the country of migration. Rarely does a son of a farmer choose to start a business. He would rather remain a farmer.

        A child born in a Hindu family has no choice but to call himself/herself a Hindu. If the child grows up in a home where food cooked is purely vegetarian, then the child will not enjoy non-vegetarian food. Many habits develop in spite of a choice being offered to change.

        We decide our fate. We make choices that will turn out to be our fate. If our choices suit the Nature then our fate will be bright all the way. Our fate has grown around our choices.