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West Bengal - the Crucible of Art and Culture

West Bengal - the Crucible of Art and Culture

Bengal has a rich history and has seen many changes in its political scene through the ages... The long association with the British left an indelible impression on the state's culture and education system and brought about enormous social change... It is also a state that has produced the fiercest freedom fighters, the best academicians, the most celebrated poets and writers, well-known social reformers, and extremely talented singers and dancers... A state blessed with diverse topography, fertile soil, huge diversity of flora and fauna...West Bengal's geographical location naturally lends itself to a largely agrarian economy... Rural Bengal takes the lead in keeping the old customs and the associated song and dance forms alive in Modern West Bengal...
Krishna and Sudama - The Eternal Bond of True Friendship

Krishna and Sudama - The Eternal Bond of True Friendship

Sudama... was a childhood friend of Lord Sri Krishna... Sudama was born in a poor Brahmin family... Krishna... hailed from the royal family and hence, enjoyed the highest possible social status. However, this difference did not in any way hinder their friendship... The story of Krishna and Sudama contains several hidden lessons that we could learn from... God always rewards good deeds; however, He is also bound by the Laws of Karma. He knows when to bestow His grace on us. It may take a while for us to reverse negative karma and start enjoying the fruit of our good deeds, but it is bound to come to us in time... devotion toward God is the only thing that will lead us to His grace...
Jewelry - The Essence of Indian Shringar

Jewelry - The Essence of Indian Shringar

Jewelry has been an integral part of Indian culture since time immemorial... On festival and special occasions, Indian girls and women of all ages, castes, classes and creeds adorn themselves with heavy jewelry... Even today, jewelry is considered not only as a means of ornamentation, but also as a sign of power, wealth and status... Indian jewelry design is as varied and diverse as the nation itself. Each piece of jewelry veritably has a story to tell about the state where it originates from and the patterns, the materials used, the artwork featuring in the items and the price range differs vastly from state to state....
Adi Shankacharya - The Saviour of Hinduism

Adi Shankacharya - The Saviour of Hinduism

Adi Sankaracharya, the incarnation of Lord Shiva, descended on the mortal plane some 2500 years ago to rescue the pristine glory of Sanatana Dharma from the abyss of spiritual corruption it had been forced to... Adi Shankaracharya meticulously reinterpreted the scriptures of Hinduism, particularly the Vedanta and Upanishads. This profoundly influenced Hinduism which had been going through an abysmally low phase at that time... Sankara learnt about the cryptic teachings of the Vedas from Sri Govinda. Advaita, meaning oneness, was the theme of learning. Everything, sentient and insentient, is the manifestation of the Lord and the soul is an inseparable element of the super-soul...
Saint and Soldier - The First and Last Gurus of Sikhism

Saint and Soldier - The First and Last Gurus of Sikhism

Each of the ten Gurus of Sikhism, in their own way, made a great contribution to the growth of the religion. While some focused on Bhakti or devotion, others' philosophy centered on Shakti or might, both physical and spiritual... Guru Nanak is the very first of the ten Gurus of Sikhism and is also founder of the religion... Preaching equality, love, goodness and virtue, he created a platform which was spiritually, socially and politically viable... Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of Sikhism... was a philosopher, poet and warrior. He contributed much to Sikhism, in the sense that he worked to further formalize the philosophy propounded by Guru Nanak...
Jesus Christ - the Son of God

Jesus Christ - the Son of God

Jesus, who to Christians is the Son of God, is also considered to be the much-awaited Messiah of the Old Testament... Christians believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was born to Mary, the holy virgin and performed several miracles during his lifetime. He also founded the Church; accepted crucifixion to atone for others' sins; died on the cross; then arose from the dead, ascending to heaven, from where he will return one day...
Surya  - The Sun God in Hindu Mythology

Surya - The Sun God in Hindu Mythology

Surya, the Sun God in Hindu mythology...is the main solar deity in Hinduism... Surya is often portrayed as riding a chariot driven by 7 horses or alternatively, by 1 horse with 7 heads. These 7 horses represent the colors of the rainbow... Surya is worshipped by people, saints and even asuras or demons... Surya Deva’s sons, Shani and Yama, are the judges of human life and karma... Surya Deva is known to be strong, powerful and invincible... One can find several temples in India, dedicated to the worship of Surya... Makar Sankranti is the most popular, also the most widely celebrated festival, dedicated to Surya Deva...
Divine Sikkim - A Journey Through Photographs

Divine Sikkim - A Journey Through Photographs

Sikkim is nature's masterpiece painting - a sensory explosion created by the sky hugging snow capped mountain peaks, lush green meadows, numerous gurgling waterfalls, dense mystical forests and raging rivers defiantly cutting their course through mountains and valleys... Mt. Kanchenjunga is the third tallest mountain in the world... The Teesta river is the lifeline of Sikkim... Yumthang is a valley with rolling meadows, surrounded by the Himalaya mountains...
Onam - The Colorful Cultural Carnival of Kerala

Onam - The Colorful Cultural Carnival of Kerala

Onam or Thiruvonam, is the most popular festival in Kerala... This secular festival brings all Keralites together, rising over the boundaries of caste, creed, religion, culture and financial status... It is celebrated to commemorate Kerala's rich and affluent past and is also the harvest festival of the state... Onam is celebrated to welcome this annual visit from Mahabali. Mahabali, as his very name suggests, is venerated for having become a martyr for the sake of Truth. In fact, his name literally means "Great Sacrifice"... Onam festivities go on for a period of 10 days, ending with the day of the Thiruvonam...
Shrinathji - the Living God Child of Nathdwara

Shrinathji - the Living God Child of Nathdwara

Shrinathji is a Hindu deity and a form of Lord Sri Krishna, manifest as a 7 year-old Balak or child... the Lord lifts the Govardhana hill with the little finger of his left hand, in order to protect the residents of Vrindavan from the arrogant wrath of Indra... The main temple of Shrinathji is located in the temple town of Nathdwara, which lies about 48 kilometers from Udaipur in Rajasthan... Shrinathji gives his darshan to all his devotees and constantly bestows good upon them. While the Lord goes about uncomplainingly with his unending routine, it becomes the duty of the bhakta (devotee) to approach him with purity of heart and bhava...
Dattatreya - The Essence of the Divine Trinity in Hinduism

Dattatreya - The Essence of the Divine Trinity in Hinduism

Dattatreya... is a Hindu deity who is also regarded as an aspect of the Divine Trinity or Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara... Dattatreya is considered to be an avatar or reincarnation of Lord Shiva and is revered as the Adi-Guru or the First Teacher... The Dattatreya Upanishad, which is part of the Atharva Veda, describes him as variously taking the form of a child, a madman and even a demon, in order to help his followers attain moksha (liberation) from the material world... this deity is worshiped by a multitude of Hindus from all walks of life, spanning the entire globe...
The Hindu New Year - Flavours of Celebration

The Hindu New Year - Flavours of Celebration

The Hindu New Year is celebrated in accordance with the Almanac or the Panchanga, that is, the Hindu Lunar Calendar... This day also marks the end of one agricultural harvest and the beginning of a new one. Hence, this event is concerned with the sowing and reaping of crops... Each state in India celebrates the New Year in its own unique way, following customs and traditions that are exclusive to that particular region...
Holi - The Vibrant Indian Festival of Colors

Holi - The Vibrant Indian Festival of Colors

Holi is a major Indian festival, celebrated during spring. A Hindu festival by origin, this is one of the most popular events celebrated by all Indians, worldwide... Holi, though, is the most popular and widely celebrated in the Braj region, which connects closely to the life and times of Lord Krishna... This is also when devotees pray to the Divine Couple, Radha and Krishna. The festivities officially usher in spring, which is regarded as the season for love...
The Saree - The Very Essence of Indian Womanhood

The Saree - The Very Essence of Indian Womanhood

A saree or sari is a long strip of unstitched cloth, which is draped by Indian women... The origins of the sari can be traced right back to the Indus Valley Civilization, which existed during 2800-1800 BC... There are at least a hundred ways a single saree can be draped... The saree is very highly versatile, since it can be worn to expose to the minimum, while also reveal to the maximum, if the wearer wants it that way. Either way, it looks graceful and elegant, showing off the woman's curves in the right places...
Om - The Embodiment of the Absolute Brahman

Om - The Embodiment of the Absolute Brahman

Om, also written and pronounced as Aum, is considered by Hindus to be the mystical, primordial sound, which gave rise to the entire Universe... The incantation of this sacred syllable is considered auspicious for undertaking any new venture... it is referred to as the Pranava mantra; the one which encompasses Hindus' every prana or life breath... The three-syllable mantra, "A-U-M" represents the three aspects of Creation, Preservation and Destruction, embodies by Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva respectively... The symbol of Om has...become a vehicle for spiritual seekers to attain a state of complete silence during meditation, so as to go within oneself and contemplate the inner self...
Garuda - the Divine Vahana of Vishnu

Garuda - the Divine Vahana of Vishnu

Garuda is a large, mythical Eagle, which appears prominently in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology... In Hinduism, Garuda is... a divine entity, and is depicted as the vahana or mount of Sri Maha Vishnu... This very ancient deity is believed to have a gigantic form, large enough to block out the...Sun God... The Garudas enjoy an important status in Buddhism as well. These powerful beings were appointed by Sakra to protect Mount Sumeru and the Trayastrimsa heaven from the attacks of asuras... In India, Indonesia and much of Southeast Asia, the Garuda is a veritable national and cultural symbol...
Vaishno Devi - The Legend of the Powerful Mother Goddess

Vaishno Devi - The Legend of the Powerful Mother Goddess

The temple of Goddess Vaishno Devi is one of the major and sacred Hindu temples dedicated to Parvati or Goddess Shakti, the Divine Consort of Lord Shiva... Irrespective of caste, creed and social status, it is said that a journey to the sacred shrine of Vaishno Devi can materialize if and only if she wills it and blesses the devotee with her darshan... Vaishno Devi is believed to bestow strength to the weak, sight to the blind, wealth to the poor and bless childless couples with children. This very powerful deity, it is said, is also benevolent enough to fulfill one and all of her devotees' wishes...
Swami Vivekananda - the Revolutionary Monk of Modern Hinduism

Swami Vivekananda - the Revolutionary Monk of Modern Hinduism

Swami Vivekananda, born Narendranath Dutta, was essentially a Hindu Brahmachari and monk, who was the pioneer to introduce the authentically Indian philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the rest of the world... Swami Vivekananda is regarded as a very influential figure in modern Hinduism. Many leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Balgangadhar Tilak, Subhas Chandra Bose and Bipin Chandra Pal, had been vastly influenced by the Swami's fiery speeches. He used clear and simple language and all his works had a touch of humour, which never failed to entertain the reader. Vivekananda was also a singer and poet and composed several songs, including those on his favourite deity, Goddess Kali... Propagating Indian philosophy, Vedanta and Yoga both in India and abroad, he won accolades from many scholars of religion and philosophy throughout the globe...
Deities of Buddhism

Deities of Buddhism

Unlike Hinduism, Buddhism does not place too much importance on specific Gods or godly figures... it believes that both humans and deities are subject to Karma and the ensuing cycle of birth and death... The Buddha category of deities is the highest in Buddhism... Both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism believe that Buddhas are those that have attained complete enlightenment... Bodhisattvas are those who have reached a spiritual state, just one rung below Buddhahood... Bodhisattvas are generally portrayed wearing princely clothes and elaborate jewelry... Buddhism also features some wrathful, angry deities of destruction. They can be categorized as the Herukas, who adopt fierce manifestations in order to exhibit their detachment from materialism...
Kamadhenu - The Sacred Wish Fulfilling Cow

Kamadhenu - The Sacred Wish Fulfilling Cow

Hinduism considers the "Gomata" or the cow as an utmost sacred symbol... The name Kamadhenu came from the Sanskrit root, "Kamaduha", which literally means, "the cow of plenty" and "the one through whom all desires are fulfilled"... Kamadhenu is believed to be dwelling in Goloka (the realm of cows) and also Patala (the Netherworld)... To Hindus, the cow also represents purity, fertility, the ability to sustain human life and a selfless, sacrificing nature... cows are worshipped and are often fed outside temples, especially on Fridays and on all special occasions as well. All cows are generally considered incarnations of Kamadhenu by pious Hindus the world over...
The Four Yugas - Epochs of Hinduism

The Four Yugas - Epochs of Hinduism

According to Hindu philosophy, the world is made up of four main "Yugas" - ages, epochs or cycles of time - each made up of tens of thousands of human years... Each of these four Yugas involves stages of change; of evolution; one in which not only the physical universe undergoes change, but the whole thought process and consciousness of mankind metamorphoses either for better or for worse, depending upon that particular Yuga... Kalachakra puts us through repeated cycles of joy and suffering, depending upon our individual levels of karma... when one cycle of creation ends, God withdraws all of his energies into himself and rests for a period of time, when he is utterly inactive. After this period of rest, God resumes his activity and begins to recreate a whole new world, manifesting himself in an infinite number of new living beings and life forms...
The Sai Baba of Shirdi - A Saint-Seer Beyond Compare

The Sai Baba of Shirdi - A Saint-Seer Beyond Compare

The Sai Baba of Shirdi, also commonly referred to as Shirdi Sai Baba, was an Indian spiritual Guru, Yogi and Fakir...who was regarded by both Hindus and Muslims as a saint-seer... Sai Baba preached a moral code of love and forgiveness; contentment and inner peace... One of Sai Baba's most famous epithets was, "Sabka Malik Ek" (everyone is ruled by One God)... Shirdi Sai Baba was against all persecution based on caste or religion. He openly defied the religious orthodoxy that was most prevalent then... Sai Baba would often interpret Hindu and Muslim religious texts, explaining the meaning of the important portions from each text...
Draupadi and Sita - the Very Essence of Nari Shakti

Draupadi and Sita - the Very Essence of Nari Shakti

Naari shakti or woman power has been given great important in Indian culture... both Indian mythology and Indian history chronicle the existence of powerful women, who have been responsible both for great victory as well as the great downfall of mighty rulers and their legions... Sita was the central female character in the Ramayana, while Draupadi was her counterpart in the Mahabharata.... Both brought on terrible battles and were the very cause of the epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Both of them also became the reasons for the ultimate fall of great dynasties... Through their life stories, they set an example as to how a woman should live and carry herself in society. Though these powerful women come from bygone epochs, their lives are the living examples, leading the way for the future of modern Indian women...
Hinduism vs Buddhism - Complementary or Contrary?

Hinduism vs Buddhism - Complementary or Contrary?

Hinduism and Buddhism are very ancient religions, both originating from the Indian subcontinent... Buddhism in India blossomed as a result of people seeking freedom from an extremely oppressive, caste-ridden society, which stipulated strict norms of ritualistic worship... Yet, despite the apparent differences between Hinduism and Buddhism, they also ended up influencing each other in several ways...
Sri Jagannath - The Supreme Godhead of Puri

Sri Jagannath - The Supreme Godhead of Puri

Much of Eastern India considers Jagannath, the presiding Lord of Puri, as the Supreme Divinity... Jagannath, an aspect of Lord Vishu or Krishna, to be more precise, is worshipped as a part of a triad, that is, along with his brother, Balabhadradeva and sister, Devi Subhadra... The Jagannath Temple at Puri...is regarded as one of the Char Dham or sacred Hindu pilgrimage places in India... Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu...was a notable proponent for the Vaishnava school of Bhakti yoga... Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is believed by many to have been merged into the idol of Jagannath in the Puri temple, thus uniting his soul with his deity...
Sri Swaminarayan - a Veritable Avatar from Gujarat

Sri Swaminarayan - a Veritable Avatar from Gujarat

Swaminarayan is considered as being equal to the Purushottama or the Supreme Being... Swaminarayan had exhibited his scholastic prowess from a very young age. He is believed to have mastered all the major Hindu scriptures...by the tender age of seven... Swaminarayan believed in a practical approach to religion and spirituality... After taking over the leadership of the Sampraday, Sri Swaminarayan involved himself in a lot of social work... Sri Swaminarayan was indeed an Avatar Purush of his time, one that richly deserves all the respect, devotion and adoration showered on him...
The Trimurti Couples in Hinduism

The Trimurti Couples in Hinduism

Lord Brahma is considered the Creator of the entire world and hence, he is also referred to as the Prajapati... Saraswati...is regarded as the Goddess of Music, Arts, Science and Technology as well.... Vishnu is considered to be...who supports and sustains the Universe and is a force of preservation.... Lakshmi is the Hindu Goddess of wealth, prosperity, wisdom, fertility and courage... Shiva, the "Auspicious One", is also known to be the destroyer or transformer God among the Trimurti... Parvati is considered as complete incarnation of Adi Parashakti, with all other Goddesses being her own incarnations or manifestations...
Durga Puja in Bengal - an Ode to the Sacred Feminine

Durga Puja in Bengal - an Ode to the Sacred Feminine

In Sanskrit, Durga means "inaccessible" or "invincible". In Bengali, her name implies the "one who can redeem from utmost distress"... Durga was created in order to fight an asura or demon, called Mahishasura... Durga symbolizes unity even in the psyche of man. Her fight against Mahisha symbolizes the fight against the darkness of evil and the ultimate victory of good over evil... Durga is worshipped all over India... This ten-day worship is undertaken with great fervour by Hindus all over the world...
Shakuntala - the Epitome of Beauty, Patience and Virtue

Shakuntala - the Epitome of Beauty, Patience and Virtue

This tale revolves round the love of Shakuntala and the mighty king, Dushyanta... Shakuntala was born to sage Vishwamitra and the heavenly Apsara Menaka... Brahmarishi Vishwamitra is one of the most revered rishis of ancient India... Menaka was a stunningly beautiful Apsara who captured the hearts of the Devas, Suras and Asuras alike... Shakuntala...gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Bharata, as she named him, was one day destined to become one of the most powerful icons of Indian history...
An Introduction to Buddhism - The Path to True Awakening

An Introduction to Buddhism - The Path to True Awakening

Buddhism, more than a religion, is a philosophy and an actual way of life, embracing several beliefs, ritual practices and traditions.... Buddhism, as a philosophy, bases itself on the foundation of the Three Jewels, that is, the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings) and the Sangha (the Community).... At the age of 35, Gautama sat in meditation under a Bodhi...tree...and decided he would not rise before he achieved enlightenment. Many days later, he arose from the cycle of suffering and emerged as a completely enlightened Master.... Though Buddhism has been flexible enough and adopted itself to the culture of each land it has entered, it still manages to retain its original flavour and fervour, to emerge as an actual, practical, way of life...
Puranas - Ancient Indian Texts of Knowledge and Wisdom

Puranas - Ancient Indian Texts of Knowledge and Wisdom

The Puranas are ancient and very important religious texts belonging to the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist pantheons... Generally speaking, the Puranas deal with the complete description of a particular deity and are usually written story form, related by one person to another... Rishi Vyasa, the narrator of the Mahabharata, is believed to have originally compiled the Puranas... they remain a valuable repertoire of Hindu mythology and reflect the growth and shaping of the Hindu society...
Ardhanarishvara - the Symbolic Unity of Nature and Knowledge

Ardhanarishvara - the Symbolic Unity of Nature and Knowledge

Ardhanarishvara is a composite androgynous form of Shiva and his consort Parvati. This form is shown as a fusion of half-male and half-female forms, split down in the center... The very name Ardhanarishvara implies "the Lord who is half-woman"... The deity symbolizes the optimal balance of the male and female energies in this world and also indicates that they are essentially inseparable forces, which are complimentary to each other and must work together to maintain equilibrium...
Symbolism in Religions Around the World

Symbolism in Religions Around the World

Religious symbolism implies the use of unique symbols by a particular religion, that describe anything pertaining to its culture and psyche... All religions of the world, irrespective of how ancient or modern they are, use symbols to help create a resonant ethos... adhering to this religious symbolism also helps foster solidarity among the followers, keeping them secure as a unit...
Rabindranath Tagore - A Beacon of Light

Rabindranath Tagore - A Beacon of Light

Tagore was and will remain one of the greatest poets and philosophers the world has ever seen... Through his innumerable songs, peoms and stories, he presented a priceless vessel of creative genius to the nation... His young years were highly influenced by his sister-in-law, Kadambari - wife of his brother, Jyotirindranath Tagore... On November 14, 1913, Rabindranath Tagore got to know of his being awarded the Nobel prize in literature - making him the first Asian Nobel Laureate... Rabindranath Tagore remained an enigma to many... Tagore...used to preach the importance of knowledge over all else and of love rather than rivalry in various communities... the world will remember him as the medium of Devi Saraswati...
The Role of Tantra in Hinduism and Buddhism

The Role of Tantra in Hinduism and Buddhism

Tantra is a esoteric principle that holds an important place in both Hinduism as well as Buddhism... According to Hindu tantrism, the entire universe is considered to be the divine stage where Shiva and Shakti carry on the drama of life... The secret aspect of Tantric rituals...is totally removed from conventional norms of Hindu worship... this kind of worship would include themes such as feasting,... intercourse... and urination, defecation and vomiting... Hence, Tantra involves the devotee working along with Nature and not against it...
The Ten Gurus of Sikhism

The Ten Gurus of Sikhism

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, which was founded during the fifteenth century in Punjab. This philosophy is based on the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the ten successive Sikh Gurus... The Guru sums it up thus: "Realisation of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living."... the ten Sikh Gurus within a 239-year period...preached by example of living a holy and worthy life through meditation and recitation of the Shabads... Each of the Gurus added to his predecessor's teachings, thus resulting in the creation of the religion called Sikhism...
Karna and Arjuna - Valiant Brothers at War

Karna and Arjuna - Valiant Brothers at War

Karna and Arjuna are two valiant warriors, both important characters in the great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. In fact, they are probably two of the greatest warriors ever... Though these striking personalities were always at loggerheads with each other, it is the concluding war between them that is the most cataclysmic and gripping in the entire tale of the Mahabharata... Karna or Radheya, as he is also referred to, is a pivotal character in the Mahabharata. Karna, the King of Anga, is the son of Kunti (the mother of the Pandavas) and Surya (the Sun God)... Arjuna, the third of the Pandava brothers, was a central hero in the Mahabharata. He is often referred to as Jishnu - the undefeatable one. He is also considered to be a reincarnation of sage Nara, the eternal companion of Narayana or Vishnu...
Dus Mahavidyas - the Ten Forms of the Devi

Dus Mahavidyas - the Ten Forms of the Devi

The name, "Mahavidyas", comes from the Sanskrit roots of Maha, which means great and Vidya, meaning, Wisdom, Knowledge, Manifestation or Revelation... The Mahvidyas, as a group, represents a vital turning point in the history of Shaktism, as it marks the rise of Bhakti in Shaktism. This movement reached its peak in 1700 C.E. Commencing during the post-Puranic era, in about the 6th century C.E., this new theistic movement envisioned the supreme being as a female... In Shaktism, the Divine Mother is jointly worshipped as a combination of ten different cosmic personalities...
Sita and Draupadi - the Two Great Icons for Womanhood

Sita and Draupadi - the Two Great Icons for Womanhood

Both Sita and Draupadi were equally powerful women, who have captured the very essence of the true Indian woman. Extraordinarily beautiful and highly virtuous, they were also strong - so strong, in fact, that no calamity could diminish their spiritual aura. It is no wonder that Indian Hindu women still hold them in the highest of regard and worship them for their own salvation... the Indian woman depicts many shades of character. She is capable of expressing the deep love and tenderness of Sita, while also turning into an aggressive, revenge-seeking entity like Draupadi...
Upadevatas or Minor Deities of the Hindu Pantheon - Part 2

Upadevatas or Minor Deities of the Hindu Pantheon - Part 2

Yama...is the lord of death... Yama is also known as Dharma...the Lord of Justice... Narada is depicted as a wandering mendicant, who has the unique ability to easily visit distant worlds or planets... The word, "Naara" means "knowledge" and "da" means "giver"... Vishwakarma...is the presiding deity of all craftsmen and architects in Hindu culture... The Rig Veda venerated Vishwakarma as the only one beyond the Seven Rishis... Vayu is...the Lord of the winds... Vayu is described as an exceptionally beautiful deity, moving noisily in his ratha (carriage), driven by forty-nine or thousand white and purple horses. His main attribute is a white banner...
Upadevatas or Minor Deities of the Hindu Pantheon - Part 1

Upadevatas or Minor Deities of the Hindu Pantheon - Part 1

Hindu mythology talks about a plethora of Gods, assigning each one a certain level of divinity and duties for that particular level. There are supposedly about three hundred and thirty crore Gods in Hinduism... Indra is the King of the Devas or Gods. He is also referred to as the Lord of Swargaloka or Heaven... Devi Gayatri is the personification of the Gayatri mantra and is revered by all Hindus worldwide. Gayatri is considered the Veda Mata or the mother of all Vedas... In Hinduism, the river Ganga is considered most sacred. It is personified as a goddess in Hinduism... Kamadeva is the God of Love in Hindu mythology.... Kama...means a wish, desire or longing, especially in the sensual or sexual context...
Sita - The Silent Pillar of Strength in Ramayana

Sita - The Silent Pillar of Strength in Ramayana

Sita Devi is one of the main characters in the Ramayana, a major Hindu epic... Sita is...respected as the epitome of all womanly virtues for Hindu women... The values that She adhered to and represented at every point in the course her arduous life have now translated into becoming the values of womanly virtue, held sacred by all generations of Indians, past, present and future... Sita had to undergo a lot of trials and tribulations in her marital life and it was her courage, chastity and adherence to Dharma (righteousness) that finally made her emerge the ultimate winner... Probably, the whole mission of Sita's birth on Earth in human form was to destroy the arrogant Ravana, the demon King of Lanka...
Tied to the Past - Traditional Professions of India - Part 2

Tied to the Past - Traditional Professions of India - Part 2

...farming is not only an important profession in this country, but it is also a way of life... The Indian farmers or the Kisans, as they were called, underwent a huge struggle during the rule of the Zamindars and Jagirdars... Fisheries provide employment opportunities to millions of Indians and also contribute to food security of the country... The ancient Hindu scriptures describe hunting as an acceptable sport of the royalty. Even the godly entities are described to have engaged in hunting... In India, masked characters are usually treated as aspects of divinity, form the core of several Indian dramatic forms...
Tied to the Past - Traditional Professions of India

Tied to the Past - Traditional Professions of India

... we take you on a rare journey into the depths of rural India... India is filled with a plethora of arts, crafts and small-scale cottage industries... Cobblers are generally found everywhere... They set up tiny roadside shops and work untiringly all day long... The concept of carpentry...features extensively in Indian mythology. Vishwakarma, the Divine Draftsman, is considered the presiding deity of all craftsmen and architects... The tradition of pottery making in India is very ancient... The potter occupies pride of place in the Indian art milieu. Indian pottery is rich, colourful and diverse, just like the country herself...
Folk Art Paintings - a Reflection of the True Ethos of India

Folk Art Paintings - a Reflection of the True Ethos of India

The subject of Indian folk paintings is as diverse as the Indian cultural milieu itself. Indian folk art painting includes a brilliant battery of calendar and wall paintings, oil, canvas and cloth paintings, cave paintings... Indian folk art paintings usually deal with pictorial depictions of popular Hindu deities... paintings of the sun, the moon and even some plants and flowers... Folk paintings are very fetching and a visual treat, as they employ vibrant and natural colours and papers, clothes, leaves, earthen pots, mud walls and so on, as their canvas to paint on... each region presented its own unique folk art in its own unique way, thereby creating a brilliant kaleidoscope of colours and designs in its paintings...
Ayyapan, Ganesha, Murugan - the Three Sons of Shiva

Ayyapan, Ganesha, Murugan - the Three Sons of Shiva

Vishnu decided to assume the form of Mohini...so as to procreate with Shiva... Shiva is overcome with passion on seeing "her" form and unites with her. Lord Ayyappan is born from this union of Hari and Hara... Ayyappan combines the strength of both Vishnu and Shiva and hence, is invincible... Parvati...collected all the sandalwood paste on her body and made a figure of a little boy out of it. She then gave it life and asked this son of hers to guard the gate when she went to bathe... Shiva beheaded him when Ganesha came between Shiva and Parvati. Shiva then replaced Ganesha's original head with that of an elephant... Ganesha...is one of the most popular deities in the Hindu pantheon... Murugan...is another son of Shiva and an equally popular Hindu deity... Lord Kartikeya is portrayed as a very beautiful deity, with six heads and twelve arms...
Destroyer of Evil and Epitome of Love - Tales From the Life of Young Krishna

Destroyer of Evil and Epitome of Love - Tales From the Life of Young Krishna

Krishna is also considered to be a supreme entity even all by Himself, without necessarily associating with Vishnu. This gave birth to the concept of Krishnaism, which describes sects of Krishna devotees who consider him to be a transcended being... Different Hindu theological traditions portray Krishna in various ways - a divine child; a mischievous prankster with butter smeared all over his little mouth; a gentle lover and the Supreme Godhead... The Krishna avatar lasted for 125 years, at the end of which Krishna, Radha and everyone else in Vrindavan mounted the celestial chariot and headed toward Goloka...
Diwali - the Festival that Binds India Together

Diwali - the Festival that Binds India Together

Diwali... is probably the biggest festival ever in Hinduism and is even celebrated by other religions such as Jainism and Sikhism.... Diwali symbolizes the victory of good over evil... In the spiritual sense, this festival urges the seeker to become aware of and develop the inner light.... People celebrate Diwali through lighting diyas, fireworks, flowers, sharing sweets and offering Puja (prayers).... The whole idea behind lighting the diyas is to find that inner effulgence which lies inside every living being...
Navaratri - An Ode to Our Goddesses

Navaratri - An Ode to Our Goddesses

Navratri is a unique festival which includes ritual worship, dance and music. The word "Navratri" comes from the terms "Nava", meaning, "Nine" and "Ratri", meaning "Nights"... Hindus worship nine forms of Shakti during the Navratri festival.... Navratri is celebrated in different ways all over the country... The festival celebrates Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, the Goddesses of Power, Wealth and Knowledge respectively... Navratri is closely associated with fertility... (and is) symbolic of the victory of good over evil...
The Puja - A Quintessential Part Of Hindu Worship

The Puja - A Quintessential Part Of Hindu Worship

The most important aspect of Hindu worship is the Puja...which consists of a variety of ritual offerings and prayers to be performed.... The special significance of Hinduism is that it includes the worship of all the five Panchamahabhutas or the five elements of fire, water, earth, air and ether.... Generally, Hindus see the puja as a simple way for ordinary mortals to relate to the divine, so it can even be performed even on something that symbolizes the divine, like a cow or a tree.... The entire aim of performing the puja is to create a protective layer of spiritual forces around us, warding off all evils and negative forces, thereby creating a conducive environment to lead a happy and peaceful life...
Krishna - Politician and Lover Beyond Compare

Krishna - Politician and Lover Beyond Compare

Krishna manifested himself in order to reinstate Dharma (righteousness) and re-establish justice. In his avatar, Krishna took on the mantle of a king, an ace diplomat and a politician par excellence, who thoroughly knew the ins and outs of the field... The Mahabharata was akin to what we know today as a World War... Though Lord Krishna's side attained victory, he was never pleased by the terrible outcome of it all... The cycle of Karma had demanded for this to happen and so, the war finally took place, in spite of Krishna's best efforts to stop it. Krishna, veritably the Prema Avatar (the avatar of love), is vastly known for his dalliances with the Gopis and the Brajbalas... The Radha-Krishna romance epitomizes real love, their lovemaking going beyond barriers of all kinds... Though Radha and Krishna never married, they are revered as a divine couple and stand for pure Love in all its glory...
Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati - The Three Devis of the Hindu Pantheon

Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati - The Three Devis of the Hindu Pantheon

Lakshmi...is the Hindu Goddess of Wealth, auspiciousness, purity, prosperity and generosity... some legends of Sri Lakshmi state that the different goddesses in the Hindu pantheon are but manifestations of Sri Mahalakshmi... Parvati devi, in Hindu mythology, is a representation of the ultimate female divinity, the Shakti... Parvati is referred to as Trigunatmika, that is, having all the three gunas, Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas... Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of learning, knowledge, music and the Arts. Saraswati has also been identified with and likened to the Vedic Saraswati River... She is not only worshipped for secular knowledge, but also for the true divine knowledge essential to achieve moksha or liberation...
Indian Paintings - The Colorful Language of Culture and Religion in India

Indian Paintings - The Colorful Language of Culture and Religion in India

Indian folk paintings are as vast and diverse as Indian culture itself... (They)... are veritably India’s pride. They truly reflect her ancient tradition and heritage... What makes these paintings special is that each of these types of paintings uniquely reflects the cultural and socio-economic milieu in that particular territory of India... The treatment of each type of painting vastly differed in the different states of India. So did the colors and combinations used and even the general approach to the art itself...
Hanuman - Finding Strength in Devotion

Hanuman - Finding Strength in Devotion

Hanuman is the very epitome of all the qualities necessary for a spiritual life - physical and mental strength, power, courage, humility, shraddha (dedication to purpose), bhakti (devotion) and abject surrender to his Lord, Rama... In order to counter karma brought forth by our own selfish acts, we must learn to be humble, just like Hanuman... Hanuman is considered to be an aspect of Lord Shiva. He is also said to be the son and an aspect of Vayu... It is said that Hanuman is one of the three people to have heard the Bhagavad Gita emanating from the mouth of Lord Sri Krishna... Hanuman still enjoys an exalted place in India's religious, traditional and cultural milieu... Hanuman is...depicted in Indian classical and folk arts...You can find sculptures of Hanuman at various temples...
Ardhanarishvara - the Dual Nature of the Cosmos

Ardhanarishvara - the Dual Nature of the Cosmos

The concept of Prakriti and Purusha is one of the most important aspects of Hindu philosophy.... The Prakriti is...the root of all that is ever created or ever occurs in the universe.... Prakriti is itself detached from and independent of everything, all is dependent on it for support... Purusha is...a...witness...of events in this universe. It merely plays the role of a spectator and does not create anything.... It is omnipresent and goes beyond the boundaries of maya (illusion), buddhi (intellect) and the indriyas (senses).... The concept of Ardhanareeshwara best explains the aspects of Prakriti and Purusha. Ardhanareeshwara, the Androgynous One, is an aspect of Lord Shiva, whose form is half man and half woman....
Vahanas - the Divine Animal Mounts of Hindu Gods

Vahanas - the Divine Animal Mounts of Hindu Gods

Many of the main Indian Gods and Goddesses... have their own vehicles, mounts or vahanas that comprise various types of animals and birds.... Though the vahana appears to be independent, it is part and parcel of the deity’s presence.... The Garuda, the vahana of... Vishnu... is a large mythical eagle-like entity that is part of both Hindu and Buddhist culture.... Nandi, the Bull, is Lord... Shiva's... gatekeeper and mount.... Sometimes, the deity is shown mounted on... (the) vehicle, while at other times, the vahana is shown by the deity’s side.... Sometimes, the deity’s vehicle may also symbolize the evil force, which the deity embodies....
The Great Sages of India - Part 2

The Great Sages of India - Part 2

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa... propagated non-idol worship, harmony of all religions and the realization of Godhead as the ultimate mission of life itself... He had immense love for that Supreme Energy called God and he saw the Oneness in all existence... Swami Vivekananda...(was) one of the most influential Indian spiritual leaders propagating the philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga... he also brought about several reform movements in Hinduism... Guru Nanak Dev...was the founder of the religion called Sikhism and was the very first among the eleven Sikh Gurus... (He) laid a stress on keeping true faith in God and pursuing the path of good, which would lead one to God... Mahavira was the 24th and the final Tirthankara...of the religion, Jainism... Mahavira's philosophy, the aim of which was to elevate a human being spiritually, was made up of eight cardinal principles... In order to get out of this vicious circle, Mahavira said that it would be necessary to follow (these principles)...
The Great Sages of India - Part 1

The Great Sages of India - Part 1

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu...was actually considered to be an avatar of Krishna... Chaitanya propogated Bhakti Yoga... and based his entire philosophy on the Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavad Gita... Mirabai...whose tremendous love and devotion to Krishna surpassed all human boundaries and limitations...is regarded by many as an incarnation of Radha... her wonderful songs instill faith and courage in the meek and the submissive... Shirdi Sai Baba...was an Indian yogi, guru and fakir, who both Hindus and Muslims as a saint of high spiritual standing... Baba encouraged acts of charity and advised all his devotees to be generous while helping people in need... he would guide one and all who took refuge in him...
Samudra Manthan - the Churning of Our Inner Consciousness

Samudra Manthan - the Churning of Our Inner Consciousness

...Sri Mahavishnu descended Himself as a gigantic Kurma (tortoise), bearing the mountain, Mandara, on His back, so as to help the Devas acquire the divine Amrita or the Nectar of Immortality... The Samudra or the Ocean of Milk actually represents the human Consciousness or the Jeevatma. The Churning of the Ocean embodies the journey of life undertaken by this Jeevatma during its tenure on earth... The Mandara mountain represents the virtues of steadiness and concentration... the tortoise symbolizes the spiritual withdrawal of a person into his own Consciousness... Samudra Manthan teaches us how to maintain harmony between our material and spiritual lives, by placing complete and unshakable faith in our Creator and accepting both the good and the bad in our lives...
The Bhagavad Gita - Its Relevance Then And Now

The Bhagavad Gita - Its Relevance Then And Now

The Bhagavad Gita, literally translated as the 'Song Of God', is a part of the immense Indian epic, the Mahabharata...enjoys an exalted position in India's culture and philosophical milieu... the Gita completely accepts the philosophy that God is the Universe and everything that we see in it...plus something more that we normally do not perceive... The whole essence of the Bhagavad Gita lies in the various types and theories of Dharma it expounds... Krishna talks of universal harmony and strict, unflinching adherence towards duty... Krishna, in his exposition of the Gita, explains to Arjun the yogic aspects of Bhakti (devotion), Karma (action), Gyana (knowledge) and Dhyana (meditation)... the Bhagavad Gita...purifies the mind, completely destresses the individual and helps him realize the ultimate Godhead...
Shri Rama and Shri Krishna - A Contemporary Kalyug Perspective

Shri Rama and Shri Krishna - A Contemporary Kalyug Perspective

Mahavishnu took ten avatars or incarnations in order to protect the world through the different yugas or eons. Out of these ten avatars, the Shri Rama avatar and Shri Krishna avatar have gained the most importance... The main purpose of the Rama avatar was to destroy Ravana, the Asura (Demon) King, while the principal aim of Krishna's avatar was to convey the supreme message of the Bhagavad Gita, to vanquish evil and bring back justice and righteousness to humankind... there are also some controversies and questions arising out of the stories herein, which sometimes makes one wonder why Rama and Krishna were so glorified...
The Raga Ragini System of Indian Classical Music

The Raga Ragini System of Indian Classical Music

India’s rich cultural system is made up of the silken fabric of dance and music. The rAga is the very soul of Indian music... That which pleases the ear is referred to as a rAga... The rAga is a compilation of a series of notes in an octave, which bear a definite relationship to one another and occur in varied phrases of permutation and combination, thereby giving a shape and a unique personality to it... The rAga...is capable of emoting and expressing feelings and thoughts... The rAga-rAgini system tries to draw a parallel between the dynamic and the static – the Prakruti and the Purusha. Further, the rAga-rAgini system also illustrates the fluctuation in human behavior and responses to situations...
Shiva - the Ascetic God

Shiva - the Ascetic God

The third aspect of the Supreme Being is the process of dissolution of all creation, a precursor to the fresh beginning of the process of creation...(and) is represented by Lord Shiva - the third of the Hindu Trinity... Shiva controls death in the physical world and since birth and death are complementary to each other, Shiva is revered as the master of all birth and death... Shiva brings about the unification of the transient with the transcendental and of all that illusory with the ultimate truth... In himself he assimilates the characteristics of the male and the female, creator and the destroyer, celibacy and eroticism…
Vishnu: the Cosmic Protector

Vishnu: the Cosmic Protector

While the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva represents the Supreme Being's diversified manifestations...Vishnu represents the spiritual concept of all creation being nothing more than diverse manifestations of a single essence... Vishnu is the lord of preservation... He represents the cosmic cause of existence and the symbolization of eternal life which keeps the universe as one... The all-pervasive nature of Vishnu is symbolized by all that's blue in various representations of his. The sky in the background of his representation depicts the fact that he pervades the entire universe…
Brahma: the Creator Amongst the Hindu Trinity

Brahma: the Creator Amongst the Hindu Trinity

The trinity is interpreted in various forms in Hindu philosophy... it represents earth, water, and fire... the Trimurti (Trinity) originated from Adi Shakti – or the Supreme cosmic Energy – as symbolized by a female form – the universal Mother... According to the Puranas, Brahma is said to be the son of the Supreme Being and his female energy, Maya – the cosmic illusion which keeps all life under a veil of separation from the Supreme One... In addition to being the creator of the universe, Brahma...decides the incarnations to be bestowed on each creature…
Mirabai and Radha: The twin souls of Krishna

Mirabai and Radha: The twin souls of Krishna

Such is the charisma of the love-lore of Radha and Krishna...and such is its brilliance, that the name of their love...has become a sanctifying force for all contact between the sexes, sometimes also a cover for human prurience... The expression of Mira's love is very intimate in nature... Making use of erotic imagery...she is able to describe her pining for him, her quest for union with him... the devotion of Mirabai and Radha for Krishna show the oneness of eroticism and renunciation, and finally, the convergence of both into the omnipresent soul of Krishna in the form of single-minded love and devotion...
Masks: Reflections of Culture and Religion

Masks: Reflections of Culture and Religion

...nations all over the world have a cultural past, which is inseparably linked to masks making them a universal phenomenon... The Mask forms a silent language which is universally understood and which defines the essence of human expressions and emotions at various levels - spiritual, religious and material... When not trapped in the stereotypes of being "hypocritical guises" or "camouflaged farces", masks reflect the innocence of the primitive people of the world... Masks can be thought of as having been created by our ancestors to form a bridge between the outer phenomenal world and the inner person…
Kali the Goddess: Gentle Mother, Fierce Warrior

Kali the Goddess: Gentle Mother, Fierce Warrior

Kali is one of the most well known and worshipped Hindu Goddesses... Frequently, those not comprehending her many roles in life call Kali the goddess of destruction. She destroys only to recreate, and what she destroys is sin, ignorance and decay... Kali as such is pure and primary reality...formless void yet full of potential... In her absolute, primordial nakedness she is free from all covering of illusion... She can show us how to radically transform our lives by embracing our own darkness, rather than fearing and fleeing from that which haunts us…
Goddess Durga: the Female Form as the Supreme Being

Goddess Durga: the Female Form as the Supreme Being

Durga, through all her forms, encompasses the essence of salvation and sacrifice... Goddess Durga represents the power of the Supreme Being that preserves moral order and righteousness in the universe... The Divine Mother is beyond all material attributes, eternal and ever omniscient... She is...also, the guardian of dharma or cosmic order... Devi Durga is the ultimate representation of infinite power, purity and strength of purpose, which resides within the divine essence of every being…
Ganesha: the Affable Elephant-Headed God

Ganesha: the Affable Elephant-Headed God

Ganesha, the Hindu deity in a human form but with the head of an elephant - represents the power of the Supreme Being that removes obstacles and ensures success in human endeavors... Ganesha represents the majesty of the animal kingdom with his head and his vehicle, the mouse, shows subjugation of pestilent rats... Ganesha is the beginning of our world...the symbol of the personality, which surpasses the human ego and superego... Lord Ganesha's form is shaped like and represents Om, which is the primeval, creative energy...
Draupadi, the Woman: Epitome of Feminity and Feminism

Draupadi, the Woman: Epitome of Feminity and Feminism

The Proud and angry heroine of the epic Mahabharata, Draupadi has remained an enigmatic woman of substance... Draupadi is presented as having a very impressive brilliant and strong personality and is projected as the primary cause of the battle of Kurukshetra... Draupadi is the most complex and controversial female character in Hindu literature. On one hand, she could be womanly, compassionate and generous and on the other, she could wreak havoc on those who did her wrong…
Ganga: River and Goddess

Ganga: River and Goddess

According to the Puranas the Ganges is the holiest of all the shrines on this earth. Not only man, but even the tiniest of insects get liberated and achieve salvation. And thus river Ganges is given the apt title of Patita Pavani - the liberator of the greatest of sinners... Ganga...(the) eternal life-stream of Indian culture...integrates into herself the history, the beliefs and sometimes even the hopes of India and its people…
Radha Krishna: A Divine Love

Radha Krishna: A Divine Love

Radha's passion for Krishna symbolizes the soul's intense longing and willingness for the ultimate unification with God... Radha's love for Krishna is all consuming and compels her to ignore her family honor and disregard her husband... She is the personification of the highest love of God, and by her mercy the soul is connected with the service and love of Krishna... the Lord is one, but for His pleasure and enjoyment, He expands himself to enjoy loving relationships. The original expansion is Radha. Together, Radha and Krishna enjoy eternal pastimes of transcendental love…
Classical Dances of India

Classical Dances of India

Dance is the primeval expression of joy and wonder in any part of the world. In India all forms of art have a sacred origin and the inner experience of the soul finds its highest expression in music and dance... Indian classical dance...draws inspiration from stories depicting the life, ethics and beliefs of the Indian people... The Natya Shastra is the earliest Indian text in the history of performing arts. It was created by Lord Brahma...as a form of entertainment…
Doll Making in India

Doll Making in India

From ancient times, dolls of various types fascinated men, women and children all over the world... dolls are paragons of beauty...the representative of a nation...the confluence of its different ages, time and culture. The rich cultural heritage through the ages can be vividly depicted through these dolls... dolls not only provide a diversion but also a colorful canvas for depicting Indian life in its plethora of cultural beauties…
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