Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Can Ladies learn Vedas?

Can  Ladies  learn Vedas?

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       I am definitely not competent    to answer this question. It is a generally held opinion that   they are not eligible to learn Vedas. Arya Samaj    a Vedic religion started  by Swamy  Dhayananda   SAraswathi  thought otherwise  .He has trained  large number of Women in Vedas   and  many of them act as priests  in  Arya Samaj . The  very orthodox  Maharashtrian community  of Pune   is not only   teaching   Vedas to them but very large number of women  act   as priests   to that  community.(refer http://www.ipsnews.net/2009/11/india-women-as-hindu-priests-have-an-edge/      ) 
 Four  Women  Vedic sages   do appear  in several  Upanishads   in arguments   with men sages. They are Gosha, LOpamudhra  , Maithreyi and Gargi  . Gargi in an open forum challenges   the great   sage Yagnavalkya    for argument about Vedic truths. Parashara   Smriti   defines  Brahmavadini as   a lady   who studies Vedas   after  Upanayana  . There are also   a class of women in the Vedas called  Rishikas( Women sages). The Harita Dharmasutra (of the Maitrayaniya school of Yayurveda) declares that there are two kind of Status  to Women women: Sadhyavadhu who marry, and the Brahmavaadini who are inclined to religion, they can wear the sacred thread, perform rituals like the agnihotra and read the Vedas. Bhavabhutis Uttararamacharita 2.3 says that Atreyi went to Southern India where she studied the Vedas and Indian philosophy. Shankara debated with the female philosopher Ubhaya Bharati, and Madhavas Shankaradigvijaya (9.63) mentions that she was well versed in the Vedas. Tirukkoneri Dasyai (15th 10 century) wrote a commentary on Nammalvars Tiruvaayamoli, with reference to Vedic texts like the Taittiriya Yajurveda.   Any way these are subject to argument   and as I told  , I am not competent   to  tell my opinion    about it
        But I would like to  draw your attention  to the  legend  in Temple at  Uthirakosa mangai in Ramnad    about  Lord Shiva teaching  Vedas   to  goddess  Parvathi.    When the Lord taught the Goddess  Vedas , she was  not able to repeat them. So God  Parameshwara  cursed  Goddess Parvathy  to become  daughter in a vedic family  in Ramnad  . He told her that only after   she  passes in the test of Vedas   after she learns  it she will be taken back,. Goddess    as the lady Poonmulayaal   learns Vedas from her scholar father  and when Lord Shiva came to marry her  , she was   able to answer his questions  in a proper  manner tHe marriage takes place   but when Lord Shiva further tested her  knowledge  of the Vedic Manthras   she failed.But then the lord taught her   the correct import of all  Vedic Manthras. Uthira means   answer and Kosa   means  Vedas   and since the  lady Answered about  Vedas   the place was called  Uthirakosamangai.  Since Lord Shiva married her there  it is also called  Kalyana pura.

      ( Note on the temple:The God in this temple is called  Mangalanayakar   and the Goddess Poon mulai ammai.  There is a saying in tamil  “Mann mundhiyo , mangai MUndhiyo”  indicating that  Goddess parvathy is more ancient than the mud.Another greatness of this temple is its  a very huge  six feet  emerald  Nataraja statue   which is always covered with sandal paste . On Arudhra darsanam day , however  you can see  God Nataraja  in his green glory. No musical instruments are  played in the temple fearing that it may damage   the emerald  Nataraja.Also there is sahasralingam at this temple)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Valmiki Ramayana-an introduction

         Valmiki  Ramayana-an introduction





        Rama  is the seventh  of  the  ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu  . The first three  avatharas are animals, the fourth is a dwarf human being   and Sixth  was  the Valorous Lord Parasurama . who never got married. The  Avathara of Rama was born along with avatharas of divine wheel, conch  as well  as Adhi Sesha as his brothers.

      Ramayana is the story or Rama .Majority  of us believe   that   the first ever book  written was Valmiki Ramayana   and Valmiki   is considered as the  First poet  . There is some belief  that   there  is another  version of Ramayana  called Moola   Ramayana which  was   written by Lord Hayagreeva    which precedes  Valmiki Ramayana . After Valmiki Ramayana several   versions in Sanskrit were written as well  Ramayana    was  translated/re written in almost all the  Indian languages.

   The book   written by Valmiki   starts with the enquiry of Valmiki   with sage Narada , about the suitable hero   for the epic he intends   to write. Sage Narada then advises him that   the best  person about whom he should   write  should be Bhagawan  Rama. Then Lord Brahma   gives a boon to Valmiki   that   he would be able to know about all  the incidents including   the conversations between individuals . It is interesting to know   that  Rama   was very much alive   at that time   and his wife and sons were  living  in the hermitage  of Valmiki and another interesting   to know that  the first persons to be taught   the Ramayana by Valmiki   were   Rama’s  own  sons.  When Valmki  was searching for  the meter to write  Ramayana , he saw a hunter  killing one of the  Krouncha  bird of a pair. When the wife bird cried , Valmiki    immediately  said

mAnishAda pratishTAtum samagah ssAshvatIssamAh
yat krouncha mithunAdEkam sokam avadhIm kAma mOhitam

"Oh! Ill-fated Hunter, by which reason you have killed one male bird of the couple,
When it is in its lustful passion,
thereby you will get an ever-lasting reputation for ages to come.

    This set the tone    for the great   book of Ramayana .  It is the story of separation of brothers, father from sons , mothers from  their husband    and  the  separation of Sita from Rama . I would like to emphasize here  some of the   peculiarities  of the book:-

 1.It was written  be a sage   who was living   at the same time as the hero .In fact , while  going to Chithrakoota   Rama and Sita do visit his Ashram.

2,Once a  particular   character  is not  relevant to the  main story  , nothing is told about that   character  .For example   when Rama  is in the forest  , for fourteen years nothing is mentioned about his dear brother Bharatha , his mother  or even   the   wife of Lakshmana.

3.  No temples  or Gods in temples  are mentioned in spite  of   Sugreeva  instructing monkeys   about what they will   see in different directions from Kishkinda. There is some indication of a Chaithya  in Asoka Vana   where  Hanuman suspects   that she will go.

4, Prayers     do exist in Ramayana. Sita prays to river Ganges when she crosses  the river.  Hanuman  does pray Rama as a human being when he is searching for Sita.  Sita  prays to fire God not to hurt  Hanuman, Rama prays Varuna (God of the sea) to give him way  . Rama again prays Sun God   to  get ability to kill   Ravana,.  That is  most of the prayers  are directed   at  different aspects   of nature.
4.But  meditation (Thapas)   and Yaga  (fire sacrifice )   are by   used  by various characters to  please Gods like Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva    etc.

5. The  cremation of three kings  Dasaratha , Vali and Ravana are  mentioned   in the book besides the cremation of Bird Jatayu by Rama.  The offering of Pinda    to the dead  people   is also mentioned. It is interesting to see  Rama offering Pinda  made of forest fruits to  Dasaratha in the  forest  due to unavailability of  materials in the  forest.

Ramayana   is an extremely  interesting and  very noble story. Honesty and truth     are considered as very great  in this epic. It has  been summarized  in one sloka :-

Aadho Rama  thapo vananu gamanam, Hathwa mrugam kanchanam,
Vaidehi haranam, jatayu maranam, Sugreeva sambhashanam,
Bali  nigrahanam, samudhra tharanam, Lanka pureem dahanam,
Paschad Ravana Kumbha karna madanam, Ethat ithi Ramayanam

Once Rama went to forest,
He chased the deer,
Sitha was kidnapped,
Jatayu was killed, There were talks with Sugreeva,
Bali was killed,
The sea was crossed,
Lanka was burnt,
And later Ravana and Kumbha karna,
Were also killed.
This in short is the story of Ramayanam.

    There are   several such summarized versions of Ramayana which   I would be  daily presenting   for   a few more days.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Panguni uthram (Meena Uthra phalguni)

Panguni uthram  (Meena  Uthra phalguni)

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                             (This year this festival   is celebrated on  23/3/2016)

Panguni or Meenam (When   Sun is in the Meena Rasi is the  twelfth month of the solar calendar   which is used in India. Uthram (Uthra phalguni ) is the 12th star  in the zodiac. On the Uthram day of the Panguni month   the moon is seen in  all its glory as   it is the full moon .(Pournami) . Due to this  Panguni Uthram day is unique and   considered as very sacred. Devotees believe that they would get  maturity of the mind , capacity to  complete any act  they want on that day. They also believe   that on that day they would get the best life’s companion. It is believed it is the most appropriate    day to mend broken matrimonial relations.
        Most of us are  not aware of the sacred nature of this day  . We consider that  it is a festival day for Lord Subrahmanya   when  devotees  take Kavadi to Subrahmanya temples. They also know that  it is a day  that Lord Muruga comes out    from his temples to his devotees  on a chariot. This day also is

The day when Lord Shiva   got married  to  Goddess Parvathi in Madhurai
The day  Mahalakshmi took birth in the  ocean of milk
The day when Goddess Lakshmi   got married   to Lord Vishnu
The day when Rama  got married to seetha
The day when  Aandal  got Married to  Rangamannar
The day when Lord   Subrahmanya  got married to Indra’s daughter Devayani
The day when Lord Brahma   got married to Goddess  Saraswathi
The day when Lord Sastha  got married to  Poorna and Pushkala
The day Indra  got married   to Sachi devi

The birthday of Lord Ayyappa  of Sabari malai
The birthday  of Arjuna  , the great devotee of Lord Krishna and also the day when he got Pasupatha   from Lord shiva,

The day when Lord Shiva kicked  , Yama the God of death when he came to take away   the soul of Markandeya.
The day when Karikkal ammayar merged   with Lord Shiva
The Day when Idumba brought Shiva giri and Shakthi giri as  Kavadi  to Lord Muruga of Pazhani.
The day when all sacred waters come in Dumburu Theertha in Thirupathi.

“This Phalgun Poornima day is also  celebrated as  Holi in the Braj region, which includes locations traditionally connected to the Lord Krishna: Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandagaon, and Barsana, Kumaoni (Uttarakhant). The day that Holika the sister of Hiranyakashibu was destroyed. It is celebrated as Basatotsav (Bengal), Phagwah (Bihar), Doḷajātra (Oriya), Ganga Mela (UP), Dol Purnima (Bengal), Śigmo (Konkani), Rangapanchami (MP), Yaosang (Manipur), Basnata Panchami (AP), Phakuwa (Assam), Shimga (Maharashtra), Manjal Kuli (Kerala), Fagu Poornima (Nepal), Panguni Uthram Vasanthotsavam (TN). The playful throwing of natural coloured powders has a medicinal significance: the colours are traditionally made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi, Bilva, and other medicinal herbs prescribed by Āyurvedic doctors. A very auspicious day for all Hindus.(from  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panguni_Uthiram )
This occasion is  also  a festival when devotees in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala become a part of the rituals in the temples. Murugan Temple of Palani, Aiyyappa temple of Sabarimala in Kerala, Kapaleshwar temple of Chennai, Mangaleshwara temple in Trichy, Sri Ranganatha temple in Srirangam, Uthiran star temple Mangalambigai Sametha Mangalyeswarar Koil at Edaiyathumangalam are some of the temples where rituals of Divine marriages are conducted on this day .(http://www.astroved.com/articles/significance-of-panguni-uthiram )

Panguni Uthra  Vrutham
       The day previous   to Panguni uthram is termed as  Anna dhana  day.On that day   after  bath ladies   should either prepare  ven pongal or Chakkarai pongal and   Curd rice  , Puliyodharai etc   and offer to  the god whom we worship at home..Later   these  foods  should be distributed to hungry  and poor people. The lady who observes this vrutha  can eat these preparations later (except Puliyodarai.).  At night they would eat only  fruits and drink milk..Next day morning after bath   they should  go to temple   and after return  they can  any food that   they wish   except non vegetarian dishes.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mulagootal -a kerala iyer contribution to Vegetarian recipes

Mulagootal -a kerala iyer contribution to Vegetarian recipes
( I am reproducing what I wrote in Indus ladies long back )
Most of the Kerala iyers like Mulagootal (Possibly means 'addition of pepper"). But Kerala iyers do not use pepper in this dish.It is a preperation without sour or pungent taste but is used as a main dish. As a side dish they prepare some sour and pungent dish.Though a very similar preperation called "Poricha Kotu" is prepared in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, it is used as a side dish to sour and pungent dishes. Strangely a Kerala iyer girl marrying a tamil iyer boy, misses this dish most. I am giving below recipes of several variations of this dish:-
100 gm toor dhal
1 tsp of turmeric powder
3 cups of cut vegetables (Yam, ash gourd, cooking Banana, Koorkai (optional), Jack fruit seeds(optional )
For Masala
¼ grated coconut
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of chilly powder/2 red chillies
For seasoning
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp of mustard
1 tsp of Udad dhal
Curry leaves
1,Wash the dhal and vegetable separately.
2.Preassure cook them
3.Grind masala to a paste
.4,Mix Dhal, cooked vegetables and masala paste and boil
5.Season it with mustard ,.udad dhal and curry leaves.(after mustard splutters add udad dhal. Remove it from fire when udad dhal changes colour)
Note :In some homes Green gram dhal is used instead of thur dhal. Again some people dry-fry green gram dhal before boiling. The frying is till a pleasant aroma from the dhal emnates.
Mathan Mulagootal
100 gm toor dhal
1 tsp of turmeric powder
3 cups of cut Pumpkin
For Masala
¼ grated coconut
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of rice
1 tsp of chilly powder/2 red chillies
For seasoning
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp of mustard
1 tsp of Udad dhal
1 table spoon of shredded coconut
Curry leaves
1,Wask the dhal and Pumpkin separately.
2.Preassure cook dhal and Cook pumpkin seperately
3.Grind masala to a paste
.4,Mix Dhal, cooked pumpkin and masala paste and boil
5.Season it with mustard ,.udad dhal, shredded coconut and curry leaves.(after mustard splutters add udad dhal.When the colour of Dhal changes add shredded coconut.,Fry till the pleasant aroma comes)
Keerai Mulagootal
Keerai (spinach/greens/palak): 300g
Toor dal: ¾ cup
grated coconut: ½ cup
mustard: 1 tsp
urad dal: 2 tsp
red chilli: 1
jeera: ½ tsp
turmeric powder: 1tsp
salt: to taste
Oil: 1tbsp
1.Wash and drain the greens, and cook. Cool. And grind to a paste.
2.Pressure cook the toor dal with turmeric powder.
3.Heat 1 tsp of the oil, add 1 tsp urad dal and 1 red chilli broken into bits, fry till the dal is pink in color. Remove. Grind coconut with fried dal and chilli and the jeera to a smooth paste.
4.Boil the ground leaves leaves with salt.
5.Add the cooked toor dal and boil for 5 minutes.
6.Add the ground coconut paste and add enough water to get pouring consistency. Boil. Remove from the stove.
7.Heat the remaining oil, add the mustard seeds when they splutter, add the remaining urad dal, when the dal turns pink, pour into the keerai molagootal.
Note: Nowadays Cabbage/cauliflower Mulagootal is prepared employing the same formula but cut cabbage/cauliflower is used.
(The Nambudiri dish from where Mulagootal originated )
¼ tsp of turmeric powder
1 tsp of Pepper powder
2 tsp of coconut oil
3 cups of vegetables (Yam, Raw banana and ash gourd)
A few curry leaves
Salt to taste
1.Cook vegetables along with pepper powder and Turmeric powder
2.Add salt and boil
3..Garnish with cury leaves, remove from Stove and add coconut oil
You would enjoy them provided you are willing toi accept the philosophy of a non pungent main dish supported by a pungent side dish is OK , Ramachander

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Smarthas with Vaishnavite marks among Kerala iyers

The  Smarthas   with  Vaishnavite  marks   among  Kerala iyers

      Migration to Kerala iyers took place due to  various reasons   and was mainly from Thanjavur and  Thirunelveli   districts  of Tamil Nadu.   They possibly settled there    around 400 years back and built a culture  of their own . Their food underwent a great change due   to availability  of  groceries that   they were  used to in Tamil Nadu  .  The new recipes   that they evoived were  a wonderful combination of  Tamil Nadu and the recipes  of  Nambudiris of Kerala . Since the worship in Kerala temples were   essentially Thanthra based  , they  built their own temples   wherever  possible   and   the Vedic Pundits who migrated along with them started  their own  Veda Patasalas   and preserved   the  recitation style   they were  used to  .
    Strangely most of the people who migrated to Kerala were  iyers. While most of these  iyers wore Vibhuthi  (a smartha custom) , some of them wore  Gopi  crescent   like Madhwas   and some  the red Oordwa pundra   like   the Vaishnavites of Tamil Nadu . It is also interesting to note  that  the majority of people wearing Oordwa Pundra are      from two  of the eighteen villages  in Palakkad viz  Thirunellai    and Pallipuram . Even   among those who normally wear a crescent  with Gopi Chandana  , there are a few   who wear short  crescents and others   who wear  long  gopis.  Being very much intersted  in the  history of Kerala Brahmins  , I had enquired   from those who wear   Gopi and Namam whether    they are Vaishnavites and they told   they were but followed all the Acharas, manthras  and  ceremonial dress  of Smarthas  .For all practical  practical purposes   except for Oordwa pundra they were  Smarthas. Another intersting practice   is that  , in  most of the  Vishnu/Krishna/Rama temples  managed  by the  Tamil Brahmins , on  special days   they summon  an Azhvar   to do the Pooja . I could not get information as    to   the village from which these Azhvars came .

    I know that among my friends  , there are vey  many  relegious scholars well  versed in  Smartha   and Vaishnavite  Customs . I would like   to know  more   about  this peculiarity   among  Palakkad Brahmins .