Archive for ‘Resources’

February 4, 2015

The word Hindu ‘Idol’ is derogatory. Lets start to say Murthi instead of ‘idol’ from today on.

Hindus use the word ‘Idol’ interchangeably to mean HIndu Gods that are worshipped in the stone or metal form.

If we know the correct meaning of ‘idol’ according to english dictionary , we will think twice about using this word in Hindu context.

In our Sanatana Dharma tradition, a murti (Devanagari: मूर्ति), ormurthi, or vigraha or pratima typically refers to an image that expresses a Divine Spirit (murta). Meaning literally “embodiment”, a murti is a representation of a divinity, made usually of stone, wood, or metal, which serves as a means through which a divinity may be worshiped.

​Lets see the current meaning of the word from mariam webster website.

Please note the term “False god” and “a false conception”. Why should we use the word that was foisted on us by the british ?

The notion that the term murti is equivalent to the English word “idol” is a misconception.

Scholar Steven Rosen notes that early European missionaries were largely responsible for conflating the two terms by informing local Hindus that “idol” was the correct translation for “murti”.

Furthermore, scholar Diana Eck explains that the term murti is defined in Sanskrit as “anything which has definite shape and limits; a form, body, figure; an embodiment, incarnation, or manifestation.” Thus, the murti is more than a likeness; it is the deity itself taken “form”. The uses of the word murti in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita suggest that the form is its essence.”[21] Thus, a murti is considered to be more than a mere likeness of a deity, but rather a manifestation of the deity itself.

The Murti is like a way to communicate with the abstract one God (Brahman) which creates, sustains, and dissolves creation. It is very interesting to note, that in Russian the word “morda” means some entity’s face or facial-expression which can hint at that original etymology.

More info about this topic is available at Wikipedia link on Murthi. and here

The word Hindu ‘Idol’ is derogatory. Lets start to say ‘Murthi’ instead of ‘idol’ from today on.


Hari ​R​

February 10, 2014

Hindu Antyeshti Samskar – Practical Guidelines for Final Rites.

Very useful guidelines on Antyeshti for Hindus living outside India, especially in USA.

Published by Hindu Mandir Executive Conference.

Foreword by Swami Dayananda Saraswathi.

To Read or download, see link below.



January 10, 2014

Learn and Teach Vishnu Sahasranama – Compilation of resources

Tomorrow (Jan 11th) is Vaikunta Ekadesi day. Here is a compilation of resources found on the web to learn and understand Vishnu Sahasranamam.

This may be useful to start learning for yourself or teach Vishnu Sahasranamam to the next generation from the Vaikunta Ekadesi day.

Vishnu Sahasranama Stothra English & Samskritham PDF to read and download.

You can download the pdf file from this page.

Vishnu Sahasranama Stothra SLOW recitation With English Subtitles – MS Subbulakshmi

THis video will be useful to listen and read the sthothra at the same time slowly , especially for kids.

Download the VishnuSahasranamam SLOW recitation in MP3 format

How to Teach Vishnu Sahasranama Stothra to Kids
This video will be useful to know the methodology to teach the stothra to kids.

Background of Vishnu Sahasranama Stothra

  • In Mahabharatha , at the end of Kurukshetra War King Yuddhishtra went to Bhishma who was laying on a death bed of arrows to gain his lifetime’s knowledge and experience. During the conversation (Anusasana Parva, Section 149, verses 14 to 120) he posed these questions –
  • Who may be said to be the one god in the world?
  • Who is the one refuge of all? By glorifying and worshiping whom, can people attain peace and prosperity?
  • What is, in your opinion, the greatest Dharma – one’s true nature?
  • By doing Japa of what, can creature go beyond the bonds and cycle of birth and death?

Bhishma responded by reciting these one thousand names of Lord Vishnu and reminded him that either by meditating on these names or by invoking the names through archana (Offering), our minds can be lifted to higher consciousness.

Benefits of Reciting Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stothra – Phala Sruti

That man who hears the names every day or who recites them every day, never meets with any evil either here or hereafter.

  1. If one becomes desirous of earning the merit of righteousness, one succeeds in earning it (by hearing or reciting these names).
  2. If it is wealth that one desires, one succeeds in earning wealth (by acting in this way).
  3. So also the man who wishes for enjoyments of the senses succeeds in enjoying all kinds of pleasures, and the man desirous of offspring acquires offspring (by pursuing this course of conduct).
  4. That man who with devotion and perseverance and heart wholly turned towards him, recites these thousand names of Vasudeva every day, after having purified himself, succeeds in acquiring great fame, a position of eminence among his kinsmen, enduring prosperity, and lastly, that which is of the highest benefit to him (viz., emancipation itself).
  5. Such a man never meets with fear at any time, and acquires great prowess and energy. Disease never afflicts him; splendor of complexion, strength, beauty, and accomplishments become his.
  6. The sick become hale, the afflicted become freed from their afflictions; the affrighted become freed from fear, and he that is plunged in calamity becomes freed from calamity.
  7. The man who hymns the praises of that foremost of Beings by reciting His thousand names with devotion succeeds in quickly crossing all difficulties.
  8. That mortal who takes refuge in Vasudeva and who becomes devoted to Him, becomes freed of all sins and attains to eternal Brahma.
  9. They who are devoted to Vasudeva have never to encounter any evil. They become freed from the fear of birth, death, decrepitude, and disease.
  10. That man who with devotion and faith recites this hymn (consisting of the thousand names of Vasudeva) succeeds in acquiring felicity of soul, forgiveness of disposition, prosperity, intelligence, memory, and fame. Neither wrath, nor jealousy, nor cupidity, nor evil understanding ever appears in those men of righteousness who are devoted to that foremost of beings.
  11. This hymn in praise of the illustrious Vishnu composed by Vyasa, should be recited by that person who wishes to acquire happiness and that which is the highest benefit (viz., emancipation).
  12. Those persons that worship and adore the Lord of the universe, that deity who is inborn and possessed of blazing effulgence, who is the origin or cause of the universe, who knows on deterioration, and who is endued with eyes that are as large and beautiful as the petals of the lotus, have never to meet with any discomfort.

Astrological importance of Sri Vishnu Sahasranama

  1. As mentioned above recitation and meditation of Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotra can help anyone who is seeking relief from various problems and can fulfill his or her desires.
  2. Helps minimizing evil combinations/affliction of planets as indicated in one’s birth chart. One can also heal through and overcome various curses and misfortunes.
  3. Many astrological classics including Bṛhat Parāśara Horāśāstra have mentioned its use to obtain peace and relief in difficult situations. In fact it is a universal remedy to pacify and empower all planets in one’s birth chart.
  4. Difficult periods indicated in a person’s birth chart including:
  5. Dashas and antadashas of death inflicting planets(marak periods) and functionally malefic planets.
  6. Difficult transits of Rahu, Ketu or Saturn especially over Luminaries, that is, natal Sun and Moon.
  7. When transiting Jupiter moves through one’s 8th House.
  8. Weak and inauspicious Sun, Moon, Lagna(Ascendant) Lord as indicated in one’s birth chart.
  9. Incurable diseases, health problems, fear, anxiety and low state of confidence and self-esteem.
  10. Financial losses, conflicts and poor economic condition.
  11. Problems with progeny and any problem affecting children.
  12. Marital problems and divorce conflicts.
  13. Ensuring success in exams, business ventures and other competition.
  14. Natural disasters or when one’s country/state is in a state of turmoil and distress.
  15. Spiritual progress and grace of Lord Vishnu.
  16. To fulfill any other desire or overcome any difficulty.


Hari Ramasubbu

May 21, 2013

Sumangali Prarthanai or Pondugal: A South Indian Ritual To Honor Ancestral Elder Women

This information might be useful for most Brahmin families who live outside of India.

Sumangali Prarthanai or Pondugal: A South Indian Ritual To Honor Ancestral Elder Women

Sumangali Prarthana is a ritual seeking the blessings of women of the family who are no more; something akin to the nandi sradham, only there are no vedic rituals or mantras in this ritual.

It is purely a ladies’ function. In most families this function is performed during important events like marriage, upanayanam etc, while in some families it is performed every year.

It is believed that performing this puja will satisfy the unfulfilled yearnings of all the girls and ladies who have passed away at young age and they would in turn bless the family. It is common practice to conduct the Sumangali Prarthana before the marriage if the daughter is getting married and after the new daughter-in-law comes home if the son is getting married. This function is not performed on Tuesdays or Saturdays.

Usually, 7 ladies and 2 young girls (preferably below the age of 10) are invited to participate in the function, partake the feast and receive thamboolam. There is no objection for near relatives of the hostess to participate. Now a days many people do with 7 (6+1) or (5+2) ladies as it has become difficult to get together the 9 ladies to sit for the function.

Different families follow different customs. The ladies who sit for the puja represent all the women of the family who are no more alive. Since there is no explicit avahanam through manthrams of any pithrus, ladies generally accept the invitation.

This function is very akin to the nandisradham performed prior to the upanayanam in many respects. While nandisradham is presided over and conducted by the purohitha of the family and the kartha is a gent; this function is presided over by the elderly lady members of the family.

Usually the kartha is a sumangali from the family. The gifts to the ladies vary among families and also depend on the financial status of the kartha, very similar to the nandi sradham. The menu for the feast is also very similar.

Though no vedic rituals are performed, Sumangali Prarthana is considered to be a very important and sacred function and all the preparations are done with a great deal of Shradha and Bhakthi. This is one function where the gents of the family are excluded from the rituals. They are asked to enter the hall only after initial puja is offered to do namaskarams and seek the blessings. Otherwise, they can stick around to offer any help around or in the kitchen and then await call for lunch, when the ladies have been fed and seen off.

The consent and convenience of all the prospective participants would have been obtained in advance and there would always be a few standbys for any unexpected dropouts. In the olden days, the preparations for the function had to start the previous evening. Armed with a bucket of oil and packets of turmeric powder, kumkum, flowers, betel leaves and nuts, and shikakai powder, we would go to all the invitees’ houses and invite them giving a measure of oil and the other things we carried. The items were for the lady’s bath and adornment the next day.

I am not sure if the custom is being followed anywhere today. Perhaps, these days one would have to carry, shampoo sachets, moisturizing cream, lipstick and the like. We did not have that invitation round this time at our home as most of the participants were from the family and immediate family.

All the participants are supposed to take an oil bath in the morning and come dressed in 9 yards saree only. There is no match to the beauty of the ladies all dressed in nine yards sarees and with no make up other than turmeric powder in their face and flowers in their hair, fresh from an oilbath.

In memory of those souls who are no more with us, a new 9 yards saree and pavadai as offering (these two would be used by some members of the family after the puja) are kept in wooden trays, along with oil, betel leaves, flowers, turmeric, kumkum and neem leaves early in the morning and the blessings are sought. This has to be done by a member of the family before taking bath! In all our rituals, I have not some across another ritual which is done before taking bath.

As I was staying at a neighboring house (not enough space for all invitees at home), my mother sent word for me at 5.30am. I sent back the messenger as I was yet to bathe.

My mother sent the messenger back saying, “I want her to come here before taking bath”. It has been a long time since I myself conducted this ritual. When my astute and blessed mother-in-law was alive, she used to take care of these little things and I used to be busy in the kitchen.

My mother made me offer the saree and pavadai with oil and other items to the elders (who are in heaven) and asked me to pray for their blessings for the family. This done, the saree had to be washed and dried before the actual function.

In some families new dresses for all the girls and ladies of the family are bought and kept at the puja and later on used by the family members. Anyway, not all the dresses are washed prior to the function.

Though the cooking for this function is usually done by the women in the family, the hired cook prepared the feast as all of us were quite tired after the poonool. An elaborate lunch (again samaradhanai vattam) was prepared including

Parikkai pitla,
Vazhakkai kari
Chakka kari,
Pudalangai thoran,
Payar thoran,

The menu also included three types of fruits, mango, jackfruit and banana. Vadai and Neiyappam were also prepared. It is a practice at home to make polis which was discontinued this time as no one was in a mood to have more sweets.

When all the invited ladies arrive, they are received with kumkum, haldi, flowers and pachai (rouge!). This pachai is a paste made of kumkum and water and is applied on both sides of the cheek outside the earlobes.

They are then taken to the function hall where a place has been marked for each one with two places for the deceased seniors at the head of the hall. The saree and pavadai meant for the deceased seniors are kept in the palakai along with some gold chain and flowers and betel leaves, neemleaves, turmeric and kumkum.

Banana leaves are laid out for serving food at the place where the saree and pavadai are kept (this place is called pudavai kalam – meaning where pudavai or saree is kept) meant for the departed souls and also for all the invited participants, after having invoked the departed seniors. After all the items are served on the leaves, puja is done offering flowers, turmeric powder, kumkum betel leaves, neem leaves and water to the departed souls and all the invitees, by the eldest lady of the family .The other members of the family including male members offer puja and namaskarms at the pudavai kalam site only. Doopam and Deepam are offered at the place where elders are invoked, i.e., at the pudavai kalam and also to all the participating ladies by the eldest lady of the family.

This is one of the functions where ladies are served first. After lunch, the ladies are given a special mixture called Chukkumanam (mixture of dried ginger and jaggery) as a digestive aid after the heavy meal. They are also given paanakam to drink. They are offered thamboolam, dakshina and mehendi.

These days, people give more expensive gifts like sarees, bangles, and the like to the invited ladies. After the invited ladies are seen off, the other members of the family have their lunch. The food served at pudavai kalam ( the two places earmarked for the departed ) is partaken of by two ladies of the family.

After lunch the saree and pavadai are given to some family members who have to wear them and replace them at the same place. In the night a pot of water is also kept near the pudavai kalam to quench the thirst of the heavenly visitors.

In the olden days (during the time of my grandmother), the saree kept at the pudavai kalam was kept inside a trunk after the function and worn only after the next Sumangali Prarthana. The saree inside the box, kept after the previous Sumangali Prarthana was taken out on this occasion and worn by a member of the family.

May 4, 2013

Siva Temples of South India.

From the book “Siva Temples of South India” by Bharatha Vidya Bhavan.


Somnath (Gujarat)Srisailam (AP)

Ujjain (MP)

Omkareswara (MP)

Kedarnath (UP)

Bhimashankar (Maharashtra)

Varanasi (UP)

Tryambakeswar (Maharashtra)

Vaidyanath (Bihar)

Nageswar (Gujarat)
















The five great Elements of nature are represented at each one of these temples. Together these temples are called the Pancha Bhoota Kshetras

Srikalahasti (AP)









Akasha (Ether / Space)




These are certain places where Lord Siva assumed Rajo Guna and performed heroic deeds for destroying evil forces. Eight such places are specifically mentioned and collectively called Ashta Veerattana Kshetras.








Andhakasura SamharamTripura Dahanam

Kala Samharam

Daksha Samhanam

Kama Dahanam

Gajasura Samhanam

Jalandrasura Samharam

Brahma’s head was plucked



Saptha Vidanga Kshetra are the seven places where the seven places where the seven Lingas said to have been brought by Mucukunda Chakravarti from Devaloka are worshpped. These Linga Murti’s are called “Vidanga” because they were created by Maya without a chisel (Vi means without and Danga means Chisel). Further each of these places are indentified with a dance form of Thyagaraja (Lord Siva)







Veedhi VidangarNagara Vidangar

Sundara Vidangar

Avani Vidangar

Nila Vidangar

Adi Vidangar

Bhuvani Vidangar

Ajapa NatanamUnmatha Natanam

Para Vira Taranga Natanam

Biringa Natanam

Kamala Natanam

Kukkuta Natanam

Hamsapada Natanam


The five places where Lord Nataraja performed his Tandavam are collectively known as Pancha Sabha meaning five assembly halls of Lord Nataraja





Kanaka SabhaRatna Sabha

Rajata Sabha

Tamira Sabha

Chitra Sabha

Ananda TandavamOordhva Tandavam

Sandhya Tandavam

Muni Tandavam

Tripura Tandavam



Pancha Arama Kshetram are those five places where the pieces of a Swayambhu Linga are installed. This Swayambhu Lingam was being carried by Tarakasura in his throat, which was broken into five pieces by Kumaraswamy (Subramanya) during the course of the battle with him and these pieces fell at the following places.


Gunipundi (Bhimavaram)



Drakshashrama SwamyBhimarama Swamy

Somarama Swamy

Kshirarama Swamy

Amararama Swamy


The Arupadai Veedu are identified as directly associated with Lord Muruga. These six places collectively are called the Arupadai Veedu



Pazhamudir Solai



Navagraha Kshetra

Worship of the Navagraha Murti is done in various ways not only to appease them for mitigation of their malefic influence but also to seek their blessings for acquiring peace, wealth, prosperity and longevity of life in the world. Perhaps, to satisfy this need, a shrine is set up apart for the planetary deities in all Siva temples. They are installed on a single platform with the Sun God as the presiding deity in the centre. There are however a few temples where one or the other of the Navagraha deities individually find a shrine exclusively dedicated for them

PLACE Planet
SuryanarkoilTirvarur / Tingaloor

Vaitheeswaran Kovil








Mangal (Mars)

Budha (Mercury)

Guru (Jupiter)

Sukra (Venus)

Shani (Saturn)




October 26, 2012

How to Wear a Pancha Kachcham

The pancha kachcham (panja kacham or kacham) is a form of wearing the dhoti, typically worn by grihasthas (men who are married) on special occassions such as poojas or festivals. It is typically a 8 or 9 yard dhoti worn in a specific woven way.

Due to western spell we have forgotten our tradition, which is visible in all walks of our culture.

The attire worn by our forefathers which is most suitable for the weather conditions in our region is Dhothi.

How to Wear a Pancha Kachcham

Wear a Pancha Kachcham

The pancha kachcham (panja kacham or kacham) is a form of wearing the dhoti, typically worn by grihasthas (Brahmin men who are married) on special occasions such as Pujas or festivals and some orthodox persons daily, during their routine Puja times. It is typically a dhoti of eight to ten square yards (according to the height and girth of the person) worn in a specific way. The steps below describe the way as according to Iyers (South Indian Brahmins).

Edit Steps

Main and important thing is that pancha kachcham should be weared by those who got married .Not a bachelor (It’s not like a jeans or other dresses)

  1. Open the 8 or 9 hands (4 – 4.5 yards )dhoti completely.
  2. Hold the dhoti such that you are right down the center of the dhoti (lengthwise). Both the ends should be free and you should be holding the dhoti such that there is enough dhoti to go around you just once.
  3. Wrap it around you once (as shown) keeping the wrap a little tight at the stomach portion.

    fold inwards at least a couple times to hold it firmly around your waist

  4. Fold the dhoti a few times so that the it is held firmly at your hip.
  5. Take the end that is on top (typically should be the one to your left); Starting from the end, slowly make folds of about 2 inches each (kosuval).

    fold slowly and smooth the folds - the smoother the better

  6. Insert the folds into the wrap around the hip (as shown).

  7. Take the breadth portion of the top fold and starting from the end (so that the border coloring is visible), make similar folds (as shown).

    start from the border - ensure its visibility

  8. Insert this second set of folds on top of the previous one (as shown).

  9. Take the other free end of the dhoti, starting breadthwise, make similar folds.

  10. Run this between your legs and bring it behind you (as shown).

  11. Ensure that the folds are not twisted.

  12. Insert the new set of folds behind your back (as shown).

  13. Check that the kachcham looks like this .

October 21, 2012

Meaning behind the word “Yoga”. Astaanga Yoga and Vedanta – A Comparison.

This chart will help us to understand the term "Yoga" as envisoned by Sage Pathanjali.
The following chart is a comparison of Ashtanga Yoga & Vedanta.

"Yujyate Sādhyena Saha Sādhakaha Yena Saha Sādhanā"

The word Yoga means -"that which links the Sādhaka and the Sādhyam – the seeker and the sought".

Yoga is derived from the root Yuj – to combine or unite. Unite the Sādhaka and Sādhyam.

The following chart explains the eight limbs of "Yoga" and the today’s modern Yoga refers mostly to the third limb which is "Asana".

Attached is the pdf of the above chart.

Ashtanga Yoga.pdf

October 6, 2012

Kailash Yatra , Your Complete Guide: Hinduism Today – Jan 2012

 A step-by-step manual on how to prepare for (and survive) a pilgrimage to Siva’s most sacred mountain

By Dr. T.S. Mohan, Bengaluru

Read the complete article in colorful magazine style at page 18 from the pdf link below.

Here are some excerpts from the above article.


Why Do the Yatra?

Some have asked why I decided to perform this yatra. I was inspired by the image of Lord Siva as a great tapasavin, sitting and meditating in the Himalayas, blessing all, an austere Lord lost in oneness with His true Self, the Parabrahman. I asked myself, can we imbibe that degree of spiritual absorption when we sit for prayer and meditation, with our senses in cool control? Can we have that peaceful calmness in ourselves, too?

To me, Lord Siva as Pashupathinatha rules over animals, but also over our own instinctive demons. The reptilian part of the brain inside of our heads, as well as the limbic system, is animal in nature, fostering anger, jealousy, envy and attachments. With our sincere devotion to Lord Siva, we can overcome and keep in check these unconscious emotions. My quest was for Siva as Lord Dakshinamurti–calm, youthful, blissful and silent!

With such lofty aspirations and Siva enshrined in my heart, my journey began.

Preparing for the Yatra

The Kailash Manasarovar yatra can be undertaken via two routes: the Kathmandu route and the Indian one via Kumaon in Uttaranchal Pradesh. Pilgrims who have done both reported vastly greater satisfaction, more trekking and healthy acclimatization on the scenic and inspiring trails in Uttaranchal. The organization is better, and tour groups allow more time in Kailash and Manasarovar at a lesser cost. The caveat is the difficulty in getting approved. It is available only to Indian nationals. There are quotas of pilgrims every year, and there are too many competing for a chance. Only the robustly healthy and medically fit qualify through the rigourous Indian government selection. If you get approved, consider yourself lucky. Applications are invited during February or March of every year. The screening procedure will look daunting. Persist, and you may succeed.

I took the Kathmandu route. Either way, this yatra is a year-long affair, for one needs to be fully prepared even without the prod of the Indian permit. Timing is essential. Typically, the yatra is done such that one is at Lake Manasarovar on a purnima day (full moon). The most auspicious purnima is that in the month of Shravana (July-August), though heavy rains at that time often cause disruptions such as landslides, overflowing rivers and washed-out roads.

The concept is to visit Manasarovar either before or after doing the parikrama–the circumambulation of the mountain. Tour programs run from May through August every year. Early June is pretty cold; August is rainy, although relatively warm during the day. The temperatures are just about right in late July and early August. Warm days of 30oc under the sun and 18oc in the shade are pleasant, and the nights are relatively better but still cold, down to 6oc.

The Indian crew starts from New Delhi. After a overnight bus ride, the trekking formally begins at Dharchula. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police checks the medical fitness once more near the border. Escorted by Chinese officials, one reaches Darchen.

As for the yatra via Kathmandu, I will tell you all about it!

What to Expect

It was the month of Shravana in 2004 when I did my blessed pilgrimage. Taking a cue from an earlier yatri, I booked it through a travel agency in Kathmandu by phone and paid on arrival. They did what I discovered is a typical “big on talk, low on delivery” act–see the sidebar for some wisdom on getting around these perils.

At the local travel agencies I bought a package that included the service of staff to handle the cooking, the tents and even Chinese visas for the group. These agencies partner with the state-run Chinese agencies across the border, whose guides actually handle the entire tour and are ultimately responsible for your yatra experience. They manage transportation, act as interpreters, choose appropriate wayside inns to overnight in case of inclement weather, handle the yaks and horses and even do the cooking. Yatris are pretty much in their hands.

Apart from the (bossy) guides and their broken English or unintelligible Hindi, other Tibetans will not be able to communicate with you.

If an incompetent crew is assigned to your group, no amount of complaining to your Nepali travel agency can help. Fortitude, resignation and a spirit of tapas and humility do help. Smile bravely, focus and get on with your pilgrimage goals. With tact, you can get the Chinese guides to listen and help.

The fee I paid for the yatra was about USD 1,200, from Kathmandu back to Kathmandu. Items included in the costs were: a bed-and-breakfast stay for two days before the start and one day after the return at a good Kathmandu hotel; transportation by bus, truck or land cruiser when needed; permits; the help of a Chinese guide; services of a sherpa cook-guide-worker; plus food for the entire journey in Tibet. travel within Tibet was done aboard Toyota Land Cruisers, four yatris to a vehicle. We stayed overnight in tents and, sometimes, in wayside inns. The journey was on foot only around Kailash itself.

A blueprint for any pilgrimage–including the Kailash Yatra

Fifteen Spiritual Tips

  1. Make a firm samkalpa for the yatra. Samkalpa, a Sanskrit word, means a complete mental picture coupled with a firm intention to see it through.
  2. If you can find someone who has performed this pilgrimage, ask for all the details–the nitty gritty details. Read anything you can find on it.
  3. Ask yourself how this kind of yatra fits in with your spiritual goals and practices. You may remember that this is not just the fulfilling of a refined spiritual desire, but also a great opportunity to become closer to your Ishta Devata.
  4. Don’t get sidetracked by the will of the group. Try to understand each religious practice, instead of blindly following the rituals others have done during the trip.
  5. Start planning months in advance.
  6. Design a 40-day sadhana period with the yatra as the culmination. For each day, practice early morning prayers and meditations; perform the yoga arts of pranayama, dharana and dhyana. Prepare body, mind and spirit for the trip.
  7. Analyze your pre-yatra eating habits in a thoughtful, but joyous way: if you begin to see the preparations and cleansing process as a burden, you may lose the enthusiasm that is so necessary to the trip. Wisdom should be the guide.
  8. Free yourself from all addictive food: caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Cultivate moderation.
  9. Kindle the soul with evening chants, bhajans and satsangs. Attend pujas and abhishekams.
  10. Cut the gossip! Observe mauna (silence) and undertake periodic solitude.
  11. Eschew unnecessary and worldy reading, even news.
  12. Avoid non-spiritual company. Cultivate satsang, being in the presence (physical or virtual) of wise and truthful people.
  13. Fast mentally as well as spiritually: enjoy the purity that comes from abstaining from TV, parties and senseless internet drifting.
  14. Lead a conscious, goal-oriented daily life.
  15. Ask yourself during this process, has my bhakti for Lord Siva increased? Did I do my daily activities and work in the spirit of karma yoga? Was I compassionate toward others? Have I upheld dharma?

Six Down-to-Earth Tips

  1. Draw out a concrete itinerary, meticulously listing all details: transportation plans, hotels, where to eat, a list of medical establishments along the yatra. Plot all costs, timings and alternatives. Try to anticipate difficulties and create a few “plan Bs” for accidents, injuries, inclement weather and even getting robbed. Instead of being anxious, be prepared.
  2. Work hard on the luggage list. When badly done, a lot of unnecessary stuff is carried around and the most useful items are left out. I have laid out a sample packing list in my yatra website:
  3. On the appointed day, start the pilgrimage with a visit to a Lord Ganesha temple. Go thank Him after the yatra, too.
  4. The more you are dependent on others or on material resources for your sadhana, the more the inconveniences. When circumstances are outside of your control, do mental tapas inside and observe peace outside.
  5. After completing your pilgrimage, set aside time to meditate on and document the lessons learned, the experiences and the blessings. Few people do this, but it is vital for your pilgrimage to not be just another trip.
  6. Finally, a pilgrimage destination does not have be a far and inaccessible place. It could be the nearest hill town with a shrine to a Deva or Devata. The most important aspect of the yatra is your relationship to the Divine, both inside and outside of yourself.

Guidelines To Keep You Sane and Alive

Picking the right agency is crucial: your experience on the yatra depends on who is running the show. Talk to several tour operators. Remember, most sales folks have absolutely no idea of what the yatra is like and will promise the moon at times. Here are hard-earned tips.

  1. Our travel agency’s managing director deliberately put a wrong mobile number in his business card, so that we would never call and complain! When cornered, he sheepishly corrected it.
  2. Book your air tickets early. I had to postpone my trip because getting confirmed reservations was difficult. Some airlines are unreliable; check their history of flight arrivals.
  3. Try to gather like-minded spiritual people to go with you, in multiples of four for the vehicles.
  4. Do not buy yatra accessories from the tourist agencies: you can get them cheaper elsewhere.
  5. State your option for a vegetarian cuisine and ask that it be cooked and served appropriately. Many times, the cook and the helper sherpas cut short their cooking chores by frying all food in the same pan with the same oil. Politely convey your requirements to the cook and others during the yatra to ensure that it happens.
  6. Bargain on the price up front. Year 2004 prices were around 53,000 rupees, all inclusive except the stay in Kathmandu (add another 50% for other expenses). Ensure that the standards of the trip are agreed upon in writing. Do not pay any money before reaching Kathmandu, only after visiting the travel agent’s office. Ask for receipts: “What receipt?” they will say. Insist.

Require Your travel Agency to Commit to the Following

  1. The stay will be in decent guest houses, inns and hotels. that include proper toilets as well as ventilated windows within the rooms. Ask for the right to inspect before selection at every place, or demand to move to another establishment.
  2. Extra costs due to delays in starting or in completing the itinerary will be fully borne by the agency, including costs of staying at Kathmandu. This includes incidentals, such as extra meals.
  3. The group and the sherpas will not be split up. The sherpa guide will accompany the group on foot during all walks.
  4. Good vehicles shall be provided. Ask for the new versions (less than 5 years old) of the Land Cruisers. This might add to your overall costs another INR 4000, but it is well worth it. The agency will likely promise such vehicles but not deliver! Tell them you will pay separately on return in case you do get them for the trip in Tibet.
  5. The guides shall have the resources to solve problems that arise, and respond to the communications with the yatris. In our case, after spending money on truck repairs, they tried to stay on budget by saving on the food they were expected to feed us.
  6. The Chinese drivers should: A) stop the vehicle upon request (we were all drinking lots of water); B) be courteous in their interactions with the yatris; C) respect the group’s religious sentiments; D) not smoke inside the vehicles; E) not play their pop music loud.
  7. Mineral water will be packed and served as part of the general package and not be charged for separately.
  8. The guides must take the yatris to Chuggu Gompa, Chiu Gompa and its hot springs, Rakshas Tal, Darchen Gompa, Ashtapad, Tar-po-che, Dheer Puk Gompa, Gauri kund, Zutul Puk Gompa and Thirthapuri hot springs–plus Lake Manasarovar. Many of these destinations are skipped if you are not attentive.
  9. The price for yak and horse rides during the parikrama will be capped up front. Many times, after reaching the mountains, pilgrims get a shock with the price tags, leading to unpleasant arguments.
  10. Luggage will be kept always clean and dry in the trucks. It often gets dirty and drenched, being exposed to rain and fuel.
  11. On the parikrama around Mt. Kailash, the sherpas shall bring the toilet tents and mineral water bottles on the yak. If you don’t ask for this, they will bring only minimal equipment.
  12. Any monetary tips that you will give to the sherpas or the drivers will be based on your satisfaction: there shall be no mandatory tipping! This helps ensure their good behavior and performance.
  13. Ask the agency what procedure would be adopted if, during the yatra, one is: a) ill with food poisoning b) ill with high altitude sickness c) down with broken limbs d) down due to flu, fever or cough.
  14. Every member of the group shall have a separate, rainproof tent in good condition. (Mine leaked.) You live in your private world within it, resting and meditating! In other groups, ladies and gents were packed eight members to a small tent!
  15. Every day’s menu will be shared upfront the previous day! Oil used once for frying will not be used again. Non-veg cooking will be separately handled with no interchange of used oils, pans or spoons.

Do’s and Don’ts of the Kailash Yatra

  1. Don’t get your shoes wet, ever! Walk carefully, especially across rivers and rivulets. Use a walking stick or a hiking pole. Use waterproof trekking shoes meant for cold countries. If your shoes get wet, dry them out as early as possible! A soggy boot can injure your feet in no time.
  2. Carry with you an ample supply of water and energy-giving food (not junk snacks). In an emergency, you might have to live on those rations, stranded for long hours before someone discovers you. Each day, take a food box with items from breakfast.
  3. While shopping anywhere, bargain using sign language. Start at 60 percent of the asking price. Forty percent may work, too.
  4. Bring a couple of small padlocks so you can lock your tent zipper.
  5. At many of the stops, you will encounter small children asking for gifts, or poor people begging. Carry small items with you to give away.
  6. You can mix lukewarm water with the cold water before drinking. This helps with coughs and cold-sensitive teeth.
  7. Pack a pair of sandals, in addition to your shoes. Wear them at the camp to give your feet and your shoes time to breathe.
  8. Ladies should bring a makeshift mini-tent to answer nature’s call when the cars stop. There is little place to hide, really.
  9. Pack all your clothes and belongings in plastic bags. That will help prevent dampness and possible drenching. In addition, it separates the used from the unused. No laundry service available!
  10. Bring your own sleeping bag if possible, one that can sustain you in -5oc.
  11. When sleeping in a tent, do not cover your face. Use lip balm and wear gloves. Never allow your feet to be without socks (keep a separate pair of woolen/nylon socks for sleeping only).
  12. Nurse any foot problems every night; they get worse fast, and cold. plus injury can result in gangrene.
  13. Never use candles or matches inside a tent.
  14. Carry a small, deodorant-size oxygen cylinder with you always.
  15. During the journey, report any sickness of any kind to the sherpa and Chinese guides.
  16. Never skip a meal and never stop drinking water, for you could weaken and dehydrate in no time. Never over-exert yourself. Breathlessness can make you dizzy, and you could trip on rocks and fall.
  17. Do the parikrama at a steady pace.
  18. The water in big flasks in the rooms of the inns are typically for washing your face, not for drinking. This is the only bathing that you will have on the road.
  19. Carry your own garbage bag. Bring all bottles and cans back to the cities.
  20. Use lip balm or vaseline for your lips and sunscreen lotion on your face and hands. The rarefied atmosphere makes for high UV exposure.
  21. While walking on ice use your pole to check its thickness. Beware!
  22. You cannot recharge batteries anywhere except Kathmandu. Take several spare charged batteries. Watch out for dust damage to your cameras.
  23. Never part with your passport and other vital documents except when at customs. Ask to have them back as soon as the guides are done with the paperwork.
  24. Practice silence. The yatra is not about the company. Soak in the grandeur of the Kailash region, the plateaus, valleys, mountains and lakes!
April 1, 2012

Rescuing our Vedic Priesthood — Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian

Insightful article about

1. Significance of Vedas
2. How Vedas are organized
3. The art & science of Vedic Chanting
4. The plight of today’s Vydicaas in India.

Do not miss !!


Rescuing our Vedic Priesthood – Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian


I. Our Scriptures

The word Veda is derived from the Sanskrit root vid which means "to know". Since our religion follows the vedic injunctions, it is known as "Vedic Religion".

The word religion implies the meaning of dharma.

The texts that give us the complete knowledge of dharma are called dharma- pramANa.

They are fourteen in number and are: four Vedas, six VedAngas (the organs of the Vedas), and four UpAngas (secondary organs of the Vedas).

14= 4 Vedas +6 VedAngAs+4 UpAngas = VidyaAstAna

These fourteen texts are glorified as vidyAsthAna’s – the abode of true knowledge and wisdom. (See Appendix 1 for a comprehensive list of our scriptures and what they deal with).

As codified by Sage Veda Vyasa, all four Vedas put together had 1,131 SakhAs (branches).

However, only 10 are available today, and of those, only two are nearly complete!

The Vedic literature can be broadly classified into four groups:

1. SamhitA: the mantra portion;

2. BrAhmaNas: the portion dealing with rituals;

3. AraNyakas – the forest texts, and

4.Upanishads – the portion dealing with Vedic philosophy.

The principles of Dharma as embodied in our religion are all centered on the Vedas.

2. Glory of the Vedas

Apasthambha Sutra describes Vedas as the Pramana: (authority – pramanam vedasca). Manu Smriti hails them as vedokhilo dharma moolam (the root of dharma); Bhagavan Sri Krishna says: vedaisca sarvair-ahameva-vedya: (I am known through the Vedas).

The Vedas are Infinite (anantA vai vedA;); They are the very breath of Iswara: (yasya niSvasitam vedA:) They are without beginning: (anAdi) and of non-human origin (apourusheya.)
They teach the glories of all creations and the principles of dharma and enshrine true knowledge and wisdom.

That is why our scriptures proclaim:

vedo nityam adheeyatAm tad uditam karma svanushtIyatAm (practice the Vedas daily; practice well their prescriptions)

It is our great fortune that we have inherited such a rich and cherished dhArmic tradition. It should be our foremost duty and goal to preserve such a tradition. Our ancestors led a

peaceful and contented life following the path set by the Vedic guidelines. That path withstood the tests of historic times and was smooth to follow without obstacles.

3. The guardians of our scriptures – the Vedic Priests

Wayne Howard, in his book “Veda Recitation in Varanasi” writes:

“ The four Vedas are not “books” in the usual sense, though within the past hundred years each Veda has appeared in several printed editions.

They are comprised rather of tonally accented verses of hypnotic, abstruse melodies whose proper realizations demand oral instead of visual transmission…..

The ultimate authority in Vedic matters is never the printed page but rather the few members of the Brahmana caste who are today keeping the centuries-oldtraditions alive.

However, the Vedas are approaching a point in history, which willdetermine whether they survive or slip into extinction.

They have shown remarkable vigor and perseverance in the past – thriving under potentially destructive political, economic, and religious upheaval – but whether they can withstand the accelerated rate of social change in the twentieth century is a formidable question which leaves their future in grave doubt”.

No – that doubt should never be allowed to sustain. Because, if Vedas have to perish, it amounts to the destruction of dharma itself, the root of an entire civilization, culture and

tradition. However, as Howard had correctly observed, the ultimate authority of Vedas lies with the vedic priest , who, through a tradition of oral transmission, has been
propagating them over generations.

4. Vedic Chanting – a perfectly formulated oral tradition

The Vedas are called ‘Sruti”- which means, what is heard.

It is never read from a text, since the recitation of any veda mantra should conform to the following six parameters, namely,

  1. varNa (letters);
  2. svara (intonation);
  3. mAtrA (duration of articulation);
  4. balam (force of articulation);
  5. sAma (uniformity), and
  6. santAna (continuity).

If any of these parameters is not maintained, it would change the meaning of the mantra itself, leading to even diametrically opposite effects!

In the absence of a written text, our rishis had devised many ways to prevent even a small error to creep in to the recitation of the veda-mantras. These fool-proof methods used to
chant each veda-mantra in various patterns and combinations are known as : vaakya,pada, krama, jaTA, mAlA, SikhA, rekhA, dvaja, danDa, ratha, and Ghana.

Among these, vAkya, pada, krama, jaTa and Ghana methods of chanting are more popular and let us analyze them only here.

Vaakya or samhitA pATha is to recite a mantra in a sentence straight with appropriateintonations. In sentences, some of the words have to be conjoined in chanting.

In padapAtha, a sentence is broken down to ‘words’ or pada’s, which gives the student theknowledge of each word.

In the krama method, the first word of a sentence is added to the second, the second to the third, the third to the fourth and so on, until the whole sentence is completed. This method enables the student to understand not only individual words but also how the words combine in recitation with the attendant modification of the svaras.

Scholarly priests capable of reciting the entire veda-SakhA in the krama format is given the title kramavit.

In the jaThA method, the first word and the second word are recited together and then the words are recited in the reverse order and then again in the original order. For example, in the krama method, if they are recited as 1-2;2-3; 3-4; 4-5 etc., in the jaThA method, they are recited as 1-2-2-1-1-2; 2-3-3-2-2-3; 3-4-4-3-3-4 and so on. Scholarly priests capable of reciting in the jaThA method are given thetitle “jaThAvallabha”.

The Ghana method is more difficult than the above where thecombinations of words will be 1-2-2-1-1-2-3-3-2-4-4-2-3; 2-3-3-2-2-3-4-4-3-2-2-4 and soon. A priest who can recite in the Ghana method is given the title ghanapAThi.

These methods of complicated recitations in a oral tradition were devised in order to preserve the purity of the word, the sound, intonation, pronunciation, accent and sound combinations of the vedamantras. By repeating the words in manifold ways, the correct tally of words was also kept which has naturally ensured its purity. To enable the scholars
to take up the difficult methods recitiation, it was believed that, more difficult methods of chanting earned more puNya or merit!

5. The Merit, and the Plight of a Vedic Scholar Today

Just to illustrate what it takes for a priest to earn the title of a ghanapAThi, let us briefly analyze what is involved in the training. For illustration, let us consider only one portion of the krishNa yajur veda, called the taittiriya samhitA. In this portion there over 2,000 pancASat’s (1 pancASat = 50 pada’s), amounting to 109,308 pada’s. We can roughly assume each pada to have 3 syllables, thus totaling ~330,000 syllables. In the Ghana method of chanting, each syllable gets repeated 13 times, thus amounting to 4,290,000 utterances. And each of these utterances have to conform to all the six parameters discussed earlier.

Only when a person becomes capable of reciting this in any order asked, gets the title of a ghanapAThi. This is for only one samhitA portion in krishna yajur veda alone. Then there is Sukla yajur veda, rig veda, sAma veda, and atharva veda. There were scholars proficient in more than one veda as evident from the names dvivedi, trivedi and caturvedi. In addition, there are other samhitA portions, brAhmaNa portions, AraNyaka poritons, and the Upanishads, in the vedic scriptures alone.

After proficiency in ghanapATha, some learn lakshaNa-ghanapATha, which deals with the characteristics of each letter, its origin, how it has to be emphasized in a mantra, its varNa, the presiding deity, etc etc. Then there are purANa’s, dharma-Sastras etc. All these were learnt without any book, tape or any such instruments in the oral tradition, and were stored just in ~200 grams of the human brain! And the most interesting thing is, it was not that one or two individuals who were proficient in this dharma, but an entire society was well versed in this! Such a scholarship takes well over 25 years of intense education in a gurukulam, in addition to observing all the religious disciplines!

Having analyzed what it takes for a vedic priest to become a ghanapAThi, let us look at his plight in modern day society

When there is so much of respect and recognition for all other secular professionals – be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, scientist, businessman, artist etc. – the respect and the compensation extended to these vedic scholars are patheticallyfar below standards.

On the one end we are all proud to inherit such a rich and cherished vedic tradition, but, on the other, not being sensitive enough or even negligent towards preserving and transferring it forward. At this rate, what were originally 1,131 SakhAs, and are only 10 today, will further deteriorate leading to a great loss to human-kind.

The only guardians of this rich tradition are the vedic priests. Because of the way the society treats them and the poor compensation, they are not motivated to send their children to vedic schools (pAThaSAlA’s). Generally they come from economically backward families, and so they drop out of schools early, striving to make a living and to support their poor families. All others who have already migrated to secular education are not going to revert back to vedic learning in the traditional sense.

In addition, the personal discipline to be observed by the vedic priest being so stringent (otherwise, the rituals and mantras are believed not to give the desired result, and to even bring demerit), it makes one to shy away even more. When compared to the status of priest-hood in other religions, the plight of the vedic priest is really sad.

6. What can be done to bring back the lost glory of the vedic priest ?

Even though the situation appears very gloomy, there is lot of hope today.
The very fact that a forum like this wants to address this issue itself is very encouraging. Following are some of my thoughts to help foster and propagate this tradition, though by no means exhaustive:

1. The first step is for every member of this varNa to be aware of what we have in our vedic scriptures and become sensitive to this education.

2. Even if one may not have time or may have other limitation to learn, observing the disciplines, one could at least support those who learn, and the pAThaSAlA’s
that teach.

3. Many of the teachers in these pAThaSAlA’s are highly under-paid and they continue to teach just to foster this dharma. With the affluence of the NRI community, support can be given to increase the compensation for the teachers and stipend to the students.

4. Scholarships for advanced vedic learning can be implemented to motivate students not to discontinue from a full curriculum due to economic reasons.

5. Most of the mantra’s employed in rituals are from Vedas.
Actually rituals(samskAras) are aimed at developing the eight inner values (Atma guNa’s),which are: compassion (dayA), patience (kshamA), free from jealousy(anasooyA), purity (soucam), keeping cool (anAyAsam), not beingmiserly(akArpaNyam), absence of attachment (aspruhA), and peace (mangaLam).

The more we shy away from rituals, more are the chances of losing those mantra’s, since less will be the motivation for the priest to practice them!

6. There can be awareness courses on samskAra’s (there are ~ 41 samskAra’s from conception to cremation!), so that every member of the varNa will develop an interest and faith in them. Such faith will increase their respect for the vedic priest as an AchArya.

7. We believe that giving dAnam (gift) to a priest washes our sins. The priest gets this power because of his vedic knowledge. Hence, the compensation for the priests should be given with faith, humility and sincerity so that, it is not just a compensation for a job done, but an offering (sambhAvanA) for blessing our families in the name of Vedas.

Unless this varNa raises to bring back the glory of the vedic priest, it may be difficult to expect others to raise to this call. After all, religious practices are only for the believers, and these discussions are aimed at those who have an implicit faith in this dharma.

With a renewed thrust and commitment, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The vedic-priesthood will certainly become well respected in society with this awareness.

Institutions like the Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation Inc. USA, organize mega yajnas like the ati-rudra-mahA-yajna of 1997 bringing ~100 vedic scholars from India, essentially to appreciate and respect the vedic priest-hood, in addition to showing to the present and the future generation, how an authentic vedic ritual could be conducted, even outside of India, and how such knowledgeable priests are available even today.

Source Material:

1. "The Vedas", Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay 1988
2. “Rescuing our Vedic Pundits”, Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian, Page 9, The Hinduism Today, Dec. ‘97

About the Author:

Dr. Yegnsaubramanian (Dr. Mani) is the Chairman of the Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation, and the Sanatana Dharma Foundation, USA. He is also the advisor for several temple organizations within USA, Canada and India. Dr.Mani has been teaching vedic/puranic scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita and Vedanta for the past two decades in New Jersey, to groups of adults and children. He is the editor and publisher of the international journal, Paramaartha Tattvam in which he writes regularly on various topics of Vedanta, vaidika samskaras, and bhakti in general. He was the general chairman of the first Ati-rudra Mahayajna conducted in the Poconos in 1997 and the Satachandi yajna in 2001. Under the auspices of the Sringeri Shankar Mutt, he organizes veda sammelans all over India every year involving thousands of vedic scholars. He was a trustee and the Chairman of Religious affairs of the Bridgewater temple from inception until the kumbhabhishekam in 1998. He gives lectures and short courses on sanatana dharma, scriptures, and Vedanta, all over USA and Canada. He represents the Hindu Faith in Interfaith Forums and conducts Youth Forums. He was awarded the title of “Dharma-rakshA-mani” by the Shankaracharya of Kanchi in 2003. Dr. Mani is a scientist by profession who retired from Bell Labs. in 2001. He works presently at Andrew Corporation in Warren, NJ and lives with his family in Skillman, NJ.

Appendix 1.

Our Scriptures (Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian)

I. Vidyasthanas (Source of Supreme Knowledge) – 14

a) Vedas (4) : Classified by Vyasa – 1131 recensions (SakhAs): ~25,000 mantras

b) Vedangas: (6) & c) Upangas (4) (to understand Vedas completely and in depth)

II. Upa Vedas (4)

1. Ayurveda Science of Life
3. DhanurvedaScience of Weaponary and Warfare
2. Artha SAstras – Science of Wealth /Economics
4. Gandharva veda Treatise on fine arts, music,etc.

III. Aranyakas and Brahmanas – Vedic Scriptures learnt and interpreted by Rishis in the forests are Aranyakas and those interpreted in homes for homely use are Brahamanas:

Upanishads: are placed towards the end of Aranyakas.
They deal with aspects of realizing through the path of knowledge (jnana marga), the nonduality (abhedha) of Brahman. They are considered as the quintescence of Vedas.

PrasthanatrayI: (Texts on Tattvajnana – Knowledge of Self – Metaphysics):
1. Upanishads;
2. Bhagavad Gita;
3. Brahmasutras; 2 & 3 are not vedic scriptures, they are given this status due to their content.

32 Primary Vidyas:(Primary Knowledge)
4 Vedas,
6 Vedangas,
4 Upangas,
4 Upa Vedas,
2 Ithihasas,
Nastikamata (agnosticism),

3 Sastras (artha, kama andshilpa),
Alankriti (asthetics),
Kavya (poetry),
Desabhasha (linguistics),
Avasaokti, Yavanamata,

More such articles at

April 1, 2012

Useful SandhyaVandanam Resources – in English and Tamil

We all know that SandhyaVandanam is an important Nithya karma for those who wear Yagnyopaveetham.

Here are some useful resources that might motivate and help a person to get started , on this very important duty that benefits the world around us and the world inside ourselves.

Sandhyavanadam – Must hear Upanyasam by Shri Krishna Premi
(Tamil Audio mp3 – 2 hours)

Gayathri and Sandhyavandana Mahimai by Kanchi Mahaswami
(Tamil Document)

Meaning of every manthra in Yajur Sandhyavandanam by Swami Paramarthananda
(English Audio mp3 – 10 tracks)

Brahmana Lakshnamam – Upanyasam by Shri Krishna Premi
(Tamil Audio – 8 mins)

Yajur Sandhyavandanam manual from Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam forum and approved by noted priests in Chennai.
(English document with good tips and techniques for doing SandhyaVandanam)


January 15, 2012

Uttarayana punyakalam misconception or not – need some clarity.


It is a common practice among many in TamilNadu that Uttarayanam starts only on Pongal/ makarashankaranthi day (atleast to my limited knowledge).

According to Drika Panchanga makers like, datepanchang, janmabhumi panchang, rastriya panchang and Vishuddha Siddhanta Panjika, Uttarayanam started on December 21st 2011

I would like to share the below mentioned information and would like to know which panchagam is widely used in India and outside India to figure out festival dates.

Please read the reasoning below very carefully. Its quite a read if one wants to understand the basics of Hindu calendering system.


Drik Siddhanta and Uttarayana

This festival is celebrated on January the 14 or the 15.The season occurs based on tropical sun (without ayanamsha). The earth revolves around sun with a tilt of 23.45 degrees. When the tilt is facing the sun we get summer and when the tilt is away from the sun we get winter. That is the reason when there is summer north of the equator, it will be winter south of the equator. Because of this tilt it appears that the sun travels north and south of the equator. This motion of the sun going from south to north is called Uttarayana – the sun is moving towards north and when it reaches north it starts moving south and it is called Dakshinayana – the sun is moving towards south. This causes seasons which are dependent on equinoxes and solstices.

There is a common misconception that Makara Sankranti is the Uttarayana. This is because at one point in time Sayana and Nirayana zodiac were the same. Every year equinoxes slide by 50 seconds due to precession of equinoxes, giving birth to Ayanamsha and causing Makar Sankranti to slide further. As a result if you think Makar Sankranti is Uttarayana then as it is sliding, it will come in June after 9000 years. However Makar Sankranti still holds importance in Hindu rituals.

All Drika Panchanga makers like, datepanchang, janmabhumi panchang, rastriya panchang and Vishuddha Siddhanta Panjika use the position of the tropical sun to determine Uttarayana and Dakshinayana.

Also when Uttarayana starts, it is a start of winter. When equinox slides it will increase ayanamsha and Makar Sankranti will also slide. In 1000 AD, Makar Sankranti was on Dec 31 and now it falls on January 14; after 9000 years when Makara Sankranti will be in June. It would seem absurd to have Uttarayana in June when sun is about to begin its ascent upwards —Dakshinayana. This misconception continues as there is not much difference between actual Uttarayana date of Dec 21 and January 14. However, the difference will be significant as equinoxes slide further.

read more »

January 11, 2012

Colorful 2012 Calendar – Panduranga Rukmini – from Thennangur Trust.

Please see attached 4 pdf files.

Calendar 2012 from Thennangur Gnianananda Peetam.

See sample picture below.


December 28, 2011

Tanjore Paintings – Excellent collection of Hindu Gods

Tanjore painting (Tamil: தஞ்சாவூர் ஓவியம், Thanjavur Oviyam) is an important form of classical South Indian painting native to the town of Thanjavur (anglicized as Tanjore) in Tamil Nadu, India. The art form dates back to about 1600 AD, a period when the Nayakas of Tanjavur encouraged art—chiefly, classical dance and music—as well as literature, both in Telugu and Tamil.

Tanjore paintings are known for their surface richness, vivid colours and compact composition. Essentially serving as devotional icons, the themes of most of these paintings are Hindu gods and goddesses, as well as saints. Episodes from Hindu tradition are drawn upon as elaborations of the main figure or figures placed in the central section of the picture.

Tanjore paintings are panel paintings done on solid wood planks, and hence referred to as palagai padam (palagai = “wooden plank”; padam = “picture”) in local parlance. In modern times, these paintings have become souvenirs of festive occasions in South India, pieces to decorate walls, and collectors’ items for art lovers.

Here is a collection of Tangore paintings from Google images.

November 26, 2011

Veda,Vedanga,Upaanga etc – Sacred Scriptures of Sanatana Dharma – Birds Eye View

If you want to know how our Hindu scriptures are organized such as Veda , Vedanga, Upaanga, Prasthanathrayi, UpaVeda , this document will be of good use.

Click on the image zoom feature on the top to see the details of this document.

The author of this document is Ashwin Kumar Iyer from Center For Vedic Management. Many thanks to him for sharing this.


November 10, 2011

Real Scientific Heritage Of India, Lecture at IIT Madras by Dr Gopal Krishnan

Lecture at IIT Madras by Dr. N. GopalaKrishnan, Scientist and Director, Indian Institute of Scientific Heritage

If you want to know about the real scientific heritage of India, this lecture is a real eye opener.

Please watch the full 9 video lecture series in correct order which runs 10 mins each.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Dr. N. Gopalakrishnan is from Kerala, along with a few others founded Indian Institute of Scientific Heritage in 1999.

Gopalakrishnan is a scientist and Hon. Director of Indian Institute of Scientific Heritage, having M.Sc. (Pharm. Chem); M.Sc. (Appl. Chem); M.A., (Soc.); Ph.D. (Biochem); D.Litt. (Science in Sanskrit).

He has 28 years of research experience, 50 scientific research papers in national and international scientific journals, 7 patents, 6 awards for scientific research, 9 science popularization awards from India and abroad, two fellowships, 60 books, (MP3) 200CDs, 50 VCDs, more than 6000 lectures and 200 hrs of speeches Television media in India and abroad, to his credit. He has visited US, Canada, UK, middle east countries many times and delivered a series of lectures in Indian and foreign universities. He was a fellow of University of Alberta, Canada.

More info at


October 19, 2011

14 Questions People Ask About Hinduism and 14 short tweetable answers!

Excellent/must-read publication for all followers of Sanatana Dharma aka Hinduism. This can be used for presentations in educational institutions also.

This material is published by Hinduism Today MagazineKauai Aadheenam, Hawaii, USA.

You can also download this publication in pdf file from here. Please share it with your friends too.

14 Questions People Ask About Hinduism and 14 short tweetable answers!


September 22, 2011

RamaKrishna Vijayam Magazine in Tamil- Free and Online to read

RamaKrishna Vijayam Magazine in Tamil- Free and Online to read

Once the site loads in your browser, click on the “expand” button and you can read the magazine in full screen.

Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam started in 1921 a Traditional cultural & spiritual magazine of Mylapore Ramakrishna mission to spread the message of Sanathana Dharma & Swami Vivekananda among Tamil people….. its a International Tamil Monthly from Chennai…. which is having more than 70,000 student subscribers… for information & enquriy visit & this is Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam study circle page they can share their thoughts of Swami Vivekananda.