Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Hindu Culture and Festivals -- Bheemana Amavasya

Do you believe in customs and traditions? Are you spiritual or orthodox? What do the festivals mean to you? Are you indifferent to them, or follow them as just rituals or try to find out the reason, history behind these festivities. As for me I am spiritual but not orthodox, celebrate the festivals not as a custom but as a social celebration, cook delicacies meant for the festival day not as a binding compulsion, but because I want to enjoy and share the pleasure with my family and friends. What about you ???

Ashadha and Shravana

Today is the last day of Ashadha, a month considered inauspicious according to Hindu belief and from tomorrow starts the month of Shravana, an auspicious month and a  month full of festivals :-)

Today is also Amavasya, new moon day, a day celebrated as Bheemana Amavasya by the Hindus. The day, age, thinking and perceptions keep changing. With the arrival of every festival, lots of questions crop up in my mind. Why this festival is celebrated, what is its significance, is their any scientific, logical meaning attached to the celebrations being followed or is it just a custom?

Orthodox or Atheist ?

I am neither orthodox, nor am I an atheist. I have highest regards and respect for our great Indian culture and Heritage. I am proud about the contribution of our Sages and Rishis to the world, be it Aryabhatta, Vyasa, Patanjali or Chanakya. There are millions and millions like them who make us proud throughout our great history.

But let us not mix cultural traditions with blind faith. I am actually very curious. I know there have been many blind faiths that were being practised by our forefathers  But where did they originate? Where exactly did they start? Because in Mahabharatha you come across the instance of Kunti getting karna from Lord Sun before marriage. This shows the celebration of independence that was prevalent thousands of years ago. Wasn't  it an indication of medical advancement thousands even during that period? Then who were responsible for this deviation of scientific thinking and followings, what was their intention and how from being such a liberal smart civilization, the narrow minded culture steeped in.Or was it just a harmless practice which took unmanageable proportions over centuries?

Religion v/s Technology

Even though we boast of modern technology and gadgets and frown at the old school of thought, we cannot forget Sushrutha, the great Indian sage and doctor, a renowned ophthalmologist performing eye surgery in 600 B.C. There is absolutely no denying about the extraordinary knowledge and education of our ancestors. So where and when did this blind or unscientific faith start?

The ancient Indian Sages did record their findings and knowledge as is evident from Vedas and Upanishads. So instead of following those scientific ideologies that are relevant even today, why did we deviate? Or is not deviation but a scientific and tested method which lacked proper recording?

Generation Gap

There is a distinct difference between the three generations that have come in my life.My grandparents faithfully followed all rituals. A doubt never ever came to their mind about their followings. And the case of my parent was slightly different. As I see it, they were scared to deviate, may be because of the fear instilled in their minds by their fathers and forefathers. I vividly remember my mother describing the hell and explaining what ill fate is going to befall on us if we don't follow certain practices and rituals. They were scared albeit not convinced. And my children, next generation doesn't give a damn to all such talks.

What is Hinduism?

Me? I am neither scared nor convinced – I am curious. I genuinely like to know the scientific reason behind any practice or ritual. So whenever a festival comes, I try to find out its history or logic behind it. I believe Hinduism is a Way of Life, a Holistic approach to life. It is a set of ideal beliefs and noble practices. Its divine principles, approach have been proudly inherited by me. Unlike other religions, there is no single God, no single faith or no single principle here. It is wide, vast and all encompassing.

Hinduism doesn't propagate one single God but we salute that one Supreme abstract authority that is a creator of this Universe. And I don't believe that God would be so self centred, irrational and illogical to want others to fear Him or respect Him. To be a God, He should be far more magnanimous than that.

In simple terms, Hinduism propagates loving each and every creation of God.
" Isavasyam idam sarvam " is the mantra of Hindu philosophy. Isam, the God, is present everywhere so nothing separates anything or anyone from God. Loving and respecting every living and nonliving thing is the essence of Hinduism.

Let good knowledge percolate

It is not just for ourselves but for the next generation we have to make a study and record this. We should be able to pass on the logic, the history, the ideals, after removing the blind faiths. Where as I was neither scared nor convinced my children are just plain indifferent just like their peers.

This is because this generation demands scientific proofs, logics and evidence for all you preach. During menstruation my grandmother was made to sit outside and never enter the main house and was confined to a dark room. My mother's condition was slightly better, but she was scared to touch anything or anyone during that period. I believed that it was only a physical condition because of which I needed rest and not to be abandoned and fought for it. I also found out that during the period of menses, a girls body emanates  carbon dioxide in excess which may harm things like pickles. Would you tell your daughter to follow the ritual followed by your ancestors?

Scientific advancement

So let us pass on the knowledge, philosophy and good practices to our children devoid of any blind faith. They want to practice and follow good things. What has been considered as God by my ancestors, has become a supreme power of positive energy of good principles for me and is pure Physics to my children.

History and Culture

And coming to the subject of today's festival what and why is Bheemana Amavasya???

From what I have read from the Puja books of yore, I remember this is the story of Bheemana Amavasya . 

Story and Source :

This is a Vratha available in Skanda Purana

Once there lived a king whose son had died prematurely. The King wants to get his son married by announcing rewards for those who come forward to give their daughter to this dead son.
A poor Brahmin comes forward to marry his daughter to the dead prince. The wedding was celebrated on a Amavasya Day. After the marriage the dead prince’s body was brought near river for final rites. As the people were preparing the pyre, there was thunder and lightning with heavy rains.  The people panicked and ran back to their homes leaving the dead body and the innocent girl behind.
The girl remembered that it was the day of Jyothir Bheemeshwari vrata, which her mother made her perform without fail every year. She takes bath in the river and molded two lamps and rolled out fiber of a plant to form the wick for the lamps.  She poured water into the lamps and did bhandara with mud as there was no rice/wheat .
Shiva & Parvati were the silent spectators for all her activities and were pleased with her devotion and blessed her.She finished her pooja with whatever is available at that place.
As she finished her pooja God Rudra and Goddess Parvathi Devi appeared before her. Lord Shiva broke the mud balls / bandara and asked her to ask for a boon.  She requested them to bring her husband back to life, which was granted.  The people next day were happy and surprised to see the prince alive and they took the two back in a procession and they lived happily ever after.
How it is performed ?
On this day, Tambittu Deepa is lighted. It is believed that lighting of these lamps throws out all the bad effects from home and makes home fresh, blissful and prosperous. Idols of Lord Shiva and parvati are created with mud.  Special pooja is performed to Parvati and Rudra. 

On this day, Kadubu, idli, and wheat balls are prepared. keeping the coins inside the kadubu or idli, male children will be asked to broke them. This process is called as “Bhandara breaking". These  Bandara are kept on either side of the bottom doorsill on betel leaves, betel nut, coins.  And turmeric powder and kumkum / vermilion powder are applied to hostilu.  The brother is made to stand one at a time with legs on either side of the hostilu and he has to break the Bandara with his elbows and as he bends to break them the sisters should bang the brother’s back with their elbows.  This is lot of fun with laughter and guffaws.  The bandara is stuffed with soaked Bengal gram or with coins. And the brothers are supposed to present gifts to their sisters.

Logic and significance :

I feel just like most of the Hindu festivals and rituals, this Hindu festival is celebrated to freshen the home with diyas, eat healthy food and build a bonding between family members.

This is my interpretation of this festival. Do you have any other opinions? Do you find or have you read some other logic behind these rituals? You are most welcome to share.

Please give your opinions and feedbacks in the comments box below. I would appreciate and reciprocate :-)