Idol worship

Those who are against paganism can find Hinduism confusing. Certainly, Hinduism supports idol worship but that is not all. Hinduism caters to the psychologist maturity level of the worshipper. Let us understand this.

A Sanskrit poem from the Agni Purana presents a simple context to worship modalities in Hinduism. Any intellectual in India could quote this poem two or three generations ago. The poem explains the thought process behind tying worship choice to psychological maturity.

अप्सु देव मनुष्याणाम्

दिवि दिवा मणीषिणाम् |

बालानाम् काष्ठ लोष्टिषु

बुध्दस्य आत्मनि देवता ||

Agni Purana – modes of worship

Water bodies are sacred

Famous pilgrimage centers in India are on riverbanks. Firstly, every sacred river has at least one ancient temple. Secondly, large temples in the South which are away from any rivers have a sacred temple-pond. Society revered water resources. Even the uneducated kept waste away from these sacred water bodies.

Idol worship - Sacred Waterpot
Idol Worship – Sacred Waterpot

The sacred water-pot

Any Hindu Puja ritual begins with a sacred water-pot (Kalasha or Kumbha). The water-pot is decorated with mango leaves and a coconut. Mantras are then chanted to invite Devas into the sacred water. The Devas return to their “permanent” abode at the end of the Puja ceremony.

According to the poem above ( अप्सु देव मनुष्याणाम्), a Manushya (A balanced human being) assumes Devas to be in water. Can we consider the worship of the sacred pot to be idol worship? The answer is a No! Because, the permanent abode of the Devas is Dyu or Diva. Dyu is the heaven. Where is the heaven? It takes keen insight to recognize the Dyu domain. Devas assemble in the sacred water-pot for a short time.

A Scientist can understand the idea of Dyu

Mantras say that “Antariksh” separates the earth from Dyu. Besides, Dyu is at the other edge of Antariksh (the atmosphere). Ordinary people accept the idea that the Earth’s atmosphere ends hundred Kilometers above the earth. However, a serious scientists is not content with this idea. A “Maneesha” is an intellectual who explores this idea further. To him, the domain of Devas is like pure vacuum. It is beyond the reach of air.

The poem affirms that a Maneesha (one who understands different paradigms) recognizes Devas to be in Dyu (दिवि दिवा मणीषिणाम्). A Maneesha alone can understand the context of mantras and Devas. A simpleton cannot understand an abstraction like Dyu, a special kind of space. Where then does a simpleton psychologically connect to his favorite Deva?

Idol worship of a simpleton

A Child sees magic where an adult does not. Such is the power of an innocent heart. Similarly, a simple person can his God in nature. The poem above says that the Devas reside in stones and clay for a child-like person (बालानाम् काष्ठ लोष्टिषु). Anyone can go through a tough situation. He can feel vulnerable psychologically in those situations.

Avahan and Visarjan

However, the Rishi seers of India taught the ideas of “Avahan” (invitation) and “Visarjan” (sending back). A child is taught two steps. Firstly, a child learns to invite Deva (Avahan) into a clay Pratima. Secondly, the child learns the idea that the clay idol can return to its source after Visarjan (sending Deva back). In between, the idol is sacred.

Where does this leave a person who loves Vedanta? Vedanta declares existence to be non-dual. Where are the Devas for a person who grasps non-duality? (Mental Worship & Idol Worship)

Yajur Veda verse 32.3

Those who are against idol worship quote a verse from Yajur Veda (Verse 32.3). The verse says – “Na Tasya Pratima asti”. However, these people miss the point that Vedanta is for an advanced seeker. Only an advanced seeker can declare with full conviction that the Devas are within himself. The above poem too affirms that a man of wisdom sees Devas within himself (बुध्दस्य आत्मनि देवता)

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Valakhilya Rishis and Magnetic Poles

Valakhilya Rishis and Magnetic field lines

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Who are Valakhilya Rishis? Where do we find references to the Valakhilya? Are they connected to Earth’s magnetic Pole? We must understand a few ideas about these Rishis to find an answer to these questions. Is there any connection between these Rishis and the Valakhilya hymns in the mandalas of the Rig Veda?

We gather four important facts from the references to the Valakhilya Rishis from Purana texts. Firstly, these thumb sized Rishis meditate upside down. Secondly, these ancient Rishis survive without eating food. They survive solely on air. Thirdly, they follow the Sun from dawn to dusk. In fact, they carry the Sun on his daily sojourn around the Earth. Fourthly, one of the seven Saptarishis, namely, Kratu is their father. Are hints from these four areas enough to understand the metaphor of Valakhilyas?

Valakhilya Rishis and Magnetic field lines
Garuda carries Valakhilyas in his beak

These tiny sized Rishis move with the Sun from dawn to dusk. They survive on air. Therefore, Valakhilya may be a metaphor for an Earth bound or an atmosphere bound phenomenon. Some Puranas say that there are six thousand and six hundreds of these Rishis. Other Puranas say that there are eight thousand of them. Do these large numbers suggest a distribution of some energy fields, such as geomagnetic field around the globe?

The upside-down view of Valakhilya Rishis

The Valakhilyas follow the Sun from dawn to dusk. Surely, this must be a metaphor for the diurnal motion of the Sun! Another of the four facts above provides an affirmation. These Rishis meditate upside down. An inverted view is literally “upside down”! Firstly, the diurnal motion of the Sun is a geocentric view. Secondly, the diurnal movement is a fact only on the Earth. Finally, Heliocentric view is the universal reality. The Valakhilyas following the Sun from dawn to dusk while hanging upside down must be a hint about an inverted view.

Finally, let us consider the fact about Saptarishi Kratu. Kratu is the leader among the seven Rishis in the Saptarishis calendar system. Hindu astronomy calls the proximity of the polar region the Saptarishi Mandala. In addition, Valakhilyas are born of Rishis Kratu. Do Valakhilya represent energy fields which originate near this region, namely, close to the north magnetic pole?

The magnetic pole of the Earth hover around the polar region of the Earth. The magnetic lines of the Earth spin when the Earth spins on its axis. Therefore, Valakhilya Rishis are likely a metaphor for Earth’s magnetic lines!

Did the Valakhilya Rishis author the Valakhilya hymns in the mandalas of the Rig?

No. These mantras are called Valakhilyas for another reason.

Where do we find references to the Valakhilya Rishis?

We find references to these Rishis in many important Puranas. In addition, we find a reference to them in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

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  1. Sadasiva Ahobala says:

    I rever them – since these Divine Souls live on Vayu – Akashar Vayuhu integrated with all the five elements, in the vastness of Space within & without, which is the extension of Pure Awareness-Undifferentiated Existence visualized in the Heart as ‘I am’ & who is the Ocean of life & we are waves in the Ocean, we pray ‘Namasthe Vayu, Twameva Prtyaksham Brahmasi, Twameva Pratyaksham Brahmvadishyami – O’ Vayudeva Our Prostrations unto you verily the Brahman in the gross form of life sustaining Air -Om Saptarishibhyon Namaha


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Manu and the Evolution of Sight

Paleontologists suggest an interesting scenario for the evolution of eye (how eyesight evolved) in creatures. According to this, the human eye lens mechanism evolved from a rudimentary light sensor in a jellyfish. This evolution began during the post-Cambrian era. In fact, an explosion of species occurred during the post Cambrian era some 400 million years ago. The maturing of the organs of sight could happen during this explosion.

A flat photosensitive cell found in early organisms evolved through different stages. Initially, it was a pit hole. Then it became a pin hole. Finally, it took the shape of a lens structure. Indeed, the evolution of the eye is unique. Nature reused the same set of proteins and toolkits 50-100 times over. Clearly, nature attempted several times to arrive at a decent prototype of the complex human eye.

Vedic literature refers to steps in evolution through the idea of Manus. Interestingly, the name of one of these Manus refers to “eyesight”. Besides, the period of this Manu corresponds to the pre-Cambrian Era when nature refined the organ refers to eyesight. What is the idea of many Manus?

Evolution of Eyes during Chakshusha Manu period (Post Cambrian Era)
Evolution of Eyes during Chakshusha Manu period (Post Cambrian Era)
Manus and the four Yugas

One day in the life of Brahma consists of fourteen parts. Rishis assigned each to a different Manu. We are currently in the seventh Manu period. Chakshusha is the name of the Manu previous to ours. The word Chakshu stands for eyes. This name is a appropriate for an era of rapid evolution of the structure of the eye. The meaning of the word Raivata, the name of the previous Manu, is associated with abundance. Secondly, this coincides with the explosion of species 500-590 million years ago. The name of the preceding Manu refers to inertia. The period of Tamasa Manu is an appropriate characterization of the great glaciations on planet Earth. Certainly, evolution stalled during that period. Similarly, the names of the first three Manus have interesting association to evolutionary trends.

The four Yugas and 14 Manus

You may also want to read the post – Human hearing and Prachetas

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What is Soma Juice made of?

What is Soma Juice made of?

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Many people asked this question in vain in the past – What is Soma Juice made of? Researchers have studied different plants, mushrooms and other hallucinogens. However, none of these matches the description of the Soma plant as described in the Soma Sacrifice of Veda. This makes us wonder if researchers are on the right track about Soma Juice. The Samba Purana text provides a simplified description of the mantras to the Chariot of the Sun in the Vedas. Let us understand more about the nature of the Soma drink from it.

Chapter 20 of Samba Purana
Devas gain sustenance from the Sun

Surya or the Sun is the supreme Deva according to those who worship the Sun. In this context, the existence of the other Devas must depend on the power of Surya. They must gain their immortality from the rays of the Sun. One way the Devas gain immortality is from Yajna fire ritual or the Soma sacrifice. The officiating priests extract the juice of the Soma plant to make an offering. Agni or God of fire carries this offering to the Devas. Consequently, the Devas get recharged. However, how does the Soma plant capture the power of Soma? What is the secret ingredient in the Soma drink?

Soma Plant and its connection to the lunar cycle

How do Kalas of Soma relate to Soma in Yoga?

The Sun increases Soma energy in the vicinity of the earth during the bright fortnight of the Moon. Secondly, it does this through its rays called “Susumna”. Yoga practitioners can understand the similarity here to the central energy channel in the body. The moon gathers this subtle Soma energy in Kala units. The Devas can consume this Soma energy during the dark fortnight of the Moon. This becomes their seasonal supply of Amrita or immortality. Secondly, Devas must take turns to drink the Soma energy. Finally, Devas love an extra portion of the Soma energy. Let us see how they get it, at least sometimes!

Do Devas get an extra portion of Soma in a sacrifice?

Herbs, especially those which produce a milky secretion receive the final portion of Soma. They receive it after Devas get their allocated share. The Soma herb belongs to this category. A trained priest can identify the Soma herb by noticing the alignment of the growth phase of the herb to the moon’s cycle. Certainly, not every plant with a milky secretion has this alignment. The priests know the art of extracting the Juice of the Soma plant properly. They know the secrets of the Soma plant juice. Devas are happy to return the favor to humans after consuming an extra dose of Soma.

What is an extra helping of Soma Juice?

The normal cycle of Soma drinking by Devas continues forever in nature. However, Vedic priests entice Devas with an extra supply of Soma Juice upon the disruption of nature’s rhythms. Certainly, excess greed can be a reason for the disruption of the natural cycles. Rishis knew this and instituted an annual offering of Soma drink to the Devas.

Do Devas or Gods consume portions of Soma in a sequence?

There are sixteen Kalaas or portions of Soma. Agni gets the first Kalaa followed by Ravi. Secondly, Vishve-devas, Prajapati, Varuna, Vaasava, Rishis, Vasus, Yama, Maruts, Rudra, and Vishnu consume the Kalaas from 3-13. Shiva as Pashupathi consumes the fourteenth Kalaa. Finally, Pitrus consume the fifteenth Kalaa.

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Is Cosmos Conscious?

Is Cosmos Conscious per Pantheism?

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Carl Sagan begins his bestseller, the Cosmos, with the three assumptions. They are a) humans have evolved to wonder, b) understanding is a joy, and c) knowledge is prerequisite to survival. Wonder, understanding and knowledge – aren’t these qualities of consciousness? Surely, a scientist cannot attribute these directly to atoms, molecules, and cells. Where do these qualities pop up from? Let us understand if the Cosmos is Conscious based on Pantheism.

Scientists say that everything which we see today came from a big bang, thirteen billion years ago. Secondly, the big bang created elementary particles. These first coalesced into subatomic particles. Subatomic particles further coalesced into atoms. We see these atoms spread throughout this massive universe. Did elementary particles carry rudimentary aspects of consciousness at the time of the Big-Bang? Fortunately, the Vedas are more eloquent about the Conscious Cosmos than modern science.

Is Cosmos Conscious
Is Cosmos Conscious?

What rudimentary aspects of consciousness existed at the time of creation? How did Rishis, the authors of the Veda envisage a creation in which a human being alone lands up with self-awareness, and a sense of wonder? Can rudimentary aspects of consciousness survive in pure Vacuum, where matter is missing? What is the place of human consciousness in the realm of cosmic consciousness?

How does Consciousness fit in a materialist model of existence?

Intellectuals in the west try to explain how consciousness can fit into the contemporary model of the Cosmos. These explanations are simple. Besides. they provide only a glimpse into an alternate model of a Conscious Cosmos. Here is one example. Earth itself is an organism. This is a new idea in the west. Secondly, this idea is popular for the last two or three decades among new age spiritualists. Scientists are unable to ignore this idea entirely. However, they are not ready to accept the possibility of an intelligent design in nature, in the evolution of species.

The earliest western philosophers to fully embrace Pantheist ideas from the Vedas were from America. Lately, Hollywood blockbusters such as Star Wars, Avatar, and Lion’s king popularized Pantheist ideas. Therefore, we can conclude that these thoughts have percolated out of the study rooms of scholars. Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy summarizes Pantheism as follows.

At its most general, pantheism may be understood positively as the view that God is identical with the cosmos, the view that there exists nothing which is outside of God, or else negatively as the rejection of any view that considers God as distinct from the universe.

Epistemic closeness of God

The younger generation today has a keen sense of identity with Earth’s natural resources. In addition, they show a greater reverence towards the Earth than the earlier generations. In the past, such high reverence was commonplace only in agrarian cultures in the East. However, any nature lover can ascribe his spiritual experience to God. Epistemically God is not distant because anyone can encounter God in an experience around them. This is spot on if the experience evokes compassion, gratitude, or a sense of expansion.

Important questions follow an epistemic acknowledgement of the proximity of God. How close is God? Why do we not experience the supernatural powers of God more frequently? Vedic texts answer these questions in the form of stories and parables.

Similarities between Spinoza’s ideas and Vedic texts

Vedic texts are a reliable source from another angle. “Ethics” the 17th century work of Spinoza is the guidebook to modern Pantheists. We find a philosophical question in this book – what exists in an absolute sense? Spinoza raised this question in the context of the cosmos being the body of God. Philosophers are yet to find beautiful answers in the Vedic model of a conscious cosmos.

The Vedas recognize two types of realities. Firstly, there is an absolute reality. Secondly, there is a relative reality. The Vedas further map the idea of two realities onto three kinds of space. We can appreciate Vedic cosmology to its full in the context of three kinds of space.

Three kinds of Space

One of the three kinds of space hosts the supreme divinity. Secondly, the other two spaces overlap this space of Absolute reality. In other words, the space of absolute reality interlaces the other two. This idea is like quantum field being the substratum of the material universe. However, there is no parallel in modern science to the intermediary space in the Vedic model.

Psychologists may recognize intermediary space as a psychic field. Firstly, thoughts, ideas and impressions belong to the intermediary space. Secondly, the level of diversity here surpasses the diversity in the material domain. The Puranas refer to aspects of Individual and Collective consciousness as unseen Beings. These are energy patterns in intermediary space.

The role of unseen Beings in the psychological domain

Unseen Beings direct aspects of human society by influencing individual minds. The Rishis, the wise men of a past era, created stories with keen insight into human psychology. Firstly, these stories do not glorify the supernatural excessively. Secondly, they highlight the equal potential of human consciousness. Unseen beings and human beings are interdependent in the Vedic model of a conscious cosmos. Anyone can cherish the secret messages in the Puranas by understanding these nuances.

Why do the stories in the Puranas seem like a reflection of the philosophy of Spinoza? Spinoza’s ideas reflect stoic ideas from earlier times. Clearly, the Greek scholars thought like the wise men of India. Scholarly articles on Pantheism mention blockbuster movies. Unfortunately, they do not mention the Puranas! Consequently, a spiritual seeker in the west loses a distinct way to understand Pantheism. Besides, stories can bring a thrilling understanding of the Conscious Cosmos.

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The Lone wheel on the Chariot of the Sun

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Carvings of the Chariot of the Sun in Stone are charming. Artisans in India built Sun temples in the past with inspiration from Puranas texts. (We notice a completely different idea of the Chariot of Sun (Helios or Sol) in Greek and Roman mythologies. Therefore, this analysis is limited to ideas in the Veda). Firstly, Puranas attempt to simplify ideas in the Vedas into metaphors, in this case the Chariot. Secondly, artisans used their creativity to chisel the metaphor on stone. Certainly, there are differences between what we see in Stone and in the texts. Firstly, the texts say that the Sun’s chariot moves on one wheel. Let us understand the metaphor of the lone wheel of the Chariot of the Sun. Let us begin with a short poem.

The Lone Wheel of the Chariot of the Sun
A lone wheel spins
for Sun's massive chariot
Spinning fast
carrying light through the year!

A Lone wheel turns
on three, not one pivots
casting a mirage
fresh every moment

A Lone wheel moves
with five strong spokes
showing off time 
Cautioning us of the season's end

A Lone wheel treads
with six not one rims
Shifting sky's moods
showering down a brand-new bounty

The chariot of the Sun has a rim on its lone wheel for each season. Secondly, experts explain the three pivots at the center to be the Past, Present and Future. These three are merely perspectives. However, the human brain uses these to sustain the idea of a linear Time. Thirdly, a spinning wheel can propel a chariot forward only because its spokes bind the rim to the wheel center. The spokes of the Chariot of the Sun are human measures for the seasons. Why does the Chariot of the Sun need five spokes?

Lone Wheel on the Chariot of Sun – Sun Temple

Five parts or divisions of Panchang

Vedic people tracked the progress of a season in five ways. The Indian calendar or the Panchang show all the five parts even today. Firstly, a season can be monitored in day units. A week or the Vara is a cycle of these units. Secondly, we can monitor the advance of a season in Thithi units. Thirty Thithi units form the lunation cycle. Thirdly, we can know the march of a season in Karana units. The Karana units form a 60-unit cycle. Fourthly, we can assess the remaining portion of a Season in Nakshatra units. Twenty-seven of these units form a cycle, namely, the sidereal month of the Moon. Finally, a season can be measured in Yoga units which also form a cycle of 27 units.

Panchang Yoga

People engaged in different professions preferred different measures. These options (of the five parts in a Panchang) may seem confusing and irrelevant to us. However, they are each related to cycles in nature. For example, the Karana cycle is like the Farmer’s Almanac in the west. Farmers in India, until three generations ago, fixed the sowing days according to Karana tables. The Thithi cycle is useful in matters of mind and emotions. Consulting the Vara cycle can provide a boost in matters of transformation. Those interested in optimizing growth potential began the corresponding activities after consulting the Nakshatra cycle. Finally. the Yoga cycle (Astronomy or Panchang Yoga!…) is all about clues on matters of synergies.

Some experts do not agree that the spokes represent measures of time. They believe them to be five equal divisions of the year. Each division has seventy-three days. Certainly, they have a valid argument. The Samba Purana and the Veda say that the five spokes are “Artava”. The word Artava indicates something related to or derived from the word Ritu or season. The five Artava are children of Ritu. But this takes us to another topic and a future post.

The Chariot of Helios and Sol

The idea of the Chariot of Sun in other cultures is quite different. We cannot analyze the ideas there to a similar depth. For example, Helios is the Sun God in the Greek tradition. In the story of Phaeton, the son of Helios, the Chariot of the Sun veers out of control. It chars the skin of humans in Africa. We do not see anything similar to this in Vedic literature.

Sol, the Sun God, rides a chariot drawn by four horses in Roman mythology. Romans began celebrating the winter solstice as the celebration of Sun racing his chariot. Scholars say that the day celebrates two versions of the Roman Sun god, namely, Sol Indigens and Deus Sol Invictus. These represent the older and the newer ideas of Sun God in Rome. We do not find anything like this in the Vedic tradition for the Chariot of the Sun.

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Sinivali and Raka

Sinivali and Raka

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Sinivali, Kuhu, Anumati and Raka are names of Goddesses in the Vedas. Veda Vyasa, the compiler of Vedas, gathered only two mantras related to Sinivali in Rig Veda. Therefore, Translators find these verses hard to translate. However, Vyasa provides additional clues in his Purana works in such cases. This is the case also about Sinivali (सिनीवाली), Raka (राका), Kuhu (कुहू) or young moon and Anumati. They are Vedic goddesses who are associated with the phases of the moon. A review of the idea of the phases of the moon in the context of the Kalaas of Soma brings us more clarity.

Sinivali, Young Moon, Raka and Full Moon
Sinivali, Young Moon, Raka and Full Moon

Subdivisions in new moon phase (thithi)

Vedic astronomers split the lunation cycle (29.5 days) into thirty units. Each Thithi unit (similar to the phases of the moon) refers to a 12-degree movement of the Moon from the Sun (Surya Siddhanta). Consequently, the average duration of a Thithi is less than 24 hours. There is one anomaly when we go to an earlier Era. This relates to the Amavasya (new moon) Thithi.

During Vedic times, Rishis took Amavasya to be of two kinds. Sinivali is the name of the Amavasya when the Moon rises marginally before the Sun. Kuhu is the name of the Amavasya when the Sun rises marginally before the Moon. Thus, Sinivali and Kuhu are a part of the Lunar cycle, specifically, as a part of Amavasya. How does this fit in the modern-day idea of the New Moon?

The role of Sinivali and Raka in the sixteen Kalaas

Astronomers take the advent of the full moon to be the point of total conjunction between the Moon and the Sun. Consequently, the moon right before entering the full conjunction is a part of Sinivali. Correspondingly, the Kuhu portion of Amavasya (Young Moon) occurs after the full conjunction. We can understand the idea of the sixteen Kalaas of the Soma now. Certainly, we must also know that the Full Moon has two similar aspects, namely, Anumati and Raka.

Samba Purana – Chapter 21 – Sinivali and Raka

Soma energy from the Sun gathers in the vicinity of the Earth-Moon system during Shukla Paksha (the waxing half of the Moon’s cycle). Subsequently, The Devas and Pitrus consume this Soma during Krishna Paksha (the waning phase of the Moon). Each Deva (see the list below) consumes one Kalaa portion of Soma on the designated day. The Pitrus consume the fifteenth Kala unit. Only one Kalaa portion remains in the Earth-moon system before the moon conjuncts with the Sun. 

Sinivali, the braided goddess of fertility

A third each of this last Kalaa portion enters Arka (milk sap producing plant) and the other herbs respectively, in the morning and in mid-afternoon. The final third of the final kala portion enters water. All the remnant Soma energy in the Earth-moon system infuses into water. Seeds sown at Amavasya can draw out this power from the soil. Therefore, farmers in India have followed the custom of sowing seeds on Amavasya. Besides, Vedic priests conduct a special ritual on the first Thithi following an Amavasya to harnesses this power.

We notice something unique about Sinivali who represents the final Soma unit. Individual Devas or Gods drink whole units of Soma. However, the Sinivali portion gets distributed for several purposes. The braided Goddess is often represented with many plaits of hair. Because of her role in the germination of seeds, she is a goddess of fertility in the Vedic tradition (Rig Veda mantras). Devi Jyeshta is another braided Goddess.

Siddhars mention the sixteen Kalaa units frequently in their texts. They map the sixteen Kalaa units in the physical world to the energy channels (Solar and Lunar) within the subtle body. They analyze the role of Soma energy in the field of human fertility. This is a fascinating topic.

In what order do Devas partake of the Kalaas of Soma?

Veda Vyasa lists this in Samba Purana. The order is Agni, Ravi, Vishwedeva, Prajapati, Varuna, Indra, Sapta Rishis, Vasus, Yama, Maruts, Rudra, Vishnu, Pashupati, Pitrus

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Birbal’s astronomy legacy

Birbal, the legendary court jester of Akbar’s court hails from the town of Kalapriya Nagari. This town is now Kalpi. Initially, the town got its name from an ancient Sun temple. The once reputed Sun Temple in is nowhere in sight today in Kalpi. Samba, the son of Sri Krishna built three Sun temples at right before the start of the Kali Era. The Sun temple at Konark is the most visited of the three today. Worship continued in the Sun Temple, in Multan, into the first half of the last century. Unfortunately, the Sun Temple in Kalpi is a mere memory, in history.

Kalpi town hosted the mint of the rich Moghuls at the time of Akbar. This shows the importance of the region. The town’s people came under the ire of the British when Kalpi became an epicenter of several mutiny against the British.

History about Kalpi Sun temple

The history of this temple therefore goes back several thousand years. Two thousand years later, Varahamihira, the famous astronomer, one of the jewels in King Vikramaditya‘s court, worshiped in Kalpi and started his studies here. A few hundred years later, Bhavabhuti, an illustrious Sanskrit composer inaugurated his play in the grand theater next to the Sun temple in Kalpi. Thus, we can see that the Kalpi Sun Temple was more celebrated than the Konark Sun Temple in the past. The historical records from the 4th, 5th, 8th,10th and 14th centuries confirm the continued grandeur of the Kalpi temple. The town’s unique position on the bank of the river Yamuna even today makes it a favorite destination for astronomers. Astronomers from all over India gathered here to study the total solar eclipse of 1995.

A page from the History of Kalpi - 1859
Drawing of Kalpi – 1859 Illustrated London News

Mysterious disappearance of Kalpi Sun temple

Records from 4th century confirm the fact that the rulers of Kannauj enthusiastically supported the temple. Secondly, a visiting elephant brigade while encamping inside the large compound of the temple destroyed a part of the temple surroundings in the 9th century. Thirdly, the temple remained operational till the arrival of Lodhi rulers in the 15th century. Persian historians confirm this in their writings. The census records show a population of the town to be one lakh in 1857. Subsequent records indicate a meagre population of nine thousand after the 1857 freedom mutiny. Naturally, the British rulers let the town languish. However, when did the temple disappear?

Was Kalpi a prehistoric astronomy site?

Puranic records confirm Kalapriya Nagari to be one of the three Sun temples (refer to the book on ancient India by  Dineschandra Sircar) established 5000 years ago. Rahul Mehrotra (IIT Kanpur) makes a case to establish the authenticity of this and the subsequent records related to the history of Kalpi. He seeks archeological support. However, the Archeological Department of India claims its hands are tied. ASI is unable to dig the mound site. This is because they have to relocate the community occupying this site and that can create a political turmoil.

Archeologists say that Kalpi hosted one of the earliest prehistoric habitations on a riverbank. Bones, tools and other artifacts from here suggest that Kalpi was inhabited for several millennia. Certainly, we can understand why the British decided to let the memory of Kalpi die, after the freedom mutiny of 1857. It is a mystery why Independent India has not explored the rich past of this area. After all, Konark Sun Temple retains a part of its glory only because of the efforts from the Archeological Department of India. Kalpi may hold the link between pre-history and Puranic history (Check out my post on this theme – South India Neolithic sites – A training ground for budding astronomers?). Perhaps it hosted an astronomical structure as brilliant as the Stonehenge which developed into a grand temple towards the turn of the Common Era!

Is Martand Sun temple as ancient as the temples built by Samba?

Purana records do not show that Samba started the tradition of worship in Martand. However, the history of the Martand Temple goes to the dawn of the Common Era. In addition, the Purana texts of Kashmir takes it further back.

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Nivid Mantras are Riddles

Nivid Mantras are riddles

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What are Nivid Mantras? How do some of these represent the numbers of Devas to be 33?

Nivids are a class of Vedic mantras. Some Indologists believe Nivids to predate the other mantras in the Vedas. The performers of the Soma Yagna remember this story even today. According to the story, a complex Yagya hid itself from the Devas. Therefore, the Devas performed a simpler fire ritual. However, towards the end of the Yagna they realized that they could remember the steps for the complex Yagna. Consequently, they announced their success through the Nivid mantras.

Nivids are expressions of wonder. Secondly, they contain the word “Aho”. Thirdly, Nivids express hints about the secret workings of the universe. Certainly, we can use Nivids to decode important Vedic mantras. Nivids are named after Devas. Indologists made a special note of the Nivids of Vishe Devas.

Nivid Mantras are riddles - 33 Devas
Nivid Mantras are riddles

These Nivids give the number of Vedic Gods in the form of a riddle. It says that the number of Devas is 33, or 303, or 3003 … BG Sidharth of Birla Science Institute considers this to be an astronomical hint. He provides an elegant explanation. Each progression in this arithmetic sequence adds a step of refinement to the estimate of the length of a year.

The Nivid with the sequence 33, 303, 3003 refers to Devas

Lunar cycle offers the simplest time measure of a month, especially in ancient times. However, a year is more than 12 such month units. Calendar makers faced a similar challenge even in the medieval centuries. They solved this with the help of leap years. In times of antiquity, calendar makers chose to synchronize Lunar month counts to equinoxes. They added Intercalary or extra days after a fixed count of months. 33 intercalary days approximate the year measure to 365 days and 303 to 365.2421 and so on. Some claim that the sequence can extend to three crores.

Samba Purana 23.15

Rishi Vishwamitra in the Rig Veda gives the number of Gods to be 3339. Certainly, this is the sum of 3003+303+33. This number when considered as the number of intercalary days gives the average year length to be 365.2424. We find the number 6663 in another Nivid. It is the number of Gandharvas. This refers to a second method to estimate the average length of a solar year. The Chanting of these Nivids find a place in the Soma Yagya. Coincidentally, a Soma Yagna begins on a winter solstice and extends to the next.

Companion Mantras

We saw how the Nivid mantra announces a discovery as an expression of wonder. Two other types of mantras are companions to the Nivid. Certainly, we find these Mantras in Soma Yagna. Firstly, the Adhvaryu, the most experienced performer in the Yagna put out the Sankalpa (intention) for discovery through the Praishas mantras. Secondly, the Hotr, the chief chanter in the Yagna refines this intention with the Puroruk mantras at the Vedi. Thirdly, the word Vedi (fire altar) itself means a place of discovery. Finally, the vessels used in the Yagya are the Grahas representing the repositories in which the discovery materializes. There is more to Yagnas than we believe!

Other posts on this topic

One Mantra Three Focal Points – Link
YouTube video by Sri Sri Ravishankar on Dark Matter and Rig Veda – Link

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Bed of Nails and Ratha Sapthami

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Bhishma Ashtami and the Bed of Nails

In this post I explore the connection between Bed of Nails and Bhishma Ashtami. Did the idea of the bed of nails originate from the time of Mahabharata? Bhishma lay on a bed of arrows. He waited for Ratha Saptami day in the month of Magh to pass. (Ratha refers to the Chariot of the Sun) The following day, namely, Ashtami, is still remembered by his name.

Two popular images defined India as an exotic destination in the sixties. They were the nail of bed and snake charmers. The Nail of bed drew the attention of westerners, once again, a decade back, this time as a therapy. The New York Times ran an article about this trend in 2014. During the colonial era, Britishers living in India experienced thrill upon encountering an ascetic sitting on bed of nails. However, sitting on a nail of bed has never been a common custom among Indians. On the other hand, Indians know a popular story about the nail of bed. This story goes back several millennia in the collective memory of India. The Mahabharata text documents in detail the incidents surrounding the decision of the great Warrior-Yogi Bhishma to lay on a bed of arrows while awaiting his death.

Bhishma, the great warrior had received a boon during his youth to choose the time of his death. In his ripe old age, he fell down from his chariot, mortally injured, in the great war. He chooses a bed of nails and waits for the right time to drop his mortal body. As a great Yogi, he knew the significance of one’s time of death to the nature of their next birth. Bhishma had taken birth because of a curse. He did not want his life on earth to lead him towards a long chain of subsequent births. The Sapthami day, when the moon is in her 7th waxing phase in the month of Magha could guarantee this to him. Such a combination occurs in late February when the moon is in close proximity to Aldebaran.

Ratha Sapthami

The combination described above is revered in India as the Ratha Sapthami day. The following day is called Bhishma Ashtami in the memory of an enlightened warrior and his life of sacrifice. The record of Ratha Sapthami in the Mahabharata is an archeoastronomy marker. Together with a few other such markers in this text, researchers and archeologists are today able to affirm the time of the great War in India.

Bed of nails reminds us of Bhishma
Bed of nails reminds of Ratha Sapthami day
What is special about Ratha Sapthami day?

One of the eighteen major Purana texts, namely, Bhavishya Purana describes the specialty of the Sapthami Thithi (Phase of the Moon). Sapthami is the special Thithi for the Sun. The Bhavishya Purana covers the subject of Sapthami Thithi from Chapters 47 to Chapter 216. Chapter116 describes the importance of Ratha Sapthami rituals.

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