A lighted lamp is a key symbolism in Diwali utsav. Light in Indian culture represents knowledge. But strangely we seem to hear a lot about a victory of ‘Good’ over ‘Evil’ during Diwali. This is quite superficial and even shallow. The ‘Good over Evil’ explanation certainly lacks credibility from an Indian perspective. Evil bashing has become so rampant that, for every major Indian festival, this ‘evil’ is made a fashionable scapegoat for explaining festive significance. It is a kind of a warmonger’s lingo, especially when the English word ‘evil’ has no translation in any Indian language. To get to the central message of the Diwali utsav, we just need to draw our attention to the key symbolism – Light.
Category Archives: Culture
Goddess Kali (pronounced Kaali) baffles the modern mind. The image of Kali would probably give a nightmare to a tender mind or even appear grotesque. But for centuries, India has known Kali as raw feminine energy and as a manifested Goddess. Though she is fierce, no child growing up in India fears Kali. So, what’s in this fierce female form of Kali that makes her a Divine mother in India? Or is Kali yet another tool in the ancient Indian pedagogy to communicate quantum truths to lay intelligence?
It is not uncommon for Indians to get asked “So…what do you guys eat for breakfast in India?” I wish the answer was straightforward. India has a diversity platter on almost everything including food. Only those who know about Indian culture really understand that there is no such thing as homogenous Indian food – be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. Also there are some natural and time tested principles that make the Indian cuisine unique, including the so called ‘Indian breakfast”.
Navratri 2012 is ON. The nine evenings of Navratri no doubt has a spiritual significance to the devout, but it is also a time to celebrate ‘womanhood’ ~ the Indian way and that too for 9 consecutive days.But , today we seem to have forgotten the art of honouring women and she is shown on TV as a jalebibhai, chikni chameli, madam malai, anarkali disco chali, beedi jalaikey….Not to speak about the abhorrent treatment given to her in some sections of the society. Navratri comes to us as good reminder to discover the shakti that have been dormant for quite some time.
Lord Ganesha is popularly known as Vighneshwara – the Lord of obstacles. For those on the spiritual path, Lord Ganesha represents a perfect wisdom to remove all obstacles that comes in the way of attaining God. But to those who need a empirical proof of God, the legends of Lord Ganesha’s eight temples in Maharashta collectively called Ashta-Vinayak temples offer much mysticism.
What’s your IQ? What’s your EQ? These days we are also asked about SQ (spiritual quotient). These IQ, EQ, SQ are available today only to measure our aptitude, emotions, spirituality etc. But there is a quotient that was discovered thousands of years ago in India, which is based on natural order of things. It is the VQ ~ the Varna quotient which is simple, logical and provides a template to understand oneself.
Why is India called the home of the vegetarians? Why is the Indian diet predominantly vegetarian though more than two-thirds of India’s population is non-vegetarian? Why is a traditional non-vegetarian in India more dependent on vegetarian food than meat? What could be some reasons for even the corporate India to market vegetarianism?
Many of us from India celebrate more than one New Year. Besides the 1st of January every year, we also celebrate another New Year day based on the region we come from in India and the Indian calendar. What are the origins of this Indian calendar which has been around for more than 5000 years? Who invented it? What is it based on?
These days, the terms ‘Shri’ and ‘Shrimati’ are found printed only in wedding and invitation cards. These terms are more than a title prefix before a person’s name as they have a much deeper meaning. Hence it’s no wonder that atleast languages in South East Asia use this term ‘Shri’. What does ‘Shri’ and ‘Shrimati’ really mean and why it is not really equivalent to Mr. and Mrs.?
The Indian terms for temple are mandir, ambalam, koil or kovil, deool, devasthaanam, devaalaya etc depending on the regional language. The commonly used word ‘Mandir’ comes from the Sanskrut root ‘Mandaté’, which means to be filled with transcendent emotion, to delight or to shine.
The pedestrian view of real India is changing as we are coming to know more about Indian heritage. Thanks to some recent archaeological research, discoveries on linguistics, new satellite imagery and some objective historical research that the last two decades has seen the myths about Indian culture and heritage smashed.
Navratri ~ Festival of nine sacred nights
These days we hear a lot about expensive workshops that help harness the powers of our own mind. Our Indian culture offers the same transformation but only if we understand the deep significance and true meaning of our festivals, invocations and the accompanying rituals etc, with guidance of a Guru.
Caste is not an Indian term. The real story behind the caste system is glaringly different to what we know. Was it called the caste system then? What was its original purpose? Was the system rigid? Was it designed to breed discrimination or inequality? Was there any merit in having a so-called caste system? Could people move between these so-called castes? Caste ka real story kyaa hai?
21st of August is Janmashtami – the birthday of the smiling Lord Krishna. He is the poster-boy of the Hindu pantheon whose life and teachings teach us how to live life the smart way and holistically. Right from his birth in a prison cell, his life has been full of mighty challenges, but as a liberated soul Lord Krishna smiled his way through life’s situations unaffected. Behind his responses and smiles lies a philosophy that he personally advised to many of his close friends and devotees? What is this philosophy that will help us look at life through Lord Krishna’s eyes?
Ganesh Utsav perhaps provides a platform for the biggest display of God symbolism on earth. The ten day Ganesh Utsav is probably the only festive period when we see most idols of any Hindu deity. In Hinduism, art & sculpture has been traditionally employed from Veda Vyasa’s time to help us discover the hidden meaning of subtler truths. Given this Hindu methodology of communicating the greater truths through arty idols, Lord Ganesha with the elephant head on a human body also relay something deep and esoteric. What is the heart behind the art of Ganesha?
More than $20 billion worth of wealth in a temple? That’s the account of hidden wealth in the 8th century Shree Ananta Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. But this abundance of wealth has not been unusual in the history of some Indian temples. While ancient Indian temples were built as spiritual gymnasiums for the mind, they also had enormous wealth to consistently provide that opportunity for spiritual development. But there are other types of wealth in the ancient Indian temples that are much more valuable than its material wealth. What’s that?
Shubh Deepavali to you and your family. Deepavali or Diwali ~ the Hindu festival of lights brings to our mind images of diyas, sweets, puja, colourful lights, fire crackers, feasting, new purchases, socializing and lots of fun. Here is a little quiz to remind ourselves about Diwali and the origins that makes Diwali the most popular festival of India.
Indian cuisine is probably the most diverse cuisine in the world but sadly the perception is that Indian food is just “curry”. The antiquated heritage of Indian cuisine goes back thousands of years and boasts of an assorted menu of cuisines and not just one cuisine. This includes a whopping 300 ways of cooking a potato. While “Indian food” is synonymous with ‘curry, naan bread and pappadoms’, there is certainly more to it. Today’s era of cultural understanding requires a better awareness of authentic Indian food which is more than just curry!!!
Is there more to Indian culture than just bollywood, curry, yoga or samosas.
A tourist from overseas wishes to see ‘true’ India and wants to experience the real Indian culture. So he goes to a village in Rajasthan. He is hungry and goes to an old lady who is making Bajre ki Roti. She gives him some ‘Sarson kaa saag’ on the not-so-soft ‘Bajre ki Roti’. The tourist eats the ”Sarson kaa saag’ and returns the roti saying, ‘Here is your plate’. Obviously he never heard of the bajre ki roti and his response was but natural. But is this an authentic search for real India or it is just an example of a pedestrian tourist experience of Indian food, costume, tradition, festivals of the land etc?
India is probably the only country where a religious day is linked to a practice of gold buying. It is the ‘gold’en day of ‘Akshaya Tritiya’ and we are talking tons of gold here. According to estimates, India is the world’s largest consumer of Gold. India, the world’s largest consumer of the yellow metal, bought some 842 tonnes of Gold in 2014 compared with 813.6 tonnes by China. So what makes Akshaya Tritiya a day for GOLD?
Diwali or Deepavali (commonly known as ‘row of lights’) has a lot of spirit in it. Our celebrations of this yearly Diwali festival could have more meaning and bite to it, if we know its true spirit and significance, as explained by wise and learned souls. Otherwise our Diwali and the greetings could be just an annual ritual. The wise say that the real significance of Diwali is intrinsic and hidden in the very symbolic worship, rituals and traditions that we follow in our homes.
It’s festival time again. Dassera or Dassera is on October 17 this year according to the ancient Hindu lunar calendar. Though Navaratri is generally understood as a festival of nine nights, the tenth day marks the end of Navaratri celebrated as Dassera (also known as Vijaya Dashami). In this 10 day festival, why is the tenth day of Dassera spiritually important?
India has millions of temples, thronged by millions of people. If there is anything great and concrete that has survived the rigors of time in India, then it is surely our ancient Hindu temples. Of the millions there are many ancient temples with a deep history, fascinating legends and where famous saints have gotten their ultimate experience of the ‘Supreme Truth through the installed deity’.
India as we all know is colourful with her people, festivals including the very geography. India has greenery, snow, different shades of soils, landscapes, deserts, rivers, seasons, people and the whole atmosphere is so full of colour. Add to that our colourful festival of HOLI where colours are literally used to show the spirit of the mind.
Diwali is here and its time for celebration. Where and how will you be spending this Festival of Lights? So what have you planned for Diwali? What sweets are you making this time? Are you decorating your home with electric lights? Any special purchase planned for the family? Have you done the list of people you want to send e-cards? What will you be cooking for Diwali? Any plans for celebrating Diwali in a deeper spiritual manner?
For many who have migrated from India, drinking tea with friends in their favourite nukkad, chowk or tea shop are nostalgic moments. For many tourists and next gen Indians the chai seems to be ‘the’ connection to India. Even on hot summer days, we Indians have learnt the knack to sip the tea with much delight. It has almost become a national habit, apart from watching cricket. It’s a speciality in Mumbai the busy roadside chaiwala has even learnt the art of economising by serving a “cutting” which means tea served in a half-size glass.