Northerly Ascent – Makara Sankaranti

Sankranti depicts transition of the Sun from one rashi (constellation) to the next. Thus there are 12 Sankrantis every year. Makara Sankranti is considered the most pious and this is generally a festival that is aligned to the solar cycle (most of the other festivals are aligned to the Lunar cycle)

The Makara Sankranti festival marks official end of the winter season and signals beginning of the spring, from harsher chillness to moderate climate – a sign of hope and prosperity as described by Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji of The Art of Living.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

It also marks a change in season, as from this day the Sun begins its Northern Hemishperic (Uttarayana) movement from Southern Hemispheric movement (Dakshinayana). Uttaryana is considered a phase for Divinity where are important events of the life are planned and carried out. Which signficance of Makara Sankranti is seasonal (change of season from winter to sprin) it also marks sun’s transit into Makar Raashi (Capricorn). It also has religious significance as it is the day Humans pay their respects to Bhagwan Surya (Sun) as it is His energy that enables, nourishes and sustains life on earth. While many region observe it as harvest festival, it also is the time to celebrate abundance when they reap the fruits of their labour.

According to our scriptures, it is on Makar Sankranti that Bhagwan Vishnu defeated demons, beheaded and buried them under a mountain. Significance of this act is exterminating all negativities of one’s life and giving way to Dharma paving way to live well and prosper. Makara Sankranti is considered suitable for Sadhana (spiritual practices like Yoga, Bhajans, Meditation) as the Chetana (consciousness) is considered high during this period.

Another belief is that Maa Sankranti, a Deity killed Sankarasur on this day and the day after killing Sankrasura, She kills another asura, Kinkarasur. This is why this day is known as Kinkrant.

Significance of Ellu-Bella (Sesame seed and Jaggery)

In Karnataka (and in Maharashtra) and possibly many other states, it is important to give Sesame seed and Jaggery along with Peanuts and wish everyone saying “ಎಳ್ಳು ಬೆಲ್ಲಾ ತಿಂದು ಒಳ್ಳೆ ಮಾತಾಡೋನ (Ellu-Bella tindu Olle maataadona) which means, let us have Sesame seeds and Jaggery and speak good/ nice words. In Marathi the same wish is तिळगुळ घ्या आणि गोड गोड बोला (Til Gul Ghya aani god god bola)

Ellu Bella, one of the most important Naivedya and Prasada

Sesame seed is black on the outside, and white on the inside. The message it gives us is, ‘Maintain purity inside’. If you scrub the sesame seed, it becomes white outside also. We are like a sesame seed with respect to this universe. If you see, what is our significance in this universe, what is life? Next to nothing, like a sesame seed – a mere speck! We are minuscule. We are tiny and sweet; delightful like sesame seeds with jaggery. So, stay small and sweet and you will truly become big. – Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Yet another significance as explained by an elderly relative, this festival is also the time to forget the differences, bury hatchets and come together. Sesame seeds representing individual and Jaggery that is sticky, bonding it together.

Sankranti festival is celebrated towards the end of winter, all the food prepared for this festival are such that it provides warmth and energy to our body. Jaggery, Sesame seeds peanuts keeps the body warm and gives energy.

Rituals and Observances

General practice (this is specifically by us and predominantly a South India based, especially Karnataka practice

Wake up early in the morning before sunrise and offer Arghya (oblations) to Bhagwan Surya. For those access to any Holy river, this holy ritualistic bath along with Arghya Pradhana is performed there.

Santhosh Shanbag Swami offering Arghya during one of our Shabarimale Pilgrimage on the banks of Holy Pampa
Yours Truly after the ritualistic bath in Holy Pampa

We then perform Arati to Bhagwan Surya after which Puja is performed and Naivedya offered to the God. After which it is generally having food that suits the climatic conditions which is in transitory phase. The mantra in praise of Bhagwan Surya as below is chanted.

ॐ ह्रीं ह्रीं सूर्याय नमः
ॐ ह्रीं घृणिः सूर्य आदित्यः क्लीं ॐ ।
ॐ घृणिं सूर्य्य: आदित्य:
ॐ ऐहि सूर्य सहस्त्रांशों तेजो राशे जगत्पते, अनुकंपयेमां भक्त्या, गृहाणार्घ्य दिवाकर:।
ॐ ह्रीं ह्रीं सूर्याय सहस्रकिरणाय मनोवांछित फलम् देहि देहि स्वाहा।

Pooja and Naivedya
Business end of any Festival

Please click this link to read Significance of Pongal, Sankranti, Lohri as explained by Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

For traditional way Pongal is celebrated in a particular region of Tamil Nadu, you can read by old article, Pongal – Tribute to our Culture & Nature

Wishing everyone and their near ones, a very Happy Makara Sankranti/Pongal/Lohri/Til Sakraat/ Magha/Mela/Ghughuti/Bhogi/Sakraat/Pedda Panduga/Pusna/Hangrai/Shishur Saenkraat.

On this auspicious day, wishing your life moves northwards, every moment filled with joy, prosperity, peace and health

Devi Suktam, Durga Saptashati & Navaratri

Starting this article with a clarification for readers’ benefit differentiation between the Devi Suktam or Vaak Suktam or Vaagambhrini Sukta of Rigveda and that we often confuse with the Devi Suktam of Durga Saptashati of Markandeya Purana. The Article is about the latter i.e. Devi Suktam of Durga Saptashati of Markandeya Purana.

Rigvediya Devi Suktam or Vak Suktam (Vaagambhirini Suktam), is the oldest sukta dedicated to Universal Mother Divine. A Hymn of 8 verses (mantras) from Rig Veda. It is the 125th sukta in the 10th mandala of the Rig Veda. This is much older to the Markandeya purana and also believed to pre-date even Tridevi concept (three principal female Deities – Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati). One of the unique feature of Rigvediya Devi Suktam is that the suktas (or the hymns) are not composed by Poet in praise of Mother Divine, but her own elucidation of Her Glory (called Atmastuti in Samskrutam). Texts further indicate that Rigvediya Devi Suktam was composed and sung by the Rishika Vaak Ambhrini, in a state of supreme bliss upon uniting with Mother Divine – Vaak, which means Primordial sound of Speech. Thus it is considered as a composition of the Mother Goddess in Glory of Herself. (Will write about this after thorough reading of the scripture and consulting experts of the Text) Please note that many websites wrongly describe the History attributing it to Rishika Vaagambhrigi breaking into a dance after a realization that her life originated from a single source of infinite consciousness that had no perceptable form and it was omnipresent. It is also wrong attributed to the superlative praising the ultimate source of consciousness Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu whereas it is Rigvediya Devi Suktam (Vaagambhrigi Suktam) that has this history.

One of the chants that is prevalent during Navaratris is the Tantroktam Devi Suktam – the Slokas from 9 through 82, in the 5th Chapter of Durga Saptashati, which is a part of Devi Mahatmyam. More popular are the 21 verses (6 to 26) that begins with “ya devi sarva bhuteshu‘. Tantroktam Devi Suktam is a part of Markandeya Purana.

Pic Courtesy: By ShotgunMavericks – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Namo Devyai Mahadevyai Shivayai Satatam Namaha
Namaha Prakrityai Bhadrayai Niyataah Pranataah Sma Taam |1|

Roudrayai Namo Nityayi Gouryayai Dhatrayai Namo Namaha |
Jyothsnayayai Chendurupinyayai Sukhayayai Satatam Namaha |2|

Kalyannyai Pranatam Vridhyayai Sidhyayai Kurmo Namo Namah |
Nairutyayai Bhybritaam Lakshmyai Sharvanyayai Tey Namo Namah |3|

Durgayai Durgapaaraayai, Saaraayai Sarvakaarine |
Khyatyai Tadhiva Krishnayai Dhumrayai Satatam Namaha |4|

Ati Soumyati Roudrayai, Nataastastastyai Namo Namaha |
Namo Jagatpratishtayai, Devyayai Krityayai Namo Namah |5|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Vishnumaayeti Shabditaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |6|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Chetanety-Abhidhiiyate |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |7|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Buddhi-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |8|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Nidra-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |9|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Kssudhaa-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |10|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Chaayaa-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |11|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Shakti-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |12|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Trshnnaa-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |13|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Kshaanti-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |14|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Jaati-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |15|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Lajjaa-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |16|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Shaanti-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |17|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Shraddhaa-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |18|

Yaa Devii Sarva-Bhutessu Kaanti-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |19|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Lakshmii-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |20|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Vrtti-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |21|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Smrti-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |22|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Dayaa-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |23|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Tushtti-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |24|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Maatr-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |25|

Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhutessu Bhraanti-Ruupenna Samsthitaa |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |26|

Indriyaannaam-Adhisstthaatrii Bhutaanaam Ca-Akhilessu |
Yaa Bhuutessu Satatam Tasyai Vyaapti-Devyai Namo Namah |27|

Citi-Ruupenna Yaa Krtsnam-Etad-Vyaapya Sthitaa Jagat |
Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namas-Tasyai Namo Namah |28|

Maa Durga

Significance of the Chant

As Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, Spiritual Guru and Founder of The Art of Living Foundation says, “The chant shows the deeper facets of the Devi which are often missed. It represents the Devi’s presence across universe and time. With Devi’s presence in the things, people, and situations we dislike and like both, the chant is meant to evoke irrevocable equanimity in a devotee. Let us understand how the Devi is present everywhere and at all times.

Photograph: Gurudev in Yagyashala, Art of Living, Bengaluru Ashram – 25th September 2022

Omnipresent: Devi is present as consciousness in everyone. There is no place where the Devi is not present.
In all forms: Nature and its distortions are all forms of the Devi. Beauty, peace are all forms of the Devi. Even if you get angry, that too is the Devi. If you fight, that too is the Devi.
Ancient & new: Every moment is alive with consciousness. Our consciousness is ‘Nith nutan’ ancient and new at the same time. Objects are either old or new, but in nature you will find the old and the new existing together. The sun is old and new too. A river has fresh water flowing in it, every moment but yet is very old. In the same way, human life is very ancient but it is new at the same time. Your mind is the same.

Happy Navaratri to you & all your near ones. May Nava Durgas bestow Her choicest blessings on you.

Jai Mata Di

Grace & its ways

I had written this down in response to a query (it was more a challenge) on twitter. Thought it is a good piece that is worth having it on this site with some additional experiences and learning gained ever since I tweeted them 4 years ago. By no means I claim this to be the ideal learning nor even as a prescription, it is just a scrawl of an avid Jigyaasu. I am blessed to be guided on this path, not just by way of various courses and discourses but learning from the Enlightened Master, Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of The Art of Living, whose unmatchable persona embodies all these virtues that is worthy of emulation.

PC: Peter Hershey (Unsplash)

Grace as explained by Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar :
When you receive a lot without making efforts for it, then it is said that you are blessed with anugraha. Usually you work hard at your job and then receive your salary. So you say, ‘I have earned my money’. But if someone gives you a gift, you do not say, ‘I have earned these gifts’. Can something that is earned be called a gift? No. You receive gifts without any efforts. So when you receive a great gift or an award that you feel you did not deserve, then that is called anugraha. When we receive something that we are not deserving of, or which exceeds our capabilities, then that is what is called Grace. When we see that in our life, we have received far more than what we deserve or are capable of, then gratitude dawns in us. We become thankful, complaints disappear and abundance grows.

My two pennies based on experience, generally reproduction of my tweets that were as explanation to a query. The tweet thread is here (at this time.)

Guru’s Grace & Blessings on His/Her Shishya(s) is infinite & is like a blank cheque that we can encash, provided we write our name on it in right (worthy) manner

Shishyas should satisfy two conditions:
1) Our Attitude and Mindset should be like an empty cup (if we think we are already full, then nothing can be poured in the cup)
2) Cup should be in right orientation. Empty cup face down cannot receive anything

Tumbler in Right Direction can accept Water Poured
Tumbler upside down can only mess the place

Grace can/will work only when used in Right Direction. So we as Shishya should have that viveka to ensure it is right. (If door opens inwards and you apply force in the wrong direction you shut it). Even the best of Guru’s Grace cannot work when your work is for wrong purpose

Applying efforts the wrong way
PC: Adobe Stock Photo

Guru’s grace though Free, it is not a Gift. Shishyas should have Arhata (deserving), Viveka (to use it for right reasons), know the Sannivesha (Context) and most importantly Sharanagati (state of surrender). The moment we think we are the Doers, we are DOOMED (Click on the link what “We are not the Doers mean)

As I experienced in various Paramparas, one important aspect they propagate is to refrain from Daiva/Guru Ninda (Defaming God/Guru) or anyone for that matter failing which the Good Karmic balance drastically reduces.

Wishing you loads of Divine, Guru and Elders’ Grace