Live: Jagannath Rath Yatra, Puri

The Jagannath Rath Yatra is observed every year as a symbol of devotion to Lord Jagannath. It is held in India majorly in the cities Puri and Ahemadabad along with few others. Lord Jagannath is considered as one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu.

This year in 2018 it is celebrated on 14 July, which is today.

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Screenshot fromt he live stream of the rath yatra by OdishaLIVE channel on YouTube

There are various stories associated with the history and significance of the Jagannath Rath Yatra. One such story is about King Subal, a profound devotee of Jagannath. He once requested a sculptor to create idols of Krishna, his brother Balarama and sister Subhadra.

The scupltor agreed but on the condition that he should be allowed to work in secrecy to which the king agreed. However, after a lot of days passed, the king lost his patience and barged into the room where the sculptor was working. As he broke the clause, the sculptor vanished but the three idols were there.

WATCH: The LIVE Jagannath Rath Yatra from Puri

There is another story related to the Rath Yatra which revolves around Lord Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra. One day, Krishna’s eight wives were eager to hear about His divine tales with Gopi from His mother Rohini when He and Balarama were out. After hesitating, she agreed but urged Subhadra to  keep the door guard so that no one listens.

Subhadra got so involved in listening to the tales that she forgot her task. Just then Krishna and Balaram arrived. Knowing the urgency of the situation, she stopped them with her hands held wide. Sage Narada saw them and asked the three siblibgs to give their blessings this way always. Narada’s wish was granted by the God and the idols of the three of them got installed in the Jagannath temple in Puri.

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Nakula & Sahadeva: The unsung heroes of the Mahabharata

Mahabharata is one of the most widely read scripture not only in India but world over. After various sub-plots and twists, it all boils down to the great war of Kurukshetre, which the righteous Pandavas won against the evil Kauravas.

The Pandavas are, always, praised for being showing the valour to defeat the Kauravas. However, it is only Arjun, Yudhishthir and Bheem who have received fame and recognition (of course apart from Lord Krishna). Nakula and Sahadeva, a prominent part of the Pandava group, haven’t got their due and recognition.

So here’s an attempt to have a sneak-peek into their lives and abilities

Sahadeva:

The name Sahadeva is derived from Sanskrit words ‘saha’ [with] and ‘deva’ [Gods]. The meaning becomes ‘someone with Gods.’

He was considered the most intelligent of all the five Pandava brothers. Yudhishthira compares his wisdom to that of Brihaspati, the teacher of Gods. Hence, Sahadeva also counseled Yudhishthira.

Sahadeva was well versed in the field of medicines.

If Arjun was a champion in archery, Sahadeva, along with his brother Nakula, was a master in sword fighting.

One of Sahadeva’s divine gifts was his profound knowledge in Astrology. However, he couldn’t disclose future events because of a curse, which would ensure that he would die if he does so. Therefore, he couldn’t reveal about the battle of Kurukshetra although he could foresee it.

Duryodhana, the evil leader of the Kaurava clan, had approached Sahadeva to suggest a mahurat (right time) for the war. Sahadeva unhesitatingly revealed the mahurat despite knowing Duryodhana was their enemy.

Sahadeva defeated a lot of Kauravas during the war. After the gambling loss that also ensured the humiliation of Draupadi, Sahadeva had taken a vow to kill Shakuni, the mastermind behind the plan. He fulfilled his vow on the 18th day of the war.

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Screenthot of Nakula and Sahadeva from the TV series Dharamkshetra on EPIC channel.

Nakula:

Nakula was said to be dark and handsome.

He was skilled in diplonmacy.

Like his brother Sahadeva, he too had the gift of astrology. But, just like his brother, the knowledge came with a curse. Soon after predicting something he would forget his predictions and futuristic visions.

Nakula was not only skilled sword fighter, again like his brother, but could also handle an array of unusual weapons. His skills proved to be more than useful during the great war.

He was also said to be an expert in Ayurveda.

He was a master at horse breeding and riding. Due to his knowledge of Ayurveda, he was also able to carry out the treatment of ill horses.

Nakula, along with Bheema, led the Pandava army on the first day of the war of Kurukshetra.

Nakula has to his credit the achievement of defeating a number of important people from the Kaurava side including Dussasana (who was killed by Bheema. He was responsible for humiliating Draupadi , Shalya, Shakuni, etc.

His negative quality of being proud of his looks is also mentioned in the Mahabharata. This is the reason given for his fall while being on the final journey to heaven with the rest of his brothers, Draupadi and the dog Dharma.

With such achievements under their belt, we wonder why Nakula and Sahadeva didn’t receive prominence in the centuries gone by.

By: Keyur Seta

Krishna & Jesus: Striking similarities in the life of both God incarnations

Lord Krishna and Jesus Christ are two of the most worshipped Gods world over by Hindus and Christians respectively. Both are believed to have fascinating life stories. However, there are huge similarities in the life stories of both.

Although the similarities appear only during the events surrounding their respective births, they are too striking to ignore.

The events before and after the birth of Krishna:

As per legends, Krishna was born to Devki and Vasudev in Mathura. He had taken birth to wipe out evil, which includes his own uncle Kansa. Kansa gets to know about this and feels threatened. Devki had given birth to six other children along with Krishna.

Kansa orders to kill all children born to Devki in order to save himself from getting killed.

However, Vasudev gets to know this and secretly leads Krishna to Gokul on a rainy night.

Krishna-Jesus

The events before and after the birth of Jesus:

According to the Gospel of Mathew, Herod, the king of Judea, felt threatened with the birth of Jesus.

He orders to kill all the male children of Bethlehem under the age of two, hoping that this would kill Jesus as well.

However, Jesus is saved after his father Joseph escapes with Him and mother Mary to Egypt. It is said that Joseph was warned by an angel.

There is no need to state how startlingly similar both the events are since they are self-explanatory.

The aim of this article is not to hold one superior to another or to accuse the followers of one God of copying the life story of another. It’s just that the similarities are so striking that they deserve a mention.

P.S: I am also just reminded of a book I saw in Ramakrishna Mission, Mumbai. It said that worshipping Krishna alone without worshipping Jesus doesn’t make sense.

By: Keyur Seta

5 Eid songs to add more light to the festival

The festival of Eid is just around the corner as the holy month of Ramzan is about to end. It’s a Muslim festival but is also celebrated by people of all faiths around the world. It makes the end of a month long fasting period from dawn-to-sunset. For more information on the festival click HERE.

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Like any other major festival, Eid, which is known more as Eid-al-fitr, is also celebrated with rejoice. So, naturally, music plays a major role in any celebration. In India, songs from Hindi or Bollywood films are a rage during every festival and the same is with Eid.

Surprisingly, although Bollywood has a number of Islamic songs, there are very few that are actually based on Eid specifically.

Let’s have a look at the Bollywood Eid songs:

Eid Mubarak from Tumko Na Bhool Payenge (2002)

This one is the most loved Eid song from Bollywood. This is not just because it’s a fast paced dance number but also because it highlights that the festival is for all those who believe in the message of love and is not limited to Muslims. Sonu Nigam, as always, is in top form.

Wallah Re Wallah Wallah from Tees Maar Khan (2010)

This is another enjoyable dance number on Eid. Along with some energetic vocals and foot-tapping music, it also deserves to be noticed for the vibrant use of colours. The track is a smart fusion between Qawwali and typical massy Hindi film genre. The chorus singers also have a high amount of contribution here.

Chaand Nazar Aa Gaya from Hero Hindustani (1998)

This is yet another fast paced Sonu Nigam number on Eid. It speaks about the practice of fasting during Ramzan and how the aim of the festival is to spread peace and harmony. It might be an Eid song with the most energetic dance moves by Arshad Warsi.

Yoon Shabnami from Saawariya (2007)

This is a magical Eid song with some top-notch work from all departments like lyrics, music, singing, choreography. The typical visual magic born out of the production design by someone like Sanjay Leela Bhansali makes it even special. The song actually has two parts which are merged naturally.

Eid Ke Din Gale Mil Le Raja from Teesri Aankh (1982)

This old song on Eid is forgotten. In fact, it hasn’t received it due. It’s a dance number but not an energetic ones like before in the list. The song features the Qawwali genre which is also seen in the lyrics. It’s also a rare number where Mohammad Rafi, Manna Dey, Anuradha Paudwal and Krishna Mukherjee have given voice together.

Book Review: Matsya – The First Avatar (Dashavatar Series)

Author Sundari Venkatraman is known as the specialist on romance and relationships. With Matsya – The First Avatar, the first short book in her Dashavatar series, she takes a leap in to the mythological or spiritual sphere. Not even once does it seem as if she is new to the genre. This, obviously, means that her switch has been successful.

Matsya – The First Avatar, as the name suggests, is about the first avatar of Lord Vishnu in the form of a fish. Lord Brahma was tired and sleepy after completion of one kalpa (10 thousand years). As he dozed off to sleep, the Asura Hayagriva managed to steal the four Vedas – Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda – from him.

After realizing his folly, a guilt-ridden Brahma visited Lord Vishnu urging for help and intervention. The calm-headed Lord readily agreed to help by taking form of a fish (matsya). The sage king Satyavrath became an important part in the latter part of Vishnu’s plan, which is the progression to another Yuga.

Matsya-Sundari-VenkatramanWe have heard about the different avatars of Lord Vishnu. Probably many of us might have read descriptions of each of his avatars. But it is a smart idea to provide detailed information on them and their importance. Venkatraman’s story follows Matsya Purana (the Brahma Purana features Brahma as the fish avatar).

The book is ideal for those who are much interested in the topic. The story, which started with the stealing of the Vedas, gives an overwhelming feeling as it ends towards the creation of Satya Yuga. For the believers or devotees, it answers some tough questions and gives clarity on the times we are living. But the non-believers too are in for a good experience if they look at it purely as a fictional story.

Ventakraman has presented the story in as simple was as possible but at the same time has retained the richness of the language, making it appealing across age groups. Maintaining such balance is certainly not easy. The grip is also nicely maintained throughout.

In today’s times, the standard of editing in modern Indian English literature has gone down. A number of punctuation and other errors are overlooked somehow. Thankfully, Matsya – The First Avatar is a fine example of quality editing.

There are no such negatives points as such. It’s just that the author could have used a more believable way of slipping of the Vedas than through Brahma’s nostrils. It also would have been fine if we were given more insight into Satyavartha’s greatness.

Overall: Matsya – The First Avatar is a fine account of Lord Vishnu’s first avatar as the fish. The book makes you eager to read about the remaining avatars by the author in her Dashavatar series.

Rating: 4/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Sundari Venkatraman

Publisher: Flaming Sun (author’s banner)

Pages: 38

Cover: Artistic image of Lord Vishnu in his half-fish form

Book Review: The Possibility by Pankaj Dwivedi

Spiritual’ has become a different genre in Indian literature over the years. The stories generally follow a fixed theme just like it happens with romantic comedies or romcoms. A person embarks on a spiritual journey after entering a zone of confusion and chaos, thanks to the ‘modern’ era and how that person manages to change his or her life.

Author Pankaj Dwivedi has tried exploring the theme in his debut novel, The Possibility. Let us try and find out how much impact does it make.

The book tells the story of Dr Abhay, who hails from Delhi. Despite being a successful surgeon and being married to a caring woman, he starts questioning his life. There comes a time when he is confused with various questions pertaining to life. Fate brings Abhay to the asharam of Maharishi in Haridwar. Will he get his answers?

The-Possibility-Pankaj-DwivediThe Possibility is aimed at the urban people who are living the life of machines as all are busy earning. But is earning the same as living? This theme will strike a chord with the target audience which comprises of people involved in the rat race. Hence, the relatablity factor is present.

The character of Maharishi plays a big role in keeping the appeal alive. Although he is a spiritual guru, he is not like those babas by any means. He has vast knowledge about ancient scriptures. But at the same time, he is so modern that he won’t raise an eyebrow even when two of his disciples secretly get intimate. Such portrayal of a guru will be appealing to people from today’s era.

However, there should have been more insight into the persona of Dr Abhay.

Dwivedi has used simple words and sentences, which are easy to grasp for people of all walks of life. In some places though, it appears too simplistic.

Haridwar is an important spiritual destination of India. But, surprisingly, it is not explored as most of the incidents take place inside the asharam.

The Possibility lacks repeat value due to one major reason. On quite a few occasions, we are presented with long monologues where someone continuously preaches and the narrative becomes monotonous. Author Raj Supe’s When Life Turns Turtle (read review HERE), which had a similar theme, clearly steered away from this despite being much more lengthier.

Overall: The Possibility is worth reading for those who are trapped in the web of lifeless urban life.

Rating: 3/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Pankaj Dwivedi

Publisher: Leadstart Publications

Pages: 210

Price: Rs 225

Cover: Inspiring and peaceful picture of a monk submerged in spirituality at a picturesque location

What is the meaning of Vande Mataram and why it is controversial?

The phrase ‘Vande Mataram’ was widely used during India’s freedom struggle against the British. It is believed to be an expression of a person’s love for India or Mother India. But the phrase has been used in a controversial context since last couple of years after few Muslim religious ‘leaders’ claimed that it is un-Islamic to utter the phrase.

Firstly, let us find out the exact meaning of the phrase ‘Vande Mataram.’ The word ‘Vande’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Vandan,’ which means ‘salutation.’ ‘Mataram,’ in Sanskrit, means ‘to the mother.’ So, ‘Vande Mataram’ actually means ‘salutations to the mother.’

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Pictures: Juststickers.in

Interestingly, it doesn’t specify which mother in particular. Hence, it can be used for your own mother or any female Goddess. Similarly, it is used to offer salutations to India by those who consider it as ‘Bharat Mata’ or mother India. But its actual meaning remains as ‘salutations to the mother.’

Now, coming to the controversy surrounding ‘Vande Matara,’ it seems to me that there shouldn’t be a controversy in the first place. ‘Salutation’ refers to as ‘Salaam’ in Arabic. Muslims use the word ‘Salaam’ to greet anyone. It simply means giving respect to someone.

Similarly, ‘Vandan’ also means giving respect to someone. So, if you can offer respect to your family and friends, why not the country?

At the same time, I personally feel it is wrong and insulting to force someone to utter ‘Vande Mataram’ just to prove his or her nationalism or love for the country.

By: Keyur Seta