APRIL 2023 Guruvayurappan Temple of Brampton krishnaarchana Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year
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april 2023 krishnaarchana 3 Creative Team Publisher Madhav Kochunni Board Liaison Gopinathan Menon Coordinator Shaji Krishnan Editors Aravind Menon Divarakaran Kariannur Krishna Menon Lekha Madhavan Shalini Menon Vinitha Radhamma Design Editorial firstname.lastname@example.org Courses email@example.com Competitions firstname.lastname@example.org Temple Temple@guruvayur.ca Website www.guruvayur.ca Location 2580 Countryside Dr, Brampton ON L6R 3T4 Temple Charity Registration no.: 860244110 RR 0001 Note from the Editorial Board Welcome to the third edition of Krishnarchana. The Guruvayurappan Temple of Brampton (GTOB) while it continues to be a centre for spiritual upliftment, brings our community together through regular chanting and study sessions on Bhagavad Gita, Vishnu Sahasranaamam, Lalitha Sahasranaamam and Narayaneeyam as well as through Sanskrit classes and other cultural activities like pancharimelam, Dhanu Maasa Thiruvathira Kali etc. In the last few months, the temple has also offered and conducted many special poojas associated with the New year, Mandalam period and Mahashivarathri. We hope that you are all looking forward to the season of spring and the many spring festivals and temple activities that come with it. Spring brings with it a sense of rejuvenation and return of vibrancy to life after winter. For the Malayali community in Kerala and around the world, Vishu symbolizes the time of harvest and prosperity. Celebrated on the first day of Medam, the Malayalam month or between the months of April and May of the Gregorian calendar, it is also the astrological New Year of the Malayalis. The festival is celebrated as a symbol of new beginnings and a time for families to come together and share in the blessings of the land from the latest harvest. In North India Baisakhi is celebrated during the same time with great splendor and pomp. In current times, Vishu holds a special significance as it comes at the end of a long and difficult COVID pandemic period, bringing hope and positivity to everyone. It has special significance as a time for reflection and gratitude, as people take stock of the past year and look forward to the future with hope and optimism. We hope that you enjoy reading the third edition of Krishnaarchana. We look forward to hearing your feedback. Vishu aashamsakal to all our readers. .com
4 krishnaarchana april 2023
april 2023 krishnaarchana 5 MAIN FEATURE By Shaji Krishnan Significance of Vishu Our Sanatana dharmic texts view humans as a smaller representation of the universe, based on microcosm-macrocosm point of view. “Yat pinde tad Brahmande”; that which is in microcosm is in the macrocosm and one is in all; all is in one declared our Upanishads. Our philosophies did not stop there – it went on to prove that the entire universe is interconnected, inter-related and inseparable. It is a well-known fact that every living being takes part in nature’s processes and everything in nature is changing for the better. Eons ago, our forefathers took giant leaps in this regard. They accepted, welcomed, and assimilated all the natural changes as festivals. This allowed us to be one with Mother Nature and to slowly evolve, physically, emotionally, spiritually and progress towards the goal, as prescribed in our Vedas. Science and logic Every festival deep within, had a scientific reasoning and logic. In due course of time, some of these truths eventually got morphed and/ or covered with multi-layers of customs, traditions, and rituals. Vishu is a Malayali New Year festival. It typically falls in the middle of April; the first day of Medam, the first month of the Malayalam calendar. The equinoxes are the only time when both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere of our Mother Earth experience roughly the equal amount of daytime and nighttime. During this time, the sun is exactly over the equator and days and nights are of equal duration. In Sanskrit, Equator, the imaginary line that divides our Earth into two equal halves, is called “Visvadrutta Rekha”. Hence the name “Vishu”; the first day of the astronomical calendar new year, based on the movement of the sun. Vishu is a festival where all elements of nature come together and welcome new hopes for a bright future. It also signifies new beginnings, new hopes, and aspirations. Six components Vishu-kani, Vishu-kaineettam, Vishu-kodi, Vishu-paddakam, Vishu-bhalam and Vishu-sadya are the six most important components of Vishu celebrations. Vishu festival begins with worship of Lord Vishnu/Krishna on Vishu pulari (early morning Brahma muhurta time; between 4am and 6am on Vishu day) at which time, Vishu-Kani is seen. Vishu-kani means “the first thing to be seen at dawn”. On the previous night, a Vishu-kani is set up in the prayer room of the house. It is believed that Vishukani seen at dawn brings good luck and prosperity for the entire year. Items such as coconut, betel leaves, arecanut, kani-konna flowers, kanmashi (kajal), raw rice, lemon, golden cucumber, jackfruit, a metallic mirror, vermillion, holy books, cotton dhoti/kasavu mundu, ornaments and coins or currency notes are neatly arranged in a Uruli, a traditional bowl made of bronze alloy. A traditional Nilavilakku (bronze/brass lamp) is also lighted and placed together with the Vishu-kani before the deity. Most items of Vishu-kani have significant meaning. But in general, Vishukani exemplifies the relationship between humans and nature. Significance of mirror All members of the family wake up during the Brahma muhurta time and with closed eyes go to the prayer room, to get the first darshan of the Lord and Vishu-
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april 2023 krishnaarchana 7 kani. The significance of the mirror in Vishu-kani is to see ourselves; to remind us of the relationship between us (the microcosm) and the world (macrocosm); chance to pay gratitude to all for the abundance that surrounds us and to understand the true meaning of who we truly are. Hence, Vishu-kani is arranged with great care and precision to create this positive energy/ambience and to stimulate spiritual growth. In some families, after Vishu-kani, family members go to temple for worship and prayers. They read Ramayana on this day with a belief that reading this Itihasa will give spiritual power, encouragement, and strength to pursue new beginnings. Elders give a small amount of pocket money to children and the needy in the form of new coins or currency bills. This is called Vishu-kaineettam. The ritual is about sharing wealth with all. Adults and children after bath, wear new clothes (Kodi vastram/linen); Vishu-kodi. After this, children, and adult burst crackers, known as “Vishu-paddakam” As Vishu is considered as the new year, Vishu-bhalam provides the complete prediction for the next one year based on nakshatrams (stars). In olden days, a regional astrologer visited the homes and used to forecast the predictions for each family member. Nowadays it is published in magazines or telecast on TV. This is followed by a traditional feast known as “Vishu-sadhya, an important part of the festival. The significance of the mirror is to see ourselves, to remind us of the relationship between us and the world
8 krishnaarchana april 2023 Vishu Sadya Gastronom
april 2023 krishnaarchana 9 SPECIAL FEATURE By Madhav Kochunni a: A mic Delight! This year, the concept of Vishukainettam has changed slightly. What was a token amount for Vishu given by karanavars [elders] to the younger folks is now the rolling trophy for the best Vishu sadya. The race is on; who will win the cup? The contest begins on April 14th . For those who never cared to know or wanted a taste of it, Vishu is the birth of a new year as marked in the Malayalam calendar [Malayalam is the language best spoken in Kerala]. It usually falls on the 14th of April [‘medam onnu’]. Who is the best judge? The adjudicators this year, as in every year since the first Malayalees landed in North America, are Kuttunni and Kunjunni. Let us get Kuttunni’s views on the subject. Kuttunni is pot-bellied. His balding head has run out of ideas to grow more hair. The remaining outgrowth is jet black and is fighting a losing battle with his encroaching forehead. The other border is ably fenced by thick and wildly twisted eyebrows shading deep-set black eyes. The bulbous nose separating the eyes is a safe take-off point for small aircraft. The most prominent feature on Kuttunni’s
10 krishnaarchana april 2023 otherwise plain face is the mouth drawn from one ear lobe to the other. Kuttunni stretches his mouth as humanly as possible in both directions. When he does not smile, talk, or snore, he eats. “My earliest recollection of Vishu revolves around good food, new clothes, firecrackers, Vishukkani and Vishukainettam… that was when the Indian rupee had buying power, when multistorey apartment buildings were unheard of in Thrissur, and when hand-drawn rickshaws and cyclerickshaws shared the roads and potholes alike with that workhorse of Indian roads, the ambassador car.” Kuttunni goes on and on. Kuttunni is now well-settled in Toronto. Every year, Kuttunni manages to taste at least six Vishu lunches [sadya]. “How to wrangle a sadya” is a thought process that Kuttunni repeats every year. He begins his first round of yearly calls to friends and relatives around North America at least a month before. He finds it convenient to call and leave messages so ‘they’ will call back. By the end of the week, he manages six invites. By the 15th of March, he emails his confirmations [although Kuttunni is still getting used to his computer, email is one feature he uses at the drop of a click]. Six solid sadyas for 2023, each set apart by two days. Perfect, thought Kuttunni. The first of a series of sadyas The first sadya is on the 14th of April, on Vishu day. Being a weekday, the crowd is small and consists of retired people and hardcore sadya-tasters. The traditional sadya is eaten sitting on the ground. This practice has undergone changes and has been elevated to the table. The plate should be a large plantain leaf freshly cut. At last count, a genuine plantain leaf half the standard size [which could be a couple of feet] cost CAD$ 2.50! And it was imported frozen from Thailand. Being the leaf that it is, it can be used only once. Torontonians have improvised, and now a vinyl sheet precisely in the shape and colour of a plantain leaf is available. Kuttunni wonders if all the items will fit into this pathetic vinyl sheet. Kuttunni does not like synthetic things, especially when it comes to food. He wishes he had brought along his own plate, a plantain leaf. With the aroma and expectation of the coming sadya, he relents and sighs, carefully sizing up the vinyl sheet. He turns it around to see if it’s made in Canada. It is. It looks like a fake impressionist painting of a banana leaf. Kuttunni marks two minus points – one for the table and one for the leaf. So did Kunjunni. Kunjunni, the mirror image of Kuttunni, sits next to him. Kunjunni approaches a Vishu sadya from the other angle. He is the karanavar in North America and gets invited by default. If Kunjunni is not requested, then that unfortunate Malayalee is toast [in social circles]. Not ‘the toast’ of the lunch, but toast as in burnt toast. So Kunjunni gets to pick and choose his favourite eating holes. Their favourite topic for spring will be the various Vishu sadyas until Onam [that’s another story]. Criticism and praise alternate between burps and snores. Besides, they have to decide on the winner too. The lunch is going on now. A feast for the eyes Vishusadya is a glorious treat and a feast for the eyes. The green plantain leaf, two feet long, with one side tapering to the left, is a visual spread. Each accompaniment has its place. The ‘K’s [Kuttunni and Kunjunni] grunt with approval at the perfect display. Five marks for positioning. Rice comes in a long bamboo basket and gets tumbled onto the plantain leaf. Kuttunni [K1] keeps pace with Kunjunni [K2]. K1 makes a neat incision in the rice and palms it further right. Warm ghee glistens on the rice as the yellow ‘parippu’ [dal] waits “My earliest recollection of Vishu revolves around good food, new clothes, firecrackers, Vishukkani, and Vishukainettam ... ”
april 2023 krishnaarchana 11 for its turn to join the first course. In unison, the ‘K’s rotate their hands around the rice [on the left], sweeping any stray grains of rice in its path to form a small mound. The hands then hover over the mound and come down, smashing everything in its path. At the end of 10 seconds, three beautiful balls of rice squashed with ghee and parippu stood ready for approval. One by one, the balls disappear into the black hole. Two marks more. The remaining mountain of rice soon gets levelled to a plateau two inches high. The hands scoop a giant crater filled immediately with three big spoons of sambhar. K1 waits for a moment and fills his huge nose with the steaming aroma. The muringakaya sambhar smelled just right. He ponders on giving full marks. Then decides to taste it. “Is there an extra tinge of kaayam?” K2 asks K1. K1 gives the hostess the benefit of the doubt and awards full marks [two points]. K2 gives only one and a half marks. Burping satisfaction! Most of the rice sloshed and slushed with sambhar disappears. ‘Olan’ waits next in line, followed by ‘kalan’, ‘kuttukari’, ‘aviyal’, ‘puliyinchi’, and ‘inchithaiyiru’. K1 and K2 swoop, dive, roll, sweep, squish, slurp and burp through the rest of the proceedings with ease and delight, reflecting on their faces. K1 is more expressive due to his training in Kathakali. K2 burps more. Even the burp from a Vishu sadya has a musical tone. It goes like this: ‘eeeeeeeeemmmmmmmmmm’. Deep from the pits of the stomach, with strong encouragement from the bottom of the heart. K1’s melodious burp reverberates longer and louder. The cabbage ‘upperi’ is so perfectly cut that both the ‘K’s give it bonus marks. Altogether, the hostess/host [Torontonians] scores 15 marks from K1 and 13 marks from K2. [The result will be an average of marks from the two judges.] Rice with rasam and pappadam follow. The only items left on the plate are bananas and ‘naranga achchar’. That will have to wait as the court crier announces the arrival of the prince of all desserts – ‘paladapradhaman’. Both the leaves in front of the ‘K’s look fatigued at the continuous onslaught. The ‘K’s turn up the ends of the leaf in anticipation of a watery treat. To their surprise, the consistency of the payasam is excellent, and the golden pink colour is a sight to behold. Being far away from Kerala, it is difficult to get proper ada. Ada comes in varying sizes and thicknesses. Unless the size is exact, the ada in the pradhaman will not be adequately cooked. The hostess has received her ada by personal courier. Extra marks for that; both ‘K’s agree. Eating most payasam from the flatness of the ‘ela’ requires excellent practice. The palm sort of hovers [again!] over it and spins the payasam clockwise. When the hand comes up, a big spoonful of payasam gets trapped in the palm of the hand. It goes into the mouth, and the palm gets licked clean, sometimes till the end of the elbow. The ‘K’s wonder if this payasam might be the best of the season. Bonus marks. One more round of payasam. This a sure sign to the hostess/host that the payasam may have done the trick. The rice, curds and pappadam at the end of it all satiate their appetite for the day. “Not a bad start to the season,” concurs K2. The first Vishu sadya receives 45 points. Five more to go, think the like-minded ‘K’s. Kuttunni is pot-bellied. His balding head has run out of ideas to grow more hair. The remaining outgrowth is jet black and is fighting a losing battle with his encroaching forehead. The other border is ably fenced by thick and wildly twisted eyebrows shading deep-set black eyes. The bulbous nose separating the eyes is a safe take-off point for small aircraft.
12 krishnaarchana april 2023 FEATURE By Anil Ambat Poonthanam Arts Centre A newly upgraded performance stage was opened in February 2023 as a part of revitalization of an existing smaller art performance stage inside the premises of the Guruvayurappan Temple of Brampton. The name ‘Poonthanam’ is a direct reflection of legendary poet from our rich heritage and his humble and selfless devotion to Lord Guruvayurappan. The stage ‘Poonthanam Arts Centre’ have the potential to deliver exceptional experiences to several artists and audience alike during soulful renditions right in front of the Lord in coming days. Poonthanam Arts Centre will be a vibrant part of Indian traditional art forms, a place for people to gather, connect and share. Further, our Temple’s interior ambience enumerates architectural inspiration in creative elements from authentic Kerala temple traditions. Heading straight to the centre of attraction! Designed and built in-house in concurrence with Temple rituals, the stage measures 22ft wide x 16ft depth, the left 4ft wide sections could be added or removed depending on event size and requirement. In addition to a larger group artists performance, the left section can be also used for traditional classical orchestra/ musicians supporting a solo or dual dance repertory. The audience
april 2023 krishnaarchana 13 seating capacity is approximately 100 which provides the audiences an intimacy to a live stage performance. Versatile stage The stage surface is a carpeted floor mounted on a wooden platform giving it a softer feel and absorbs shock which is especially important for physical traditional art forms such as Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, etc . The stage backdrop measures 22 ft wide x 12 ft high with a black matte finish that can be decorated and configured in several ways to suit different performances and events. Its versatility is key but its still designed to be a working performance space. There are fixed lighting grids fitted with Yorkville high performance LED light pods and additional spotlights installed horizontally and vertically to light up every part of the stage. This type of lighting is also designed to create a bright performance area with adequate illumination of artistic intricacies and expressions. There is a state of art audio control station with a 22 inputs studio-grade XENYX Mic Preamps mixer. It is backed by 4 stereo feed backstage monitors and auditorium class speakers each rated over 1000 watts output. There are separate vocal and instrumental dynamic mics available to assist each of the performing artist. A fully equipped light control mixer supports the Yorkville high performance LED light pods which in turn also can be customized to suit individual performance mood and sequence. It is a facility/stage to dedicate art performances to Lord Guruvayurappan. Devotional functions such as Arangettam in traditional dance forms and classical music; spiritual discourses and symposia on cultural and spiritual topics can be held here. Please contact the Temple office for more details for the booking fee and other logistics. Credits: Valuable inhouse contributions from Raghuraj, Hari Vattapilli, Rajeev Kanhiroli, Balu Menon, Eswaran Pillai, Praveena Rajendran & Tanvi Ambat. Construction by Weldit Creations Concept & Design: Anil Ambat
14 krishnaarchana april 2023 The great epic Ramayana written by Sage Valmiki deals with the story of Sri Rama who was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Sri Rama, Bharatha, Lakshman, Shatrughnan were the sons of King Dasaratha of the Kingdom of Ayodhya. The epic details the life of Sri Rama from his birth to his time as a king, how Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana spent their time in exile in the forest for 14 years, how an army of monkeys (Vanara Sena) built a bridge to Sri Lanka to cross the sea to rescue Devi Sita from the clutches of King Ravana and his victorious journey back to Ayodhya. Yoga Vasishta contains the teachings of Sage Vasishtha to Sri Rama as compiled by Sage Valmiki. Sage Vasishtha got the knowledge of Brahman from his father Lord Brahma. As a child, Sri Rama was restless observing the world and the lives of humans. Even though he was the Avatara of MahaVishnu in his human form he needed direction and guidance. And as a teacher Sage Vasishtha provided the required spiritual guidance and mentorship to Sri Rama. Upon completion of the study, Sri Rama reached a yogic stage or Atma sakshathkara with Brahma Jnana. In Section 7 Vasishtha tells Rama: Bahi: krithrima samrambho Hridi samrambha varjitha Kartha Bahir akartha anthar Loke Vihara Raghava. Vasishta in this verse asks Rama to do his kingly duties the yogic way, in a detached manner, without giving in to the feelings of enjoyment or pain, like a river which may look turbulent outside but has a calm flow underneath. This was the philosophy of the great rulers like Janaka. When Rama was advised he will be made King the next day, he was not over joyous. The next day itself he was advised he has to live in the forest for the next 14 years. He did not get agitated or fight against the injustice. He understood that what is destined to happen will happen, there is no way it can be averted. On the other hand, his brother Lakshmana was agitated and wanted to fight for the injustice. Sri Rama calmed him and directed him towards the yogic way of acceptance. Whether he is a King or is in the forest the attitude of Rama does not change because of the Atma Sakshathkara he achieved due to the coaching of Sage Vasishta. Whatever is destined to happen will happen. Nature is executing its plans just like in a play. In Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan Krishna says (Chapter 18 verse 61) “Bhramayan sarvabhoothani yanthraroodani mayaya”. God is playing a game just like a machine rotates its wheel in a Circus. Essence of the Yoga Vasishtha Vasishtha, master of the Self, responds with splendid tales and direct insights. Cutting through all frills and fancies, Vasishtha gets to the heart of the matter. The Self or Atma only Is, all else is ignorance and illusion- Maya. Stories within stories within stories, makes this text unique. The complex structure of storytelling combined with the highest philosophical truths leaves the readers’ minds inspired. The truth then presents itself in its raw form, absolute, unadulterated and pure. Thus, it is said even the reading of this text would help the sadhaka (practitioner) reach the state of enlightenment. The Yoga Vasishtha is not just a philosophical text of the ordinary kind. It appears to have been written with the purpose of creating a firm conviction in the mind of the reader by repeating the same idea in various ways and using stories and rich poetical inferences. It is estimated that this text was re-discovered around seventh or eighth century A.D. There is a strong resemblance to the Advaita philosophy of Adi Shankaracharya but there is no cross reference of Yoga Vasishtha by Adi Sankara. There is a common thread of philosophy across the Vedas and it imparts the highest knowledge of Atman and Brahmam. However Adi Sankaracharya popularized Advaita philosophy and worked across various sections of people in his life span of 32 years to spread the philosophy and get acceptance across borders overcoming the challenges from religions like Budhism and Jainism in India. Yoga Vasishta is not considered as part of the Prasthana thraya which is considered as the basis of Hinduism. Prasthana Thraya consists of Brahma Sutra, Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. Sri Sankaracharya has written commentary on all three, but did not mention Yoga Vasishta, So though Ramayana is popular as FEATURE By Devan Pillai Yoga Vasishtha
april 2023 krishnaarchana 15 an Epic, and Rama is the hero or incarnation of Vishnu, the philosophy of Yoga Vasishta did not get an equivalent popular acceptance or readership, but philosophically it is in no way less than Prasthana thraya. It can be considered as an equivalent imparting philosophical training of the supreme kind. Yoga Vasishtha is a text for those who seek liberation from the cycle of life and death. Filled with exceptional stories and characterized by a unique style, this scripture consists of 32,000 couplets and is divided into 10 sections. There is a shorter version Laghu Yogavasishtha of 6000 verses attributed to Kashmiri scholar Abhinanda in 10th century AD. Various sections of this book deals with Vairagya or dispassion, concept of this world as mithya or filled with maya and signs of liberated souls. Yoga Vasishta focuses primarily on Atma, and ways to realize Brahman. Om Ramaya Ramachandraya Ramabhadraya vethase Raghunathaya Nathaya Seethaya pathaye namaha We bow down to Sri Rama husband of Seetha. The mantra below can be included as our daily prayer to Lord Rama. Om Kleem Namo Bhagavathe Ramachandraya sakala jana vashyakaraya Svaha. FEATURE By Smriti Sadhashivam (10 yrs) My Favourite Hindu God My favourite Hindu God is Shri Vishnu. He is my favorite god because he defeats demons, he has lots of avatars and we can learn a lot of life lessons. My most favorite avatar is Krishna. He defeats Demons too! He only does good when being an adult. He was born in a jail. His mother was not taken to the hospital! His mother was Devaki. He also had an adopted mother! Her name is Yashoda. Krishna is Kamsa’s nephew. He really helps the Pandavas, and he was instrumental in defeating the Kauravas. He freed his parents out of jail. He is very kind to Arjuna. He always did good as a child and as adult, but he was naughty as a child. He defeated his evil uncle Kansa. Lotus feet and peacock feather, Eating butter in sunny weather, Flute music all around, They make a beautiful sound, The son of Yashoda has many adorers, He plays in the Yamuna waters, He danced on the snake Kaliyan’s head, And, to Yashoda’s horror, until Kaliyan fled, He danced in Vrindavan with all the gopis, He also stole the clothes of the gopis, He’s Arjuna’s teacher, brother-in-law, and friend, He taught Arjuna the Gita so the war would end, He saved Draupadi from her unrobing and her shame, as she prayed to the brim, Balram is his brother, who is very dear to him, He is always happy and never grim, Keshava’s name comes from him slaying Keshi, the demon horse, And Keshi could not beat him, of course, He killed his uncle Kamsan, who was a horrible man, And fortunately, Kamsan did not have a long lifespan. He is always happy and never gloomy, And whenever I am sad, I know he’ll be beside me. POEM` By Bhairavi (eight yrs) Krishna
april 2023 krishnaarchana 17 FEATURE By Vanamali Mataji The Five Elements The entire cosmic creation begins from what is known as the Pancha Mahabhutas or the five great elements. Whether it is the individual human body or the larger cosmic body, essentially, they are made up of these five elements or the Pancha Mahabhutas – earth, water, fire, air and space (prithvi, apas, agni, vayu and akasha). Shiva is known as Bhutanatha or Lord of the Elements and the Chola kings of Tamil Nadu in South Bharat built five Shiva temples known as the Pancha Bhuta Sthalas in which Shiva is glorified as the manifestation of one of these elements. Tamil Nadu is famous for the five temples of Lord Shiva pertaining to the five elements. Prithvi, or earth, is in Ekambareshwara in Kanchipuram, Apas or water, is in Thiruvannaikkaval, Agni or fire, is found in Thiruvannamalai, Vayu or air, is seen at the temple of Sri Kalahasti and Akasha or space in Chidambaram. In a single living cell, the structure of the cell is the earth element, the liquid or cytoplasm within the cell membrane is the water element, the metabolic processes regulating the cell are the fire element, the gasses regulating the functioning of the cell is the air element and the space occupied by the cell denotes the space element. How do we experience the world outside? If we were totally different from the world, there would be no way that we could experience it. Therefore, the creator has put five agents into our body corresponding to the five elements by which we can experience the glory of this creation. These agents are our five sense organs – eyes, nose, skin, ear and tongue. Only a person who has all these five will be able to cognize the world correctly. If even one of these organs is missing, our experience of the earth will be that much less! So let us see which organ refers to which element. Akasha or ether is the subtlest of all the elements. It is that in which everything takes place. In Hinduism, the subtle always precedes the gross and not the other way around, as we would suppose. The “tanmatra” or subtle quality of this element is “shabda” because it can transport sound. Sound waves can only be transmitted through space (akasha). In order to hear sounds, the body has been given the organ of the ear! The next in order of subtlety is vayu or air. The special property of vayu is “sparsha” or touch. Even though it cannot be seen, it can be felt! The skin is the agent in our body that can feel touch. It also represents the gaseous state of matter and is responsible for the respiratory system. The third element is agni or fire. It represents form without substance, and it is something that we can see. The tanmatra is “rupa” or form. Of course, the organ of perception in our body is the eye! The element of fire is also responsible for digestion. The fourth element is apas or water and is represented by the sense organ of the tongue, which is used for the dual function of both taste and speech. The tanmatra is “rasa” or taste. It represents the liquid state of matter and is responsible for fluid metabolism in the body. Blood, lymph and other fluids are considered water elements. The fifth element is prithvi or earth and its tanmatra is “gandha” or smell. Of course, the nose is the organ representing smell. Prithvi represents the solid state of matter and is responsible for the physical constitution of the body. Bones, tissues and teeth are all considered earth elements. The earth element is not only the basis of the The entire cosmic creation begins from what is known as the Pancha Mahabhutas or the five great elements.
18 krishnaarchana april 2023 By Sreekala Chengat By Neil Sujith (eight years) physical body, but it also promotes strength of mind, steadfastness, determination and uninterrupted advancement toward any goal. All individuals have to have all these five sense organs in order to perfectly experience the world we live in. Akasha is the subtlest and prithvi, the grossest. Each element is used to create the next element, each less subtle than the next. The grossest element of prithvi (earth) can be perceived by all the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The next subtler element apas or water has no smell but can be heard, felt, seen and tasted. Next comes agni or fire which can be heard, felt and seen. After that comes vayu or air which can be heard and felt. Last comes akasha in which only sounds can be heard. We are guilty of despoiling all these great elements and that is why we have to suffer from so many physical and mental disorders. Today we will only talk about the way in which we try to destroy the “earth” element. We treat her like dirt and hence she is sending us diseases worms and viruses! From the time humankind has lived on the earth we have started despoiling her. We have stolen all her precious articles – gold, silver, diamonds, coal, petroleum etc. by digging deep into her bowels. We have turned a deaf ear to her cries. We are also fast denuding her of her beautiful garments like trees, grasses and flowers. We tunnel into her bowels to make our metros and tubes, we cut through her mountains to make our paths easier, and crush stones and rocks to make our houses. Beautiful rounded pebbles from the rivers that have taken millions of years to shape are broken down in minutes to make our roads. We are the greatest predators. There is no animal as cruel as the human being. We prey upon the glorious creatures of the earth. By cutting forests we deny them their habitat and then kill them when they come into our fields because they have nothing to eat. We treat domestic animals as if they live only to give pleasure to our palates, uncaring of the inhuman way we treat them. So, today’s plea to all of you is to treat the earth as your mother, care for her and look after her and all the creatures that live on her. By doing this, you will find a dramatic change both mentally and physically. Hari Aum Tat Sat!
april 2023 krishnaarchana 19 Your new home doesn’t come with new mortgage advice. I do. Rohan Menon Mortgage Specialist 416-993-9549 firstname.lastname@example.org Personal lending products and residential mortgages are offered by Royal Bank of Canada and are subject to its standard lending criteria. ® / ™ Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada. 45810 (12/2022) By Sreekala Chengat By Sreekala Chengat
20 krishnaarchana april 2023 FEATURE By Vinitha Radhamma Shikhandi Long before gender identity and LGBTQ became buzzwords in the society, there was a powerful hero called Shikhandi. The one who was born as a woman but lived the life of a man destined to avenge the injustices from her previous life. As per the Mahabharata by Maharishi Veda Vyas, Shikhandi was born as the daughter of King Drupada and was raised as a son by her parents. As a child, she was dressed as a boy and was taught warfare which was not usually taught to the princesses of that era. When she reached the age of marriage, she married the daughter of Hiranyavarma, but upon failure of that marriage, Shikhandi left the palace and went into the forest. In the forest she met the Yaksha, Stunakarna who agreed to do a sex exchange with Shikhandi; this is how she became a “man”. Shikhandi is believed to have been the reincarnation of Amba, the princess of Kashi. Princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika were abducted by the Patriarch of the Kuru family, Bhishma to get them married to Bhishma’s brother Vichitravirya. But once Amba disclosed to Bhishma that she was in love with Salva, the king of Saubala, Bhishma brought her back to her lover. But Salva was too afraid of Bhishma’s wrath and refused to accept Amba as his queen. Amba returned to Bhishma and requested him to marry her, but since Bhishma had taken the vow of celibacy, he refused to do so. Amba, thus shunned by her own society, did Tapas and penances and got the boon to be reborn to kill her nemesis Bhishma. She also had the rare blessing of being able to remember the incidents from her past life when she was reincarnated. Shikhandi’s birth signifies a woman’s pride, the rightful pride filled with self-esteem and not one filled with doubt. Amba was disrespected by Bhishma, who was the grand old man of the Kuru dynasty, and his position does not deter her in any way from promising to avenge the injustice meted out to her. She works hard to make sure that Bhishma pays for his mistake, and she does not outsource her task to anyone else but to her own reincarnated self. Women of today have a lot to learn from her, to be bold and confront the Harry Weinsteins of the world. No amount of power or money should be an excuse to dishonor or disrespect anyone. Tales of Shikhandi‘s birth and upbringing throw light on the understanding of gender identity and the importance of narratives around a child’s upbringing. She was born a girl, but because she was raised to be chivalrous and brave, she was an exceptional warrior. The whole concept of raising a child as a “girl“ or a “boy” versus the one of exposing the child to experiences of all kinds and from there to have the child identify her/his own self is not a new idea in any way. In our day and age, we continue to box our children by color coding them even before their births and getting “girl toys” vs “boy toys,” which significantly impedes the path to finding their true selves. Strange to see that nature vs nurture is an ongoing debate even five thousand years after Shikhandi. Shikhandi, or Shikhandini as he/ she is sometimes referred to, is also considered a transgender warrior by some. One who would not fit nicely into a male or female body. The very fact that Shikhandi is not depicted to have an issue with acceptance within the society and was allowed to partake in the Kurukshetra war gives us an idea of the so-called broad-minded thoughts prevailing in those days. Arjuna, during his time in the Matsya kingdom, when Pandavas were living incognito to escape the Kauravas, took on the identity of Brihannala, a eunuch. Brihannala was given respect and honor in the Matsya kingdom, Tales of Shikhandi’s birth and upbringing throw light on the understanding of gender identity and the importance of narratives around a child’s upbringing.
april 2023 krishnaarchana 21 Chakra balancing is a powerful vehicle for making a difference with your wellbeing and health as a whole person. When the chakras are fully open, your body functions at its highest level of well-being. The body becomes out of balance when they are closed down or too open. “Experience The Incredible Feeling Of Well Being With Chakra Clearing When Your Chakra Energy Becomes Totally Balanced.” What are Chakras? Chakras are considered lifegiving energy centers that are part of your human energy field. Chakras are tied to your endocrine system. The first three chakras ground us to the earth, whereas the top chakras are associated with our spiritual development. Again, optimal well-being occurs when they are all balanced. The chakra system is split into seven different chakras. They are • 1st Chakra (Muladhara) - Root, red, adrenal. This is associated with survival and grounds you to the earth which is your natural source of abundance. • 2nd Chakra (Swathisthana) - sacral, orange, reproductive. This is associated with creativity and reflects the identity that you are born with. • 3rd Chakra (Manipura) - solar plexus, yellow, pancreas. This is associated with your mind and is the center of your power and independence. • 4th Chakra (Anahata) - heart, thymus, green or pink. This is the centre of love and this is where you experience all feelings. • 5th Chakra (Vishudha) - throat, thyroid/ parathyroid, blue. This is associated with communication which involves both speaking as well as hearing. • 6th Chakra (Ajna) - third eye, pituitary, indigo. This is the intuitive centre and this is where you see the world as it is without personal definitions. • 7th Chakra (Sahasrara) - crown, pineal, violet and sometimes white. This is associated with your spiritual connection and makes you realise that you are a part of the Higher consciousness. FEATURE By Gopinathan Ponmanadiyil Chakra Balancing - Heal your Chakras, Heal your Life and he/she was the dance teacher for the king’s daughter, Uthara. Stories of Shikhandi and Brihannala are not viewed with contempt or as “weird” in any way and acceptance of people as they are, for their skills and valor should be a lesson for us as a society. Bhishmaacharya, when forced to pick his side in the Kurukshetra war, decided to be loyal to the throne of Hastinapur and support king Duryodhana even when he was fully aware that Dharma was on the side of Pandavas. But Bhishma also gave the Pandavas the secret to bringing him down through Shikhandi, and hence on the tenth day of the Kurukshetra war, Bhishma fell to the arrows of Shikhandi. This was the law of karma in action through multiple births, Amba (now Shikhandi) avenging Bhishma Acharya against his wrong actions. Could it also have been an acceptance by Bhishma of his wrong action when he informed Pandavas of the power Shikhandi has over him and an assurance that he will not fight against her/him? Shikhandi ‘s tale is one of acceptance and respect and encourages us to question the myths created by the colonizers about the hierarchy within the ancient society in the region now called Bharat/India. These are tales which should catalyze us to look at our own biases and reduce our bigotry by accepting one and all for who they truly are. Issue of gender should not overwhelm the identity of the person and religion which worships “ ArdhaNareeswara”( the Shiva-Shakti ideal/ Purusha-Prakrithi) should not have to struggle to accept anyone belonging to the LGBTQ spectrum or any living being for that matter.
april 2023 krishnaarchana 23 By Bhadra Menon (14 yrs) By Nejimon Raveendran
24 krishnaarchana april 2023 FEATURE By Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan A Transformational Journey Something momentous happened in my life when I was just six years old. My father called me one day and asked, “How do you like to go to Guruvayur temple and get a Darshan of Lord Guruvayurappan?” “Of course; when are we going?” I said, all excited. “But is it a long trip?” I didn’t like venturing too far away from home, my comfort zone. We lived in Vypeen, a small island on the west coast of Kerala, a few miles from Kochi Harbor. No transportation facilities were available at that time on the island, and to get to any place, we had to walk two miles first to the ferry boat landing. And then catch a boat to Ernakulam and, from there, a train to Thrissur, followed by a bus ride to Guruvayur –quite a journey for a little boy! But having grown up in a religious family and listening to the stories of little Krishna and His delightful pranks, I couldn’t wait to go to Guruvayur and pray. Just before we started, my mother said to me, “Ravi, Guruvayur is the Vaikundham (celestial world of Lord Vishnu) on earth. People from all over go there and pray to get Guruvayurappan’s blessings.” My memories of that event haven’t lost their freshness despite the passage of time. So, we started towards Guruvayur, my mind full of anticipation. But halfway through the train journey, feeling exhausted, I kept asking the same question, “Are we there yet?”. Finally, we reached the temple area by evening and checked into a previously arranged small lodge. We freshened up and walked to the temple. Even from a distance, I could see the huge throng of devotees chanting, “Guruvayurappa, rakshikkane”. That’s when I realized this is no ordinary temple. Divinity oozed out from every pillar, lamp and literally every particle there. Later, every time I listen to the melodious lyrics sung by K J Yesudas, Guruvayur Ambalam Sree Vaikundham Aviduthe Shankamaanente Kandam Kaalindi Pole Jana Pravaaham, Ithu Kaalkkalekko Vaaka Chaarthilekko I think of my mother’s words and thank my father who was responsible for my first visit to Guruvayur temple with fond nostalgia. My father and I somehow managed to get close to the sanctum and get a darshan with the help of one of our friends, a spiritualist who later became my guru in religious studies, popularly known as Swamy Guruvayurappa Das (Thirumulpad). He said, “Let me teach you how to pray. Almost everyone asks for material gains, like getting a good job, passing a difficult exam, curing an illness, etc. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s better to ask, ‘Lord, I am ignorant, so please help me to achieve what You think I should.’ He will help you and guide you to attain what you wish and what you deserve.” To this day, I still pray that way, and I am happy to say He has guided me through my entire life to achieve whatever I have set out to do. “All children are shaped by their parents,” we say. That is true in my case too. That first visit to Guruvayurappan Temple was a transformational event for me. My father always emphasized the importance of ‘Faith in one’s daily life’, and I have always followed his advice. What he taught me about God and the trip I made to Guruvayur during my childhood helped mould my belief system in later life. The spirituality inculcated in me in early life has stayed with me with the same intensity, and I am happy that my belief system has come to my rescue in so many ways and countless times. Many of my friends know that my life has been a tough obstacle course, and I had to face many daunting healthrelated challenges and exigencies during this roller coaster ride. There were so many close calls; I couldn’t have survived these without some divine intervention. I am one who strongly believes there is true power in prayers. Life is a long, often difficult journey full of vicissitudes, but ultimately everybody wants happiness. In order to survive these ups and downs – with special emphasis on the downs –we need a little help and guidance. In times of crisis, we should be able to run to somebody for consolation, advice and encouragement. In other words, we need a repository for all our worries, doubts and problems. Somebody to cast our cares on, hear our pleas, and walk with us, maybe to hold our hand or even carry us. That somebody, for me, has always been Lord Guruvayurappan. The sloka in Bhagavad
april 2023 krishnaarchana 25 Gita is relevant in this context. (Chapter 3, Karmayoga, Verse 30) ‘Perform all works as an offering unto Me and constantly meditate on Me as the Supreme. Become free from desire and selfishness, and with your mental grief departed, fight (Arjuna)!’ In other words, if you discharge your duties in the service of the Lord without claiming ownership, or renouncing your desire for personal gain, you will do a good job and get a deep sense of peace and contentment after the action was performed. Every morning, I sit and meditate on the smiling face of Lord Krishna playing his celestial flute, and after twenty minutes, I feel peaceful and energized, ready to face the day. This routine has become the sanctuary for my heart. Spiritual belief and practice can have a phenomenal effect in promoting better health and well-being. About the author: M. P. Ravindra Nathan, MD, FRCP (Lond & Canada), FACP, FACC, FAHA is a retired cardiologist and Emeritus Editor of the AAPI Journal. He is a columnist for Khaas Baat and frequently writes for Tampa Bay Times. His articles have appeared in Medical Economics, Cortlandt Forum, Florida Medical Journal and several souvenir magazines. He is the author of the two books, ‘Stories from My Heart, A Cardiologist’s Reflections on the Gift of Life’ and ‘Second Chance – A Sister’s Act of Love’ (www.amazon.com or www.bn.com ). Aadhya was a little girl who did not believe in Krishna. Because of this, she didn’t enjoy praying and she always believed that God was someone’s imagination. One day, as was the custom, she picked up her lunch bag and ran to school. There she found her friends. ‘’Aadhya, did you know that today is a very important test? It counts for 50% of our grade! Did you practice? Are you ready?’’ Her friends kept asking her questions until Aadhya said, ‘’I’m ready, I have learned everything that I need to know.’’ Her friends believed her and stopped pestering her. Aadhya went into the classroom. The teacher was distributing the test worksheets while Aadhya sat down. The teacher came to Aadhya’s side and gave her the worksheet. Aadhya took one look at the worksheet and concluded that it was too hard for her. She was confused. She thought that she had studied. She started writing the answers that she thought were the true answers until she realized that she didn’t have an eraser. She checked into her pocket by putting her hand inside and felt something there. It definitely didn’t feel like an eraser. She felt it and took it out to see what it was. It was a picture of Krishna! Her mom must’ve slipped it inside her pocket while she was getting ready! Even if she didn’t believe in Krishna, she felt much more relaxed just holding something in her hand. After she was relaxed, she took a deep breath and looked at the test questions again. She felt like she saw them somewhere! She remembered that the class had learnt it last week, and now confident, she found an eraser and erased all the answers that she thought were wrong and wrote her own answers. She had finished! The bell rang and all the students gave the teacher their test papers. The teacher said that she would correct it by tomorrow. Aadhya went home, tensed. She didn’t even feel like eating dinner. But then she remembered that she was lucky to have food in the first place, so she after ate it happily. After dinner, she tried to go to sleep but she couldn’t stop tossing and turning. Finally, after a long time, she fell asleep. The next morning, she rushed and got ready quickly. She ran to school really fast, just in time to see the teacher distributing the corrected test papers. The teacher gave Aadhya, her test paper and she got 97%! Aadhya reached into her pocket and felt the picture of Krishna again. She took it out of her pocket and smiled. After school, when Aadhya went home, she saw her mom praying to Krishna. Aadhya joined her mother and she looked at the idol of Krishna in front of her. She thought she saw him wink. She smiled. She believed in God now. Aadhya remembered what her mother told her once. It’s that: God isn’t an easy way out. God doesn’t create miracles. God will give you opportunities. You have to use them to create miracles. FEATURE By Bhadra Devi Menon (14 yrs) Krishna’s Aide
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