#AOLShivaratri 2014 – All about Expansion

This journey in Art of Living and walking to keep pace (or sprinting) with His Holiness Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has never ceased to Amaze me (I am sure many who have been here would feel the same)

From the Old Ashram which in those days was considered to huge enough to accommodate the entire AOL family, was not enough to take in a minuscule percentage of the Ever-growing One World Family, that it is today.

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Amphitheater in the Old Ashram

Then came the Vishalakshi Mantap and the Amphi Theater which we thought would definitely cater for ever expanding family atleast for 50 years, and Lo! It was rendered too small even for a weekend Satsang these days.

Vishalakshi Mantap – The Temple of Meditation
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Amphitheater in Front of Vishalakshi Mantap

Action moved to the Yagyashala (which was further extended) and even that today appears to be like a One-Room Tenement accommodating 30 member family in a Metro.


And came up the Marquee Location in the Art of Living International Ashram, Gurupaduka Vanam last year. I was certain that it would be enough “for ever”

Gurupaduka Vanam – Eve of Shiva Ratri 2013
Gurupaduka Vanam – Eve of Shiva Ratri 2013 – 260 Gram Devata Pujas

I ate the humble pie in exactly an year. From comfortable crowd that was accommodated last Shivaratri, every inch of the front stage and back stage was packed with sea of Humanity. Shivaratri 2014 saw record crowds participating in the Maha Rudrabhisheka – 75 countries, and every single state (29) of India was represented here. Presenting Shivaratri 2014 in 4 Collages below:

Collage -01
Gurupaduka Vanam – Shiva Ratri 2014
Collage -02
Gurupaduka Vanam – Shiva Ratri 2014 – Ashramites and Sevaks
Collage -03
Gurupaduka Vanam – Shiva Ratri 2014 – Sea of Humanity
Collage -04
Gurupaduka Vanam – Shiva Ratri 2014 – Speechless :-O
||Jai Gurudev||Om Namah Shivaya||Enhanced by Zemanta

All about 14 – Ananta Chaturdashi Vrata

Ananthanatha Devesha Anantha Phaladayaka; 
Ananthamurthy Vishwathman Ananthaya Namo Namah

Padmanabha Swamy Temple - Karkala

Padmanabha Swamy Temple – Karkala

Anantha Chaturdashi is observed on the 14th day of the Waxing Phase of moon (Shukla Paksha), in the month of Bhadrapada of the Chandramana Calendar (Lunar Calendar) in honor of Lord Vishnu in the lying posture (Ananta Shayana) on the bed formed by Anantashesha (Adishesha – the serpent with 1000 hoods). The Vrata performed on this day is thus called Ananta Padmanabha Vrata.

“Ananta” : indicates that which is endless. Shesha means that which remains after everything ends. Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita (10:29) “anantahcha asmi naaaaaam” (Among Nagas I am the Ananta). Ananta’s 1000 heads symbolizes Jnana (Knowledge) and heightened state of Awareness. Lord Vishnu reclining on the bed formed by coiling of Ananta, indicates Ananta as a Perfect Yogic posture, uniting opposing forces of Stira (Rigidity) and Sukha (Comfort) Ref: Patanjali Yoga sutra : “Stiram Sukham Asanam“.

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Beautiful Full Moon Lit Bangalore Skies – Ananta Chatrudashi Moon

Background : When Yudhistra asks of  Lord Krishna for solutions for easing of their suffering and regaining their kingdom and wealth, Lord Krishna advises performing Anantha Padmanabha Vrata every year for 14 years on the 14th Day of Bhadrapada Month, as prescribed in the Bhavishyottara Purana. At the end of 14 years and the vrata has to be concluded with Udyapane.

Seven number of Darbha (Kusa) Grass is tied together to represent 7 hoods of Anantha.  Lord Vishnu is worshipped with 14 types of pushpam (flowers), 14 types of patram (leaves), 14 types of Phalam (fruits). 28 numbers of Atirasa/Kajjaya forms the Naivedyam (Sweet made of Jaggery and Wheat/Rice Flour) of which 14 is given away as daana (charity to Brahmin).

Another important requirement of Naivedya (and all Prasada) is that it has to be soft (maybe it is practice limited to some) – there are no hard sweets or eatables prepared on this day.

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14 types of Flowers, 14 types of Leaves and 14 types of Fruits
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Lord Anantha Padmanabha – decked in all Splendor
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The Puja Set-up
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Archana to the Murthi
Anantha Gantu (Knot)
Anantha Gantu (Knot) The Rangoli in front of the Peetha

Another important aspect of this vrata is the Dora Granthi darane (also called Ananta Daara). Puja is performed with Turmeric, Kumkum, Akshate and other rituals to this sacred thread made of 14 strands with 14 knots which is then tied on the right hand  which acts as a Raksha to the wearer and this is worn until replaced the next year. (In some families unmarried children wear the earlier year’s daara worn by the parents which is replaced by new ones). Generally it is worn on the right wrists by both men and the women (our practice). But there is a practice of women wearing it on their left wrists while the men wear it on the right wrist.

Thora Granthi (Men) - Anantha Dhara
Dora Granthi (for Men) – Anantha Daara
Thora Granthi (for Women) - Anantha Daara
Dora Granthi (for Women) – Anantha Daara

The puja culminates by recital of Sri Vishnu Sahasra Nama Stotram, Purusha Sooktam, Sri Vishnu Sooktam & Mahamangalarati.

Here is me enjoying the prasada with my children 🙂 after the puja.

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The Prasada
Perdoor Ananta Padmanabha Swamy Temple - Udupi
Perdoor Ananta Padmanabha Swamy Temple – Udupi

Shaantaakaaram Bhujaga-Shayanam Padmanaabham Suresham
Vishvaadhaaram Gagana-Sadrisham Meghavarnam Shubha-angam
Lakshmi-Kaantam Kamala-Nayanam Yogibhir-dhyana-gamyam
Vande Vishnum Bhava-Bhaya-Haram Sarva-Lokaika-Natham

May Lord Vishnu Bestow Happiness to all!

All the pictures above clicked after puja performed by Sindhu -ji’s family. She is an ardent follower and Faculty of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of The Art of Living. Admirable fact is that this joint family despite leading a life in a city like Bangalore celebrate all festivals in a traditional manner.

Sree Narayana Guru – Greatest Advocate of Humanism

Translation of the Tribute piece written in Malayala Manorama on August 22nd 2013  by HH Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of The Art of Living. Responsibility is completely mine, for any errors in this translation from Malayalam to English. Kindly notify me for corrections. This tribute piece was written on the occasion of Birth Anniversary of the Guru (August 20th)
Sri Narayana Guru took birth in the 19th Century for the sake of development and progress of Human race. He was a great proponent of Humanism. He was responsible for the extra-ordinary awakening in the Kerala of those days, both by his action and deed. This Great Maharshi, was responsible for bringing Advaitadarshana as means of salvation to the entire Human race, which otherwise was exclusive preserve of Scholarly debates
His effort was towards unifying and equalizing the entire human race across the world by exposing the futility and meaninglessness of differences and differences caused by Caste, family and religion. He expounded that everyone is a part of same Divine & composition of humans across the world both physically and mentally is the same. This great Guru who described Characteristics of Indivual Human as “punarnnu perum ellamo” (All that are born of sexual union of humans are same species), “Oru yoni oru aakaaram Oru bhedavum illa ithil” (One yoni – womb, one form, there is no differences between them), Manushyanam Manushyathvam (humaneness is the quality of a human being) – says primary needs of all human beings are the same. Everyone desires Food, Clothing, Health, Water & Shelter. He also made people aware of the fact that – the recognition & position earned by someone is also desired by others is good for a better world & Unending and selfish desires & acts sows the seeds of disharmony in the community.
Guru exhorted Keralites to reject discriminating people based on limited comprehension of Caste, which gave rise to differences and conflicts. His words and life was devoted to obliterate non-Dharmic thoughts and deeds of fellow human beings. He preached that “it is not other human beings who make one impure but one’s own thoughts, words and acts”. His dreamt of a humans who made understanding, love and compassion a basis of their lives
He rejected the belief that those who adapted Panchashuddhi (5 types of Cleanliness) & Panchasheela (5 practices) are the protector of generations. Instead he directed people to make unselfish nature a way of life.
While the birds and animals with its limited needs co-exist harmoniously with nature, He warned that it is dangerous when humans who destroy nature and earth to satisfy their greed.
Personal traits like purity in words, thoughts, senses, country, home etc along with community benefiting traits like Non-violence, Truth, Asteya (Non-Stealing), Fidelity, Prohibition (intoxicants) – were his dreams for realization of a Modern Kerala. Guru’s preaching that a Pure Divine thought on part of individual and family is inevitable, gave rise to a new culture of temple ritual system. Consecration of Lord Shiva temple in Aruvippuram in 1888 was a beginning of a big Revolution. It was a proclamation that God and Supreme Knowledge is birthright of everyone irrespective of caste and religion.  Guru in fact set in motion a powerful & impactful mass movement through this temple. These temples established all over became a place for a devotee to seek knowledge, skills and solace and had Educational, Library, garden and some vocational training centres associated with it.
Guru’s message Freedom via Education was an invitation for an flood of scientific thinking. Guru made people aware that rebuilding Kerala – which was then beset with ignorance, misdeeds, superstitions & poverty – was possible through education alone. His goals for Education was for creation of a Modern Kerala. Guru who encouraged an educational system with equal prominence to Malayalam, Sanskrit and English, Study of Shastras, Vocational/Technical study, Women education also set aside funds for those willing to study abroad and also set up evening schools.
According to Gurudev, final goal of every religion was the same. and those who did not realize were like the blind men who touched elephant and imagined things. Religious bigots will see nothing in other religions and also sees a separation. Guru insisted on a creation of culture of acceptance and respecting other faith to prevent religious animosity & conflict.
In those days, every word and deed were controlled based on the religion and caste they belonged to. The tenets, adaopted by other cultural and development organizations, he preached awakened & arose everyone towards strengthening of community & cultural bonding.
It was giving a shape to culture of Humanatrianism, co-existence and peace in Kerala. Every cultural and political organizatins included the teachings in their work. Kerala which benefited enormously walking the path advocated by Guru became an example for the whole world. Malayalis thus became capable of settling anywhere in the world. Malayalis rejected the caste system. Kerala became an abode religious harmony. People thus were able to reap benefits of this favorable situation .
But, this change could not be sustained by Keralites. This enviable material prosperity, especially those of middle class gave rise to commodification. Without their knowledge the culture of humanism got ejected out. Malayali community who are ever ready to accept any change, without any second thoughts or analysis adapted this commercial culture. Today we see a community that has slipped away from the path prescribed clearly by Sree Narayana Guru
This culture of excessive greed & uncontrollable commercialization changed a Malayali to an unthinking, highest polluter. Unstable family, violence against women and children, extremism, alcoholism, disrespect towards Nature & corruption and such characteristics that are against human values, reminds us of the importance of adhering to Guru’s vision.
The teachings and path of Guru, which is relevant beyond any generation is the mantra of hope. We have to be prepared to imbibe it mentally and convert it into our life-style. It is not a world devoid of natural diversity, terror or insecurity, we should leave a world more beautiful than what we enjoyed, to our future generations. Humankind should ensure that valuable gifts like smile, amicability, compassion, broadmindedness etc   that nature has bestowed on us is never forsaken. We need variety, material comfort and progress. At the same time, let us not forget to be human or humanism.